The third thing I think we can definitely know that God stands for is that he always wants what is best for us. How could we call him a loving God if he didn't want what was best for us? No matter how many times the Hebrew people strayed, God loved them and called them back to him. Even when he punished them it was so that they would repent and return to him (see Jeremiah 29:11; 31:3). Loving parents correct their children when they are wrong; we can expect no less from God, the perfect parent. Unlike our human parents, he makes no mistakes in dealing with us. We can trust that what he does is absolutely the best for us.
Yet, many people with whom I pray seem to be afraid to approach God, to listen to God. They are afraid that he will criticize, scold or condemn. The overwhelming evidence of the New Testament, though, is that he will be gentle. Take the case of the woman accused of adultery (John 8:1-11). Though she was guilty, Jesus did not condemn her. He simply said, Go and sin no more. Or the woman at the well (John 4). This woman had not led an exemplary life. But Jesus' conversation with her, wherein he "told her everything she ever did", did not leave her condemned or chastised. Rather she was energized and went exclaiming to the whole town to come and see.
I repeat: Jesus wants what is best for us because he loves us. It is a truth we can surely stand on with him. We need not fear spending time with him, or talking with him, or listening to him, because God is love (1 John 4:7-12). He has our best interests at heart.
For Reflection: Have we been avoiding time with God out of fear of what he might say?
Let us pray. Lord Jesus, we take courage from your interactions with the women in the Scriptures. We need not fear you, nor doubt you, nor mistrust you. You love us. You always want what is best for us.
Last weekend I attended a conference titled "Women on the Front Lines." Two of the speakers, Patricia King and Clarice Fluitt, are not only pastors but professional motivational speakers. They combined preaching the Gospel with motivating the attendees to do something about it. This is ongoing evangelization at its finest.
Many of the people there, like me, are in what might be called "the second half of life." Of course, we don't really know how long we are going to live, so we don't know exactly when our second half starts, but we can assume that at 50 we are beginning that second half. Both women urged us not to slow down, not to retire, not to think that our work with and for God is finished just because we are over 50.
Patricia told us that at the age of 50 she had never written a book. Now she has written 35. She started her own publishing company and media enterprise after the age of 50. She is still creating, still dreaming, still going with God. She is enjoying her life, her children and her grandchildren. She plans to "die with her boots on" whenever God calls her home. But in the meantime she is actively pursuing the plans God has for her.
For Reflection: Have I taken on a retirement mentality? Have I decided that God is through with me? Or that I am finished with God?
Let us pray. God, I agree with your word, "I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). I declare that I am strong in you and in the strength of your might and in your love.
We last spoke of growing fruit trees and being thankful to God for the first harvest. God provided the seed, the soil, the sun and the rain to make the fruit trees produce fruit. Paul uses a similar analogy in his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 3. Evidently there was some arguing going on in the community about who baptized whom, who was a follower of which apostle, etc. And Paul uses the analogy of farming to make his point.
"What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe -- as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor" (1 Corinthians 3:5-8).
Paul's point is that we labor with God to make things grow whether they are crops in the field, trees in the orchard or people in the Kingdom. We play our part, but it is God who gives the growth. Therefore, whatever our role is we should not boast as if we have done it on our own. Whether we see them or not, we have co-laborers in Christ. We may plant a seed one day and water seed sown by someone else the next. We may not even know that we are planting or watering, or nourishing or providing sunshine. Those jobs may go unnoticed and seemingly unrewarded while the one who harvests gets all the credit. But it is God who makes things grow.
For Reflection: Have I taken credit for another's work? Have I been discouraged because I don't see my work as unimportant?
Let us pray. "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the Lord (Jeremiah 9:24).
For the times when I have taken credit for your work, God;
For the times when I have taken credit for someone else's work, God;
For the times when I have been disappointed and discouraged in my own work, God;
Our God is powerful. There is no doubt about it. "He made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding. When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar; he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth. He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses" (Jeremiah 51:15-16).
Yet he also makes us powerful on his behalf. He made this clear in the New Testament through Jesus' calling, appointing and sending out the disciples to do the same things he did (which we have covered here before). But we can also see it in the Old Testament, for example in Jeremiah 51:20-23, "You are my war club, my weapon for battle - with you I shatter nations, with you I destroy kingdoms, with you I shatter horse and rider, with you I shatter chariot and driver, . . . with you I shatter governors and officials." In the view of the Old Testament authors, God used various rulers and nations to punish other nations who did not follow in God's ways - even Israel.
God may sometimes use us to call people away from sin toward the good. To do this, we may not necessarily be a war club or lightning strike to shatter people, but we may be the quiet voice of love to draw people. We may listen to people who are bitter and angry and be able to show them another way; e.g., "You know I got over my bitterness and anger by choosing to forgive." Or perhaps they have strayed into pornography, and we may say, "I used to be into pornography until I realized how much it was detracting from my relationships with my family."
In these ways we shatter not people but strongholds of sin and we help to set captives free (Luke 4:18-19, Isaiah 61:1-2). By doing these things, we give people the oil of gladness to replace their mourning and the garment of praise to replace their despair (Is 61:3).
Let us pray. Jesus, I want to draw people to you. I want to help set the captives free. Use me, Lord. Put the right words in my mouth when I need them.
Jeremiah, like Moses, made objections to God's call. Jeremiah's excuses were "I do not know how to speak" and "I am only a child" (Jeremiah 1:6). I don't know how old Jeremiah was when God called him, but being young seems like a good reason to postpone being a prophet. However old he was though, God did not accept that as an excuse. In fact, God said, "Do not say, 'I am only a child.' You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you" (Jeremiah 1:7-8).
As with Moses, God promised to tell him what to say. As with Moses, God promised to be with him. As with Moses, God sent him to a hostile audience. God did not promise that Jeremiah would not suffer for being a prophet, but he promised to rescue him. "Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land. They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you," he assured Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:18-19).
On the outside, it might look like Jeremiah was a failure because, on the whole, the kings and the nations did not listen to God's word through him. But in God's eyes he was successful because he completed the task God gave him; he fulfilled his calling; he was obedient. He did not let his original excuses - I don't know how to speak and I'm too young - hold him back.
For reflection: How obedient am I to answering God's call? Do I trust God to give me the words to speak when I need them?
Let us pray. Lord, here I am. I trust you not to call me to do anything you will not enable me to do. I place my trust in you.
We can learn about how God works by looking at how he calls people to help him. Earlier we went through the numerous objections that Moses gave God for not going to speak to Pharaoh. Today let's look at the call of Jeremiah. God begins by telling Jeremiah that he knew him before he was born and that he determined even then to appoint Jeremiah as a prophet (Jeremiah 1:4-5).
What God says to Jeremiah is true for each of us. God knew us before we were born. He gave us life in the womb. He appointed some specific task for each of us. It may not be as a "prophet to the nations" as it was for Jeremiah. It may not be to set a nation free as it was for Moses. But we each have a purpose. The basic purpose for each human being is to know God, to love him and to serve him in whatever way God asks.
For reflection: Knowing, loving and serving God are my tasks. Where am I with each of these?
Let us pray. (based on Psalm 139) Lord, you know everything about me - the good, the bad and the ugly. Yet you surround me with your love and your presence so much so that I cannot escape them. You think of me day and night. I am always on your mind. Thank you for knowing and loving me so thoroughly.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.