Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Jeremiah 24 - Exile or Captivity?

The first wave of exiles or captives are on their way to Babylon. Whether one sees these deportations as exiles or captivities, depends on whose point of view you are looking at it from. Those who are going to Babylon for their good are being exiled. Those who are going to Babylon for their hurt, are captives. In reality they are all exiles and captives at the same time.

But, Jeremiah's vision of two baskets of figs makes it clear that those whose hearts will turn to the LORD will return to the land that He has promised. This exile is for their good in the long run. Those whose hearts are hard against the LORD will suffer greatly in their captivity. They will suffer much harm.

For almost forty years I had felt like I had been exiled. We have moved around quite a bit. I have unpacked into fourteen homes in during that time. I thoroughly enjoyed living in most of those places. It was good. I learned and grew a lot. Finally, I am in the home where I think I will eventually get to die. Every once in awhile the grass looks greener elsewhere (especially when our winters last 'till June), but the thought passes rather quickly and I am content to stay. But, I often wonder if the exile is really over. I am thinking that it is not. The exile is turning out for the good. I may never move away from Aura. But, one day I will go home to the land promised to all who believe. I await the day to enter into the fullness of the Kingdom as I pass through the gateway called death.

Don't worry. I am not suicidal. Rather, I have a great hope in the day when I no longer have to wander through the wilderness of sin, but am welcomed into my Father's home, as He has promised and in His time. As St. Paul wrote to the Philippians from prison: "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me." (Philippians 1:21-26 NIV)

Are you an exile or captive? I think it depends completely how you choose to live your life here on earth; freely as a child of God or as a slave to the temptations of the world.

God's Peace - Pr. J


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Jeremiah 23 - Speaking Without Integrity

It is going to be one of those very busy weeks. Last night as I had begun working on one of the four sermons I have yet to prepare, my granddaughter, Cassie, was cleaning the house. She even dusted a few pictures! On the window ledge in my office is a framed quote given me by my friend, Jennifer Lynn, at my ordination. It says: "Comfort the Disturbed. Disturb the Comfortable." Cassie wanted to know what it meant. I told her it was my job description.

"Well, what does that mean?" she asked.

"It means," I told her, "that when someone is hurting or troubled, I am to comfort them with the Good News of Jesus the Christ. And... when someone becomes too comfortable in themselves and are busy hurting or troubling others to make themselves feel good about themselves, then I am to disturb them a bit by confronting their ways. Kind of like when you start doing things that are not good for you or anyone else, I have to confront you about it."

I continued by telling her that the saying actually comes from a newspaper writer (Finley Peter Dunne), who used these words, "comforts th' afflicted, afflicts th' comfortable" to describe, in part, a newsperson's job description. It means we are to speak with integrity and that means comforting those who need comforting and sometimes speaking to those who are a little too comfortable with their sins about it.

"Oh," was the only reply I got from Cassie before she went on cleaning.

One of my pet peeves is what I call "speaking without integrity." Makes me a little crazy when young people do it. Makes me even crazier when adults do! That is twisting or exaggerating stories so no one gets to hear the real truth, the whole truth. Often it is done so that the speaker looks a little more innocent than they actually might be and someone else looks worse.

Cassie's dad simply refers to "speaking without integrity" as "too much drama." Twisted stories and half truths cause a lot of problems, a lot of drama, not just for people around them, but for the speakers, themselves. When too much drama caused by speaking without integrity enters the picture that is usually when I end throwing a rock into the pond and disturb the too comfortable.

There were many prophets in Jeremiah's day (as there is today) that spoke without integrity. They did not speak the truth. They twisted God's message to the people to please themselves as well as the people. The LORD speaks through Jeremiah warning them to quit twisting the word of God to make themselves more appealing to the people. Speak the truth. Speaking the truth might get you persecuted; people really may not want to hear the truth; but, it is better to speak the truth than to lie in God's Name. It is better to keep your lips still than to speak without integrity. It is better for all who would speak the lies and it is better for all who would listen to stand on the word of God rather than appease the itching ears. Families, communities, even entire kingdoms will fall for the lack of the truth.

But, for those who will hear the truth, there is Good News, indeed! We have a Good Shepherd who will guide us in all truth; who will guide us in His way. Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ, our LORD! Listen to Him and follow!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, July 29, 2013

Jeremiah 22 - Have Compassion And Do Justice

Have compassion and do justice... and, you will live. You will live in peace. 
Sadly, the King of Judah lacks compassion. He does not do justice. He is too busy building up himself a kingdom. He is busy amassing wealth for himself. Because of his self-serving life, the king has led the people in a wrong way. He has led them to destruction. They are about to be kicked out of the kingdom.
Sadly, we have many kings today. So many of us thing we should all be able to live like kings. We have built up for ourselves tiny castles which we must protect and build up no matter what it costs us or others. You have probably heard the saying a "man's home is his castle." Think about how much you have put into that home and why. Think about how much the labor that has gone into making it the envy of your neighbor's eye may have cost you in relationships with family and friends. Think about how it may be costing you your relationship with the LORD. Think about how the time spent in making that home your own little castle has directed you away from living and enjoying a more fuller life that God intends for you to have. You want you own kingdom and refrain from entering the Kingdom of God. I am not saying that we should not have nice, comfortable homes. I am simply saying, how much is it really costing you? (See Luke 14:28) In the end, the compulsive desire and attempts to acquire great luxury will lead us down the path of destruction.
In the end, on that final day, the house will be gone. All acquisitions will go to someone else or maybe to the dump. On that final day, we will stand at the gate of the Kingdom and we will either be welcomed or sent away. Will we follow in the path of Jesus, living lives according to God's will, and ultimately enter through that gate that He has opened for us?
The choice to do justice or injustice is ours. The choice to live life to its fullest or spend our lives envying others and striving to have all that they have and more is ours. Heaven is not something just for the afterlife. It can be lived and experienced now. Even as we pray, "Thy kingdom come," it has come. We can live in God's presence even now. As I have often asked before, why would you desire to live in God's kingdom after you pass through the gateway that is death, if living in His Kingdom, His presence, isn't good enough for you today?
Even as our Lord Jesus had compassion on us, may God help us to have compassion on others and do justice that we might live in His presence together.
God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Jeremiah 21 - Day Of Judgment

Have the people not been listening? Has King Zedekiah heard none of the prophecies of Jeremiah? After much warning, Zedekiah finally realizes that Nebuchadnezzar is coming against them and sends word to Jeremiah to inquire of the LORD if He will deliver the people. It is, in fact, the LORD who is sending Nebuchadnezzar against them. It is too late. The day of judgment arrives. All those wasted days and years living for themselves rather than for God and doing what was not right in His sight, have finally come back on them.

