WEEK 42, Day 6, Saturday, 20 October 2018

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Saturday, 20 October 18:

1. Jeremiah 29:1-7 – “These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. This was after King Jeconiah and the queen mother, the eunuchs, the officials of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen, and the metal workers had departed from Jerusalem. The letter was sent by the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. It said: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
– Faith, hope, and love involves investing in God’s word and promise, even if no one else is, even when everything seems hopeless to everyone else. It involves putting your everything into a plan, God’s plan, even when others think it will fail. It involves being willing to have children in a sinful world because God said “be fruitful and multiply.” It involves preaching the Gospel when it seems no one wants to hear it. It involves continuing to obey God when obedience seems to be working against you.

– Interestingly, when I looked up the word “kingdom” in the Bible this morning, I found two definitions: 1) “A political or territorial unit ruled by a sovereign”; 2) “The eternal spiritual sovereignty of God or Christ.” God’s people are defined by the second definition, and God warned His people not to put their trust and hope in earthly kings or earthly kingdoms. In fact, in 1 Samuel 8, when God’s people asked for an earthly king, God declared they had rejected God as KING, and that their choice would only lead to ruin. Now in Jeremiah, because of their own sin, God’s people were in exile being ruled by the ungodly – they had lost their political/territorial kingdom because they had rebelled against the Sovereign KING in their hearts. They had gone from being a powerful nation on earth to becoming slaves. Some “prophets,” completely out of touch with what the KING was doing, remained in denial, preaching that God would miraculously destroy their conquerors within a couple of years – a popular message with the people (Jeremiah 28). However, God wanted his people to understand that the KING remains the KING and rules over His people wherever He desires; their problem was not political it was spiritual – in their rebellious hearts, they had denied the Sovereignty of God in their lives. God took away their earthly kingdom that they would “seek first the kingdom of God (the second definition of kingdom) and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33) — “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).” God told His people to pursue prosperity in society while being very careful to remain holy and obedient to the KING and His unchanging word. As some say today, “Be in the world, but not of the world.” Engage the world, but do not compromise your holiness in the process. God was also very clear to His people not to let “prophets” lead them astray from the word of God. Most importantly, God told His people to live boldly in faith and hope — “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Our KING is the KING of Kings who reigns Supreme. God’s people are a “kingdom of priests” living among the earthly kingdoms as “Ambassadors for Christ.” We must influence without being influenced, remaining holy and true to the word of God. Stay in the word. These passages apply to us today as we live as a Kingdom dispersed among the kingdoms of the world.

— Jeremiah 31: 33, 34 — I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

— John 18:36 — Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

– “Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease.” It takes faith, hope, and love to raise children, particularly when times are hard. God told the exiles not to stop having children though they were in captivity. When everyone else is worried about loss, God wants His people to think about growth — “Be fruitful, multiply, and subdue the earth.”

2. Jeremiah 29:8, 9 — “Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the Lord.” If God has not sent the messenger, the messenger is a deceiver. Fidelity to God and daily study of His word will enable you to detect the false prophet or false teaching and protect you against those who claim to speak on behalf of God and who have popular acclaim but who are only liars and destroyers.

3. Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Your faith in this statement changes how much you are willing to invest in God’s word and commands. Faith, hope, and love generate action, enthusiasm, and passion. God has a great plan for your life if you will turn your heart to Him and obey Him.

4. Jeremiah 29:13 — “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” There can never be a casual relationship with the Almighty. If you want to know God, you must be wholehearted, serious, fully committed. A half-hearted search for God comes up wanting. Jesus said He will spit the lukewarm out of His mouth.

5. Jeremiah 29:15-23 — “Because you have said, ‘The Lord has raised up prophets for us in Babylon,’ thus says the Lord concerning the king who sits on the throne of David, and concerning all the people who dwell in this city, your kinsmen who did not go out with you into exile: ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, behold, I am sending on them sword, famine, and pestilence, and I will make them like vile figs that are so rotten they cannot be eaten. I will pursue them with sword, famine, and pestilence, and will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, a terror, a hissing, and a reproach among all the nations where I have driven them, because they did not pay attention to my words, declares the Lord, that I persistently sent to you by my servants the prophets, but you would not listen, declares the Lord.’ Hear the word of the Lord, all you exiles whom I sent away from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning Ahab the son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah, who are prophesying a lie to you in my name: Behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he shall strike them down before your eyes. Because of them this curse shall be used by all the exiles from Judah in Babylon: The Lord make you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire, because they have done an outrageous thing in Israel, they have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives, and they have spoken in my name lying words that I did not command them. I am the one who knows, and I am witness, declares the Lord.’”

