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Bible Insights

When God Calls Us to Act, We Better Act

May We Never Be Lax about Doing the Work of God

The book of Jeremiah contains prophecies about many of the countries that surround God’s people, many countries that tormented them in the past or are tormenting them during Jeremiah’s time. One of these countries is Moab.

Here’s the backstory.

Lot’s oldest daughter has a son. His name is Moab, and he becomes the father of the Moabites. Later it is the Moabites who hire Balaam to curse the people of Israel, but that backfires. Moab does this even though God told Moses to not harass or provoke the people of Moab.

Yet throughout the centuries the people of Moab repeatedly harassed the people of Israel. Along comes Jeremiah who prophesies against Moab. Everyone will come against Moab to destroy her.

Then in the middle of his prophecy, Jeremiah inserts a curious phrase, placing a curse on anyone who is lax in doing God’s work against Moab.

May we never be lax in doing God’s work. Click To Tweet

Don’t Be Lax in Doing God’s Work

Though this curse specifically relates to God’s goal of punishing Moab, I wonder if we can extrapolate a general principle for us today. Specifically, God is not pleased with us if we are lax about doing his work.

May we never displease God. May we never be lax about doing his work. Instead may we diligently do all he calls us to do. He can call us to action through Scripture, the written word of God. And he can call us to action through the Holy Spirit, the spoken word of God.

Though I don’t suspect God will call us to punish another nation, he does call us to promote the kingdom of God, in the spiritual sense. May we hear what he calls us to do, and may we follow through with all diligence.

May we never be lax in doing God’s work.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Jeremiah 46-48, and today’s post is on Jeremiah 48:10.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Jeremiah Issues 3 Warnings to Misleading Ministers

Beware of Slacking Shepherds, Godless Pastors, and Misleading Ministers

The prophet Jeremiah doesn’t just warn the people about judgment for their sins, he also warns their religious leaders too. The twenty-third chapter of the book of Jeremiah details three leadership failures. Most troublesome is the third item about misleading ministers.

Everyone in leadership should heed Jeremiah’s cautionary words and seek God’s help to avoid repeating these errors.

1. Slacking Shepherds

Jeremiah proclaims woe to the shepherds (a metaphor for religious leaders) because they fail to take care of the sheep (a metaphor for God’s people). The prophet gives three examples to demonstrate the shepherds’ failure.

First, they have scattered the sheep. Second, they have driven the lambs away. Third, they have neglected to care for their flock.

God pledges to punish these failed shepherds. Then he will replace them with good ones (Jeremiah 23:11-12).

2. Godless Pastors

Next, Jeremiah condemns godless prophets and priests. Imagine that. These men should represent God to his people, but they don’t. Even in the temple (the church building), God finds them full of wickedness.

He promises to banish them to the darkness, where they will fall. He proclaims disaster for them (Jeremiah 23:11-12).

3. Misleading Ministers

Jeremiah continues rebuking prophets who proclaim lies. They fill the people with false hope. These religious leaders don’t have the mind of God. They don’t hear what the Lord says. Instead, they make up things to tell the people (Jeremiah 23:16-17).

In short, they fail to speak God’s truth.

God’s punishment for these misleading ministers is that he will forget them and cast them from his presence (Jeremiah 23:39).

We need leaders who will speak God’s truth regardless of what the world thinks or how their congregation responds. Click To Tweet

Today’s Preachers

This issue of misleading ministers happens today at too many churches, albeit with a modern twist. Preachers speak what the people want to hear and not what the Bible says. They avoid proclaiming the parts of God’s Word that may upset their congregation.

They water down the good news of Jesus by removing what may offend. Instead of speaking biblical truth, they substitute it with nice sounding messages of their own making that delights listeners, avoids confrontation, and minimizes conflict.

God wasn’t pleased in Jeremiah’s day by the leaders who did this. And he is not pleased today.

Our preachers today must listen to God and teach what he and his Word says. We don’t need any more slacking shepherds, godless pastors, or misleading ministers.

