Archive for January, 2014

A Struggle

Posted in Jeremiah, Scripture, Sin on January 21, 2014 by nmpreach

israelWhile reading through Jeremiah again, I’m struck at the brusque message the prophet shares time and time again.  I thought I was a slow learner, but it appears the Israelites were as well.  We turn our attention to chapters 26-30.

There comes a time when judgment cannot be stopped.  In other words, God has been gracious for a lengthy time, hoping His people would repent and be obedient.  Because they refuse, a righteous God has no other option than judgment.

Jeremiah speaks of judgment coming from Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.  Any attempt to thwart judgment on the Israelite’s behalf would only lead to greater turmoil.  It’s intriguing that God would declare a time of judgment and only God could decide when that time was passed.  In chapter 28, readers are told of Hananiah and his false prophecy regarding peace.  Because he spoke lies, he died.  Irony?  Here’s a prophet who speaks of rebellion and judgment, only to rebel himself and die.

This is a great reminder of discernment.  People will always give advice.  Some of the advice is obviously better than other advice.  But how do you know what to follow?  If one doesn’t know the Word of God, hasn’t spent time in prayer, and is not seeking God with all that he/she is, they’re prone to follow bad advice!

In chapter 29, we run across a verse that many of us quote from time to time, yet we aren’t aware of the context.  For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope  (vs 11).  The context is the people have been removed from the Promised Land.  They’ve rebelled and are facing the consequences.  God says His punishment will last 70 years, at which time they will be able to return.  Perhaps we should remember that the next time we’re tempted to quote this verse.

Chapter 30 speaks of the judgment that seems unbearable.  The intentional rebellion (apostasy) is the reason the Israelites are being judged.  They cannot plead innocent or ignorant.  They know better!  Despite all of their choices, God continues to reach and rescue them.  His original choice of Israel being His people stands.  After all, Israel means “He who struggles with God.”  Seems right, doesn’t it?  Is that you – one who struggles with God?  Sadly, I see myself.

Quotes (34)

Posted in Words on January 16, 2014 by nmpreach

From Oswald Chambers:

Prayer is not preparation for the work; it is the work.

Yep.

Giving Up

Posted in Faith on January 15, 2014 by nmpreach

white flagDo you read the newspapers?  Have you seen the latest on television?  Although the disheartening stories have always been a part of “life,” it seems they outweigh the good things in our world.  I’m grateful for my parents who “protected” me from some of reality while I was growing up.  After all, kids shouldn’t be  aware of much of the heartache in the world.  But as we grow, as we mature, we understand “there’s nothing new under the sun.”  Close to the beginning of time, man began to encounter struggles.  And often times, the struggles seem insurmountable.

Questions of “Why?,” “Why me?,” or “What’s next?” all seem to creep into our vocabulary.  Let’s be honest: there are times when throwing your hands up, waving the white flag, and walking away would be much easier.  But we all know that’s not the answer.  It wouldn’t be fair to those around us.  And in the long run, it wouldn’t be fair to us as either.

I’m reminded of Jesus saying, “But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Jn 16:33

By the way, “the world” means all that’s in the world.

Struggle = God knows.

Finances = Trust God.

A medical diagnosis = What does God want you to know?

A fractured relationship = God hears you.

Peace = God provides in His time.

Tragedy that can never be understood = God is bigger than that too.

God calls us to be faithful.  And being faithful requires discipline.  Discipline means moving one step at a time in the right direction.  When you’re tempted to walk away, crawl into a hole, mask the pain, remember God is bigger than all this world has to offer.  Do you believe it or not?

Notice this text and especially the caveat.

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you – unless you believed in vain.  1 Cor 15:1-2 ESV (emphasis mine)

If you hold fast.  If you believe.  If you know your God to be bigger.  If you’re not focused on the storm but the One who can calm the storm.

So stand.  Walk.  Move where God wants you to move.  Although there’s struggle, you’re not allowed to quit!

Who’s Your Daddy?

Posted in Discipleship, Jeremiah, Sin on January 14, 2014 by nmpreach

Jeremiah seems to “speed up” as he writes of judgment in chapters 21-25.  Maybe it’s just me.  But do you get a sense of his passion?  His attempt to convince the people of God to make the right choice is evident.  This is not a new message.  But the prophet prays they understand and their legacy will be one of faith and obedience.  In fact, the only way to have a legacy is to follow God’s will.  They were apathetic, complacent, and making some horrible decisions.

Read these verses again:

He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well.  Is not this to know me? declares the LORD.

But you have eyes and heart only for your dishonest gain, for shedding innocent blood, and for practicing oppression and violence.

Jeremiah 22:16-17 ESV

The prophet is clear.  The people of God are so focused on themselves – so arrogant, prideful, and selfish – that they have followed their own ways.  The consequence is judgment.

In our time, we have a tendency to do somewhat of the same.  Jesus himself said, Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Luke 6:46

We have become convinced that all we must do is have a mental assent to certain dogmas.  In other words, believe the right things, and that’s what following Christ is all about.  That’s crazy….and unbiblical!

