Jeremiah, Chapter 23

March 31, 2011

Friends,
Some people may wonder why I often speak out against “Christian” leaders, (not usually by name, but as a whole), for they may know some who are serving the Lord whole-heartedly in integrity and humility. I absolutely acknowledge that there are such ministers around, for I too know some personally. However, my criticism relates to the majority.

God’s Word gives numerous warnings to those who shepherd, lead, or influence others, as well as to those who listen to and follow them. One passage is Jeremiah, chapter 23. Here the LORD rebukes the shepherds for scattering the flock by having neglected to care for them, promising, “‘I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,’ declares the LORD.” (v. 2) God calls the neglect evil. Furthermore, He accuses these prophets (those who claim to speak as representatives of God’s Word) of being the very ones through whom “ungodliness has spread throughout the land.” (v. 15) And why has it? It’s because they do not stand in the council of the LORD to listen or hear His word. (v. 18) If they would, they would be proclaiming God’s words to His people which would turn them from their evil ways. (v. 22) But as it is, they speak from either the “delusions of their own minds” (v. 26) or from the council of Baal (Satan or one of his princes). (v. 13)

“‘Both prophet and priest are godless; even in My temple I find their wickedness,’ declares the LORD.” (v. 11) Church-goers and those who claim to know Christ are not exempt from the fate of any who resort to spiritual adultery and lies. (See v. 14) “‘Therefore their path will become slippery; they will be banished to darkness and there they will fall. I will bring disaster on them in the year they are punished,’ declares the LORD.” (v. 12) To “be banished to darkness” is not Heaven. Jesus, in warning of this dark place when He speaks about the “wicked, lazy servant” (Matt. 25:26) who refused to use the talent the Master gave him, says the Master will then say, “And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (v. 30) These are clear warnings of Hell directed at those who serve God, but who do so slothfully and not in line with the Father’s will. (See also Matt. 7:21-23)

In Jer. 23:17 God speaks out against those who encourage others with promises of peace and safety –even when those people are living in willful sin. Such soothing words are nothing but lies. For to follow the stubbornness of one’s own heart is to despise the Lord and His instructions (see v. 17 again & Ps. 50:16-21), and God will tear to pieces these rebels who forget Him. (See Ps. 50:22)

When such people, including their prophets and priests (their ministers and pastors) inquire, “What are the Lord’s words to us?” or “What is the Lord concerned about in regards to us?”, the Lord will answer, “What oracle? / What concern? I will forsake you, declares the LORD.” (Jer. 23:33) How can church groups think they can ask for the Lord to give them enlightenment or guidance when they’ve not obeyed what God’s Word has already revealed and commanded of them? The Lord will likely speak no further, but instead bring “the storm of… [His] wrath… down on the heads of the wicked” (v. 19) because they led others “astray with their reckless lies” (v. 32a) –“prophets who wag their own tongues and yet declare, ‘The LORD declares.'” (v. 31) “‘Yet I did not send or appoint them. They do not benefit these people in the least,’ declares the LORD.” (v. 32b)

If someone is not speaking the Lord’s words, yet pretends he is, it will not only profit the people nothing, but will actually lead the people further away from the Lord by causing them to forget His true instructions. Therefore, God commands, “You must not mention ‘the oracle [concern, words, burden] of the LORD’ again, because every man’s own words becomes his oracle and so you distort the words of the living God, the LORD Almighty, our God.” (v. 36) But for those who keep doing so, God says, “Therefore, I will surely forget you and cast you out of My presence along with the city I gave to you and your fathers. I will bring upon you everlasting disgrace –everlasting shame that will not be forgotten.” (v. 39) This was God’s warning to the false prophets in Jeremiah’s day, but it is the same warning for those in our day who presumptuously speak for the Lord, yet distort His Word and teach false doctrine.

To be forgotten by God and cast from His presence, means God was previously abiding there, a warning for the OSAS groups. For He gave His people the promised land, but because of their rebellion, He eventually took it from them. We are no less responsible. If we rebel, the Lord will cast us away also from His presence and promises. May we thus take heed and not listen to the lies that are filling the disobedient “with false hopes.” (See v. 16 & Heb. 10:35-39)

Instead, may we who teach, preach, advise, or counsel, obey God’s command in Jer. 23:28: “‘Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream [the lie –v. 25,26], but let the one who has My word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?’ declares the LORD.” The difference is like night versus day, like help versus destruction, for “Is not My word like fire,’ declares the LORD, ‘and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” (v. 29) Yes, for only God’s true oracle –His Word spoken under the anointing of His Spirit– will demolish strongholds within stubborn hearts and enable sinners to turn from their wicked ways and walk holy and pleasing to the Lord.

