Friday, February 25, 2011

sinning against one's self

Jeremiah 26:19
"Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah ever put him to death? Did he not fear the LORD and seek the LORD’s favor? And the LORD relented concerning the doom which He had pronounced against them. But we are doing great evil against ourselves.”

These are the words of a wise elder in Jerusalem concerning Micah of Moresheth who prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah. He recognized something pretty profound in this statement. Because of their unwillingness to listen to Jeremiah, their inability to fear the LORD and inaction in seeking the LORD's favor, they were sinning against themselves as well as God. They would be the cause of their own suffering and destruction. Their sin warranted not only the natural consequences of breaking God's moral law, but also the wrath of God, the "wine cup of fury" (Jer. 25:15).
Sin is not something we get away with. All sin bears consequences. We may not invite the wrath of God in punishing judgment but each time we sin a part of us dies, our faith is dulled and our joy is diluted (1 John 1:4). If we deny our sin, ignore it or cover it up, we're only wounding our selves and breaking off the joy-filled fellowship that comes from an obedient and vulnerable relationship with Christ. Yet if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our unrighteousness," (1 John 1:9). The result of uncovering, confessing and repenting from our sin actually has the reverse effect from what we fear. We fear guilt, shame and judgment - yet through repentance we discover life, freedom and forgiveness. And when we think that by denying and covering over our sin we'll find life, freedom and happiness, we really discover death, slavery and fear.
When have I been guilty of sinning against myself in such a way?
When have I been unwilling to uncover my sin and discover the life-giving joy that comes from true repentance?
When have I been marked by slavery rather than freedom, fear instead of joy, death instead of life?
I resent it when other wound my heart and spirit, so why do I keep doing the same thing to myself?

Father - give me the courage to come before You in true confession daily. Help me to uncover my sin and turn from it. Prevent me from sinning against You and my own self. Preserve my faith, my joy and my resolve to follow You. Forgive me for what I do against You and against myself. Amen.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Good Figs

Jeremiah 24:3-7 (New King James Version)

3 Then the LORD said to me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?”
And I said, “Figs, the good figs, very good; and the bad, very bad, which cannot be eaten, they are so bad.”
4 Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 5 “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: ‘Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge those who are carried away captive from Judah, whom I have sent out of this place for their own good, into the land of the Chaldeans. 6 For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land; I will build them and not pull them down, and I will plant them and not pluck them up. 7 Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the LORD; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart.

The good figs of Jeremiah 24 would include Jeconia, king of Judah and his royal family, craftsman and smiths from Jerusalem and royalty from Jerusalem such as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (Daniel 1:1-7). God had a plan for these faithful servants. Yet, could you imagine being one of these faithful few? It must have seemed like God abandoned them as Jerusalem was besieged and overthrown. They must have felt like their prayers were falling on deaf ears. In their hearts I'm sure they wondered if God was still in control. But these worries would be unfounded. God does not always answer our prayers according to our understanding of what is good. We only see the temporary and terrestrial, not the eternal and spiritual. Our perspective is bound to the here and now while God knows the plans He has for us, plans to build up and not pull down, plans to plant and not pluck. His plans involve our whole heart, that we may know Him fully. This means knowing His love and his justice, His grace and His mercy, His generosity as well as His sufficiency. Such full knowledge of our Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer and LORD requires a degree of suffering, trial and testing. And God is faithful, He will not let His children be tempted beyond their strength (1 Cor. 10:13) but will give them the strength to stand and a way out.
Therefore, the goodness of these figs was as much about their conduct and obedience as it was about their faith and trust. Am I a good fig? Am I patiently waiting on the Lord as His plan unfolds, trusting that it is good no matter my perspective? Can I see even my trials as blessings of preservation and revelation according to the sovereign plan of God who loves me? Will I give thanks and praise even for what I cannot see nor understand? Am I a good fig?

