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    Jeremiah: Life as Challenge

    1. Connection with God, Calling from God

    Jeremiah 1:4-19; 20:7-18

    The Sunday message explained the meaning of running with the horses, but only began to explain HOW you are able to run with the horses. This devotional walks you through many passages in Jeremiah to see how he learned to run with the horses.

    The two sections you read in Jeremiah describe how God called Jeremiah, how God established a deep connection with Jeremiah, the promises God made to Jeremiah, and how Jeremiah responded to that connection and call.

    It was not all smooth and easy! Far from it. It was difficult. Jeremiah lived and did his prophetic ministry during a time of national crisis. Enemies from outside were soon to invade and defeat God’s people. Enemies from within (kings, priests, false prophets, elders) refused to listen to Jeremiah’s message.

    Life was very hard for Jeremiah. He is known as the weeping prophet. He is also the author of Lamentations (the title is the clue to how Jeremiah experienced his calling).

    M. Scott Peck says life is difficult. The Bible says, yes it is, but that does not mean life cannot be good and even profoundly meaningful. But for that to be so, you must have a deep sense of God’s call and God’s presence with you. You must have the spiritual practices of prayer, worship, Scripture (and more) that keep you connected with God.

    You need God and you need a close connection with God.

    STUDY: What are the most important lessons you discover in the readings for today?

    REFLECT: How closely connected is your God relationship in this season of life?

    REFLECT AND PRAY: How intentional are you about your devotional practices to connect with God? What are the next steps God is inviting you to take to be with him?

    2. Critically Realistic About the State of Reality

    Jeremiah 21-23 This is the longest section you will read this week. You can skim through parts of these chapters if you like. These chapters describe the bad leadership of corrupt priests, evil kings, and false prophets who have rejected the way of the Lord, and who have led Israel into the mess they are in. In the midst of these critically realistic words, there is a short section of hope (23:1-8). Much of the book of Jeremiah is his prophetic preaching against what is wrong.

    Prophets don’t win popularity contests. Prophets don’t get invited to parties. Prophets don’t even do very well in the church. The human heart has a profound ability to deceive itself. Therefore, one of the first and most important steps toward LIFE, is to allow God to illumine reality for you. By God’s Spirit, you can discern what is really going on, around you and in you.

    In the sermon I talked about three types of horses. Today you will spend some time being critically realistic about the horses you must learn to run with.

    REFLECT: What are the horses of hardship and suffering you personally encounter in this season of life? How well are you doing at running with those horses?

    REFLECT: What are the horses of hard issues and serious problems in our surrounding culture? And how are those hard issues impacting you and the church of Jesus? How is God leading you to engage with those hard issues, speak truth in love, and be God’s agent of transformation?

    REFLECT: And the third type of horse are opportunities and invitations to live at a higher level of faith and fruitfulness. What are the new situations God is calling you to, that seem beyond your current level of ability, competency, and experience? How are you trusting God to step out in faith and accept those challenging opportunities to make a difference?

    PRAY: Pray for wisdom, grace, and strength to run with these horses.

    3. Faithful Dependence On God

    Jeremiah 9:23-10:16 God is God. You are NOT God. God is God. The false Idols of our times are NOT God. The only way you will ever be able to run with horses is if you stop depending on your strength, your plans, your wisdom, your resources, your “self.” And then, begin to depend on God’s strength, wisdom, and resources.

    God wants you to know himself deeply, intimately, and consistently. Verses 23-24 are the core verses in chapter 9. They are worth memorizing. And the rest of the section describes God with more detail.

    Here is one of the most important principles of the Christian life: Self-sufficiency is NOT the way of Christianity. But neither is the refusal or neglect of being faithful, devoted, intentional, and responsible for what you are called to do.

    The Apostle Paul says, “I can do all things through him who gives me strength” (see Philippians 4:12-13). Paul encourages faith and obedience, dedication and effort, but doing all this in the power of God (see Philippians 2:12-13). Paul says he works harder than anyone he knows, but he does all this hard work by the power of grace (see 1 Corinthians 15:10-11).

    The Christian life involves a lot of hard work, dedication, and devotion, but it is all done in God’s power and not our own (see Colossians 1:28-29). That is the secret. That is the way of life God has decreed and which God blesses.

    STUDY: What do you learn about your God in these verses?

    REFLECT: How well do you know God? How strongly do you want to know God?

    REFLECT: How closely does your own life reflect a passion for justice and righteousness - the things in which God delights? If you do not delight in what God delights, how will you follow God in faithful obedience?

    PRAY: Pray to be empowered with God’s strength so you can be faithful, obedient, and fruitful for his greater glory.

    4. A Message of Hope Jeremiah 29:4-14 One of the core values and cherished beliefs at Living Word is this: Life is messy. Jesus is beautiful. And therefore, we have a message of hope.

    To run with the horses, to live in difficult times, to have the courage to acknowledge in critically realistic ways the world in which you live, well, you need a message of hope.

    This section of Jeremiah gives two different messages, both which are full of hope.

    The first message is instructions on how to live while in captivity. It tells how to live in a foreign land. It tells how to live well and how to have a good life in that land. It also tells how to be the people of God, on a mission in that foreign land. These are thrilling and encouraging words. You may also want to look over Romans 8:31-39.

    The second message is about the future. These are some of the most famous and treasured words in the Old Testament. They are, of course, given in a historic context, but generally, the principle can be adopted and applied by all of us. God does have good plans for you, for your future.

    REFLECT: Jeremiah was a missional servant-friend of God during hard times. How well are you doing as one of God’s missional servant-friends in your hard times?

    REFLECT AND JOURNAL: Write down as many promises you can think of, as stated in the Bible, about the plans and future God has for you. Keep a running list. Just keep asking, “God, what are your plans for my life? God, what is your will for my life?”

    PRAY: God, your will be done. God, your plans come, in my life as they are in your Kingdom.

    5. You Need A New Heart

    These are more well-known words from the Old Testament. It is critical realism about the human heart. It is about your heart and what your heart needs. It always comes down to the heart.

    For this final devotion of the week, in addition to the passage from Jeremiah, I want you to read over several scriptures. Allow the Spirit of God to speak personal words to you about your own heart, and then simply respond in prayer as you are led.

    PROVERBS 4:23. Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

    EZEKIEL 36:22-32. One of the great chapters in the Bible about the human heart.

    PSALM 51:10-17. One of the great prayers in the Bible about what your heart needs.

    HEBREWS 10:21-23. A few of the great verses about what you can do with the new heart Jesus gives you.

    Pray as God leads you.

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