The response from God to Jeremiah at the end of this chapter is good to read. The reassurance that, despite Jeremiah's hardships, God would remain faithful to him and reward him for his steadfast faithfulness. Again, we may be called to the sowing ... a time for reaping may come later and perhaps even to someone else ... but that does not change what needs to be our responsiveness to God's call.
We prescribe for one another remedies that will bring us peace of mind, and we are still devoured by anxiety. We evolve plans for disarmament and for the peace of nations, and our plans only change the manner and method of aggression. The rich have everything they want except happiness, and the poor are sacrificed to the unhappiness of the rich. Dictatorships use their secret police to crush millions under an intolerable burden of lies, injustice and tyranny, and those who still live in democracies have forgotten how to make good use of their liberty. For liberty is a thing of the spirit, and we are no longer able to live for anything but our bodies. How can we find peace, true peace, if we forget that we are not machines for making and spending money, but spiritual beings, sons and daughters of the most high God?
The Israelites are calling out for God's mercy and, near the end of the chapter, they recognize the mistakes they have made. But God sees them much like a young child who will pray to escpae the consequences of their actions. They are not praying for, nor willing to pursue ongoing change, but instead they are praying to escape consequences, fully intending to later go back to their old ways.
Again and again and again
I know better than to do the things I do
Yet I keep repeating the same mistakes
But your grace steps in
And saves me
In amazing ways because
Your love is not of this world
A word unsaid
A deed undone
An impure thought dwelled upon
I keep repeating the same mistakes
I never want to take your grace for granted
I pray that I will change my ways
One thing I know is that inside that change
Comes freedom like I’ve never known
That’s when your grace steps in
And saves me
In amazing ways because
Your love is not of this world.
Thank you, God,
For loving me so much
That Jesus paid the price
And saved me with your grace
You are with me every step
You want me to be with you
Thank you for sticking by me
And showing a faith in me that I don’t even have in myself
That’s when your grace steps in
And saves me
In amazing ways
Because your love is not of this world
Your love is not of this world
Once again, God is calling His people to a "defining" moment. A "straighten up and fly right or else" moment. One of those moments that parents often put before their kids ... with mixed results.
I believe that God hopes we can change our ways without a "defining moment" but it is often very difficult, particularly, I am sure, with addictions. Jeremiah has been full of God's warnings through His prophet but with mixed results as they went on to continue to worship Baal and others.
Has there been a defining moment in your life or is there one yet to come? How possible do you think change is without a defining moment -- a line drawn in the sand, life will never be the same again kind of moment?
To which I replied, "Yes, it is. Sadly, I have heard that she started drinking after we broke up and she's never quit. I feel a bit guilty about it."
To which Lisa replied, "My goodness. Who would ever guess that a person would go on celebrating that long?"
(sorry ... this is entirely made up)
A good lesson for me. I have often caught myself whining lately and feeling sorry for myself. Instead, I need to tune better into God and make sure I am following His will. As long as I am doing that ... well, that is all He asks of me.
1-4 You are right, O God, and you set things right. I can't argue with that. But I do have some questions:
Why do bad people have it so good?
Why do con artists make it big?
You planted them and they put down roots.
They flourished and produced fruit.
They talk as if they're old friends with you,
but they couldn't care less about you.
Meanwhile, you know me inside and out.
You don't let me get by with a thing!
Make them pay for the way they live,
pay with their lives, like sheep marked for slaughter.
How long do we have to put up with this—
the country depressed, the farms in ruin—
And all because of wickedness, these wicked lives?
Even animals and birds are dying off
Because they'll have nothing to do with God
and think God has nothing to do with them.
5-6"So, Jeremiah, if you're worn out in this footrace with men,
what makes you think you can race against horses?
And if you can't keep your wits during times of calm,
what's going to happen when troubles break loose like the Jordan in flood?
Those closest to you, your own brothers and cousins,
are working against you.
They're out to get you. They'll stop at nothing.
Don't trust them, especially when they're smiling.
7-11"I will abandon the House of Israel,
walk away from my beloved people.
I will turn over those I most love
to those who are her enemies.
She's been, this one I held dear,
like a snarling lion in the jungle,
Growling and baring her teeth at me—
and I can't take it anymore.
Has this one I hold dear become a preening peacock?
But isn't she under attack by vultures?
Then invite all the hungry animals at large,
invite them in for a free meal!
Foreign, scavenging shepherds
will loot and trample my fields,
Turn my beautiful, well-cared-for fields
into vacant lots of tin cans and thistles.
They leave them littered with junk—
a ruined land, a land in lament.
The whole countryside is a wasteland,
and no one will really care.
12-13"The barbarians will invade,
swarm over hills and plains.
The judgment sword of God will take its toll
from one end of the land to the other.
Nothing living will be safe.
They will plant wheat and reap weeds.
Nothing they do will work out.
They will look at their meager crops and wring their hands.
All this the result of God's fierce anger!"
14-17God's Message: "Regarding all the bad neighbors who abused the land I gave to Israel as their inheritance: I'm going to pluck them out of their lands, and then pluck Judah out from among them. Once I've pulled the bad neighbors out, I will relent and take them tenderly to my heart and put them back where they belong, put each of them back in their home country, on their family farms. Then if they will get serious about living my way and pray to me as well as they taught my people to pray to that god Baal, everything will go well for them. But if they won't listen, then I'll pull them out of their land by the roots and cart them off to the dump. Total destruction!" God's Decree.
1. Personally, I find witnessing much more enjoyable than golf.
2. I hate it when someone takes our spot in the front pew.
3. The annual stewardship campaign is so inspirational!
4. I really love it when we sing hymns we don't know.
5. Let's pay our pastor so he can live like we do.
6. Pastor, please, I just have to serve on a committee.
7. I enjoy worship so much I wish it would last an extra half hour.
8. Pastor, we want to send you to a conference in Hawaii.
9. I wish the sermons were longer.
10. Don't ask someone else; let me do it.
Others went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters. They saw the works of the Lord.... - Psalm 107:23-24a
When you were a child, perhaps you may have gone to the ocean for a vacation. I recall wading out until the waves began crashing on my knees. As long as I could stand firm, the waves were of no concern to me. However, as I moved farther and farther into the ocean, I had less control over my ability to stand. Sometimes the current was so strong it moved me down the beach, and I even lost my bearings at times. But I have never gone so far into the ocean that I was not able to control the situation.
Sometimes God takes us into such deep waters that we lose control of the situation, and we have no choice but to fully trust in His care for us. This is doing business in great waters. It is in these great waters that we see the works of God.
The Scriptures tell us that the disciples testified of what they saw and heard. It was the power behind the gospel, not the words themselves, which changed the world. The power wasn't seen until circumstances got to the point that there were no alternatives but God. Sometimes God has to take us into the deep water in order to give us the privilege to see His works.
Sometimes God takes us into the deep waters of life for an extended time. Joseph was taken into deep waters of adversity for 17 years. Rejection by his brothers, enslavement to Pharaoh, and imprisonment were the deep waters for Joseph. During those deep waters, he experienced dreams, a special anointing of his gifts to administrate, and great wisdom beyond his years. The deep water was preparation for a task that was so great he never could have imagined it. He was to see God's works more clearly than anyone in his generation. God had too much at stake for a 30-year-old to mess it up. So, God took Joseph through the deep waters of preparation to ensure that he would survive what he was about to face. Pride normally engulfs such young servants who have such access to power at such a young age.
If God chooses to take us into deep waters, it is for a reason. The greater the calling, the deeper the water. Trust in His knowledge that your deep waters are preparation to see the works of God in your life.
