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

Will it Be Okay?

Jeremiah 14-17

Jeremiah 14 19 b NIV sgl

I’ve been a pastor for 35 years.  As a pastor I’m often present for the happiest moments of people’s lives – when they get married, when they have a baby and want to have that baby blessed, when they give their life to Jesus Christ and are baptized, and when they celebrate great milestones like graduations, 50th wedding anniversaries and other joys.  I am privileged to “rejoice with those who rejoice.”

At the same time, I am also there during some of life’s most painful moments- when a loved one has died after a long illness, or suddenly in a tragic accident, when someone has just been told by their spouse that they want a divorce, or when their child has been arrested for possession of illegal narcotics.  I am there to weep with those who weep.

When people are going through the most painful or difficult challenges of their lives- when they are waiting for a loved one in major surgery, or for the test results to come back, I try to help them and provide a voice of calm assurance.  “It’s going to be okay.”  And of course, I want it to be okay.  But to be honest, sometimes it’s NOT okay.  Sometimes people don’t make it through surgery.  Sometimes couples don’t reconcile and marriages aren’t saved.  Sometimes test results come back and it’s bad.  Sometimes prodigal children don’t come back home, or back to Church or back to God.

Let’s be honest, 2020 sucks!  Covid-19 has killed a lot of people and has a lot of people scared.  A lot of people are out of work and the economy has tanked because of it.  A lot of people are scared to go anywhere including church.  For a time many states told people they weren’t allowed to go to church – what’s up with that?  And in the midst of that we’ve also had racial protests (or sometimes riots), murder hornets, great white shark attacks and now for more fun – its hurricane season.  Some people joke about, “What’s this month’s plague going to be?” but it’s getting to the point where it’s no joke.  Something’s going on.

The caring pastor part of me wants to take you by the hand and say “it’s going to be alright.  We’ll get through this.”  But can I be honest for a minute?  I don’t know that for sure.  For all I know Covid-19 could get a lot worse.  Or the vaccine they make to cure it could turn us all into vampires.  (Just kidding, I just watched the movie I Am Legend where the cure for cancer turned almost everyone into vampires.)  You get my point, I can’t guarantee that in a few weeks or months it’s all going to get better… it might not.

Can I be more honest?  God may be really angry right now.  “Oh, now Pastor Jeff we don’t believe in an angry God anymore- that Angry God of the 18th and 19th century has been replaced by a much more liberal and chill God, haven’t you heard?”  Well, I hate to break it to you but there’s only one God.  The God we worship today is the same God who was around in 600 BC when Jeremiah was walking around on the earth.  It’s the same God who got so angry with Israel for years of unfaithfulness that he sent a drought.  Yep, no water.  He’s the same God who said I’m going to call your neighbors to come and go fishing and hunting… for you, Judah.  It’s the same God who told Jeremiah that all the prophets who were out there telling everyone “It’s all going to be all right, we’re gonna get through this together” were spreading “fake news.”  They were false prophets telling people it was all going to be okay, when clearly God was not done smiting His very disobedient nation.

Make no mistake about it.  America has changed a LOT in the last 50 years.  It’s changed a lot in the last 10 years… or even 5 years.  Things that for a long time everyone agreed were bad, wrong, sinful have been declared ok.  Things that God used to say were important, like getting married BEFORE you have sex, and being faithful to your spouse after you get married, those kinds of things aren’t so important now.  Protecting the lives of the unborn, those aren’t so important either.  In Psalm 139 David says that God is the one who, “knit me together in my mother’s womb” but now it’s okay if the woman chooses to murder that unborn baby.  (“Pastor, you don’t sound very nice anymore, I don’t think I like where this is going?”)

I’m telling you the truth because I love you.  Don’t just listen to me, go back and read the actual verses in Jeremiah 14-17.  God was angry.  God told Jeremiah to tell the people “don’t even bother to pray to me for help right now, because I’m not helping you.”

