Category Archives: Jeremiah

Redefining “Seeker Sensitive” ~ Jeremiah 28:9-40

“The prophet who has a dream may relate his dream, but let him who has My word speak My word in truth. What does straw have in common with grain?” declares the LORD. ~ Jeremiah 23:28

I carry a burden for the American church-at-large. Many churches today proclaim they are “seeker sensitive” – an honorable mission on the surface, but in reality a mission that too often results in a message tailor-made for a people who want nothing to do with a sovereign God. My burden for the American church is cast in the mold of false and watered-down teachings.

Dilution-grenadine

As I read Jeremiah, there can be no question as to how God feels about sin. But I also see a repeated theme that talks about those who prophesy falsely – those who claim to speak for God when they do not. In doing so, they mislead His people. God’s anger is stoked against them as well:

“For both prophet and priest are polluted; Even in My house I have found their wickedness,” declares the LORD. “Therefore their way will be like slippery paths to them, They will be driven away into the gloom and fall down in it; For I will bring calamity upon them, The year of their punishment,” declares the LORD. “Moreover, among the prophets of Samaria I saw an offensive thing: They prophesied by Baal and led My people Israel astray. Also among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: The committing of adultery and walking in falsehood; And they strengthen the hands of evildoers, So that no one has turned back from his wickedness. All of them have become to Me like Sodom, And her inhabitants like Gomorrah.” (Jeremiah 28:11-14)

Today, many churches refuse to discuss sin or God’s anger with sin. They don’t talk about God’s sovereignty over His creation, of which we are an integral part. Yes, they talk about forgiveness and love – but forgiveness from what? If one who does not know God shows up Sunday morning, what does she hear? Does she hear about her sin, her need for redemption, and the redemption our sovereign God offers only through Jesus Christ? Or is she told that she should seek to live her best life now because God wants her to feel happy, fulfilled, and pleased with herself? Is the unbeliever introduced to the sovereign Lord of Creation who wants so badly to be in relationship with His people, even though we sin in every way imaginable, that He sent His Son to save us from the eternal damnation we rightfully deserve? Or is he introduced to a casual, fun-loving god who is only out to make new friends as he grants our wishes for happiness and prosperity?

Without a full understanding of our sovereign God, and absent a complete understanding of how our sin positions us before God, a discussion of forgiveness is meaningless. When the church changes the message to appease the crowd, the unbeliever may walk away feeling darn good about himself and thinking all is well when, in reality, he is unprepared to face his holy and righteous judge. As the passage above says, “…they (those communicating false teachings) strengthen the hands of evildoers, So that no one has turned back from his wickedness” (verse 14). When the church conducts itself in this manner, it is not serving God and God is not pleased.

English: 4 days of Evangelism Training in Sout...

English: 4 days of Evangelism Training in Southern California provided by LivingWaters Ministry. Obeying the great commission of Jesus Christ. “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to everyone” Mark 16:15 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The primary purpose of the church is to offer worship to God while equipping believers to go out into the world and witness to the Gospel as Jesus commanded. The church was not intended to be a religious Field of Dreams (“If you build it, they will come”). Want to be truly “seeker sensitive”? The first step is to be honest. Help the unbeliever understand who God is – His awesome power, His sovereignty, and His love. Speak in love, not Pharisaical condemnation. Talk about the fact that we are all sinners, deserving of God’s wrath and eternal punishment. Once they understand that, share the sweet fruit of the Gospel and trust the Holy Spirit to grant the gift of faith. The Truth will set them free; anything less than God’s Truth only serves to tighten the binds of sin.

Ponder this: I take great comfort in the fact that God is completely sovereign over His creation. I treasure the fact that His Word is eternally true; I can build my life upon it with confidence, knowing that my destination for eternity is set through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those who don’t yet know Him deserve to know the truth. Are you ready to share it? Is your church sharing it?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, You have placed this burden on my heart for a reason. Help me to respond to You according to Your will. I lift up Your church and all who preach, teach, worship and learn there. Expose false teachings, Lord, and cause a holy reawakening to take place based on Your Word and Your Word alone. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN.

