Sunday, January 14, 2018

AN APPOINTMENT TO KEEP



Read Psalm 5.

There are some appointments we should keep today.  David met with God first thing in the morning as he prayed.  Will you?  He came before his King in surrender.  He cried out to his God in supplication.  Before he looked into the face of men, he looked up to the face of his Master.  Can you think of anyone more important to see today?  

He is a holy God.  David felt the gravity of this appointment.  Let us come before Him in repentance.  It is an awesome thing to be in His presence.  We do not come causally or carelessly, and yet we are invited through grace to come.  God is waiting for you.  Will you keep that appointment?

The second appointment we should keep today is to gather at the house of God for worship.  There is an appointed hour and place to meet with God’s people to celebrate His goodness together.  

David speaks of coming into God’s house “in the multitude of Your mercy.”  By rights we should all be in hell today, but God has shown mercy in that we are alive.  Having sought His salvation, we can now sing and shout for joy in that God has shown us mercy on top of mercy.  

The world is a hostile place.  David had many enemies. Yet, the house of God was a sanctuary—a place of refuge for his soul.  I need that.  You need that.  Will you keep that appointment?


What will be your attitude and activity today as you come before the Lord and meet with His people?  Will an overflowing heart of love and joy be exuberantly expressed?  God deserves our praise.  He has taken us through another week, and so we are privileged to thank Him for what He has done, as we anticipate more blessing to come in the week ahead.  With favor He surrounds us as a shield. 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

PASSIONATE PRAYING



Read Psalm 4.

There should be earnestness in our praying—not going through the motions, mouthing a few pious phrases, checking it off our “to do list” and then moving on.  Such praying is wasted breath.  It rises no higher than the ceiling.  It is like those who draw near to God with their lips, while their heart is far from Him.

David’s plea was urgent and passionate.  He needs an answer from God.  There is confidence God will hear because God has relieved him from distress before.  There is confidence, yet not the arrogance of a petulant, demanding child.  He begs for mercy.  Yet, there is boldness to come to the throne of grace.   He needs deliverance from his foes, and their diabolical schemes.

David was a man after God’s own heart.  That did not make him immune from the attacks of others.  In fact, it guarantees it.  If you please God, you will displease a lot of people.  Yet, David realizes that he is in God’s hands.

How do you feel when people lie about you?  It angered David—and that is an emotional response, altogether proper.  But, he speaks within his heart a warning not to allow that anger to be sinfully expressed.  He will not take matters into his own hands, but trust in a sovereign God to whom vengeance properly belongs.  He calms his soul by meditating on the Lord while he lies in bed.

David directed his heart from looking around him at his enemies, to looking above him at his God.  He worships.  He trusts.  Having been attacked, he puts it in the hands of the Lord.  The anger then dissipates.  The potential fear dissolves.  Instead, David expresses joy and experiences peace.  Despite his circumstances, and the threats of men, he reposes in the arms of God.  Can you find a safer place?

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

WILL YOU STILL NOT BE MADE CLEAN?



Read Jeremiah 13:18-27

If we do not humble ourselves, then God will humble us.  We can bow our knee to God willingly or God can bring us to our knees forcibly.  We can be broken before God in contrition or be broken by God in correction.  This is the warning God gave to Judah through Jeremiah.

He began with a message to the leaders of Jerusalem—the king and queen mother—for they had failed to shepherd the people spiritually and the result is they would see the people suffer physically.  As a woman conceiving, carrying, and birthing a baby, they would see the process James describes, “Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (1:15).  

The people of Jerusalem had committed spiritual adultery against the Lord as unfaithful idolaters.  Their morally lewd practices and shameful acts arose from the worship of promiscuous, pagan deities whose temples essentially housed an orgy. Since they wanted such nakedness, God would pull their skirts over their heads, exposing them to the Babylonian conquerors who would strip them bare and shackle them in bondage.  Away to Babylon they would be taken, to a place flooded with idols, since that was the kind of worship they set their hearts on.  God would gorge them with it, until they could bear no more.

