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Showing posts from May, 2011

Ezekiel's Dilemma

Today's readings are from Ezekiel 5, 6, 7, 8

The prophet Ezekiel ministered during the Captivity. He was sent by God to the captives who had been removed from the land and were living in a foreign land. Questions, doubt, discouragement, pain accompanied their daily lives. They couldn't comprehend the "why". To do this God enters into the realities. He "sees" what God "sees". That's the role of the prophet.

Ezekiel's dilemma is providing hope in the midst of discipline. How do we "speak the truth" when the truth is sharp, painful to hear? How do we leave the truth hurt as it should, and yet point to the future when hope is fulfilled and life is restored to God? This is much needed today.

Peace


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Honor where honor is due

Today's readings are from Ezekiel 1, 2, 3, 4

Most of what I'm thinking about today is concerning Memorial Day. I had several Uncles who were WWII and Korean War Veterans. My father did not go into the service because of his leg, but I remember my Uncles silence when it came to the horrors of war and realized the cost of their commitment to serve in our nation's military. Each Memorial Day I'm struck by the need to show honor to these men and women who have given "the ultimate sacrifice" for their country.

Memorial Day began to honor the soldiers who died during the Civil War. Originally known as Decoration Day, it was first officially declared May 5, 1868 by a proclamation for May 30th as the day of observance.

Over 20 places claim to be the first to have observed "Decoration Day" beginning as early as April of 1866. One hundred years later for its' centennial, Waterloo, NY was named by President Johnson and Congress as the "birthplace"…

The end of Jeremiah

The readings for today are the last chapters of Jeremiah, 49, 50, 51, 52

Jeremiah ends his prophecies with words of warnings, primarily at Babylon. The nation that ends Judah and therefore all of Israel will fall within 70 years of the captivity. For 70 years it would reign, and then the Media-Persian empire would overthrow the Babylonians in just a couple of days time.

Jeremiah spends the last chapters writing down the word of the Lord that predicts the Babylonian fall, and the final chapter recounts the fall of Jerusalem - a reminder that the Babylonians served a purpose for God in bringing discipline against the nation for their idolatry.

Nations don't last - that is the story of civilization. Politics by nature is power oriented. Oh yes, politicians claim to have "the people's" greater good in mind; but the overall nature of politics is to "rule over", to use political power to accomplish one's own agenda. It is not a serving under, but a dominat…

Nations come and Nations Go

Today's readings are from Jeremiah 46, 47, 48

Reading the end of Jeremiah is like reading a preamble to history. The nations that Jeremiah all wrote about disappear...little by little..from history. One could say Egypt is still around, but the Egypt today has no resemblance to the Egypt of Jeremiah's day.

It's an important principle in understanding the Kingdom of God. Sixteen hundred years ago the great North African theologian, Augustine, wrote a massive work to refute the charges of Roman elitists that the destruction of Rome was the fault of the Christian religion. He wrote his book, "The City of God" and in it he lays out the principle: Nations will come and Nations will go, but the Kingdom of God will last forever. God is the one who gives life to nations, but as they develop they often become corrupt and in time they lose their legitimacy for ruling. It should make us as Americans pause to prayerfully think.

Peace


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Don't go back to Egypt

Today's reading is from Jeremiah 42, 43, 44, 45

Much of the passages in Jeremiah occur after the captivity has begun. Jeremiah was granted the ability to stay in the land, along with others who were left by the Babylonians. Most of the nation was taken into captivity, but these few were left - and Jeremiah.

it wasn't long before the remnant of Jews began to think of leaving the land and heading for Egypt - presumably because Egypt would represent safety, prosperity, and a life apart from Babylonian rule. Jeremiah wants none of it. He hears from the Lord and conveys it quite clearly - we are not to go back to Egypt. While he knows there is fear from being under the Babylonian authority, he knows that Egypt will not serve as a safe-haven; in fact, the Lord shows him that those who go there will be less safe than those who stay behind.

Still they do not listen. In fact, what comes forth is not so much the issue of safety, but rather the issue of worship. There are those in t…

Violence Upon Violence

Today's readings are from Jeremiah 38, 39, 40, 41

The warnings of Jeremiah concerning the impending Babylonian invasion largely went unheeded. He was even thrown in a muddy cistern because he was unwilling to say the "patriotic" thing. Rescued from the cistern by a Cushite (a man from Egypt), he is brought before the King and once again delivers the awful truth - Israel is going to be attacked and destroyed by the Babylonians. Eventually what Jeremiah prophesies starts to happen.

39.1 "In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army and laid siege to it. And on the ninth day of the fourth month of Zedekiah's eleventh year, the city wall was broken through."

It took the Babylonians a little over 18 months as they built a siege ramp to the walls and entered through the broken down walls. The violence connected to all of this could have been avoided if they had list…

Faithfulness

Today's readings are in Jeremiah 35, 36, 37

Jeremiah gives record of the destruction of Jerusalem. As we read the passage it becomes all too apparent that he was not well liked. His prophesying got him into trouble with the ruling authorities and eventually in prison.

How would we see our faithfulness to God in the face of rejection by all those around us? Jeremiah spoke the truth, but no one wanted to hear the truth. They wanted to believe that they were safe and that there was no judgement ahead. Jeremiah's truth-telling wasn't because was an egotist, but because he knew God had commissioned him to speak the truth, no matter what the cost.

So, here we are - 2011 - and truth has come under assault. Jesus came announcing the Kingdom of God as present. He didn't come to announce a new religious experience or doctrine...nor of a future salvation in another spiritual world. The gospel he came to announce, and told us to teach to others, is the gospel of the Kingdom…

In the Dominican Republic

Today's readings are from Jeremiah 32, 33, 34

While in the Dominican Republic (last week) I couldn't help but be amazed at the resiliency of the various Pastors and church folk I met. They do an amazing amount of work with very little. Most pastors have to work full time jobs just to make ends meet. The church buildings are meager, and I mean meager. Block walls, metal slatted windows (in some cases nothing in the window areas), and either cement floors, or their rock which is crushable and packed down as the surface. I saw the work Everyday Ministries was doing in helping 7 churches in building projects. The projects are modest - between $10K and $15K is the vast majority of the buildings.

The DR is a developing country. It's not a third world country, but it is a developing one - most of the transportation is on motorcycles. There are lots of cars, but then there are also horses that are traveled on - especially in the country.

The dominant agriculture is rice. T…

The New Covenant

Today's reading is from Jeremiah 30 & 31

The end of this reading contains the words of God concerning a New Covenant. It is thus:

"The days are coming," declares the lord, "when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the lord.
"This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time," declares the lord. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, 'Know the lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,"
declares the lord. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."

The New Coven…

Living in Hope, Planting a tree

Today's readings are from Jeremiah 26, 27, 28, 29

As many of you know, today is May 21, the date set by some for the rapture and return of Christ. Evidently the money spent to tell people it is going to occur has been enormous. I don't know all of the details, but one report has one of the persons funding the advertising to have "maxed" out his credit cards, because he won't be here to pay them anyway.

As a follower of Jesus I have no doubt that he will return one day. Of that day, he said, "no man knows the day or the hour...only the Father". So, it's with a great deal of skepticism that I approach the day. Can Jesus return? Sure. His return is in the timetable of the Father's will.

What about the present prophecies and today's date?

I read Jeremiah this morning as I usually read through scripture every day. Today's reading is interesting considering today's proposed events. Jeremiah prophesies a period of captivity for the I…

Reflections in Patriotism

Today's readings are in Jeremiah, 23, 24, 25

The story of Jeremiah is the confrontation he has with false prophets. The prophets of Judah mean well...they are trying to rally the people to stay strong in the face of the Babylonian's intended invasion. The problem is that it is a lie! They are not listening to God but instead appealing to national concerns only.

Here's the problem with a patriotism that is stronger than the allegiance to God. Patriotism is a great and admirable feature but it cannot become a greater concern than faithfulness to God. Our citizenship is in heaven, and while I'll love the USA, I must not make the mistake of thinking my citizenship is first as an American. It has led to all sorts of confusion in the church's prophetic stance over the years. We are called by God to live out of the Kingdom of God. "No man can serve two masters", Jesus said.

It is enough to be a voice for God, and that is an awesome job in itself.

Peace


- Po…

Spiritual Pain

Today's reading is in Jeremiah 18, 19, 20, 21, 22

One of the things that I saw in the Dominican Republic was a church alive to God's presence at all times. I think we who live in the prosperous, more affluent West are so used to the "extra" things in life that we are easily distracted, and more easily put our Spiritual life in a section of life, rather than in the whole.
One of the missionaries I encountered, Adrian, told me that an African had explained it to him like this: Our lives can be likened to a platter. For many, the platter is segmented...there is a section to keep everything separate. The meat doesn't touch the vegetables, etc...; and in our lives we keep job, marriage, church, all separated. The Bible teaches that our lives are not segments that don't touch, and remain separated; but are whole - all in one. So, the platter is not in segments, but everything we put on it is together, even though they might look different. Now, add to that, the…

The Barren

Today's readings are from Isaiah 54, 55, 56, 57, 58

The Prophet Isaiah proclaims in chpt 54:

1 "Sing, barren woman,
you who never bore a child;
burst into song, shout for joy,
you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
than of her who has a husband,"
says the Lord.

A significant part of Isaiah's prophecies have told of Israel (& Judah's) unwillingness to be faithful to the covenant they said they would obey, with God. The image of the "barren woman" is significant because it puts the relationship of God to the nation as one of a husband in covenantal vow with a wife. In fact, just a little later, God speaks:

5 For your Maker is your husband—
the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
he is called the God of all the earth.
6 The Lord will call you back
as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—
a wife who married young,
only to be rejected," says your God.
7 "For a brief mom…

The Sacrifice of the Lord's Servant

Today's readings are from Isaiah 49, 50, 51, 52, 53

This section of Isaiah seems to go from earth to heaven and back again.

"And now the Lord speaks—
the one who formed me in my mother’s womb to be his servant,
who commissioned me to bring Israel back to him.
The Lord has honored me, and my God has given me strength."

Isaiah's "servant" is the Messiah. He is the one who is called to come to Israel and lead it back to the covenant God made with them, that they subsequently have wandered away from and broken.

The marks of this servant are his faithfulness to listening to God the Father:
In chapter 50,

"The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom, so that I know how to comfort the weary. Morning by morning he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will."

At the end of chapter 52, the servant's role begins to be detailed:

"See, my servant will prosper;
he will be highly exalted.
But many were amazed when they saw him.
His face was s…

Cyrus - Prophesied Servant

Today's reading is from Isaiah 45, 46, 47, 48

Isaiah prophesied in the late 8th century B.C. (740 - 680). His prophecies covered the destruction of Israel's ten northern tribes as they were taken into captivity by the Assyrians. The Assyrians continued to dominate that area of the world throughout the 7th century.

SO, when Isaiah prophesied there was nothing but Assyria that could be seen as THE world power. Interestingly, Isaiah jumps over the Assyrians and sees the Babylonians as the ones who would destroy Judah (which happened in a period of time from 605 - 586 B.C., and the subsequent deliverance by the Persians under Cyrus in 536 B.C.

Now, I realize not everyone is a history buff, but the significance of the prophesies can't be ignored. Here is Isaiah, God's prophet, sometime in the late 8th, or early 7th century, prophesying the coming of a ruler who would deliver Judah from captivity - to send them back to the land and rebuild Jerusalem - when the country tha…

The Servant of the Lord

Today's readings are in Isaiah 42, 43, 44

First of all, Happy Mother's Day. If you are a mother, be blessed, and if you have a Mother make sure she knows she is blessed.

I read this passage and each time am struck by the contrasts. On the one hand, the prophet introduces the Messiah - the servant of the Lord:

Isaiah 42:1,
“Look at my servant, whom I strengthen.

He is my chosen one, who pleases me.

I have put my Spirit upon him.

He will bring justice to the nations.

On the other hand, he confronts the idolatry that has led to the downfall of Israel and Judah - In 44:10 & 15
"Who but a fool would make his own god—

an idol that cannot help him one bit?...

Then he uses part of the wood to make a fire.

With it he warms himself and bakes his bread.

Then—yes, it’s true—he takes the rest of it

and makes himself a god to worship!

He makes an idol

and bows down in front of it!"

What God wanted them to know and recall is that he brought them into being and he desired that they be speci…

God is Big

Today's readings are from Isaiah 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41

The chapters 36-39 form a story about Hezekiah and the threatened invasion of the Assyrians. This would have occurred around 715 B.C. The threat of Assyria was real. They had invaded and captured all of Northern Israel's ten tribes less than ten years before. The boasting of the Assyrian commanders was essentially true - nothing had stopped them.

Still, the assurance came from God as Hezekiah turned to God and prayed. The Assyrians would not conquer - not even an arrow would be shot at the wall. When God's angel moved through the camp and 185,000 Assyrian soldiers died you got a glimpse of two main things: 1) The size of the Assyrian force, and 2) the power of one Angel!

What I love about Isaiah 40 and onward is that the focus shifts from prophecies about judgment and historical events, to a focus on the character of God. These chapters to the end of Isaiah are rich in helping us think about who God is - our God …

Highways of Holiness

Today's readings are in Isaiah 31, 32, 33, 34, 35

One of my most favorite passages is in Isa. 35. It came to me at a low point in my life as I struggled to make sense of life's difficulties and my faith. I spent about 6 months captivated by what this passage was saying.

"The lame will leap like a deer,

and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!

Springs will gush forth in the wilderness,

and streams will water the wasteland.

The parched ground will become a pool,

and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land.

Marsh grass and reeds and rushes will flourish

where desert jackals once lived.

And a great road will go through that once deserted land.

It will be named the Highway of Holiness.

Evil-minded people will never travel on it.

It will be only for those who walk in God’s ways;

fools will never walk there."

I love that phrase, "the highway of holiness" that goes through the deserted land. When we feel dry and barren, and life seems to be more desert than Springs…

Speaking "Woe"

Today's readings come from Isaiah 28, 29, 30

Each of these chapters contains various statements about nations, leaders, people in the population - but none are gratifying. In fact, the common trait is the use of the word "woe". It is a Hebrew word that many of us are familiar with: "HOY" as in "Hoy vey".

It is an expression primarily of exasperation rather than judgement. Most of what we think of when we hear the phrase is Jesus' comments to the scribes and Pharisees in Matt. 23 - a long litany of "woes" that can't help make any of us feel quite uncomfortable. Now, some might approach it as a "yeah Jesus...go get em", but I think given the nature of my own self, I'll prefer to take the "me too, Lord, please forgive" approach.

Isaiah's "woes" are simple. God is exasperated with leaders, nations, people who are fickle in their faith and allegiances. They maintain an outward semblance of relig…

Resurrection Hopes

Today's readings are from Isaiah 23, 24, 25, 26, 27

I was struck today about the number of encouraging promises of God that in spite of the pain and suffering they were experiencing, God did not forget. In fact, he calls us to "trust in Him" when things look bleak...something we all struggle with at times.

Isa. 25: 9 In that day they will say,
"Surely this is our God;
we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the Lord, we trusted in him;
let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation."

and

Isaiah 26:3 You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.

4 Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.

If we're honest, we realize that we can't control life, nor death. What we have is God...that's is all we need, and still this is where life after death is our hope:

26:19 But your dead will live, Lord;
their bodies will rise—
let those who dwell in the dust
wake up and shout for joy—
your dew is li…

God & the Nations

Today's reading is from Isaiah 18, 19, 20, 21, 22

We are reading through a section that has various prophecies concerning the nations that either surrounded or were important to Israel during the 8th century B.C. Isaiah's prophecies took a look at the bigger picture of what was going to happen to these nations - most of whom wanted to destroy Israel and Judah.
The 10 tribes in the North, called Israel, would go into captivity with the Assyrian invasions around 722 B.C. The Assyrians would be repelled by an Angel of the Lord and stopped before invading Judah.
The two tribes of Judah would remain free of invasion until the Babylonians in 605 - 586 B.C.

Isaiah is calling the Jews to turn towards God and also to remind the nations that they would not get away with destroying God's people and land.


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Evil and Justice

Today's readings are from Isaiah 13, 14, 15, 16, 17

On a day when the U.S. can announce that it has finally found and dealt with Osama Bin Laden, I found myself reading the prophet Isaiah's warnings about the nature of evil and the justice of God. It was actually quite "eerie" to read these words. I've read them many times before and the impact has never hit me like it did this morning.

The 14th chapter is directed at Israel's enemies, the Babylonians. Isaiah 14:3-4 (NLT)
3 In that wonderful day when the LORD gives his people rest from sorrow and fear, from slavery and chains,
4 you will taunt the king of Babylon. You will say, “The mighty man has been destroyed. Yes, your insolence is ended.

The passages are stark, filled with the language of happiness that evil is being destroyed, the proud and arrogance of it brought low in humility.

Look around our country today and there is much jubilation. Osama Bin Laden is dead. To write the words is sobering. …

Promises

Today's reading is in Isaiah 9, 10, 11, 12

What strikes me in these readings is how the promises of God are mixed in with the awful state of affairs that exist in the country. Read this and see if you don't find yourself wondering how God keeps his promises.

Peace