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Posts Tagged ‘God’

obey

“So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing.  For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.”  John 5:19

First, obedience.  So obedient indeed that he can do nothing of himself.  Jesus cannot and will not act separately from God the Father.  Our one Lord, Jesus Christ, eternally begotten of the Father, can do nothing of his own accord.  God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, begotten, not made, of one being with the Father – that guy can do nothing except what the Father does.  Obedience.  So obedient, in fact, that he can do nothing of his own will.

Submission.  So completely submitted, in fact, that he whose life created all things can create nothing apart from the Father.  If anyone ever had the means, the method, and the power to do whatsoever he pleases, it is you, Man of Sorrows.  Yet you relinquish all authority and autonomy voluntarily on the basis of respect and relationship.  On the basis of respect and relationship.  Obedience and submission are not a “have to” for you – they are a “get to.”

You get to glorify your Father.  You get to humbly accept his perfect plan for you, all others, and the world.  You got to leave behind every last drop of your eternal glory and instead live a life full of poverty and suffering.  You got to resurrect from the dead, ascend to heaven, and reign as king over all the world.  Humiliation.  Exaltation.  Both were necessary.  Both are honorable.  Both are beautiful.  Both were the Father’s will for you.

Humiliation.  Exaltation.  Both are the Father’s will for me.  Obedience.  Submission.  I get to glorify Our Father.  I get to humbly accept his perfect plan for me, all others, and the world.  I get to leave behind every last human hope and dire dream filled chock full of my own glory.  I get, instead, to live a life full of poverty and suffering.  I get to resurrect from the dead, ascend to heaven, and reign with you over all the world…if I suffer.  If I suffer.  If I endure.  If I live unto you and to your will – always, forever, and at all times.

“The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself.” ~2 Timothy 2:11-13

Have I?  Have I died with you?

I did die.  I died with you the day I fell in love with your picture in the preschool playroom.  While the other kids played, I was gazing long after you and the sheep you held in your arms.  Could it be me?  The other kids were laughing while I was wishing, oh, so seriously, that I had something; anything to give.  An offering.

An offering.  So I’d knock on my Daddy’s door and plead for some change.  In the hurry of Sunday morning before church he’d yell at me for being silly and impatient.  But, eventually he’d pick me up in his strong arms and give me something of worth; something I could give; an offering.  And I ran to your altar and I worshiped you.  How blessed I was to have something to give; to prove my love; to please my careful shepherd who had me at hello.

I’d stare up at the little sign which hung in my bedroom and declared, “I love Jesus.”  I did.  At ten years, maybe eleven, I died with you the day Daddy almost died, too.  I looked at your sky and your rays of real-life radiance were reaching down – down so far that I felt them touch me in a way I have never forgotten.  You were there.  You were there, you were there, you were there.  Beyond the shadow of a doubt I knew you were there.  You had me and I had you and we had each other always and forever.  I knew you.  I felt you.  I loved you.  I heard you.

I died with you the day I walked to the front of a gymnasium in full view of all my adolescent peers.  At seventeen, I saw you.  At seventeen, I saw you in such a way that I stopped seeing myself.  I saw you in such a way that all that mattered was learning you; learning your Word wholly.  Seeing, reading, studying, knowing your word. I wanted you.  I wanted to know you. Slain by your presence; your grace; your mercy, I loved you deeply.  All of me wanted to know all of you intimately.  I poured over your true words and I was slain and smitten at the very same time.

But you stood next to me and even without my good works, you gave me your word.  You said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.”

You are what you are because of who I am and no other right or reason and no matter what you do today, what you are is MINE.  Today and every day.

Oh, so many deaths I have died with him!  And could I not sit here and write of the day my daddy died, or the day my pastors denied my faith, or the day my anger and impatience so burned against you and your not-yet-kept promises that I ditched my death and chose darkness found so freely in the fight?  Fight I did.  I went down swinging – swinging at God for his most frustrating furlough; swinging at man for his sickness; swinging at myself for my own inability to persevere.  I learned the hard way why fighting against God is not for the faint of heart.

Could I tell you of the day the day I returned to Christ and figured out why I am not free to fail on purpose? Or do you not want to know about deep darkness and death in the lives of those who love the Light?