Lord - deepen my faith and teach me to trust even when your plan seems difficult. Let me strive to make faith of my situations rather than make sense of them. Help me embrace what I do not yet see or understand for the sake of Your kingdom and plan - that I may bless Your name. Amen.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem

Jeremiah 23:5-6
Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD,
“ That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness;
A King shall reign and prosper,
And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.
In His days Judah will be saved,
And Israel will dwell safely;
Now this is His name by which He will be called:

How could Israel not be waiting for a divine King to rescue and restore it to glory?
In this time of turbulence and unrest, the promise of prosperity, righteousness and "safe dwelling" should drive every Jew to beg the LORD for His coming and every Christian to beg for His return. What a glorious day it will be when Israel and the church will say in the words of Psalm 122,

1 I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go into the house of the LORD.”
2 Our feet have been standing
Within your gates, O Jerusalem!
3 Jerusalem is built
As a city that is compact together,
4 Where the tribes go up,
The tribes of the LORD,
To the Testimony of Israel,
To give thanks to the name of the LORD.
5 For thrones are set there for judgment,
The thrones of the house of David.
6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May they prosper who love you.
7 Peace be within your walls,
Prosperity within your palaces.”
8 For the sake of my brethren and companions,
I will now say, “Peace be within you.”
9 Because of the house of the LORD our God
I will seek your good.

So in keeping with Psalm 122:6 - let us pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
Let us pray for the return of the king. Amen.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Fathers & faith, kingdoms & castles

Jeremiah 22:15-16
Shall you reign because you enclose yourself in cedar?
Did not your father (Josiah) eat and drink,
And do justice and righteousness?
Then it was well with him.
He judged the cause of the poor and needy;
Then it was well.
Was not this knowing Me?” says the LORD.
Yet your eyes and your heart are for nothing but your covetousness,
For shedding innocent blood,
And practicing oppression and violence.

Knowing God is about more than knowledge.
Knowing God is about knowledge applied.
Knowing God must be a personal experience of knowledge applied.

The sons of Josiah, King of Judah, they watched their father's life and reign and had a distant knowledge of what was required of such a king. Yet they never applied that knowledge nor took the time to have a personal experience in caring for the poor and needy. Since they never developed such habits nor embraced such an experience, their knowledge faded and they became wicked kings building their own kingdoms rather than God's.

There are lessons here for both parents and children.
Parents, don't let knowing God become a sterile academic ritual contained on Sunday morning. Don't keep serving, giving and caring for those in need to yourself. Make these family habits and pass the experience onto your children in knowledge and application.
Children, don't simply watch your parents' example and wait for a day when you are old enough to embrace faith and practice for yourself. Watch, follow and fully experience all that your parents do. Watch carefully and follow closely.

Personally, I'm challenge by the example of Josiah. He lived a godly life and reigned in righteousness but failed to instill these values in his children. He probably hoped they learned by his example or through the best Hebrew education a king could afford, or perhaps even by the grace of God. These are good and right but inadequate. Fathers who desire that their children follow in their faith must walk slowly, teaching, directing, encouraging and correcting.
Do I take the time to guide my children in this manner? Do I slow down enough to let their little legs follow in my footsteps? If I fail to care for those in my "castle" it won't matter what I do for those in the "kingdom."

1 Timothy 3:1-5
This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)

Lord, teach me to be a better father, that my children may follow in my footsteps and walk with You. Amen.

Friday, February 18, 2011

can't hold back

Jeremiah 20:9
Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him,
Nor speak anymore in His name.”
But His word was in my heart like a burning fire
Shut up in my bones;
I was weary of holding it back,
And I could not.

Could this be true of me?
Is the Word of God so powerfully present in my heart and mind that I cannot help but share it, proclaim it and live it?
If not, there is only one solution; spend more time in the Word of God.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

He is the Potter, I am the clay...

Jeremiah 18:4-6
And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make.
5 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the LORD. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!

This prophesy is both a comfort and a concern to me.
I am comforted knowing that God is in control and is shaping me into the person and vessel He wants me to be. I am grateful that He has His hand on me. I am hopeful that I will turn out as He intends.
And I am concerned because I know that clay does not always behave as the potter wishes. Some clay becomes stiff and unmanageable. Some clay becomes lumpy and will not conform to the potters hands. Some clay buckles under because it gets too thin and fragile. And when clay does not conform the the potters hands and desires, that clay is crushed, reworked, reclaimed and reused for something else. This process, while good, cannot be fun for the clay. Far too often I've been that clay, rebellious and hard to mold. I've had relationships reworked, ministries torn down, dreams crushed and plans altered... all because they were my own and not the Lords.
In the end, I am always grateful for the work the Potter does in my life, no matter how painful, difficult or humbling. His rework of me is always better than my plans for myself.
But for those who, like Israel, refuse to be reworked time after time, there is only one thing left to do. These lumps of clam are tossed into a bucket of water and softened so that they may be added to another vessel as trim or tool. They are not worthy to stand on their own or fulfill their own purpose. They become an accessory on another vessel to accomplish God's purposes for it.