God Keeps His Promises ~ Jeremiah 21:1 – 23:8

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; And He will reign as king and act wisely And do justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely; And this is His name by which He will be called, ‘The LORD our righteousness.’ ~ Jeremiah 23:5-6

Here we see Jeremiah’s prophecies coming to fruition. In chapter 21, King Zedekiah asks Jeremiah to go to God in his behalf and ask God to intervene with miraculous acts to defeat Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, who was on the attack. Not only does God decline this request, He further says, “I Myself will war against you with an outstretched hand and a mighty arm, even in anger and wrath and great indignation.” (21:5)

God pronounces judgment against wicked kings. These are kings who rule by oppression and extortion, seeking power for themselves at the hands of the people. These evil kings force people to build grand palaces but do not pay them for their labor. They rule selfishly, with no regard for the wellbeing of their people, especially the poor and needy among them. He pled the cause of the afflicted and needy; Then it was well. Is not that what it means to know Me?” Declares the LORD. (22:16)

With God’s righteous wrath raining down on Israel, He never forgets His love for His people. In chapter 23 He promises redemption through “…a King who will act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land” (23:5). This, of course, is God’s promise of salvation through the coming Messiah.

Are you a believer who feels the Old Testament is irrelevant today? Think again. The parallels between Israel in Jeremiah’s time and the world today are striking. Ongoing wars in the Middle East, mass murders at the Washington Navy Yard, our country teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, and the growing divide between rich and poor in the United States are just a few examples of the evidence and result of sin all around us. When we seek the things of this world, when we honor false gods, turmoil ensues.

Have no fear, for God offers peace even amidst the turmoil of our modern world. God always makes good on His promises. The Righteous Branch prophesied by Jeremiah has come. His name is Jesus. Through Him our separation from God is bridged. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24) Turn to the One whom God sent to redeem you and rest peacefully in the assurance of eternal life in God’s presence. In Him, and only Him, can one find true peace and hope.

Ponder this: Do you know Jesus? I do, but I often wonder if I am truly living according to my faith. What can I do to share this Good News? Are there changes I must make to my priorities?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank You for fulfilling your promise of a Savior through Your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank You for the peace that comes through knowing Him. Help me, in response, to live a life that honors my Savior. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN.

Finding Comfort in God’s Sovereignty ~ Jeremiah 18:1-20:18

But if I say, “I will not mention His word or speak anymore in His name,” His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. ~ Jeremiah 20:9

God’s sovereignty is a touchy subject in the modern church. Many preachers these days don’t preach about it, and many believers don’t like to hear about it. That puzzles me, as I take great comfort in it.

In this passage, God directs Jeremiah to visit a potter and watch him work. As the potter forms his object, it becomes misshapen so the potter punches it down, destroys it, and begins again. The potter has complete control over that which he creates, and he shapes and reshapes it until it becomes exactly what he intends. God then directs Jeremiah to take a completed pot outside the city gates and smash it before the people, telling them that this is what God will do to Judah and Jerusalem for their disobedience.

For prophesying these things, Jeremiah is beaten and placed in a stockade overnight. After his release, he cries out to God in despair for the persecution he has endured for bringing God’s words to the people. But even through his despair, Jeremiah offers praises to God, knowing of course that God’s will is perfect.

Members of some modern-day churches might interpret my speaking of God’s wrath as a lack of “peace in Jesus”. They feel that way because they are not being taught the entirety of God’s truth. God, as preached in some churches, is our buddy. He’s not angry; He’s just a bit disappointed. He wants us to be happy and prosperous. He would never send anybody to Hell, and He has provided many ways to salvation; Jesus is just one of them. Blasphemy indeed! But sadly, I know many members of Christian churches who believe these things.