I have died and died and died and died.  I have died with Christ.  I am living in Christ.  I am suffering for Christ.  I will reign with Christ.  Let me never deny him again!  I so often feel faithless, but knowing he is faithful keeps me in the faith.  He keeps me.  He keeps me.

Apart from the Father, Christ can do nothing.  Apart from Christ, I can do nothingNothingNot anything.  There is nothing I can do rightly apart from submission and obedience to my Lord.  I cannot come to him apart from him.  I cannot obey him apart from him.  I cannot submit to him apart from him.  I cannot live in him apart from him.  I cannot give to him apart from him.  I cannot love him apart from him.  I cannot forgive myself or anyone else apart from him.  There is nothing, nothing, no not anything, nothing I can do apart from Christ.  There is nothing he will give me in return besides humiliation and exaltation.  I get to obey.  I get to submit.  I get to forgive.  I get to suffer.  I get to grow.  I get to LIVE. IN. CHRIST.  FOREVER!

For the Father loves the Son and the Son loves…me.  He loves me.  Because no man can come to the Father unless Jesus Christ draws him.  So he loves me.  He must!  Because I did not come to him of my own accord any more than He does anything of his own accord; apart from the Father.  No.  He came to me.  Jesus drew me.  He drew my caricature and carved me out of clay.  He drew my pain and my pleasure and every part in bloody between.  He drew me and then he drew me close.  He drew me and then he drew me to his heart.  He drew me and now he draws me.  I am in love with the heart of God – even when he bestows the most bitter gifts.  I get to be better because of his most bitter gifts.  So, praise God!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.  Praise him all creatures here below.  Praise him above, ye heavenly host.  Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

The Doxology.  My first hymn.  My first love.  The very first song I sang after giving back what Daddy gave me to offer.  May I be given something of value to give to you today.

I hide my face.  I lay face down on the floor.  Make me worthy!  Father, Son, Holy Ghost, clean me.  Heal me.  Help me.  I have no gifts to bring – to lay before you, my king.  I have no drum.  So, to honor him, I simply come.  I come.  I bow.  I hide my face with every bit of strength I have.  I will wait.  Wait.  Wait.

Is that not what he really wants in the grand scheme anyway?  Is it not the big, overarching theme?  It is not accomplishments or perfection or goals or good works.  It is trust.  Trust.  Trust.  Trust.  I trust.  You are good.  I will wait.  I relinquish all authority and autonomy voluntarily on the basis of respect and relationship.  On the basis of respect and relationship.  Obedience and submission are not a “have to” for me – they are a “get to.”  I will wait for you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KsaaZsFtkE

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offenses

The prophet Jeremiah has been instructed by God to stand at the entrance to the temple and speak words of warning, call out to his people for true repentance, and tell of all the judgement and disaster coming upon them if they refuse to listen.  God told Jeremiah before he even began speaking this word that the people were not going to listen to him.

In Jeremiah 7:30-8:17, God gives even more reasons why his people are guilty and specifically what their sins were.  Notice that, though these people are bent on destruction and selfish sin, God still goes to great lengths to help them see and understand the danger they are in, the very specific sins they are committing, and calls them time and again to repentance.  Anyone in his service must do the same whenever sin is present.  If God, who is both perfect and perfectly just, does not impatiently cast his people out without much long-suffering, warning, and instruction, we, who are imperfect and often unjust, have no grounds by which to reject brothers and sisters without making every attempt to exhort, admonish, correct, and bring them to repentance.  Mercy delineates sin very specifically that the sinner might rightly see and understand his offenses.  If he repents, we have truly won him.  If he persists, we have appropriately warned him.  Warning sinners is an act of love.  Avoiding, shunning, and isolating ourselves and our religious communities from sinners is altogether antithetical to God’s character and the gospel, for we are they.

The things the people who claimed to know God were doing in Jeremiah’s day were not so different to what people who claim to know God today are doing.  God calls them, “detestable things,” and they were being done in the temple.  The detestable things included cult-ish practices, the worship of false gods in the Lord’s temple, and child sacrifice.  They also built other “high places” where, in worship to false gods, the people would literally sacrifice their own children.

