Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Devotional Thought From Jeremiah

For thus saith the LORD; We have heard a voice of trembling of fear and not of peace. Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? Alas! For that day is great so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.     
Jeremiah 30:5-7

As Jeremiah is given a vision of Israel’s future he sees a dark and terrible day when great tribulation will be upon the people of God. As he views the terror of that day he asks rhetorically, is it possible for a man to be in labor pains to bear a child? Of course, a rhetorical question needs no answer. But just to be plain: no! Men cannot bear children. Jeremiah goes on to say, then why as I look in my vision do I see men holding their bellies like a pregnant woman holds hers to protect it, and ease the heaviness and pain of labor. Why have their faces gone pale in this false labor? Because the days of the tribulation that is coming are going to be awful. People will suffer the brutality of invasion and war. They will be in harm’s way, disease and death will be a daily possibility. Even if they are not physically harmed emotional pain will tear them apart, so that they will walk about holding their bellies as if in labor. Jeremiah calls this the time of Jacob’s trouble, a terrifying time in the future of the world. I would call that bad news, but here’s the good news: God will save his people out of that day.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

A Thought Provoked By The Prophet Jeremiah

And the LORD hath sent unto you all his servants the prophets,…They said, Turn ye again now everyone from his evil way, and from the evil of your doings, and dwell in the land that the LORD hath given unto you and your fathers for ever and ever; And go not after other gods to serve them, and to worship them, and provoke me not to anger with the works of your hands; and I will do you no hurt. Yet ye have not hearkened unto me, saith the LORD; that ye might provoke me to anger with the works of your hands to your own hurt. Therefore thus saith the LORD; Because ye have not heard my words, Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, saith the LORD, and Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will bring them against this land, and against the inhabitants thereof, and against all these nations roundabout, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and an hissing, and perpetual desolations. Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones, and the light of the candle. And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the King of Babylon seventy years.
Jeremiah 25:4a,5-11

It is clear from the writings of Jeremiah and other prophets that the reason God brought Nebuchadnezzar and other oppressors into the land was because of his people’s failure to be faithful to Him, their failure to obey His teaching and commandments. They worshiped gods who were no gods; they practiced evil in the wicked worship that they did observe; their morality was often immoral; and they rejected the dire warnings that God sent them through His servants the prophets.

We can imagine some of their responses to the men who were preaching God’s word: “You don’t still believe that old Bible stuff do you? Your sermons are such a downer. We are God’s people and are sure He would not allow such punishment to come to our great land. The morality of the Torah is eight hundred to a thousand years old, c’mon get with it. Catch up to the present.”

Yet, the warning that Jeremiah gives here from God, is that Nebuchdrezzar will come because of your sins, so wise up and change your ways. If you don’t there won’t be any more laughter in Jerusalem, the weddings will be gone, the manufacturing and business will be gone, there will be no lights in the windows at night, and the land will be a desolation. The very nation of people itself shall be carried away into Babylon for seventy years.

They refused to turn from their sins and wickedness, and as a result the prophet’s sermons were proved to be true.

Though we don’t like to hear it, this is a lesson for modern-day societies who have turned from following the faith and morality of the Bible. If such tragedy and destruction could happen to the people who are the apple of God’s eye, it could certainly happen to the lands we love today. The message for Christian civilization at this time in history is the same as it was then: And go not after other gods to serve them, and to worship them, and provoke me not to anger with the works of your hands; and I will do you no hurt.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

A Devotional Thought From Jeremiah

Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the Lord.     Jeremiah 6:15

          God is declaring that a day of reckoning is coming to His earthly people, not because He doesn’t love them, because He does, but because they had committed great sins, and they were so brazen and so wicked hearted that they were not even ashamed of their sins. He uses the striking phrase neither could they blush. They could do the most evil deeds, the most licentious activities, the most despicable behaviors, the most impure religious acts and feel no guilt. They were so sold out to sin that they could not even blush. There was no innocence left in their souls, their spirits were so polluted that their faces did not even redden a little when they thought of what they did. They were so sin obsessed that they could not feel ashamed. Can you imagine people that absorbed in sin?

          Well, though we don’t like to admit it, there are many in our modern western societies who give these ancient sinners “a run for their money.” Society today accepts, approves, and even endorses sins that have been taboo throughout the ages in almost all societies. There is no shame. There is no blushing. Sometimes I am embarrassed for the people I see on television who proclaim their sin with no embarrassment in the slightest: no blushing; no lamenting; no desire for purity. The viewer gets embarrassed for them, how sad.