Father, may I always be soft and mold-able in Your hands. Teach me to give up my will and plan for myself and conform to Yours. Work out my lumps and make me a vessel You can use for Your noble purposes. Amen.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Not for me... but to me.

Jeremiah 14:20-21
We acknowledge, O LORD, our wickedness
And the iniquity of our fathers,
For we have sinned against You.
Do not abhor us, for Your name’s sake;
Do not disgrace the throne of Your glory.
Remember, do not break Your covenant with us.

When we come to understand the depravity of our condition and the extent of our sinfulness, we realize that we are not worthy to be saved from judgment. There is nothing redeemable in us. The motivation of our salvation is not our own holiness or righteousness but God's. It is His faithfulness, love, mercy and kindness that leads Him to redeem His image in us and reveal his character through our salvation. It is His holiness, justice, wrath and righteousness that leads God the Father to send His Son to pay the price. And it is for His glory that this is done, not our own.
To claim any righteousness of my own or worthiness in me is arrogance. To claim that God has done this "for me" in response to something noble or right that I have done is pride. God has extended His grace "to me" for His sake in response to what His Son Jesus Christ has done.
My only proper response is worship and obedience; to proclaim His glory through word and deed.

Father You are wise, gracious, just, righteous, holy, kind and merciful. I praise You for Your salvation and for glorifying Your name through me. I am humbled and blown away that you have chosen to reveal Yourself to and through me. May I be found faithful in reflecting Your glory to others. Amen.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Hear and do

Jeremiah 11:6
Then the LORD said to me, “Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, saying: ‘Hear the words of this covenant and do them.

There are two correct responses to the Word of God; hearing and doing. To hear and not do is arrogance. To do and not hear is ignorance. We must hear and hear again the Word of God, meditating on it so that we are careful to do what it says and so that we might understand why and how we do what it says. We must do and practice daily what we hear so that we are not deceived into false security; believing we are honoring God and in right standing with Him all-the-while breaking His commands. As it says in James 1:22 "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves."
So what prevents us from both hearing and doing as Jeremiah commanded? Those who fail to hear God's Word do so for lack of desire. Those who fail to do God's Word do so for lack of discipline. Desire and discipline go hand-in-hand to producing a life that honors God and His Word. Desire and discipline are both issues of the heart, rather than the head. It's not that we do not understand the importance of God's Word and the demand to obey it; it's that we fail to embrace the importance. When we lack desire and discipline it is because we have lost sight of our first love; the One who first loved us and called us into relationship with Him.
So what is to be done if we discover a heart issue and lack of desire or discipline? Such a path back into the presence of God must begin with Worship; being reminded of the character of God and His worthiness. True worship and meditation on the character of God will produce a heart of repentance. Repentance leads to resolution (desire) and response (discipline).

So where are you today in relation to the Word of God? Are you a hearer and a doer?

Father - Keep me close to you. Let the song of my life be worship and may I always be captured by Your character and worthiness. Let my life be marked by desire and discipline to both hear and do according to Your Word. Amen.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Not my way...

Jeremiah 10:23-24
O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself;
It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.
O LORD, correct me, but with justice;
Not in Your anger, lest You bring me to nothing.

Life was not designed to be lived my way.
Even at my best moment of purity and discernment I miss God's will and best path for my life. "All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the spirits" (Prov. 16:22).
Life is best lived in prayerful dependence on God through the guidance of the Holy Spirit in accordance with the Word of God and the example of Jesus Christ. I know this to be true by both Scripture and experience yet I still struggle to live in prayerful dependence on God.

I love the petition of Jeremiah here in verse 24, "correct me Oh LORD... but with justice."
Who prays this? Who begs for correction? Who have I ever heard ask for God's justice to be done toward himself?
What a bold and daring prayer; to ask God to correct... instead of forgive. Notice that Jeremiah considers the more difficult side of God and asks for justice rather than grace. Far too often I lean on the grace of God all the while needing justice and discipline far more desperately.