"Little children, let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them, and show it by our actions" (1 John 3:18)
The story is told about two farmers. Every day, one of them would haul pails of water up the steep slope to his terraced field and irrigate his meager crop.
The second farmer tilled the terrace just below, and he would poke a hole in the dyke and let the other farmer's water run down into his field.
The first farmer was upset. Being a Christian, he went to his pastor and asked for advice. The pastor told him to keep on watering as before and to say nothing. So, the farmer returned to his fields and the watering of his crop, but the farmer below him continued to drain off his water. Nothing had changed.
After a few days, the first farmer went to his pastor again. The pastor told him to go a step further - to water his neighbor's crop! So the next day, the farmer brought water to his neighbor's field and watered the crops. After that, he watered his own field.
This went on for three days, and not a word was exchanged between the two farmers. But after the third day, the second farmer came to the first farmer.
"How do I become a Christian?" he asked.
There is a saying, 'Love your friends and hate your enemies.' But I say: Love your enemies!...If you are friendly only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even the heathens do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your father in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:43-48).
This all started at a young age. My only sibling was my sister, three years older than me. When I was at that just-beginning-to-walk stage (never mind that it lasted for several years), she was a wild and running four-year-old. My dad made a lot of home movies when I was young and the common theme amongst them all is that they show my sister as a whirling dervish running over me and knocking me to the floor. Eventually, and you can see this in the movies, I learned to just sit down whenever she approached me. It was less painful that way. Sort of like how puppies in a litter will establish a pecking order and eventually the weaker ones will just become very submissive, cowering in the corner of the box as the bigger pups roll by. That was me whenever my sister came around.
Okay, I painted a pretty pitiful picture there. I may be exaggerating a little bit ... but not much. Several years of painful and debilitating electrical shock therapy behind me, I am doing better ... I think.
Once I started school, I quickly (and painfully) discovered that there was not an athletic bone in my body. If I had any inkling at all of being competitive in school, it was all shot to heck by this discovery. Remember field day at school? The athletic kids are chosen to run marathons and pole vault and throw softballs. I, on the other hand, was chosen to do things like the potato sack race and the water balloon toss.
And then there was junior high gym class. It involved a lot of dodge ball and a lot of getting chosen last for teams. My friend and I always knew we'd never be on the same team because we'd be the last two chosen. He would end up on one team and I'd end up on the other.
In high school, I managed to only take gym class one semester the entire four years. Not sure how I managed that but I did. I had one bright moment in high school gym when I hit a triple while playing baseball. Of course, the only reason it was a triple was because I happened to hit the ball to the worst kid on the other team and he totally flubbed it.
My lack of competitiveness probably isn't very beneficial in business. If I have an opportunity to help a competitor get a project (assuming it's obvious that we won't get it), I will do so every time.
I can be competitive around the office, though. I know it. I like to be right. I need to work on that. I try to remind myself to be more open to others' opinions and respect them for what they have to offer but I struggle with pride and that manifests itself in unhealthy competitiveness.
Well, before you now, I confess also that my competitive spirit comes out once a year at a particular time. Pinewood Derby time. I know what you're thinking -- how could I get competitive over a bunch of Cub Scouts building cars out of pine blocks and racing them down a track? Well, if you've never been involved with a Pinewood Derby, I have to tell you something. The boys aren't really involved. Yes, they may choose the color of their car and they may place it up on the track, poised to fly down the ramp, but, fact is, the race is all about the Dads.
Unfortunately, there is usually one boy whose dad doesn't help him and that boy ends up with a very rectangular car with wheels on it, all askew. That particular car usually doesn't even make it to the finish line. The boy is upset and his dad tries to make him feel better by saying "But you did it all yourself, son. You should be proud of that." And then the next year the dad figures out how to build a car that really kicks butt.
This year is my second Pinewood Derby. (Okay, it's Evan's second Pinewood Derby.) I think we came in third place last year. We did get the award for best design though which was cool because the design of the car was completely Evan's.
This year, he wanted it to look like Jeff Gordon's car so we made our best attempt at that. When assembling the car, I worked a lot with the wheels and "axles" because, aside from having the right weight, I think that the wheels and axles are the main keys to Pinewood performance.
I keep warning Evan that you just never know how well your car will do against the others ... trying to prepare him (okay, myself) for the possibility that we won't do well in the race.
Deep down, though, I want to make all the other dads cry. LOL
Wish us luck!
Jeremiah has had many good and appropriate lessons for me. I have been internalizing a huge amount of stress and worry lately. It's easy to try to separate my work life from my spiritual life ... to try to work through problems at work without taking them to God. I am trying to be better at going to God with all of my concerns. He holds the answers and only He knows the future. My maker holds the plan for my life; I want to grow closer to Him and discover it.
God desires that we know Him in an intimate and personal relationship. He has revealed Himself and provided a way to know Him through the life and sacrifice of His Son; "Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father... Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in Me?" (John 14:9-10). As we grow in our faith and begin to know Him better, it becomes essential to know the promises of His Word. But it's even more important to believe His promises are true! We may say we believe God's Word is true, but do our actions reflect our belief?
1 John 5:10
"Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made Him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about His Son."
Yes, our old nature sometimes clouds our ability to clearly see the truth; and yes, some of God's truths can be hard to accept and actually put into practice. But, we either believe His words and begin to take steps to apply them in our life, or we do not believe and call God a liar by the way we live.
It may be difficult, but we must confront our beliefs and begin to make them real. When we face a trial and don't know which direction to turn, do we believe the words, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:5-6)? Do we really believe that as we trust Him, He will remove the confusion and guide our steps?
When our circumstances seem out of control, do we believe "in all things God works for the good of those who love Him" (Romans 8:28)? Do we really believe that as we continue to love Him, God works for the good in All things (regardless of our understanding)? And when we feel alone, do we really believe God's promise to always be near; "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).
How about the promises of being content (Philippians 4:12), or being given the peace of Jesus (John 14:27), or the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) - can we really "do everything through Him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13)? Parents, have we given up hope for our children or do we believe, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it" (Proverbs 22:6)?
God's Word is true and His promises are real!! Let's praise Him all the rest of our days and let our lives demonstrate we REALLY know and believe. Let's make sure our actions and decisions, fears and anxieties, hopes and dreams, are governed by truth and NOT based on calling God a liar.
The first few verses show that Jeremiah was feeling a bit conflicted. This is how we can sometimes feel, too, as we try to minister to others. My Study Bible points out that this is how Jesus probably felt in the Garden of Gethsemane as He looked out over Jerusalem, knowing His fate. Our command as Christians, however, is clear. We are to focus, and keep focusing on, bringing others to Christ. God will handle the rest.
Verses 23 and 24 are great reminders as to what we should and should not boast in.
But Paul shouted, "Don't harm yourself! We are all here!" - Acts 16:28
Paul and Silas had just been thrown into prison. An earthquake erupted and the jail cell was opened. It's Paul and Silas' opportunity. "Deliverance! Praise God!" might be the appropriate response. But this is not what Paul and Silas did. In fact, rather than leave, they sat quietly in their cell area. The guard, in fear of his life, knew that it would be automatic death if prisoners escaped. Paul and Silas did not leave because they saw a higher purpose for which they were in prison. They were not looking at their circumstance; they were much more concerned about the unsaved guard. The story goes on to explain how Paul and Silas went home with the guard and his family. Not only did the guard get saved, but his entire household as well.
What a lesson this is for us. How often we are so busy looking for deliverance from our circumstance that we miss God completely. God is looking to do miracles in our circumstances if we will only look for them. Sometimes as workplace believers we become so obsessed with our goals we miss the process that God involves us in, which may be where the miracle lies. What if that bill collector who has been hounding you is unsaved and he is there for you to speak to? What if a problem account has arisen due to something God is doing beyond what you might see at this time? Our adverse situations can often be the door of spiritual opportunity for those who need it.
I saw this personally when God allowed me to go through a number of adversities. It took some time, but I saw some great miracles as a result of those adversities. When God said that "all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purposes" (see Rom. 8:28), He meant all things. It is up to us to find the "work together for good" part by being faithful to the process. In the next adversity you face, tune your spiritual antennae and ask God for discernment to see the real purpose for the adversity.
The following day, despite the sadness that weighed heavily on his heart due to the unfortunate death of the armless campanologist, the bishop continued his interviews for the bell ringer of Nortre Dame. The first man to approach him said, "Your Excellency, I am the brother of the poor armless wretch that fell to his death from this very belfry yesterday. I pray that you honor his life by allowing me to replace him in this duty." The bishop agreed to give the man an audition, and as the armless man's brother stooped to pick up a mallet to strike the first bell, he groaned, clutched his chest, twirled around, and died on the spot. Two monks, hearing the bishop's cries of grief at this second tragedy, rushed up the stairs to his side. 'What has happened? Who is this man?" the first monk asked breathlessly. "I don't know his name," sighed the distraught bishop, " but . . . "he's a dead ringer for his brother!"
The first three verses of this remind me of Matthew 23:27 - 28 (The Message): "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. God is very serious about our keeping His laws and commandments, and not following the ways of this earth. In Jeremiah 8, to the Israelites, having the bones of their ancestors spread out on the desert would have been a horrible culturual insult. Yet God was telling them that that was their risk if they did not change their ways.
When my group was in Jerusalem, we saw the whitewashed tombs that Jesus speaks of in Matthew 27. They are all laid out on a hillside in plain view of the Temple Mount area -- the southeast corner of Jerusalem as I recall. They are in man's view just as our souls always are to God -- laid out in plain view. How often do I carry ugly thoughts or feelings inside of me? It happens far too often but yet not nearly enough do I think about how God knows all that junk that I carry around. Fortunately, His grace saves me.
Verses 4 - 7 in Jeremiah 8 really speak to this. How often do we continue down the wrong road? How often do we stumble and not get up and make corrections? How often do we hold onto illusions?
I pray to God that He will call to my attention the evil in my life. The unconfessed sin. The bad thoughts that are, to God, laid out like bones in the desert. I pray also that, once these things are called to my attention, I can repent and permanently change my ways.
In the message "So We May Know" we looked at some indicators of a "born again" life. We saw that such a life should be characterized by love; "we know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers" (1 John 3:14). Although loving others will not save us, John forcefully states that if we are truly saved we will love one another; "whoever does not love does not know God" (1 John 4:8).
It's interesting to note that in the five chapters of 1 John, the word love is used 46 times. If love is this important, we ought to understand what it means.
1 John 3:16-18
"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."
John is saying that Jesus set the example for love and that our love for others is a direct result of the love of God within us. As we love God and surrender our life to Jesus Christ, His love fills us and overflows into the lives of those around us. If love for others is lacking, we must lay down our life and increase our love for God; a true increased love for God will certainly increase our love for others.
John also makes it clear that a Godly love for others is not simply an emotional "feeling" or gentle and kind words. When we begin to understand God's love for us - when we catch even a glimpse of His mercy and love in giving us His Son - we will be compelled to express our love with meaningful action such as meeting physical needs, readily forgiving when wronged, and showing Godly compassion when others are hurting. God so desired to be with us for all eternity that He gave His Son and loved us all the way to the cross. We are to love others in this same manner, "because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19).
Our love for God is demonstrated by our real love for others. Jesus made this clear when He said; "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for Me" (Matthew 25:40). We are actually loving and serving God as we love and serve others: "I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me" (Matthew 25:35-36).
Love must be an integral part of our Christian walk. Love must be directed up; "love the Lord with ALL your heart" (Mark 12:30), and love must be directed out; "love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:31). Let's love as Jesus loved us! Let's look for ways to love with more than words - let's love with an active love.
So far, Jeremiah has been largely about God's displeasure with the Israelites. Verses 3 -7 tell how they can change their ways and stay in the land given to them. The same thing applies to us as we seek to spend eternity with Jesus.
If we listen to Him, God will guide and direct our every move. Sometimes, though, we allow the things of this world and all of the "noise" that makes up this world to distract us and keep us from hearing our heavenly father's direction (verse 13). It was the same 3000 years ago as it is today.
Jeremiah really stresses how serious God is about his commands to us. Serious about following His direction, serious about loving others, serious about being caring and compassionate, serious about bringing His story to those with whome we walk this earth. We all know those great Christians examples who live what we can only describe as "supernatural" lives here on earth. We all admire them. I am learning that that is exactly the life that we're all called to. Fortunately, we are all blessed by the grace of a Father who loves us dearly and wants us to spend eternity with Him. He understands that it is a journey and he continually works ot mold us into what we should be here on earth.
It's easy sometimes to think that, though, that even though we accept Christ and strive to live as good disciples here on earth, there is still some magical additional transformation that takes place in our soul once we die and are in heaven. However, fact is, we are all called to accept and totally live out that complete transformation in Christ here one earth, not to wait for some additional magical "above and beyond" transformation after death. God gives us all that opportunity here on earth. What will we do with it?
This morning I received an emailed devotional from Steve Troxel of God's Daily Word Ministries which includes some great scriptural references to the life transformed in Christ. I will post it below.
The Word is clear: only those who have been born of the Spirit by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin, will be given eternal life. But something as important as eternity begs another question: How do we know when we have been born again?
1 John 5:11-13
"God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life."
John wrote this first letter to define the changes which ought to take place in the life of a Christian. The believers understood that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). They knew "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). They had been told the importance of turning from their sin; "repent, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out" (Acts 3:19), and they clearly understood the significance of Jesus' death on the cross; "God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood" (Romans 3:25).
The believers knew it was through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus that they were forgiven and transformed by His Spirit; but, though they knew the process, they still wrestled with knowing if they were saved.
John provided several indicators of a life which truly believes in Jesus. He said those who are born again will obey the commands of God (1 John 2:3-5), and will not continue to live in sin (1 John 3:9). He said a born again life is characterized by love: "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers.
Anyone who does not love remains in death" (1 John 3:14). John also said our love should not just be with words, "but with actions and in truth" (1 John 3:18).
The born again transformation occurs in our heart and spirit, but John is saying that becoming a new creation ought to result in change. We are not the same! And while the growth of many new creations can be painfully slow, over time there ought to be some form of fruit - all healthy creatures grow!
But if the evidence of being born again is missing, please remember that we cannot generate change by trying harder. Self effort never produces eternal life. Rather, we must return to the cross and consider the darkness of our sin and the brilliance of His love; "we love because He first loved us" (1 John 4:9). For only at the cross is there forgiveness and the power to transform. Let's truly receive the forgiveness offered through faith in Jesus and live with a victorious assurance that we are born again. Let's trust the truth of His Word, which has been given into our hands so we may know.
Before you read this post, though, please follow this link and go read Jeremiah 6 (NLT). Just don't forget to come back here when you're done!
Jeremiah 6 relates so well to something I have been thinking a lot about lately. How do we, as disciples of Christ, reach the lost, and who exactly do we consider to be "the lost"?
I fear that sometimes, when we think of those that God is calling us to reach, our minds go to those who are really really down on their luck. We think of those who are fighting addictions, those with mental health issues, those who are caught up in cycles of poverty. And reaching out to those folks is certainly a part of what we're called to do. Sometimes, we might be pleasantly surprised that they may not be as "spiritually lost" as we thought they were. At other times, we will find these folks at points of brokenness where they are so very eager to be shown Christian love and to hear God's word.
As pointed out in Jeremiah 6, the world is a mess -- now, just as it was 3,000 or so years ago. But, as pointed out in verses 9 and 10, we are still called to reaching out to that hurting world, regardless of how hopeless it may seem at points.
A few years ago, our church planted another church -- called JOY Church -- which meets on Sunday mornings at the local community center. It was designed to reach out to some of the most hurting of our community and it was done a wonderful job of just that. It was designed to reach folks who would have found themselves uncomfortable walking into a typical "church" setting on Sunday morning. It has been an incredible outreach and an incredible ministry.
However, there is an even bigger populace of "unchurched" in our community and those folks also may be uncomfortable walking into a typical "church" setting but they also are not going to walk into the local community center on Sunday mornings. This is a huge group out there. They are our neighbors, co-workers, and friends. They are the parents of the other kids on the soccer team. They are the ones we see regularly at our favorite restaurant. They are the ones who ring up our items at WalMart. The ones who work in area factories. They see a stigma with the local community center and are not going to go there. But they are also often two or three generations now away from the church. They have perhaps never even seen the inside of a church other than maybe for a wedding.
Yes, we have a responsibility to invite, and keep inviting them to church. But, in some cases, it seems ludicrous even to our own minds that these individuals, as their first official step toward spirituality, are going to show up in their "Sunday best" at a church with stained glass windows to sit through a worship service in which they are continually lost, hearing words and songs they have never before heard. We may luck out and, with God's help, get them into church one time but, even with radical hospitality during that one visit, will we ever get them back? Or will we just further cement their fears and feelings of discomfort? Will they walk away form the one visit saying "Well, that was dumb. Those people don't have anything I don't have. In fact, my Hummer is newer than theirs!"
I have written before about how churches ought to look like convenience stores. Not for the purpose of being a place where someone can run in and pick up a "six pack of God's love" but instead for the purpose of being a place that people are comfortable going into.
I think a real key here, too, is in "affinity groups". This is the establishment of groups of like-minded individuals outside of church walls. If I like baseball, I put together a group of buddies to get together and play ball or to go to a professional game once a month in the summer. If I like to do needlepoint, I create a needlepoint club. Whatever it takes, I reach out to them first in friendship and through a common bond, knowing that God will use that to open doors to greater things.
We have a responsibility here:
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20, NLT)
Notice Jesus' promise in the last sentence -- he is with us even to the end of the age. He knew that things would change over time and he promised to be with us through all of that, helping us to learn better ways how to reach others for Him.
This is a responsibility we must not take lightly. Even if, or perhaps especially if, it means entering communities or relationships where we are God's only voice, we have a responsibility.
“Run up and down every street in Jerusalem,” says the Lord.
“Look high and low; search throughout the city!
If you can find even one just and honest person,
I will not destroy the city. (Jeremiah 5:1, NLT)
I am not whining here because, believe me, no one knows better than I do that I am the one who has gotten myself into this predicament. However, I like to use my blog for keeping track of things like this so that I am always "moving forward" and learning from the past.
I could kick myself for what I have done this time in over-extending myself because a lot of the problem stems from not having left myself enough "contingency time." I generally tend to be pretty good at anticipating potential issues that could unexpectedly creep into my schedule and cost me extra time but this time I really messed up and didn't do a good job of that. As a result, now that other things have come up, I find myself really sweating it.
I hate this mainly because the end result tends to be time away from my family. There is probably nothing I value more on this earth than time with Lisa and Evan and, when my own stupidity and poor planning affect that, I end up beating myself up pretty badly.
I think another problem is simply getting older. Things seem to take me longer than they used to. I don't like that either but there's not much I can do about it I guess except allow for it. I do need to find some time to clean up and re-organized all of the papers that have accumulated in my desk, in my car, and on a pile (okay, piles) at home. I am finding it tough to find the time to do that though I know that, if I can, things will get better.
It's all about balance. Balancing time for family, God, work, and myself. I have, sadly, let things get pretty out of whack recently. At this point, about all I can do is buck up, dig in, and work my way through everything. The most important thing I can do, though, is learn. God has lots of lessons for me in this. He will see me through it but I know that ultimately He is teaching me, molding me into the person that He designed me to be.
God is good. Life is good. I just need to bring life back into balance.
1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
9 What does the worker gain from his toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on men. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. 13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.
15 Whatever is has already been,
and what will be has been before;
and God will call the past to account. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-15, NIV)
Generally, though, I follow through and try to eat the unusual things I buy. Very rarely do they turn out to be things that we buy on a regular basis though.
A couple of weeks ago, Lisa and Evan were looking out for me. They saw something new in the dairy case and decided that I might want to try it. I am pleased to say that they are very good. "Breakstone's Cottage Doubles" are little plastic cartons which have cottage cheese and fruit in separate sections. You mix the fruit into the cottage cheese before you eat it. At only about 150 calories and very low in sugar, Cottage Doubles stack up well against yogurt. Frequently my breakfast, if I eat breakfast at all, is a cup of yogurt. Well, over the last couple of weeks, I have enjoyed a strawberry and a pineapple Cottage Double in place of yogurt for breakfast. They really are very tasty and more filling than yogurt. No, I am not a paid spokesperson for Breakstone's but I would suggest you check them out and see what you think. I just hope that our couple of friends who work at the nearby Dannon Yogurt plant don't read this.
1 "Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem,
look around and consider,
search through her squares.
If you can find but one person
who deals honestly and seeks the truth,
I will forgive this city.
2 Although they say, 'As surely as the LORD lives,'
still they are swearing falsely."
3 O LORD, do not your eyes look for truth?
You struck them, but they felt no pain;
you crushed them, but they refused correction.
They made their faces harder than stone
and refused to repent.
4 I thought, "These are only the poor;
they are foolish,
for they do not know the way of the LORD,
the requirements of their God.
5 So I will go to the leaders
and speak to them;
surely they know the way of the LORD,
the requirements of their God."
But with one accord they too had broken off the yoke
and torn off the bonds.
6 Therefore a lion from the forest will attack them,
a wolf from the desert will ravage them,
a leopard will lie in wait near their towns
to tear to pieces any who venture out,
for their rebellion is great
and their backslidings many.
7 "Why should I forgive you?
Your children have forsaken me
and sworn by gods that are not gods.
I supplied all their needs,
yet they committed adultery
and thronged to the houses of prostitutes.
8 They are well-fed, lusty stallions,
each neighing for another man's wife.
9 Should I not punish them for this?"
declares the LORD.
"Should I not avenge myself
on such a nation as this?
10 "Go through her vineyards and ravage them,
but do not destroy them completely.
Strip off her branches,
for these people do not belong to the LORD.
11 The house of Israel and the house of Judah
have been utterly unfaithful to me,"
declares the LORD.
12 They have lied about the LORD;
they said, "He will do nothing!
No harm will come to us;
we will never see sword or famine.
13 The prophets are but wind
and the word is not in them;
so let what they say be done to them."
14 Therefore this is what the LORD God Almighty says:
"Because the people have spoken these words,
I will make my words in your mouth a fire
and these people the wood it consumes.
15 O house of Israel," declares the LORD,
"I am bringing a distant nation against you—
an ancient and enduring nation,
a people whose language you do not know,
whose speech you do not understand.
16 Their quivers are like an open grave;
all of them are mighty warriors.
17 They will devour your harvests and food,
devour your sons and daughters;
they will devour your flocks and herds,
devour your vines and fig trees.
With the sword they will destroy
the fortified cities in which you trust.
18 "Yet even in those days," declares the LORD, "I will not destroy you completely. 19 And when the people ask, 'Why has the LORD our God done all this to us?' you will tell them, 'As you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your own land, so now you will serve foreigners in a land not your own.'
20 "Announce this to the house of Jacob
and proclaim it in Judah:
21 Hear this, you foolish and senseless people,
who have eyes but do not see,
who have ears but do not hear:
22 Should you not fear me?" declares the LORD.
"Should you not tremble in my presence?
I made the sand a boundary for the sea,
an everlasting barrier it cannot cross.
The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail;
they may roar, but they cannot cross it.
23 But these people have stubborn and rebellious hearts;
they have turned aside and gone away.
24 They do not say to themselves,
'Let us fear the LORD our God,
who gives autumn and spring rains in season,
who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest.'
25 Your wrongdoings have kept these away;
your sins have deprived you of good.
26 "Among my people are wicked men
who lie in wait like men who snare birds
and like those who set traps to catch men.
27 Like cages full of birds,
their houses are full of deceit;
they have become rich and powerful
28 and have grown fat and sleek.
Their evil deeds have no limit;
they do not plead the case of the fatherless to win it,
they do not defend the rights of the poor.
29 Should I not punish them for this?"
declares the LORD.
"Should I not avenge myself
on such a nation as this?
30 "A horrible and shocking thing
has happened in the land:
31 The prophets prophesy lies,
the priests rule by their own authority,
and my people love it this way.
But what will you do in the end?
“if you wanted to return to me, you could.
You could throw away your detestable idols
and stray away no more.
2 Then when you swear by my name, saying,
‘As surely as the Lord lives,’
you could do so
with truth, justice, and righteousness.
Then you would be a blessing to the nations of the world,
and all people would come and praise my name.”
Coming Judgment against Judah
3 This is what the Lord says to the people of Judah and Jerusalem:
“Plow up the hard ground of your hearts!
Do not waste your good seed among thorns.
4 O people of Judah and Jerusalem,
surrender your pride and power.
Change your hearts before the Lord,[a]
or my anger will burn like an unquenchable fire
because of all your sins.
5 “Shout to Judah, and broadcast to Jerusalem!
Tell them to sound the alarm throughout the land:
‘Run for your lives!
Flee to the fortified cities!’
6 Raise a signal flag as a warning for Jerusalem[b]:
‘Flee now! Do not delay!’
For I am bringing terrible destruction upon you
from the north.”
7 A lion stalks from its den,
a destroyer of nations.
It has left its lair and is headed your way.
It’s going to devastate your land!
Your towns will lie in ruins,
with no one living in them anymore.
8 So put on clothes of mourning
and weep with broken hearts,
for the fierce anger of the Lord
is still upon us.
9 “In that day,” says the Lord,
“the king and the officials will tremble in fear.
The priests will be struck with horror,
and the prophets will be appalled.”
10 Then I said, “O Sovereign Lord,
the people have been deceived by what you said,
for you promised peace for Jerusalem.
But the sword is held at their throats!”
11 The time is coming when the Lord will say
to the people of Jerusalem,
“My dear people, a burning wind is blowing in from the desert,
and it’s not a gentle breeze useful for winnowing grain.
12 It is a roaring blast sent by me!
Now I will pronounce your destruction!”
13 Our enemy rushes down on us like storm clouds!
His chariots are like whirlwinds.
His horses are swifter than eagles.
How terrible it will be, for we are doomed!
14 O Jerusalem, cleanse your heart
that you may be saved.
How long will you harbor
your evil thoughts?
15 Your destruction has been announced
from Dan and the hill country of Ephraim.
16 “Warn the surrounding nations
and announce this to Jerusalem:
The enemy is coming from a distant land,
raising a battle cry against the towns of Judah.
17 They surround Jerusalem like watchmen around a field,
for my people have rebelled against me,”
says the Lord.
18 “Your own actions have brought this upon you.
This punishment is bitter, piercing you to the heart!”
Jeremiah Weeps for His People
19 My heart, my heart—I writhe in pain!
My heart pounds within me! I cannot be still.
For I have heard the blast of enemy trumpets
and the roar of their battle cries.
20 Waves of destruction roll over the land,
until it lies in complete desolation.
Suddenly my tents are destroyed;
in a moment my shelters are crushed.
21 How long must I see the battle flags
and hear the trumpets of war?
22 “My people are foolish
and do not know me,” says the Lord.
“They are stupid children
who have no understanding.
They are clever enough at doing wrong,
but they have no idea how to do right!”
Jeremiah’s Vision of Coming Disaster
23 I looked at the earth, and it was empty and formless.
I looked at the heavens, and there was no light.
24 I looked at the mountains and hills,
and they trembled and shook.
25 I looked, and all the people were gone.
All the birds of the sky had flown away.
26 I looked, and the fertile fields had become a wilderness.
The towns lay in ruins,
crushed by the Lord’s fierce anger.
27 This is what the Lord says:
“The whole land will be ruined,
but I will not destroy it completely.
28 The earth will mourn
and the heavens will be draped in black
because of my decree against my people.
I have made up my mind and will not change it.”
29 At the noise of charioteers and archers,
the people flee in terror.
They hide in the bushes
and run for the mountains.
All the towns have been abandoned—
not a person remains!
30 What are you doing,
you who have been plundered?
Why do you dress up in beautiful clothing
and put on gold jewelry?
Why do you brighten your eyes with mascara?
Your primping will do you no good!
The allies who were your lovers
despise you and seek to kill you.
31 I hear a cry, like that of a woman in labor,
the groans of a woman giving birth to her first child.
It is beautiful Jerusalem[c]
gasping for breath and crying out,
“Help! I’m being murdered!”
I never really thought that I'd spend as much time in airports as I do. I don't know why. I always wanted to be famous and that would mean lots of travel. But I'm not famous, yet I do see more than my share of airports.
I love them and I hate them. I love them because of the people I get to watch. But they are also the same reason why I hate airports. It all comes down to "hello" and "goodbye."I must have mentioned this a few times while writing my stories for you.
I have great difficulties with saying goodbye. Even as I write this I am experiencing that pounding sensation in my heart. If I am watching such a scene in a movie I am affected so much that I need to sit up and take a few deep breaths. So when faced with a challenge in my life I have been known to go to our local airport and watch people say goodbye. I figure nothing that is happening to me at the time could be as bad as having to say goodbye.
Watching people cling to each other, crying, and holding each other in that last embrace makes me appreciate what I have even more. Seeing them finally pull apart, extending their arms until the tips of their fingers are the last to let go, is an image that stays forefront in my mind throughout the day.
On one of my recent business trips, when I arrived at the counter to check in, the woman said, "How are you today?" I replied, "I am missing my wife already and I haven't even said goodbye."
She then looked at my ticket and began to ask, "How long will you...Oh, my God. You will only be gone three days!" We all laughed. My problem was I still had to say goodbye.
But I learn from goodbye moments, too.
Recently I overheard a father and daughter in their last moments together. They had announced her departure and standing near the security gate, they hugged and he said, "I love you. I wish you enough." She in turn said, "Daddy, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Daddy."
They kissed and she left. He walked over toward the window where I was seated. Standing there I could see he wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on his privacy, but he welcomed me in by asking, "Did you ever say goodbye to someone knowing it would be forever?"
"Yes, I have," I replied. Saying that brought back memories I had of expressing my love and appreciation for all my Dad had done for me. Recognizing that his days were limited, I took the time to tell him face to face how much he meant to me.
So I knew what this man experiencing.
"Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever goodbye?" I asked.
"I am old and she lives much too far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is, the next trip back would be for my funeral," he said.
"When you were saying goodbye I heard you say, "I wish you enough." May I ask what that means?"
He began to smile. "That's a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone." He paused for a moment and looking up as if trying to remember it in detail, he smiled even more."When we said 'I wish you enough,' we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them," he continued and then turning toward me he shared the following as if he were reciting it from memory.
"* I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
* I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
* I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
* I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.
* I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
* I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
* I wish enough hello's to get you through the final goodbye."
He then began to sob and walked away.
My friends, I wish you enough!
1 "If a man divorces his wife
and she leaves him and marries another man,
should he return to her again?
Would not the land be completely defiled?
But you have lived as a prostitute with many lovers—
would you now return to me?"
declares the LORD.
2 "Look up to the barren heights and see.
Is there any place where you have not been ravished?
By the roadside you sat waiting for lovers,
sat like a nomad [a] in the desert.
You have defiled the land
with your prostitution and wickedness.
3 Therefore the showers have been withheld,
and no spring rains have fallen.
Yet you have the brazen look of a prostitute;
you refuse to blush with shame.
4 Have you not just called to me:
'My Father, my friend from my youth,
5 will you always be angry?
Will your wrath continue forever?'
This is how you talk,
but you do all the evil you can."
6 During the reign of King Josiah, the LORD said to me, "Have you seen what faithless Israel has done? She has gone up on every high hill and under every spreading tree and has committed adultery there. 7 I thought that after she had done all this she would return to me but she did not, and her unfaithful sister Judah saw it. 8 I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery. 9 Because Israel's immorality mattered so little to her, she defiled the land and committed adultery with stone and wood. 10 In spite of all this, her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretense," declares the LORD.
11 The LORD said to me, "Faithless Israel is more righteous than unfaithful Judah. 12 Go, proclaim this message toward the north:
" 'Return, faithless Israel,' declares the LORD,
'I will frown on you no longer,
for I am merciful,' declares the LORD,
'I will not be angry forever.
13 Only acknowledge your guilt—
you have rebelled against the LORD your God,
you have scattered your favors to foreign gods
under every spreading tree,
and have not obeyed me,' "
declares the LORD.
14 "Return, faithless people," declares the LORD, "for I am your husband. I will choose you—one from a town and two from a clan—and bring you to Zion. 15 Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding. 16 In those days, when your numbers have increased greatly in the land," declares the LORD, "men will no longer say, 'The ark of the covenant of the LORD.' It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made. 17 At that time they will call Jerusalem The Throne of the LORD, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the LORD. No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts. 18 In those days the house of Judah will join the house of Israel, and together they will come from a northern land to the land I gave your forefathers as an inheritance.
19 "I myself said,
" 'How gladly would I treat you like sons
and give you a desirable land,
the most beautiful inheritance of any nation.'
I thought you would call me 'Father'
and not turn away from following me.
20 But like a woman unfaithful to her husband,
so you have been unfaithful to me, O house of Israel,"
declares the LORD.
21 A cry is heard on the barren heights,
the weeping and pleading of the people of Israel,
because they have perverted their ways
and have forgotten the LORD their God.
22 "Return, faithless people;
I will cure you of backsliding."
"Yes, we will come to you,
for you are the LORD our God.
23 Surely the idolatrous commotion on the hills
and mountains is a deception;
surely in the LORD our God
is the salvation of Israel.
24 From our youth shameful gods have consumed
the fruits of our fathers' labor—
their flocks and herds,
their sons and daughters.
25 Let us lie down in our shame,
and let our disgrace cover us.
We have sinned against the LORD our God,
both we and our fathers;
from our youth till this day
we have not obeyed the LORD our God."
Did you see the story about the skunk from California that apparently stowed away on a truck and ended up in Canada? If I opened up a truck and found a skunk inside, one of two things would happen. I would most likely back away from the truck and encourage the critter to leave. The other thing that I might do is look for an easy way to kill the animal. I mean, let's face it. Skunks are cute but they are pretty much nuisances. Please don't get upset with me. I love animals but sometimes you do have to exterminate ones that are nuisances. Many skunks carry rabies. Additionally, the average wild skunk lives only about three years.
Well, in the case of our California skunk transplanted in Canada, there has been concern that it will not survive in Canada. Most Californians apparently do poorly in Canada. So, they do not want to let it loose. I have read that only in the movie "Bambi" do skunks hibernate. Real skunks do not hibernate. But they will eat quiche and spray you later if given the opportunity. Perhaps if this skunk had a nice fur coat to keep it warm in the Canadian winters ... oh, wait, I guess it does.
They also do not want to kill the skunk in Canada. Perhaps there are laws against killing skunks in Canada. Maybe that is why my ex-wife moved there. (Just kidding. I do not have an ex-wife. I have a wonderful and lovely wife who I am very happy doesn't live in Canada. Not that there's anything wrong with living in Canada. It's just that I don't live there and well, I'd miss her if she lived there and I didn't.)
So now the issue is how to transport the skunk back to California. I am easily picturing that it will probably cost a few thousand dollars to accomplish that. I am not sure from whose pocket that money will come. It could create tensions between the US and Canada. Who should be responsible for the cost? The skunk is a US citizen.
In any event, it bothers me greatly that chances are several thousand dollars will be consumed in moving a smelly and bothersome critter from Canada to California. A critter that will only live a couple more years at best anyway. It seems that, in the state our world is in, there are far better uses for that money.
Perhaps a Canadian zoo will step up to the plate. The US will probably end up paying "skunk support" payments but that will be okay. Domesticated skunks can live up to 20 years though. Some folks de-scent skunks and keep them as pets. Benjamin Franklin had a pet skunk. (I made that up. I was trying to think of the name of a famous Canadian but I couldn't come up with anyone except Michael J. Fox and it seems hard to believe that he would have ever owned a skunk. Benjamin Franklin on the other hand ...)
Perhaps some nice Canadian family will officially adopt the skunk. I suspect that skunks like back bacon and donuts.
Okay ... for the other story I saw that bothered me ...
Brad and Angelina have fallen in love with New Orleans. To show support for the people there and the rebuilding of New Orleans, they are buying a home in the French Quarter. It will be the fourth home they have but apparently they intend for it to be their primary home. It is a $3.4 million mansion. Apparently nothing says I love you and care about you more to a grief-stricken underprivileged person than buying a $3.4 million mansion next to them and then telling them that you can now relate to them.
I know that Brad and Angelina have done a lot of good and raised a lot of awareness of bad situations but I am still bothered by this. Perhaps they would like to adopt an underprivileged California skunk from Canada. Now there's an idea.
1 The Lord gave me another message. He said, 2 “Go and shout this message to Jerusalem. This is what the Lord says:
“I remember how eager you were to please me
as a young bride long ago,
how you loved me and followed me
even through the barren wilderness.
3 In those days Israel was holy to the Lord,
the first of his children.
All who harmed his people were declared guilty,
and disaster fell on them.
I, the Lord, have spoken!”
4 Listen to the word of the Lord, people of Jacob—all you families of Israel! 5 This is what the Lord says:
“What did your ancestors find wrong with me
that led them to stray so far from me?
They worshiped worthless idols,
only to become worthless themselves.
6 They did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord
who brought us safely out of Egypt
and led us through the barren wilderness—
a land of deserts and pits,
a land of drought and death,
where no one lives or even travels?’
7 “And when I brought you into a fruitful land
to enjoy its bounty and goodness,
you defiled my land and
corrupted the possession I had promised you.
8 The priests did not ask,
‘Where is the Lord?’
Those who taught my word ignored me,
the rulers turned against me,
and the prophets spoke in the name of Baal,
wasting their time on worthless idols.
9 Therefore, I will bring my case against you,”
says the Lord.
“I will even bring charges against your children’s children
in the years to come.
10 “Go west and look in the land of Cyprus;
go east and search through the land of Kedar.
Has anyone ever heard of anything
as strange as this?
11 Has any nation ever traded its gods for new ones,
even though they are not gods at all?
Yet my people have exchanged their glorious God
for worthless idols!
12 The heavens are shocked at such a thing
and shrink back in horror and dismay,”
says the Lord.
13 “For my people have done two evil things:
They have abandoned me—
the fountain of living water.
And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns
that can hold no water at all!
The Results of Israel’s Sin
14 “Why has Israel become a slave?
Why has he been carried away as plunder?
15 Strong lions have roared against him,
and the land has been destroyed.
The towns are now in ruins,
and no one lives in them anymore.
16 Egyptians, marching from their cities of Memphis and Tahpanhes,
have destroyed Israel’s glory and power.
17 And you have brought this upon yourselves
by rebelling against the Lord your God,
even though he was leading you on the way!
18 “What have you gained by your alliances with Egypt
and your covenants with Assyria?
What good to you are the streams of the Nile
or the waters of the Euphrates River?
19 Your wickedness will bring its own punishment.
Your turning from me will shame you.
You will see what an evil, bitter thing it is
to abandon the Lord your God and not to fear him.
I, the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!
20 “Long ago I broke the yoke that oppressed you
and tore away the chains of your slavery,
but still you said,
‘I will not serve you.’
On every hill and under every green tree,
you have prostituted yourselves by bowing down to idols.
21 But I was the one who planted you,
choosing a vine of the purest stock—the very best.
How did you grow into this corrupt wild vine?
22 No amount of soap or lye can make you clean.
I still see the stain of your guilt.
I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!
Israel, an Unfaithful Wife
23 “You say, ‘That’not true!
I haven’t worshiped the images of Baal!’
But how can you say that?
Go and look in any valley in the land!
Face the awful sins you have done.
You are like a restless female camel
desperately searching for a mate.
24 You are like a wild donkey,
sniffing the wind at mating time.
Who can restrain her lust?
Those who desire her don’t need to search,
for she goes running to them!
25 When will you stop running?
When will you stop panting after other gods?
But you say, ‘Save your breath.
I’m in love with these foreign gods,
and I can’t stop loving them now!’
26 “Israel is like a thief
who feels shame only when he gets caught.
They, their kings, officials, priests, and prophets—
all are alike in this.
27 To an image carved from a piece of wood they say,
‘You are my father.’
To an idol chiseled from a block of stone they say,
‘You are my mother.’
They turn their backs on me,
but in times of trouble they cry out to me,
‘Come and save us!’
28 But why not call on these gods you have made?
When trouble comes, let them save you if they can!
For you have as many gods
as there are towns in Judah.
29 Why do you accuse me of doing wrong?
You are the ones who have rebelled,”
says the Lord.
30 “I have punished your children,
but they did not respond to my discipline.
You yourselves have killed your prophets
as a lion kills its prey.
31 “O my people, listen to the words of the Lord!
Have I been like a desert to Israel?
Have I been to them a land of darkness?
Why then do my people say, ‘At last we are free from God!
We don’t need him anymore!’
32 Does a young woman forget her jewelry?
Does a bride hide her wedding dress?
Yet for years on end
my people have forgotten me.
33 “How you plot and scheme to win your lovers.
Even an experienced prostitute could learn from you!
34 Your clothing is stained with the blood of the innocent and the poor,
though you didn’t catch them breaking into your houses!
35 And yet you say,
‘I have done nothing wrong.
Surely God isn’t angry with me!’
But now I will punish you severely
because you claim you have not sinned.
36 First here, then there—
you flit from one ally to another asking for help.
But your new friends in Egypt will let you down,
just as Assyria did before.
37 In despair, you will be led into exile
with your hands on your heads,
for the Lord has rejected the nations you trust.
They will not help you at all.
The Apostle Paul had a definite passion to serve God. Even before his conversion on the road to Damascus, Paul strictly observed God's law; "as for legalistic righteousness, faultless" (Philippians 3:6). But after being confronted by Jesus, his focus forever changed; his passion remained, but his every desire now centered around faith in Jesus and the good news of His gospel message.
"I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death."
Paul pursued an intimate relationship with Jesus and sought to be identified with His death and resurrection. He knew the only way to experience the power of Jesus was to live as a new creation whose sinful nature had been crucified with Christ; and as a new creation, he continually desired to know his Creator.
Truly knowing Jesus Christ is much more than simply knowing "about"
Him. We can fill our head with every possible biblical fact and still never know Christ. To know Him is to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; to trust Him regardless of our circumstances, and to draw close to His side in our joy as well as our suffering. Nothing else in life has any real meaning; "I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (Philippians 3:8a).
Paul's passion for Jesus allowed him to loose his hold of all worldly attachments; "I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ"
(Philippians 3:8b). This uncontested supremacy of Jesus allowed Paul to be "content in any and every situation" (Philippians 4:12). By giving himself fully to knowing Christ, Paul gained true contentment and peace.
We have the same ability to know Christ today. We are also promised the same results! Peace and contentment will NEVER be achieved through more possessions, activities, or relationships - these are ALL temporary and will fade away with time. Our life will only be truly content when we give ourself to Jesus and love Him without reservation; we will only be filled with His peace as we seek to know Him.
We may never be asked to give up much for the sake of the gospel; but then again, we may be asked to give up everything! Either way, our heart must always hold loosely to the things of this world. Anything which cannot be released has effectively become a god and crowds the throne which MUST be reserved for the King of Kings. Let's reconsider our priorities - where we spend our time and what commands our thoughts and consumes our energy. Let's give ourself fully to Him and make sure nothing has become more important than knowing Christ.
At this point, I feel compelled to switch over to the book of Jeremiah and then, after that, I am thinking Hebrews. We'll see later though. As the Spirit moves me ...
In starting the book of Jeremiah, I learned that Jeremiah was a prophet during the time of King Jehoiakim. This is of interest to me because my mom's maiden name was "Yoakam." (Yes, as in "Dwight Yoakam.") I have been told that Yoakam is a derivation of Jehoiakim and, later "Joachim." I am not sure at what point my ancestors decided to quit being Jewish and instead to be country western signing hillfolk but, somehow, the rest is history.
If you would like to know a bit more about my, shall I say, "interesting" roots, please link here to learn about King Jehoiakim.
In reading Jeremiah 1, I am reminded of several things. God has a plan for each one of us. Our strength and our rewards come from God, not from this world. We are never too young, too weak, too tired or too "anything" to do the work which God calls us to. If we put our faith and trust in Him, and we listen for His voice and follow it, He will give us the strength and courage to do what He calls us to. There is Kingdom work to be done. God will accomplish it with or without us. He'd much prefer to do it with us though as that is why He created us.
1-4 The Message of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah of the family of priests who lived in Anathoth in the country of Benjamin. God's Message began to come to him during the thirteenth year that Josiah son of Amos reigned over Judah. It continued to come to him during the time Jehoiakim son of Josiah reigned over Judah. And it continued to come to him clear down to the fifth month of the eleventh year of the reign of Zedekiah son of Josiah over Judah, the year that Jerusalem was taken into exile. This is what God said:
5"Before I shaped you in the womb,
I knew all about you.
Before you saw the light of day,
I had holy plans for you:
A prophet to the nations—
that's what I had in mind for you."
6But I said, "Hold it, Master God! Look at me.
I don't know anything. I'm only a boy!"
