Tuesday, March 29, 2011
He has made the earth by His power;
He has established the world by His wisdom,
And stretched out the heaven by His understanding.
When He utters His voice—
There is a multitude of waters in the heavens:
“He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth;
He makes lightnings for the rain;
He brings the wind out of His treasuries.”
In the midst of Jeremiah's pronouncement of doom on Babylon we find these two verses, a beautiful reminder of God's power and sovereignty. The purpose of God's intervention in our world, whether blessing or cursing, is all about revealing His character and nature. However, when we get caught up in the details of life's circumstances and fail to look past our own pain or pleasure, we also fail to see God. We miss seeing our God of comfort, peace, power, provision, protection, justice, holiness, wrath, mercy, grace, love, truth, wisdom, life, etc.
The secret to life and faith is to slow down enough to look past the present and discover the presence of God. This is an intentional decision that we must make every day.
Father - give me eyes to see Your presence, a mind to understand Your will, a heart to receive Your plan for my life and faith to look past my own temporary circumstances to Your eternal desire for me. Amen.
Monday, March 28, 2011
Their Redeemer is strong;
The LORD of hosts is His name.
He will thoroughly plead their case,
That He may give rest to the land,
And disquiet the inhabitants of Babylon.
Our Redeemer is strong.
This doesn't describe physical strength, mental toughness or the quality of His heart where we might ask, "Is He strong enough?" When the Lord thoroughly pleads the case for Israel, we understand that His strength is of inexhaustible resource and endless pursuit. The strength of the Lord is thorough and sufficient for the redemption of His people. He is all we need.
Have you come to the place where the strength of the Lord is all you need? Paul did in 2 Corinthians 12:9 when he received this word from the Lord, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Paul's strength was in the Lord and it was all he needed to endure the thorn in his flesh. Has the truth and comfort of the Lord's strength become a reality of faith and living in your life?
Father - teach me to know Your strength. Teach me to lean into You in times of trial and confusion. Teach me to boast in Your strength, sufficient for my weakness. Amen.
Friday, March 25, 2011
"Do not fear, O Jacob My servant,” says the LORD,
“For I am with you;
For I will make a complete end of all the nations
To which I have driven you,
But I will not make a complete end of you.
I will rightly correct you,
For I will not leave you wholly unpunished.”
For whom the LORD loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights.For whom the LORD loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights.
For whom the LORD loves He chastens,And scourges every son whom He receives.”
I think too often we consider the negative consequences of our sin to be natural rather than paternal. Why do we tend to remove from our Heavenly Father the blessing of discipline? Why is it more palatable to think of negative results of sin as consequential rather than corrective, circumstantial rather than intentional? Our Heavenly Father loves us enough to bless and punish. He stands firm on His Word and expectation for His children. He is not like weak willed men who would rather his children like him than follow in his footsteps. He is not persuaded by corrupt flesh but persuades it to conform to His Spirit. This is a sign of God's deep love for us; yet we tend to avoid such a theology.
If I am still alive and able to receive correction, this is a sign of mercy and love. I will not reason my way around my pain but willingly accept it and let it do it's work of sanctification in my life.
Father - thank you for loving me enough to correct me. Amen.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
30 Things I wish someone told me before going into ministry
1. Be authentic. Nobody expects you to be perfect, to have all the answers or to be available all the time. Be willing to say things like, “I can’t,” “I don’t know,” and “I’m sorry.”
2. Learn to love God’s Word. MEMORIZE IT.
3. Know-it-alls make lousy pastors. “Knowledge puffs up but love builds up” – 1 Cor. 8:1
4. There are no “youth pastors” in the Bible… just pastors. Pastor the whole church, not just your target, friends, people of influence or those who are easy.
5. Teaching is not for the smart, eloquent or educated… but for the humble, authentic and pure. (James 3:1)
6. You’re never as smart or clever as you think you are. God’s word doesn’t need a new twist, a silly video, a pop song or a hip translation – just someone with the guts to teach it, live it and get out of the way.
7. Work hard, pray harder.
8. The devil hates you. Expect spiritual opposition, oppression and obstacles. This is a spiritual battle, not an intellectual, social, political or physical one.
9. Your family is your first ministry. Great husbands and fathers make great pastors; great pastors don’t always make great husbands or fathers. This is one of the top qualifications for pastoral ministry, (1 Tim. 3:4-5).
