What screams the loudest?

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

July/August 2014 Issue – ‘Poet of Hope’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

Jeremiah 20:1-13 (NIV-UK): ‘When the priest Pashhur son of Immer, the official in charge of the temple of the Lord, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things, he had Jeremiah the prophet beaten and put in the stocks at the Upper Gate of Benjamin at the Lord’s temple. The next day, when Pashhur released him from the stocks, Jeremiah said to him, “The Lord’s name for you is not Pashhur, but Terror on Every Side.

For this is what the Lord says: ‘I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends; with your own eyes you will see them fall by the sword of their enemies. I will give all Judah into the hands of the king of Babylon, who will carry them away to Babylon or put them to the sword. I will deliver all the wealth of this city into the hands of their enemies—all its products, all its valuables and all the treasures of the kings of Judah. They will take it away as plunder and carry it off to Babylon. And you, Pashhur, and all who live in your house will go into exile to Babylon. There you will die and be buried, you and all your friends to whom you have prophesied lies.’”

You deceived me, Lord, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me.

Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long. But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.

I hear many whispering, “Terror on every side! Denounce him! Let’s denounce him!” All my friends are waiting for me to slip, saying, “Perhaps he will be deceived; then we will prevail over him and take our revenge on him.”

But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonour will never be forgotten.

Lord Almighty, you who examine the righteous and probe the heart and mind, let me see your vengeance on them, for to you I have committed my cause.

Sing to the Lord! Give praise to the Lord! He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked.’

I think today’s study proves the benefit of studying and employing God’s Word in our lives. It enables us to bring Jesus’ words of encouragement into our hearts during those times of hardship and trials. It’s natural in this fallen world to experience despair when things go wrong – it’s how we react to these feelings, which is important.

It’s amazing to me, just how often relevant verses of Scripture come alive in me to raise me up when I feel down. I believe that at these times, God’s Spirit brings into our consciousness, specific verses of spiritual truth to counteract any negativity. Jesus does this because He intensely loves us.

In this study, Selwyn writes: “As a result of the beating and the humiliation Jeremiah plunges into the depths of despair. He accuses God of deceiving him, of failing him and of bullying him. The prophet has been discouraged before but he has never quite spoken like this. His words sound like high treason. Will God let him get away with it?

God does not respond. As Jeremiah reflects on the clear call that came to him in his youth and the Word that God gave him to speak, something begins to burn within him. He had allowed God’s Word to penetrate his being to such an extent that in the moment of overwhelming test it was the divine Word that prevailed.”

I liked Selwyn’s conclusion, where he takes the experience Jeremiah had and applies it to our own lives: If we allow God’s Word to so live and take root within us, when our hurts and frustrations scream within, God’s Word will burn in us with His warming love, and we will hear His reassuring message, above the fury of the storm.”

Perhaps, it’s worthwhile to reflect on the position that Jeremiah found himself in – one of total loneliness, regarding human companionship: he could not marry and have children; he could not attend public functions; his friends had deserted him; his neighbours in his home village would have nothing to do with him; and then he was beaten and placed in stocks, to be publically humiliated.

Yet, even after all this – he is able to be comforted by God’s Word. He is God’s friend and servant, and that is all, that counts! Can you say the same?

A ministers’ conference

 

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

July/August 2014 Issue – ‘Poet of Hope’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

Jeremiah 19:1-15 (NIV-UK): ‘This is what the Lord says: “Go and buy a clay jar from a potter. Take along some of the elders of the people and of the priests and go out to the Valley of Ben Hinnom (the garbage dump for the city), near the entrance of the Potsherd Gate.

There proclaim the words I tell you, and say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, you kings of Judah and people of Jerusalem. This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Listen! I am going to bring a disaster on this place that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle.

For they have forsaken me and made this a place of foreign gods; they have burned incense in it to gods that neither they nor their ancestors nor the kings of Judah ever knew, and they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent. They have built the high places of Baal to burn their children in the fire as offerings to Baal; something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind.