 “Furthermore, tell the people, ‘This is what the Lord says: See, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death.  I have determined to do this city harm and not good, declares the Lord. It will be given into the hands of the king of Babylon, and he will destroy it with fire.’
  “Moreover, say to the royal house of Judah, ‘Hear the word of the Lord. 12 This is what the Lord says to you, house of David:
“‘Administer justice every morning;
    rescue from the hand of the oppressor
    the one who has been robbed,
or my wrath will break out and burn like fire
    because of the evil you have done—
    burn with no one to quench it.
I am against you, Jerusalem,
    you who live above this valley
    on the rocky plateau, declares the Lord
you who say, “Who can come against us?
    Who can enter our refuge?”
I will punish you as your deeds deserve,
    declares the Lord.
I will kindle a fire in your forests
    that will consume everything around you.’” (Jer 21:8, 10-14)

It will not be good on the day of judgment. There will many who will think, as King Zedekiah thought, that the LORD would save them and in the end, the LORD will say, I knew you not, because you knew me not. Hear the prophecy of Jesus, just in case you haven't heard it before and a reminder if you hadn't, like King Zedekiah, paid attention.

   “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
   “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
   "He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’" (Matt 25:41-45 NIV)

Feed His Sheep! And have a blessed day!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Jeremiah 20 - Can't Keep His Mouth Shut

There are times when we think I should have just kept my mouth shut.

In the face of much persecution, Jeremiah keeps doing what he is called to do. He continues to warn the people of their impending captivity in Babylon. But, they will not listen. Instead, Jeremiah is beaten and thrown into a dungeon for speaking the word of the LORD. Yet, he will not, he cannot, stop speaking God's message to the people. God's word burns in his heart like a fire. It will not be stilled. He must speak it.

In spite of the personal danger, Jeremiah does not pull back from doing what the LORD calls him to do. He laments even his own birth; yet, he stands firm in faith, committing his cause to the LORD. He assures himself that the LORD will declare those who persecute him as unrighteous. They will incur much damage for persecuting the prophet of the LORD. They will suffer greatly for not listening to God's word.

The servants of the LORD are still persecuted, even today. At least, in this country (U.S.A.) we are not beaten or imprisoned for our faith. Yet, in many subtle and overt way the faithful are shunned or persecuted. Yet, even as Jeremiah kept faith and continued to proclaim His word, we continue to proclaim the truth. We do not keep our mouths shut. We proclaim His wondrous deeds even as we sing praises to God and bless His Holy Name.  

"Sing to the Lord!
    Give praise to the Lord!
He rescues the life of the needy
    from the hands of the wicked." (Jer 20:13)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, July 26, 2013

Jeremiah 19 - Lesson in Pottery

More potter and clay jar examples from Jeremiah this morning. Jeremiah is instructed to purchase a clay jar from a potter and then break the clay jar in the sight of the people, saying, "This is what the Lord Almighty says: I will smash this nation and this city just as this potter’s jar is smashed and cannot be repaired." (Jer 19:11 NIV) This visual prophecy is God's warning to the people for worshipping false gods. This seems to be the theme of the whole book of Jeremiah. The people will go into exile. The nation will be destroyed for not listening to the word of the LORD and following in His Way.

But, here's the thing... Even as I read today's chapter, I remembered God's promises and I remembered His power. He is able (and will) to, even after something has been totally decimated, restore it and raise it back up. I was thinking of other stories from the old testament. Stories like: God creating all things from nothing; God creating humankind from the dirt (I presume mud after the waters had been pulled back from the land); Jonah being spit out after being swallowed by a large fish, and the vision of Ezekiel in the Valley of Dry Bones. And... stories from the New Testament; most notably raising Lazarus from the dead and the resurrection of Jesus the Christ; and don't forget the restoration (reconciliation) of Saul through his encounter with the ascended Jesus on the road. God can restore even those whose lives have been shattered like clay jars.

God can restore anything! Big and small! He creates and He re-creates! He is the ultimate artist! He is the ultimate potter! I was between things yesterday and had a few minutes to spare so I stopped in at the Keweenaw Cairne, the gift and novelty shop in town owned by members of Zion, Derrick and Brenda Hoffman. My granddaughter is being home-schooled and we have been trying to figure out what we can do for an extra art credit this year, one that is more structured than her dad or I can provide. While at the Keweenaw Cairne, I noticed a sign on the counter. They are purchasing the pottery business in town and are hoping to hold classes this fall at the Keweenaw Cairne. So, I'm thinking, the art class answer is solved! (Hopefully!) Not only are they gifted people, they are wonderful examples of people of faith, of children of the LORD. Just maybe they are gifted because, as children of the LORD, they use the gifts He gives them for the good...

God provides for those who have ears to hear and eyes to see. Often, the answer to where we are going or what we should be doing is right before our eyes. Listen and allow the LORD to remake and reshape you into all that He intends for you to be - His child...

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Jeremiah 18 - God Answers According to His Will

A few chapters back, Jeremiah was praying for the people and God told him not to. It was useless. The people were simply hard-hearted and would not change. They would continue to do everything according to their own wills and to persecute Jeremiah for speaking the word of God.