We need leaders who will speak God’s truth regardless of what the world thinks or how their congregation reacts.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Jeremiah 23-25 and today’s post is on Jeremiah 23:16-17.]

We need leaders who will speak God’s truth regardless of what the world thinks or how their congregation responds.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Avoid Spiritual Adultery, of Being Unfaithful to God

Jeremiah Compares the People’s Relationship with God to a Cheating Spouse

The prophet Jeremiah, along with many other writers in the Bible, accuse God’s people of spiritual adultery. They are unfaithful to their Lord. They cheat on him. They run around with other, lesser gods.

Marital Adultery

Cheating on a spouse is a situation most people readily comprehend, having experienced it, witnessed it in others, or faced that temptation themselves. The result of adultery is a damaged or destroyed marriage, broken hearts, and scars that last a lifetime.

In a marriage relationship, adultery—being unfaithful to your spouse—stands as a critical mistake, a potentially relationship-ruining act of selfishness. The same is true of God when we cheat on him. How our duplicity must break his heart.

Cheating on God

But how, you ask, do we cheat on God? We are unfaithful to our Creator when we put other pursuits before him, when we no longer allow him to be number one in our life.

Though in the Old Testament this means chasing after other gods, that practice isn’t so widespread today—at least not in a literal sense. But we do serve other gods in a figurative manner.

From a spiritual standpoint this is a potentially relationship-ruining act of selfishness.

Even more important than being faithful to our spouse is being faithful to God—both now and forever. Click To Tweet

Spiritual Adultery Examples

These acts of spiritual adultery may take many forms. This includes pursuing pleasure, recreation, and even idleness.

For many there are other gods that exist too. One is materialism: earning more money, buying more things, and accumulating more wealth. This unsatiated desire for more becomes the God that we worship because it displaces our Lord from his rightful place as being number one in our life.

Human relationships—though important—also threaten our right relationship with God. Anything that distracts us from him rages as a temptation to be unfaithful.

These adulterous pursuits disrespect God just as adultery disrespects a person’s spouse.

The Bride of Christ

Metaphorically speaking, as Jesus’s followers, we will collectively become his bride—the bride of Christ. John’s epic vision recorded in the book of Revelation captures this well. In the end of this age we—Jesus’s church—will prepare ourselves for our Savior, made ready and beautifully dressed for our betrothed. (Revelation 19:7 and Revelation 21:2).

Then we will unite with Jesus and live with him forever.

Faithfulness Matters

Even more important than being faithful to our spouse is being faithful to God—both now and forever.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Jeremiah 1-3 and today’s post is on Jeremiah 3:20.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

It’s Not My Fault: Playing the Blame Game

Blaming Others for Our Mistakes Comes from Our Sin Nature

Jeremiah prophesies judgment against the people in Jerusalem for their idolatry. God has had enough, and he will punish them for turning from him and pursuing other gods. Specifically, many women are burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out their drink offerings to her.

Interestingly, the Queen of Heaven only shows up five times in the Bible, all in the book of Jeremiah, with four occurrences in this chapter alone. From Scripture we know nothing about the Queen of Heaven, except that some people worship her instead of God.

When confronted over their spiritual adultery, the people aren’t convicted of their sin. Instead, they double down and pledge to continue worshipping the Queen of Heaven.

As far as the women taking an active part in this idolatrous worship, they refuse to take responsibility for their actions. It’s not their fault, they insist. They blame their spouses. Since their husbands knew what they were doing and didn’t stop them, it’s the guys’ fault.

Adam and Eve

Does this blaming of others sound familiar?

It first happened back in the Garden of Eden, with the very first sin in the world. Adam and Eve do precisely what God told them not to do. They eat fruit from the one forbidden tree.

When God points out their mistake, Adam blames his wife. “She gave me the fruit,” he says.

Eve follows his example. She blames the serpent. (See Genesis 3:1-19.)

Their example continues throughout history. When caught in wrongdoing, people seek to shift responsibility to someone—or something—else. Though we might attribute this to human nature, it’s more correct to call it sin nature. When our sin is uncovered, we add to it by sinning again when we try to deflect our fault elsewhere.