The idea of belief throughout Scripture had follow-through.  In other words, talk is cheap.  You might say you believe, but the words didn’t mean much.  The question was, what did you do about it?  Jesus didn’t just come and perform miracles for an “oooh” and “awwwww.”  He came to restore lives.  And then, He calls us to do the same.  How can we share Jesus with those around us if we just exist in our own little world and never act upon what’s in our head?  That would be foreign to them then and should be foreign to us now.  The question is, Who do you follow?  God?  The world?  Yourself?

Our problem is one of laziness.  We want to do just enough to get by.  Walk the aisle, say a few words, get in some water, believe a few things, and get my ticket punched.  That’s not what Christ called us to do!  I hear numerous excuses all of the time.  “I’m just not religious.”  Good!  Jesus said you should only be religious about loving people.  “I could never be good enough.”  You’re right.  But amazingly, God loves us anyway.  “The Church just isn’t for me.”  Really?  What if Jesus died for the Church and will return to claim His bride?  Is it for you now?  “They’re just a bunch of hypocrites.”  Fair.  We’re all sinners and not one is perfect.  But convincing yourself of some independent “good-guy” living is not only silly, it’s  stupid!  “Once saved, always saved!”  Really?  Maybe we should discuss what it means to be saved. Ultimately it’s not about you.

Is that harsh?  Intolerant?

It’s what Jesus said.  Read Luke 6:46 and then be slow to decide your answer.

Seek And Find

Posted in Scripture on January 7, 2014 by nmpreach

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Heb 4.12 ESV

I’ve wondered over recent months if we take the Word of God for granted.  I’ve seen news reports (you probably have as well) where new believers in third-world countries would give up everything for one page of Scripture.  It seems they know what’s contained in what they fight for.  Although I don’t advocate violence, I believe there is a lesson for many of us.  I have several Bibles (different translations) at my office and my home; whereas one page is fought over if it can be understood in places far away.  Translators work round the clock in an attempt to provide translations in foreign languages.

That’s a big problem.  But the issue goes deeper I think.  I read the Bible, but I catch myself just reading words on a page.  That would never do justice to Ezekiel being told to “Eat this (God’s Word) book.”  Most of us know the text above.  But what does it mean that the Word is living and active?  We are prone to answer, “It is God-breathed.”  And it is.  Or we say, “It’s written by the Holy Spirit through mankind.”  And it was.  But could it mean more?

In other words, we read the Bible at one level where so much more is contained in “lower levels.”  Have you ever chewed on John 3.16?  I know you’ve memorized it.  But have you taken it apart?  Have you meditated on it?  Have you read it?  That’s just one example, of course.  If Scripture can pierce soul and spirit, if it has the ability to know me more than I know myself, if it comes from God, (I believe all of these) then I must move past just reading words on a page.  I have to mine the depths and discover the “pearls.”  Laziness and reading God’s Word can never co-exist.

Scholar J. P. Fokelmann pens, “A text only starts to function when it receives attention – only then does it affect someone.”

 

I Choose Responsibility

Posted in Jeremiah, Scripture, Sin on January 3, 2014 by nmpreach

While reading through Jeremiah, we’ve reached chapters 16-20.  Taking sin seriously, idolatry, etc. continue to be the theme of the weeping prophet.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? 17:9

Then chapter 18.  Chapter 18 is a bit controversial – the interpretation, I mean.  I will spare you many of the details but let’s just say one interprets what the text says about God.  Is He a God looking to destroy or is it about consequences?  In this case, the latter would be God punishing for the nation’s wickedness?  In other words, the promises in the chapter are conditional.  Blessings for obedience.  Curses for disobedience.  It seems we’ve passed this way before.

The lesson rings true for individuals as it does for nations.    The same consequences await my decision to follow God’s will or my own.  At first glance, that may sound obvious.  However, understanding the concept has tremendous effects on how we live, how we interpret Scripture, etc.  I can’t blame Adam and Eve.  It’s not the Jews or Romans fault.  It has nothing to do with politicians on either side.  My choices are my choices.  My sin is my sin.  And because I have the ability to choose, no one else can do it for me.

Our society seems to cater to victims.  “It’s the way that I was raised.”  “Do you know where I grew up?”  “I can never get past ___________.” “You/They/Everyone owes me.”  Truth is, you can’t choose many of your circumstances.  But you can choose how you respond to those circumstances.

We can never have the full life (Jn 10:10) God intends if we remain victims of anything.  Regardless of the broken world in which we live and the circumstances we live in, through Jesus Christ all things (including you and I) can be restored.  So quit blaming everyone or everything around you.  Take responsibility for what you do or don’t do.  Choose not to be a victim!  It leads to less chaos.

Quotes (33)

Posted in Words on January 2, 2014 by nmpreach

In honor of Oklahoma being in the Sugar Bowl tonight (no, I’m not taking phone calls):

Most of us root for the underdog because that’s who we associate with the most.  – Anonymous