So thankful for our Savior,
Let's Be Real...
The articles here will have material introduced over time examining our lives and actions in light of our relationship with our Lord to confirm that our faith is real.
Thank you for visiting and considering...
Prayerfully, hopefully, there will be inspiration for personal repentance, prayer, thinking, writing, spiritual growth and encouragement to life-changing experience with our LORD, guiding our daily conduct.
- Jim B.
Though it is the recent U.S. election cycle which impresses this on my heart, I believe that this will be of interest to all peoples of all cultures, and have universal application wherever you are…
Going forward for any culture, that is, for every person everywhere, we must repudiate in our heart and mind the notion that not following Jesus in our personal and public decisions carries even a remote possibility of God’s blessings.
Secularism is utterly bankrupt and it is our responsibility as Christian citizens to hasten the day when that will be evident to all.
Jesus said: “Whoever is not with me is against me…” - Mt. 12:30
And in Mt. 12:38, 41, Jesus illustrated the sign of Jonah, and Nineveh repented.
Jesus further explained: “Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is Like: like a man building a house… on the rock… the one who does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground…it fell” - Luke 6:47,48,49
It is Christ or chaos, Christ or nothing, Christ or the abyss.
When you read the history of Israel and Judah, you will see that time and time again God judges a nation with its leaders. We must resist placing our trust in solely our national leaders, because, unless we repent, our culture will remain divided and under God’s judgment. And Jesus said: “Every Kingdom divided against itself is laid waste” (Mt. 12:25b).
We need to commiserate with our neighbors who may be genuinely anxious over their future in light of the election, because they do not know the Prince of Peace and Lover of our souls. So, we need to share our Lord and the hope that can be had in Him.
Our Father God is in control of nations. And, being in control, He is presenting us with the opportunity to reflect on our situations and repent. We cannot manage our way out. We cannot vote our way out. The way out is repentance. (And if the way out is repentance, we need to take care not to call evil good in the process, because minimizing evil is not in keeping with true repentance.) I firmly believe that the hand of God is at work in the affairs of nations, and that God is in charge of judgment and blessings - we do not own the luxury of devising God's judgment or blessing.
The only prudent thing for anyone ever to do is to finally wake up, humble ourselves, and for us individually and corporately, to repent of our sins, placing our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and applying His Word in our lives, through a great reformation and revival. If we want anything else, we are desiring salvation without a Savior.
In the Gospel of John, chapter 16, and verse 23, Jesus tells us: “…whatever you ask of the Father in my name, He will give it to you.” I firmly believe that to ask “in Jesus’ name” does not mean that we can simply tack His name onto our selfish requests and expect that they will be given to us. What then does Jesus mean by “in my name”? Jesus tells us what He means – for this is a continuation of His discussion with His disciples from chapter 15. There He tells us “…bear fruit…abide, so that whatever you ask…” (John 15:16). And, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). In John chapter 15, we learn that abiding in Him is a lifestyle of being a fruit-bearing branch in Him, the true vine. As we live that lifestyle of abiding in Him, and His words abide in us, when we come before the Father with our requests, we come in His name.
Further, as we abide in Him, as we delight ourselves in Him, He will place desires in our heart that are of Him – “Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). As we abide in Him and His words abide in us, we will ask what we wish, and it will be given to us (cf. John 15:7). Our wishes, our desires, will be in keeping with His word and what He places in our hearts, as we practice a lifestyle of praying and living out His word, abiding in Him. An example? It won’t be: “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz? My friends all drive Porsches, and I must make amends”. And, it won’t be: “Bless our nation, though we make divorce easy, abort babies at will, and celebrate sexual sins”. If God’s word is in our heart, and we are in His name, then we will have a desire to conform to His word, humbling ourselves and repenting for our sins first (2 Chronicles 7:14), asking God to grant that our nation will turn from its wicked ways, then expecting and asking for our Father God’s blessing and healing in our land. Because if His words are abiding in us, 2 Chronicles 7:14 will be in our hearts as well: "If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land."
An example? It won’t be: “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz? My friends all drive Porsches, and I must make amends”. And, it won’t be: “Bless our nation, though we make divorce easy, abort babies at will, and celebrate sexual sins”. If God’s word is in our heart, and we are in His name, then we will have a desire to conform to His word, humbling ourselves and repenting for our sins first (2 Chronicles 7:14), asking God to grant that our nation will turn from its wicked ways, then expecting and asking for our Father God’s blessing and healing in our land.
Because if His words are abiding in us, 2 Chronicles 7:14 will be in our hearts as well: "If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land."
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18).
Recently I sat and observed the moon, which had not yet set, on a brilliant blue-sky sunlit day. I am sure that you have seen the same at times. Have you considered what can be learned from this? After all, we know that “The heavens declare the glory of God …” (Ps. 19:1). As earth’s moon reflects the glory of the sun, it gains its own glory, and becomes “the lesser light.” This is a physical graphic for us in the heavens which carries a consequential, weighty, and very valuable lesson to us. We become as the glory we reflect…
In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis spoke of “good infection” and wrote: “If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them. … Once a man is united to God, how could he not live forever? … He came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has – by what I call ‘good infection’ ”.
This dynamic extends to God’s glory – and when we understand the import, we should be left awestruck and bow in humble adoration and gratitude before our Father God.
Glory really is infectious. And, when we consider the Glory of our Father God, it is truly a good infection that we gain to our own eternal benefit or lose out on to our own eternal harm.
In The Weight of Glory Lewis eloquently captured the eternal import of it in our lives when he wrote: “remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you say it now, you would be strongly temped to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a night mare. … There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”
We are eternal beings – for we have been created in the “image” of God (Gen. 1:26). Dear Reader – consider this: we set our feet on a path in this life to what we will become in eternity.
Jesus said: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth …” (John 8: 31-32). I take “know the truth” here as not merely trivially being in on some secrets, but “knowing” in the biblical sense – where the truth becomes part of us, and we become part of the truth, for we become true disciples that way – reflecting the glory of His word in our lives, becoming a “lesser light”. Is my mind set on His eternal word, becoming part of me, or is my mind set on this world’s lies through the world’s entertainment, letting the world’s dim, temporary glory become part of me? Either way, we are choosing a mold for all eternity.
We know that our Father God is “good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him” (Lam. 3:25). And, so it is with us – He wants to be good to us and place us in the cleft of the rock for our safety as He did for Moses (Ex. 33:22), and that as Moses’ face shone (Ex. 34:30), so may ours in eternity.
We should also solemnly hear the words of Jesus: “… Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28 and Luke 12:5). If we reject One Who is eternal in nature, our rejection becomes by definition an eternal rejection, and so the only appropriate punishment is eternal – an eternal destruction in an eternal hell. We should shudder for those about us who are rejecting the Lord, and call for our nation, our culture, our neighbors to be reconciled to God through Jesus and repentance. We should begin by examining ourselves, and repent as the Lord convicts, dying to ourselves daily.
Choosing to allow the Lord and His glory into our lives is not only consequential, but cumulative in its effect…. Choices build on one another, taking us step by step further along a pathway to becoming one kind of creature or quite another.
So, our choice of repenting and receiving Him into our heart, and dying to ourselves daily means taking a step one day into His home and becoming then a completely perfected being in Him along with fullness of life and joy.
On the other hand, rejecting Him is rejecting an Eternal Being with an eternal offer – so in the end, a final rejection is an eternal rejection. It begins with a step by step process of making choices which removes ourselves from Him, and day by day finding it more difficult to turn back to Him because of the deceitfulness and complexity of sin and growing darkness until one day stepping into Hell having removed ourselves eternally from Him and becoming then over eternity a monstrous being of complete and eternal selfishness, hatred, loneliness and despair.
