Posts Tagged ‘Jeremiah’
[26APRIL2012] Eastertide Devotional Series
I will be posting this devotional series as part of my Eastertide reflections for the next three weeks (see this link for other installments in the series). Each week of this devotional series focuses on a specific theme (week one: brokenness, week two: repentance, and week three: renewal). I hope you’ll enjoy the series and I invite you to comment here on the blog or email me direct; I would love to hear your thoughts.
“If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity…”
I’ve known about Jesus all my life, at least for as long as I can remember. My religious life and my ability to “walk with Jesus” for much of the first thirty-seven years of that time (I am now forty-eight) was start and stop, filled with highs and lows, and more often than not—filled with deception, incongruity, and frustration. And then, all that changed; instead of knowing about Jesus, I actually got to know him.
There is something about the dynamic with which God desires his people to relate with him. Early in the unfolding revelation of the God and man relationship, one of the most important instructions is received with the following words; “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deut. 6:5). Our falling short of this mandate has proved to be the weak link in our ability to walk in fullness of experiencing and reflecting God’s kingdom on earth. I know it was the reason for my thirty-seven years of weak representation of Christian living. What changed for me was the sum of what many of these collective devotional writings of the past couple weeks represent—total devotion and desire to seek God wholeheartedly with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. I don’t profess to have the Christian walk mastered, not by a long shot, but mastering the Christian walk is not the command…seeking God and loving God wholeheartedly, whole-mindedly, whole-strengthedly, and whole-souled is. True spiritual renewal requires wholehearted participation, surrender and obedience.
Jesus speaks some very challenging and difficult words to his disciples when they ask him about why he speaks in parables. In Luke’s Gospel account, Jesus tells the Parable of the Sower. After sharing the Parable, Jesus tells them the following:
His disciples asked him what this parable meant, he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’” (Luke 8:9-10 – compare Matthew 13:13-15)
Jesus actually says he uses parables so that those who aren’t really searching won’t find him. He makes it more clear following his explanation of the parable when he very specifically warns his disciples; “So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them” (Luke 8:18). Making our search for God and relationship with God a part-time affair or compartmentalized hobby is simply unacceptable to God. He tells us his very Name is Jealous (Exodus 34:14). Halfhearted searching for God usually results in a god of our own making; however, seeking wholeheartedly will be met with fulfillment of God’s promise to find him and finding the one True God makes all the difference in the world in the life of a Christian…I know it has for me.
Our Prayer: O Gracious and Mighty God, help us to desire you more than anything else. We are so easily distracted, but you call us to seek you and love you wholeheartedly. You tell us this is the only acceptable way to find you and love you. Our spirit wants you, but our flesh is often weak, so we pray for strength to follow our spirit as we strive to crucify our flesh daily in our effort to seek and follow you.
“Before we can conquer the world, we must first conquer the self.” Oswald Sanders; Spiritual Discipleship
The LORD is our righteousness… (Jeremiah 33:16)
I’ve been spending extended time in the writings of the prophet Jeremiah as I meditate and study through other passages of the Bible… sort of like examining all of the Scriptures through Jeremiah’s eyes. Today as I was doing this, I returned to Jeremiah (chapters 2-3) and noticed a disturbing parallel between the retelling of Israel’s and Judah’s unfaithful relationship with God and modern Christianity; specifically, the North American Church. Painting with a broad brush, we are no different. Here’s what I found that led me to this conclusion. I’ll start with a passage from 2 Timothy 3:1-9 – my recap follows:
- People love themselves (2 Timothy 3:2)
- People are ungrateful (2 Timothy 3:2)
- People love pleasure/comfort more than God (2 Timothy 3:4)
- People act religious but reject the power of God to live godly lives (2 Timothy 3:5)
- People have a counterfeit faith (2 Timothy 3:8)
Now, back to Jeremiah and my comparison/parallel observation…
- We feel shame only when we’re caught… (Jeremiah 2:26)
- We keep our back turned to God most of the time, but in times of trouble, we are quick to turn to Him (Jeremiah 2:27)
- We accuse God of wrongdoing (“why would a good God let _______ happen?”), but we are the ones in rebellion and solely responsible for evil in the world (Jeremiah 2:29)
- We like to profess our innocence before God and pretend that He is okay with everything (Jeremiah 2:35)
- We claim to be children of God and profess Him as our Guide, but continue to live our lives on our own terms (Jeremiah 3:4-5)
All of this looks, to me, uncannily like the American church. It doesn’t have to be this way…and the apostle Paul (speaking under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says it won’t stay this way (2 Timothy 3:9). I continue to pray and teach that we embrace fully the teachings of Jesus and become fully devoted subjects to His Kingdom. It will take first, our determination to overthrow the kingdom of self; a feat that requires a radical faith… This is the essence of what it means to be born again; dying to self in order to be reborn into the Kingdom of God. If we continue to serve self, we are not His disciples and not part of the kingdom. “Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in You.” (Psalm 25:4-5)
Incline, O Lord, thy merciful ears, and illuminate the darkness of our hearts by the light of thy visitation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (The Gelasian Sacramentary)