Remembering


Lord's_cup_and_BreadAt my church we take communion every fourth Sunday of the month. Communion is one of the religious rituals Christians adhere to, since Jesus Himself instituted it. “Take, eat; this is My body,” He said. “Do this in remembrance of me.” Same with the wine, which He said was His blood. Then the command, recorded in 1 Corinthians: “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

So I’ve been thinking about Psalm 103 ever since one of our guests preached from the first three verses. The key verse is, “Bless the Lord, O my soul / And forget none of His benefits” (v 2; emphasis mine, here and below).

That verse is the flip side of Psalm 77 in which the author, a musician named Asaph, said, “I shall remember the deeds of the LORD; / Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.” Then he began to recount things that God did to bring Israel across the wilderness to the Promised Land.

Don’t forget, do remember.

In Psalm 78, also written by Asaph, he said

They did not remember His power,
The day when He redeemed them from the adversary,
When He performed His signs in Egypt
And His marvels in the field of Zoan

The rest of the Psalm recounts the things that God did for Israel, but also features their callous response:

Yet they tempted and rebelled against the Most High God
And did not keep His testimonies,
But turned back and acted treacherously like their fathers;
They turned aside like a treacherous bow.
For they provoked Him with their high places
And aroused His jealousy with their graven images. (vv 56-58)

In light of Jesus telling believers to remember, Israel’s not remembering stands out in stark contrast. They had symbols and rituals to remind them, too. God instituted a system of sacrifices and the celebration of Passover and the Sabbath day of rest. And still Israel forgot.

Christians have baptism and communion, the latter being the only one that Jesus ordained specifically as a remembrance.

I recall thinking some time ago that the need for this continual remembrance seemed odd. How could a believer ever forget Christ’s body broken for us or blood spilled for the cleansing of our sins?

And yet, how many people today identify as Christian but speak only of Jesus as a good role model, a great moral teacher, even a way to God. But they leave out the concept of Him dying to buy forgiveness for sins. So, yes, it seems there are people who remember Jesus but forget His broken body, His shed blood.

Remembrance, then, needs to take a high place for the Christian. If we forget what God has done for us, we lose the purpose of His coming, we lose the way of reconciliation with God which He provided.

Another thing Asaph paired with remembrance was telling—specifically telling the next generation.

I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings of old,
Which we have heard and known,
And our fathers have told us.
We will not conceal them from their children,
But tell to the generation to come the praises of the LORD
,
And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. (Ps. 78:2-4, emphasis mine.)

Of course a person can’t tell something he doesn’t remember, so the telling starts with the remembering.

How often the prophets admonished the people of Israel for forgetting God, His covenant, His law, His Sabbaths. No wonder Jesus instituted Communion as a way to remember. We are a forgetful people, more mindful of what’s happening today than what Jesus accomplished all those years ago.

So to help us remember, God gave us His word, written down so we could know for sure what He said and what He meant. He gave us the symbols of bread and wine and the rituals of eating and drinking. How easy, how common, how routine.

And I think that’s the point. Jesus didn’t demand we go on some long, hard pilgrimage or pay some enormous portion of our income in order to connect with Him. For one thing, he doesn’t want a part of our time or product. He wants our whole lives. All of us. Each moment, not just Sunday. Every dime, not just a tithe.

So in the simple acts of eating bread and drinking wine, everyday kinds of things, Jesus says, Remember. And in the remembering resides praise!

This post is a revised version of one that first appeared here in January 2014.

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The Eternal Word Of God


Bible-opening-859675-mI was just listening to some of the RZIM sponsored debate between Imam Dr. Shabir Ally, a Muslim, and Dr. Nabeel Qureshi, a Christian, taking place at Wayne University. The topic was whether or not God is a triune being.

In the interrogation phase of the debate, Dr. Qureshi quizzed Dr. Ally about the Muslim understanding of the eternal nature of the Quran—was it created or has it always existed. This apparently has been a great source of debate in Islam. As part of his answer, Dr. Ally said he’d like to turn that question around and ask Dr. Qureshi if Christians consider the Bible to be eternal or created.