For some, because of innocence and childlike hearts, gaining intimacy with Jesus can be a fairly quick process. For others, who have made many wrong choices and have hard habits to die to, it can take time to become intimate. This is why our choice must not be put off and the first choice of dying to ourselves and partaking of Him must be made without further delay.
Let’s be real – this is not easy in our world. It isn’t for me. But, as I do not neglect, but abide in His Word, I have also experientially confirmed His promise of glory to me (and you) when He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).
- Jim B.
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18).
Chutzpah When Least Expected
You would think that surely the few remaining in Judea would have learned their lesson. They had seen the northern kingdom of Israel carried into captivity because they had chosen not to repent of following false gods. Now they had witnessed their own kingdom of Judea and their beloved Jerusalem ravaged and their brothers and sisters and neighbors made slaves by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. They were destitute and left with the soil beneath their feet, and the promises of their Father God to bless them if only they would now remain in land, trusting and obeying Him, forsaking the false gods of their neighboring nations.
But, no! Sadly we read of one of the most extreme examples of direct defiance against God displayed in God’s Word. After the ravaging of Judea and destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldean forces of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and their nation carried off into captivity, only a very few of God’s people remained in the land. Some of them approached Jeremiah and asked him for a Word from the Lord – so that “they might know what to do”. They swore repeatedly that they would follow the instructions that the Lord would give them.
It is so much like our Father God that He generously offered to bless this group of people and prosper them in the land, but they would need to stay in Judea and not go to Egypt as they intended. They would need to trust the LORD that He would protect them in Judea and obey Him. After what they had been through, it is reasonable to expect that this group of the remnant would humble themselves and accept the LORD’s terms for their blessing. After all, HE IS GOD. GOD OVER ALL. and we are, well, wee. wee. That they would have accepted the LORD’s offer is an entirely reasonable expectation.
What the remnant heard though was not to their liking, and not in keeping with their intentions, so they flat out refused to obey the Lord’s message to remain in Judea, as heard through Jeremiah and chose instead to run off to Egypt where they would worship other gods and the “Queen of Heaven” instead! Let’s face it. Their response to the God of the Universe, who loved them and saved them on occasion without number, reeked of: Insolence. Audacity. Gall. Nerve. Cockiness. Cheekiness. Brashness. Arrogance. Chutzpah. Chutzpah when least expected. Dear reader, you are right to be shocked.
Consider this: we live in a land which has been blessed by our Father God. Yet, just as the Judean remnant did, our nation has largely turned away from our Father God’s way for us. Whenever we personally, or as a people, presume to know what is better for us than what our Father God has so clearly shown, we should be shocked at ourselves as well. With our legal abortions, "pride" in abominations, our “boy is girl”, “girl is boy” “tolerance” and when we set whatever we “feel” right to be “right”, without absolutes, we exhibit the same chutzpah. Yes, chutzpah before our Father God. May our Father God grant us repentance.
However, before we blame calamities suffered by others on their sinful lifestyle, or lightly say that others are worse offenders, let us soberly remember the reproof of Jesus: “Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (- Luke 13: 4-5 ESV)
Orlando? Every person born into this world is in need of repentance. Jesus said: “…this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” (John 3:19) For our nation to heal, those of us who belong to the Lord need to begin by examining ourselves for complicity in the world’s ways and repenting – “…if my people, who are called by my name will humble themselves and repent…”
When we as Christians do not love those who have offended us, or take lightly the entertainment of this world, rather than abiding in His Word, are such things not also an offense to our Father God worthy of repentance?
Look, we will all one day find ourselves before our Father God and need to answer to Him. The only possible way to prepare for that day is to take refuge in Christ – to know Him as our Savior and for Him to know us. “…in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them…We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God… (- 2 Cor. 5: 19-20 ESV) And that is for all of us.
Returning to our narrative - This true story of the Judean remnant we review now is recorded in Jeremiah chapters 42-44, where we can prayerfully consider our own lives and learn lessons from this chapter in Israel’s history, which underscores the inevitable judgment which comes to a nation and its people who willfully continue to choose to behave contrary to the expressed will of God in their lives.
How did all this come about?
In Jeremiah 42: 1-3 we hear the request of the group of remnants, led by Johanan – “pray to your God for us that your God will tell us the way we should go and what we should do.”
We know though from Jeremiah 41:17 that they were already “intending to go to Egypt…” (And in light of their subsequent response, it appears though that they wanted the LORD’s word more as a means to hedge their bets than a sincere desire to obey and please the LORD.)
Jeremiah the prophet said to them, “I have heard you. Behold, I will pray to the LORD your God according to your request, and whatever the LORD answers you I will tell you, I will keep nothing back from you.” (– Jer.42:4 ESV)
The people swore three times… Then they said to Jeremiah, “May the LORD be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act according to all the word with which the LORD your God sends you to us. Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God to whom we are sending you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the LORD our God.” (- Jer. 42: 5-6 ESV)
At the end of ten days the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah. Then he summoned Johanan… and all the commanders of the forces…and all the people… (- Jer. 42: 7-8 ESV)
The Lord told the people… “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel,…If you will remain in this land, then I will build you up and not pull you down: I will plant you, and not pluck you up; for I relent of the disaster that I did to you.” (- Jer. 42: 9-10 ESV)
The Lord, as sovereign over Nebuchadnezzar, told them not to fear him… “Do not fear the king of Babylon…for I am with you, to save you and to deliver you from his hand.” (- Jer. 42:11 ESV)
However… “But if you say, ‘We will not remain in this land,’ disobeying the voice of the LORD your God… If you set your faces to enter Egypt and go to live there, then the sword that you fear shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine of which you are afraid shall follow close after you to Egypt, and there you shall die.” (- Jer. 42: 13-16 ESV)
What have learned about our Father God? That He is sovereign over the kings of the earth (of Babylon, of us) and His judgment can and will reach anywhere (to Egypt, to us).
Jeremiah remained faithful to the Lord, reminding the people that they had asked him inquire of God’s instructions for them, had promised to do whatever He commanded, and of the consequences of disobeying.
We need to remember that there are consequences in our lives for disobeying the Lord.
When Jeremiah finished speaking to all the people these words of the LORD their God,…Azariah…and Johanan…and all the insolent men said to Jeremiah, “You are telling a lie. The LORD our God did not send you to say, “Do not go to Egypt to live there,…” So Johanan and all the commanders of the forces and all the people did not obey the voice of LORD, to remain in the land of Judah. (- Jer. 43:1-4 ESV)
Warren Wiersbe has this to say about their response: “Sometimes God’s people take this false approach in discerning the will of God. Instead of honestly seeking God’s will, they go from counselor to counselor, asking for advice and hoping they’ll find somebody who will agree with their hidden agenda.”
Johanan, and the people in this group of remnants were Judeans gathered near Bethlehem – not all the people in the land. There were Judeans who remained in the land and did not go to Egypt. In the end, those who remained were blessed, and those who accompanied Johanan in disobedience, were judged.
And they came into the land of Egypt, for they did not obey the voice of the LORD. And they arrived at Tahpanhes. (- Jer. 43:7 ESV)
Think of it! The descendants of Abraham – the “Friend of God”, descendants of those whom Moses had led out of Egypt in triumph, bringing to shame the “gods” of the Egyptians, carrying the bones of Joseph, and delivered from slavery, were returning nine hundred years later, enslaved to their own fear, and intent on worshipping the false “gods” of Egypt. How utterly sad. May we not turn from our walk with the Lord!