So beware, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when people will no longer call this place Topheth or the Valley of Ben Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter.

‘In this place I will ruin the plans of Judah and Jerusalem. I will make them fall by the sword before their enemies, at the hands of those who want to kill them, and I will give their carcasses as food to the birds and the wild animals. I will devastate this city and make it an object of horror and scorn; all who pass by will be appalled and will scoff because of all its wounds. I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and daughters, and they will eat one another’s flesh because their enemies will press the siege so hard against them to destroy them.’

Then break the jar while those who go with you are watching, and say to them, ‘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. They will bury the dead in Topheth until there is no more room. This is what I will do to this place and to those who live here, declares the Lord. I will make this city like Topheth.

The houses in Jerusalem and those of the kings of Judah will be defiled like this place, Topheth; all the houses where they burned incense on the roofs to all the starry hosts and poured out drink offerings to other gods.’”

Jeremiah then returned from Topheth, where the Lord had sent him to prophesy, and stood in the court of the Lord’s temple and said to all the people, “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Listen! I am going to bring on this city and all the villages around it every disaster I pronounced against them, because they were stiff-necked and would not listen to my words.’”

On reading the above verses, I was thinking of our need in today’s Church for prophets like Jeremiah.

I liked the way, Selwyn brings together the message of yesterday’s study, with the one we see in today’s verses, he writes: “Jeremiah knew that no religious community ever rises higher than its leaders, so if his message is to get through then it must be aimed first at those who led the people in worship.

As he speaks to them he holds a clay jar, and after a blistering rebuff he raises the jar above his head and hurls it at their feet where it shatters. The point he was making was that whereas a spoiled vessel on a potter’s wheel could be reshaped, once it had hardened it was beyond reshaping and was fit only for breaking. Judgment is coming, says Jeremiah.”

In the days of the early Church, I think there was an overall feeling that Jesus would return soon. The return of our King of kings, means two things; one, those who faithfully follow Jesus will be reunited with Him; and two, those with rebellious, hardened hearts will be ‘smashed’. There was, I believe, a balance between the teaching about God’s love and His justice.

Perhaps, in today’s Church, there is little said about the return of our God and even less said about the execution of His justice – which will come to those who reject God and His commandments.

As Selwyn says, in the last part of his conclusion; ‘the inevitable consequences of continually turning away from God’ (is destruction). One should take notice of the strong language used by Jesus in some of His parables regarding the rejection of the King, for example, Luke 19:26-27; “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away. But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them; bring them here and kill them in front of me.’”

We are not left wondering about the fate of those who reject Jesus; consequently, we need to be constantly reminded about God’s coming justice as well as His transforming love.

Your view?

The potter’s house

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

July/August 2014 Issue – ‘Poet of Hope’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

Jeremiah 18:1-12 (NIV-UK): ‘This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: ‘Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.’ So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands (there was a flaw in the clay); so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.

Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, ‘Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?’ declares the Lord. ‘Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel. If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.

Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, “This is what the Lord says: look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions.” But they will reply, “It’s no use. We will continue with our own plans; we will all follow the stubbornness of our evil hearts.”’

I found this study to be very encouraging: especially Selwyn’s conclusion: “If by your actions or failure you have frustrated God’s original purposes but have repented and come back to God, take heart. Through your frail humanity, He is able to achieve His original purpose and He will make something beautiful of you still.”

The verses above, give us an insight into how God works with us. Jeremiah watches a potter at work, and even when there is a flaw in the clay, the potter is able to adjust his design and produce a worthwhile piece of pottery, which will perfectly suit the potter’s purposes.

As Selwyn says: “Jeremiah gets the point. The clay may hinder the purposes of the divine potter and prevent Him achieving His original intention, but even so He will not discard it. Justice will happen and the people will experience the consequences of their actions, but God will pursue them with infinite patience and persistence.”

He then goes on and applies what Jeremiah has learnt, to us: “We can be encouraged and humbled by the fact that when we mess up God’s original purpose for our lives by our own stubbornness, He nevertheless pursues His purposes with us still. He completely remodels us, His skill and power make something of us beyond what we dare imagine or even deserve.”