I’d like to hear that answer myself. Lots of verses in Scripture tell us God’s word is enduring. Isaiah, for example, which Peter later quoted, says, “The grass withers, the flower fades/But the word of our God stands forever” (Is. 40:8).

At the same time, we know that God inspired men to write Scripture and they were addressing first an immediate audience for a particular purpose from their own communication skills using their own personality.

So David, who spent some years as a shepherd, wrote “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want” (Ps. 23:1). In the same way, Paul, the itinerant preacher, wrote letters to the churches he visited and said things like, “When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans, and you for your part, read my letter that is coming from Laodicea” (Col. 4:16).

From such passages, a person could easily conclude that the Bible is created. Except Jesus Himself said that not one “jot or tittle” of the law would be changed:

For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (Matt. 5:18)

Later Matthew recorded Jesus as saying, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” Certainly there is an everlasting quality of God’s word. The great Psalm centered on God’s word says, “Forever, O LORD,/Your word is settled [stands firm] in heaven” (Ps. 119:89).

I suspect then that the answer to the question, is the Bible eternal or is it created, is, Yes. Yes, the Bible is eternal and yes the Bible was created by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit through the agency of men. Here’s how Peter explained it:

But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Peter 1:20-21)

Peter also warned against false teachers but reminded those to whom he wrote that they were to remember “the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles” (2 Peter 3:2). He went on to equate Paul’s words with Scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16).

So here’s the thing: Moses, the prophets, David, other writers of the Psalms, all referred to God’s Word, spoken by His servants or written in the Law. Jesus referenced the Law and the Prophets as pointing to Him, as unchanging. The New Testament writers noted the work of the Holy Spirit in giving God’s word, contrasted the truth of God’s word with the false message of false teachers, and equated the message of truth they proclaimed with the established Scriptures of the Law and the Prophets.

They didn’t have any doubt that the true word of God was established in heaven and was living and enduring.

Consequently, they weren’t questioning whether, say, Adam was a real man or not. Dr. Luke, who said he “investigated everything carefully from the beginning” (Luke 1:3b) proceeded to give Jesus’s genealogy, ending with “the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God” (Luke 3:38).

Now in the twenty-first century, however, we have people who “know better,” and leave comments declaring “The creation story is neither factual nor historical. There was no literal Adam eating from a literal tree some literal fruit.”

Let’s see. On one side, Jesus who was there at creation, whose Spirit revealed to the prophets that they were not serving themselves but a future generation of believers (1 Peter 1:12ff), whose spirit inspired the writing that listed Adam in Christ’s genealogy . . . on the other, the vain thinking Paul referred to as “philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world” (Col. 2:8b)?

I don’t think it’s even a close call. Why would I believe the baseless view created by someone “inflated without cause by his fleshly mind” (Col. 2:18b) instead of the sure, unshakeable word of God? I’ll take the testimony of Omniscience every day.

Published in: on April 8, 2015 at 6:22 pm  Comments Off on The Eternal Word Of God  
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When Christ Shall Come


sunburst-in-cloudy-sky-1395122-mI realized when I was writing posts about inclusivism some weeks ago that the position of the Christian today is not so different from that of the Old Testament saints. They waited for the coming of Messiah and we wait for the return of Messiah.

They had God’s promises, given to His prophets, assuring them that their Redeemer King and that their Suffering Servant would come. We have God’s sure written word telling us of the arrival of our Suffering Servant Savior and the promise of His return as King eternal.

So we wait today, much as Daniel and Micah and Joel did.

The cool thing is, as the people of Israel looked back to how God rescued them from Egypt, we now look back to how Christ rescued us from sin and death. They looked forward to Messiah coming to establish His kingdom, and we look forward to His coming again in power and glory to reign supreme.

One of the best loved hymns, certainly of the twentieth century, “How Great Thou Art,” captures the jubilation of Christ’s return in the fourth stanza.

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home—what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration
And there proclaim, my God, how great thou art!

