Be a tree!

Matthew 13 & Luke 8

There is something so beautiful about watching a plant grow from a little seed to a strong healthy plant. Christians are compared to plants in this way. A spiritually mature Christian should still continue to grow in their walk with God. 

Jesus often taught the crowds and his disciples using parables, which can be found all throughout the Synoptic Gospels. With seven parables in Matthew chapter 13, the parable of the sower is the only parable in this chapter that doesn’t start with “The Kingdom of heaven is like” because this parable is how the Kingdom of God is going to begin. In fact, it is already happening right now. 

There are four different scenarios of what becomes of the seeds that are sown that Jesus depicts here, being eaten by birds, scorched by the sun, choked by thorns, or producing a crop. Which respectively relate to being taken by the evil one, trouble and persecution, worries of life and the deceitfulness of wealth, or yielding a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown. Out of four scenarios there is only one that has roots, which leads to salvation. By having the deep roots, a foundation on God and his word, you will bear fruit. Fruit that can show God’s love and share the hope that we have with others and by doing so yield sixty or a hundred times what was sown. 

To go along with the analogy, John 15:1-8 adds on to it and explains the dire need of having deep roots in God and Jesus. 

John 15:5 says, “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” 

So how are you going to strengthen your foundation and bear fruits? Be a tree! Three out of the four groups are between a rock and a hard place. So defy the statistics. Commit your life as a living sacrifice for God bearing cherries, apples, bananas, and pears. Put in the effort to focus on your foundation. Make it a priority to spend quality time with God. Paul tells us that fruit will come as a result of our faith, so when they do, nurture them, prune, water, weed, do whatever it takes to help them grow. The parable of the sower shows the importance of how we are living our lives right now. So go, be a tree, rooted in God and overflowing with fruit!

-Makayla Railton

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway – Matthew 13 & Luke 8

Tomorrow we will read Matthew 8:14-34 and Mark 4-5.

The Great Debate

Matthew 12:22-50 and Luke 11

Do you know who I would love to see debate in a globally televised event? Jesus and the Pharisees. Sure, Jesus could take on the whole crew of them. For people who had so much in common, they sure were polar opposites.

What did Jesus and the Pharisees have in common? They were from the same family. They could trace their ancestry back to Abraham. They were Jews born at the same time in history. Both Jesus and the Pharisees knew well and deeply appreciated the Old Testament scriptures. They both knew the importance of the coming Messiah the Jews anticipated. They both spoke of how to please God and urged people to follow the way they laid out in order to be saved in the life to come. They had so much in common. Imagine what they could have done together for God’s work – if only the Pharisees hadn’t been so pharisaical.

The Pharisees loved the law of Moses so much (as well as the additions they added to the Law to make themselves look even more saintly) that they were blinded to the true Messiah in front of them. In the end they were much more interested in making themselves look good (and pointing out others’ shortcomings) than in doing what God actually desired – and that is a dangerous place to be.

In today’s reading we come across a few topics that would surely come up in our much anticipated debate between the Pharisees and Jesus.

The Pharisees felt threatened by Jesus’ growing popularity and his displays of God’s power. But, rather than accepting him for who he was showing himself to be – they preferred creating lies and rumors for something they didn’t fully understand. So, when the crowd was amazed at Jesus’ healing of a demon possessed man, the Pharisees tried to explain it away by saying Jesus must be working with Beelzebub, the prince of demons (Matthew 12:24 & Luke 11:15). I don’t think I would take that very well, but Jesus calmly rebuttals that if indeed Satan were working at driving out Satan, his house wouldn’t be standing for long. He goes on to say that from evil you can expect evil, but from good you can expect good – for what is stored up in a man overflows for all to see and hear. And, he reminds them that there is a day coming when all will be judged for “every careless word they have spoken.” (Matthew 12:36)

But, they fail to realize the wisdom and truth and warnings Jesus spoke. So, the debate topics continue. They notice Jesus didn’t wash his hands before he ate (this definitely sounds like a debate topic that could be used today against a political opponent – times never change). Jesus counters with a truth stinger – the Pharisees spend so much time making sure they look good on the outside, but they neglect the more important work of cleaning up their own greed and wickedness on the inside. They are so busy harping on the itty-bitty showing-off, do-good outside acts (like tithing on the produce from their herb garden) and expecting praise for their goodness – but they completely overlook the weighty matters of justice and God’s love. In trying to make themselves look holy, they have neglected to care for others. And Jesus was telling them that is a dangerous place to be. Judgment will also be coming for today’s Pharisees.