Can you think of any modern day people groups who kill their own children in order to appease false gods?  False gods of say, convenience, finances, relationship, autonomy, or formal education?  These are the false gods of the abortion culture in which we live.  Our own children are being sacrificed and our God offended daily for the sake of far lesser things.  God help us.

The place where the people of Judah went to sacrifice their children had three names: Topheth, the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, or the Valley of Slaughter.  Topheth literally means “place of fire.”  The Valley of the Son of Hinnom was known as Gehenna which literally means “hell.”  And the Valley of Slaughter speaks for itself.  Fire.  Hell.  Slaughter.  That’s appropriately descriptive of a place where children are voluntarily murdered by their own parents.  Wonder if Planned Parenthood would consider changing its name?

Because God’s people were engaged in such gross idolatry and evil, he tells them they will be destroyed and their own bodies will be food for vultures.  Lack of a proper burial indicated great shame.  God said that because the would not repent, he would make it so they had no joy, no gladness, no song, no marriage among them.  God promised to silence everything that generally makes jovial and remove it until there was nothing but grief amid a wasteland of death.  Even those who had already been dead would be exhumed from the grave and their bones laid out in the desert for the predators to consume.  The reason God gave was to prove how worthless their gods of sun, moon, and stars really were to them.  There is no salvation in created things, yet Jeremiah 8:2 says that God’s people loved, served, went after, sought, and worshiped them.  We, too, ought to seriously consider if there is anything besides God Almighty that we are loving, serving, going after, seeking, and worshiping.

Jeremiah goes on indicting them as foolish.  They would not listen to reason.  They would fall and not even take the initiative to get up.  The would go the wrong way and fail to turn around even once they realized it.  They coddled and loved deceit.  They refused to repent.  They did not adhere to their conscience.  The first question we ask when convicted is, “What have I done?” yet this question never even crossed their minds.  They did not consider God’s providence and they did not know his rules.  They had been given ample provision and instruction, yet they had no wisdom or gratitude toward God.  Their leaders lied, pretended peace, and winked at their sin.  They did not adhere to God’s word, rather, they rejected it.  All of these affronts to God and his grace toward them were based on greed, the desire for worldly gain, and a willingness to deceive in order to get it.  Those who should have been correcting and rebuking God’s people – the leaders, teachers, priests, and prophets – were actually greedy for unjust gain themselves and therefore spoke a message of peace, prosperity, and anything palatable in order to get a better offering and more people blindly following their false leadership.  They did it for power, position, and personal gain.  The old history repeats itself adage unfortunately proves true once again.

This, and they were not even ashamed says verse 12!  Therefore, judgement is coming.  Punishment is coming.  God’s people will not forever live in hypocrisy, greed, deceit, falseness, and idolatry unchecked.  Because of these things, the wrath of God is coming.  Let us hear the prophet Jeremiah and examine ourselves.

 

 

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door

The prophet Jeremiah has been sharing God’s message of the dire need for repentance and coming judgement all over town.  Now, God asks him to do something even more bold.  He says this:

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, all you men of Judah who enter these gates to worship the Lord.’ “ ~Jeremiah 7:1-2

Notice how the text identifies the temple.  It is referred to as, “the Lord’s house.”  It is as if he is saying, “Hey religious leaders, this is not your house to do within whatever you please.  This is the Lord’s house and all things must be said and done unto him and his true words.”

Jeremiah was commanded to stand at the entrance of the place where everyone came to worship.  Imagine standing at the front door of your church and being commanded by God to say what Jeremiah has been commanded to say.  What had he been commanded to say?

God sent Jeremiah to attempt to reason these people into repentance.  Have you ever tried that?!  It is not an easy task.  Jeremiah begins:

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place.  Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’  For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever.” Jeremiah 7:3-7

What is God’s message to these people, exactly?

Repent!  Change your ways!  Do the opposite of what you are presently doing!  Turn around!  Then, I will let you stay here in the pleasant land.  Oh, and I already know what you’re thinking.  You are the in-charge guys.  You’re the priests and the prophets, right?  You’re my chosen people, right?   You’re thinking you are special and no judgement will ever come to you.  You’re in the Lord’s house serving, right?