I wonder if Christ’s return will be similar to the really big earthquakes which you hear at the same time you feel them. Maybe those shouts of acclimation will rend the heavens as we see Christ with His entourage of angels.

As an aside, this particular hymn, was written by Stuart K. Hine, an English missionary to Ukraine. From time to time something would occur which inspired him to write another stanza. Here’s the story behind the third stanza:

It was typical of the Hines to inquire as to the existence of any Christians in the villages they visited. In one case, they found out that the only Christians that their host knew about were a man named Dmitri and his wife Lyudmila. Dmitri’s wife knew how to read — evidently a fairly rare thing at that time and in that place. She taught herself how to read because a Russian soldier had left a Bible behind several years earlier, and she started slowly learning by reading that Bible. When the Hines arrived in the village and approached Dmitri’s house, they heard a strange and wonderful sound: Dmitri’s wife was reading from the gospel of John about the crucifixion of Christ to a houseful of guests, and those visitors were in the very act of repenting. In Ukraine (as I know first hand!), this act of repenting is done very much out loud. So the Hines heard people calling out to God, saying how unbelievable it was that Christ would die for their own sins, and praising Him for His love and mercy. They just couldn’t barge in and disrupt this obvious work of the Holy Spirit, so they stayed outside and listened. Stuart wrote down the phrases he heard the Repenters use, and (even though this was all in Russian), it became the third verse that we know today: “And when I think that God, His Son not sparing, Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in.” (“How Great Thou Art”)

But back to Christ’s return, of course we don’t know the day or hour, but we do know a few things about it. For one, He’ll come to rule. That’s the great and ultimate fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies and the New Testament promise.

But there’s more:

Behold, the Lord GOD will come with might,
With His arm ruling for Him.
Behold, His reward is with Him
And His recompense before Him. (Isaiah 40:10)

He’s coming to give His reward. Hard to imagine what that will be like. Jesus used the analogy of a banquet. David also talked about our Shepherd preparing a table for us. The idea here is lavish abundance, provision beyond our means. This is fare fit for the King of Kings, yet He seats us at His table.

Without a doubt, Christ’s return is going to be the pivotal moment in all of history. Again from Isaiah 40:

Let every valley be lifted up,
And every mountain and hill be made low;
And let the rough ground become a plain,
And the rugged terrain a broad valley;
Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
And all flesh will see it together;
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

The event will be worldwide, it will be dramatic, even cataclysmic, but mostly it will reveal God’s glory. This is the Shekinah glory which Moses experienced in a secondary way at the giving of the Ten Commandments and which the people of Israel experienced as a pillar of fire at night. This is the glory Paul likely saw and wrote of in 2 Corinthians that outshines what those in the Old Testament experienced:

But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory? For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory. For indeed what had glory, in this case has no glory because of the glory that surpasses it. For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory. (3:7-11, emphasis added)

OK, here’s the real shock, at least to me. I don’t know what this will look like:

When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. (Col. 3:4)

It just dawned on me that this may be why God wants to involve us in His work. I’ve wondered why He bothers giving us fallible, weak humans the important task of preaching His word and proclaiming His truth and even of loving our neighbor when obviously God could miraculously care for each one in a far better way than we can. But repeatedly He has given us work to do. Maybe that’s because, in His love for us, He wants to shower us in glory. What a concept! What a God!

Maranatha, Lord Jesus. Come quickly!

Remembering


Lord's_cup_and_BreadAt church Sunday we took communion. It’s one of the religious rituals Christians adhere to, since Jesus Himself instituted it. “Take, eat; this is My body,” He said. “Do this in remembrance of me.” Same with the wine, which He said was His blood. Then the command, recorded in 1 Corinthians: “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

So today I was reading Psalm 77–and the author, a musician named Asaph, said, “I shall remember the deeds of the LORD; / Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.” Then he began to recount things that God did to bring Israel across the wilderness to the Promised Land. In Psalm 78, also written by Asaph, he said