Even Moses did this.

Variations of the Blame Game

Adam blames his wife for his sin because she gave him the forbidden fruit.

The women in Jeremiah’s time blame their husbands because they knew what their wives were doing.

Today we see more ways to play this blame game.

One version is, “but everyone else is doing it.”

A second form is, “it’s my parent’s fault,” also known as “it’s the way I was raised.”

A final one is “I was born this way.”

We also point an accusatory finger at our environment, circumstances, or socioeconomic conditions.

But when we sin, the only true responsibility falls to us and us alone. We did it, and we are at fault.

When we sin, the only true responsibility falls to us and us alone. We did it, and we are at fault. Click To Tweet

Fortunately, we don’t need to let the weight of our sins break us. Jesus died as the permanent payment for our mistakes. When we follow him and become his disciple, he takes away the penalty of our sin and makes us right with Father God.

Thank you, Jesus, for taking away our sins.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Jeremiah 41-45 and today’s post is on Jeremiah 44:19.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

When We Say We’ll Do What God Says, Do We Really Mean It?

The People Ask Jeremiah to Seek God’s Will, But They Don’t Like the Answer

Those few of God’s chosen people left in the promised land have it bad. Babylon has conquered them. Insurgents have just killed their captor’s appointed ruler, and the people fear they’ll face retribution.

They Seek God

They do what they should’ve done all along. They turn to God. They want to know God’s will. But they can’t, or don’t know how to, hear directly from the Almighty. Instead they want an intermediary. They go to Jeremiah for help.

“Pray to the Lord,” they ask the prophet, “and inquire of him where we should go and what we should do.”

Jeremiah Agrees but with a Caveat

The prophet listens to the people’s request and commits to seek God as they asked. Then he adds a warning. He pledges to tell the people everything that God says whether encouraging or discouraging, whether positive or negative. And for his part, Jeremiah promises to not hold anything back.

“We’ll do whatever God says,” the people promise. “Whether good or bad we will obey him.” They sound sincere. We assume they are. But let’s see what happens.

Jeremiah Waits to Hear from God

God and Jeremiah have a tight connection. He hears regularly from God and writes it down for the people—and for us—to read. It seems reasonable that as soon as Jeremiah seeks God’s instructions that he’ll get a quick response. It should only take a few minutes.

But God’s timing is different than ours. God doesn’t speak to Jeremiah right away. For the rest of the day nothing happens. For the rest of the week there’s no word from God. Then ten days later the word of God comes to Jeremiah.

An Unexpected Message

The people are afraid and want to flee the promised land. They wonder if Egypt is the ideal place to go. There they’ll be out of the grasp of Babylon’s reach. They expect God will confirm their logical decision to scurry off to Egypt.

But God doesn’t do what they expect. He tells them that if they stay put, he will bless them. The Lord says they shouldn’t fear the military might of Babylon. They should place their trust in him instead.

“However,” God says, “if you disobey me and don’t stay where I put you and instead scoot off to Egypt, then don’t expect any favors.” Though they reason that Egypt will afford them food and safety, instead they’ll die there from starvation and war.

Jeremiah did is the people asked. He sought God’s will and then, as promised, told the people everything God said. There’s a blessing for obedience and a warning for disobedience.

The People’s Response

The people promised they would do what God said. They heard Jeremiah’s message of what to do, along with the accompanying promise of provision. They also heard Jeremiah’s message of what not to do, along with the associated warning of death.

What do the people do? They accuse Jeremiah of lying. Following the adage, “they shoot the messenger”—at least metaphorically.

They don’t like Jeremiah’s message, so they decide to dismiss it. But by ignoring Jeremiah, they’re ignoring God. They decide to do what they wanted to do all along. They hightail it to Egypt, disobeying God’s command in the process.

And to Jeremiah’s dismay, they drag him off with them as they flee to Egypt.

May we break this pattern of selective obedience. Click To Tweet

What About Us?