Wrong!!!  Do not trust in this temple!  Do not trust in your religious positions!  Do not trust in any good work or religious service you are presently doing or have done!!!  Do not ever for one second think that I will not call you to account for the injustice, deceit, hypocrisy, idolatry, and evil you are presently doing.  Judgement is indeed coming.  This is MY house, not yours.

But, if you really listen, repent, and do right, then I will allow you to stay here and live in peace.  If not, my judgement will destroy you.

Notice the very first order of business God speaks to these people.  It is found in verse 5.

“…if you truly execute justice one with another…”

God cares immensely about justice.  He cares tremendously about what is right and what is wrong.  God will not long leave alone a people who claim to follow him and yet deal falsely with one another.  He will bring justice wherever oppression and injustice thrive in his camp.

God also exposes the cause of their gross injustice toward one another as idolatry.  When you worship false gods, you do false deeds.  The people were pretending to follow God, but were actually following after all of their own desires.

God told them they were trusting not only in their religious positions, but also lies the false prophets had spoken.  They wanted to hear only about peace, prosperity, their own comfortable, happy preferences, and their high, holy, respectable positions.  These were the deceptive words to which God refers to in verse 8 and in which they were trusting.  But God said this:

“Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail.  Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’ – only to go on doing all these abominations?  Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes?” ~Jeremiah 7:9-11

Are you feeling bad for Jeremiah at all yet?  He is literally standing in the doorway of the temple telling these charges to all who were going in.  How much courage and faith must he have had?

He mentions them being a “den of robbers.”  Hmmmm.  That sounds familiar, huh?  I guess Jesus’ table-turning episode wasn’t the first time God’s house had been corrupted by men who, like Lucifer, wanted to be worshiped and obeyed AS God rather than servants TO God and his people.

These corrupt leaders led the people and the whole company in gross immorality and sin against God.  These were God’s people, not pagans!  Let that sink in.  Then, consider the majority of the modern church in America.

God goes on to plead his case through Jeremiah’s presence at the temple.  He says,

“An now, because you have done all these things, declares the Lord, and when I spoke to you persistently you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer, therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, and in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your father, as I did to Shiloh.  And I will cast you out of my sight as I cast out all your kinsmen, all the offspring of Epharaim.”  ~Jeremiah 7:13-15

What did God do at Shiloh?  He had a temple there once, too.  But the people profaned it and sinned so God forsook it, sent the Ark into captivity, cut off Eli’s house who lived there, and most likely destroyed the entire city.  Don’t think it won’t happen to you, too.  Do not ever presume upon God’s grace no matter who you are or what your religious title is.  Matthew Henry warns, “Remember Lot’s wife; remember Shiloh and the seven churches of Asia; and know that he ark and candlestick are movable things.” 

Next, God tells Jeremiah NOT to pray for them, NOT to cry out for them, and NOT to intercede for them.  Interestingly, three times God says in this chapter that the people persistently refused to listen and obey him and his prophets, and now, here, we have three commands for the prophet not to pray for them.  His reason?

“I WILL NOT HEAR YOU.” (Jeremiah 7:16)

You refuse to hear me?  I refuse to hear the one thing that can save you – the righteous man’s prayers for me to grant you repentance.  God is angry.  He has told them time and time and time again to repent; to obey; to listen; to walk in the truth.  “But they did not obey…Yet they did not listen to me.”  (Jeremiah 7:24, 25)

God argues that he has set true prophets to them persistently and persistently they refused to hear and did whatever they wanted despite the grace and mercy he had extended.

Finally, he tells Jeremiah, “So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you.  You shall call to them, but they will not answer you.” (Jeremiah 7:)

You’re gonna say this for me, Jer, but they are going to treat you the exact same way they treat me.  They will not listen to one true word you say.  Not only that, but they are going to hate you for saying it.  Welcome to God’s heart – where pain over the impending punishment of sinners is ever-present.  God allows Jeremiah to feel some of what he feels for his people who rebel.  Because sorrow and suffering over what grieves God make us more intimately connected to Our Lord, herein we find that they are indeed a great privilege.  Amen.

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sin

After God’s people paid lip service to Jeremiah’s initial call to repentance saying, “Behold, we come to you, for you are the Lord our God…” (Jeremiah 3:22b), chapter 5 assures us that their words were hollow and insincere.  No repentance had taken place and, in fact, there was an absolute refusal to do any such thing.