I found this to be the right words for me at this present time – I often have a feeling that I’ve messed up – and need to get myself back on track, with the help of God’s Spirit. And, we can all know, that Jesus will use His skill and power to transform us into His own likeness. We know this – because of His great love – for each one of us. We, who believe, have experienced His love for us – through His death on the cross, and resurrection from the grave.

The amazing truth is that, even with all our flaws, He will be with us all the days of our life – constantly moulding the clay of our life into something beautiful.

Your thoughts?

 

Keeping Sunday special

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

July/August 2014 Issue – ‘Poet of Hope’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

Jeremiah 17:19-27 (NIV-UK): ‘This is what the Lord said to me: “Go and stand at the Gate of the People, through which the kings of Judah go in and out; stand also at all the other gates of Jerusalem. Say to them, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, you kings of Judah and all people of Judah and everyone living in Jerusalem who come through these gates.

This is what the Lord says: Be careful not to carry a load on the Sabbath day or bring it through the gates of Jerusalem. Do not bring a load out of your houses or do any work on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your ancestors. Yet they did not listen or pay attention; they were stiff-necked and would not listen or respond to discipline.

But if you are careful to obey me, declares the Lord, and bring no load through the gates of this city on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabbath day holy by not doing any work on it, then kings who sit on David’s throne will come through the gates of this city with their officials.

They and their officials will come riding in chariots and on horses, accompanied by the men of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, and this city will be inhabited forever. People will come from the towns of Judah and the villages around Jerusalem, from the territory of Benjamin and the western foothills, from the hill country and the Negev, bringing burnt offerings and sacrifices, grain offerings and incense, and bringing thank offerings to the house of the Lord.

But if you do not obey me to keep the Sabbath day holy by not carrying any load as you come through the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle an unquenchable fire in the gates of Jerusalem that will consume her fortresses.’”

This is a timely study, it prompts us to pause for a moment and consider our attitude to Sundays, and to review our priorities in regards to the way we spend our time on a Sunday.

Selwyn writes the following: “There is a special reference in today’s verse to the Sabbath. Sabbath keeping has always been taken as a sign of loyalty to God ever since it was laid down at Sinai (Exodus 31:12-17). The Sabbath was usually the first thing to be disregarded when the people began to drift away from God.

What is your view about keeping the Sabbath, the day which most Christians call Sunday? We can become legalists who see the keeping of the Sabbath as essential to salvation. Or we can become liberationists who see it as unnecessary and unimportant. But I am not comfortable with either of these positions.

The true attitude, I believe, is to see Sunday as a gift from God – a gift that gives us more freedom than usual to focus on Him, to worship Him, and to enjoy fellowship with others who also love and serve Him.”

In Hebrews 10:23-25, we read: “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.”

It is clear that the members of the early Church saw that it was important to continue to meet together; the prime purpose would be to worship Jesus, the secondary outcome is the opportunity to encourage each other to move towards love and good deeds, so that we may bring honour and glory to God while we are being transformed into the likeness of His Son. The ‘legal’ requirements of the Old Covenant have passed away, but the spiritual requirements are still found at the core of the New Covenant – and they are written on our hearts and minds.

In our times, it is another way to demonstrate our love for God; to show to the world – just who we are. Too many Christians fade into the masses by following their selfish freedom to do whatever they want – on a Sunday. The rest of the week is normally filled with the business of earning a living, maintaining a home and parenting children. Consequently, the time available to set aside for Jesus, is being squeezed from all sides. We must make definite decisions on how we spend our time on a Sunday, or the decision will be taken from us, by our own laziness.

Sunday is (was?) the one day where we could give  time to Jesus; and the blessings we obtain from our devotion to God, by far, exceeds our investment of time. However, in the Western world, Sunday is becoming much like any other day – and, so many people are called to work on a Sunday to satisfy the cravings (shopping, recreation etc.) of this indulgent culture. [I guess, it’s much worse in Muslim countries – where Sunday is often not recognised as a special day. But, I think, it doesn’t matter if it’s a Sunday or a Friday, as long as one day in the week, is set aside for Jesus. Any thoughts on this?]

