Baruch

Today’s reading is Jeremiah 36, 43, and 45 with a focus on Baruch.

Who was Baruch? Most know of the prophet Jeremiah, but may not know of Baruch, his scribe. Not only was Baruch given the task of writing down the prophecies God gave to Jeremiah, but he was also given the task to tell the Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and his officials what the prophecies said about the fall of Jerusalem to King Nebuchadnezzar when they would be taken into exile as a result of their idolatry and turning away from the Lord. I have to imagine Baruch’s thoughts when he was writing this down for Jeremiah. He was likely thinking this not good and probably wondering who the pour soul would be that had to risk his life to deliver this message….only to find out that pour soul was him!

What else was Baruch thinking? Was he scared for his life? Was he wondering why it had to be him? Was he bitter that although these were Jeremiah’s words, he was the one who had to risk his life and deliver the news? Was he thinking…why me? Whatever fears, anxieties, and maybe even bitterness Baruch had about delivering this message, he must have faced them and let God use him as His servant because he did in fact deliver the message. While we don’t know his thoughts, we are potentially given some insight that he may have been wondering some of these things and really thinking, “What’s in it for me?” In Jeremiah 45:5, God speaks directly to Baruch through Jeremiah and says, “And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, for behold, I am bringing great disaster upon all flesh, declared the Lord. But I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places which you may go.”

Is your life in a spot right now where you are wishing you had accomplished more worldly success and you are not where you thought you would be at this point? Have you been a “behind the scenes” guy or gal like Baruch without much notoriety? Let us remember what the world, and what we being in the world, view as success is not what God views as success. Jesus tells us in Matthew 19:30 and Matthew 20:16 that the last will be first. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have big goals and aspire to be all God’s called us to be and use the talents and gifts He’s given us. If that means we are to be CEO, then that’s great. These verses also tell us the school cafeteria worker, the garbage person, the ditch digger, and the retail worker are viewed just the same in God’s eyes and potentially must greater if they are living for God’s purpose and His Kingdom instead of the world. Jesus says in Matthew 21:28 that even the Son of Man (Him) came to serve and not be served.

If we have not achieved the worldly success we desire or have faced financial or health hardships in our lives despite the fact that we believe we are doing most things right and living for Him and wondering why and “what’s in it for me?”, let us remember that God has given us “life” like Baruch and everything we truly need which is forgiveness from our sins through Jesus so we can live with Him for eternity. This is the greatest gift we could ever be given….for eternity is much longer than the life we are given on this Earth, whatever suffering or challenges we face or lack of worldly success and accolades while here. Do you also believe you have not been living for Him to this point? Well, He gave His life for you and forgives you, and now you have the option to give your life to Him from this day forward. Let us all pray for clarity on where we are today in our relationship with Him and for wisdom on where He wants us to go from here.

Converted Coward

And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:

Are you a converted coward? When I first read this I had to read the chapter a couple times before I landed on this word fear tucked in at the end of verse 17.  The word fear I would associate with coward.  The words fear and coward are not popular these days.  It seems often you should’t show fear or let anyone call you a coward because you won’t say or do something.  But here, Peter talks about fear as a healthy respect for an all-powerful Lord. That ultimately God, who is the only judge, will one day make an eternal decision. In having the reminder of eternal decisions I reflect on 2 Corinthians 12:10 Therefore I take pleasure in my infirmities, in reproach, in needs, in persecution, in distress, for Christ’s sake. For when i am weak, then I am strong. 

 

So how am I passing the time while I’m on this Earth? What does our pilgrimage on Earth look like? Honestly, many days and hours I can take for granite when I get caught up in my own desires.  My prayer is to consider this short time on Earth. Like verse 24 say, All people are like grass, and all their glory is like flowers on the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall This reminds me that the kind of fear Peter is talking about encourages a healthy reminder of God’s holiness and judgement as believers.    It’s been timely to land on 1 Peter 1 for today’s reading.  Peter provides encouragement for any suffering we may be going through as Christians.  Maybe you have some suffering going on today.  I would encourage you to continue to read 1 Peter 1 & 2.