          Preachers, parents, public officials, friends , and communities need to start using the “s” word again: sin. If that is too religious for them use an equivalent: wrong, improper, criminal, illegal, immoral, unethical, inappropriate. There are behaviors that people should be ashamed of. If we want modern society to get better not worse we need to make sin shameful again.

Friday, May 1, 2015

A Devotional Thought From Isaiah
… our adversaries have trodden down thy sanctuary.     Isaiah 63:18
          In one of the places where Israel is pictured as crying out to God because of the oppression of their enemies, Isaiah represents their words as: our adversaries have trodden down thy sanctuary. To the Israeli people the glory of their God and religion was seen in their place of worship, the Temple in Jerusalem. Sometimes it appears that their regard for the place of worship probably exceeded their regard for God, himself. But at their best the Temple was for them the holy location where they got close to God through worship in the midst of their everyday lives. So on this occasion when their enemies invaded and overwhelmed them they called to God telling him that the Temple was trodden down by those who had come in to do harm. The invaders had desecrated their holy building of worship. The enemies did it. Those who wish to harm us did it. Those who do not believe in God did it. Whatever the background that caused this mess, and the back story was spiritually significant, the trashing of the Temple physically was not done by the residents of Jerusalem themselves.

          In a modern-day contrast the riots in Baltimore, Maryland on April 27, 2015 appear to be the opposite. The back story is significant also, but the actual trashing of the city was done by the people of that city themselves. Even with the legitimate questions awaiting answers from the police investigation concerning the death of a man in police custody, and the criticisms of police procedures which apparently go back for years into the past, the looting, burning, and trashing of the place you live and love is an irresponsible and sinful act. Sin is the missing word in the reports of this mayhem and others like it. Sin blinds people to the harm their actions do to others. There are other words some want to apply to the situation like frustration, rage, anger, misunderstanding, but none of these justify the burning of one’s own neighborhood and city. In this case, while there were some outside agitators, the majority of harm to the city of Baltimore appears to have been done by the very people who live there proving the Bible’s teaching that people who yield to sin in their lives are among their own worst enemies.

Friday, April 24, 2015

A Devotional Thought From The Prophet Isaiah

And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever.     Isaiah 32:17

The LORD God of Israel throughout His speaking to His people, in the inspired Old Testament of the Bible, has given them a constant call to righteousness. Here through Isaiah he defines the great earthly work of righteousness for Israel, and the wonderful effect that it will bring. The work of righteousness is peace, striving for peace, reaching out to other people and other nations and other races and other religions for peace, coming to the One, True, Living God in faith to receive peace with God and of heart and mind and soul. With this constant, daily, moment by moment seeking after peace when it comes the effect is quietness and assurance. People can live in freedom without fear. 

With this standard it is easy to judge the people and groups, and nations who are righteous. They are not those who invade the sovereignty of other nations; they are not those who butcher others because they are of a different ethnic group or religion; they are not those who rejoice in killing and murder; they are not those who use economic terrorism to force others to go against sincerely held religious beliefs; they are not those who participate in drive-by shootings; they are not those who use the cover of legitimate protest to loot and burn; these are not the works of righteousness and people who do them do not seek peace. And, if they do not seek peace they will not find it.

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Devotional Thought From Isaiah

… the ambassadors of peace shall weep bitterly.     Isaiah 33:7

Arguably the nuclear negotiations re: Iran and the bomb are the most important going on today anywhere, because of their worldwide implications. But negotiations with a nation that has no concern for other nations, or cultures, or religions, is perilous to say the least. Already one leader of the Western nations after describing what was in the framework of a deal has been contradicted by the Supreme Leader of Iran. So whose interpretation is Iran going to follow, if they follow anything, because they are notorious for being less than willing to sacrifice to develop peace with those who do not subscribe to their religion. None dispute the desire for peace in the Middle East that the other negotiating nations have, but this phrase lifted from Isaiah 33:7 describes what is likely the outcome the world will see, …the ambassadors of peace shall weep bitterly.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Devotional Thought From Ecclesiastes

The things that have been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.     Ecclesiastes 1:9

The preacher of Ecclesiastes tells us in this verse that in the cycle of life there continue the same sins and actions today that were done yesterday and years ago; centuries and millennia ago. The human race, when unredeemed, lives committing the same sins that have been the wicked deeds of all societies. Adultery, terrorism, murder, political intrigue, war, horrendous atrocities, lying, theft, repeat themselves over and over again, and will until Jesus comes. The reason? Human beings are sinners, and when they are unredeemed by salvation through Christ, we can expect nothing more than a continual repeating of the usual sins. There is no new thing under the sun. This makes George Santayana’s famous philosophical statement, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” a truism. Good government, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit are designed by God restrain sin.