Many a man will pretend piety and mouth words of love toward God while having no intention whatsoever to repent of sin or practically change in any way.  It is this religious pretense that is the foremost vexation of the prophet and of God himself.  Because of it and their blatant sin, Jeremiah is called to search Jerusalem for one righteous man.  The Jews should have thought back to Abraham’s prayer for Sodom when hearing the opening statements of Jeremiah chapter 5.

The prophet does not find anyone righteous in his laborious search.  Instead, he finds pretense.  Jeremiah’s words are that of disgust saying, “Though they say, ‘As the Lord lives,’ yet they swear falsely.” (Jeremiah 5:2)  He finds men who staunchly refuse to take correction, whose hearts were desperately hardened, and who willfully refused to repent even at his warning calls promising that fierce destroyers are coming because of their sin — YET, these same men are pretending to follow God.

The primary sins Jeremiah exposes in chapter 5 are injustice, hypocrisy in religion, corruption, idolatry, adultery, defiance of and departure from God’s’ laws, and a gross lack of the fear of God.  Even their children have forsaken God.

Interestingly, guess who gets the blame for the children’s lack of faith and obedience? The parents do.  It is the parents’ job to live out a genuine example of godliness before their children.  Because of the parents’ shameless idolatry and adultery acted out in front of their children, they had produced faithless children who had forsaken God just as they had done.  Sounds like another culture, huh?  Maybe like…ours?  Right.

Let’s consider the sins Jeremiah has addressed briefly.

Injustice – Jeremiah could not find any righteous people among those who claimed to belong to God.  He literally couldn’t find anyone who did what was right, just, and true simply because it was the right, just, true thing to do.  Everyone did what was best for themselves regardless of who it hurt or how it hurt them.

Religious Hypocrisy – Jeremiah knew that all their religious words were just that – empty words void of proper action.  All day long they pretended piety while performing deeds that were altogether antithetical to that which God commanded.

Religious hypocrisy is no small offense or Jesus would not have forever cursed the fig tree that was void of figs.  He wouldn’t have turned the tables in the temple and he would not have openly rebuked the Pharisees as being children of the devil and the synagogue of Satan.  Religious hypocrisy is literally Satanic.  It is better to openly refuse to follow God than to pretend you follow him if you actually do not.  I think we’ve got a lot of this brand going on in American Christendom today, too.

Corruption – These people were corrupt in that they willfully broke the yoke the Lord had placed upon them and burst the bonds he had given them.  Rich and poor alike refused to submit to God in the ways he commanded and instead went their own ways.

Idolatry – God’s people worshiped many gods.  They broke the first and second commandments ubiquitously.  God was not their king.  Anything, everything, and everyone were their gods and their kings.  The reason was they themselves were building their own kingdoms here on earth rather than God’s kingdom in heaven.  They were their own gods and kings and therefore worshiped everything and everyone earthly as gods.  These guys are looking more and more like us, huh?

Adultery – God’s people were involved in open, rampant adultery.  They could not even hide their lust nor did they even try to.  Adultery was so commonplace that almost everyone was involved in it.  So, not only were God’s people spiritually adulterous against him, they were physically adulterous against one another.  None of that in our culture, either, right?

Lack of the fear of God – The psalmist teaches us that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.  God’s people in Jeremiah’s day (and, unfortunately, ours, too) did not fear God or his judgement.  They falsely presumed upon God’s grace, denied his calls for justice and righteousness, and altogether doubted his coming judgement.  They continued on in their gross immorality and wickedness without fear or worry about what was to come.  They were as foolish as the day is long.

Because of all of these willful errors among the majority of God’s people, the prophet asks God’s questions in verse 9: “Shall I not punish them for these things?” and again in verse 29: “Shall I not punish them for these things? declares the Lord, and shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this?”

Shall he not?  Will he not?  Can he not?

He shall.  He will.  He can.  God should punish sin.  He must.  He did.  He disciplined his people severely for these things.  He will discipline us for them as well, if we are engaged in them.  But he didn’t stop there.  He punished his One and Only Son for these gross and willful offenses, too, so that they would not leave us without hope or in the eternal hell.

