I’m going to be away from my computer for over a week so won’t be able to post during that time. Please check back the second week of July.
Archive for June, 2012
God’s chosen nation was collapsing from the moral vacuum caused by rebellion against God and corruption in leadership. And on the outside, Nebuchadnezzar’s army was attacking. God’s patience had finally run out.
Jeremiah was God’s man on the scene. A dozen times in his book he debunks the false prophets’ repeated assurances that all would be well. Like this in chapter 14:
13 Then I said, “O Sovereign LORD, their prophets are telling them, ‘All is well—no war or famine will come. The LORD will surely send you peace.’ ”
14 Then the LORD said, “These prophets are telling lies in my name. I did not send them or tell them to speak. I did not give them any messages. They prophesy of visions and revelations they have never seen or heard. They speak foolishness made up in their own lying hearts.
But there is hope of peace after the punishment has been endured and the hard lessons have been learned. Peace on God’s terms necessarily involves cleansing from sin and rebellion. But wow, the benefits are out of this world!
“The time will come when I will heal Jerusalem’s wounds and give it prosperity and true peace. I will restore the fortunes of Judah and Israel and rebuild their towns. I will cleanse them of their sins against me and forgive all their sins of rebellion. Then this city will bring me joy, glory, and honor before all the nations of the earth!” Jeremiah 33:6-8
What kind of peace are we looking for in our world and our lives?
A fragile peace on this earth, IF nations and individuals can solve their differences and piece back together shattered economies?
Or the true and lasting peace that comes only by turning to God and accepting it on His terms?
Psalms 105 and 106 are very similar in that both tell the story of Israel. But in reading them, I discovered a very different focus.
Psalm 105 highlights God’s faithfulness from the time He made a covenant with Abraham until He brought Abraham’s descendants out of Egypt.
Psalm 106 takes up the story there but the mood changes in verse 6: God’s chosen and favored people are found fickle–guilty of the following offenses:
Were not impressed by the Lord’s miracles.
Forgot his many acts of kindness.
Rebelled against him.
Tested God’s patience.
Grew envious of God’s appointed leaders.
“Traded their glorious God for a statue of a grass-eating ox!”
Refused to enter the promised land, disbelieving God’s promise to care for them.
Grumbled and refused to obey.
Mingled with pagans and adopted their evil customs, even child sacrifice.
What doesn’t change, however is God’s faithfulness. Yes, He did send plagues and allowed them to be subjugated, but He refrained from wiping them out as they deserved. Over and over He pitied them, relented, and rescued them from their enemies. This is our God, still faithful today. Am I faithful or fickle?
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever. (Ps 106:1)
What does God mean when He calls someone stiff-necked? According to my study Bible, the person is being compared to a plow animal that stubbornly refuses to take a yoke. Or in equine terms, this could be the equivalent of an unbroken horse. In either case, the animal is virtually useless to its master.
Faithful and flexible. This phrase has been rattling around in my head in the past few days. This is what I need (and want!) to be through all the changes. Keeping my goal in mind: Serving my Master, becoming more like Him. But being willing to follow a change in the game plan, or even live with ambiguity. Now, that’s a challenge.
No, the answer isn’t “hum”! It’s “just substitute a different word that you do know.” Malapropism is one of my favorite kinds of humor: the ludicrous misuse of a word, especially by confusion with one of similar sound (American Heritage Dictionary).
As a child, “Bringing in the cheese” made made more sense to me than “Bringing in the sheaves.” I loved cheese and had no idea what “sheaves” were.
A few years ago someone mentioned that he was deeply concerned about the theology in a song that says: “…When my will becomes enthroned in Your (i.e. God’s) love…” What a relief to find out that “enthroned” was supposed to be “enthralled.” Do you suppose that someone who sang or copied the lyrics didn’t know what “enthralled” meant and just substituted another word without thinking—a word with exactly the opposite meaning? So instead of my will being captive to God, it’s on the throne! The dictionary gives the following senses of “enthrall.” I suspect that the second is what the song writer intended:
- To hold spellbound; captivate.
- To enslave.
