Monday, August 31, 2015

Prostitution: You and me??

READ Ezekiel 5-6

God hates idolatry. He so constantly punishes his people in the OT for their idolatry. But notice the word he uses in 6:9 as he describes what the idolatry truly is — “whoring”. For us that is a most despicable word. We get it. We understand what it means. Spiritual harlotry is a horrible evil. God sees Israel as his bride. And yet they have gone off into “whoring” by making and worshipping idols. But in their minds they were still worshipping God also. They were just covering all the bases.

They had broken the very first of the ten commandments. “You shall have no other gods before me,” declares the Lord. That means none above him or even in his presence. It doesn’t mean “give God first place” and then have things you worship almost as much in second, third, and so on place. It means you will worship no one and nothing at all besides God himself.

So how are you and I doing? Is there anything in our lives that we idolize. Again that doesn’t mean we think we have abandoned God completely. No, it may be that we have allowed other things or people to gain a place of worshipful focus in our lives along with God. No, “before Me” means above me or in my presence. One doesn’t have to abandon any thought of God to be an idolator. It can be a very easy thing to slide into with no concious thought. Watch out! God hates idolatry.

Prayer: Father, please keep my heart pure before you. Help me to worship you and you alone for you alone are God. You will not give your glory to another. Help me to know that my greatest good is found in worshipping you alone. Help me to be satisfied in you.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

God Knows That He Is God

READ Jeremiah 51-52

Never miss this one stunning irrefutable fact: God knows that he alone is God. You might think that is obvious but it’s not for everyone. Some even think that God exists for our pleasure rather than the other way around. No, he alone is God and he will not give his glory to another.

Where do we see this in Chapters 51-52? In the prophecy of the utter destruction of Babylon Jeremiah says in 51:14, “The Lord of hosts has sworn by himself: Surely I will fill you with men, as many as locusts, and they shall raise the shout of victory over you.” Notice, he swore by himself. Why did he do that? Well, Hebrews 6:13 tells us, “For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself.” God knows that he is God and there is no one greater than himself.

John Piper has been very helpful to me in reminding me that God’s highest aim is his own glory. If not, even he would be an idolator. If God chose anyone or anything else to give honor and glory to above himself he would be guilty of what he forbids in us. No, God guards his own glory. He knows that he alone is God and calls us to that same knowledge. We must worship him and him alone for there is no one greater.

Prayer: Father, what a great reminder this is at the end of Jeremiah for us. Your glory is displayed throughout this powerful book in the OT. Forgive us when we elevate other things and people to the highest position in our affections. Call us back to your glory and your glory alone.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

He Watching Over Israel....

READ Jeremiah 43-44

What is God doing in 44:27? “Behold, I am watching over them for disaster and not for good. All the men of Judah who are in the land of Egypt shall be consumed by the sword and by famine, until there is an end of them.” He says he is watching over the remnant who have disobediently gone into Egypt. But his “watching over” is not a positive one as normally comes to mind when we hear that term. No, he is watching over them to bring them to destruction because of their disobedience.

But what is God doing on a deeper level? He tells us all the way back in 1:11-12: “And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see an almond branch.” Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.” God is carefully and meticulously fulfilling His Word. He always does this. We can take it to the eternal bank of heaven. God will do what he has promised.

Did he promise to save those who trust in Jesus Christ? Yes. And he will for all eternity? Did he promise never to leave you, Christian, nor forsake you? Yes. And he won’t ever. Did he promise that all things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose? Yes. And he will sovereignly see that this happens. You can depend on it. Because he is always watching over his Word to perform it.

Prayer: Father, how faithful and just you are. For we your children are always sheltered under the promises of your Word and we can always trust in you to fulfill what you have promised. Humbly we trust in you. Thank you. Glory be to your name.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Heart-hearing a Sermon

READ Jeremiah 41-42

In 42:1-3 the remnant of people who were left in Judah come to Jeremiah and ask him to pray to the Lord on their behalf to tell them what they should do: “…that the Lord your God may show us the way we should go, and the thing that we should do.” (3) So Jeremiah does as they request and ten days later gave them the word of God. However, he knows that they have no intention of doing what God has said and makes it very clear what will happen to them when they disobey (42:19-22).

As I read these words I thought had sadly and tragically true they are of some who come to worship with the body of Christ today and listen to the teaching from God’s Word. They seem to want to hear what God is saying to them. But the reality is they only want to hear a word that puts a stamp of approval on their plans. They have no intention of obeying God if they don’t like what the Word says to them. They should be warned. The Bible gives them no assurance of salvation. They are guilty of presumptuous sins. “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.” (Psalm 19:13)

And you and I should pray the prayer of Psalm 19:13 and come to the hearing of God's Word with a heart intent to obey.

Prayer: Father, please keep us from presumptuous sins that are an offense to your holiness. Help us, Lord, to hunger for your life-giving Word to lead us in the ways we should go. Help us to come to your Word with a heart of obedience.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

No Place to Hide...Glory!