Father - give me a humble heart that I might consider Your ways rather than my own. Give me a wise heart that I might discern the paths you lay before me. Give me a bold heart that I might ask for justice as well as grace. Give me a strong heart that I might endure your just correction and glorify You in all my steps. Amen.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

In what do I glory?

Jeremiah 9:23-24
Thus says the LORD:
“Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
But let him who glories glory in this,
That he understands and knows Me,
That I am the LORD, exercising loving-kindness, judgment,
and righteousness in the earth.
For in these I delight,” says the LORD."

In what do I glory?
Do I glory in my biblical knowledge?
Do I glory in my own spiritual maturity or take pride in my piety?
Do I glory in my blessings, that which God has given me?
It can be so tempting to take pride in the peripherals of faith rather than the object of it.
Such is the risk in serving such a kind and benevolent God who desires to bless his people.
Therefore I must discipline myself to celebrate that I am known by God and that He has revealed Himself to me as loving, kind, just and righteous. I should delight in the giver of blessings rather than in the blessings. I should delight in Him rather than in His gifts.
This is done by meditating on the character of God and spending time daily dwelling on His name.
(You can find a great list of names and references here:

Father God, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer and Friend - let my mind be always on You. Amen.

Ministry Reality #727

Jeremiah 7:27
“Therefore you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not obey you. You shall also call to them, but they will not answer you.

The measure of a ministry or minister for that matter may not accurately be the growth or maturity of those listening... or not listening. Jeremiah was faithful to the calling and message that God gave him and the people of Israel refused to listen, respond and obey. Teachers in the later days (according to 2 Timothy 4:3-4) will gather crowds of hearers and speak words that itching ears want to hear rather than the Truth of God. Yet large crowds or no crowds, the result was the same; immaturity and disobedience.
The measure of a ministry or minister is not the size of the crowd but the obedience of the leader. Jeremiah was faithful to continue in God's calling despite the results he saw and with him God was pleased.
Can I be like Jeremiah? Can I be content to continue in obedience even if my ministry doesn't grow? Can I continue in obedience even if lives are not being radically changed? Can I faithfully hold out the truth even if it turns people off and drives people away? Can I be firm on the statutes of God even if it causes division between me and my parishioners?

Father - teach me to be faithful in all things. Teach me to hear from you so that my hearers may hear from You too. Keep me faithful to Your Truth and make me content to be faithful. Amen.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Where do you place your trust?

Jeremiah 7:4
"Do not trust in these lying words, saying, ‘The temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD are these.’"

In the days of Jeremiah, the people of Israel wandered from God's truth and did not follow all His commands and all His ways. They made sacrifices to other gods and celebrated false traditions yet they still returned to the Temple to make offerings and sacrifices. They were hedging their religious bets by adopting many traditions in addition to their faith in the God of Israel. Their trust was found in the plurality of their beliefs and they celebrated their broadness of mind as a virtue.

And regarding the God of Israel, they did return to the Temple and add to their plurality of worship the traditional sacrifices and offerings required by the Law of Moses. They were attempting to appease their creator as well as the other gods of the neighboring lands. They had accepted the lie that as long as they were found in the Temple, God would spare them; for He would never destroy His own dwelling place. They viewed the Temple as a sort of talisman of protection from the wrath of God; similar to how the Israelites treated the arc of the covenant (1 Sam 4). Yet God's presence was not bound to the Temple nor His protection. They believed a lie and placed their trust in a religious symbol rather than the God of that symbol. They trusted in the tool that God chose to connect them to Him rather than trust fully and only in Him.

So where do you place your trust? Do you trust in a religion? Is church membership a talisman for you? Is your confidence found in a ritual like baptism, communion or confession? Is your faith in a prayer, a set of doctrinal truths or even the Holy Bible? These are all good but should never be the object of one's faith. These are all tools that God has created to connect us to Him. Our faith, trust and confidence should be found in no one else, nothing else but Jesus Christ.

In 1834, Edward Mote penned the words of his cherished hymn "My Hope is Built" or otherwise referred to as "On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand." These words capture perfectly the lesson Jeremiah was trying to convey to Israel and the truth of salvation for us today.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.


His oath, His covenant, His blood,

Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.


When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.


Father - may this be true of me. Amen.