Today, Jeremiah is asking God for relief from these same people. Apparently, he's about had it with being persecuted for trying to save them. His conversation with God:

"They said, “Come, let’s make plans against Jeremiah; for the teaching of the law by the priest will not cease, nor will counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophets. So come, let’s attack him with our tongues and pay no attention to anything he says.”
Listen to me, Lord;
    hear what my accusers are saying!
Should good be repaid with evil?
    Yet they have dug a pit for me.
Remember that I stood before you
    and spoke in their behalf
    to turn your wrath away from them." 
So give their children over to famine;
    hand them over to the power of the sword.
Let their wives be made childless and widows;
    let their men be put to death,
    their young men slain by the sword in battle.
Let a cry be heard from their houses
    when you suddenly bring invaders against them,
for they have dug a pit to capture me
    and have hidden snares for my feet." (Jer 18:18-22 NIV)
I've known more than a few pastors in my life who have been verbally attacked by their councils and congregations. The slander goes out into the community and attendance starts falling and then the people go into full attack mode. Apparently, it is the pastor's fault that this gossip about him/her amongst the congregants in the community has somehow damaged the reputation of the congregation. Go figure!
When a congregation goes through a new pastor every two or three years because the Bishop or whomever sent them a "bad" or "ill-fitting" pastor to them; maybe it's time to take a look at the congregation. It's not that the whole congregation attacks the pastor. It usually one takes one or two antagonists to start the stampede. But, once it is started, it is almost impossible to change the downward slide. It takes divine intervention. That divine intervention usually comes in lessons to learn. Hopefully, they learn better than Israel did. The children of God had to go into captivity to turn their lives around so that they were better in line with the LORD's will for them.
In the reading today, God tells Jeremiah to go down to the potter's house and learn what God would have him know. The potter will work the clay. He will do what it takes to make the work of his hand most beautiful in his eyes. Sometimes, like pottery, God needs to fire up the kiln. Sometimes, we need to be fired up in order to be completed. Sometimes, God has to completely destroy the work of His hand so He can start it from scratch once again.
Jeremiah is tired. He is tired of being persecuted for not pleasing the "itching ears" of the people. The time has come to listen as we hear the prophecy in 2 Timothy 4:3: "For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." That time is here. Just as the people, whom Jeremiah spoke to, only wanted to hear what was pleasing to their ears, so do many today. The truth of which God would have us speak has not changed. It must be spoken. And... those who speak it will be persecuted.
The pastors continue to proclaim the kingdom even as they pray for the people. God answers according to His own will and not ours. He is the potter. We are the clay.
God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Jeremiah 17 - Life, Liberty And Pursuit of Happiness or Wealth?

Jeremiah has a lot to say in this chapter,,,

     The hearts of the people have sin engraved on them. They trust in things of this world. They lust after and trust in wealth. They will do anything to get it, depriving the poor, spending their very life and breath in the pursuit of wealth and happiness. The sooner we learn that the pursuit of money does not equate with happiness, the better off we will be. In the end we will lose any and all ill-gotten gain.

     Who can blame them? We all desire some joy and happiness in our lives. But, the truth is that these things do not come from wealth. They do not come from having "stuff." Real joy comes from being in relationship with others, with God. I have always appreciated that Thomas Jefferson changed John Locke's pursuit of life, liberty, and property, in the U.S. Constitution to the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. Property does not necessarily equate with happiness. Just think about the upkeep that goes with more property.. and, the taxes! Think about what happens when greed pervades society! All kinds of sin accompanies greed. Yet, multitudes have hearts so hardened like stone that greed and envy are engraved deeply into them. And... they are miserable! They desire more, but they do not know what that more is. 
Like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay
    are those who gain riches by unjust means.
When their lives are half gone, their riches will desert them,
    and in the end they will prove to be fools.
A glorious throne, exalted from the beginning,
    is the place of our sanctuary.
Lord, you are the hope of Israel;
    all who forsake you will be put to shame.
Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust
    because they have forsaken the Lord,
    the spring of living water." (Jer 17:11-13 NIV)

     In Ezekiel 36:25-27, God promises that He will remove our hearts of stone so that sin will no longer be engraved on them. "I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws."

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
They 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 drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jer 17:7-8)
There is an answer to our loneliness and sorrow. The answer is Jesus Christ, our LORD, who loves us so much that He was willing to die for us. May God bless us with hearts filled with His love for Him and for one another.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Jeremiah 16 - The Warning Relevant For Today?

I am thinking that the LORD sure gave Israel a lot of warning and time to repent before He sent them into exile and captivity in Babylon. He warned them and warned them that the worship of their false gods was going to have some consequences. But, they did not listen to His promise of destruction through Jeremiah. They simply did not understand that they were bringing a curse upon the land and that God knew every one of their actions. There was nothing done in secret that God could not see. He saw it all. He sees it all, even today.

The consequences were going to be bad. Don't bother marrying or having children in that time, they are warned, for your children will die of deadly diseases in the land that you are being exiled to. There will be no joy or gladness in those days.

All had turned away from God. All had done what was evil in His sight. Therefore, the LORD promises to bring them back to Himself. 

“Therefore I will teach them—
    this time I will teach them
    my power and might.
Then they will know
    that my name is the Lord." (Jer 16:21)

But, there is hope even in this dire warning. There will be a day as they live in captivity that they will learn to turn to the LORD and they will say: "Lord, my strength and my fortress, my refuge in time of distress..." (Jer 16:19) And.. the LORD will restore them to the land which He had driven them from. The LORD will have mercy upon His children who had strayed and desired to be returned to the land (the kingdom) that He had promised them.

