Devotional Thoughts – November 17-23
Jeremiah 1:4-10, 7:1-11
Monday, November 17, 2014
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:4).
It was a mild night, with (mercifully) no mosquitoes nipping at any exposed area of my skin. The moon was new. The sky was black and the stars were dazzling white. I sat back on my lounge chair and soaked up the splendor of the night sky. Millions of stars could be seen without a telescope, and I knew that there were trillions upon trillions of stars beyond them. The universe with its almost infinite number of stars, planets, galaxies, nebulae and black holes was on display before me. I was dwarfed by the greatness of creation; I was small, insignificant and beyond notice—merely a speck of dust.
The Spirit, who brooded over creation at the beginning of time, heard my thoughts. Suddenly my mind was flooded with verses from the Bible, among them this verse from Jeremiah. Yes, it is true I am—just like you—a mere speck of dust. Still the creator of the universe knows us. Before we were a thought in our parents’ minds, God knew us intimately and completely.
The universe may be vastly bigger and more awe inspiring than we are. We might not have gone viral over social media, yet, we are not insignificant. We are known by the Lord.
Almighty God, your knowledge of us is both inspiring and humbling. Thank you that we are not ignored and lost pieces of creation, but we matter to you and we are a part of your plan. Amen.
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
“I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).
The congregation that I serve, Desert Streams Lutheran Church in Surprise, Arizona, doesn’t have a building. We worship in the cafeteria of a charter school. Every Sunday morning a small group of people arrive at the school shortly after 6:00am and set the cafeteria up for worship services. When we have sung the last song of our second service at 11:30 several people stay around and help take everything down and get it back into storage. Occasionally someone new will stay after the service and want to help out. They usually hang back and watch until someone goes over to them and gives them a job to do.
I’ve been in the newbie’s position—wanting to help but not knowing how. I suspect that you have, also. I feel so much better when someone gives me a job to do and I feel like I am being useful. I feel like I’m not only a part of the team, but I’m also helping achieve a common goal.
There is no reason for Christians to stand around with our hands in our pockets with the excuse that we don’t know what to do. We haven’t been listening. God spoke to Jeremiah and told him that God had appointed him to be a prophet. In a similar manner, the Spirit speaks to each and every one of us and gives us a task—a way that we can use our talents and abilities to share the blessings that we have been given. What is the Spirit calling you to do?
Amazing Lord, it is difficult to believe that you have called us to join you in being your presence on earth and in sharing your Kingdom. Use us in a mighty, yet loving, way. Amen.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
“Truly I do not know how to speak” (Jeremiah 1:6).
Moses complained that he stuttered and couldn’t answer God’s call to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land and freedom. David was the runt of his family and an unlikely king. Mary wasn’t sure that she was up for the task of being the mother of God’s son. Jeremiah pointed out that he was too young to be a prophet. Almost everyone in the Bible felt uncertain of their ability to answer God’s call. God still called them and used them.
God calls us out of our comfort zones. This is one of the ways that we grow. God’s calls us to things which are greater than we are capable. People are able to see God at work through us and are able to give God the glory, rather than us. God calls us to specific tasks because God has equipped us with the passions, talents and abilities that are needed for the call.
Do you feel the tug of the Spirit? Do you hear God’s voice? To what is God calling you? It may be more than you think you can handle. You are not alone, however. God is with you and God’s Spirit empowers you. Say, “Yes,” in faithful obedience and observe what God can do in and through you.
Powerful God, you call us to challenging tasks. Give us the courage to say “yes” and the trust to rest in you while we serve you. Amen.
Thursday, November 20, 2014
“Now I have put my words in your mouth” (Jeremiah 1:9).
Prophets spoke God’s words. The people always thought that God was speaking through them. Jeremiah needed to be reminded of this. His complaint was that he was too young to speak. The Lord touched his lips and reminded Jeremiah that the words he spoke would not be his own. Jeremiah needed to be reminded, as we do, that we should not look to ourselves to complete our task, but to God.
Empowered by God’s Spirit, Christians have accomplished the impossible. They have healed the sick, fed the multitudes, educated the illiterate, fought for justice, aided the persecuted and stood beside the disenfranchised. Their accomplishments far surpassed human capability, but they were able to do what they did because they were empowered by the Holy Spirit.
God calls us the challenging tasks. Humanly speaking they are beyond us. God’s Spirit, though, gives us the power to overcome. With the Holy Spirit nothing is impossible.
Holy God, may our words and actions honor you and not ourselves. Amen.
Friday, November 21, 2014
“Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘The temple of the Lord.’” (Jeremiah 7:4).
It is so easy to transfer our faith to something other than the Lord. The stock market falls and we suddenly realize that we had started to place our trust in savings plans and 401k’s. Job cutbacks are announced and it becomes apparent to us that we were trusting in our jobs to provide for us and keep us safe.
The people of Jerusalem had fallen into the trap of placing their trust in the Temple on Mt. Zion. It was an impressive structure with marble, gold, altars and the Ark of the Covenant. It was believed that nothing would ever happen to the temple, and if nothing could happen to the temple then nothing could happen to the people.
The temple did fall. For some it was a devastating blow and they lost all faith and hope; despair enveloped them. Others realized their mistake—their idolatry. They confessed, repented and placed their faith in the Lord. Perhaps we need to do the same.
O Lord who gave sight to the blind, open our eyes that we may see where we have misplaced our trust. Help us to trust only in you. Amen.
Saturday, November 22, 2014
“If you truly act justly with one another” (Jeremiah 7:6).
With their trust firmly placed in the temple, the people of Jerusalem focused on making the right sacrifices, praying the correct prayers and looking religious. Like many who came after them, their faith never translated into their everyday lives. They still treated the poor with contempt, stole from their neighbors, spread rumors about their friends and lusted after each others’ spouses. Though religious, they were self-centered and selfish.
Truth faith always forces our eyes off ourselves and on to the people around us. The eyes of faith enable us to see our neighbors’ needs and ways that we can meet those needs. Living in a relationship of love and trust with a living God allows us to live in similar relationships with the people around us. Faith is taken outside the temple and placed where it belongs—in our everyday lives.
Loving God, rather than serve ourselves, help us to love and serve those who are around us. Amen.
Sunday, November 23, 2014
“Make offerings to Baal and go after other gods that you have not known” (Jeremiah 7:9).
One of the laws of successful investing is to diversify. We shouldn’t keep all of our money in one company, one mutual fund or one land investment. If something were to happen to that company, fund or property we could be wiped out financially.
What works in the stock market, though, doesn’t work with gods. The people of Israel wanted to diversify. They didn’t want to put all of their faith in the Lord because God might fail them. So, they also worshiped the gods of the people around them. Where one god failed another might succeed.
Our God is a jealous God, however. God has commanded us to not have any other God’s before him. The Lord alone is worthy of our trust and allegiance. Other gods will fail us. Only the Lord is capable of enabling us to deal with anything that might come our way. Only the Lord is our salvation.
Forgiving God, forgive us when we wander. Help us to keep our eyes only on you and to trust only you to be our protector, provider and savior. Amen.