They did not remember His power,
The day when He redeemed them from the adversary,
When He performed His signs in Egypt
And His marvels in the field of Zoan

The rest of the Psalm recounts the things that God did for Israel and their callous response:

Yet they tempted and rebelled against the Most High God
And did not keep His testimonies,
But turned back and acted treacherously like their fathers;
They turned aside like a treacherous bow.
For they provoked Him with their high places
And aroused His jealousy with their graven images. (vv 56-58)

In light of Jesus telling believers to remember, Israel’s not remembering stands out in stark contrast. They had symbols and rituals to remind them, too. God instituted a system of sacrifices and the celebration of Passover and the Sabbath day of rest. And still Israel forgot.

Christians have baptism and communion, the latter being the only one that Jesus ordained specifically as a remembrance.

I recall thinking recently that the need for this continual remembrance seemed odd. How could a believer ever forget Christ’s body broken for us or blood spilled for the cleansing of our sins?

And yet, how many people today identify as Christian but speak only of Jesus as a good role model, a great moral teacher, even a way to God. But they leave out the concept of Him dying to buy forgiveness for sins. So, yes, it seems there are people who remember Jesus but forget His broken body, His shed blood.

Remembrance, then, needs to take a high place for the Christian. If we forget what God has done for us, we lose the purpose of His coming, we lose the way of reconciliation with God which He provided.

Another thing Asaph paired with remembrance was telling–specifically telling the next generation.

I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings of old,
Which we have heard and known,
And our fathers have told us.
We will not conceal them from their children,
But tell to the generation to come the praises of the LORD
,
And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. (Ps. 78:2-4, emphasis mine.)

Of course a person can’t tell something he doesn’t remember, so the telling starts with the remembering.

How often the prophets admonished the people of Israel for forgetting God, His covenant, His law, His Sabbaths. No wonder Jesus instituted Communion as a way to remember. We are a forgetful people, more mindful of what’s happening today than what Jesus accomplished all those years ago.

So to help us remember, God gave us His word, written down so we could know for sure what He said and what He meant. He gave us the symbols of bread and wine and the rituals of eating and drinking. How easy, how common, how routine.

And I think that’s the point. Jesus didn’t demand we go on some long, hard pilgrimage or pay some enormous portion of our income in order to connect with Him. For one thing, he doesn’t want a part of our time or product. He wants our whole lives. All of us. Each moment, not just Sunday. Every dime, not just a tithe.

So in the simple acts of eating bread and drinking wine, everyday kinds of things, Jesus says, Remember. And in the remembering resides praise!

Published in: on January 27, 2014 at 5:48 pm  Comments Off on Remembering  
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If The Shepherds Fail, What Happens To The Sheep?


shepherd083When I read the book of Jeremiah, some times I feel as if he was talking about contemporary Western culture. Instead he prophesied during the last thirty or so years before Judah fell to Babylon. During that time, he repeatedly warned the people of the impending calamity. God, he said, would not rescue them because Babylon was His instrument of judgment upon them because of their evil deeds.

Rightly so, he especially lambasted the leaders, who he referred to as the shepherds of God’s people: the rulers, the priests, but especially the prophets.

“Many shepherds have ruined My vineyard,
They have trampled down My field;
They have made My pleasant field
A desolate wilderness.” (Jer 12:10)

The priests were to bring sacrifices to God and to follow the Law. The rulers were to be models before the people of living according to the Law. The prophets were to listen to God’s voice and communicate His word to the people. Instead

“The priests did not say, ‘Where is the LORD?’
And those who handle the law did not know Me;
The rulers also transgressed against Me,
And the prophets prophesied by Baal
And walked after things that did not profit.” (Jer 2:8)

The people didn’t escape condemnation. They were complicit in the evil that the leaders brought on Judah:

The prophets prophesy falsely,
And the priests rule on their own authority;
And My people love it so!
But what will you do at the end of it? (Jer 5:31 – emphasis mine)

Which brings me to today. Well, last night actually. I turned on a TV station called Daystar which airs these Christian music/Bible verse/nature picture montages–except last night in place of those was what appeared to be a concert.