Jeremiah had been carried there with them. Jeremiah remaining faithful, God instructed Jeremiah to prophesy, beginning with a living picture: He had Jeremiah place stones “in the pavement that is at the entrance to Pharaoh’s palace in Tahpanhes in the sight of the men of Judah.” (- Jer. 43: 9 ESV)
And say to them, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will send and take Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant…He shall come and strike the land of Egypt, giving over to the pestilence…to captivity…and to the sword those who are doomed to the sword. I shall kindle a fire in the temples of the gods of Egypt, and he shall burn them…he shall clean the land of Egypt…He shall break the obelisks of Heliopolis…and the temples of the gods of Egypt he shall burn with fire.” (- Jer. 43:10-13 ESV)
Nebuchadnezzar would set up his throne over where Jeremiah had imbedded the stones. Though the remnant had placed themselves in Egypt, they would suffer Babylonian might just as they had previously witnessed in Judea.
Sure enough, Nebuchadnezzar invaded Egypt and defeated the Pharaoh – compare Ezekiel 29: 19-20 (and the history of Josephus as well).
Nebuchadnezzar also broke down the obelisks that stood at Heliopolis, and burnt the temples of the gods of Egypt. One of these obelisks, re-assembled, is now on display in Central Park in New York City, and another is on the Thames Embankment in London. (Both have been incorrectly referred to as “Cleopatra’s Needle” – though pre-dating Cleopatra). Chutzpah on our part! Because, the obelisks honor various Egyptian gods. God used Moses and then Nebuchadnezzar, a pagan king, to humiliate the “gods”. Who will He use next?
Sadly, the people of the remnant responded to Jeremiah: “As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD, we will not listen to you. But we will do everything that we have vowed, make offerings to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offering to her, as we did, both we and our fathers, our kings and our officials, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem…” (- Jer. 44: 16-17 ESV) They reasoned that when they did so, they prospered, but suffered when they failed in this.
This of course was a direct challenge to the LORD God’s sovereignty. Much as we do in our society.
“No”, Jeremiah responded…. “As for the offerings that you offered in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem…did not the LORD remember them? Did it not come into His mind? The LORD could no longer bear your evil deeds and the abominations that you committed. Therefore your land has become a desolation…It is because you made offerings and because you sinned against the LORD…that this disaster has happened to you, as at this day.” (-Jer. 44: 21-23 ESV)
Yet, dear reader, hear and see in the midst of all of this the hope and never-failing love the LORD offers for those who belong to Him: The LORD of hosts, the God of Israel said: “Behold, I am bringing punishment upon…Egypt and her gods and her kings, upon Pharaoh and those who trust in him…But fear not, O Jacob my servant,…I will make a full end of all the nations to which I have driven you, but of you I will not make a full end.” (- Jer. 46: 25-28 ESV)
The remnant of Judea that fled to Egypt in the days of Jeremiah failed to see that their disasters were punishments from the LORD for forsaking Him. They wrongly concluded it was because they had forsaken their false gods. They feared the Chaldeans and sought comfort in false gods, in their own way of doing things.
This incident speaks directly to their relationship with the Lord. Their father King David had shown them the value of an intimate relationship with the Lover of Our Souls. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Ps. 23: 4…KJV) In the darkest valleys of Judea that the remnant walked in, in their fear they imagined they were in the shadow of death at the hands of the Chaldeans, their enemies scattered throughout their valleys. But, Who was it with them in the dark? When they imagined footsteps behind them, they could have listened carefully for the welcoming, warm encouragement from their Lord... “Don’t worry. I am with you. I carry my rod and my staff. Reach out for the goodness and mercy I have for you. I will bring you to a table in my house where you will dwell forever and ever.”
And in our fears, that is our Lord’s call to us as well. The real tragedy is when we don’t stop to listen for that word, and hear instead the clamor of our own fears and the world around us.
In our time, there are secularists who blame Christianity for many of our nation’s ills, attributing our problems and tensions in society to biblical restraints and moral absolutes. Just like the fearful, disobedient and rebellious remnant with Jeremiah, they are seeking to overcome our problems, not in God, but from God.
Let’s be real. To the extent that we go along with our culture’s push against our Father God, to that extent we are practicing “Chutzpah when least expected”. Let’s be real as we practice abiding in our Savior Jesus, and His Word, and conforming ourselves instead to the will of our Father God in our lives and the still waters He has for us. Let’s be real as we pray: “Lead me. O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.” (- Psalm 5:8 ESV)
So thankful for our Savior,
Jeremiah Buys A Field
Dear reader, I ask you: If you were locked up in jail, and an overwhelming enemy army fully determined to ransack and destroy the city which your cell is located in, and take everyone in your city into captivity as slaves, were in the midst of laying siege, would your mind turn to a real estate transaction? Yet, this is what Jeremiah, though imprisoned in a palace cell, and with the Babylonians battering the gates and walls of Jerusalem, and knowing full well that the Babylonians would soon invalidate all commercial transactions, was intent on completing. Why do you suppose he would do such a thing? Jeremiah gives us all of the details as the Lord had him record them. So, there is little left to the imagination - as I read the account, I can see and hear the witness of Jeremiah from his cell…
“The jailor asked me to stand aside as he ushered in Hanamel, my uncle Shallum’s son, and the witnesses he had brought with him. ‘Buy my field in Anathoth of Benjamin. You have the legal right. You have the means – the palace guard has not deprived you.’ Hanamel stated forthright.”
“I followed all the procedures I knew to be proper: Before all those assembled there as witnesses, I wrote out the bill of sale, sealed it, and weighed out on the scales Hanamel had brought, the price Hanamel demanded for the property - seventeen silver shekels. And so it came to be that I bought the field of Anathoth from my cousin, under guard.”
“I took the deed, the sealed copy with its contract and conditions and the open copy and gave it to Baruch, son of Neriah, and told Baruch in front of all who were assembled there as witnesses: ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deep of purchase and open deed, and put them in an earthenware vessel, that they may last for a long time. For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.’” – Jeremiah 32: 14,15 ESV
“The LORD had told me to prepare myself, for my cousin would come to me to sell me the field, so I knew the Lord’s hand was in it. I was locked in a cell because Zedekiah the king was not pleased with the message the LORD had given me, telling him that he and city would be handed over to the Chaldeans. But, I had seen the Lord’s hand in my life time and time again, so I trusted. And I prayed: “Father God you have created the heavens and the earth by your outstretched arm…you show steadfast love to thousands…yet you bring this disaster on your people…the siege ramps are in place, on our doorsteps. And yet, though the Babylonians will surely take this city, you also told me, Buy the field. Do it before witnesses…” (Dear reader – read all of Jeremiah’s prayer in Jer. 32: 17-25)
So we have the testimony of when Jeremiah obeyed and bought a field, though the enemy was at the gates, and he was in jail. (A better deal on its face for Hanamel than Jeremiah, for when the Babylonians take all the land, silver in hand would be of more value.)
And the Lord answered that He is in control, God over all, and He has had His fill with the idolatry and rebellion of His people… (Dear reader – read all of our Father God’s answer to Jeremiah in Jer. 32: 26-44)
Yet, “For thus says the LORD: Just as I have brought all this great disaster upon this people, so I will bring upon them all the good that I promise them… Fields shall be bought for money, and deeds shall be signed and sealed and witnessed… I will restore their fortunes, declares the LORD.” – Jeremiah 32: 42-44 ESV
What do we learn about our Father God in this story? We learn that He is in control, though it may seem not to be the case, regardless of our circumstances. Jeremiah trusted, obeyed, and learned from our Father God’s answer that He is willing to give a sign and make a pledge (the selling of the field as an indication of times to come again). An extraordinary thing, don’t you think, for the God of the universe? Yet, out of His love for us, He is willing to do such things - so that we might more clearly see that He will surely keep His promises to those who belong to Him. And what does this story say about me and you dear reader? We need to examine our hearts before the Lord. What it says about Jeremiah is that he was willing to trust the Lord and be obedient in spite of what he saw going on around him. Are we?
