Category Archives: Jeremiah

False Prophets; Then & Now

Then Jeremiah the prophet said to Hananiah the prophet, “Listen now, Hananiah, the LORD has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. Therefore thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I am about to remove you from the face of the earth. This year you are going to die, because you have counseled rebellion against the LORD.’ ” So Hananiah the prophet died in the same year in the seventh month. ~ Jeremiah 28:15-17

The notion of false prophets and teachers is nothing new. Such people are tools of the devil, intended to distract God’s people from the truth as revealed in His Word.

Here, a prophet named Hananiah prophesies in the temple that within two years God will break the yoke of the king of Babylon, returning the articles of the temple along with the Judean rulers who had been taken into exile. This, of course, contradicts God’s words through Jeremiah. Jeremiah reminds the crowd that many before him, and Jeremiah himself, have prophesied war, disaster and plague. The one who prophesies peace, as Hananiah has done, “will be recognized as one truly sent by the Lord only if his prediction comes true” (28:9). Hananiah continues to argue his point, and Jeremiah tells him that the Lord has not sent him, he is persuading the people to believe lies, and that the Lord is about to remove him from the face of the earth. Jeremiah’s prophecy comes true seven months later when the false prophet dies.

In Jeremiah’s time false prophets like Hananiah misled God’s people as they defied the Word of God and instead told the people what they wanted to hear. Sadly, this continues today as many modern-day churches are whittling away at the truth of God’s Word as they bend to the whimsies of human thought and wisdom. Supporters call this “enlightenment”; in reality it is embracing darkness.

God has revealed His eternal truth through His Holy Word – the Bible. His Word is as relevant and true today as it has ever been, and it will remain relevant and true for all eternity. I take great comfort in that fact. It is a beautiful thing to serve the sovereign God, for through Him the work of redemption has been completed. Rather than reject His Word and sit at the feet of modern day false teachers, let us stand firmly upon it as we share the good news of the Gospel with those who are unsaved.

Ponder this: I recently heard a preacher say, “If you tell me you don’t agree with a particular passage of Scripture, I’ll simply tell you ‘you’re wrong, God’s right’ and direct you to reconsider your position.” He was speaking to his congregation, a group of believers, of God’s sovereignty and the eternal truth of His Word. That is what standing on God’s Truth looks like! Society cringes at the phrase “you’re wrong”, but in the context of a human being supplanting God’s word with his own personal opinion it is entirely appropriate. We believers are to hold one another accountable as we seek accountability from one another. Through such accountability offered in the spirit of Christian love, we help one another stay true to God’s Word as the enemy seeks to turn our heads.

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, You are the one true God, sovereign over all Your creation. I pray that you would keep me focused on Your Word, and that you would bring Christians into my life to hold me accountable for anything I might say or write that is not fully aligned with You. Help me to deal with all I meet with an attitude of Christian love, that You would be glorified through my words and actions. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Where Are We Headed?

United States Capitol

United States Capitol (Photo credit: Jack in DC)

We are living in a very interesting point in history. This great American experiment called Democracy is, I believe, on the brink of failure. Sound cynical? Consider: We Americans seem completely willing to surrender our personal liberties to an uber-powerful government that is increasingly disconnected from the people it is supposed to serve. Our national debt is growing at an alarming pace as those in leadership do nothing to stop it. Our moral values as a nation are eroding away day after day.

As I consider these things, I am reminded that I trust and serve the God of the universe. He who made all things is bigger than government, and His plan is perfect. I’ve completed my study of the book of Jeremiah. God spoke through Jeremiah to a nation, much like the United States, that had abandoned His truth and His ways. Israel was serving false gods and seeking after worldly wisdom just like we are today. We can read the Bible and see the consequences of Israel’s sin; the future of the United States is yet to be written, although our omnipotent God already knows our fate as a nation.

faith

faith (Photo credit: Leonard John Matthews)

I am so thankful for the gift of faith. Through faith, I can see past the sin of this world into the eternity that awaits all believers in Christ; an eternity in the presence of Almighty God. I pray for a revival in our nation. I pray that we the people will look to God through study of His Word and through prayer for our nation’s well-being. I pray that God would open the hearts and the minds of the American people to His eternal truth. That eternal truth is available, right at our fingertips. And as American history unfolds before our eyes, we can seek wisdom and comfort in God’s book called the Bible.

“All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.” ~ Acts 10:43

The Bible, from Genesis through Revelation, is all about Jesus. It reveals God’s plan of redemption for His creation. There is no book in the Bible that is not relevant to today. It is wholly and universally true. It is without error. The wisdom of the world wants us to view the Bible as a spiritual guidebook or, worse, a collection of human writings assembled by men in a conspiracy to mislead us. That is the world’s wisdom at work, and it is a dangerous supposition. The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to us; it is what He wants us to know about Him.

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

“What we have received is not from the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.” (1 Corinthians 2:12-13)

A life and a nation built on the foundation of human wisdom is doomed to failure. On the other hand, a life and a nation build on the foundation of God’s Word will be blessed. As a believer, I will engage in the political process. I will share God’s truth. I will align my political positions with God’s Word as He gives me the wisdom and ability to do so, and I will communicate my positions out of love and respect for my fellow man. I will not despair over the state of our nation, nor will I worry about the future. Through Christ, my future is sealed for eternity. That reality frees me to engage absent any fear for what may lie ahead.