The reality is they could not cleanse themselves.  Lest we sit in self-righteous judgment on those Jews, we had best look in the mirror of God’s holy law and understand our hearts are likewise depraved.  As an Ethiopian cannot change the color of his skin and a leopard cannot exchange his spots for the stripes of a tiger, we cannot change our sinful nature.  It is who we are.  

That’s why Jesus told Nicodemus—an extremely committed religionist—that he had to be born again—to gain a new nature (see John 3).  Christ said that none get to heaven otherwise.  It is not reformation of our old nature, but regeneration bringing a new nature that saves us and fits us for heaven.  Only the blood of Christ can cleanse us from sin.  God must make us clean.  Apart from that He will say, “Woe to you....  Will you still not be MADE clean?” (Emphasis added)

Monday, January 08, 2018

THE PARTY’S OVER!



Read Jeremiah 13:12-17.

When Herbert Hoover ran for President in 1928, his campaign promised, “A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.”  At the time, it was a slogan indicating that the economy would boom and people would prosper under a Hoover administration.  Instead, eight months into his presidency, the stock market crashed and the United States entered the Great Depression.

God makes a similar promise to Judah.  It was a familiar expression for prosperity at the time: “Every bottle shall be filled with wine.”  It was spoken with sarcasm, but the Jews missed the meaning, and in their pride said, “Do we not certainly know that...?”  So smug were they, that even though Jeremiah had been warning them of judgment, they were singing, “Happy days are here again!”

Our economy seems to be booming at the time—and we should be grateful to God.  But, let us refrain from the folly that thinks we may sin with impunity—drunk with pride, power, and prosperity—lest unhappy days of God’s wrath descend.  The wine bottles would be full in Jerusalem, but the people would empty the contents and become filled with wine in celebration.  They would stagger into one another and fall down to their hurt.  In the midst of the celebration, God would essentially say, “The party’s over!”

Will we listen?  Will we learn?  Will Americans repent of their pride and give glory to God alone?  If we do not them we can expect the same end to “our shining city on a hill” as befell Jerusalem. The lights will be turned out and darkness will cover the land.  If you look from space as night blankets the United States, you can see an America where lights shine like beacons across the continent.  Do you know what would happen, if a low yield nuclear weapon emitting an electro-magnetic pulse was exploded above us?  The electrical grid would fail.  All electronics and computers would be wiped out.  Deep darkness would descend.

Jeremiah wept for what was coming to his nation.  Repentant lamentation should supplant raucous laughter in America, or there will be weeping and wailing surpassing anything we have known as judgment falls.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

GOOD FOR NOTHING



Read Jer.13:1-11. 

Good for nothing—not a flattering description to give someone.  Yet, it was the accurate assessment of God concerning Judah.  

It was illustrated by an object lesson—a visual aid—Jeremiah used to communicate the wicked ways of his people.  God told Jeremiah to buy a sash and wear it.  This was a garment, much like underwear worn against the skin, stretching from the waist to the thigh.  Being made of linen meant it was rather expensive—not cheap material.  He was not to wash it, so you can imagine how underwear might get a bit nasty. After a time, the prophet was told to take the garment and bury it under a rock beside the Euphrates River which bordered Babylon. Later, he was commanded to make the seven hundred mile round trip and recover the garment, which was now ruined—good for nothing.

The message was plain.  God valued the Jews.  He brought them close to Him.  They might have been a people “for renown, for praise, and for glory; but they would not hear.”  Failing to listen to God’s commands and cling to Him, Israel and Judah would be cast away as worthless, soiled underwear.  Babylon’s armies would cross the Euphrates and conquer Jerusalem.

There are few things more tragic than wasted potential.  We hear the sad stories of a gifted athlete who might have been a champion, but their lack of discipline kept them from attaining the crown.  Instead they chose the party scene—drugs and drunkenness, wine and women—the nightlife when they ought to have been sleeping.  What might have been would never be.  They became washed up, wasted, worthless to the team.

I have seen this among church members and leaders.  I have witnessed the giftedness of a singer, teacher, deacon or preacher, walking close to God and being blessed and blessing others.  Then they begin to drift.  They no longer are as passionate for God.  They bury their talent under worldly concerns and amusements.  Their soul becomes soiled and their witness in tatters.

