The AMI Devotional Blogs from June 25-July 1 are written by Phillip Chen, college pastor at Church of Southland. Philip, a graduate of University of California, San Diego, is currently studying at Talbot School of Theology. He is married to Esther.
Devotional Thoughts for This Morning
“Seeing Things in the Right Way”
Jeremiah 16:5-6 (ESV): For thus says the Lord: Do not enter the house of mourning, or go to lament or grieve for them, for I have taken away my peace from this people, my steadfast love and mercy, declares the Lord. 6 Both great and small shall die in this land. They shall not be buried, and no one shall lament for them or cut himself or make himself bald for them.
Ocean’s 11 is a classic movie where the lead character, Danny Ocean (George Clooney), plans out an incredible and elaborate plan to rob three different casinos in Las Vegas that share the same vault. It’s not an easy task, and he assembles a team to do so. What’s interesting is that the movie makes these characters such likeable characters that we end up rooting for them. Even though they are committing what we all believe to be a huge crime, we still want them to win in the end—that is, sympathizing for the people who are actually in the wrong. I think it’s a scary thing that filmmakers are able to manipulate our emotions to celebrate what they want us to celebrate: in this case, they want us to celebrate this heist, because the casino owner “deserves it.” Although our feelings are definitely important, they may distort our perceptions of things.
When I read passages like today’s text, I can’t help but feel sorry for Judah. Why can’t Jeremiah grieve for them? Why can’t he mourn for them? Why does God’s discipline have to seem so harsh? Do you sometimes feel like rooting against God because you feel like He is wrong? Why did He have to allow this evil to happen, or why did He have to say it like that? Our sinful nature flips our perception of God’s goodness, and we end up despising God.
I recently heard a pastor share about how airplanes typically have two altimeters (instrument to measure altitude), because what you feel isn’t always what is actually happening. I’ve never flown a plane before, but apparently, sometimes it can be so disorienting that you may feel like you’re climbing in altitude when you’re actually diving towards the ground. So the altimeters are there to tell you what is actually happening, though your feelings might tell you otherwise.
My point is this: our spiritual gauges can sometimes be wrong. Sometimes, we might call evil good, and good, evil; or we look at God, His Word, His commands, and we don’t feel like He is really for us, or that He really cares about us. We end up cheering for wickedness rather than righteousness. It’s those times where we must come before God and recalibrate—choosing to believe that He is who He says He is, a God who loves us. In this case (and in this passage), a strong-handed discipline for Judah must come, but not without a promise of restoration, which we will touch upon at the end of this week.
Prayer: Father God, I don’t always understand what You are doing. Sometimes my spiritual gauges are way off, and I just don’t understand why things happen the way they do. Even when I don’t understand, lead me in Your ways and Your truth. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Ezekiel 36
Lunch Break Study
Read Hebrews 12:7-11 (ESV): Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Question to Consider
- What does this passage list as the importance of discipline?
- What is the fruit of discipline?
- What are ways you are currently experiencing the discipline of God?
- Discipline is for all who are considered children. When discipline occurs, it reminds the one being disciplined that they are legitimate children (of God). Sometimes, we don’t care for the discipline, nor do we understand the reason, but we submit to the Father who disciplines for our good.
- Discipline produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Those who have been disciplined and have experienced the fruit of discipline are not as allergic to the thought of further discipline, for they know that there is more fruit to come out of the discipline.
- Personal response.
Think back to a time where you experienced the discipline of God. What was the fruit that came out of it? Oftentimes, we are quick to forget the good that comes out of the discipline, but as we reflect on the fruit that was produced, it causes us to welcome the discipline of God rather than to despise it.