10. Take a day off and don’t let anyone rob you of your Sabbath. Even God took a break. If you fail to get this straight, you’ll be miserable, unfruitful and short-term.
11. Don’t get bogged down in administration, technology or politics. These are subtle time wasters. Lean on the strengths of others to do what you don’t have to. Focus on the three “P’s,” People, Prayer & Preaching.
12. You can’t make everyone happy – don’t even try. If you ever find that everyone in your ministry is happy, you’ve done something seriously wrong.
13. Ministry (like life) is messy. Don’t cover it up or clean it up.
14. Jesus is our model for life and ministry, not Andy Stanley, Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, Doug Fields or anybody else with a cool ministry, book or seminar.
15. Criticism is good meat… even bad criticism: don’t refuse it, chew on it, swallow what is good and don’t let anyone see you spit the fat out into your napkin.
16. Don’t compare ministries. Keep your eyes on your own field. The grass isn’t greener in any other field… if it is, there’s a reason – fertilizer. Be grateful for your own crap.
17. Ask for help as often as you can. Always ask the “4-P’s” - parents, pastors, professors and professionals.
19. Give people the benefit of the doubt… don’t assume the worst.
20. Set your bar high for leadership. Willingness and availability are NOT core characteristics of a good volunteer. Few saints in Scripture were actually willing when God called.
21. God will never ask you to do something you can do. If you feel up for the challenge, say no. Go sell cars, insurance or something else.
22. Never preach something you don’t practice. If you can’t learn to practice what you know you ought to preach… don’t preach.
23. Keep it simple. Things always take twice as much time, money and effort and will rob you of real opportunities with real people.
24. Leave room for interruptions and crisis. If you don’t need the time… pray.
25. Work hard to know the names of the people you serve. Pray by name.
26. Never point out a problem without providing a solution. If you don’t have a solution, shut up and pray.
27. Speak the truth in love. The wounds of a friend can be trusted but even friends need to be gentle.
28. Leave room for the work of the Holy Spirit. Know when to shut up, walk away and pray.
29. Pay extra attention to the quiet people. Contentment is a sign of spiritual maturity.
30. Be passionate about your own purity. Find a good accountability partner who is willing to go toe-to-toe and force you to do what’s right. Don’t lie to him or her… EVER.
(This isn't complete. I'm still learning... and relearning. Most of these are not from me, but to me from wiser men than me. Thank you to all the wise-guys in my life.)
Monday, March 21, 2011
"But we will certainly do whatever has gone out of our own mouth, to burn incense to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we have done, we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, were well-off, and saw no trouble."
The refugees from Judah who dwelt in Midgol, in Egypt had a distorted view of both spirituality and reality. This is the nature of those who are deceived by the evil one. This is the nature of those who have strayed from God's Truth. Such is the nature of one who lives in the flesh rather than in the Spirit.
"But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14).
God is working in so many ways beyond our human understanding that faith and obedience to God's Word is the only way we can be certain to be blessed.
Father - keep me in Your Truth and Your Spirit. Amen
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
"So they said to Jeremiah, “Let the LORD be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not do according to everything which the LORD your God sends us by you. 6 Whether it is pleasing or displeasing, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God to whom we send you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the LORD our God.”
I so love the words of Johanan and his companions in this passage. Am I willing to obey the voice of the Lord whether it is pleasing or displeasing, easy or difficult?
The only trouble with this statement is that it is easier said than done. Johanan and his men already had their hearts set fully on escaping the land (v. 15) and believed they already understood what was best. They were closed minded to the possibility that God would ask them to take a stand in the land and endure even more hardship for the sake of a greater end. They had convinced themselves of what was good and bad and refused to believe that such a difficult plan could be good.
How often have I prayed such a prayer and then refused to obey the answer?
How often have I refused to believe God's plan to be good simply because it is difficult?
How often have I refused to take a stand because it was easier to run away?
How often have I refused the blessing of God because I failed to obey?
Father - give me the courage to follow Your voice even when it is difficult, displeasing or confusing. Strengthen me to stand for the sake of Your kingdom and not my own agenda or well-being. Teach me to know Your will and set my own aside. Transform me by the renewing of my mind that I may know and follow You. Amen.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
"For I will surely deliver you, and you shall not fall by the sword; but your life shall be as a prize to you, because you have put your trust in Me,” says the LORD.’”