Selwyn poses a searching question: “Does God get the time He deserves from me?”

Any comments?

[P.S. I gave this issue some more thought and there’s another area that adds value to the coming together of Jesus’ followers. It’s a time when we can worship in a way that reflects our belief that He is the Creator and we are the created. That is, we admit our complete dependence on our Lord for all that life is; we demonstrate by our participation that we are not like God in any way, we need His help – and, we can never be independent – and do whatever we want. By setting aside, one day each week for Jesus, is one step towards living out our love for Him.]

Calling

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

July/August 2014 Issue – ‘Poet of Hope’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

Jeremiah 16:1-21 (NIV-UK): ‘Then the word of the Lord came to me: “You must not marry and have sons or daughters in this place.” For this is what the Lord says about the sons and daughters born in this land and about the women who are their mothers and the men who are their fathers: “They will die of deadly diseases. They will not be mourned or buried but will be like dung lying on the ground. They will perish by sword and famine, and their dead bodies will become food for the birds and the wild animals.”

For this is what the Lord says: “Do not enter a house where there is a funeral meal; do not go to mourn or show sympathy, because I have withdrawn my blessing, my love and my pity from this people,” declares the Lord. “Both high and low will die in this land. They will not be buried or mourned, and no one will cut themselves or shave their head for the dead. No one will offer food to comfort those who mourn for the dead—not even for a father or a mother—nor will anyone give them a drink to console them.

And do not enter a house where there is feasting and sit down to eat and drink. For this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Before your eyes and in your days I will bring an end to the sounds of joy and gladness and to the voices of bride and bridegroom in this place.

When you tell these people all this and they ask you, ‘Why has the Lord decreed such a great disaster against us? What wrong have we done? What sin have we committed against the Lord our God?’ then say to them, ‘It is because your ancestors forsook me,’ declares the Lord, ‘and followed other gods and served and worshiped them. They forsook me and did not keep my law. But you have behaved more wickedly than your ancestors. See how all of you are following the stubbornness of your evil hearts instead of obeying me. So I will throw you out of this land into a land neither you nor your ancestors have known, and there you will serve other gods day and night, for I will show you no favour.’

“However, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when it will no longer be said, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ but it will be said, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ For I will restore them to the land I gave their ancestors.

But now I will send for many fishermen,” declares the Lord, “and they will catch them. After that I will send for many hunters, and they will hunt them down on every mountain and hill and from the crevices of the rocks.

My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes. I will repay them double for their wickedness and their sin, because they have defiled my land with the lifeless forms of their vile images and have filled my inheritance with their detestable idols.”

Lord, my strength and my fortress, my refuge in time of distress, to you the nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, “Our ancestors possessed nothing but false gods, worthless idols that did them no good. Do people make their own gods? Yes, but they are not gods!”
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.”

This is a rather challenging study – in these verses we see God asking Jeremiah to do something extraordinary; and, in this type of case – we are forced to ask the question, Why? The answer, in brief, was that Israel’s sinfulness and rebellion had become extraordinary – in God’s eyes.

Today, we may ask ourselves: “Are there many parallels between the Israelites of Jeremiah’s time, and the spiritual health of our Church?” If, there are – then we should be alert to the possibility that Jesus may do something extraordinary – to shake us out of our lazy comfort zone.’ Do you agree?

Selwyn writes the following points: “At first sight it seems rather harsh and demanding of God to require Jeremiah to remain celibate all his life. Having children not only provided a retirement plan but it was also a way of preserving one’s family name. … But God asks even more. He is not even to join in the normal community experiences of births, marriages and deaths.

Why should God demand that Jeremiah have no private life? It could be that God was saving Jeremiah from overwhelming heartbreak because of the disasters that were to come.