When we say we’ll obey what God says, do we really mean it? Too often our obedience is selective. We do what’s easy and ignore the difficult parts of God’s commands that don’t make sense or that we don’t like. In short, we don’t believe God’s message—at least, not fully.

God’s people did it long ago, and God’s people still do it today. May we break this pattern of selective obedience.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Jeremiah 41-45, and today’s post is on Jeremiah 42:1-3.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

How Do We Respond to Unpopular Messages?

Not Liking What Someone Says Doesn’t Give Us the Right to Silence Them

The prophet Jeremiah faithfully informs the people of the message God gives him. But they don’t like what they hear. They oppose Jeremiah and his unpopular messages.

Unpopular Messages in Bible Times

Throughout his lengthy ministry, Jeremiah faces continued opposition and persecution. Though he occasionally has a few people protect him from more harm, most people oppose him for his unpopular messages.

A contemporary of Jeremiah is Uriah, son of Shemaiah. Uriah prophesies the same things that Jeremiah does, but Uriah doesn’t have anyone advocating for him and his well-being. The king wants to kill Uriah for his unpopular prophecy.

Uriah hears of the king’s plan and flees the country to hide out in Egypt. But this isn’t far enough away. The king sends someone to hunt down Uriah. They capture him, bring him back, and kill him, tossing his body in a common burial pit. This is a most undignified end for God’s prophet.

Remember that neither Jeremiah or Uriah did anything wrong or said anything wrong. It’s just that the people didn’t like their messages. And these two prophets paid a high price for saying what was unpopular.

Unpopular Messages in Society

Today we exist in a polarized world, especially in the United States. People with unpopular ideas face being shouted down, vilified, or attacked. Though death threats aren’t often the outcome, death threats are.

These attacks come from people who feel they are in the right, which they assume gives them the moral superiority to act the way they do. These voices come against anyone who doesn’t fit the popular narrative of the day.

God sends his messengers to us. We better listen, even if we don’t like what we hear. Click To Tweet

Unpopular Messages in the Church

It would be nice to think that God’s people don’t act like the society they live in. But they do. It’s a sad outcome when the world influences God’s people instead of God’s people influencing the world.

If a preacher takes a biblical stance that doesn’t align with the PC-thinking crowd, they’re vilified and attacked, both by the media and many in the church. Their unpopular words may cause them to lose their job, be effectively run out of town, or have their career ruined.

I wonder what God thinks about us when we do this.

God sends his messengers to us. We better listen, even if we don’t like what we hear.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Jeremiah 26-28, and today’s post is on Jeremiah 26:20-23.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Jeremiah Teaches Us About the Lament

Sometimes our laments blame God for our pain, when we are the source of our troubles

A lament is an expression of grief, sorrow, pain, regret, despair…you get the picture. Lament occurs when life overwhelms our hearts and steals our tomorrows. Many of the Psalms are laments.

Though lamenting is biblical, our church services seldom includes the lament. We need to understand the lament and reclaim it.

Jeremiah’s short book of Lamentations contains six laments. Those who don’t identify with the lament breeze past them or even skip this book. For others these six dirges touch at a heart level and express an unfathomable angst in their souls.

Look at the strong themes of hopelessness in just one verse, Lamentations 1:20:

Distress: We feel anxiety and strain; we suffer in our situation.

Torment: We are harassed; we experience physical pain or mental anguish.

Brokenhearted: We are desolate; we grieve over loss.

Violence: The threat of physical force surrounds us.

Death: The end of life confronts us.

While the source of lament may spring from external sources, it can also result from our own choices. In this particular case, the cause for lament is self-inflicted. It is rebellion. Though the author, Jeremiah, carries this weight on his shoulders, his words serve to reflect the plight of the nation.

The entire populace laments, but they are the cause: they rebelled against God.

Don’t criticize God if your rebellious spirit is at fault. Click To Tweet

Sometimes our own actions take us down a wrong path, one where the likely outcome is distress, torment, broken heartedness, violence, and death. We cry out to God in the midst of this, but he is not at fault; our rebellious spirit is the cause.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Lamentations 1-3, and today’s post is on Lamentations 1:20.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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