An Irrigated Garden

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They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will be radiant with joy because of the LORD’s goodness, because of the grain, the new wine, the fresh oil, and because of the young of the flocks and herds. Their life will be like an irrigated garden, and they will no longer grow weak from hunger. Jeremiah 31:12
I couldn’t stop myself from reading these words over and over again: “Their life will be like an irrigated garden” What a beautiful image of what our life can look like with God in it. I looked into the benefits of irrigation and it’s amazing how much they relate to all the benefits and blessings we can experience with God in our hearts.
1.     Irrigation is important because crops should not depend on the rain only
Like crops, we should not depend on only ourselves if we are going to be successful in patience, forgiveness, grace, courage, faith, etc. Relying only on ourselves will lead to failure, disappointment and no harvest.
2.     Irrigation allows introduction of high yield crops.
Like irrigation, God can equip and lead us to yield an abundance of fruit (love, patience, kindness, honesty . . . the best and sweetest fruit of all, the fruits of the spirit)
3.     From the irrigated fields, the yields are stable and reliable and assured production targets can be met. With God, who is the same today as He was yesterday and will always be, we can count on a consistent strength and supply of grace, love and forgiveness. We can trust that when He calls us, not matter what He calls us to do, He will equip us with all we need to complete the task.
4.     Irrigation allows for continuous cultivation.
Following God daily and growing in His word gives us a growing and deeper understanding of His heart, ways and desires so that we can follow Him closely in our daily lives and not stray from His path.
5.     Finally, irrigation reduces fluctuations and the risk of crop failure due to drought.
With God in the center of our lives and our eyes looking to the cross we are less likely to have fluctuations in our hearts and minds. We are less likely to succumb to sinful and selfish desires when we are living close to God and in His word. Please notice I said we are “less likely” not guaranteed.We will falter and fall many times, but with God’s grace we can pick ourselves up, dust off and try again.
Overall, there are so many more benefits to living, loving and believing in our faithful Father in Heaven. I don’t know about you, but I want my life to be like an irrigated garden that never grows weak or weary, that produces fruit pleasing to our Father and sustains me through the splendor and the desert.

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Under the Hood

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For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

Running across this verse in Jeremiah made me stop and think for a moment. We have all heard, seen and probably have this verse in our homes somewhere. They are wonderful words to remember and reflect on in our daily lives. Remembering God has our backs, has a Master plan for each of us and has us in the palm of His hand is something I certainly need at the forefront of my mind. However, I think to often we look to verses for our own purposes and forget to consider the context they are found in. We miss the deeper meaning and magnitude of the words spoken when we do this.

Jeremiah 29:11 is only one verse (out of 25) taken from, “the text of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the rest of the elders of the exiles, the priests, the prophets, and all the people Nebuchadnezzar had deported from Jerusalem to Babylon.” (Jeremiah 29:1)

God’s people, who had their city plundered and people taken prisoner to Babylon certainly needed to hear there were brighter days ahead. That God had not forgotten them completely despite their evil ways. This was the news they had waited for. God’s promise that after 70 years He would restore them and as verse 14 says, “restore their fortunes, gather them up from where He has driven them and bring them back to the place from which He sent them to exile”

For a prisoner to hear those words . . . . a promise from the Lord . . . can you imagine how much that meant to God’s people? When we know the rest of the story “the usual” becomes much more. “Looking under the hood’ and past the surface meaning gives the living word of God breath and life. It gives God’s story and promises a deeper meaning.

How about this one from Jeremiah?

Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know. Jeremiah 33:3

It’s a wonderful reminder for us that all we need to do is ask God for help, wisdom, grace, forgiveness, patience. . . the list goes on and on. Ask and we will find, right?! But, consider that these words came to Jeremiah as he was still confined in the guard’s courtyard, still in trouble, still feeling isolated for prophesying the Lord’s words. The Lord arrives right on time and tells him about the restoration of Israel.

While he was still confined in the guard’s courtyard, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah a second time: “The Lord who made the earth, the Lord who forms it to establish it, Yahweh is His name, says this: Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know. Jeremiah 33:1-3

Context and meaning are vital to understanding and giving life to God’s words. We can relate His words to our lives in a deeper way when we look under the hood and see how it all works and comes together.