It is only by repentance of sin and faith in Christ’s death and resurrection that we can be forgiven of things so severe—or even things severely small.  If you find yourself reading through knowing you are guilty of sin, repent!  There is hope for you in Christ!  Turn to Him and trust him to save and keep you.

 

 

 

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called
The book of Jeremiah opens introducing us to its author, the man Jeremiah.  We find that Jeremiah was both a priest and a prophet, and that God’s Word simply “came to him.”  In other words, when Jeremiah was called to speak on God’s behalf to his rebellious and idolatrous people, no human was involved in his instruction.  There was no religious authority giving Jeremiah directions.  Jeremiah was given the words and warnings for God’s people by God’s Spirit alone.  He was God’s chosen authority and his very voice to the people.  God’s Word for the people simply “came to him.”  That is the essence of the prophetic gift.

Prophets are called to warn, rebuke, encourage, and correct God’s people – including erring religious leaders such as priests, pastors, elders, and all professors of religion – both then and now.  Their words come not from human origins, but divine.  The term is “Propheta nascitur – non fit – from Latin means that a man is not educated to become a prophet, but originally formed for the office.  Jeremiah was literally formed in the womb  – not the temple – by God to carry out this call.

Though many today deny the validity and necessity of the prophetic gift today within the modern church, we ought to remind ourselves that there are indeed five offices listed in the New Testament Church in Ephesians chapter 4.  Those offices are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.

Initially, Jeremiah objected to his call to speak to the people on behalf of God.  His refusal sounded much like Moses’ saying, “I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” (Jeremiah 1:6)

Apparently, Jeremiah was young when he was called.  How many young people do you know raising their hand to go correct, warn, and rebuke older men in positions of authority?  When you were “a youth,” how interested would you have been in calling everyone around you including kings, armies, friends, and religious leaders to repent because God’s judgement was coming?  There are religious men who spend their entire lives avoiding ever having to say any words of rebuke.  The fear of man is great, but the fear of God must be greater for all who profess to know him.

God corrects and encourages Jeremiah for the very difficult and painful task his life is about to embark upon.  God basically tells Jeremiah that this is what he was made for.  He’s says, “Hey Jer.  You were born for this.  I created you for this very thing.  So quit your complaining and listen.”  God’s basic response to Jeremiah’s objection was, first of all, no objections allowed.  Then God said, go where I send you, say what I tell you, don’t be afraid, and I’ll be with you.

I think I’m going to carry a card in my pocket from now on with those instructions.  What if we all lived that way in regards to God’s leading?

  1. No objections.
  2. Go wherever I send you.
  3. Say whatever I tell you.
  4.  Do not be afraid.
  5.  I am with you to deliver you.Wow!  How would following that prescription for your walk with the Lord change your life?  When God’s Word(s) are in our mouths, we ought not fear any earthly reprisals.  Suffering is what we signed up for when we decided to follow the Lord.  Let us not forget that when we are cursed by men on account of God, we are blessed by God.

    Next, God asks Jeremiah what he sees.  There is no physical scene in front of him.  God is speaking to Jeremiah and showing him a vision in his mind’s eye.  Again, visions and dreams are given by God to his prophets in order to convey information, direction, wisdom, and insight as to how they are to go about speaking and warning.

    I often ask myself why God can’t just send us mail or something, but I believe a large part of the prophetic gift is the time one gets to spend discerning the mind of God in prayer.  The time we spend with God is where the power and courage to act and speak on his behalf comes from.  Void of that, we become cowards unwilling to oppose those who oppose God’s Word.  If there is one epidemic in the American Church today, it is cowardice.

    The first thing Jeremiah sees is an almond branch.  It was indicative of haste and God’s urgency and seriousness about the message he was about to deliver to the people via Jeremiah.  The next thing he saw was a message of disaster and judgment.

    Can you even imagine what Jeremiah was thinking?  Awe, God.  Come on.  Why do I have to say that?  Are they even going to listen?  Who will hear me?  They’ll hate me.

    Most of us know how it goes for the one known as the “weeping prophet.”  Jeremiah’s initial fear to acquiesce to his call was justifiable and very valid on a human level.  He had a hard row to hoe.  But God’s glory and obedience to his clear call trumps all objections and trials.

