~ Click on this link for today's readings ~
Lamentations 4:1-5:22 ~ Hebrews 2:1-18
Psalm 103:1-22 ~ Proverbs 26:23
Old Testament - Today in Lamentations chapter 5 verses 1 through 4 we read - "LORD, remember everything that has happened to us. See all the sorrows we bear! Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers, our homes to foreigners. We are orphaned and fatherless. Our mothers are widowed. We have to pay for water to drink, and even firewood is expensive." Below is an image of buying water during this time of sorrows...
In verse 13 we read - "The young men are led away to work at millstones, and the children stagger under heavy loads of wood."
Lamentations Chapters 4 and 5 are tough chapters to read. We know why everything that we read in these chapters has come to pass, from our readings in the book of Jeremiah. I guess the thing personally that kind of jumped out at me today when reading this chapter were these thoughts: Have I personally ever experienced anything like what we read about in this chapter? The answer is no. The second thought or question that came to me, however, was this - Are there people in our world today that are experiencing similar things that we read about in this chapter? And I believe the answer is obviously yes. Not for the same "reasons" that Jerusalem was experiencing all of this - but the same experiences of starvation and lack of hope are indeed happening in our world today.
Then.... the question becomes - is this fair? Is this right? Should we try to do something for people in our world that are experiencing starvation, lack of hope, and worse? What will we do? I know there are thousands of organizations that we could support to help those in need in our world. One that I have personal experience with is World Vision. If you have an extra dollar a day, you can sponsor a child and radically change that child's life - forever. Or, even if you have an extra dollar a month, World Vision can do incredible things. If anyone wants to post up other good relief orgs in the Comments sections, please do? I'd love to hear about which international relief organization is your favorite. Thanks.
Actually, since I started down the path of mentioning World Vision, let me go off on a tangent here if you don't mind... :) I don't know about you, but I have had a hard time buying gifts that are simply "more stuff" for my friends and family in recent years. Don't get me wrong. I think there are wonderful hand-made gifts or books or music or even some stuff that is just the perfect gift for someone in our life. But, more often than not - if I'm going to a wedding, holiday party, birthday for kids, housewarming party - I feel like I'm just buying more "stuff" for my friends and family who have plenty of "stuff"! And so, I just want to share with you what I do now for weddings and birthdays and holidays - I may get a small personal gift for folks, but more likely I'll get them a goat! Yep, you read that right. A goat. The thing about this goat is that my friends and family won't actually have this goat walking around their house - and I'm sure they appreciate that. This goat actually goes to a family in our world that is making less than $1 a day. This goat will provide milk and cheese for this family's personal use and for sale in the market. This goat might even allow the family to breed more goats and start up an entrepreneurial business so that this family can get self-sufficient. So... I'll be 100% honest with you here - my friends love receiving this type of goat!! They really do. With the holiday season coming up - and with weddings and birthdays and the list can go on - will you consider buying a goat for your family & friends instead of buying them more "stuff"? World Vision is one organization where you can buy these type of goats as gifts - but I'm sure there are more. World Vision actually just realized their 2005 holiday gift catalog online at this link. At this link you can peruse their catalog of more than 100 gift items for families world-wide making less than $1 a day. You can buy goats, fruit trees, wells for clean water, clothing, sheep, chickens, and the list goes on. Please consider buying life-changing / life-saving gifts for others in our world this holiday season rather than just buying more "stuff". (Thanks for listening to all this... I know I've gone way off from the Bible readings today... or have I?)
New Testament - Hebrews chapter 2 starts strong with the first verse - "So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it." This is powerful. We must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we'll drift away from it. My thoughts here are that listening carefully in this sense also means listening often to the truth. Or reading often of the truth. Reading the Bible often. Say, every day? :) I think our human nature is such that we'll oftentimes hear something and it goes in one ear and out the other. We need repetition. We need a routine. We need the truth. Please don't drift away from it!
Verse 12 is beautiful - "I will declare the wonder of your name to my brothers and sisters." Here Jesus calls those who believe in him his "brothers and sisters." What a great thing! To be brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ! And in the gospels Jesus also calls those who believe in him his "friends." This is incredible to consider. Who better is there to be your brother and your friend than Jesus?
And verse 18 is a great reminder that "Since he himself has gone through suffering and temptation, he is able to help us when we are being tempted." We all will go through temptations in this life. Don't feel bad if you are "tempted." Jesus himself was tempted by the devil in the gospels. The problem comes when we give into temptation and commit the sin. However, when in the midst of temptation, this verse reminds us to turn our minds to Jesus when we are being tempted - and he will help us. He has been there - he has been tempted. Another great tool to combat temptation is bringing Scripture to mind. In fact - this is exactly what Jesus did with the devil in the desert. Each temptation the devil threw at Jesus, Jesus combated with Scripture. What a holy sword Scripture is in the midst of temptation! To help us in the midst of temptation, memorizing Scripture regularly is a very wise practice. Do you memorize Scripture? Do you think it would help you in the midst of temptation?
Psalms - Psalm 103 is a great Psalm today! Each verse is a powerful reminder of God's character and our relationship to God. Verse 8 definitely stands out today - "The LORD is merciful and gracious. He is slow to get angry and full of unfailing love." Do you believe that God is merciful and gracious? Have you experienced God's mercy? His grace? Do you believe that God is slow to get angry? When was the last time you experienced God's unfailing love? (think now... God loves you so much he's given you beautiful life-giving oxygen to fill your lungs as you read this... praise God for the very air we breath!)
Today in Psalm 103 verses 11 & 12 we read these verses about God – “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” I think these verses are a wonderful look at what it means to be spiritually reborn and living in relationship with God. These verses are a glimpse of the true freedom that is found in relationship with God - freedom of living in God’s perfect love, and freedom from our slavery to sin. Do you believe that God’s love for you is as high as the heavens are above the earth? Do you believe that God has removed your sins (transgressions) from you as far as the east is from the west? Do you thank God often for His love for you? Do you thank Jesus often for saving you from the bondage of sin?
Proverbs - Proverbs Chapter 26, verse 23 is so true - "Smooth words may hide a wicked heart, just as a pretty glaze covers a common clay pot." Be watchful for the smooth words / smooth talker. Again, think of the devil tempting Jesus in the desert in the gospels... do you think those were smooth words being said by the devil in those temptations? Another thing I'd like to caution each of us on - let us not be smooth talkers ourselves! Really. Think about your talk to others - are your words simple and sincere? Or are you smooth talking at times? I on occasion catch myself "talking smooth" and I'm so disappointed when I hear myself talk like that! I don't think I'm hiding a wicked heart with those smooth words - but I'm sounding just fake as can be. I think maybe I default to smooth talking if I'm feeling tired or rushed or not confident for whatever reasons. I just pray that we would be sincere-talkers. Speak sincerely to each other from the heart. Through our relationship with Jesus, we should have nothing to hide from others. Let us leave our smooth talking ways completely behind! Let us talk simply and sincerely.
What verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up in the Comments section below!