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, as I consider the state of our nation I am tempted to worry. This morning I lift up all in positions of authority in our government. I pray that You would grant them wisdom and clarity of thought. I pray that You would compel them to seek Your will in all things. And, Father, I pray for a revival in this land; a revival that would reach from sea to shining sea, causing all of us to realize our sins, confess and repent, and trust completely in You through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Help me to be a faithful witness to Your Truth according to Your will. In Jesus’ Name I pray, AMEN.

My Life’s Foundation

This is what the Lord says: “He who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and the stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar – The Lord Almighty is His name: Only if these decrees vanish from My sight,” declares the Lord, “will Israel ever cease being a nation before Me.” ~ Jeremiah 31:35-36

As I observe the disfunction in Washington and the growing division within our nation, my concern for our country’s future continues to mount. My study of Jeremiah has offered reassurance, as I am reminded of God’s sovereignty; no matter what our government does or doesn’t do, God is ultimately in control.

As the prophet Jeremiah records these words of God, much of Israel is in exile as punishment for their unfaithfulness to God. God hates sin, but His love for His people never wavers. At this writing, Israel’s time for restoration is approaching and the exiles will soon return home. Israel’s sweet reconciliation with God is soon to be at hand.

It reminds me of the ultimate reconciliation. Sin effectively separates us from God and there is nothing we humans can to to change that. Separation from God yields a life filled with questions. “Why am I here? What’s the point? I’ve built wealth and accumulated things; why am I still not content? What is my destiny for eternity?” A life built on the things of this world is, indeed, an empty life. God is eternal and He created us to be eternal along with Him. Because God loves us so much, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the ultimate price for our sins. Through His redemptive sacrifice, we are reconciled to God. Through faith in Jesus, we know that we will live eternally with Him. Once we know that reality, the answers to the remaining questions become crystal clear as we see our lives the way God intended us to see them as our journey in this world becomes aligned with the will of our Creator.

We are free to follow our own wisdom if we choose. We can seek appeasement and self-worth; we can build wealth and accumulate things. We may even find some temporary relief in those things. God will allow that, but as we consider our eternal destiny – eternity in God’s presence versus eternity completely separated from Him – the ultimate choice must be made: Do we continue to seek after worldly things, or do we give ourselves and our lives to the One who made all things? Worldly things will fade, and if we cling to them we will someday find ourselves desperately trying to cling to nothing. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away” (Mark 13:33). That is the foundation on which I choose to build my life!

Bloom Where You’re Planted

 

‘Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’ ~ Jeremiah 29:7

English: Roanoke City as seen from at dusk in ...

English: Roanoke City as seen from at dusk in Virginia, USA. Italiano: Roanoke City vista dalla . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My favorite place I have lived is Roanoke, Virginia. I confess that I sometimes lament that I don’t live there now.

This passage comes from a letter written by Jeremiah, as directed by God, to the Israelites living in exile in Babylon. In the letter, God tells the exiles to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper,” (verse 7, NIV). Bloom where you’re planted, perhaps? These people are in exile; they don’t want to be in Babylon. They want to go home. False teachers are telling them it won’t be long before they return to their homeland, but that is not God’s plan. In verse 10 God says through Jeremiah, “…when 70 years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.”

Israel is exiled as punishment for disobeying God. But even through the course of punishment, God loves His people and promises to restore them when the time is right. Even through the course of punishment, God gives them the hope and reassurance that He has not abandoned them. I can’t help but think that God also wants the people of Babylon to see Him through the exiles. God’s Word is ultimately for the world, not just for Israel. Jesus came to save us all.

God’s letter to the exiles offers one of the most oft-quoted promises conveyed by God in the Old Testament:

‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’ (Jeremiah 29:11-14)

The Keller water tower bathed in blue lights after a Keller High School victory!

The Keller water tower bathed in blue lights after a Keller High School victory!

In reading Jeremiah’s letter to the Israeli exiles in Babylon, I am convicted. No, I haven’t been exiled to Dallas/Fort Worth, but God has me here for a reason. He wants me to fully embrace this community, to pray for it, and contribute to its well-being. As I consider this passage, I am reminded of the times I have lamented having left Roanoke. I am reminded of the groaning and complaining I’ve offered concerning our search for a church home, the traffic, the pollution, the crowds and I realize I have missed the point. God wants me to be a part of this community; that’s why I’m here.

What about you? Are you dissatisfied with your lot in life? Are you grumbling about your employer, your neighborhood, or your school? Does the grass look greener someplace else? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, I encourage you to read this passage and then go to God in prayer. Ask Him what He wants you to do to contribute to the well-being of the community to which He has led you; the place in which you find yourself right now. Then go out and serve the Lord where He has planted you.

My prayer for today: Dear Heavenly Father, as I look out my window I see my community differently after having read this passage. Thank You for Your Word, and thank You for calling me here. Show me, Lord, each and every day how I may serve You here. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

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.

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.

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