Every now and then a few members of my congregation mention that they would like me to try to make the scriptures sound more relevant for today, use a few more personal, timely examples. And... I think, I should probably not go there, by using clear examples. I'm thinking that if I narrow it down more than scripture already has it becomes to easy for everyone to point the finger at someone else. I believe that the exhortations of the LORD through Jeremiah to stop worshipping false idols and turn to the LORD is already quite relevant for today. If we are honest with ourselves, we should be able to see quite clearly the examples in our own lives and the trouble that we are bringing upon ourselves as we seek to serve other gods and to build up little kingdoms of our own. Seek first the kingdom of God... Seek the land that He has promised and care for that land, before you find yourself exiled in a land that holds you in captivity.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, July 22, 2013

Jeremiah 15 - The LORD Says No

The LORD's response to Jeremiah's continued prayers and excuses for the people is not so good. He tells Jeremiah, “Even if Moses and Samuel were to stand before me, my heart would not go out to this people. Send them away from my presence! Let them go!" (Jer 15:1 NIV)

They are a hard hearted people who continue to backslide. They refuse to change their ways. They refuse to repent. And... repenting, that is turning away from their sins and toward the LORD, is the only thing that can help them. When they have dug themselves a hold so deep they can barely see out they might even go to someone for help. The problem is they usually want a "fix." Whatever has been broken, they want someone else to fix and ease the pain so they can continue in the way they've been following. But, there is no fix, except reconciliation with God. The only help or comfort comes through faith in the reconciling power of the Spirit of Christ. Sadly, many are so permanently oppositionally defiant, that He is the last one they will go to or listen to.

I am with Jeremiah. It is hard to see the people suffer even if it is from their own actions or inactions. It is so difficult that I had a hard time reading the entirety of chapter 15. But, I am not God. It is not up to me. I can pray and know that God will answer according to His will. But, sometimes, my prayers are answered with a no, simply because it is not His will, but mine that I ask for.

Read Jeremiah 15. It does not appear so good for those who turn their back on the LORD. They will go into captivity for deserting the LORD and walking in a way they think is more desirable to  them. As for those who say, I can't believe in a God like that; I am sorry, but, there is only one God. If we pick and choose or remake another to fit our image of who we want God to be, it is only a worthless, false god, like the ones Jeremiah has been warning us about, in the first place.

There is only one God. Worship and serve only Him. That is the only winning deal around.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Jeremiah 14 - False Gods And Droughts

Despite the fact that the LORD tells Jeremiah to quit praying for the welfare of these back-sliding people, Jeremiah continues to pray for them and even attempts to justify them by making excuses for them.

But, the LORD knows the truth and they will suffer what they will suffer and that includes the false prophets who keep promising peace in a place where there is no peace. There is no peace in a land where the people worship false gods. Will the false gods help them? No, they will not. Neither, will ours. We bring the calamity upon ourselves when we turn our backs on God and listen to those who would please our itching ears; when we worship anything other than the one true God.

Yesterday, after spending the day touring local waterfalls and the beach, and a couple of stops at the Aura Jamboree, I brought my grandchildren home to their father. Then, I came home to crash on the couch. Nothing worthwhile on television for sure. I flipped through news channel after news channel wondering in amazement how Martin and Zimmerman was still the top headline of the day since it has been about a week since Zimmerman's acquittal. I flipped through reruns of Criminal Minds and Law and Order and an assortment of other programs; finally flipping to the section of religious programming. About five minutes of bouncing from one false prophet after another telling us how we could get rich in this world was all I could take. Oi! Sometimes, I'm a little slow; but, I finally figured out that it would be best to stop flipping mindlessly through channels and spend some one on one time with God. The latter proved to be much more blessed experience.

And... God's people were, and many still are, listening to the false prophets. Happiness, it seems, is about silver and gold and yes, even green paper with pictures of presidents and from being a spectator of those famous calamities that we call stars that exhibit very poor behavior and lack of faith on that flat screen in our living rooms. Idols come in different shapes and sizes today, but they are still false idols which steer us away from a real relationship with the One who loves us more than all others.

Is your life is empty? Are you living in a drought? Then, hear the prayer of Jeremiah:
"Do any of the worthless idols of the nations bring rain?
    Do the skies themselves send down showers?
No, it is you, Lord our God.
    Therefore our hope is in you,
    for you are the one who does all this." (Jer 14:22 NIV)

Return to the LORD, to the One who loves you. Let your hope rest in Him.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Jeremiah 13 - Unbound, Hidden, and Dirty

What happens when you do not take the time to wash something? It becomes dirty, of course. I don't care if you're not using it, if you have hidden it away. Dust, bugs, something will find its way to it and it will become dirty over time and it must be washed.

This past winter, my granddaughter received a rug for her bedroom floor. It is a large throw rug with a stiff back. It has a variety of pastel colored stripes woven into it. But, even with shaking out and vacuuming, the light colors had become quite dingy looking. It is too big to throw into a washing machine, so every so often she would spray a can of that instant rug shampoo on it before she vacuumed. It wasn't working. I would tell her the only way you are going to get it clean was to take it outside and scrub it, then hang it on the line and power wash the soap out. That was a bit more work than she was willing to put out to make the rug clean. She has better things to do, you know. Chat or message on her cell phone, window shop on the computer, watch reality shows on television, go 4-wheeling or swimming... Finally, this week, I insisted. It was no longer an option. And... when she was done, she was impressed. The rug looks like new again.

Our reading from Jeremiah 13, is sandwiched in between to references of washing or being made clean. First, the LORD tells Jeremiah to “Go and buy a linen belt and put it around your waist, but do not let it touch water.” (vs 1 NIV)  Jeremiah does this. Then the LORD tells him “Take the belt you bought and are wearing around your waist, and go now to Perath and hide it there in a crevice in the rocks.” (vs 4) That's kind of what my grandchildren do with their clothes when they're done wearing them, but they hide them under the bed. The same thing happens to their clothes as happened to Jeremiah's belt. Ruined... Destroyed... from lack of care, from lack of washing.

In the same way, says the LORD, He will ruin the pride of the people. In the act of removing the belt and hiding it in the rocks, Jeremiah, reminds the people that they, by their sinful ways, have unbound themselves from the LORD and are hiding out in dark and dirty places. Those who will not be bound to the LORD, but attempt to hide themselves from Him in some crack or crevice until they become thoroughly unclean, will be bound, indeed! But, not to Him. You will be bound to something, to someone. But, it will not be to God and it will not be for your good. The LORD will topple your pride and you will be shamed. This is the message given through Jeremiah.

Woe to you, whom God has called, and have tried to hide yourself from Him! "How long will you be unclean?" (vs 27) Do not hide from the LORD, but seek His face. Go to the source of living waters, who is Jesus the Christ, and be made clean.

"Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,  not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Act 10:22-24)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, July 19, 2013

Jeremiah 12 - Justice

Jeremiah wants to know about God's justice. He's not a happy camper. He wants to know why the way of the wicked prospers and the faithless live at ease. This is an age-old question. We continue to ask why and when God will put a stop to the injustice in the world.

It is difficult to watch people whom we love suffer from the injustice of the world - of not being loved or cared for - when they are alone or hurting. It is most difficult to see those who do not worship the LORD trample on the hearts and minds of those who do.

But, if we think that the LORD does not see and will not act (Jer 12:4); then we are mistaken. The LORD will act. He will uproot us and send us far away from Him, from the land (vs 14), from His people. But, if we repent... He will restore us and bring us back. He will establish among His people those who were once estranged from Him. (vs 15-16)

The LORD sees... let us, as this new year begins, return to the LORD and with compassion help and do not harm our neighbors.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Jeremiah 12 - God's Justice

Jeremiah's starting to sound a little fried. Yes, I know what "fried' is. Been there... Many of us have. Jeremiah is sounding just a little unhappy with God's kind of justice. He's not thrilled that the wicked prosper and the faithless live in ease. He's not thrilled that while he is busy doing the LORD's will and being persecuted for it, the persecutors go about doing as they please. I think Jeremiah's getting just a little tired of being "refined" as he does the LORD's will. For, indeed, the LORD will refine even His children so that they can endure every trial and be made even stronger through each of them. Trials build character - or so I've been told. Could Jeremiah possibly be tired of all this character building? There seems to be just a tinge of self-righteousness in him today.

Like Jonah (unhappy that the people repented and were saved) and many others, Jeremiah just doesn't seem to get that God's justice, His will, includes welcoming those who are not His people, as His people. The LORD reminds Jeremiah that even to those who go against God's people, all who turn from their false gods and call upon the name of the LORD, He will show mercy. He will make even the enemy His own. "But after I uproot them, I will again have compassion and will bring each of them back to their own inheritance and their own country. And if they learn well the ways of my people and swear by my name, saying, ‘As surely as the Lord lives’—even as they once taught my people to swear by Baal—then they will be established among my people." (Jer 12:15-16 NIV)

God's plan and His mercy is for all people. Jeremiah's role and the role of all whom God has called is to seek out the lost, seek out those who do not know God, and introduce Him (by proclamation) so that they too might hear and believe, and be welcomed into the Kingdom, the family, of God. And... that, my friend, includes even you and me. "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." (1Pet 2:9-10)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Jeremiah 11 - Do Unto Others...

Jeremiah continues to declare the word of the LORD. He continues to do what the LORD requires of him. He reminds the people of the covenant that God made with their ancestors. Live by the terms of the covenant, live by the law, and you will be blessed or turn your backs on the covenant and you will suffer the consequences. Jeremiah, was trying to save their lives. And for this, what did he receive in return? He received threats of persecution and even death if he did not stop prophesying, if he did not stop relaying God's word to the people.

Jeremiah calls on the LORD to protect him and his family. Now, what does this mean? In order to be protected from his enemies, from God's enemies, God will have to stop the enemy. That may not be such a pleasant thing for the enemies of God and His prophet. It may well mean that the very same thing that the enemies plan for Jeremiah will return to them. It may mean that it will be they and their own children who will die, not Jeremiah or his children.

Be very careful about what you pray for and what evil schemes you devise against others. I think of it on the lines of Jesus sending out the twelve to proclaim the Good News and telling them, "Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave.  As you enter the home, give it your greeting.  If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town" (Matt 10:11-15 NIV)

When my children were very young, as I tried to teach them to treat others fairly, this is one of the tactics I would use. I would tell them, "Do to others as you would have them do to you," (Luke 6:31; Matt 7:11) because what you do to others will be done to you. My mother use to put it to us this way when we were children and our plans against others or their plans against us backfired, "What goes around, comes around."

Taking all this into consideration, might it not be a better idea to welcome those who proclaim the good news rather than persecute them?  Just saying... :)

Have a blessed day... and may the peace of the LORD be with you all.  Pr. J

Jeremiah 11 - Pray For All People

“Do not pray for this people or offer any plea or petition for them, because I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their distress." (Jer 11:14 NIV)

Here is a hard saying for those of us who desire that no one should be lost. But, let us remember the context for this saying. God, Himself, is speaking to Jeremiah and giving this order. When was the last time you or I heard God tell us that we could or should not pray for someone? Although, there may be individual exceptions to this, the last Word we've heard on this was from Jesus:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven." (Matt 5:43-45)

We do know the mind of God when it comes to individuals. We do not know whose hearts are so hard that they will never be softened. So, brothers and sisters, pray for all people, pray even for your enemy, that it might be well for them and for all people, including yourself. Pray that hearts might be softened toward the LORD and that we might live in peace - reconciled to God and one another.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Jeremiah 10 - Art and Gambling: Sins?

Art is art. We are to ensure that we do not worship it.... There is only one God. We are to fear and love Him above all things.

