Tag Archives: Religion

Light Piercing the Darkness ~ Jeremiah 25:1-14

“And the LORD has sent to you all His servants the prophets again and again, but you have not listened nor inclined your ear to hear, saying, ‘Turn now everyone from his evil way and from the evil of your deeds, and dwell on the land which the LORD has given to you and your forefathers forever and ever; ~ Jeremiah 25:4-5

English: Okienko Zbójnickie Cave in Kraków, Po...

English: Okienko Zbójnickie Cave in Kraków, Poland Polski: Okienko Zbójnickie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I remember as a Boy Scout we went spelunking on one of our weekend camping trips. We entered this narrow, wet cave in groups of eight. Each of us had a flashlight, and I had the map. As we entered the cave and rounded the first bend the outside light from the entrance quickly gave way to complete darkness. At one point along the way we all turned off our flashlights and experienced a scary, overcoming darkness. Within a few seconds we felt completely disoriented and scared. We quickly turned our lights back on and held tightly to them as we completed our journey.

In this passage, God’s words through the prophet Jeremiah are words of anger and warning of consequence for sin. For 23 years, Jeremiah has proclaimed God’s wrath to Israel and for 23 years Israel has chosen not to listen. In this passage, God’s sovereignty is on full display as He lays out the consequences for Israel’s sin. (Read on, though; there is a Light to come!)

Note that God refers to King Nebuchadnezzar as “servant” in describing how this foreign king will come against Israel and bring them into exile in Babylon. They will be in exile for 70 years. At the end of the exile period, God says He will punish Babylon for its deeds. After all, even in His anger, Israel is still God’s chosen people.

Human wisdom says this is unfair. However, we must always remember that God is completely sovereign over His creation. He can use whomever he wants, even those who do not acknowledge Him, to carry out His good and perfect will. This is a tough pill to swallow. We all sin and the message here is that God is angered by that, and sin bears its consequence. For Israel, the consequence was to be a successful invasion by a foreign power.

There is no good news in today’s Jeremiah passage. But in order to understand where we humans stand in relationship to our sovereign God, we must understand His wrath over sin. Is God as angered by our sin as He was over the sins of Israel in Jeremiah’s day? The Bible tells us He is. In fact, the Bible tells us that we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and the punishment for sin is death. What hope do we have? Where do we turn?

Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 6:21-23

Cross & Clouds

Cross & Clouds (Photo credit: John H Wright Photo)

In ourselves there is no hope. If we rely on our efforts, our knowledge, our works, to appease God’s righteous anger with our sin we become like a group of boy scouts trying to find our way through a dark, wet cave with no flashlight; we will get nowhere. Recognizing that fact, God paid the price in full for our sins. Justification for sin comes through the shedding of blood, and Jesus shed His blood on the cross in our behalf. The Light of the World has overcome the wet darkness of that cave of sin. Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords humbled Himself to die, that we who believe in Him would be forgiven and spared the punishment we deserve. That is Good News, indeed!

Ponder this: At we read about God’s wrath we must never forget that God shows His love and mercy through Jesus. Isn’t it comforting to know that through Jesus we are forgiven? Who in your world needs to hear this Good News?

 My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, I know I sin every day. I ask Your forgiveness as I seek to turn away from my sins and live a life that glorifies You. Thank you for Jesus’ sacrifice in my behalf for I know it is through Him and Him alone that I am reconciled to You. In His name I pray, AMEN.

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.

Eternal Truth Eternally ~ Acts 17:16-33

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. ~ Acts 17:22-23

Engraved plaque containing Apostle Paul's serm...

Engraved plaque containing Apostle Paul’s sermon, at the Areopagus, Athens, Greece. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have always enjoyed this passage, which describes Paul’s first visit to Athens. The Scripture describes Athens as a “city full of idols” and says that this greatly distressed Paul (verse 16). Athens was a city of philosophers, seeking the latest and greatest ideas. Seemingly leaving nothing to chance, they even erected an altar dedicated “to an unknown God” (verse 23). Paul declares that the god they worship as unknown is, indeed, knowable. Paul’s speech to the philosophers at the Areopagus is one of his most eloquent. He beautifully describes the nature of God and His desire for relationship with us. Falling largely on skeptical ears, we are told that “some” believed and became followers of Paul while others said they would like to hear more.

The Athens described in this passage reminds me in many ways of the United States today. We consider ourselves a “progressive” nation – a nation that accepts a diverse group of religious beliefs and cultures into its borders. Sadly, many in our nation also accept the notion of relative truth: what is true for me is only true for you if you accept it as true; in the same way your truth is completely true if you believe it to be so, even if it is not true for me. For many in the United States nothing is true of its own volition, including Scripture. I suspect that most of the philosophers whom Paul visited in Athens would have agreed with this philosophy of relative truth. This is very dangerous ground indeed, and it opens the door to sin, which in turn can destroy a society as it destroys us individually.

We Christians must read and study Scripture. We must seek God’s truth – which, by the way, is eternally true for both the believer and the unbeliever. We must lovingly convey God’s Truth to our neighbors and, just as Paul tailored his message to his audience at Athens, we must witness to the Truth in a manner that resonates with our audience while preserving the wholeness of God’s Truth – just as Paul did.

It sounds daunting, but we are in good company: When God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, one of Moses’ greatest concerns was that he would not have the words to convey to Pharaoh why he must let God’s people go. God said to Moses, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say” (Exodus 4:11-12). If we are doing God’s Will and if we are speaking God’s Truth – God’s Universal Truth – this promise extends to us as well.

Ponder this: Have I fallen into the trap of accepting relative truth? How would God have me address this in my world?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, there are so many falsehoods proclaimed as truth today. It’s easy to ignore those and go about my business, and for the times I’ve done that I ask Your forgiveness. Tune me into these falsehoods, Lord, and guide me in lovingly responding to them according to Your will. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Merry Christmas, Fellow Texans!

I have long been frustrated with the militant atheists who insist on removing any acknowledgement or mention of religious tradition from public places. Not only do they desire to not practice religion (which is their right), they don’t want anybody else to, either – at least not in public (which is my right).

My frustration is not with their taking a position; it is with our courts that have supported their position. The Constitutional question of what “freedom of religion” means has been twisted out of sync with our Founders’ original intent. The fact that the state does not sponsor a religion was not intended to preclude we citizens from practicing our religion and displaying symbols of our religion in the public places paid for by our tax dollars. Unfortunately, some judges, choosing to legislate from the bench, disagree with that interpretation. Their rulings have effectively moved our country towards the state-sponsored religion of Atheism.

The judicially sponsored religion of Atheism has reduced many Americans to such silliness as erecting “holiday trees” in our schools, changing “Christmas break” to “winter break”, and narrowing the choice of music for the school choir concert to secular winter tunes. Many Americans are even afraid to greet their neighbors with a cheery “Merry Christmas” for fear of persecution.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thankfully, my great state of Texas has taken a stand against such silliness in the form of legislation passed last week. Dubbed the “Merry Christmas” bill, it passed easily in the Texas House and Senate and was signed into law by Governor Perry last Thursday. Our new law protects Texans and Texas schools from legal action stemming from the display of religious symbols. Symbols of all religions enjoy equal protection under this law, which I believe is consistent with the intent of our Founding Fathers as they drafted our Constitution.

Some will attack this bill as trivial. Others will say that Texas has taken a step backwards from the so-called “progress” that the anti-religious segment of society believes they’ve achieved. Me? I applaud my legislature and my governor for defending our Constitutional rights when our Federal courts and Federal legislature have failed to do so.

I can’t wait for December 25. It will be a Merry Christmas in Texas, indeed!

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