Thursday, September 18, 2008

Answered Prayer, God's Way

"The word came to Jeremiah from the Lord after Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard had released him at Ramah. He had found Jeremiah bound in chains among all the captives from Jerusalem and Judah who were being carried into exile to Babylon. "When the commander of the guard found Jeremiah, he said to him, "The Lord your god decreed this disaster for this place. And now the Lord has brought it about; he has done just as he said he would. All this happened because you people sinned against the Lord and did not obey him. But today I am freeing you from the chains on your wrists. Come with me to Babylon, if you like, and I will look after you, but if you do not want to, then don't come. Look, the Whole country lies before you; go wherever you please." However, before Jeremiah turned to go, Nebuzaradan added, "Go back to Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon has appointed over the towns of Judah, and live with him among the people, or go anywhere else you please." Jeremiah 40:1-5
My devotions today led me to Jeremiah 40 and God's Word really spoke to me. I found this to be an interesting chapter for it all begins with Jeremiah in chains and headed to a foreign land. Jeremiah was restricted by chains which translate to me to be like the things of this world. But look who rescued him. It was the commander of the imperial guard! I may be wrong, but God used this unlikely person to give Jeremiah his freedom. But what gets me is the possible motives of Nebuzaradan. I don't think he really got it, but he did the right thing. Why do I say that he didn't get it? He was boastful to Jeremiah that HE was the one saving him, He was the one that was to bring the rescue. Look at verse 4, "But today, I am freeing you from the chains on your wrists." He takes the credit, but not only that, he says at the end of the verse that HE would look after Jeremiah. I catch a little bit of pride in him. Although it seems that he is caught up in his own pride, he does see that the Lord did bring judgement upon the people and his actions of releasing Jeremiah was honorable. Whatever the true motives of the imperial guard was, Jeremiah was freed from chains. I think that we all have some chains on us that come from the world, chains that may impeded our freedom to live a good life for God. Those chains can come in many forms. Those chains can be pride, fear, worthlessness, lust, discouragement, depression and the list goes on. God wants to free us from those oppressions and He may do it in many ways. In this case, he used the commander of the imperial guard. I remember I was reading the book, "Experiencing God" and it mentioned that when we pray to God, we can hear from Him in many different ways. We can get answers from: God's Word, circumstances, people and even nature. There is no one way that God answers prayer and when we begin to look for God to answer it one way, He is so amazing, He always seems to bring it to us in a different way that we had expected. God wants us to just depend on Him and not see how the answer is delivered, or in what form it comes. This is part of releasing everything to Him and to wait patiently for His answer, in His way. God WILL answer prayer. He will answer in three ways: He will answer "yes", "no" or "not now". How He expresses His answers is again, up to Him. When I ask, I just need to rest in Him and see what He does. Just like Jeremiah, I think he waited and then saw the mighty hand of God use the commander of the imperial to give him freedom. God is amazing, it is wonderful to see how many different ways He will use to answer our prayers.
Question: Are you currently in chains? Are you willing to ask Him and just wait for God to answer? Believe that God will answer you, so wait and see how He will speak to you, for it may not be in the way you expect.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Good Figs Vs. Bad Figs

"Then the Lord gave me this message: 'This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: The good figs represent the exiles I sent from Judah to the land of the Babylonians. I will watch over and care for them, and I will bring them back here again. I will build them up and not tear them down. I will plant them and not uproot them." Jeremiah 24:4-7
This morning I was reading my devotions in Jeremiah. This was an interesting chapter for me, because all through Jeremiah, the Lord would speak to Jeremiah and use concrete examples. Previously, God used the potter and clay to represent the relationship between God and His people. Then God used the example of the shattered jar. Now, God is using just one more concrete example so we can better understand what He is saying, and this time he uses the example of good figs vs. bad figs.  The bad figs represented the King and those that did not follow God in obedience. The good figs were the godly people that were exiled and their hearts were for God. God promised them that He would watch over and care for them, as well as bring them back. I understood something very special about God's visual of the figs. You see, last Christmas, we received fruit from family members in the mail. It was sent UPS in a one day delivery from Harry and David. Most of the other fruit was in excellent condition, with exception of the pears. When we looked into the box, there was one pear that was partially rotted and it seemed to have "spread" to the other pears. It was interesting that one fruit can infect and spoil the others. I think about this situation in Jeremiah and how God had to remove His people from Judah and Jerusalem, even though it was through captivity by the Babylonians. God had to purposely separate His people from the bad. the concept is quite interesting to me, because God can see and know how to get the good ones away from the spoiled ones, just like the figs, in order to keep them from getting contaminated. I think about them being uprooted from Judah and Jerusalem and planted in a foreign land and under captivity of their enemies. What would life have been like? What I think happened, was that God's people banded together, worshiped, prayed and in the middle of this difficult time, they held on to God's promise that was delivered by Jeremiah and they ended up digging deeper in their faith because of their circumstances. They just had to wait and God was going to complete His plan. God wanted to make their hearts recognize Him as Lord and their hearts would be with Him "wholeheartedly". The verse, "all things work together for good" can be used here, for what the people thought of as a disaster, really was for their own good. They needed to be removed, away from the bad figs, in order to be protected from contamination. I think of a lady at my church that just got laid off from her job. She is thinking that this is a disaster. Yes, it is a financial hardship for her right now, but she is being sustained by her family and eventually unemployment checks. I just know, from the bottom of my heart, that she is being removed from her previous job and is now being "planted" just as scripture said and that she will find herself closer to God than she ever was. God will provide a better job for her, for one of God's names is "Jehovah-Jireh" (God will provide).  It is like God is moving the furniture around in her life, to the very position God wants it to be. She needs to embrace the uprooting, the moving of her furniture, and to know that it is that greater plan that God has for her! I learned today that God may need to move people,  for His greater purpose. I also learned that even though things may not seem to go my way in life, I trust God that He is moving me for His reason, even thought I may not understand the why.
Question: Are you being moved to a new location in your life right now? Is God moving the furniture around in your life? Can you trust that God has a greater purpose for you that you may not see right now? Trust in Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. He will never let you down.