I watched for a bit and soon realized my mistake–this was not a concert but the “worship” portion of a large church service. My first clue was the attractive little advertisement that opened at the bottom of the screen giving information about the pastor’s new book which could be purchased by calling such and such a number. As I watched, the ad changed to one for the church newsletter, to sermon CDs, to past books, to a “thank you” for donations and the contact information where people can write. Before long, though, the new book was again front and center.

I’m a writer, so I appreciate that speaking can lead to book purchases, but this particular pastor, who did eventually preach, is well known for his health and wealth message. It’s a false message, as much so as the one delivered by the false prophets of Jeremiah’s day. But there in that packed concert-hall type facility, with its broad stage and professional lighting, the people were only too happy to drink in the false teaching spewing from the pulpit. I suspect there were a good number only too happy to order a copy of the new book, as well.

So there he was, preaching a gospel that is mixed with Baal worship the love of money, using the occasion to advertise so he can make more money. Not surprising, his author bio is filled with numbers–how many people attend his church, how many watch his messages on TV, even how much money he spent renovating his church.

And My people love it so!

Clearly there are thousands–millions, if those stats can be trusted–who love it so. But Jeremiah’s question applies to us today as well: “But what will you do at the end of it?”

How many people are “trusting Jesus” for the misused promises this pastor passes on, and will come to the end of life without any idea about the redemption God offers, purchased by the precious blood of His Son.

Take this one example of a satisfied customer:

[Author/pastor’s name redacted] all that I can say is that you have saved my life and yet we have never even met. You give me Hope. Reading your books have helped me to see and believe that I am one of GOD’s children and well deserving of all the goodness, victory and abundance that is promised to those who love, praise and follow our Father’s wishes. THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart, you are to me a true deliverer of positive energy (emphasis mine).

To this happy reader, the author/pastor is the one who saves, who gives hope. Rather than seeing himself as a sinner, he now understands he’s deserving of goodness. Positive energy, not salvation from sin, seems to be the end all.

Jeremiah’s words again seem relevant for today:

Thus says the LORD of hosts,
“Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you.
They are leading you into futility;
They speak a vision of their own imagination,
Not from the mouth of the LORD.
They keep saying to those who despise Me,
‘The LORD has said, “You will have peace”‘;
And as for everyone who walks in the stubbornness of his own heart,
They say, ‘Calamity will not come upon you.'” (Jer 23:16-17

Published in: on April 3, 2013 at 6:38 pm  Comments Off on If The Shepherds Fail, What Happens To The Sheep?  
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CSFF Blog Tour – The Telling by Mike Duran, Day 2


“A prophet never loses his calling, only his way.” So reads the tag line for Mike Duran‘s recent release, The Telling, a contemporary supernatural suspense.

The premise brought to mind a couple Biblical prophets. The first was Jonah, a good model for the main character in The Telling, in my opinion. Both received a call from God, both renounced that call, both suffered consequences and came to a place of despair, only to have God pull them out of the depths and give them another chance to obey Him. Of course, Jonah’s story doesn’t end there whereas the fictitious Zeph does experience redemption at the end.

Jonah “pulled up a chair” to watch the destruction he had prophesied. When it didn’t come, he sulked. God gave him an object lesson to show him how lacking in compassion he was.

The fictitious Zeph wasn’t lacking in compassion. He simply didn’t realize that his lack of obedience was causing others to suffer. Once he came to that realization, things began to change.

The second Biblical prophet I thought of was Balaam, perhaps not as well known as Jonah. He was hired by one king to curse the people of Israel. God’s people. Apparently Balaam was a prophet of God, so this was an ironic situation, a prophet of God asked to curse God’s people. Balaam had the sense to say he would only speak the word which God gave to him. But somewhere in the process, he lost his way. We know this because of context and the interpretation of other Scripture verses.

First the context. God gives Balaam the OK to accompany the messengers to see the king who wants to hire him, but He says Balaam must only speak His words. On the way, an angel comes out to kill Balaam. Say what?!?