So when we sing, do we spout forth nonsense or even heresy because we’re not thinking? Are our minds as well as our hearts engaged in praising God and voicing our commitment to Him? (One more thing: It’s worth checking out the theology in a song before singing it.)
This morning, the proximity of two well-known Bible stories caught my eye. Two rich men who sought Jesus out. The first approaches with an apparently sincere inquiry of what it would take to get eternal life. But as it turns out, eternal life wasn’t high enough on his priority list to pay the price: exchanging it all for a life with Jesus. So he goes away sad.
Just a couple of paragraphs later, Zacchaeus was so determined to see Jesus that he made a spectacle of himself by climbing a tree to ensure a good view. He was also very wealthy, though his reputation wasn’t so sterling as the other man–a swindler and traitor. But he ends up joyfully giving away everything to the poor and those he has cheated. Furthermore, he obtained the very thing that the other man had claimed to seek as Jesus exclaimed, “Salvation has come to this home today!”
Score: Wealth + sadness VS. eternal life + joy + blessing. Who got the better deal?
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? Matthew 16: 24-26
We took a two-hour nature hike the other day. It was gorgeous but tough, too. At times it seemed like the trail must end at the top of a hill or at a rock face—but we had confidence it would continue and it would be okay. Why?
1) This trail was designed and maintained (to some degree) by a reputable resort.
2) We could see the footprints of others who had gone that way recently. In fact, we’d gotten a recommendation of that trail from friends who were just leaving as we arrived.
3) My husband was with me, to give me a hand in the more treacherous places.
The spiritual applications should be obvious.
And as we went, a song kept cycling through my head:
Footprints of Jesus
Sweetly, Lord, have we heard Thee calling,
Come, follow Me!
And we see where Thy footprints falling
Lead us to Thee.
Footprints of Jesus,
That make the pathway glow;
We will follow the steps of Jesus
Where’er they go.
Then at last when on high He sees us,
Our journey done,
We will rest where the steps of Jesus
End at His throne.
If I knew that I had 15 more years to live, how would I spend them? That’s what King Hezekiah was told by God when he begged to be spared from a deadly disease. (2 Kings 20:1-6)
Would my priorities change? Would I use the first five or ten for myself, promising God the final years? Or would I start now to pursue God with my all my heart, soul, and strength? It’s an interesting question.
But the truth is, I might have 30 more years or just a few days or hours. The question at hand is how to use this one day I have.
Only one life, ‘twill soon be past;
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
What happens in me when things go well? When a crisis comes? When I’m on my own? What do my responses say about my true character?
The “report cards” of the kings of Israel and Judah are very revealing. Here are some of the more dramatic ones.
When things went well…
…Solomon turned to worship his many wives’ foreign gods. (1 Kings 11)
…Amaziah, after trusting God for an amazing victory over an enemy, brought back that enemy’s worthless gods, adopted them as his own and worshipped them. (2 Chronicles 25:5-16)
…Josiah enjoyed a peaceful reign, radically committed to the Lord all the days of his life. Ahhh! (2 Kings 22:1-23:25)
When a crisis came…
…Asa, previously a very godly king, appealed to powerful neighbors instead of God, and then became a tyrant to his own people. When God punished him with illness, he turned to doctors instead of back to the Lord and died a painful death. (2 Chronicles 16)
…Jehoshaphat went straight to God for help. God took over from there and turned the enemies on one another. All Jehoshaphat’s people had to go was march into battle with songs instead of swords, then haul away the plunder. (2 Chronicles 20) Hezekiah’s story is very similar. (2 Kings 19:1, 14-36)
When a godly mentor was taken away…
–Joash enthusiastically served God as long as the priest (his guardian and mentor) was around. BUT when that man died, Joash turned right around and abandoned God, turning that same enthusiasm to the worship of heathen gods. (2 Chronicles 24) How could he?!?
–Uzziah “followed God during the lifetime of Zechariah, who taught him how to honor God….BUT once he became powerful, his pride destroyed him. He disobeyed the LORD his God.” (2 Chronicles 26:5, 16 NET)
What about me? What is my true character that will show through when my circumstances change—or if they don’t? Who am I, really?