– If God didn’t build it or bless it, it is doomed. Though God, through the prophets, told the Israelites to accept their exile into a foreign land, many refused to listen and tried to sustain the nation under their own power, contrary to God’s plan. They went through the motions of both government and church, but all of it was meaningless. We don’t tell God what we are going to do for Him, He tells us.

– “…because they did not pay attention to my words, declares the Lord, that I persistently sent to you by my servants the prophets, but you would not listen, declares the Lord.” When God judges the nation, the nation will not have the excuse of ignorance of God’s word.

– “They have done an outrageous thing in Israel, they have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives, and they have spoken in my name lying words that I did not command them. I am the one who knows, and I am witness, declares the Lord.’” God knows the sins of those who have not made restitution or have not sought reconciliation, and He will hold them accountable, even those who proclaim Jesus while hiding the offenses they have committed against others.

6. Jeremiah 30:24 – “In the latter days you will understand this.” Faith (trusting God at the moment), hope (trusting God with the future), and love (relying on God’s love enough to love others unconditionally) may require you to commit your whole life to parts of God’s word you don’t understand or are completely unaccepted by others. Everyone will understand at the time of judgment.

7. Jeremiah 31 – Faith, hope, and love rely on God’s grace through self-induced hard times (v2), trusting in God’s everlasting love rather than personal merit or strength (v3). Faith, hope, and love start with humility and repentance (v9), acceptance of God’s discipline with a response of obedience (v18, 19), and a return to the path of righteousness without wavering (v 21, 22).

8. Jeremiah 31:19 — “For after I had turned away, I relented, and after I was instructed, I struck my thigh; I was ashamed, and I was confounded, because I bore the disgrace of my youth.'” The Holy Spirit uses the word of God to convict you of your sin and to bring to repentance. The truly repentant turn 180-out from their old ways and walk in both grace and holiness.

9. Jeremiah 31:31-34 – “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Christianity is not about following a bunch of written laws or moral code through personal goodness and self-discipline. It is about having a true heart for God, obeying God out of genuine love, empowered by the Holy Spirit to do what the flesh could never do. It is about truly knowing God rather than simply knowing ‘about’ Him. It is about following Him wholeheartedly because love for the Perfect Father demands nothing less. It is a spiritual covenant rather than simply a written one. However, it doesn’t contradict God’s written word because God’s written word reflects His perfect character and will.

10. Jeremiah 31:33-34 — “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Our readings in Jeremiah today tell a remarkable story of sin, punishment, conviction, repentance, mercy, grace, revival, reconciliation, love, and joy – a story of salvation that reflects how God works in the lives of individuals too. Every generation has their teachers and ‘prophets’ who attempt to downplay sin and offer shortcuts to salvation that don’t involve punishment, genuine repentance, the need for forgiveness that only God can provide, and total surrender to God. Claiming to speak on behalf of God, Shemaiah preached a blasphemous yet popular message of ‘short-cut salvation’ that minimized the wrath of God. Not Jeremiah. Jeremiah proclaims God’s wrath and punishment, “Because they did not pay attention to my words, declares the Lord, that I persistently sent to you by my servants the prophets…. they have committed adultery… they have spoken in my name lying words.” Jeremiah describes the “incurable hurt… because your guilt is great, because your sins are flagrant.” However, Jeremiah also describes healing and reconciliation that can only come from God — “For thus says the Lord: I will visit you…. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore…. With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back.” God always takes the initiative, visits, and invites; those who seek Him and genuinely call upon Him with weeping and wholeheartedness will be received by Him, and He will “lead them back.” Jeremiah prophesied of a day when God’s people would truly ‘know the Lord’ and would have the “law within them, and… on their hearts.” This ‘New Covenant’ is provided through Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ alone. Without Jesus Christ, there is no forgiveness of sins and no Holy Spirit power to overcome the power of sin. This fundamental truth is regularly denied today, even by people who would call themselves ‘Christian.’ And our seeker-sensitive churches that make every effort to avoid labelling anything sin, have countered Jesus’ message of “Repent!” Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3) To know him is to love him; to love him is to obey him — “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

11. Jeremiah 31:33, 34 — “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord.” Those who know God have a heart to obey Him. They obey Him because they love Him.