Hear what the Lord says to you, people of Israel. This is what the Lord says:
“Do not learn the ways of the nations
    or be terrified by signs in the heavens,
    though the nations are terrified by them.
For the practices of the peoples are worthless;
    they cut a tree out of the forest,
    and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel.
They adorn it with silver and gold;
    they fasten it with hammer and nails
    so it will not totter.
Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field,
    their idols cannot speak;
they must be carried
    because they cannot walk.
Do not fear them;
    they can do no harm
    nor can they do any good.”
No one is like you, Lord;
    you are great,
    and your name is mighty in power.
Who should not fear you,
    King of the nations?
    This is your due.
Among all the wise leaders of the nations
    and in all their kingdoms,
    there is no one like you." (Jer 10:1-7)
On my front step is a carved bear holding a welcome sign. Is this a false god or art? I propose that it is merely an art form. I do not worship it. I just happen to like black bears so my son gave it to me as a gift. This piece of art does not, in any way, come before my worship of God or of doing His will. It is not a false god. Idolatry (sin) comes into play when the objects of our affections damage the relationship we have with God and with others whom He has called us to love and serve.
Likewise, yesterday, the subject of gambling came up. It was suggested very strongly that any gambling is a sin. The problem with that is that most of us gamble quite often. Whenever we buy insurance we are actually betting against ourselves. We are betting that something bad is going to happen and we're going to need the insurance companies to bail us out. When we invest in stock; we are betting that the stock will go up and we will have enough to retire on when we are no longer are able to work to provide for our needs. I do not see gambling, in itself, as the sin. It becomes a sin when it begins to interfere with our relationship with God and with others. It becomes a sin when the love of money causes us to pursue this means of gain to the detriment of ourselves and our families. It becomes a sin, when every penny we have is invested in the hope of "luck" rather than the hope founded in Jesus the Christ. It becomes a sin, when our families do without necessities (even losing our homes) because we are trusting that "good fortune" will come to us by spending our days and nights in the casino. It becomes a sin when every penny left over goes to our gambling habits and there is none left for the work of the LORD. It becomes a sin when our neighbors are hungry and we have enough to share with them; but, we'd rather spend it gambling.
Like eating, or drinking, or many other activities, I am not convinced that gambling is a sin (though I prefer not to indulge in it, myself, as I cannot imagine trusting a slot machine to provide for me as my Father does and why would I invest the gifts He has given me to chance? I believe He would prefer I invest in His Kingdom - His people). It becomes a sin when we trust in luck (idolatry) to win unearned riches that we desire (idolatry). It becomes a sin when it becomes a priority over worshipping God and over loving and caring for our family, neighbors and friends. 
Jeremiah warns against idolatry, as do all the prophets. There is only one God. We should so fear, love, and trust Him above all others. There is none like Him.
God's Peace - Pr. J

Jeremiah 10 - Can A Dirty Dish Be Used To Serve?

Reminiscent of the Prophet Isaiah, Jeremiah compares the worthless gods we make with our own hand to God who created us. What a description, "Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.” (Jer 10:5 NIV)
 Everyone strays, even the shepherds. "The shepherds are senseless and do not inquire of the Lord; so they do not prosper and all their flock is scattered." (Jer 10:21)
And, it appears that even Jeremiah realizes that he must acknowledges his sinful nature. He realizes it and asks for mercy. "Discipline me, Lord, but only in due measure—not in your anger, or you will reduce me to nothing." (Jer 10:24)
It is not always easy to confess our sin. But St. John warns us "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:8-9) We are reminded of this every Sunday morning during our general confession. Hopefully, we remember it every day and ask the LORD for forgiveness. We all, like sheep, go astray, "but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." (1 Pet 2:25) Now that we have returned, let us not go back to the desolate places we've inhabited alongside our false gods.
When we confess our sins (daily), God who is merciful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. To those who believe in Jesus Christ, He gives the power to become His children and bestows upon us the Holy Spirit. 
Think about confession like washing the dishes. Would you eat off of the same dish over and over again without washing it after it's been used? We, too, need to be cleansed before we can be of any use to ourselves or anyone else. We needed to be washed by the hand of God, before we can be of service to Him. It is by the blood of Christ, God's own Son, that we are washed clean.
Jeremiah is a prophet and (like Isaiah and other prophets) he is called and sent to warn the people that their idolatry is separating them from God and will bring dire consequences. He often begs God to have mercy on them, even as he remembers that even he needs the mercy of Almighty God to be able to live and serve. Repent, is a major theme of the early prophets. Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand is the proclamation of both St. John the Baptist and Jesus and those he sent out in the wilderness to proclaim the word of God. Acknowledge, confess your sins, turn your back on your false idols and be made whole...
Worship the one true God and live life!
God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Jeremiah 9 - We Are Not Him!

"This is what the Lord says:
'Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
    or the strong boast of their strength
    or the rich boast of their riches,
but let the one who boasts boast about this:
    that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
    justice and righteousness on earth,
    for in these I delight,'
       declares the Lord." (Jer 9:23-24 NIV)
Well, this one is a good one. I'm thinking of all the people who do not want to hear anyone boast in the LORD. People really don't seem to want to know that you know the LORD. Frankly, I think it scares them. It is better (some think) to boast in what we have done and stay far away from any talk about a God who does all things through us.
I have made a lot of friends in my lifetime. I have also made a lot of enemies. Not all those enemies were made because of my boasting in the LORD. Some of them were made simply because they know who it is that I know and; frankly, they fear Him. They do not want to know Him because getting to know Him might just upset the high opinions they have of themselves.
There is a God and we are not Him.
God's Peace - Pr. J

Jeremiah 9 - What's Justice Got To Do With Sagging Pants?

Through the weeping prophet, Jeremiah, the LORD calls women to weep and wail. The people are a mess! They have turned their backs on God and on one another. They worship the Baals and they lie to one another. Even the land has been made desolate. The judgment to come is well worth weeping and wailing over, even now.

"This is what the Lord says:
“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
    or the strong boast of their strength
    or the rich boast of their riches,
but let the one who boasts boast about this:
    that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
    justice and righteousness on earth,
    for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord." (Jer 9:23-24 NIV)

It appears humankind has sought after it's own desires, turning their backs on God and all of God's creation. And..... they boast about it. They brag about it without ever recognizing the damage they have done. Everyone is right in their own eyes. But, the LORD says, if you really want to brag about something... brag about me. Tell the world "I am." If there is any wisdom, it is in those who have the understanding to know Me. And... when you know Me; when you understand Me; when you are in a right relationship with Me; you will know that I desire justice and righteousness on earth.

OK... so that's what probably a good majority of us say... that we want justice for all people. Really? Pretty much what I hear on the news is that we want our own brand of justice, what is good for us, and not justice according to God's will. The people clamor for more laws. The politicians are busy creating them. One law on top of another until no one can even understand them all, let alone try to obey them. And... take a good look at those laws. Some of them are pretty discriminatory favoring one group or class of people over another. That, I don't believe is very conducive to justice.