Repurposed

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The Potter’s Story in Jeremiah Chapter 18 resonated with me after a difficult day of parenting. I was tired, grumpy and quickly lost my temper when my two children began complaining about each other and fighting. After it all blew over my mind was consumed with guilt and my spirit convicted after reacting so quickly and harshly.
This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Go down at once to the potter’s house; there I will reveal My words to you.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, working away at the wheel. But the jar that he was making from the clay became flawed in the potter’s hand, so he made it into another jar, as it seemed right for him to do. Jeremiah 18:1-4
God used this illustration to show Jeremiah how He could change His mind and relent from punishing the House of Israel IF they would turn from their evil ways. For me, it was a wonderful reminder that when I start down the wrong path I can always turn back to God so that He is able to make something new out of me. After all, each of us are “flawed pots” made great only by the Maker’s hands. When we allow Him to shape and mold our hearts, desires and minds He can make us into a beautiful piece of art.
The word of the LORD came to me: “House of Israel, can I not treat you as this potter treats his clay?”—this is the LORD’s declaration. “Just like clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, house of Israel. At one moment I might announce concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will uproot, tear down, and destroy it. However, if that nation I have made an announcement about turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the disaster I had planned to do to it. Jeremiah 18:5-8
Think about it, without God as our compass our lives will take on a form that is flawed. As I look back on the days in my life where I had put God aside and living for my own desires and pleasure, it was so shallow and filled with pride, selfish envy, temporary satisfaction and sin that no one would have ever been able to recognize my Maker or Creator in me. Finally, God broke through to me once again, He took my warped clay and turned me into something new and beautiful. Yes, I still have scars, but He has made them beautiful. So beautiful that they are now a part of my story that I can use to share the gospel with others.
I’m not sure where you are today. Maybe you still feel like a flawed pot or maybe you have turned yourself over to the Creator for some modifications. The good news is that it’s never to late. Whether you need to turn your entire life back over or your sin from the day. The Creator and Master potter awaits your willing heart and can turn your flaws into something beautiful for His plan. I pray your heart is willing to be molded and shaped by the Creator today and everyday.

Dirty Underwear

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Again, God has blown my mind, surprised me and made me smile. How have I missed this little nugget in Jeremiah in my years of reading the Bible? I love how God continues to teach His people and prophets through everyday ordinary things. Take a look at what the Lord shows Jeremiah through dirty underwear. Yes, underwear.

This is what the Lord said to me: “Go and buy yourself a linen undergarment and put it on, but do not put it in water.” So I bought underwear as the Lord instructed me and put it on. Then the word of the Lord came to me a second time: “Take the underwear that you bought and are wearing, and go at once to the Euphrates and hide it in a rocky crevice.” So I went and hid it by the Euphrates, as the Lord commanded me. Jeremiah 13:1-5

The Lord has placed a lot of things on my heart over the years, but He has never urged me to purchase underwear, wear it for a while and then hide in under a rock by the creek in our backyard for a while. Let’s not miss how obedient Jeremiah is when the Lord speaks to Him. This is an unusual request, but Jeremiah never questioned why or what in the world for, He just followed the Lords command. Then Jeremiah tell us (v. 6-7) that “a long time later” that Lord tells him to return to the same spot where he hid the underwear and dig it up. OK, maybe even a little stranger until you keep reading. Of course, Jeremiah finds what you would expect: old, dirty, stinky and maybe even decaying or wholly underwear that are of no use. Where is God going with all of this?

Then the word of the Lord came to me: “This is what the Lord says: Just like this I will ruin the great pride of both Judah and Jerusalem. These evil people, who refuse to listen to Me, who follow the stubbornness of their own hearts, and who have followed other gods to serve and worship—they will be like this underwear, of no use at all. Just as underwear clings to one’s waist, so I fastened the whole house of Israel and of Judah to Me”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“so that they might be My people for My fame, praise, and glory, but they would not obey. Jeremiah 13:8-11

In these verses, God uses the dirty underwear to illustrate how useless the people who have turned from His ways are to Him and foretells of their ruin. For us, this is a wonderful reminder to look for God in the ordinary. Using tangible illustrations that I will understand and be able to comprehend is one of the great ways He uses with me to teach me His ways and truth every day of my life. Not only that, it reminds us that when we put God aside and refuse to listen to Him we are nothing more than dirty underwear and useless for His kingdom and drawing the heart’s of others to Christ. I don’t know about you, but I want to me like the elastic waist in that underwear that “clings” to my Heavenly Father and cut free of the world.

Who knew underwear could teach us so much?! I love our God!