These were the words spoken to Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian for rescuing Jeremiah from the miry pit in the prison of king Zedekiah. He alone believed the word of God through Jeremiah and transformed that trust into action. When our faith and trust in God leads us to action, God responds in like manner. When we learn to hold loosely our lives for the sake of action for His agenda, our lives become a prize to Him and in response to us. Life takes on a whole new value when lived for the sake of God's kingdom and agenda.
Do I want my life to count? Do I want to live with a greater purpose? Do I want my life to be prized by God? I will learn to hold life loosely and trust in Him to the point of sacrifice and action.
This example of Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian is reinforced as well by the words of Jesus in Matthew 16:24-26,
"Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?"
Father - teach me to live life loosely and give it away for the sake of Your kingdom. Amen.
Monday, March 14, 2011
"But Jeremiah said, “They shall not deliver you. Please, obey the voice of the LORD which I speak to you. So it shall be well with you, and your soul shall live."
Isn't it sad how some people have to be begged to follow the voice of the Lord even for their own good? This only demonstrates the powerful hold of sin, temptation and the evil one. We would rather feed our own greed than receive what we need. This was the case with King's of Israel & Judah and even Zedekiah. What was most sad about King Zedekiah was that he was just curious enough to understand but not courageous enough to obey. He preserved the life of Jeremiah but forfeited his own in disobedience.
Lord - May I never need to be begged to follow the Word of God. May I be one who ears, obeys and holds out His Word for others to follow as well. May I understand the value of life and faith and prefer these over the offerings of this world. May I be bold enough to plead with others to also follow and blessed enough to have them receive it. Amen.
Friday, March 11, 2011
"And it happened, when Jehudi had read three or four columns, that the king cut it with the scribe’s knife and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the scroll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth."
The Word of the Lord is true and sure, even if we choose to ignore it, suppress it, destroy it or defile it. To deny God's truth is no more effective at removing our guilt than is denying the sun at avoiding the light. God's Word is true and His will is accomplished.
The ultimate question is whether I will follow and be blessed or rebel and suffer.
Lord may I always receive Your Word and obey it. Amen.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
"‘Jonadab son of Recab ordered his sons not to drink wine and this command has been kept. To this day they do not drink wine, because they obey their forefather’s command. But I have spoken to you again and again, yet you have not obeyed me."
Every father will pass on a heritage of either obedience or opposition. We will either hear the Word of God, obey it and pass it along to our children... or we will ignore the Word of God, turn our backs and teach our children to do the same.
The sons of Recab and Jonadab obeyed the commands of their fathers because they saw the commands obediently followed in their fathers' lives. These were not abstract commands of "do as I say, not as I do" or overbearing commands of "because I said so." The commands of Recab and Jonadab were observed and lived out for all to see. There was no hiding, posturing, private sin or rationalization of behavior. They obeyed before their sons and behind closed doors (v. 2-6). Because of their faithfulness, their sons were blessed with both a physical example and motivation for obedience as well as a spiritual blessing of strength, self control and resolve.
What am I passing onto my children? Do I obediently observe the Word of God in public and private that my children will receive both a physical and spiritual blessing? Am I committed to a generational blessing of purity and obedience? Am I willing to discipline myself for a heritage of faith and obedience in the lives of my children, grandchildren and children to come?
Father - strengthen my resolve, fill me with Your Spirit and guide me by Your Word. Help me to recognize temptation and flee from compromise. Let my children see in me an example of obedience that will bless generation to come. May I be like Jonadab and the sons of Recab. Amen.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
"Behold, I will bring it (Jerusalem) health and healing; I will heal them (Israel) and reveal to them the abundance of peace and truth."
God's will and design for suffering in the lives of His children includes healing and revelation. Sometimes our healing comes in this life, it ultimately comes in eternity. However, in the process of suffering and healing, there is always revelation. Through suffering we come to know God as sovereign, sufficient, just, right, comforting, compassionate, generous, wise, willing, peace, power and so much more. This healing is received if God wills it; the revelation is received if we will it. God is always revealing Himself and we will all only see what we wish to see.
In suffering, do I close my eyes and wish it away? Do I harbor resentment against God or gratitude for the revelation He provides? Do I focus so heavily on my desire for healing that I overlook His revelation? Is my prayer "heal my life" or "open my eyes"?
God - teach me to desire the revelation of You more than anything. Let my life be a revelation of You as I am conformed to Your image and sanctified by Your work. Keep my focus on You. Amen.