    The reason Jeremiah was called to speak hard words to God’s people was two-fold.  God had given a young king, Josiah, to rule at the time Jeremiah was called.  Josiah was just 8 years old when he came to power as king of Judah.  Josiah wanted to do right by God and turn the people away from sin.  God gave the king Jeremiah to aide his reformation and counsel him on how to lead.

    Secondly, and more importantly, the main reason for God’s prophetic message of impending doom was because of the gross apostasy and idolatry of his people.  The Jews had forsaken God by worshiping other Gods and idols.  Sound familiar? God tells Jeremiah he is going to make him “a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests, and the people of the land.”

    God is clearly making Jeremiah into an immovable, tenacious witness against the sin of his people.  Notice who Jeremiah is being sent to warn and correct.  The text says Jeremiah is going out against, “the whole land,” “the kings,” “the officials,” “the priests,” and “the people.” So. Um.  Basically everyone!  Jeremiah’s words of warning and rebuke were going out to everyone. Wonder how Jeremiah felt when all the other priests were condemning him for not being in community with them? Or submitting to the religious authorities he was called to rebuke? Or when everyone he knew began to hate him for telling the truth of God?

    God doesn’t bait and switch on Jeremiah, though.  He tells him up front that all these that he is called to go to will fight against him.  God assures him that they will not win, though, that He is with him, and will deliver him.

    So, just for the record, God calls a guy to correct everyone around him with true words, gives him a vision only he can see, tells him to oppose every person he knows from the least to the greatest, promises he will be fought against, and tell him he isn’t allowed to object, has to say everything he’s told, go everywhere God says, and not to worry.  Oh, and remember, this is what you were created in the womb to do.

    Are you seeing how difficult a prophetic call is to accept and to carry out? I am.  I feel like starting a movement. Hashtag love your prophets. Hashtag prophets still exist.  Hashtag save the religious.

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tears

It’s the eve of my 365th day of my 38th year.  In one day and few sleeping hours I will be 39 years old.

Thirty-nine.  When I turned 34 I wrote a little ditty called “34 Reasons to Smile.”  You can read it here: https://lorirodeheaver.wordpress.com/2013/10/30/thirty-four-reasons-to-smile/

I was trying to focus on all that God had given me despite my nagging inner pain.  Somehow, I thought, if I could just grasp how very many beautiful things surrounded me, I would have no choice but to bask in daily joy.

Since then, I have tried.  Sometimes I succeed.  My failure is certainly not from lack of good things.  Still, I have tried and failed so many times.  I have tried to bury the pain of desperate loss; of crushing discouragement; of inner loneliness; of unwarranted rejection; of utter failure.

Somehow, five more years went by.  Time never did stop.  Blessings and trials keep coming down in crashing waves upon me like an unending storm of beauty and destruction.  Life is even more beautiful than it was then in so many ways.  So very many ways.  But at 39 I realize that it is far too late to make new old friends.  I realize that things really won’t ever go back to the way they were; to the way I thought they should be; the way I planned.  Every time I think of so many of those I hoped to grow up and grow old with, I see only a cemetery.  Alive, but dead and gone from my life never planning to return.  I think of them and I examine myself.  I think of them and I wonder just what makes me anathema; pariah; untouchable.  I wonder if it’s something I really could change even if I knew.  I wonder if it isn’t just who God himself made me that repels.  I don’t know.  But I think, always.  I think of them and I write.  I write because they are no longer here.  They didn’t stay.  I can’t send them a text.  They don’t want a call from me.  I am 39 and they aren’t coming back.  No matter how much I miss them, they won’t be returning.  But who really wants to talk about that?  I know.  It’s so last year.  I should be over it by now.  I know.  But I’m not.  And I’m not really sure I ever will be.

My paper, it listens. I write because I have to.  My paper has always listened.  It has never abandoned me.  So to it I talk.  My paper hears me when all others stop their ears.

I am not alone.  I have a mechanic in shining armor who loves me more than I ever thought I could be.  I have four beautiful daughters who like me a little even though they won’t admit it.  I have a good mom who’s always rooting for me and standing behind me.  I have a Savior who saves me from myself daily.  But so often, I feel alone.  Vacant.  I feel like a failure.  A fool.  A friendless follower of the only One worth being a friendless follower fool for.