Clearly, something happened between God giving His permission for Balaam to go and the angel waiting in ambush. I can only surmise that Balaam lost his way and planned in his heart to speak words God did not give him to speak.

As it turned out, Balaam’s faithful donkey saw the angel, three times, and saved him by refusing to pass within the angel’s reach. Who knew an angel was limited in such a way that a donkey could thwart his intentions?

At any rate, Balaam arrived at the spot where he met the king. Three times this monarch asked Balaam to curse the people of Israel and three times he blessed them instead. But his story doesn’t end here either. Apparently after delivering God’s blessing, he then advised the king how he could trip up Israel. This we know from other scriptures interpreting the original story, culminating with Revelation 2:14b.

You have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality.

I’d say Balaam lost his way. I’d say Jonah lost his way. I’d say the fictitious prophet Zephaniah lost his way when he renounced the gift God had given him because of the bitterness and anger and doubt and despair that filled his soul.

Other prophets faced similar depression, if you will. Elijah, after triumphing over the 450 prophets of Baal ran off when he received the message that Jezebel was going to kill him. He hid and in the process cried out to God bemoaning the fact that he was the last (he thought) to believe. He simply wanted to die.

God responded by giving him a break, a companion, a promise, and a vision of the future.

Jeremiah was another depressed prophet. In fact he is called the weeping prophet. His emotional condition was a mixed bag, I think. He did feel forlorn because of his circumstances. He was targeted for death, after all, because he was prophesying that Judah would face consequences for their sin. But he also lamented for his nation. He knew that the exile was coming. He counseled the king to repent, to surrender, knowing that this would spare Jerusalem and save many lives. How each passing day of disobedience must have grieved his heart.

Clearly Jeremiah, though pushed to the limit, did not lose his way.

It’s an interesting study, I think, to consider why one gifted man of God would lose his way and another of like stripe would not. The Telling is a tale about one who did lose his way. There’s much in Zeph’s background that explains why he made the choice he made, but there’s enough there to make me wonder, was he in fact a man gifted by God or a man used by God? Is there a difference? I think so. God can use even the rocks of the field to give Him praise, but He called twelve men to come and follow Him.

Published in: on September 25, 2012 at 4:00 pm  Comments Off on CSFF Blog Tour – The Telling by Mike Duran, Day 2  
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The Forbidden S Word


Some words are still forbidden in our western culture. A select few are bleeped from live shows, thanks to modern technology, because they are still considered inappropriate for the general populace. Certainly “adults” use those words, but they aren’t considered right for polite society.

Still other words get people fired. Anything caught on mike that might be construed as a racial slur is grounds for dismissal. Terms demeaning women or homosexuals are creeping into that same category.

Then there are the words no one will say, not publicly anyway. And no, sex is not one of them. Quite the opposite. When once sex was considered private, something not to be discussed in mixed company, now sex and all its parts are fair game, not only for discussion but for comedic source material.

So what is this forbidden S word, if not sex?

Sin.

No one wants to talk about sin in public. You won’t hear sin come up on Dr. Phil or David Letterman or Saturday Night Live.

Saying that someone sins is considered judgmental, the worst kind of accusation today. Someone who is judgmental is intolerant, which is tantamount to saying he is a perpetrator of hate crimes.

Yet sin does the greatest damage to a soul, a family, a business, a community, a government. Its consequences are deep, hurtful, and lasting. Lasting. As in, eternal. Apart from the forgiveness of Christ, sin damages whatever it touches.

It’s behind terrorism, behind sex trafficking, pedophilia, first degree murder, corporate greed, government corruption, HIV/AIDS, welfare fraud — in other words, it’s behind all the problems society wants to eradicate.

But nobody wants to talk about it.

Not even Christians.

When we do, we are deemed unloving, accused of being gleeful when we point the finger at sinful behavior, and even of rejoicing at the idea that people will be condemned to hell.

How ironic. Today it’s considered more loving to let people walk off a cliff in blissful ignorance than it is to shout out warnings for them to stop and turn around.