Let’s be real – Am I willing to trust the Lord and obey, blessing His name in spite of my circumstances? Oh – I just lost my job – without explanation. Can I say to those around me: “The Lord has His perfect purposes – Let’s trust Him and wait and see…” Yes? No? Our circumstances will always change. Our Father God does not change. He sees all and is in control. Father, I believe, help my unbelief!
So thankful for our Savior,
One Day in the Life of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon
It was the day the fog lifted from my mind. I found myself on all fours in the dew-laden grass. My hair was tangled, matted and reached the ground. My nails were long, curved and full of dirt. What?!! But I am King! My mind was clear again. It all came flooding back…
I recalled how I had in foolishness mused on my balcony at the greatness I had attained, boasting: “Look at this marvelous Babylon – which I have built all by myself! Behold! My palace – full of glory yet barely able to display all of the glory and honor due to me!” No sooner had these words passed my lips that a voice rang clear from heaven: “This is the judgement passed on you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your kingdom is taken from you. You will be driven out from among human fellowship and live with animals. You will eat grass like a cow. This discipline will last for seven years, enough time for you to learn that it is the true God on high who rules nations and installs whomever He wishes as leaders.”
Now clear thinking, I rushed back to the palace to clean myself and set things right before the Lord of All in the kingdom of Babylon – I dared not call it “my” palace now – I now saw it is a palace which God, who is God over everything and everyone has gifted me with. All belongs to Him. Ahhh…. I blessed the High God, thanking and glorifying God, who lives forever:
“His sovereign rule goes on and on and on into the eons,
His kingdom is never diminished.
Our life on this earth is so short,
and not at all as significant when all is said and done,
as we think.
It is God’s heavenly legions which keeps all maintained.
God’s purposes are never thwarted,
There is no one who can question His authority.”
I will sing praises to Him. In the court praises to Him. And those with ears to hear, will wisely join in.
Oh, what a day! From the confusing labyrinths of madness in the field, awaking to the joy of praise in the palace.
Straight off in the courtyard I announced my return and called for my bath and groomers. I set about arranging the festivities – not to celebrate my re-enthronement, but rather to laud, extol and bless the King of Kings!
I summoned musicians, singers, and dancers and beseeched them to join me in praise to the God of Heaven. I set servants free from oaths of allegiance to me and bade them join in only if their heart was in it. As I told my story to the royal court, to friends and family and servants as well, and they could see my clarity of mind, some seemed to dare to believe, to trust, that I was no longer mad, and joined in praising the God who is over everything – as they saw He had returned my mind to me. The call was sent throughout the kingdom for leaders and those in authority to come and see for themselves.
And so we sang. Late into the afternoon and evening I sang in rapture and praise and bade those who would accompany me to join in. Singing and praising the King of Heaven:
“Everything He does is just and perfect,
and He does it in most inscrutable ways.
He knows how to humble proud men and women
into those who recognize the King of Kings.”
Dear reader, you have been reading the testimony of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon on the day his sanity was returned to him, as I see it in my mind’s eye. It really happened. And you can read about it for yourself in chapter 4 of the book of Daniel from the Old Testament. Splendor was returned to Babylon, and Nebuchadnezzar was raised again as he humbled himself, gave recognition to, and honored his creator, the true God over everything.
Our Father God used Nebuchadnezzar not only to teach Neb and his court a lesson, but us as well.
The king’s madness came because he set himself up as a god, and did not acknowledge the true God outside of his arranged political order of things as the one over all the affairs of men.
If there is no God outside of our order of things, then our own order is as god, and creates a culture of folly rushing headlong into judgment just as Nebuchadnezzar. In such a culture egos can accommodate depravities and allow for nonsensical thought such as boy is girl and girl is boy. Such a culture strives to convince itself of its “tolerance” while the full fury of its intolerance crashes down on dissenters and those who hate God stumble about in utter darkness because of their blindness.
If our arranged political order of things, our culture, is god, then that means that there is no external standard by which our order may be examined. “…But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” – 2 Corinthians 10:12b. This is an age-old issue. Our culture is not being “progressive”, “modern” or “enlightened” in this. Hundreds of years after Nebuchadnezzar, it was still an issue when Paul wrote to believers at Corinth. Yet, there has been and always will be healing and restoration for those who walk in repentance before the Lord. “Turn and be saved” our Lord calls.
It is an age-old issue because sin is an age-old issue. We have lost our way, and the only hope for our society is repentance and turning to Jesus the Christ, God-the-Son, and our Savior. It was not a new issue in Jeremiah’s day when the armies of Nebuchadnezzar lay siege to Jerusalem and Judah. "For my people are foolish; they know me not; they are stupid children; they have no understanding. They are 'wise'—in doing evil! But how to do good they know not." – Jeremiah 4:22 And, "My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray, turning them away on the mountains. From mountain to hill they have gone. They have forgotten their fold.” – Jeremiah 50:6
Yet, our Father God’s offer stands: “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” – Isaiah 45:22
And so, dear brothers and sisters - Our Father God has a beautiful offer, but our neighbors are blind, stumbling in darkness and simply can't see it. Our Father's offer is a many splendored thing, a brilliant and sunny day that our neighbors cannot see - without us sharing the light which our Father God has put in our hearts by virtue of His Son in us. Sharing the Light - this is how we push back – this is how we return love when hatred spews our way.
Lets be real – our culture is experiencing demonic delusions – thinking of itself as its own standard and god. There is One Who is outside of our collective order of establishment and Who is the true God and LORD of all, though so many have forgotten Him or refuse to acknowledge Him. Do we want salvation for our culture? We have a Savior for that. Beginning with the Body of Christ, we believers need to show our neighbors the way and walk in personal repentance, recognizing the authority of the King of Kings in all areas of our lives, and abide in His Word – gaining a restored relationship of light, life and love with our Father God and escaping judgment.
So thankful for our Savior,
“Scripture is Given…”
Jesus said… “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8: 31, 32
Jesus also said... “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”...”These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” – John 15: 7, 11
Jesus lived and breathed the Word of God — it was part of Him. It shaped all his thinking and acting. If we are going to walk as he walked, the same should be true of us.
When Jesus battled with Satan, he defeated every temptation using words from the Bible. During His ministry, His heart was full of ready quotations and allusions to the Old Testament. The Word of God was in His heart and on His lips while He was on the cross for us - "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Psalm 22:1).
What does it mean to abide in God’s Word?... It means having the words of the Bible delivered to our hearts as inspired scripture by the Spirit of God, as we open our hearts to it, allowing God’s Spirit to speak to us through it, by meditating on it, praying it back to Him, and asking God to change us and bring us into conformity with it as we apply it in our lives. It involves a relationship with and an interaction with our Father God and Savior - the Living Word. If we are simply reading God’s Word in a cursory manner, as it is presented to us in sermons and church bulletins, and taking snippets of it here and there, then we are missing out. It means God’s Word is implanted in our hearts as we set aside other distractions calling to us and seek out opportunities to dwell in God’s Word regularly instead. Jesus' words to us were conditional - "If..."
You will be much blessed in doing so. Hear from James 1:21: “…receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”
We are told, “all scripture is given by inspiration of God…” in 2 Timothy 3:16. Or, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” When is “scripture” given to us? I firmly believe that it is as the Bible declares it – it is by the inspiration of our Father God as He breathes it out as scripture to us.
To the extent that we open our hearts and abide in God’s Word, it is given to us as scripture by the Spirit of God, inspiring it to us. It involves us having receptive hearts – being willing to let the Word of God spoken to us by His Spirit, conform us to His purpose in our lives – not us trying to conform the Word to our purposes. It is then that the Word becomes “profitable”.
We need to be praying God’s Word over our lives. When we receive the text, “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors”, it requires soul-searching. “Father, show me how I have not forgiven. Help me to be more like you. Father, I forgive. Help my un-forgiveness!” And when we read, “pray for those who persecute you”, in many cases I find that I need to be asking God for the grace to do that instead of how else I might allow the darkness and deceitfulness of my heart to respond. When I read from Psalm 1, am I asking God to reveal to me if I am “accepting the counsel of the ungodly” – and repenting of it? Do I examine myself in the light of Psalm 1, questioning if I am “meditating day and night” in His Word or some worldly distraction? Are we praying His Word? I need to allow the light of the Jesus’ presence and His Word to fill my heart, change my heart, and conform myself to it.
Dear reader, I have reminded previously: when we receive God’s Word, we need to be asking ourselves: What does this say about our Father God? What does it say about me? How do I need to change as a result? – and pray it through with your Father God and Savior.
I believe it is a true understanding that 2 Tim. 3:16 also refers to an inspiration event which first happened when scripture was infallibly recorded, by the inspiration of God, in a manner pleasing to our Father God, and God’s people inscribed God’s Word as He inspired and directed them. Now, this truth alone is a rich treasure, greatly to be valued.
But, our Lord wants to be even richer towards us. This statement about God’s Word being breathed out as scripture to us has deeper meaning relating to those of us who are children of God, and explains why scripture can be so precious to our hearts – why there are those of us who cannot live without abiding in it. I believe that this also refers to an event happening again and again, when it is given as scripture to our hearts as we abide in Him, and His words abide in us, as we open our hearts to Him and search and pray His word. Then it is given to us as scripture and not just words on the page, and we have the full understanding of: “all scripture is given by inspiration of God” - “breathed out by God” to our hearts.
It cannot be given as scripture to us if our hearts are and remain closed to Him. But, it does not need to remain just so many words on the page. Praise be to our Father God! As we abide in Him and practice obeying His word, praying it, and planting it in our hearts, then His word is given as scripture, breathed out by God to our hearts and is useful for teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness. Our faith grows and we may be complete, equipped for every good work. So, my hope is that God’s Word will grow in all our hearts for His good purposes as we abide in Him and His Word abides in us – as we pray His Word and it lives in us with as correct of an understanding as we can have by His Spirit this side of eternity.
Our Father God has promised that His Word will not return to Him in vain. He has a work for His word in our lives, and His call to us is clear in Hebrews chapter 4:
“Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Let’s be real: Our Father God wants us to “abide” in His Word, that His purpose may be complete in us. Too many in the Body of Christ these days accept the premise that it is sufficient to be spoon fed the Word of God by Pastors and others. But our Father God wants to deal directly with us as well - that we might grow more intimately with Him, and have fuller repentance in our lives and our nation healed as we interact directly with our Lord. Are we willing to set aside distractions and do just that as we cry out and practice: “Father may your word dwell in me!”? Will you join me in this?
So thankful for our Savior,
Post Script: How about taking God’s Word into our hearts and minds regularly, as events happened in a chronological order? There is a link to some interesting reading plans in the “Links” page, with pdfs available for download.
"Strike The Pillars"
“You need to understand WHO I saw…
Am I to be undone? I saw… I saw… The Lord. The. LORD. GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies Himself.
HE who touches (only a slight touch) and the earth melts, sending all of its inhabitants into lament.
HE who has the upper rooms of His palace in the highest heaven and its supports on the earth.
HE who assembles the waters of the seas and then spoons it out into its place onto the surface of the earth. This is Who I saw. The LORD is His name.
Standing beside the altar, HE said:
‘Strike the Pillars! Strike the pillars of the shrine so hard the thresholds of the doors shake and come tumbling down onto the heads of the people inside. If anyone is left standing, I’ll kill them with the sword. Not a single soul will get away. No one will be able to make a run for it. Should some strive for hades, I’ll pull them back up. Try to reach for the stars and I’ll drag them back down. If any think they can hide on Mt. Carmel, what?. He who made the eye cannot see? It’s no use! I’ll find them. Even those who would try diving to the bottom of the sea will find that I can send my sea creatures to swallow them whole. And if any runaways are captured alive by their enemies, well, I’ll see to it that the sword catches up with them. I have determined calamity will be their portion, and not good-times.’
‘You Israelites think that you are safe and secure and so much better off than the pagan nations around you. Is there that much difference? Don’t I deal with all nations? I certainly do. I see and I have my eyes fixed on the sinful ones which I intend to eradicate from the earth, though I will not wholly wipe out the descendants of Jacob. Yet none will escape my shake up - placed together with all the nations and shaken like grain in a sieve. The unrepentant sinners among them who say that ‘Nothing bad can happen to us’ will surely die by the sword as I have said.’ “
Reader, you have been standing in the shoes of the herder and farmer called to prophesy: Amos. And, you have been listening to a bit of Amos’ prophecy - from what has become to us the first portion of chapter 9, in the book of Amos, in the Old Testament, in the Bible.
Amos. Do you know him? (Get to know Amos and other obscure “minor” prophets and you may discover that they are not so “minor” after all.)
Amos confronted the bent priest Amaziah, who, unable to bear the truth that he was hearing, told Amos to go prophesy in Judah instead. Amos answered: “I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. But the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ Now therefore hear the word of the LORD.” (Amos 7:14-16 ESV)
Amaziah, fearing I think, that Amos indeed spoke God’s words and truth, shuddered in my mind’s eye and shrank back as Amos continued… “You tell me don’t speak out for God. Well, here’s what He wants you to know: Your wife will prostitute herself, your children will die violently, your land given to others, you yourself will die in a foreign, perverted land, and Israel will surely be taken into exile.”
We may be tempted to say something like… “Wow. Yeah - not so good for Amaziah. But what has that got to do with me?”
That strikes me as a very good question and I am glad that you have asked it. When reading God’s Word, I think it is very important to always ask: What does this have to do with me? What does this say about me?, (To find ourselves in Amos, and how Amos’ message relates to us, we will want to read more of Amos’ message. More on that in a bit.)
Actually, there are three simple questions that I have found so helpful to me when coming to God’s Word…
As you read, always ask yourself:
Dear Reader – I hope that you are doing something like this as a regular practice! You will be blessed indeed, for Father God will bring joy to your heart with His presence as you seek Him, forsake sin and walk and talk with Him. (For me, sometimes scripture lends itself to praying the content outright, as in the Psalms, other times I need to “digest” the larger content in context, and after seeing with God’s help what it says about me and what needs to change as a result, I find myself on my knees thanking and praising God or often, repenting and asking His grace to help me overcome…) Sometimes we may find ourselves asking these 3 questions of the Lord, and waiting and listening.
In my experience, my walk can always be brought into better step with the Lord and my heart made to be better tuned to His, through the washing of His Word, by His Spirit, when sincere, real prayer time is spent with our Lord while approaching Him humbly in heart and mind with these three simple questions. Let’s begin with the first question. What have we learned about God from what we have seen in Amos so far?
How about to begin with: Our Father God sees sin and deals with it very seriously. He will not overlook sin forever, and will deal with it both in personal lives and with nations as well.
Wouldn’t you agree with me that this is a lesson our nation needs to heed? This is something we need to earnestly take to our Father God in prayer.
There is more for us to learn about our Father God in Amos. And, I think we can find ourselves in Amos as well.
First, please bear with me while I re-inforce (Amos did) how seriously our God views and deals with sin…
The first two chapters tells of God’s judgment by repeatedly pointing out “For three transgressions… and for four”(i.e. many sins)…”because of…”
Then later, “flight shall perish from the swift”…”nor shall the mighty save his life.” “Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?”
The take away? Our Father God views and handles sin seriously. We need to examine ourselves and quickly forsake and severely deal with any sin in our lives.
We might think that we are largely off the hook – that this all mostly involves Israel and its neighbors’ wrongs. Yet, question 2 presses more – what else does it say about me?
While I may not have sold slaves (“exiled a whole people”) to Edom, I have to solemnly examine myself, we must solemnly examine ourselves, when we read how the Israelites had a tendency to gloss over their shortcomings and not hunger and thirst for the Lord (“yet you did not return to me”) - so much so that the Lord told them He would send a famine of hearing the words of the Lord! (8:11-12). This could happen to us! May it not be!
We have not exhausted Amos’ list – there is more which may apply to us. Here is the short list of our need to examine ourselves. (You can dig for more yourself) From chapters 4 and 5: Are we ever dismissive of the down and out? Ever demanding of others? - “bring me that drink!” Ever put on religious shows to look good to others? And from chapter 6 I have to ask myself do I seek pleasure and comfort for myself to the exclusion of grieving over the ruin of my country (“over the ruin of Joseph” 6:6) ? From chapter 8 – How can I get that further edge in my business with just a little more not so obvious cheating? What needs to change as a result of this self examination? What must I lay before the Lord?
Yet – there is always hope shown for us in Scripture because of our Father God’s work on our behalf! And Amos is no exception.
I have for some time thought that Isaiah’s call: “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD; though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” might serve well as a theme for Scripture. From the very beginning in Genesis, after the Fall, our Father God begins to reveal his plan for redemption. And we see Jesus in prophesy, in type and form and person throughout the Old and New Testaments. Our Savior’s presence and handprint is everywhere. It is an expression of our Father God’s provision and of His yearning to deal with and fix our sin issue.
So, it should not come as a surprise to find in Amos also the building crescendo expressing the “come now let us reason together” heart of our Father God crying out repeatedly (in chapter 4) because we (yes us modern believers too – not just the Israelites) are too often prone NOT to hunger and thirst for our Father God relentlessly: “…yet you did not return to me.” “…yet you did not return to me.” “…yet you did not return to me.” “…yet you did not return to me.” “…yet you did not return to me.” …. AND then there is our Father God’s plea… (in chapter 5) “Seek me and live”… “Seek the Lord and live”… “Seek Good and not evil that you may live.” …
God’s heart to us is: “Seek me and live.” After hearing this, surely hope swells in our hearts for us to confidently approach our Father God in prayer!
Amos cried out to the Lord in chapter 7: “O Lord GOD, please forgive!” And immediately we see: “The LORD relented” And again, “O Lord GOD, please cease!” And, “The LORD relented…”
Yet, God the Father has a standard that we cannot attain to: a “plumb line” (7:8) that the Lord showed Amos. The nation was so far out of plumb that God would tear it down. Sin would no longer be overlooked. Is America approaching being that far out of plumb? On a personal level, we would be without hope except that God the Father sent God the Son to satisfy that standard for us at Calvary. Having paid for our shortcomings, God the Son presents us straight as the “plumb line” to God the Father when we repent and trust Jesus as our Savior!
Further, “And on that day, declares the Lord GOD, I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.” (Amos 8:9 ESV) This prophecy may have additional fulfillment, but was also certainly fulfilled at Calvary - the handprint and foreshadow of Jesus in Amos – our hope and the heart of God expressed. How does this answer question 1? Will I not bow before Him?
And our Father God looks into the future for Israel as well bringing hope at the end of chapter 9: “In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches (v.11)…”I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel,…(v. 14) “I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them, says the LORD your God.”
A testimony to the faithfulness of our Father God when we come to Him in prayer. That is our Father God!
Let’s be real - We need to cry out daily in earnest prayer seeking personal repentance, repentance as the Body of Christ (“If my people…”), that our nation may be healed and be granted repentance and faith again.
Father God grant us repentance and faith - bring us into your light out of our present darkness!
And in whatever comes in the days ahead, in our personal lives may we always appropriate His Grace and be found faithful and ready - walking, speaking and thinking in a manner pleasing to our Lord and Savior Jesus.
“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” - Amos 5:24
So thankful for our Savior,
"Eat My Flesh..."
"On This Rock…"
Witnesses to Our Faith - Hebrews chapter 11 and 12...
Living By Faith - Visualizing what God intends
in a given situation & acting in harmony with it.
Chapter 1 vs. 1,2: Paul greets Timothy, who we see is precious to him. Why is Timothy precious to Paul? Give consideration to this as we continue in the text. Paul desires that Timothy have grace, mercy and peace from God the Father, the head of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 11:3) and from Christ Jesus, our head - our Lord. That is the order of a proper relationship. Take notice that Paul is not desirous that Timothy's walk be without hardships or trials. Not at all. But rather grace - the power and will to do God's will, mercy and peace, in which we are not found lacking when we are properly related to Him - the source of our strength, God the Father and Christ Jesus, one and the same.
A Two-way Street
Mark 15 records it: the veil of the temple torn from top to bottom – we have access to our Righteous Father God. Amen. Amen. What a blessing! What a cause for celebration. But, that is only half the story. It is not a one-way street. It is not only a picture of our access to Him – but also of He to us! His Spirit sent to us, spread abroad in our hearts… we, refined for God’s glory! A two-way street.
Grain By Grain
I was living in Yanji China, the corner of the world where N. Korea, China and Russia meet, when SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) became an epidemic. Beginning in the south, it had quickly spread north throughout China and elsewhere. Thousands were getting sick. I read the news reports of people of all ages being suddenly and inexplicably stricken. Those who got it found survival to be a strain. For many it was a death sentence.
23 Give ear, and hear my voice;
give attention, and hear my speech.
24 Does he who plows for sowing plow continually?
Does he continually open and harrow his ground?
25 When he has leveled its surface,
does he not scatter dill, sow cumin,
and put in wheat in rows
and barley in its proper place,
and emmer as the border?
26 For he is rightly instructed;
his God teaches him.
27 Dill is not threshed with a threshing sledge,
nor is a cart wheel rolled over cumin,
but dill is beaten out with a stick,
and cumin with a rod.
28 Does one crush grain for bread?
No, he does not thresh it forever;
when he drives his cart wheel over it
with his horses, he does not crush it.
29 This also comes from the Lord of hosts;
he is wonderful in counsel
and excellent in wisdom.
In the news (dated news but an ever-present, always timely principle)… An Interview: Franklin Graham - the son of Billy Graham waded into rough waters when asked for his views on the religious beliefs of President Obama and the GOP hopefuls at the time.
Mr. Graham seems to me to give an honest, enlightened appraisal of the questions posed, and exercises restraint.
What struck me in such a dramatic fashion was the comments placed by readers responding to the interview. The mean-spirited comments revealed how our society is blind, and stumbles in such utter darkness. We are missing out on so much blessing that our Father God wants to give us. We may have begun our nation with a Christian worldview and heart, but the heart of man is so prone to wander. It has always been so throughout history and cultures. It brings to mind the O.T. prophets...
Guided by the Holy Spirit, Isaiah weaves a symphonic masterpiece – with rising crescendos of triumph and crises, and lows of failure and the breaking of the heart of God. This seems clear from the opening chapter which is like a courtroom scene involving the reaching out of the heart of God for people – “Come!” And the rebellion of the human heart – “I will not!” with the corresponding revelation of the judgment and kingdom of God. This continues through the book of Isaiah. How rightly did Augustine appraise: “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our heart shall find no rest ‘till it rest in Thee.”
Note the contrast in emphasis of the beginning of chapter 2 (1-5) with the ending of chapter 5 (24-30) that God directs Isaiah to use. From “…they shall beat their swords into plowshares… come, let us walk in the light of the LORD” to “…behold, darkness and distress; and the light is darkened by its clouds.”
When I try to put into other words the nature of this contrast, ABC’s old theme from “The Wide World of Sports” comes to mind: “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” It begins with an exciting, happy, hopeful people running to God and ends with abject terror, realizing their hopelessness and absolute desperation – yet the section began with “let us walk”... a contrast with what could have been!
The root cause seems to be a prideful, arrogant trust in man, filled with everything but God. This is just what jumps out at me as I read the reader’s comments after Franklin Graham’s interview.
What a tragedy for any society to miss out on what God has for them!
We need to examine our own hearts! Our Father God gives us a song / parable in Chapter 5. (How fitting that our Lord would continue the use of parable when He visited us on earth.)
In view of the clear analogy in this parable and the fact that the woes immediately follow, what are these woes? They are the bad fruit, the “wild grapes” of the parable.
I can feel the heartbreak of our Father God – He worked so hard in the vineyard, “but it yielded wild grapes.” (v.2) And then the rhetorical response as from a lover betrayed in verse 4: “why did it yield wild grapes?”…
The heartbreak - “why did it yield wild grapes?”
We are more than the sum of our past mistakes. The grace God grants to us is sufficient for us to rid our lives of the “wild grapes” - the fruit demonstrated in the comments to Franklin Graham’s interview.
I hope you take the time to read Isaiah chapter 5, this moving parable and the six woes, the wild grapes:
5:8-10… “Counterfeit Security” - An obsession with gathering more and more to ourselves. The houses, the “homer of seed” (for us - the stock market, 401Ks…) We need to carefully guard our hearts and actions that we are not laying up treasures for ourselves here on earth. Whether you have crossed that line you will need to examine before the Lord in quiet. I cannot know or judge when your heart begins to cling – I just need to address the issue with my Lord and do as He directs me - so as not to be ashamed regarding this when I come before Him. Do I need to be giving more to those in need – to the unemployed, the hungry?
5:11-12… “Counterfeit Joy” – the party is on, let us not consider the Lord. The lewd revelry of “Carnival” and “Mardi Gras” and endless parties comes to mind. We don’t have an inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness in any way we please. Our only inalienable right is to be an extension of God’s life – “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God…” – John 1:12. This true inalienable right involves humbling ourselves and learning to love each other and be servants to each other.
5:18-19… “Counterfeit Confidence” – a haughtiness that demands we can keep our sins, and pull it along with us as a cart… and not abandon them. And the ultimate chutzpah – while holding onto sins, our demand that God act quickly on our behalf… We need to examine ourselves – this can be subtle – we need the Lord to help us see ourselves correctly.
5:20… “Counterfeit Ethics” – how commonly do we call evil, good, and good, evil in our culture? Do we not commonly call the evil of homosexuality “good” in our culture? In our age, saying this may seem over the top to you, but it is the truth. And the heterosexual with lust in their heart, especially when acted on, is also harboring evil in their heart and actions in the sight of our Heavenly Father. Please consider for yourself this comment from our Father God regarding these counterfeit ethics: "Don't you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God's kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God's kingdom." - 1 Cor. 6:9-12. God's word makes this clear enough for us, yet these lifestyles are celebrated on TV and in our popular culture. We have all fallen short and all offered forgiveness and loving encouragement from our Heavenly Father as we repent and seek a way of life that pleases our Creator by His grace. So we need to be careful not to bully and hate people, which is another evil, but rather always respond with love, imitating our Lord, and always be ready to forgive. The list is long though. We need to examine ourselves...
5:21… “Counterfeit Wisdom” – not just applying to ancient Israel – how aptly this describes our mainstream culture today...
And, dear Christian - how wise are we regarding our "enemies" - are we loving them as our Lord asked of us?
5:23… “Counterfeit Justice” – may we not be guilty of trying to “buy” justice today with expensive lawyers…
Now let’s stand back and consider… What was the heaviest thing on Isaiah’s heart as he preached? What is the Holy Spirit teaching us? Doesn’t it involve the awful tragedy of a person losing touch with why they are alive and having a relationship with God replaced by material things?
Let’s Be Real - I'm going to ask God to reveal anything that I have put in a place of importance that interferes or hinders my relationship with Him. How about you?
Yours in Jesus,
Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin
Identifying with Jesus
In the news... (This is from awhile back when both these men were playing in the Pros. But, the principle is as timely as ever) - Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin share outspoken beliefs...
Let's Be Real... How about us? Are we sharing that beautiful offer from our Lord in our workplace? To our neighbors? Are we walking in a manner that humbles ourselves and brings honor to our Lord? Are we real in our identity with and relationship with our Lord?
Yours in Jesus,
Atheism and Suffering
In the News - The New York Times headlined an article entitled “Student Faces Town’s Wrath In Protest Against Prayer," a few years back. It is the story of Jessica, a 16 year old high school student and an atheist, who won a suit to have her high school prayer poster removed. You may read the N.Y. Times article by clicking here.
Here's the Prayer:
Jessica said she had stopped believing in God when she was in elementary school and her mother fell ill for a time.
“I had always been told that if you pray, God will always be there when you need him,” she said. “And it didn’t happen for me, and I doubted it had happened for anybody else. So yeah, I think that was just like the last step, and after that I just really didn’t believe any of it.”
This begs the question (and thanks to Dawn Evans with Christianity Explored for lending a hand):
If there is a God, why does He allow suffering?
It’s a huge question, isn’t it? And we cannot know completely because God's ways are not our ways. Still, we observe. Hardly a day goes by when we don’t come across suffering. Devastation caused by earthquakes and tsunamis… millions living in poverty… children being abused… family breakdowns… bullying… people suffer. We suffer. So it's natural to say to God: “God, if you’re there, why don’t you do something about it?”
Well, imagine we could actually tell God what to do. Where would you suggest he starts? How about God gets rid of the terrorists and the murderers. That would mean a lot less suffering for many people—but suffering hasn’t been eradicated yet. How about God deals with the pedophiles and the drug dealers and the thieves? We can see the world’s getting a much better place, but it’s still not perfect.
How about God gets rid of the unkind, the gossips, the liars, the selfish — oh, but that’s actually me.
You see, when we ask God to get rid of suffering, we’re actually asking him to get rid of us. We do suffer, but we actually cause loads of suffering ourselves. That time when we lost our temper with someone… when we trod on someone to get to where we wanted to… when we ignored our kids because we were just too tired or busy… when we gossiped about a work colleague… when we were just plain nasty to someone. We cause much suffering.
So if we demand that God throws suffering out of this world, we’re actually demanding that he throws us out too.
God is delaying the day when he will deal with all suffering so that we can realize that we’re part of the problem, and we can ask him if there’s any way not to be thrown out of his world.
And the amazing thing is that God knows what you’re going through when you suffer—because he himself suffered. God lived on earth as a man, Jesus, and Jesus suffered and even died in agony on a cross. He promises to be with those who trust in him, comforting them and helping them through their suffering, and one day bringing an end to all the suffering, in His time, when His purposes are complete.
It’s worth starting by turning the question round a bit. Clearly, there is suffering (even though some eastern religions say it isn’t really real: it certainly feels real when it happens to us).
Let’s imagine for a moment that we decide that since there’s suffering, there isn’t a God, as Jessica has concluded.
Firstly, that would mean that there’s no justice. One of the writers of the Bible imagines a world with no God, and he says:
“In the place of judgment, wickedness was there, in the place of justice” (Ecclesiastes chapter 3 verse 16).
Often, people who cause great suffering get away with it in this life: perhaps they’re never caught, or perhaps they commit suicide. If there’s no God, then they never face justice. Wickedness wins.
Secondly, that would mean that there’s no future. In a world without God, “all go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return” (Ecclesiastes 3:20). Life may well be miserable, and death is the end. If you’re unlucky to be born into a life of poverty, or abuse: well, that’s all there is. In a world without God, there’s no hope.
Thirdly, that would mean that suffering itself doesn’t matter. If there’s no God, we’re all just animals; in fact, we’re all just collections of atoms. A child being shot is of no more importance than a gazelle being taken down by a lion: or a plant being trampled on. Human life is worth no more than any other life. Suffering would only matter if it happened to us.
But you’ve probably read this far because to you, suffering is a problem. And the whole idea of “suffering” being “wrong” only works if there’s a God, giving us the ability to conceive of right and wrong. Suffering is only a problem if it’s the case that suffering is an intruder into human life in this world.
And the Bible says that’s exactly what suffering is: an intruder. When God made this world, it was “very good” (Genesis 1:31): there was nothing wrong with it, no suffering. Humans were not made to know pain or death.
So why is there suffering now? Well, the Bible’s answer is that humanity caused suffering to enter the world; and that each day, even after all this time, we still cause suffering. Suffering is our problem; but as we look around, we can see that it’s actually our fault, too.
So, if there’s no God, this is a world without justice, without a future, and where suffering isn’t something we should be bothered about (unless it happens to us personally). It seems to me that’s NOT the world we experience; and it’s certainly not the world we want.
If the God of the Bible is real, however, justice will be done; there is a perfect future on offer; suffering is an intruder which will one day be banished.
How do we deal with suffering?
So when we hear of suffering, how does the Bible suggest we might like to respond?
When Jesus was alive on earth, a tower collapsed, killing many. How did Jesus respond? “Unless you repent, you too will all perish”(Luke 13:5). The existence of suffering is a reminder that all is not well with this world, or with us, and that one way or another we will all one day die: and so we need to turn back to the one who can give perfect life beyond our death—to Jesus, God himself.
By the way dear Christian, There are times when God calls for his children to suffer. Sometimes the suffering comes from forces we cannot avoid or we cause: a hurricane, an earthquake, our own wickedness. But sometimes we are called to put ourselves in the path of suffering. We go to lands where Christianity is outlawed, carrying our possessions in a coffin for we know this is a one-way trip. We move into the inner city to bring light into the darkness. We visit housing projects to share the love of Christ. And we give up fame, fortune, and prestige, all for the glory of God.
Christian, the Lord does not always call you to easy things. He will often call you to suffer for the sake of his name.
"For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps" (1 Peter 2:2).
"For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake" (Philippians 1:29).
We do not know what lies ahead for us - but the Lord calls us to be prepared in our hearts and minds and remain faithful so we live like those saints in Hebrews 11:16 who desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
Sometimes God allows suffering for His testing, His refining, His purposes which are beyond us - for we do not have His full mind on the matter.
And Jessica? It is a shame that such a young and intelligent girl, so lovely in her Creator's eyes, has not recognized yet that her 16 year old mind may not be able to fully understand or even conceive of that which is on God's mind and His eternal purposes in allowing suffering.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. - Isaiah 55: 8-10
Must the Creator of the universe immediately jump when we, the created, snap our fingers? As though we know the big picture better? Might not our Creator answer "Not yet...wait" or "No" for His good purpose that we do not yet understand?
It would also be good for Jessica to consider the words of a wise middle eastern king:
1 So remember your Creator in the days of your youth:
Before the days of adversity come,
and the years approach when you will say,
“I have no delight in them”; ...
7 and the dust returns to the earth as it once was,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it. ...
13 When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is: fear God and keep His commands, because this is for all humanity. 14 For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil. - Ecclesiastes chapter 12
I am going to be praying that a caring, Christian woman will lovingly mentor Jessica, so that Jessica might not remain in darkness, but gain fullness of joy while walking in the light with Jesus.
Will you join me in that prayer?
And - I'm going to ask God to grant grace, and help me accept by faith God's way for me when suffering or persecution enters my life and remain faithful to Him. How about you?
Yours in Jesus,
(that is, beyond the obvious ones)
"27 And Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his city, in Ophrah. And all Israel whored after it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family."
Seeking God's Face
"" - 2 Chronicles 7:14
2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load.
6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. - Galatians 6:2-10 (English Standard Version - ESV)
Receiving Jesus - and Welcoming Correction
Receiving Jesus - and Welcoming Correction
John 1:12 reads: "But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.”
Receiving Jesus means that when Jesus offers himself to us, we welcome him into our life for who He is.
When He comes to us as Savior, we welcome His salvation.
When He comes to us as Leader, we welcome His leadership.
When He comes to us as Provider, we welcome His provision.
When He comes to us as Counselor, we welcome His counsel.
When He comes to us as Protector, we welcome His protection.
When He comes to us as Authority, we welcome His authority.
When He comes to us as King, we welcome His rule.
When He comes to us as a Corrector, we welcome His correction.
Welcome correction. This is what I have just done with this area of our website regarding content. Sometimes our Lord uses His family to draw things to our attention. This is what He did with me. And, I thank Him for it. And, I am thankful to be a part of the family of God.
Dear brothers and sisters – Lets welcome our beautiful Lord readily into every area of our lives – Let’s Get Real.
Receiving Jesus means taking Jesus into our lives for who He is. It does not mean a kind of peaceful co-existence with a Christ who makes no claims — as though He can stay in the house as long as He doesn't play His music so loud.
When Jesus preached in Nazareth in Luke 4:16ff., the people received him gladly. It says in Luke 4:22, "All spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth." But a few verses later it says in Luke 4:28 they were "filled with wrath" and tried to throw him down from a cliff. They were happy to receive Him while they were hearing words that pleased them. But when their pride was pricked, they rejected Him. Receiving Jesus means taking him into our lives - (our home, our school, our work, our marriage, our dreams) for who He really is.
Next look at John 5:43-44, where "receive" and believe" are used again in close connection the way they are in 1:12. "I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. How can you believe, who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?"
Do you see what verse 44 implies about believing?
It implies that we can't believe in Jesus if we love the praise and glory of men - if we only want to accept praise and glory and are unwilling to accept correction.
This means that receiving Him and believing is so contrary to pride and self-exaltation that it involves a deep humbling. It means abandoning the craving for human praise, and caring more about the praise of God.
Let’s Be Real - I'm going to ask God to reveal anything that I have put in a place of importance that interferes or hinders my relationship with Him. How about you?
Yours in Jesus,