Here is the irony: I have peace in Jesus because I understand and appreciate God’s sovereignty over His creation, the righteousness of His wrath and the fact that it applies to me because of my sins. When I consider the love God has for me, that He sent His Son to take my punishment, I am awestruck. I don’t deserve it, but He did it anyway. Through Jesus, and only through Jesus, our Sovereign God has forgiven me and spared me of the eternal consequences I deserve. That, my friend, is the message of the Gospel. For the nonbeliever to come to Christ, we must make him aware of his need for Christ. We must share the whole truth.

Indeed, Christians are persecuted around the world for sharing God’s truth. Facing such persecution is sometimes extremely difficult. Let us lift these faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in prayer as we seek to follow their example – boldly and honestly proclaiming God’s truths to a world that seems to be increasingly turning away from Him.

Ponder this: Does your church preach and teach the entirety of God’s truth? Are you equipped to share it?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, today I lift up Your church and all who share Your Gospel. Give me boldness to speak Your truth faithfully out of love for my fellow man. Let your Church be a beacon of truth in a land ensconced in darkness. Guard and protect me, and use me as You will to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. In His name I pray, AMEN.

Our Day of Rest ~ Jeremiah 17:19-27

“But it will come about, if you listen attentively to Me,” declares the LORD, “to bring no load in through the gates of this city on the sabbath day, but to keep the sabbath day holy by doing no work on it, then there will come in through the gates of this city kings and princes sitting on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their princes, the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and this city will be inhabited forever. ~ Jeremiah 17:24-25

English: American Airlines Boeing 737-800 taki...

English: American Airlines Boeing 737-800 taking off from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in October 2007. Français : Un Boeing 737-800 décollant de l’aéroport international de Los Angeles (LAX) en octobre 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What does it mean to keep the Sabbath? This passage hits home for me this weekend, as I am on a rare weekend business trip. Today is Sunday and here I sit in a Chicago-area airport hotel preparing to travel home. The timing of my return flight early this afternoon juxtaposed against the worship schedules of local churches is keeping me from worship. Can I still honor God in this situation?

In this passage God tells Israel that they must rest on the Sabbath; doing so carries a promise of blessing while ignoring this command carries a consequence: “But if you do not listen to Me to keep the sabbath day holy by not carrying a load and coming in through the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates and it will devour the palaces of Jerusalem and not be quenched.” (17:28)

Keeping the Sabbath day holy is the third of God’s Ten Commandments delivered through Moses:

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11)

Why did God command we keep the Sabbath? He answers that question in the Exodus passage above: God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Therefore He declared the seventh day of the week to be a day of rest, so important that He made it holy. God knows the needs of His creation; we need to rest from our daily toils. Rest is so important that God commanded we take it.

English: The Sabbath Rest

English: The Sabbath Rest (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I study this question, my mind recalls a show or movie I watched on TV many years ago as a child. I remember the show was set in the 19th century. The family lives in the country. After attending church on Sunday morning, they sit in their chairs at home, Bibles in hand. The family’s children keep asking to go outside and play and the parents repeatedly tell them “no”. It’s the Sabbath and they must rest. The children are miserable. Is that what God intended?

To coin a popular phrase (I almost hate to do this, but in this context I will), “What Would Jesus Do”?

Here are two clues from Mark’s Gospel:

They went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath He (Jesus) entered the synagogue and began to teach. ~ Mark 1:21

Jesus addressed the Sabbath when confronted by some Pharisees:

And it happened that He was passing through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples began to make their way along while picking the heads of grain. The Pharisees were saying to Him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” And He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions became hungry; how he entered the house of God in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests, and he also gave it to those who were with him?” Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. “So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:23-28)

Based on these passages, it would appear that the Sabbath has two main purposes: (1) It is a day on which we deliberately take time to focus on the things of God. Jesus went to the synagogue and began to teach. Presumably, there were believers at the synagogue ready to study and learn God’s Word. So it is permissible to travel to the synagogue and exercise our brains in worship and study. On the Sabbath we worship, we study, we pray, we congregate with fellow believers to be refreshed and reenergized through worship and the reading and teaching of God’s Word; (2) It is a day on which we rest from the chores of daily life. It’s OK to tend to and provide for our daily needs. Lightning won’t strike us if we rise from our chair and do something physical. This Sabbath, this day of rest, was not intended to be a millstone around our necks; it is a gift to us from our loving Heavenly Father.