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I believe that God is love and that everything God does is because of His great love for us.  That’s why he sent His Son to rescue us from our sinful ways.   God wants to rescue us from our sinful ways.  What we are doing collectively is WRONG.  It is hurting us.

I read an interesting article recently.  So called progressive elites, those liberal professors who say that traditional morality is bad or outdated, those who say that people should be free to do whatever they want.  Yeah, those people, the highly educated, the elites, the 1%.  They aren’t the ones having babies out of wedlock and whose children are being shot by gangs or dying from opioid addiction.  Those people who are “successful liberal elites” actually get married, then have children, work hard, live in good neighborhoods and do the kinds of things that actually lead to successful lives.  The people who suffer from living in a society that has tried to do away with God and with Biblical morality are actually the poor, the uneducated, those without power and privilege.   What we need to be telling people is the truth.  If you want to thrive and live a flourishing life you should do things the way God says to do it.  Adopt God’s values and live by them.  Turn away from evil.  That’s how you thrive.

Now, after telling Jeremiah that he won’t answer their prayers and things are about to get really bad for them, God does offer this hope.  After all the punishment is over, after the exile has passed, after you have repented and you’ve changed and are willing to start doing things the right way, I will take you back home and restore you and everything will eventually be okay.

So yes, ultimately, everything will be okay.  Someday God will restore this earth to its original state of perfection.  But first, God’s got to do some major housecleaning.  God loves you just the way you are, but he loves you too much to leave you that way.  God wants to make you to be like Jesus.  Follow Him. Turn away from your sinful ways – do not follow this world into judgment, follow Jesus into the Kingdom of God.

Pastor Jeff Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage, Jeremiah 14-17, can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jeremiah+14-17&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Jeremiah 18-22 as we continue seeking God and His Ways on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Quid est veritas?

John 18

John 18 37 38

There is a phrase floating around in culture. “My truth.”
Being a philosophy nerd, the phrase “my truth” hurts my brain. What does it mean for YOU to have truth that is yours? Is it yours alone? Can other people share your truth? If you share your truth and I disagree, am I disagreeing with reality, or with what you think about reality? What is “my truth?”
I was thinking about these questions and many more beside them, because of what Pilate asks Jesus.
Jesus has just been arrested, drug around the city of Jerusalem, falsely accused, and more. He is speaking to Pilate and declares “I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this: to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice.” (John 18:37)
After hearing this, Pilate asks what I am asking…”What is truth?” (vs. 38)
But there is a different heart here. Jesus says his followers will know the truth. All through the teachings we have just read (chapters 13-17) we see Jesus telling his disciples that the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus calls the Spirit of Truth, will be with them. We are also told by Jesus this famous passage: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No person comes to the father but through me.”(John 14:6) Jesus makes this bold claim because he knew that he is exclusively the gate to the Father and to eternal life.
In our world, we may look around us and see many people selling us their version of the truth. Whether it is “fake news” or biased media on either side of the political spectrum, whether it is communities of people denying biology or denying differences between men and women, or whether it is hate-filled people implying those differences make men or women better than the other, or that there are racial differences that make certain races better or worse, whatever the messages are that we are given, we MUST run all claims to truth through the filter of Truth, the Spirit of God and the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus prays that God would sanctify us, his followers in His Truth, and says “Your word is truth.”(John 17:17) The Logos of God (John 1:1) is truth, and we know that the Logos has put on flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood in Jesus Christ. When someone says “I am speaking my truth”, we should be asking “is this the truth of Jesus?”
He is not a way, one path among many, with all leading to God or salvation.
Jesus is THE way.
He is not a truth, one truth among many, with all being equally valid and connected to the world.
Jesus is THE truth.
He is not a life, one life among many, with all being filled to overflowing.
Jesus is THE life.
Pilate, you asked “What is truth?”
Truth was standing right in front of you. His name is Jesus.
-Jake Ballard
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