7-8God told me, "Don't say, 'I'm only a boy.'
I'll tell you where to go and you'll go there.
I'll tell you what to say and you'll say it.
Don't be afraid of a soul.
I'll be right there, looking after you."
9-10God reached out, touched my mouth, and said,
"Look! I've just put my words in your mouth—hand-delivered!
See what I've done? I've given you a job to do
among nations and governments—a red-letter day!
Your job is to pull up and tear down,
take apart and demolish,
And then start over,
building and planting."
Stand Up and Say Your Piece
11-12God's Message came to me: "What do you see, Jeremiah?"
I said, "A walking stick—that's all."
And God said, "Good eyes! I'm sticking with you.
I'll make every word I give you come true."
13-15God's Message came again: "So what do you see now?"
I said, "I see a boiling pot, tipped down toward us."
Then God told me, "Disaster will pour out of the north
on everyone living in this land.
Watch for this: I'm calling all the kings out of the north."
15-16"They'll come and set up headquarters
facing Jerusalem's gates,
Facing all the city walls,
facing all the villages of Judah.
I'll pronounce my judgment on the people of Judah
for walking out on me—what a terrible thing to do!—
And courting other gods with their offerings,
worshiping as gods sticks they'd carved, stones they'd painted.
17"But you—up on your feet and get dressed for work!
Stand up and say your piece. Say exactly what I tell you to say.
Don't pull your punches
or I'll pull you out of the lineup.
18-19"Stand at attention while I prepare you for your work.
I'm making you as impregnable as a castle,
Immovable as a steel post,
solid as a concrete block wall.
You're a one-man defense system
against this culture,
Against Judah's kings and princes,
against the priests and local leaders.
They'll fight you, but they won't
even scratch you.
I'll back you up every inch of the way."
Put me on your salvation agenda;
take notes on the trouble I'm in.
I've had my fill of trouble;
I'm camped on the edge of hell.
I'm written off as a lost cause,
one more statistic, a hopeless case.
Abandoned as already dead,
one more body in a stack of corpses,
And not so much as a gravestone—
I'm a black hole in oblivion.
You've dropped me into a bottomless pit,
sunk me in a pitch-black abyss.
I'm battered senseless by your rage,
relentlessly pounded by your waves of anger.
You turned my friends against me,
made me horrible to them.
I'm caught in a maze and can't find my way out,
blinded by tears of pain and frustration.
9-12 I call to you, God; all day I call.
I wring my hands, I plead for help.
Are the dead a live audience for your miracles?
Do ghosts ever join the choirs that praise you?
Does your love make any difference in a graveyard?
Is your faithful presence noticed in the corridors of hell?
Are your marvelous wonders ever seen in the dark,
your righteous ways noticed in the Land of No Memory?
13-18 I'm standing my ground, God, shouting for help,
at my prayers every morning, on my knees each daybreak.
Why, God, do you turn a deaf ear?
Why do you make yourself scarce?
For as long as I remember I've been hurting;
I've taken the worst you can hand out, and I've had it.
Your wildfire anger has blazed through my life;
I'm bleeding, black-and-blue.
You've attacked me fiercely from every side,
raining down blows till I'm nearly dead.
You made lover and neighbor alike dump me;
the only friend I have left is Darkness.
1-3 He founded Zion on the Holy Mountain— and oh, how God loves his home!
Loves it far better than all
the homes of Jacob put together!
everyone there is talking about you!
4 I name them off, those among whom I'm famous:
Egypt and Babylon,
even Tyre, along with Cush.
Word's getting around; they point them out:
"This one was born again here!"
5 The word's getting out on Zion:
"Men and women, right and left,
get born again in her!"
6 God registers their names in his book:
"This one, this one, and this one—
born again, right here."
7 Singers and dancers give credit to Zion:
"All my springs are in you!"
As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, move out to battle. - 1 Chronicles 14:15a
The Philistines were attacking. David wanted to know how to respond. His first inquiry of God revealed that he was to attack the Philistines straightaway and God would give him victory. David followed God's instruction and gained victory. Shortly after, the Philistines mounted another attack. "So David inquired of God again, and God answered him, 'Do not go straight up, but circle around them and attack them in front of the balsam trees' " (1 Chron. 14:14).
David was a well-trained warrior, a strategist. Yet, we find that David's dependence on God to direct his efforts was very great. In fact, after he won the first battle, he went right back to inquire again. This is the most important lesson we can learn from this story. God told David to attack, but only after he heard the marching in the balsam trees.
How many times have you or I operated in the workplace based only on our skill and ability, without seeking to know the details of God's will in the matter? David could have simply assumed that since he had won the last battle, surely God would give him victory the same way. No. David had learned that communicating with the living God is the only sure way of victory. His skill was not enough. He had to have God's blessing.
How many times have we worked in our work life the same way each time only because it was the way we did it last time? What if God has a better way? What if God has a different plan than ours? "So David inquired of God..." These are the important words that we are to learn from. We must be in such relationship with God that we are constantly inquiring of His mind on every matter. When we do this, we can expect the same results that David achieved-success in our endeavor and recognition by God.
"So David's fame spread throughout every land, and the Lord made all the nations fear him" (1 Chron. 14:17). This is the reward of obedience to God. We don't have to build a name for ourselves. God will see to it that we are honored for our obedience. He wants to make known those servants who are willing to obey Him at all costs.
Lisa was pretty calm but obviously shaken. She explained to me that Evan had swallowed some change that I had left sitting on the bathroom counter. She wasn't sure exactly how many coins. Maybe a few pennies and a couple of dimes. I had not taken it with me on my trip because I never like having coins in my pocket when I go through airport security.
Evan wasn't choking or anything. In fact, she said that he seemed perfectly contented. But, she had seen him swallow the last coin and he had told her what he'd done. Lisa and I agreed that she should call the doctor so we hung up so she could do that.
A few minutes later she called me back and said that the doctor had said that he'd probably be fine. "These things come to pass" or something like that, he'd said. He told her to watch his diapers for the coins and also to keep an eye on him to make sure he stayed "regular" and didn't develop a fever. Lisa and I were concerned but felt sure everything would be okay. Still, as I finished my business calls that day and headed to the hotel, what had happened hung heavily over me.
As soon as I got to the hotel and checked into my room, I called Lisa, anxious to hear how things were going. When she answered the phone, I immediately asked "How's he doing?"
To which she replied, "No change yet."
Get it? No "change" yet.
answer me, for I need your help.
2 Protect me, for I am devoted to you.
Save me, for I serve you and trust you.
You are my God.
3 Be merciful to me, O Lord,
for I am calling on you constantly.
4 Give me happiness, O Lord,
for I give myself to you.
5 O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive,
so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help.
6 Listen closely to my prayer, O Lord;
hear my urgent cry.
7 I will call to you whenever I’m in trouble,
and you will answer me.
8 No pagan god is like you, O Lord.
None can do what you do!
9 All the nations you made
will come and bow before you, Lord;
they will praise your holy name.
10 For you are great and perform wonderful deeds.
You alone are God.
11 Teach me your ways, O Lord,
that I may live according to your truth!
Grant me purity of heart,
so that I may honor you.
12 With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God.
I will give glory to your name forever,
13 for your love for me is very great.
You have rescued me from the depths of death.[a]
14 O God, insolent people rise up against me;
a violent gang is trying to kill me.
You mean nothing to them.
15 But you, O Lord,
are a God of compassion and mercy,
slow to get angry
and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.
16 Look down and have mercy on me.
Give your strength to your servant;
save me, the son of your servant.
17 Send me a sign of your favor.
Then those who hate me will be put to shame,
for you, O Lord, help and comfort me.