The chief reason I believe, was that Jeremiah’s personal life was to be an object lesson, an acted parable, about Judah’s (Israelites) condition. Compared to the serious spiritual condition into which Israel had fallen, and the devastation that was to come upon them because of that, the loneliness which came from being without a wife and family was as nothing.”

I would add, that an additional aspect might be that God wanted Jeremiah to be seen as separated from the Israelites. In a way, God could be seen as demonstrating that His person (Jeremiah) could no longer be part of this rebellious nation. That is, Jeremiah was no longer to participate as a member of that community, and his actions would illustrate this point. God would save Jeremiah, but the rest were destined for destruction because of their refusal to repent, and turn back to their God.

It’s a stark warning to us.

Any comments?

Whose side are you on?

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

July/August 2014 Issue – ‘Poet of Hope’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

Jeremiah 15: 19-21 (NIV-UK)‘Therefore this is what the Lord says: “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them.

I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you,” declares the Lord. “I will save you from the hands of the wicked and deliver you from the grasp of the cruel.”’

After reading today’s study, which is based on the same verses as yesterday; I came to the conclusion that if we remain faithful to God’s Word, as contained in Scripture then we shouldn’t fall into the error that Selwyn describes. The error that occurs if we change our interpretation of Scripture to suit the ears of our listeners. An error, I feel happens all too frequently, in these ‘last’ days.

Selwyn writes: “The statement made by God in today’s text is so important that it cries out for comment. Whenever Jeremiah preached he stood firmly on God’s side, telling the people everything that God told him to say. However, in the prayer recorded earlier in this chapter he seems to have moved from God’s side to the side of the people.

Because Jeremiah is wavering, God lovingly uses these rather direct words: ‘Let your words change them. Don’t change your words to suit them’ (v19 The Message). … ‘Where resistance and rebellion remain in the heart, no matter what the extenuating circumstances, God’s perspective and the consequences of their actions are made clear. Those who minister to others must ask themselves often: whose side am I on?”

Perhaps, it’s those ministers, pastors and elders who identify closely with those people who have adopted cultural values that are in conflict with God’s Word; who are in the greatest danger of taking the side of the people against God. A case of the blind leading the blind.

Any thoughts?

Renewed and restored

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

July/August 2014 Issue – ‘Poet of Hope’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

Jeremiah 15: 19-21 (NIV-UK):  ‘Therefore this is what the Lord says: “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them.

I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you,” declares the Lord. “I will save you from the hands of the wicked and deliver you from the grasp of the cruel.”’

Again, we learn an important lesson from the Book of Jeremiah – that Jesus is always with us, and He will rescue and save us. Yet, here is the ‘but’; we must depend and trust on His Word.

I think Selwyn captures this notion well in today’s study: “So what was the reason behind God’s response that Jeremiah should repent? As it implies, some sin has been committed. Of what sin was the prophet guilty? In all of Jeremiah’s strife and conflict, he had a promise from God: ‘I will be with you’, so it was a sin of misplaced dependency. Sin you see, is subtle as well as obvious. Deep down in his heart the prophet was failing to trust the word that God had given him in the beginning.”

The nature of Jeremiah’s sin is clearly seen in this verse (15:18b); ‘You (God), are to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails.’ Not only is Jeremiah failing to trust God, he is actually telling God that He is deceptive. It shows great patience on God’s part, that Jeremiah isn’t struck down dead on the spot!

Selwyn’s conclusion is well aimed at us: “Whenever we sin or walk away, there is only one way back to God. And that is through the door of repentance. … God doesn’t change, neither does His Word change. But we do.

And when doubt and fear cause us temporarily to lose our bearings, if we are willing to admit it and repent of it then God delights to restore us and confirm afresh the work to which He has called us.”

It’s a fabulous assurance that we enjoy when we begin to understand the depths of Jesus’ love; that He is patient with us when we run off the rails, and He will guide us back to the place, where we should be. In John 14:18, we read these encouraging words of Jesus: ‘I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.’ Now, why is it, that we often tremble in difficult and dangerous times?

Your thoughts?