Thankfully, there is another option. Jesus laid it out. Be his family – accept who Jesus is – do the will and work of his Father in heaven – not your own selfish agenda, or what will make you look good in the eyes of today’s twisted Pharisees who try to tell us how to be godly but have totally missed the boat themselves. Draw closer to Jesus than you ever have been before so you can tell the difference between the truth that he offers and the lies of the Pharisees. Your life depends on it – as well as the lives of those who are watching you.

There will be a time coming when the whole world will see and know who is the clear winner of this debate.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway – Matthew 12:22-50 and Luke 11

Tomorrow we will read Matthew 13 and Luke 8 as we continue on our…

Remind Me

Matthew 11

Where is the darkest place you have been? So dark, you were scared to take a step? The most difficult place you’ve been? So difficult, you doubted? When have your dark, difficult, trying circumstances caused you to doubt what you previously knew to be true?

You are not alone. John has been there, too. Sometimes referred to as John the Baptist or the Baptizer for his message of repentance and baptism, John had faithfully worked for years. Known for his simple lifestyle, his ministry was not about him – but about the one who was to come – the Messiah. He had prepared the way for Jesus’ entrance. He had not taken the easy road. He had not backed down from authority. He continually stood for what was right and true – even when it landed him in prison. The ruling Herod didn’t appreciate John pointing out Herod’s many sins.

With his ministry and freedom taken from him, and his future in question, John had a lot of time to think in the darkness of his circumstances. Why? What if…? Was it worth it? Was this supposed to happen? Had he been right? Or wrong? We don’t know all the questions John asked in his prison cell. But, we do know the most important one. The one he needed an answer to. He sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3)

And Jesus answered. Restating the truth that John needed to hear again. Pulling up Old Testament scripture from Isaiah and giving evidence of how his own ministry lined up with what had been foretold: the blind see, the lame walk, the leper is cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the GOOD NEWS is preached to the poor (Matthew 11:5).

In our dark days and when we question what we knew to be true, we would do well to return to Jesus. Tell me again, Jesus. Give me proof of who you are. Read again who he is, what he has done, what he taught, what he did for me. The story of Jesus never gets old, but we do need to be reminded of what we know. And then we have the beautiful opportunity and mandate to tell others of what we have seen and heard.

In the rest of this chapter Jesus demonstrates that following him can be hard. People will criticize everything – our job is not to make people happy. There will be many unrepentant people (and cities) who do not accept the work that Jesus has done for them or the path that Jesus has laid out. Don’t be swayed, know that judgement will come and make sure you are on the right side. Stay close to the one who knows and reveals the Father. Jesus, the Son of God, is the only way. Work with him. Stay attached to Jesus. Take his yoke upon you (Matthew 11:29).

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 11

Tomorrow we will read Matthew 12:22-50 & Luke 11 as we are reminded again of the saving work of Jesus – and how he calls us to be yoked to him.

Who are You Imitating?

Matthew 5-7

Today’s reading comes from Matthew 5-7.  You may know this as “The Sermon on the Mount”, and this may be among the most well known passages in the Bible.  The Jews Jesus was teaching knew the Old Testament laws really well.  Jesus took this opportunity to focus on what God really requires – he focused on matters of the heart, not just following the letter of the law.

For example, the old law said, “Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.”  Jesus took it further and taught, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.”  This is a difficult teaching, but wait – there’s more.  

Then, in Matt 5:42-45, Jesus tells us, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” – This is even harder to follow.

In this passage, Jesus is telling us more of the reason behind his new rules.  God loves even those who hate him, and he does them good – in spite of their hatred for Him.  And we should imitate this characteristic of God.  Jesus takes this even further in verse 48, where he said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  – Ok, now this isn’t possible to obey without some serious help from God.

In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus said, “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.”  Basically, this is asking God to forgive me only to the extent I forgive others.  Jesus then told us plainly in Matt 6: 14-15, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  – This is a pretty good reason to forgive others! – But still not easy to do.

Then, Jesus tells us in Matt 7: 1-2, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  – Did you catch that?  I will be judged in the same way I judge others.  This is a pretty good reason for me to not condemn others!  This goes back to the old saying, “Hate the sin, but love the sinner.”

As I read these passages, a couple things jump out to me.  First, I need to imitate God as much as possible. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at doing this, so I need to beg for His forgiveness.  Fortunately, He is loving and extends grace.  From His example, I recognize I need to be loving, and extend grace too.