Monday, March 7, 2011
"Behold, I will gather them out of all countries where I have driven them in My anger, in My fury, and in great wrath; I will bring them back to this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely. 38 They shall be My people, and I will be their God; 39 then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them. 40 And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me. 41 Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will assuredly plant them in this land, with all My heart and with all My soul.’"
Is the land the promise or a part of the promise?
Is the land the point or simply the visible sign of a greater purpose?
Is the land similar to a NT sacrament that signifies an even greater spiritual blessing?
It seems that the safety, unity, blessing, security and presence of God are the true blessings that are affirmed through a physical sign - possession of the land, specifically Jerusalem.
Living in the land did not and does not mean that the people of God were obeying Him or even receiving such blessings. It does however mean that not living in the land is a sign of the removal of such blessings. Consequently, the land was the last thing to be removed and the first thing to return.
Yet there would be a day when the promise of God, the blessings of God and the presence of God are irrevocably tied to an eternal kingdom whose subjects are secured by an internal sign, the seal of the Holy Spirit. For those of us who are members of this kingdom, the sign of such a covenant and seal is the joy of our salvation. If we are living into the covenant and abiding by it, our lives will be marked by joy. Joy is the first to depart and the first to return when we live into God's covenant with us.
How is my joy today?
Friday, March 4, 2011
“Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD.
33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD:
I will put My law in their minds,
and write it on their hearts;
and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD.
For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
I cannot even imagine what joy might have filled Jeremiah as he prophesied these words.
He, however sadly, cannot imagine the joy if their fulfillment... we can.
We who believe are the benefactors of such a covenant. We have received the Holy Spirit and enjoy an intimate unity with God that Israel did not know. They connected with God through the Temple. Their learning came through prophets and priests. However at the cross, the veil was torn and the priesthood was opened to all believers (Hebrews 7-8, 1 Peter 2:9-10). We can enter His presence because He has entered ours (Hebrews 4:14-16). We are no longer bound by sin, we are forgiven and set free to serve Him in His presence and the new priesthood that will connect all men to God.
Praise God that He does new things. Praise Him for His faithful covenant keeping. Praise Him for His wise and gracious plan. Praise Him for His patience and longsuffering with mankind and His people Israel. Praise Him for His forgiveness and mercy. Praise God. Amen.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
For I am with you,’ says the LORD, ‘to save you;
Though I make a full end of all nations where I have scattered you,
Yet I will not make a complete end of you.
But I will correct you in justice,
And will not let you go altogether unpunished.’
God is just. He will not, cannot, let the guilty go unpunished. However the punishment of God has two very distinct goals for two very distinct subjects. For those who by actions and believe stand at odds with God as his enemies, punishment expressed God's wrath and the goal is utter destruction. For those who by action and faith humbly submit to God as His people, punishment expresses God's mercy (God's relenting from wrathful punishment) and the goal is correction and conformation to the image and will of God.
For there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1) however there is correction and even punishment. We should never resent the justice of God in our lives, only the sin that invites it. Justice that does not lead to destruction is mercy and a sign of sonship. For the LORD disciplines the son He loves (Prov. 3:12). Therefor, we should rejoice in correction and delight in discipline - for we are children of God.
Do I resent the discipline of God? Do I despise correction like a fool? (Prov. 3:11 & 15:5).
Father - teach me to receive Your discipline and to embrace Your correction. Teach me to rejoice at the signs of my sonship and celebrate Your sanctifying process in my life. Teach me to resent only my sin and to leave no room for regret. Amen.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Therefore do not listen to the words of the prophets who speak to you, saying, ‘You shall not serve the king of Babylon,’ for they prophesy a lie to you;
The prophets in Judah at the time of Jeremiah ignored both the commands of the Lord and the consequences promised for breaking such commands. They prophesied protection and prosperity in spite of what God had already promised in view of such rebellion. Since their view of God and His commands was so skewed, their words were lies which led to rebellion. Rebellion is the natural consequence of a distorted view of God. We must not be ignorant of His justice, holiness, truth and wrath. Such ignorance only serves to promote our own destruction.
Lord - give me a complete vision of You. Teach me to love each part of Your character and nature. Teach me to embrace both your love and justice, Your grace and mercy, Your truth and wrath, Your holiness and immanence... so that I may guide others to know You and follow You wholly. Amen.