And somehow it is OK.  It hurts like living hell at least once a day but it is good.  It must certainly be a better plan than all the ones I buried in my sea of bitter sorrow and sullen-faced surrender.

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”

I know, Daddy, but it isn’t the world.  It is the church.  I don’t understand why they hate me.  I don’t know why you made a girl who was born to be hated.  A lot of days I hate me, too.  Because being hated hurts.  But you know.  You were hated first.  You were hated more.  You were murdered by my own sin.  I know you know.

I don’t know how much longer I have here on the earth.  I know I’ll be 39 years old in 1 day and a few sleeping hours.  I know it is the eve of my 365th day of my 38th year.  I know I don’t have any more time.  I have no more time to grieve them, Lord.  I have no more tears.  I want to be done.  Please set me free from this grief.  Have mercy, Lord.  Lord, have mercy.  Kyrie, eleison.

“NO.  No.  No, daughter.  Love.  Love and expect to be hated.  Love, and be willing to be hated.  Love, and be broken when you’re hated lest your heart become hard.  Love, and stay loving enough to grieve over them until there is peace.  Peace, I promise.  One day, peace.  I promise.  Be patient.” 

Why, Lord?

“Because I did that for you.  Move forward, Christian.  Walk on.  Sling your Bible and leave them behind if they simply refuse to come.  You cannot wait.  You have more work.  Bring your tears and face forward.  One day all will be made right.”  

It’s my party and I have only one request.  It’s my party and I’ll cry if you want me to.  It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.  If these tears can’t be taken away, I just want to be allowed to cry and know these tears are not in vain. Because life is hard, it is good, and some things really are worth grieving over.  I think I’m old enough to know.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” ~Revelation 21:4

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“But what happens when a community can’t receive dissenting opinions?  At the very least, it won’t benefit from those with the gift of discernment, and because of the pressure to conform, those with the gift might be tempted to remain silent about the danger they see.  But in the silence, the community risks coming under the control of false, manipulative leaders while those who do have insight from God are ignored.”  ~Hannah Anderson,  All That’s Good

We live in a day where near everything must be filtered in order to be deemed consumable: water, pictures, speech, news, and, certainly, all teaching.  I personally have never had the ability to “listen” to anything from conversation to advice to sermons without a million bells and whistles faithfully, yet often frustratingly, going off inside instructing me, warning me, and disgusting me – sometimes all at the very same time.  It’s just how the Good Lord made me.

In her new book on discernment, Hannah Anderson describes the term as “the ability to sort between a host of options and pick what is good.”  She spends a great deal of time parsing out Philippians 4:8 and talking about how it relates to our modern-day influx of information, our difficulties and differences in relationship, and our personal filtering capabilities.  Hannah, who personifies Biblical truths using personal stories, gives her readers a better eye and a bigger heart in the area of conflict – be it in the world or in our own hearts.

The writer also makes some excellent arguments about isolationism vs. engagement culturally, relation-ally, and ecclesiastically.  She does not shy away from both the apparent dangers and obvious benefits in what 70’s musician Jim Croce termed a “wild world.”

In review,  All That’s Good was an honest and balanced breath of fresh air for those of us who have spent our lives feeling “plagued” by a gift that just keeps on giving despite its – often unfortunate – results.  In a culture who fails to critically think, openly dialogue, and who sees debate as an all-out war rather than a mutual growth opportunity, I don’t have to say that with discernment comes being misrepresented, maligned, misjudged, and, more oft than not, merely marked out for misery.

I would have liked to have heard more about God’s voice and the Spirit’s interactions with us on the working out of discernment, and, perhaps, more about how to remake what the author calls “an unhealthy community” who “discourages, mocks, and ruthlessly excludes those who ask uncomfortable questions.” Then again, I suppose that’s the purpose of you and I reading this book.  You and I are the answer.  You and I are the change.  You and I are called to speak when no one wants to say it.  You and I are called to press into the hard things God wants us to hear.  You and I are called to be the ones to befriend the hard-truth tellers.  You and I are called to listen intently, fairly, and openly to both sides of every story and be the answer to the chaos and camaraderie to which we are called in Christ Jesus.

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