Second, once I recognize I am a worthless sinner, saved only by the grace of God, it’s suddenly easier for me to be less eager to condemn others.  Then, if I can see them through God’s eyes – as other sinners in need of grace – that makes it even easier for me to extend grace to others.  And that grace may take the form of forgiving them, or of not judging them, or even turning the other cheek if they hit me.  On our own, this isn’t possible, but we can do these things with God’s help.  Ultimately, we can (again with God’s help) come to the point of loving or enemies, and blessing those who persecute us.

Jesus closes this section talking about the wise builder (who built on a rock) and the foolish builder (who built on sand).  The wise man was likened to someone who listened to Jesus’ teaching, and put it into practice – building his life on the rock.  The foolish man was likened to someone who listened to Jesus’ teaching, and didn’t put it into practice – building his life without a foundation.  In both instances, storms come.  But only the house built on the rock survived.  By analogy, only the life founded on Jesus’ teachings will not be destroyed.

So again, we find that today’s reading has implications for us today, and for eternity.  And just knowing these truths isn’t enough, we must put them into practice.  Please join me in taking this seriously.  Apply this to your life.  Ask God’s help living up to these requirements that are impossible to accomplish on our own.  Become an imitator of God.  The reward is eternal.

–Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 5-7.

Tomorrow’s reading will be Matthew 8:1-13 and Luke 7 as we continue on our Bible reading plan. SeekGrowLove.

Overcoming the Opposition

Nehemiah 6-7

So much work had already been done – the walls of Jerusalem had been rebuilt – now they just needed to finish the gates. Surely this project was God-ordained and he picked the right leader for the job – Nehemiah. He was able to get everyone motivated and working together, and despite the opposition they were able to finish their job on the 25th of Elul (which appears to correspond to somewhere between Sept 15 and October 2). So, this week is a super time to celebrate the work that is accomplished when working for God.

So much good had been done already – but the work did not end and neither did the opposition!

Nehemiah was under attack. Satan (along with Tobia, Sanballat, Geshem and the rest of those fighting against God) were using every weapon at their disposal to bring this righteous leader down: lies, fear, wolves in sheep’s clothing, attempting to distract him from his work with other business, spreading gossip and accusations of sedition to either silence him or get him in serious trouble with the authorities, even hiring a false “prophet” to scare him into sinning.

But Nehemiah stood strong. We continue to see him turn to God in prayer. Asking for strong hands and asking for God to take care of those getting in the way of the Lord’s work. He obviously had a strong knowledge of God’s law to not be tricked into sinning. This gave him wise discernment in knowing who to listen to and what to do, and not do. And, he knew to fear God not men.

We can learn a lot from Nehemiah today because Satan keeps using the same ploys. Adolf Hitler wrote, “Mental confusion, contradiction of feeling, indecisiveness, panic; these are our weapons.” Evil men seeking to destroy God’s work have come and gone and yet remain today. It is indeed a vivid reminder that, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV). They love nothing more than trying to interrupt God’s work and if they can bring down a godly leader at the same time they probably get bonus points.

We see so much of this evil and oppression today. But like Nehemiah, we must not give up! We must turn to God again and again when faced with the lies and fears and Satan’s strong man tactics that would love to have us throw in the towel and take the easy way instead. Pray, fast, seek His word and His way, don’t fear man, resist sin, use discernment in knowing who to trust, what to say and do. Pray, too, for our leaders that they will have the wisdom and strong hands of Nehemiah

Satan has been running rampant and the result is a broken world. Keep at God’s rebuilding work – one brick at a time.

Marcia Railton

Speaking of our opposition, mental confusion, lies, panic, and pleasing man not God, reminds me of the life and death fight for the most innocent of God’s creations. Tonight would be a great time to watch See Life 2020 and #LoveEveryHeartbeat. And pray for strong hands – and hearts – to do the work God wants you to do.

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Nehemiah 6-7

Tomorrow we will read Nehemiah 8-10 as we continue seeking God on our

Standing in the Gap

Ezekiel 22-23

Ezekiel 22 30 NIV sgl

 

Within chapter 22 of Ezekiel we see different messages that God is trying to send to us through His prophet that are about Judah and Jerusalem.  We see all the ways that they sinned and that God is going to punish them because of their sins.

 

“‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: You city that brings on herself doom by shedding blood in her midst and defiles herself by making idols,  you have become guilty because of the blood you have shed and have become defiled by the idols you have made.” (Ezekiel 22:3,4)

 

In many ways our society does these same things.  The violence against minorities and the bloodshed in our streets in recent times has gotten to the point where many cannot take it any longer, and it is starting to rip our society apart.  The continued war against the unborn has cooled down compared to decades past, but continues to claim hundreds of thousands of innocent lives per year.