I could not help but laugh as I read a news article about a parish in Louisiana that wants to make it illegal to wear sagging pants (you know wearing your pants so your underwear show). Now, I'm not a big fan of those sagging pants. I usually break into a smile whenever I see them. I once followed a group of teenage boys as they ran up a flight of fire escape stairs, carrying school books in one arm and holding their pants up with the other hand. They were really struggling to get up those stairs. I haven't quite figured out why anyone would want to spend their days holding their pants up with one hand. It seems like it would kind of impede their opportunities to live life. But, on the other hand... Is justice really all about dictating what kind of clothes others are to wear? Don't we have better things to do than make one law upon another law upon another? How can those sagging pants be distracting to others (except to cause us to smile)? All the sagging pants I've seen have had some fully covering boxers underneath and if we're honest we would acknowledge that boxers cover a whole lot more than some of the shorts and shirts we've seen out in public.

We're so busy making new laws to fit our own senses of morality, that we forget to just love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. The lack of love that is evident in this world is enough to make one weep.

Well, I guess those sagging pants did distract me. After all, I did get a little side-tracked here today... But, I am smiling thinking about those sagging pants!

Wisdom is this: having the understanding to know God, that He is the Lord and it is He who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, July 15, 2013

Jeremiah 8 - There Is A Balm In Gilead

 "Is there no balm in Gilead,
Is there no physician there?
Why then is there no recovery
For the health of the daughter of my people?" (Jer 8:22 NKJV)
Today our reading reminds me of another popular hymn. At the least, it is a favorite of mine. 

Jeremiah grieves for the people of God who are heading for destruction. Been there. Done that. Do it all the time. Such a sad thing to watch God's children following on a path of destruction. Jeremiah asks: "Is there no balm in Gilead?"
The balm of Gilead was actually the resin of a tree found in Gilead that was used as a healing ointment. (Bringing back memories of my father using the sap of the balsam tree to heals cut and abrasions - but I digress!) 
Jeremiah wonders if there is a cure for the hurt that the people live in and will encounter even more fully as they have wandered away from God. He asks, "Is there a balm in Gilead?" The answer to that question is heard in the African American Spiritual of the same name. I could not find the name of an author for this hymn as it was sung in early America and now today. It was born out of a time of much trial and suffering and was and is a reminder that the only balm to be found for the suffering soul was and is the love of God through Jesus Christ, our LORD.
There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul

Sometimes I feel discouraged
And think my work's in vain
But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my soul again Refrain

Don't ever feel discouraged
For Jesus is your friend
And if you lack of knowledge
He'll ne'er refuse to lend Refrain

If you cannot preach like Peter
If you cannot pray like Paul
You can tell the love of Jesus
And say, "He died for all." Refrain
I'm thinking we're going to be singing this at Zion again, soon, as I remember Bertha singing this to us at our last Worship and Music Committee meeting. If you live locally, hopefully, I will see you there! And, if you don't... attend worship wherever you are so that you might be reminded of God's love for you and receive (the balm of Gilead) the healing power of the Spirit of Christ.
God's Peace - Pr. J

Jeremiah 8 - Wounded Souls

For a few moments, I thought I read the wrong lesson a couple of days ago when I wrote on chapter six. Chapter eight repeats the same ideas - lots of trouble for those who have fallen away and rejected the word of the LORD. There are lots of troubles for those who declare that all is well, declaring peace; when there is no peace; when are so many problems to be addressed.

"They dress the wound of my people
    as though it were not serious.
“Peace, peace,” they say,
    when there is no peace.
Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct?
    No, they have no shame at all;
    they do not even know how to blush.
So they will fall among the fallen;
    they will be brought down when they are punished,

       says the Lord." (Jer 8:11-12 NIV)

It reminds me so much of many of our leaders today. They like to come up with new laws on top of old laws. They try to "fix" things and they end up making things even worse. They can't fix things; because, they simply do not know the word of the LORD and they're trying to fix stuff that they have no real knowledge of. They try to fix stuff for the people when they have no heart for the people. Their hearts appear to be only for themselves. Every now and then, I will send a letter to a congressman or senator imploring them to think about what they are doing regarding specific legislation. The usual response is a letter written by someone else from their offices which really has nothing to do with my initial inquiry or comments. It appears to me that they really do not understand what it's like in the world outside of politics. Consequently, there is a lot of talk about how well things are going - that there is peace - when there is no peace. They have disassociated themselves from the problems and the very real pain of the people. Unlike the LORD, who, through Jeremiah, relates to the wounds of His people.

"Since my people are crushed, I am crushed;
    I mourn, and horror grips me.
Is there no balm in Gilead?
    Is there no physician there?
Why then is there no healing

    for the wound of my people?" (Jer 8:21-22)

Turn to the LORD, heed His Word, who is Jesus the Christ. He is the balm in Gilead that can heal the wounded souls of the world.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Jeremiah 6 - Peace, Peace, No Peace

“From the least to the greatest,
    all are greedy for gain;
prophets and priests alike,
    all practice deceit.
They dress the wound of my people
    as though it were not serious.
‘Peace, peace,’ they say,
    when there is no peace.
Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct?
    No, they have no shame at all;
    they do not even know how to blush.
So they will fall among the fallen;
    they will be brought down when I punish them,”

      says the Lord."  (Jer 6:13-15 NIV)

Another litany of God's people's sins... And, again... the prophets and priests stand judged among them. Apparently, they looked the other way when the people took the wrong path, not following in the way of the LORD. They looked the other way and when they were lost in the forest of sin, they not only did not help; it was as though they did not even recognize the trouble that they all were in. "Peace, Peace," they said. They pretended all was well when all was not well. According to the prophecy of Jeremiah, they will fall with everyone else when Jerusalem is taken by the enemy.

How often are the problems of the world brushed aside with platitudes or even by looking the other way? My husband sometimes gets a little bothered by my words and actions. He hates conflict and would prefer that I, too, avoid it by looking the other way. I'm not all that fond of conflict, either. But, pretending nothing is wrong and looking the other way does not help anyone or anything. Ignoring it just makes matters worse. When you're sick, you usually try to get well, don't you?

Martin Luther, thought the church on earth was ill. It had a few problems (still does). He drew up 95 theses for discussion. Ninety-five items which he thought should be discussed. Included was the quote regarding proclaiming peace from Jeremiah 6.