But… “‘Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture!’ declares the LORD.” (v. 1)

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
Anyone or group who tries to get others to dwell on their past or present sins does so only by the influence of the dark side. We are not to discuss foul habits or make excuses for why we practice them, but are to instead immediately kick all sin out of our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit. The only reason to take any time in looking at our sin is for the purpose of recognizing it, realizing we need our Savior continuously, and confessing it to the One who promises to cleanse us of it and deliver us from its grip. Unfortunately though, in place of this Truth, we find scores of self-help methods being promoted, as well as therapy sessions where individuals sit around discussing their “hang-ups” with one another, inadvertently giving each other more reasons and ideas by which to live in disobedience towards God.

Besides these supposed therapy classes, there are also many churches who repeat Sunday after Sunday statements concerning the depravity they were born into and remain in. No. If we are in-dwelt by the Spirit, we have been “born from above” (John 3:3) and each one of us has become a completely “new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17) Gone means –gone! For having confessed our sins, God was “faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) If we go back to being unrighteous –which is most definitely possible (see 2 Peter 2:20-22, 3:17 & Heb. 6:4-6, 10:26-31)– then we have defiled God’s temple, the abode of His Spirit, and unless there be true repentance, God will leave and destroy this polluted person. (1 Cor. 3:16,17 & 2 Chron. 24:18-20)

Why, then, in light of the Truth clearly taught throughout God’s Word, are “Bible teachers” successful in suckering people in under their false doctrines –doctrines which teach that people must find others who will listen to their whimpers about still being victimized by sin? It’s because of pride. For the leaders want to appear knowledgable and needed so that others will look up to them, while the followers believe they are entitled to much more love, attention, luxury, pleasures, etc. than they’re getting. Thus the two groups of parasites feed off the needs of the other.

God’s Word tells us to rebuke, leave, or avoid such counterfeit systems (see 1 Tim. 1:3-7, 4:1-3 & Titus 1:10-16, 3:9-11), for neither their leaders nor their followers teach or live by the Truth. If they did, there would be no habitual sins any of them would be wallowing around in to supply them with their subject of discussion. Instead they would have their eyes, thoughts, and words centered on Jesus, as well as exciting work being accomplished within His Kingdom in the power of the Spirit. “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” (1 Cor. 4:20)

2 Tim. 3:4-7 warns us of such people, for in conducting themselves in great wickedness, they continue to be “conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God– having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women [and men], who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.” Is this not what self-help therapy sessions are about? And once one area is supposedly dealt with, another problem area surfaces so that this one too is subjected to weeks of endless self-and-sin focus… –and the cycle continues. If, per chance, there seems to not be enough gross sin to mull over, then sins of parents and ancestors have to be “dug up” so that that the curses from these can be repented of and shed.

How true 1 Cor. 3:19 is in these cases! “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.” If “Christians” would stop saturating themselves in worldly philosophies and instead read God’s Word, they would realize that the healing they seek is being thwarted by the very fact that they are depending upon man, not God. They have actually brought upon themselves a curse. For as Jer. 17:5-8 reveals, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Cursed is the one who trust in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.'”

This passage is only one of many which contrast the futures of those who put their trust in man and those who put their trust in God. The one brings about grief and destruction, the other brings about a life flourishing with blessings of production and peace. Is it any wonder then, that the Almighty God –the One who does not want anyone to perish, but all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9)– consistently commands us in His Word to flee false teachers and their systems?

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
Eph. 5:11 tells us, “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” Hmmm… this is a hard thing to do sometimes –especially when we know that exposing people’s dark deeds will reap for us some unpleasant repercussions. For example, –shunning, insults, slander, and the like.

But how are we to expose these dark deeds? Are we to talk about them –is that how we expose them? No. We are to do as little of that as possible, because as the next verse says, “For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.” (v. 12)

I am surprised that so many preachers, then, seem to enjoy bringing up all the sins of society and preaching as if that is our subject to proclaim. It’s not. We are to point out sin, but we are to do so by shining light on it all. It’s the Light we are to preach about. As verses 13 & 14 say, “But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible.”

Verse 9 tells us that “the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth.” These then, are what we are to preach, live, and exemplify. Therefore, as did Paul, we are to preach to ourselves and others about being righteous, having self-control, and to soberly consider the judgement to come. (See Acts 24:25 & 1 Cor. 9:27)

I saw a billboard this last week that suggested help for a certain problem. However, the sign’s message was graphic, and therefore, in my opinion, it was actually promoting what it said it was discouraging. I believe this is often the case concerning the “help” the world offers. It says, “Come to me to overcome your addiction”, yet it creates more addictions, sometimes even furthering the very thing it claims to be eliminating. It’s like saying, “Don’t think about that certain thing”, but without the Holy Spirit being offered to come in, cleanse, and control the individual, then he or she has no power to stop the craving –except by sheer will-power, which usually last for only a short time.