 

Our society also excels at creating new idols and finding things to worship besides God.  We have gotten so good at it that we dedicate whole tv shows to it.  Covid has helped to highlight some of the idols in our lives.  If the loss of a season of football or the delay of a tv show has you devastated, then that might be an idol for you.

 

In the day of Ezekiel God looked through the land for a person who could intercede for Israel before him, like Moses did when God saw the Israelites making the calf to worship and wanted to wipe them out.  Sadly this time God did not find such a person, Ezekiel was only there to record God’s word and pass it on to the people, so God’s judgement was poured out on the people when the Babylonians invaded.

 

 “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one. So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done, declares the Sovereign Lord.” (Ezekiel 22:30-31)

 

All of the Israelites welcomed sin into their lives and did not try to fight it, and in many ways our society today welcomes sin and chases after it.  If we follow their example and do not fight against sin then we will end up on the wrong side of things when God again pours out his wrath on the earth because of the overwhelming sin and corruption on earth. This is a call to action for us to stand firm on the battlements, even if we are alone, and fight against idolatry and evil, so that when Jesus returns he will find some righteous people left.

Chris and Katie-Beth Mattison

 

 

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at the Biblegateway site by clicking here – Ezekiel 22-23

Tomorrow’s reading will be Ezekiel 24-27 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Making Faith Our Own

Ezekiel 18-19

Ezekiel 18 30 NIV sgl

Ezekiel 18 describes three generations of men in a family, the first generation is righteous and follows God, the second generation is evil and does everything that God detests, and the third generation is Godly just like the grandpa.  According to the thinking of the Jews of that time each person inherits God’s blessings from their parents, so the evil man would be blessed by God and live a happy and fruitful life because of the righteousness of his father, while the son of the evil man will have a miserable and cursed life because of the evil of his father.  God is going to make it very clear to them that their thinking is fundamentally faulty, because obviously a person who goes around robbing the poor, sleeping with his friends’ wives, and worshiping false gods is going to have a miserable life.  He won’t have friends, and will never be trusted, no matter how great his father was.  How is that a blessed life?

The opposite is also true, if the evil man has a son and that man lives a Godly life and helps the poor, and gives money to the needy, and keeps all of God’s laws he will have a full and blessed life.  People might remember how horrible his father is, but his own actions will speak for themselves, and God will also see his actions and bless him.

This is summed up perfectly in Ezekiel 18:30-32.

“30 “Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!”

 

This verse is a great blessing, but also a warning.  It is a blessing if you or your family has a past that is full of sin and brokenness and you want to break the cycle, repent and live!  It doesn’t matter what your parents did, good or bad, God will judge you for your own actions.  This makes it very important to make our faith our own, because even though my Mom had and Dad has faith that can move mountains, that does not make me a Christian by default, I still have to work hard at it and build my own faith up.  Just like how knowledge will never transfer from your textbook to your brain when you use the textbook as a pillow, righteousness will not transfer from your parents to you when you sit next to them at church, you have to open the book and read for yourself.

Chris and Katie-Beth Mattison

 

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway, here – Ezekiel 18-19

Tomorrow we will read Ezekiel 20-21 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Why, God?

Habakkuk 1-3

Habakkuk 1 3 NIV sgl

It is a common question asked through the ages, “Why, God?”  Why do the wicked succeed?  Why do the violent survive?  Why is there injustice in the nation and even in the courts?  Why, God?  Why?

Habakkuk had the same questions.  He lived during the “end” days of Judah, before the Babylonian captivity we have read about the last 2 days.  He had a heart for God and sought to do what was right.  But, what about everyone else?  He was outnumbered, “The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted.” (Habakkuk 1:4 NLT).  And that can be a hard place to be.  Where right has become wrong and wrong has become right.  And, where was God?  Why was God not taking action to right the wrongs, punish the evil and make things right?

God answered Habakkuk, but it certainly wasn’t the answer he was expecting or wanting.  God did see the evil, violence and injustice. and he was taking care of matters – in His time and His way.  He revealed to Habakkuk that He was preparing the wicked, idolatrous Babylonian neighbors to the north to bring God’s judgment on Judah.  Wait, a minute, God – they are even worse than us!  That’s not fair!

If God had a penny for every time He heard that line – but, He owns everything already.