Dear Heavenly Father,

We pray to be converted cowards.  To be reminded daily that you are coming back and each day is our opportunity to live out our lives obeying your truth with sincere love. That in each day we are fully alert to your presence and the promise that you are coming back and our hope is set on You! We believe in your words and ask for belief in our unbelief moments.  Lord, in our struggles we can reminded that you are near.  We love you and thank you for people like Peter who was there through your suffering and suffered himself when he struggled with his own beliefs.  Help us to remember our identity in you, that we may seem like exiles on this earth but will be part of your family eternally.  God I can selfishly fall short, please continue to build a coward that fears you and makes a difference in how I live.

Amen

Till I Found You…Grief Into Joy

Today’s reading is John 16 where the night before He was crucified Jesus foretells of his death and the sadness it will bring followed by the joy that will come when they see Him again through His resurrection.

“So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”

John 16:22

Merriam-Webster defines joy as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.”

As I read this, I thought to myself, do I have joy? Where am I seeking joy? Often we seek joy in the next promotion, the next sale, the new house, the new car, our net worth, or earthly relationships..only to find these things bring temporary pleasure. This brief pleasure is always fleeting..sometimes within minutes or hours, but always within days or years. None of them last forever. Even the best of marriages end with one spouse passing before the other and even if we are lucky to have an ending like The Notebook and pass at the same time…our life on this earth still ends. It doesn’t last forever. No marriage can bring everlasting joy.

Let’s break down how a relationship with Jesus provides true joy by Merriam-Webster’s definition…

When we know Him, we know our “well-being” is forever being take care of. Romans 8:31-32 says, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not graciously give us all things?”

When we know Him, we know we are a “success.” Despite our past sins, relational, professional, or financial failures, we know that we are a “success” because of Him. In Romans 8:38, the Apostle Paul says, “No in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” He also talks about winning the prize or the race in other writings.

When we know Him, we know we have “good fortune.” Can anything give us more “good fortune” than knowing every single one of our past sins and future mistakes are forgiven? Psalm 103:10-12 says, “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” If that’s not good fortune, I don’t know what is!

When we know Him, we “possess what one desires.” What do we all desire? In my humble opinion, it is the forgiveness we just discussed, as well as a loving relationship that lasts forever through eternal life. The only way we get it is through one with Him. God began to let us know how He would do this all the way back in Isaiah 25:8 which says, “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces…” God reminds us of this amazing promise again at the end of the Bible in Revelation 21:4 which reads, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall their be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

What do you believe is the greatest love song of all time? Well, I believe the greatest love song of all time has to be about the only love that can bring us true joy which cannot be taken from us because it lasts forever. Check out “Till I Found You” by Phil Wickham.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ewhz3pCk9vM

A Change in Paradigm

When you think of a funeral and what Bible passages are read most commonly, which ones come to mind? Today’s reading of Psalm 23 most certainly is in the top few. When I hear this verse, I picture a person walking down a dark path lonely with a light up ahead. I’m not sure this would be the mental vision God would want me to have about death. As I read this verse more closely, what stuck out to me is that it is “the valley of the shadow of death” in Psalm 23:4. We, who are still living, are in the “shadow of death.” This is where we have fears, anxieties, and worries that cause us stress. This is when we need his “rod and staff” to “comfort me.” This is when I need to “fear no evil” and my soul needs restoring by laying in “green pastures” and by going “beside still waters.”

Revelation 21:4 tells us, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be morning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” When I die, I want my funeral to be a celebration that I’m living in Heaven in perfect peace worshiping the only King forever. I want a band playing songs of praise with everyone standing and worshiping Him reminding all there of the joy they can have in eternal life through confessing their sins and belief in Him and His resurrection! They don’t need to be sad for me…I’m not in a dark valley standing there by myself lonely. I’m experiencing a joy we can’t even imagine on this Earth worshiping Him in a similar way to how I hope they are at that moment.

The first part of Psalm 23:8 says, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” telling us maybe Psalm 23 is more appropriate for a baby dedication, a first communion, a baptism, or even a wedding. We can live in perfect peace throughout our life because the second part of Psalm 23:8 says, “and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” When we fix our eyes on that which is eternal (the only thing that matters), we will have comfort and respite from the challenges in this life.

Here is the song 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman which was sung at my wife’s great uncle Lee Dexheimer’s funeral. It reminded me we will experience a peace that passes all human understanding just like Lee did that day and still is today, forever and ever. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXDGE_lRI0E