Archive for April, 2009

Jeremiah 21-23


I learned a valuable lesson not too long ago when reading the book of Ezekiel.  Due to a hardship that had come my way, I had struggled with whether or not that hardship was God’s punishment or more of a refining.  I had concluded that it was a refining. 


As I would soon find out, it was a fragile conclusion.  In Ezekiel 13 he warns of ‘the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing’.  Later he warns against those ‘who prophesy out of their own imagination’.  Satan had fun with that.  Had my hope been a result of my own imagination?  Was I doomed and just didn’t want to admit it or would God see me through no matter what hell or life threw at me?  Was it false hope or real assurance?


What the Lord showed me as a result of that little skirmish has become a defining and pivotal point in my effort to determine whose voice I am hearing when thoughts come to mind.  The people in Ezekiel’s day were living like hell but still trying to claim the promises of God.  Prophets were proclaiming they were entitled to them.   Basically it is this; if you are living like hell, God’s word to you will not be about promise; rather it will be about repentance.  Conversely, if you are right with Him and hear promise, you can be assured of it. 


The same thing was going on here with Jeremiah.  First, trouble on a grand scale had set in.  As a result, a hellish group of people say, ‘Inquire now of the Lord’; ‘perhaps He will work wonders for us as in times past’.  The prophets were prophesying, filling them with false hope.  To those who were following the stubbornness of their evil hearts, they were saying, ‘no harm will come to you’.  By this false message, ‘they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his wickedness’.


The question God puts before the people is this, ‘But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord to see or to hear His word?  Who has listened and heard His word’?  And again He says, ‘But if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways.’


He concludes with this thought; ‘Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully’.  And now I conclude; critical that we stand in His council that we may, first, hear His words and then that we speak them faithfully.    

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Useful vs. Noticeable

Jeremiah 18-20


Jeremiah visits the potter.  The pot the potter was working on was marred, ‘So he formed it into another pot, shaping it as it seemed best to him’.


We are the only barrier to God doing good in our lives.  If as a result of our living adversely to His ways, He then intends to uproot us, if we simply repent of our wrong, He will relent and not inflict what He had intended.  Conversely, if He has intended to build us up and then we choose to ignore His ways, then He will reconsider the good He intended.


In both cases, He is the potter to do with us as it seems best to Him but we as the living pot in His hands influence what He chooses by the choices we make.  We cannot tell Him what kind of pot we want to be, but we do determine whether or not He shapes us into a pot that is useful to Him. 


We cannot say, ‘Lord make me a fancy tea pot’ which everyone will see and admire; He may have in mind a cast iron pot that is placed in a hole over a bed of coals and covered with dirt.  The tea pot may be pretty but its contents are not vital.  The iron pot is nothing to look at but oh my, how vital the contents. 


This is exactly what was going on with Jeremiah.  ‘Oh Lord, you deceived me, and I was deceived; You overpowered me and prevailed.  I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me’. 


Though I am not ridiculed all day long, nor mocked, the Lord has taken me to a place in Him that not everyone can identify with.  Like Jeremiah, I am sometimes tempted to say, ‘I will not mention Him or speak any more in His name’, but ‘His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones.  I am weary of holding it in; indeed I cannot.’    

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Do We Really Trust

Jeremiah 16, 17


In the midst of all the disaster which God is proclaiming through Jeremiah on all who forsook Him and did not obey or trust in Him is this little oasis of promise to those who did.


‘Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.  He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.  It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.  It has no worries in a year of draught and never fails to bear fruit.’


‘The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?’


‘But if you are careful to obey Me, declares the Lord, and bring no load through the gates of the city on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabbath day holy, by not doing any work on it, then kings who sit on David’s throne will come through the gates of this city.’ ‘If you do not obey me to keep the Sabbath day holy, I will send an unquenchable fire that will consume all your fortresses.’


Where is our trust?  Do we really trust in God or do we trust in ourselves?  Is He our confidence or are we and our efforts?  If He is, we will not worry in hard times.  We will send out our roots, deeper, until we find the ever flowing stream that is Him. 


The heart is deceitful to convince us that we must take things into our own hands.  We do not trust that if we honor Him on the Sabbath that He will bless the remaining six days.  So we add a seventh and trust our own thinking. 


If we would trust Him, life would flow in and out of our gates.  If not, though all may appear to be okay for a while, He will eventually consume our fortresses – the false things in which we trust.


I don’t know if there is anything that God longs for more that to have a people who will trust Him.  His ways are different.  Before we can live we must die.  Before we can have we must give up.  Our trust is tested when He tells us to do something that seems contrary to our forward progress.  Do we really trust?  

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Subtle Distraction

Jeremiah 11-15


Our minds can sometimes get like a back lashed reel – a tangled mess.  With a reel it happens instantly; in our minds it comes on a little more gradually but nevertheless, just as tangled.


Jeremiah found himself in one of these mental messes.  Since he had felt the Lord’s hand on him, he had separated himself.  God’s word was his joy and delight.  Yet, in light of all this, it didn’t seem to be paying off.  He had hoped to make a difference.  He had hoped to turn people’s hearts back to God.  He was hoping to repeat what Moses had done.


Wasn’t happening.  Instead, the faithless remained at ease.  Some even opposed him.  To say the least, he was discouraged.  Had he made a mistake?  Had God been to him ‘Like a deceptive brook? Like a spring that fails?’  Had God just strung him along intending all along to wipe him out with everyone else?  He was really struggling here. 


When I first read 15:19 ‘If you repent, I will restore you’, it did not make sense to me.  There were a couple of things that didn’t make sense.  Sometimes I just move on.  Here I couldn’t.  It was like God was saying to me, ‘there is something here—keep looking’.  I finally found it.


What could Jeremiah possibly have to repent of?  God was his delight.  Plain and simple, Jeremiah had ambition.  He wanted to be significant.  It is quite natural to think that a desire to be significant for God is an acceptable desire.  But here it had got in the way and God was pulling him back. 


As C. S. Lewis points out in his illustration of a man walking his dog, if the dog goes to the wrong side of the light pole, the owner pulls him back; not to prevent him from going forward but to enable him to go forward.


Oh the far reaching hand of God when He is calling us unto Himself.  If you repent of what you have in mind, I will restore unto you what I have in mind so that you will be useful to Me.  I will give you worthy words to utter and not useless ones.


Sometimes, even godly ambition can cause us to miss God.  We can get so focused on what we have in mind, as good as it may be, that we miss what He has in mind.  Oh the subtle ways that the enemy distracts us.


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