My point is this: It doesn’t help to have long sermons focused on sin and its details. Most people know they are in sin, and many do hate their sins and even loathe themselves because of their sins they hate. It certainly doesn’t help for others to send to them ideas that have never even crossed their minds, especially by making it sound semi-normal or universal when it’s not!

If we are to have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, nor mention them, then we need to learn how to rebuke and warn while keeping our exhortations free of coarse and/or suggestive talk. Furthermore, our sermons should concentrate on Christ, the cross, the freedom He brings, the power of the Spirit, and the glorious and mighty weapons of our warfare. We should call attention to God’s Word, His promises therein, and attitudes and behaviors that promote growth. We should believe that our listeners want to walk in holiness, not sin. We should preach about our potential in Christ, not the potentials of the sinful nature which the listeners have promised to discard and leave behind, never to take up again. In short, we are to preach The Light.

So… it’s true that exposing dark deeds can bring on persecution, but if we obey this passage, it is The Light which we give out that will do the exposing, and God promises that efforts done in line with His will, will never be in vain.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
We just arrived home late tonight from out of state, having had a wonderful time with the huge clan of relatives on my mom’s side. 153 of us were all together to celebrate my grandpa’s 100th birthday and give the Lord praise for the vibrant, healthy, and blessed life God has granted him.

I was reading Ps. 92:12-15 on the flight home, reminded that the Lord certainly does fulfill His promises to those who walk in His ways and honor Him throughout their lifetimes by giving others a Christ-like example to imitate. These verses say, “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, ‘The LORD is upright;’ He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him.'”

Do we believe such promises as these? Do we believe what God’s Word says? I sure do. Because I see His hand at work all the time. And one place has been in the life of my grandpa and his descendants, almost all who have also lived blessed lives. And besides living righteous lives we could be influenced by, all of us know that my grandpa, as well as my grandma before she died, consistently prayed for us all daily, and those prayers are still bearing fruit.

Yes, the Lord has answered my grandparents’ prayers, including the numerous prayers of many of the rest of us –over and over and over… –Some for up to 100 years.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
Discipline… –it’s something that I’ve found, in talking with people about their walk with God, that they often cringe at. “That sounds like I have to be disciplined. I asked you to give me a quick-fix answer to my problem, my addiction.” Well, they don’t say it this way exactly, but it’s what they seem to imply. Like last week: A guy came up to me… I was handing out tracts and wearing my sign that says, “Jesus says, Be perfect as God is. Matt. 5:48.” This guy genuinely seemed to want to be rid of his addiction to alcohol, (though he had a can of it in a brown bag he was holding), for he was very excited and hopeful to hear my encouragement to Him that by submitting to Christ we can walk in freedom. However, he must of asked me four times, “But what are some steps I can take to start this walk of freedom?” By the fourth time of answering this, I realized his problem was that he wanted a “kazaamm!” kind of healing.

Jesus did miracles on earth because He could, and because He is compassionate, and because it confirmed His message –that He was the Messiah and the Forgiver or sins. Miracles still happen today, but because of our tendency toward pride (by which we can destroy ourselves and others), God, in His wisdom, hardly ever has them happen through one person “ka-zapping” someone. Instead He does it through our prayers, our concern, our petitions, our fasting, our going, and our reminders to them of God’s Word. –In short, through our consistent obedience to His Word and Spirit.

So it is with how we get ourselves and others healed –whether it be physical, emotional, mental, financial, social, or spiritual. We must be disciplined. We must form habits –good habits. We must be studying the supernatural Word of the living God and do what it says. We must be thinking on things true, noble, right, pure, and lovely as Phil. 4:8 commands. We must take our thoughts captive to obey Christ as 2 Cor. 10:5 commands. We must make no provision for temptation. We must separate from the ungodly and all that is perverse or crass. We must believe in God’s care for us and be grateful for all He’s done, showing Him this by our praise to Him and time spent with Him in prayer and reading His Word.

God is not a microwave God. We are not to think that we can make requests of Him and expect them to be answered immediately. If we are in an emergency, He will often do so, but most of our “emergencies” aren’t what we think. God will hear, but He will answer a different way than we expect, and certainly using a lot more time than we wanted. Why? Because the trials are there for reasons –like our growth in faith and character– and these take time.

God made the universe with laws, one being “cause and effect”. Thus we cannot break His laws and think we’ll be fine. For example, if we are rude to someone, the effect will be that the other person will not want to be around us. If we spend our whole paycheck on pleasure, then the effect will be no money, and thus no food, and eventually no shelter. God has given us instructions in His Word, and if we read, study, and obey them, then we will be blessed with peace, joy, and other things. But if we neglect or ignore it… well, Heb. 2:2 & 3 warn that if “every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” And this salvation is a deliverance, provided by Christ, from not only sin’s penalty, but sin’s disease and power. If we ignore the steps God gives in order to come out of the prison and walk in the freedom of newness of life, then just as ignoring a doctor’s orders, the cure will not happen.