READ Jeremiah 23-24

There’s no place to hide…from God. Notice what he says to Jeremiah: “Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord.” (23:23-24) The theological word is omnipresent. God is everywhere at all times and he sees and knows everything that we do. In the context of Jeremiah 23 he is seeing the sins of the people, especially the false prophets. You and I need to be reminded that this is just as true for us today as it was then. God knows every thought, every word, every action of ours.  Nothing is hidden from him. There is nowhere that we can flee from his presence (Psalm 139:7-12). Sobering thought, isn’t it?

But there is also good news. What is the good news? There’s no place to hide…from God. He is always where you are. He will never leave you nor forsake you, if you are a child of his (Hebrews 13:5). What comfort and joy that brings to a child of God. Like our own precious little children who don’t want their fathers around when they do wrong, yet when they are afraid or hurting they want them to there very close. For us, as God’s children the wonderful assurance is that he is “a God at hand…not far away.”

Prayer: Thank you, Father, that you are with us at all times. Thank you that in your love for us you are there to lift us up and to convict us of our sins. Thank you that your presence is filled with grace, mercy, compassion and correction. Strengthen us for the need at hand.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Let the Fire Burn

READ Jeremiah 19-20

The life of a prophet is often extremely difficult. Jeremiah experienced this on numerous occasions. One, in Chapter 20, involved being beaten and put in stocks by the priest Pashhur. Jeremiah knew that his proclaiming the Word of the Lord was the cause of his punishment. He declared, “For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long.” (8b)

But even in the midst of his persecution for pronouncing God’s Word he still would not, actually could not, stop. “If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” God’s Word had become a burning fire within him that he simply could not hold in.

Two lessons for preachers/teachers today. First, we simply must proclaim God’s Word to God’s people and to those who do not yet know him. God’s Word is the instrument of God’s grace coming to those who hear (Romans 10:17). We have no other message to put forth than what God has given to us.

And the second is obvious. If we are going to be ridiculed and persecuted for teaching anything, the only thing it should be for is a faithful adherence to the Word of God. We should say what the Bible says, all that the Bible says, and nothing but what the Bible says.

Prayer: Father, help me and all pastors and all our teachers to be faithful to you and to your Word. Help us to know that the ideas of men will never heal the hurts of people nor bring them to salvation. Help us to hold fast to your Word even if it becomes unpopular or even illegal. Give us strength and give us fire in our bones.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

So...You're not Moses...

READ Jeremiah 15-16

As I began our reading this morning the very first words struck a cord of humility for me. God is speaking to Jeremiah, one of his greatest prophets in the OT. He is speaking of his coming judgment on Judah because of the sins of the people and especially King Manasshe (15:4). And he says to Jeremiah, “Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my heart would not turn toward this people. Send them out of my sight, and let them go!” (15:1) Jeremiah was a great prophet but Moses and Samuel were recognized as greats among the great. The people had their writings to read as God’s Word for them. And God, in effect, says to Jeremiah that they are much greater prophets and leaders than he is. If nothing else this verse stands as a dose of humility for Jeremiah.

If that is so, then who do I think I am? How can I possibly think that I could lead a church? I’m not a prophet nor the son of a prophet. I’m just a guy from Tupelo, MS, a small town in the South, who never did anything worthy of note. There were and are so many more qualified than I to be a pastor of a church.

And then I remembered, God still needs his Jeremiah’s. He may not be on the level of a Moses or a Samuel, but he is still God’s man for that place and that time and those people. And God still uses his pastors, literally hundreds of thousands of us through church history, in out-of-the-way places, leading these people for a season. So for me this was a reminder for the need of humility in all I do as a pastor but also a great encouragement that I don’t have to be Moses or Samuel. God can still use me as he did Jeremiah.

What about you? You may not be recognized as the greatest at what you do for the Lord either. But God needs the great and the small. He simply needs us to be faithful as his servants and stewards.

Prayer: Father, thank you for the reminder today that I am part of your plan. Help me neither to be puffed up nor to be discouraged. Help me to be faithful.

Monday, August 3, 2015

A People, a Name, a Praise, a Glory

READ Jeremiah 13-14

Israel and Judah both were both stubborn in their sin. Both had become idolatrous and served other false gods (13:10). Israel had been dispersed in 722 b.c.  Judah was now being told through Jeremiah that they too were coming under the judgment of God some 100 years later.

But that was not God’s original intent for these people when he brought them out of Egypt in the Exodus. No his desire for them was “that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory, but they would not listen.” (13:11) Perhaps we might learn from this and see how God would have us to live today.

A people: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9) God has called us to be a unique and special people for himself since he called us also out of darkness.

A name: “And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.” (Acts 11:26) The name “Christian” was probably given to them by unbelievers in a mocking tone or at least in a sense that identified them as followers of Jesus Christ. Perhaps by this designation they were saying, “you remind me of Jesus.” Do we?

A praise: God chose us and predestined us to be his children “to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 3-6) He wants us to praise him with our lives our hearts and our lips.

A glory: The glory of God is the revelation and manifestation of the sum total of his attributes. We are called to glorify God, i.e., to reveal his presence in our lives by the way we live: “for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:20)

Prayer: Father, help us to be your people and live for you so that others might see the glory of your grace in us. Help us not to live in such a way as to cause disrepute to come upon you. Forgive us when we fail. Strengthen us to be the demonstration of your grace to the world.