He doesn’t need your penny – or your advice.  God doesn’t need to be understood by His creation.  But we would be wise to accept His sovereignty, as Habakkuk did.  Even when faced with answers He didn’t fully understand or like, Habakkuk realized and accepted that God was in control.  He would punish Judah – and then Babylon – when and how He wanted.  And, He would show His power, His patience, His justice, His grace, and His love when and how He saw fit.  God’s people can rest in that knowledge.  There is a lot we don’t have to know or understand – a lot of “why’s” we can’t answer.  But we can rest in knowing that God knows.  He knows.  He sees.  He’s got this.  He is working out all things.  We can bolster our faith and reliance on God’s way by joining with Habakkuk as He proclaims:

I heard and my heart pounded,
    my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
    and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
    to come on the nation invading us.
17 Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.

Habakkuk 3:16-19 NIV

 

In our questioning, in our fear, in our uncertainty – yet we will wait patiently for God.  He WILL set things straight.  His perfect judgment is coming.  Until then, wait and rejoice in God our Savior – He is our strength.

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at Habakkuk 1-3

Tomorrow’s reading will be Jeremiah 41-45 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

His Love & Discipline

Jeremiah 26-29

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I love God’s optimism.  Sometimes God reminds me of a Jewish mother, always looking for the best in her son.

“Three Jewish mothers are sitting on a bench, arguing over which one’s son loves her the most. The first one says, “You know, my son sends me flowers every Sabbath.

“You call that love?” says the second mother. “My son calls me every day!”

“That’s nothing,” says the third woman. “My son is in therapy five days a week. And the whole time, he talks about me!”

God is optimistic like that: “Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word. Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from their evil ways. Then I will relent and not inflict on them the disaster I was planning because of the evil they have done.” (Jeremiah 26:2-3).

God was more than ready to forgive them.  God had no desire to punish His people.  He gave them every opportunity to repent.  But instead of heeding the warnings of Jeremiah and changing direction, they wanted to kill the prophet.  Jeremiah was eventually spared, but the people still failed to listen to his warning and repent.  Babylon ultimately did conquer them and carry them back to Babylon in Exile.

Jeremiah warned that the exile would last 70 years.  Another “prophet” named Hananiah came back and said that in just 2 years they would all be back and everything would be okay.  Hananiah flat out lied.  He was spreading fake news (see yesterday’s devotion).  It ended up that Hananiah is the one who died and his prophecy did not come true.

Once the exile began there was no turning back.  But God had a plan for that time in exile.  It was actually to protect his people.  Just as their years of captivity in Egypt enabled Israel to grow from just a few people into a great nation capable of taking possession of the promised land, this time of exile was intended to be a time for God to both cleanse the land from idolatry and cleanse God’s people from their idolatrous ways.  While the exile might have felt like a punishment and a judgement, and it was, it was actually intended by God to help bring his people back to righteous living.

When a parent punishes a child, the healthy parent is not getting any joy from seeing their child suffer.  The old expression “this is going to hurt me a lot more than it hurts you” has a real basis in truth.  A loving parent punishes, or better – disciplines, their child out of love.  The child has been acting in ways that are ultimately harmful to themselves and they need correction.  After numerous warnings and Israel’s failure to heed those warnings and repent, God had to take bold corrective action.  But the intent and purpose is love.  They needed to be purged of their idolatrous practices which included sacrificing their children to the gods of the age.

The exile was intended by God to purge them of their idolatry and purify them as a people.  As they were living in Babylon they were to live as good citizens.  They were to “seek the peace and prosperity” of the place in which God had brought them (Jeremiah 29:7).  Babylon was certainly not a perfect place and had its own share of godlessness and evil, but God’s people were to live peacefully and seek the good of Babylon while they were there.

I would encourage you to read carefully the letter that God had Jeremiah send to the exiles in Babylon found in chapter 29.  This is instructive for Christians today.  As Christians in the world today, we are ultimately children of God, citizens of God’s coming Kingdom.  Our King is Jesus and he is currently in heaven, waiting for the day when he will return to earth and establish God’s kingdom.  So our citizenship is currently in heaven.  When our king comes and the earth is transformed, our citizenship will be here on the renewed earth.  Until that time, as we live here we are resident aliens.  I may be a US citizen in the United States in name, but ultimately, I am a citizen of God’s Kingdom living here as a stranger and foreigner.  Peter calls us exiles.  You and I are exiles living here just as the Jewish people were exiles living in Babylon in Jeremiah’s time.