But the culture in Jeremiah’s day was no different. When he started pronouncing the warnings God charged him with, saying that Babylon would come and capture Judah, he was accused of treason. His life was threatened on more than one occasion, and eventually he was arrested.

People even came to him and said, What are you hearing from God? When he told them, they said he was making it up. At one point a group of them accused his assistant of getting Jeremiah to say negative prophecies against them.

The real issue wasn’t Jeremiah. It was God and His word. Those people did not want to submit to God’s authority. They wanted to go their own way.

At one point, Jeremiah told them, from God, to surrender to the Babylonian king. If they would wave the white flag, they would go into captivity but they would not die.

They refused, and a year and a half later when they were under siege and were starving to the point of eating their own dung, of cannibalizing their dead, they still did not bow to God’s direction.

Their defeat was total.

The king who would not follow the word the Lord delivered by Jeremiah, witnessed the murder of all his sons, and then his own eyes were blinded. He ended his days in a Babylonian dungeon.

All the nobles, priests, officials, scribes, anyone of standing who had not been killed were carried away into exile. Shockingly, the total number of people taken was only 4,600.

Over 600,000 people had migrated from Egypt during the exodus, but instead of growing and prospering, their number peaked out in David’s rule and then began to decline.

But to drop as low as less than 5,000? Did they never think to ask God what was wrong? Did they never consider that perhaps the prophets were right?

Or had they stopped listening to the prophets? Was sin already a dirty word, and they no longer talked about such things openly? And if anyone dared to be so bold as to stand on the street and tell people to repent, perhaps those walking by would avert their eyes and hurry toward home.

After all, who would use the forbidden S word in public? For shame!

Published in: on April 12, 2012 at 6:01 pm  Comments (14)  
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Of Prophets And Shepherd Boys Crying Wolf


There’s a well-known fable about a shepherd boy who grew bored and decided to sound the alarm that a wolf was getting into the herd of sheep. Out the villagers came with staves and pitchforks to rescue the sheep. Of course there was nothing to rescue them from.

The boy laughed and laughed, it was such fun to see the villagers all in a panic over nothing. As time passed the shepherd boy again grew bored, so once more he cried for the villagers to save the sheep from the wolf. Out the villagers came with staves and pitchforks to rescue the sheep. Of course there was again nothing to rescue them from.

Later an actual wolf crept among the herd. The shepherd boy called for the villagers to come help him save the sheep, but this time no one came. They weren’t about to be fooled by a liar again, not realizing that this time the boy was telling the truth.

Could it be that non-Christians have heard the message of condemnation for sin so often, they are ignoring it as if believers are crying wolf?

At the Orange County Register, there’s an ongoing discussion between a handful of Christians and about the same number of atheists, connected to the banned movie theater church ad. One of the latter group said emphatically that he just wanted Christians to get out of his face.

So should we?

Should we stop waving John 3:16 signs at football games or wearing tee shirts with Bible verses? Should we peel off our bumper stickers that say “Jesus is Lord” and scale back our advocacy for a return to prayer in our schools?

Are those incidental messages coming across as little more than a false cry of wolf?

Or are they more akin to the kinds of things the prophets did? Ezekiel, for example, who lay on his side for over a year enacting a siege against Israel, then flipping to his other side for over a month to do the same against Judah.

Then there was Hosea who married a prostitute, Isaiah who went naked and barefoot for three years, Jeremiah who walked around wearing a yoke on his neck.

All these and more were intended to get people’s attention because they needed to hear God’s warning.

It’s as if a spiritual tsunami was about to break over the idolatrous people, and the prophets were the warning system telling them they needed to get to high ground.

What is it the lost world hears when Christians speak? Is it white noise to them — sound they simply tune out but wish would go away? Is it the cry of wolf they think we repeat for our own amusement?

Is sounding the alarm even what we Christians are called to? Is that how we make disciples?

Your thoughts?

Published in: on April 6, 2011 at 6:33 pm  Comments (4)  
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