Is God speaking to you today?  Will you hear and heed the message?  

Good for nothing—don’t let that be your epitaph. 

Friday, January 05, 2018

GOD FORSAKEN



God forsaken—what a frightening term for a fearful truth—and it was what the inhabitants of Jerusalem were about to experience.  The vultures were circling and the jackals were skulking—waiting to pick the bones of the dead.  The Jews should have raised their voices to God in repentance, but instead roared at Him as a lion in their arrogance.  That was folly to be met with God’s fury.

The Lord had brought them into a land flowing with milk and honey, but soon there would only be desolation.  The rulers of Babylon—the commanders of their army—would invade—rape, pillage, destroy, kill, and enslave until all would be destroyed.  

Notice, that it is “the sword of the LORD” that falls upon them.  God is sovereign and even as He will use the Babylonians as His sword, it is His hand that wields it.  God is not beyond using a foreign nation to bring down wrath on a land like America today—such a God-blessed land that can soon become a desolation because we have forgotten the source of our blessing.  Nuclear weapons would do that.

The farmers sowed what they hoped would be a harvest of grain, but they would instead reap thorns.  You reap what you sow, and thorns are the crop that comes from the curse of sin.

When Jerusalem fell, the nations that encircled them—Egypt, Philistia, Moab, Ammon, Edom, Syria, and others would be exult in the downfall of Judah and like the aforementioned vultures and jackals were eager to devour the scraps.  Yet, Babylon would conquer those nations, as well.

Out of the dark storm clouds descending on Jerusalem, a beam of hope breaks through in the distance.  After 70 years of captivity, the Jews will be permitted to return.  God will have compassion—and not just to them.  The pagans who dwelt in the land, and influenced the Jews to call on Baal, can be influenced by the Jews to call on the LORD—and “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Rom.10:13). There is hope for Jews and Gentiles alike.  We can sink roots of repentance into the soil of salvation or we will be uprooted and destroyed.  There is no middle ground. 

Thursday, January 04, 2018

DEVELOPING SPIRITUAL STAMINA



Read Jeremiah 12:1-6.

Why do bad things happen to good people?  It is an age-old, perplexing question. Jeremiah stands that on its head with an equally vexing question, essentially asking God, “Why do good things happen to bad people?”

Jeremiah is not bitter.  He prefaces his question with a confession of God’s utter righteousness.  Yet, even though the prophet knows this in his head, his heart is another matter—struggling with the fact that he as a prophet was being faithful to God, resulting in suffering and the false prophets were being faithless and experiencing success.  His eyes were full of tears over sin while the false prophets mouths were full of laughter profiting from sin.  The hypocrites were firm in their position and fruitful in their profession—using religious vocabulary to beguile the people while the prophets’ minds were on profits instead of God.

Jeremiah was a great man.  But, he was a man—subject to the same struggles of us all.  We sometimes think the champions of the Bible were supermen, but no—they felt the same hurt, and fretted over the same issues as we do.  If you are struggling while serving God today, just remember that you are in good company—all God’s men have.  Faithfulness to God means there will be no favor from the godless.

Jeremiah proposes a solution.  He has been treated like a sheep for the slaughter by the religious leaders (11:19), so why wouldn’t God turn it around and bring the same judgment on his foes?  It’s only fair!

God’s answer is not what we might expect.  Basically, God told him that what happened in him was more important than what happened to him!  God not only permitted Jeremiah’s pain, but He had a purpose for it.  The prophet questioned God, so God questioned him.  I paraphrase, “If you’re struggling to keep up running with the infantry, how do you expect to race with the cavalry?  If you’re worn down running in an oasis, how will you be at slogging through a jungle?  If you think it hard to endure the taunts of the enemy, how will you withstand the treachery of your family?”


There is only one way to develop spiritual stamina and strengthen faith muscles—resistance.  We must place ourselves in a gym with a grueling workout.  We must run until we think we are going to collapse.  That’s how we get ready for a marathon.  “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has set down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.” (Heb.12:1-3)