12. Proverbs 20:1 – “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” How does the Bible describe alcohol?

13. Proverbs 20:6 – “Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find?”

– God seeks a rare commodity: a faithful individual.

– There is an important lesson for us in Jeremiah 32: Obey the Lord, and ask questions later. Jeremiah is in prison while the army of the king of Babylon is besieging Jerusalem. With shocking audacity, Jeremiah’s uncle comes to him in prison and asks him to buy his field, presumably in a rush to get silver before the economy collapses, all real property is captured, and the people are exiled. According to Biblical scholars, at the time Hanamel’s offer, the town of Anathoth was already destroyed by the Babylonians, and the property rights were essentially worthless. Yet, God told Jeremiah to buy the property anyway. So, Jeremiah did exactly what the Lord said to do even though it appeared to make absolutely no sense. Only AFTER Jeremiah obeyed the Lord did he ask the Lord for answers – “Yet you, O Lord God, have said to me, ‘Buy the field for money and get witnesses’—though the city is given into the hands of the Chaldeans.’” (Jeremiah 32:25) Jeremiah’s obedience was the product of his faith in God. The situation seemed hopeless, but Jeremiah rested in the promises of God and, literally, “put his money where his mouth was by redeeming his cousin’s field.” As stated in today’s Proverbs, many claim to have steadfast love, but few will be faithful regardless the cost. Jeremiah taught us a lesson in fidelity. Jeremiah trusted God’s word that, “Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land” (Jeremiah 32:15), but he also trusted in a greater promise — “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’” (Jeremiah 33:14-16). Through Jesus we have eternal life and are filled with the Holy Spirit. He has made Christians a “Kingdom of Priests” to serve as “Ambassadors for Christ” until Christ returns in full majesty. I pray that we have the faith to live with integrity as we look forward to that Great Day.

— Hebrews 11:1 — Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

— Hebrews 11:6 — And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

— Hebrews 10:19-31 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

— Proverbs 20:11 — Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright.

— Proverbs 20:7 — The righteous who walks in his integrity— blessed are his children after him!

14. Proverbs 20:12 – “The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made them both.” Do you have to believe it to see it? Your eyes and ears can be deceiving and can how our heart interprets the inputs it does receive. Which is wiser, to trust your ears and eyes or the One who created them?

15. Proverbs 20:29 – “The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.” Building physical strength is a daily effort that is hard but has value. However, that daily investment eventually dwindles with age. However, character and wisdom development are also a daily effort of great value, but the investment isn’t lost with age. Unfortunately, many spend their early years neglecting their spiritual strength only to end up weak in their older years when they need that strength the most.

16. Psalm 122:1 — “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!” How excited are you to go to church tomorrow? Do you have a heart to worship God in fellowship with God’s people? The Bible says that how much you really love God is revealed by how much you really love others, how much unity you have with fellow believers. Do you have a passion for your church? If not, your relationship problem starts with your relationship with God. Pray about your heart for God and others — the two are inseparable: “He who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20)

17. Psalm 122:8, 9 – “For my brothers and companions’ sake I will say, ‘Peace be within you!’ For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good.” The way of a child of God is to seek peace for others and not to just give them comforting words of peace but also to personally work to bring them peace, meeting their needs in a tangible way, while seeking to draw them closer to the Prince of Peace, Jesus. Don’t just say, “Have a nice day”, but do something real to make it nice.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 20 Oct 18: Consider the strength of your faith (how much you trust God at the moment of decision), hope (how much you trust God with the future), and love (how willing you are to selflessly and unconditionally love others, particularly those who hurt you, because God loves you perfectly and gave His Son for you). Your faith, hope, and love reveal the quality of your relationship with God. If you find yourself lacking, don’t try harder but rather draw closer to Jesus. Read John 17 and seek the “oneness” with God for which Jesus prayed for you.

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