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.

Be Strong

Today’s reading gives us the patterns of a Godly man.  Paul is exhorting Timothy to “be strong” (v1), but Paul doesn’t stop there.  He gives us relatable examples of what it means to “be strong”.  

Paul gives us the example of the teacher, the soldier, the athlete, and the farmer, then he commissions Timothy to  “think over what [he said]”.  The examples are not long and exhaustive but Paul promises Timothy that “the Lord will give [him] understanding in everything” if he thinks over it.  (2Timothy 2:7)  

A wise man once said, “better to read little and think much than to read much and think little.”  Today’s journal entry includes some thoughts and reflections on these short powerful examples.  I would love if you would share some of yours in the comments or on facebook.   

The Teacher.  Christ instructed us to teach His commandments to all nations and modeled this for us through discipleship. (Matthew 28:20) . Discipleship is a chain.  Position yourself in the chain, between someone who will disciple you and who you can disciple.  Those you disciple should be carefully selected people who are faithful and trustworthy to carry on the chain.  (2Timothy 2:2)

The Soldier.  We are at war.  The soldier is not confused about work-life balance.  The two are integrated and his purpose is singular.  Full of integrity, his life is whole and complete.  There are no situations in which he changes modes or leaves something behind.  There is no clocking out.  A soldier at war is always on active duty.  He does not concern himself with things of the world.  His eye is single in the battle and pleasing his commander.  (2Timothy 2:3-4)

The Athlete.  It is a given that athletics require effort.  Even though some athletes have incredible natural abilities, fans tend to cheer on an underdog who gives it his all over the more skilled athlete who doesn’t.  Fans tend to gravitate to athletes who are ok with giving it their all and being beaten, even if it means everyone knows they could not have done any better or given an ounce more effort.  An athlete looks at the cost of defeat and competes anyways.  Humble athletes are fun to watch.  Still, even though effort is a given for athletics, no matter the effort expended, if the athlete breaks the rules he is disqualified.  (2Timothy 2:5)  

The Farmer.  The farmer is hard working.  This word is from a Greek verb meaning ‘to labor to the point of exhaustion.’  Day in, day out the farmer works amidst circumstances outside their control.  The farmer can not control the water, the bugs, the temperature, the sun, the clouds, or the shifting seasons, yet he works to the point of exhaustion in hopes that he might reap a harvest.  A farmer is truly seasoned in the art of sowing to the LORD and trusting Him with the harvest.  (2Timothy 2:6)

May we all continue to think over the Scripture and trust in the LORD to give us understanding.

Reading quote reference: Mastering Self: To Lead Self and Others by Chief Hanna

Garbage In, Garbage Out

Recycling ideas and environmental garbage management solutions and creative ways to reuse waste as old paper glass metal and plastic bottles shaped as a human head as a symbol for reusable thinking and conservation advice.

1 Samuel 10; Romans 8; Jeremiah 47; Psalms 23–24

I want to piggy back on Mike Somer’s post, Deadly Thoughts, from yesterday. Mike helps us to discover that the objects of our desire are often of a worldly nature. Today, I want to talk about another component to our wanting which is why we want the things we want. Seriously, when was the last time you stopped to consider why you want a new, car, camera, phone, or a sweater? The answer is found in a simple test of our focus.

Think back to yesterday. Starting from the time that you woke up, to the time that you went to bed, make a list of all the things that you did. In order to maximize the results, be detailed about it. For example, if you watched TV in the morning, what show did you watch? If you surfed the NET, what websites did you visit, if you read a book, what book did you read? The point is to understand  the kinds and quality of information that we are putting into our minds. As a participant in this exercise, I viewed my web browser’s history. It reveals that I visited my email and business sites the most and often interrupted them with Pinterest, facebook, HOUZZ, Amazon, Pantagraph and Atlas Obscura. I want to give you a golden opportunity to do the judging for me. Do you think these moments in my day qualify as Godly, or worldly? Wait, before you answer that, let’s get a true test from the Apostle Paul. He says, “those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5). Now what do you think? The answer I came up with stings a bit.

The part of the test that stings is that it reveals my focus.  I spend much of my time filling my mind with worldly things.  To be fair, some of this is important.  It helps me run my business and communicate with people.  I will not, however, allow those things to become an excuse.  I must consider the alternative use of my time.  What if, instead of retreating to Facebook and Amazon, I reflected instead on God’s word?   How would it change my attitude?  Would it change the things that I want?  According to Paul, the answer is yes.  He equates living according to the Spirit with setting our minds on the Spirit.  The end result of this thinking is Life and Peace.  Galatians 5:22 expands that list to include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

To be sure, this BibleJournal project is a good start for setting our minds on the Spirit.  I don’t know about you, but I can feel the Holy Spirit nudging me, ever so kindly, gently and lovingly to allow him into my mind more often.  I intend to do just that.  Will you?

If you would like to learn more about how we can allow God into our minds, I recommend reading A Mind For God, by James Emery White.  In it, he discusses the consequences of Christianity’s passive role in learning and building strong, Godly minds.  He explains his “mission to prepare [his] mind to not simply understand the ideas of the world but to engage the ideas of the world.”  The simple truth is that until we engage His word in more intellectual ways, we will never be able to fulfill His great calling on our lives.