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

In Jeremiah, God is angry at Israel because they have set Him aside in exchange for a worldly lifestyle in which they seek after false gods. Every day looks the same. The true God has been shoved into the background as they pursue their lives of sin. I can relate to that, can you? God’s stressing to them the importance of keeping the Sabbath is a reminder to all of us that we must deliberately seek Him. We must take time from our daily routine to focus on Him and His Word. Setting aside a day in each week for these purposes – worship and rest – allows us the opportunity to recharge our spiritual and physical batteries so we are equipped to face a world enamored with sin.

As I spend this Sunday morning packing and preparing to fly home, I will do so with holy music filling my hotel room. My plane ride home will be a time of Bible study. I will miss my time of corporate worship this morning, but I will set aside my work today to consider all that God has done for me. First and foremost, I will remember and confess my sins and rejoice in the hope of eternal life in the presence of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Ponder this: Do I take enough time during the week, and even on each day, to consider the things of God?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, as I travel home today I pray that You will guard and protect me. Let my mind focus on You and Your Word as I rest from my daily toils. Forgive me of my sins, and help me to honor You with this day of rest. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN.

Our Need for a Savior ~ Jeremiah 16:1 – 17:18

This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.  ~ Jeremiah 17:5-6

Many Christians today do not like to talk about the wrath of God. They don’t like to acknowledge that God judges human behavior and has set consequences for sins. We must understand this truth: without God’s wrath and absent sin’s eternal consequence there is no need for a Savior. When we understand the holy wrath of God and the fact that each and every one of us has earned nothing more than His wrath because of our sin, the good news of the Gospel rings loud and clear!

Think of it this way: if you are not thirsty and somebody offers you a glass of water chances are you’ll reject the glass of water, or perhaps you’ll drink some of it out of some sense of obligation. No big deal, right? But when you’re thirsty, really thirsty, that glass of water is the most precious gift somebody can offer you. We have to know what it’s like to be thirsty to really appreciate the water and we must understand the breadth and reach of God’s righteous wrath before we truly appreciate our need for the Gospel.

Throughout the book of Jeremiah, God is pouring out His wrath on Israel because they have rejected Him. Israel’s seeking after false gods is a sin that we all commit. The false gods in my life include riches and materialism. They include a set of priorities that are not properly arranged. I am in prayer over this and I ask God to change me and change my life to glorify and serve Him first and foremost.

Take heart: even as God pours out His wrath He offers a promise:

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord 
and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters 
which spreads out its roots by the river, 
and will not fear when heat comes; 
But its leaf will be green, 
and will not be anxious in the year of drought, 
nor will cease from yielding fruit. ~ Jeremiah 17:7-8

I used to worry about the future, but I don’t any more. My future is bright. No, I don’t have a crystal ball or special powers to see what lies ahead. I am not confident in the prospects of a fat retirement account or a winning lottery ticket. Those things offer nothing. No, I have something far greater. I have the Lord. I have God’s Word. God’s Word is without error; it is eternally true. God’s Word is the one solid foundation upon which to build this life. It is available to me, and it is available to you. Place your trust in God. Open His Word. Read it. Study it. Ask God to help you live by it, and watch what He does with your life!

Ponder this: In what have I placed my hope? Do those things distract my attention from God’s Word?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, as I read Jeremiah I become very conscious of my own sin. Forgive me, Lord, and help me to live a life of repentance. Show me when I err and help me place my trust in You and You alone for my salvation that comes only through Your Son, Jesus Christ. It is in His name I pray, AMEN.

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