"92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, ``Peace, peace,'' and there is no peace! (Jer 6:14) 
93. Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, ``Cross, cross,'' and there is no cross!
94. Christians should be exhorted to be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, death and hell. 
95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven through many tribulations rather than through the false security of peace (Acts 14:22)."

The struggle for truth is not always easy, but it is right. Hardships may come for saying and doing the right thing. Martin Luther was hounded and hunted for speaking the truth. He was a bit confrontational. The first disciples were put to death (perhaps not John - we don't know for sure). Jesus was killed by hanging on a cross. Truth may hurt, but, it is way better than the false peace that will cause even more suffering for all people in the end.

Truth trumps peace. But, know this: you can have peace as well as truth. But, the peace that comes with the truth is the peace of heart and mind that comes with walking with the LORD (who is the truth) no matter what trials and troubles you encounter in this world for speaking and living the truth. When you are willing to be honest and confront the fact that all is not well and you (we) must change directions and follow the LORD, then you will know both truth and peace.

And... above all prophets and priests really ought to quit pretending all is well, when all is not well.

My persistent prayer is that the "Peace of the LORD" be with you always.  Pr. J.

Jeremiah 7 - A Den of Robbers?

“‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, 'We are safe'—safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord.'" (Jer 7:9-12 NIV)

This lesson from Jeremiah reminds me of one of my favorite things on Facebook this past Advent Season. It was a picture of Jesus in the temple turning over the tables of the money changers. The caption said, "If anyone asks you, 'What would Jesus do?' Remind them that flipping over tables and chasing people with a whip is within the realm of possibilities." Just in case you doubt that Jesus would do this, see Matthew 21:12, Mark 11:15, or John 2:15.

So often we forget who God really is. Maybe, we never got to know Him in the first place. I have had way too many people tell me that they just can't believe in a God who is this grandfatherly figure who just adores His misbehaving children looking down over us from the clouds with this gentle smile on His face. Today and often, if we're reading the scriptures, we get a different picture. Of course, then I will probably hear that some can't believe in a God who is so violent that He would turn the tables over on the money changers or chase them with whips. 

It seems that there will always be a reason to not worship Him. There will always be another reason for not following in His Way. But, know this, according to the word given to Jeremiah, "But I have been watching! declares the LORD."  We are not safe to do all those detestable things. We have been saved from bondage to them, but we are not safe to do them. The LORD is watching. He does know which gods we serve. He does know whether we live honestly and with integrity. He knows how we treat our neighbors. Just saying.... 

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Jeremiah 7 - Den Of Thieves

"Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,” says the Lord." (Jer 7:11 NKJV)

Jeremiah 7:11 is the scripture Jesus is referring to when he says: “...It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’”  (Matthew 21:13, see also Mark 11:17, Luke 19:46) Jesus is at the temple overturning the tables of the money changers and those who are selling small birds so that the people can make appropriate offerings when he refers to Jeremiah. 

I have struggled with this selling "stuff" in the church for as long as I can remember. The sales of anything within the church really makes me uncomfortable. I always recommend that there be no price set for fundraising meals or for rummage sales or anything that has to do with selling things in the church. Sometimes my recommendations are heeded. Sometimes they are not. Usually, when they are and we simply take a free-will offering the fund-raiser is much more successful. Even this makes me uncomfortable as the church should not have to do fund-raisers to support the work of the ministry. The ministry should be supported freely with free-will offerings. However, I will concede that due to the hardness of heart and lack of stewardship education sometimes fund-raising is necessary and I will also concede that there is (possibly) a distinction between fundraising for the church and individuals making profit by exchanging money in the courts of the LORD's house. Catch that? There is a difference between raising funds to support the ministry of the whole church (that is the proclamation of the Gospel) and individual selling "stuff" for personal gain.

Both Jeremiah and Jesus are reminding us that we are to act justly - to care for our neighbors. As Jeremiah puts it: "... do not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, or walk after other gods to your hurt." (Jer 7:6) Feeding God's less fortunate children and caring for them does sometimes take a special effort or event. In October, again this year, we will hold a concert for Toys for Tots at Zion. It is a time to gather together to bring our gifts so that all the children of this county will have gifts on Christmas morning. The musicians all donate their time and there is no charge for this concert. A free-will offering of a gift for a child is suggested and if brought, is placed on the altar.

The temple is a place of worship. It is a place of prayer and of communing with God and with other children of God. It is not for personal gain of any sort. Personally, I am thinking that if we spent more time worshipping God and communing with Him through prayer, the church on earth wouldn't have to be quite so worried about fund-raising. If we would just listen to Him as He speaks to us through the scriptures; as He speaks to us through prophets like Jeremiah; as He speaks to us through His Son, Jesus Christ, our LORD.

God's Peace - Pr. J

P.S. Just a reminder, don't read this blog without reading the scripture that goes with it. These blogs are only my first impressions as I read the scripture daily. There is way more to understand in everyone of these chapters than I can begin to address in a blog.


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Jeremiah 5 - One Honest Person Saves the City

A litany of sins... that's what we have this day in our reading... So sad! So very sad! We could pray that it not be the way it is. Yet, it is the truth. We like sheep have all gone astray... No one looks for the truth. Everyone has their own truth, according to the false gods that they worship.

According to the Word of the LORD:
“A horrible and shocking thing
    has happened in the land:
The prophets prophesy lies,
    the priests rule by their own authority,
and my people love it this way.

    But what will you do in the end?" (Jer 5:30-31 NIV)

What indeed will we do in the end? How can one know the truth if even the prophets and priests allow their personal false gods to guide them? We must lean on the word that the LORD spoke to Jeremiah:

"Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem,
    look around and consider,
    search through her squares.
If you can find but one person
    who deals honestly and seeks the truth,

    I will forgive this city." (Jer 5:1)

Sounds pretty hopeless... But, is it? There has been one found who deals honestly and seeks the truth. His name is Jesus and He has come to save us. Thanks be to God for His mercy is great!

Have a blessed Christmas day!

God's Peace - Pr. J