As exiles here we should practice the same things that Jeremiah told the Jews in Babylon to do as exiles there.  We should get married, have families, increase in number and pray for the place we are living.  We are to continue the creation mandate given in Genesis 1- “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it etc…”  As Christians living here in exile we use our gifts to make the place in which we are living a better place.  Babylon was not perfect, but the people of God living there were to contribute to it being a better place to live.  America or Canada or wherever you happen to live is not a perfect place, but you as a Christian should live in a way and use your gifts and energy to make it a better place, until Jesus comes again and we are no longer in exile but enter into the fulness of the Kingdom of God.

Note that eventually, God brought judgment against Babylon.  That empire fell to the Medes and the Persians, and it was the Persians that made it possible for the people of God to return from exile to the promised land.  Let us seek the best for wherever we live, but when God decides to bring judgment against that place, it is all part of his plan, and he will watch over His people who remain faithful to him wherever we are.  And in the end, all will be well.

Pastor Jeff Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage, Jeremiah 26-29, can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jeremiah+26-29&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Jeremiah 30-31 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

 

A Fake News Detector

Jeremiah 23-25

Jeremiah 23 21 22 NIV sgl

The Cambridge Dictionary has recently added a new entry: Fake News.  Fake news is defined as: “false stories that appear to be news, spread on the internet or using other media, usually created to influence political views or as a joke.”

President Trump can probably be given a lot of credit for making this term a part of our everyday lexicon.  But fake news is nothing new.  In fact, it’s been around since the days of Adam and Eve and the serpent.  When the serpent told Eve, “You shall not surely die” if she ate from the forbidden fruit, the serpent was spreading fake news.

During the time of Jeremiah there was a lot of Fake News going around Jerusalem and throughout the land of Judah.  The fake news was being spread by people who claimed to be speaking God’s truth.  They were prophets and priests and other religious leaders who were telling everyone, “Everything is going to be okay, nothing to worry about, the king has everything under control.”  The problem was, everything was not going to be okay, there was plenty to worry about and there was absolutely nothing that their king could do to stop it.  Those messengers of fake new were peddling a false hope to the people of God, and they were doing a lot of harm.  God said that they were actually strengthening the evildoers so that they don’t repent.  They were doing the exact opposite of what God wanted.

Against the backdrop of fake news that was being spread by false prophets, God called Jeremiah to be a voice of truth with a clear message from God.  Amidst all the claims of “everything is going to be okay”, Jeremiah said to the king and other political leaders as well as the priests and religious leaders, “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture, declares the Lord.”  Woe, is a word of warning, it is a word of condemnation, it is a word of judgment.  God is declaring judgment against the civil and religious leaders in Jerusalem who are allowing God’s people to practice idolatry and all kinds of evil.  God is declaring judgment against the kings who are entering into alliances with the surrounding empires, hoping that Egypt or Assyria will protect them against their enemies.

God had been extremely patient with His people.  Psalm 103 reminds us that God is “slow to anger.”  God had sent a steady succession of prophets to speak truth and warn His people to stop worshipping idols and stop looking to their neighbors to be their protectors.  God sent prophet after prophet to call his people to repent.  Jeremiah alone had been prophesying for 23 years, warning people to repent.  Yet they still failed to listen.  They chose instead to listen to the fake news that was being spread by the false prophets who were saying everything is going to be all right.  God said that they actually “prophecy the delusions of their own minds” (23:26) and that they are spreading “reckless lies.”  “Each ones words are their own message.”

Truth is very important to God.  He wants His people to speak the truth.  Jesus would later say, “I am the way, the TRUTH and the life, no one comes to the father but by me.”  Paul reminds us that we are to practice speaking the truth in love.  Telling the truth whenever everyone else is spreading fake news is an act of love.  For Jeremiah to courageously stand up year after year in the midst of false prophets telling lies should inspire us today to not be afraid to stand up and speak the truth.  Of course, to speak the truth we must make sure that we are hearing it from God.  We must keep our eyes in God’s word and our heart tuned in to God’s spirit and we should filter everything we hear and think through the filter of God’s revealed truth.  That takes both courage and dedication, and time.  Are you willing to invest the time into hearing and discerning God’s truth?  Do you have your fake news detector fully operational?  Are you willing to speak God’s truth in love, even if it feels like you are a lone voice and nobody is listening?

Pastor Jeff Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage, Jeremiah 23-25, can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jeremiah+23-25&version=NIV

Tomorrow we will read chapters 26-29 of Jeremiah as we continue through the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan