Jeremiah 18

“Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds” (v11). God told the Israelites that while grace was His initiative, He also responded to human choices. He might have plans to “destroy” an evil nation, but their repentance changed that plan (v7). He may plan to “build and plant” a nation, but their rebellion would cause Him to “relent of the good” He had intended (v10). God is sovereign, yet our own response of faith and repentance matters.

“I will relent” (v8). We can rejoice that God doesn’t hold our past against us or leave us to fate. When we sincerely turn to Him, He forgives, purifies, and sets us on a better path.

Philippians 4:9-23

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (v13). While this verse is sometimes quoted in a self-empowerment kind of way, Paul did not mean that God would help him achieve all his goals. Instead, God gave him power to find contentment “in any and every circumstance” (v12). Whether he was “brought low” or high, whether he had plenty or faced need, Paul had “learned the secret” (v12) of experiencing God’s presence in any situation. Circumstances no longer controlled him.

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (v19). Our peace and contentment come from knowing that Jesus loves us, and we can trust Him with our lives.

Philippians 4:1-8

“I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord” (v2). In a short letter, Paul took time to urge two women, “fellow workers” who had “labored side by side” with him in ministry, to end their conflict and reconcile with each other. Getting along with each other involves spiritual maturity: with God’s help, we overcome stubbornness and develop empathy and “reasonableness” (v5). Instead of anger, hurt, and anxiety, God gives us peace that “surpasses all understanding” (v7).

Rather than letting Satan win the battle for our minds, we embrace Jesus’ victory as we choose to meditate on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise (v8).

Psalm 140

“Deliver me, O LORD, from evil men; preserve me from violent men, who plan evil things in their heart and stir up wars continually” (v1). The psalmist asked God to protect him against the attacks of the enemy. Literally but also spiritually, the psalmist recognized that he was not clever enough or strong enough to see all the plots, traps, and hidden obstacles in his path (v4-6). Only the Lord can see what’s before us, every attack and temptation, and make our way safe.

“Guard me, O Lord, … preserve me” (v4). We don’t have to face temptation or trials (seen or unseen) alone. We can call out to our Savior and Defender.

Jeremiah 17

“O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you shall be put to shame …for they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living water” (v13). God declared that His people had valued wealth more than Him, compromising their obedience to Him in order to get comfort and pleasure (v1-3). Those who turned away from the Lord, the source of life, were like dry shrubs in the desert, destined to shrivel (v5-6). But those who trusted in the Lord were like “a tree planted by water …” (v7-8).

The abundant life we desire is found by walking closely with Jesus. In Him we remain alive and healthy, not fearful of the future, always bearing fruit (v8).

Jeremiah 16

“Therefore I will hurl you out of this land into a land that neither you nor your fathers have known …” (v13). God’s covenant with Israel said that as long as they followed His ways, they would thrive in the Promised Land. However, after generations of sinfulness – idolatry, greed, oppression, and immorality – the covenant was broken, and the Babylonians were about to invade, conquer, and send Judah’s people into exile. In exile, they would face the reality of God’s power and rediscover their faith.

“For I will bring them back …” (v15). Even before the exile, God was planning His acts of mercy. “For His anger is but for a moment, and His favor is for a lifetime” (Psalm 30).

Jeremiah 15

“Know that for your sake I bear reproach” (v15). Jeremiah’s prophecies of judgment caused him terrible grief, and they also made him a target. He declared that Judah’s religious and royal leaders had failed (ch 14), and God was making them “a horror” to the watching nations (v4). In reaction, he was persecuted by those same leaders. But God promised to protect and take of Jeremiah through it all. “They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail over you” (v20).

“I am called by your name, O Lord” (v16). Jeremiah belonged to God and had committed to obedience. Standing for the Lord like he did may cause conflict, but His goodness and faithfulness will never fail us.

Jeremiah 14

“The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them …They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds” (v14). When Jeremiah told the people of Judah that God was sending drought and war as punishment for their rebellion, many refused to believe him. In fact, other “prophets” said the opposite, promising peace, security, and God’s favor, “a lying vision” meant to please everyone. Yet only the truth and real repentance could save them.

“We have sinned against you” (v7). When we face the truth about our actions and ask for God’s mercy, He is quick to forgive and restore us completely (I John 1:19).

Philippians 3:12-21

“Only let us hold true to what we have attained” (v16). Paul reminded the Philippians that they had attained salvation, citizenship in heaven (v21), through faith in Jesus, not through their own efforts. They should remain steadfast in their faith, as they pressed forward toward maturity (v12-15). Paul said that the Christian life was like a race, it required effort, but not the effort of laws, rituals, and prideful identity. Instead, devotion to Jesus included walking daily with Him and a willingness to suffer (v10, 17).

“I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (v12). We “press on” in response to the love and mercy already poured out on us by our Savior.

Philippians 3:1-11

“For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh …” (v3). Paul assured the Philippians that no matter their ethnic background, they were “the circumcision” – shorthand for Israel, the people of God – because of their faith in Jesus Christ. They should avoid those who taught that Old Testament rituals were necessary (v2). Paul had done all of that as a “Hebrew of Hebrews” (v5) and counted it garbage in comparison to knowing Jesus Christ (v7-9).

No ethnic identity or religious ritual can make us favored by God. Instead, by putting our faith in Jesus, we receive His righteousness and become part of God’s family (v9).

Proverbs 27

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (v6). In the language of proverbs, the “wounds of a friend” refer to someone who shows love by telling us the truth, even when it is uncomfortable. Rather than being condemning, shaming, or overly critical, this kind of friend gently but faithfully helps us face reality and points the way toward health and wholeness. Those who care less may ignore our issues or encourage us down the wrong path.

“Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel” (v9). Good friends are a blessing from the Lord.

Jeremiah 13

“I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the LORD, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory …” (v11). Just as God had called Adam and Eve to be His image-bearers, He then called out Israel to be His special people and demonstrate what it looked like to walk with Him. However, “they would not listen” (v11). Israel failed, just as Adam and Eve failed.

“How long will it be before you are made clean?” (v27). We couldn’t make ourselves clean, but Jesus did. He restores us so that we can live in peace and be for Him “a praise and a glory” (v11).

Jeremiah 12

“Why does the way of the wicked prosper?” (v1). Jeremiah the prophet was attacked for speaking out about the rebellion of God’s people (ch 11). He was angry because it seemed like “the wicked” were winning; however, God showed him the true consequences of disobedience (v7-9). The Israelites would lose their beautiful land and be exiled, and even the “the beasts and the birds” in Israel, the land itself, would suffer because of the sins of God’s people (v4). Amazingly, God told Jeremiah that if the Israelites repented – even their neighbors! – He would forgive them and restore them (v16).

“I will again have compassion on them” (v15). God’s anger against sin is fierce, yet His mercy surpasses our expectations.

Jeremiah 11

“Listen to my voice, and do all that I command you. So shall you be my people, and I will be your God” (v4). God rescued His people out of the “iron furnace” of Egypt because of His great love, and then He made a covenant with them that included their obedience. If they would listen to His voice and obey His ways, they would flourish in the land of milk and honey (v7). Instead, they walked in the “stubbornness of their evil hearts” (v8) and brought disaster on themselves.

“Obey my voice” (v7). God wants us to enjoy abundant life, and so He calls us to reject the poison of sin and to walk in His ways.

Jeremiah 10

“Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried, for they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of them … (v5). Jeremiah told the people of Judah that the idols of their enemies were worthless, a “delusion,” nothing to fear (v15). However, the Israelites should not mistake God for a manmade object to be manipulated or ignored. “It is He who made the earth by His power” (v6,12), and He desires obedience.

“He is the living God and the everlasting King” (v10). The God of our thoughts is often too small and easily ignored, like an idol; the true God is the Creator and merciful ruler of the whole universe.

Philippians 2:12-30

“Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (v14-15). The ancient world was “crooked and twisted,” yet that didn’t stop God’s people from shining brightly as they did “all things” for His glory. Whatever their circumstances, they could be active, not passive, participants in their own growth and usefulness (v12).

“For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (v13). God can use even difficult situations to bring about His “good pleasure”: our maturity and His glory.

Philippians 2:1-11

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (v1-2). Paul knew that aggressive competition, arrogance, and self-centeredness could divide God’s people. He urged believers to fight against these temptations by embracing humility, especially the humility modeled by Jesus the King, who “made himself nothing” for our sakes. Jesus served others to the point of sacrifice, and He leads us to the same (v7).

“Have this mind among yourselves” (v5). The world urges us to defend ourselves and to fight for what is ours, but Jesus calls us to give ourselves away.

Psalm 139

“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” (v7). The psalmist took great comfort in the fact that God knew him intimately (v1) and was with him everywhere. God’s active, loving presence in his life did not depend on the psalmist’s own wisdom or knowledge; wherever he went and whatever happened, “even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me” (v7). The God who formed us in our mother’s womb (v13) won’t abandon us.

“Search me O God, and know my thoughts!” (v23). As we deliberately invite the Lord to shape our hearts and minds, He leads us forward in His good paths (v24).

Jeremiah 9

“Why is the land ruined and laid waste like a wilderness, so that no one passes through?” (v12). God gave Jeremiah the answer: “Because they have forsaken my law that I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice … but have stubbornly followed their own hearts …” (v13-14). Jeremiah mourned and wept (v1) because of the lost potential of Jerusalem and its people. God had created them for great things, yet their sins were destroying them and their land.

“I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth” (v24). God wants us to embrace His love, justice, and righteousness so that He can heal us and restore our potential.

Jeremiah 8

"How can you say, 'We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us'? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie’” (v8). God had given His people “the law of the Lord,” yet being in possession of it wasn’t enough. They had the Promised Land, the Temple, and its rituals of worship, but they still ran after idols and indulged in greediness and sexual immorality. Their status as God’s people could not protect them from the consequences of persistent sin (v19).

“We looked for peace, but no good came” (v15). True peace is only possible when we repent of our sins, receive forgiveness, and begin walking with the Lord.