Blog — July 31

“The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets…” (2 Chronicles 36:15-16).

Who are God’s messengers in your life? This is one of the aspects of our spiritual journey with which we struggle the most. As with most people, you probably wish that God would clearly and without any apparent ambiguity speak to you on a daily basis. Many Christians believe that the Spirit of God is continually speaking to them and feel at lost when they have no word from God. On the other hand, there are Christians who doubt that God speaks to us on a regular basis.

The passage for today confirms that God has messengers who clearly communicate His will for our lives. These messengers manifest and express themselves through countless ways and situations in our daily activities. God’s message for us comes through conventional and unconventional means—through a friend, a pastor, or like in the Old Testament story, through a donkey.

There two important things we must be vigilant about. First, there will be counterfeit messages and messengers; don’t forget that a snake also spoke to our first parents. Second, and more importantly, when God speaks to us, we must receive his word with respect. If we have heard the voice of the Spirit deep within us, we can’t go wrong by following His lead, regardless of the consequences.

Blog — July 30

Have you ever had to say something difficult to someone you love? How about to your entire family? Or worse yet, to your entire home town? None of us like to do it. None of us like to hurt others, make them cry or cause them to be angry with us. In my opinion, if you enjoy confrontation, there is something with wrong with you.

We have all heard the old saying, “the truth hurts.” In Jeremiah’s case, it was almost fatal. He was put into prison because he was a true messenger of God. He went into a cistern, where he was left to die by those who did not find his message positive enough for the difficult times Jerusalem faced. He had every opportunity to change his message, but even in the presence of the king, he would not budge.

Many times believers find it advantageous to change their talking points from those that can be seen as offensive to points that are more uplifting and socially acceptable. If, by chance, Jeremiah would have acquiesced and changed his message, would it have changed the truth of the impending danger? Just because we find it politically or socially correct to alter our message, it does not change the truth that is found in it. We should never seek to hurt or offend, but we should not shy away from the truth of our message, no matter the cost. Remember Ephesians 4:15, “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”

Blog — July 29

I was once perplexed to hear someone say, “Sometimes you have to step out in the flesh to end up in the Spirit.”  The statement seemed odd to me, because I have always been taught that flesh and spirit and completely separate and diametrically opposed.  The truth, however, is more complex than that. The Bible doesn’t say the flesh is evil, it just says it is corrupt.  Without the Spirit’s guidance, we bend towards evil. However, bringing our flesh into subjection through the power of the cross is at the crux of the Christian walk.

Jeremiah used a “fleshly” action to convey a spiritual truth.  He was buying land in a besieged city, which would be akin to someone on board the Titanic ordering a ticket for the return voyage after it hit the iceberg.  It defied reality.

Furthermore, Judah was in trouble because it abandoned God.  They were getting what they deserved.   Jeremiah 32:23-24 makes it clear that they were paying the price for their bad decisions.

God takes a moment here to tell Jeremiah to buy some land.  The beauty and character of God are shown in verse 15 when He says through Jeremiah, “Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.”  Why did this matter?  Because it showed that even though they were reaping the seeds of destruction they had planted, God still had a future for them beyond their present darkness.

To show them this, Jeremiah had to step out.  He meticulously records the details of the transaction.  I wonder what sorts of looks people gave him as he went through each stage of the transaction.  My guess is he didn’t care because sending out the message of hope was more important to him.  He brought his flesh into subjection, stepped out and did what God told him to do.  This is true courage.  God is calling us to step out, do the unthinkable and bring hope to a people suffering from their own bad judgment.

Blog Post — July 28

One of the saddest prophecies concerning the times of the Messiah, Jesus Christ

is found in Jeremiah 31. Yet, this chapter is also filled with a wonderful message of hope and restoration. In verse 15 we find this prophecy. It would be literally fulfilled by Herod the Great in his slaughter of all babies under two found in Bethlehem. This prophecy speaks of the sound of weeping and mourning coming from Jewish mothers when their children die in front of them.

But, hold on a moment. Throughout this chapter GOD speaks to Jeremiah of hope and restoration. Even in life’s darkest moments the voice of GOD speaks to us through the inspired words of Jeremiah: ” I have loved you with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you” (v. 3).  “I will turn their mourning into gladness. I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow” (v. 13).

To all of us who are believers in Christ and worship at Trinity Chapel: Are you in mourning today? Have you suffered terrible tragedy? Let Him who loves you with His everlasting love restore you. Let his gentle Holy Spirit bring you comfort and turn your mourning into joy. That’s what our Lord and Savior does. Even in life’s darkest moments He provides hope and restoration.

Engage discussion questions for July 29

1. Discuss some of your existing priorities and your evaluation of them with your group. How many of your priorities fit within the decription of 1 John 2:16?
2. What caution does Romans 14:1 give us when discussing grey matters or absolutes with others? Why is this important?
3. Read and discuss Romans 12:2.
4. Read Matthew 6:24 and discuss how it relates to and simplifies some areas that may otherwise be considered grey matters.
5. Consider the sermon points “experiencing, expressing and expanding the Kingdom” and related scriptures from this handout. In which of these areas do you need to focus currently?

Blog — July 27

Jerry, Jerry, Jerry (aka prophet Jeremiah), can’t you change the word of the Lord to what makes us all feel better and happy?  No one wants to hear doom and gloom with the enemy’s army surrounding our city!

This reminds me of the joke about the man who fell off the side of a cliff, grabbing onto a rock and clinging for his life.  He desperately cries out to God saying, “Lord, please help me!”  A voice comes from the heavens, “Do you trust me my son?”  “Of course, God – absolutely!”  Again comes the booming voice from above, “Then, LET GO.”  After a long pause the clinging man asks, “Is there anybody else up there?”

Jeremiah was telling the king what he needed to hear to save his life.  But it wasn’t the answer the king wanted to hear.  Now, I know you wouldn’t react like King Zedekiah, but I have and, sadly, probably will in the future.  The Lord will tell me what I need to do to have more life in Christ, but it usually requires some part of MY desires to go into captivity.  I really like my freedom.  Who wants to give it up?  Aren’t we in charge?

Sure I want more of Jesus; I just don’t like the “surrender and let my “wants” to be led away’” requirement.   Hopefully, today I will listen and obey the word of the Lord even when I don’t get to do it “my way.”

Sorry Frank Sinatra , my song should be “I did it HIS WAY!”  No offense to fans of Old Blue Eyes.

Blog — July 24

Once an old preacher stood up before a gathered convention of all the denomination’s delegates, where he had be asked to open the meeting with prayer.  In a room filled with hundreds of preachers and church officials, he prayed:

“Lord…..You and I both know……that if the rapture were to take place right now…..there would still be enough people here to have church.”

So pronouncing, he stepped back and took his seat.  Often times in church when words of prophecy or interpretation are given, they fall along the lines of “God loves you” and “You are accepted.”  And while these messages are good and often needed, true prophetic words can often be considerably harsher.  Such were the words here in Ezekiel.

First, he vividly describes the scene of the Glory of the Lord leaving the temple, and then he follows it up by dressing like an exile, digging a hole through the wall and escaping out of Israel.  The message was clear—judgment is coming.

It’s hard not to draw comparisons of pre-exile Israel and modern America.  Both were founded by miraculous providence, divinely protected as they grew, and rose to power as a nation known for the God they served.  But along the way, they began to despise the yoke of righteousness.  People with strong moral codes were mocked.  “Don’t tell me what I can’t do” became their mantras.  They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.

We find ourselves in the middle of a society that has traded in their families for the illusion of success, who have replaced joy with entertainment, and who give up on love and then settle for sex.  It may be that God doesn’t judge America as harshly as Israel, but who can now say that we wouldn’t deserve it if He did.

Blog — July 23

In my devotional readings today from Live Dead Joy, the author wrote, “The cost of being God’s spokesperson is as high as the privilege is sweet.” And while the devotion was referring to Jeremiah, the same is true for any of God’s messengers – whether it was Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, John the Baptist, Jesus, Peter, Paul… or you and I.

Think of the things that Ezekiel was asked to do just in these two chapters. Can you imagine spending more than a year lying on your side against a city carved into a brick, eating only 4 ounces of “bread” cooked over dung? Or shaving your head and beard, which was very dishonorable for a Jewish man, while doing strange things with the hair itself? Why would God ask him to do these things?  It is because he was to be a living picture of the wrath of God against a people whom God loved.

We want to bring “good tidings of great joy.”  But sometimes, like Ezekiel, our message may be a difficult one, not an encouraging one. All of us, as believers, are called to proclaim the Gospel… the “Good News.” But inherent in that message of the good news of salvation and the lordship of Christ is a message of wrath against those who do not follow Christ. This is not a comfortable message.

So what is our response? We should speak the truth of God in love. And during those times when our message makes us uncomfortable, we must remember that God called us not to a life of comfort, but to one of obedience. And when God’s message bodes ill for others, we must never be spiteful or haughty in this message, but must proclaim it, as Paul said “with tears” (Acts 20:31).

Blog — July 22

Today’s readings include some of the most beyond-imagination visions ever recorded in human history.  They are meant to grab our attention and communicate an indelible message that Jeremiah, and hopefully we . . . will never forget.

Jeremiah’s vision of two baskets of figs, and it’s pretty clear.  Just like wheat (good) and chaff (bad or worthless) the figs are divided into good and bad.  The good figs can be eaten right away and are of great value.  The bad figs are inedible and worthless.   The vision shows that, with the nation of Judah, God is drawing the line and threshing out souls, dividing them into good and bad.  Despite the fact that the good have been exiled to a distant land, God will always be with them and stay close to them.  They will be His, and over time He will bring them back to the land, restoring them.

But just as the bad figs are worthless, God will judge those who stayed behind in Jerusalem and continued to oppose or ignore the message from God, given to them through Jeremiah.  History shows us that such a judgment included horrors that were beyond imagination—the terrible consequences of a broken covenant.

Such judgments may occur during our lifetimes on earth, and WILL happen in the end times.  We too may go through times of testing and refining in this life.  The thing to remember is that, just like Jeremiah’s message to the exiles (a.k.a. the good figs), God is always with us.  No matter where they are, He watches over and cares for those whose hearts are completely His.   But those who have drifted away from Him may be subject to disciplinary judgment, both in this life and at the end of our lives.  Years from now we will have the sheep and the goats judgment as described in Matthew 25:31-46.  Similar to good figs and bad figs, or wheat and chaff, WE will be divided into good and bad just as a shepherd separates sheep from goats when it’s time to shear the sheep.  Our actions and attitudes will determine which group each of us will be placed in.