Taking steps to get free and stay free does take discipline, it does take forming habits. The habits are ones that, if exercised consistently, will save one’s soul from eternal condemnation.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Assured Of Being Heard

March 26, 2011

Friends,
The Lord has given us so many wonderful promises in His Word. One is found in 1 John 5:14,15 which says, “This is the assurance we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us –whatever we ask– we know that we have what we asked of Him.”

When we have the Spirit of God residing in us, and we are continuously obedient to His counsels, then we will have right desires. This means our requests will be unselfish and pure. This doesn’t mean we won’t ask for things for ourselves, but when we do, it will be so that we can better glorify God. He knows we need things and He also likes to give us extra –even more than we can hold– if we are taking what He gives us (physical belongings, but also our joy, insight, encouragement, time, love, etc.) and sharing them with others.

Often people will wonder why the Lord does not answer their petitions. Well, we know that harboring sin in the heart could be the cause (Ps. 66:18), but unfortunately they’ve not been taught this. Or often they don’t even know what sin is, for it has been called “issues” or “mistakes” for so long that they’ve become hardened to its grotesque smell. This is why it is so important to read God’s Word –for it will illuminate the heart and open blind eyes. Then the one seeking help from God will realize he needs to be reconciled to God, but that repentance and cleansing must first be requested and obtained.

Many people who are not abiding in any sin that they know of, are still not getting their prayer answered. This could be due to the fact that they are completely outside of the will of God. They may be working for a ministry or working hard in some career, providing for their families, but they are not even on the path God assigned for them. And because their busyness keeps them from spending time with the Lord, they can’t hear His Spirit’s voice warning them of their perilous situation. God’s mercy will likely cause Him to answer some prayers even while the ignorant one continues on, but eventually God’s mercy will also cause Him to let the ignorant one get desperate enough to change his course and start seeking God’s voice, Word, and will.

For those, though, who are in God’s perfect will and know it due to hearing their Shepherd’s voice whom they love and fellowship with on a daily basis, God makes Himself available for the granting of our requests. The fulfillment of the request may not arrive for years, but we have His word on the matter, and so it is with rejoicing that we continue in the present work, trusting in His ability to perform that which He’s promised. Promises such as, “‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to… [you].'” (Jer. 33:14)

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Tithe TIME To Be Holy

March 25, 2011

Friends,
To belong to God we must be holy. To follow Christ we must be holy. To be in-dwelt by the Spirit we must be holy. This holiness is not merely a declared holiness in a statement. It is a holiness in reality. For the “Christian” who does not comprehend this, he is in for a horrible surprise.

It does not matter what we claim if it is not a reality. 1 John 1:6 & 2:3,4 and elsewhere tell us that such a claim is a lie. What part of this fact do most church-goers not understand? What part of 1 Cor. 6:9,10 is not understood? It says, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived…” and it lists several sins including immorality, idolatry, greed, drunkenness, and slander –sins most “Christians” participate in. Verse 11 then says, “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified…” Okay, good. But 2 Peter 2:20-22 tells us that these people can go back, like a washed pig will to her mud wallowing, and be worse off than if they’d never known Christ.

Does 2 Peter 3:17 warn us for nothing that we must be on “guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from you secure position.” –? Indeed it’s not a warning to take lightly, for Jesus and the apostles continually warn us to watch out and not be carelessly deceived by false teachers and their doctrines, nor by the devil, by the enticements of the world, or by the cravings of the sinful nature. We are most certainly in a war against all of that, and if we don’t think so, then we’ve been duped already and are already on the downward slope toward Hell.

The only safe place is in Jesus and the only way to know if we are truly in Him and not hearing from counterfeit spirits or our own imaginations, is to be meditating on God’s Word and moving forward in spiritual strength toward maturity, doing this by actively putting the commands into practice. I am amazed that pastors and ministers themselves do not often stress the importance of this, or if they do, their lives do not confirm that they believe it. Do they teach about the necessity of meditating on the Word day and night? Naww… because that’s Old Testament, they say. It’s Josh. 1:8 & Dt. 6:6,7, etc., but if that’s their take, then they may as well throw out most of God’s Word, including the Psalms. Besides, the New Testament commands that we be filled with, hold out, and be ready with, the Word of God continuously. (James 1:25 & Col. 3:16,17 & 2 Tim. 3:14-4:2 & Heb. 10:16 & Phil. 2:16 & 1 Peter 1:22-25, etc.) How else can we do this unless we know it thoroughly? Not so we can get puffed up with pride, but so that we can be useful –not stammering and timid and unrighteous– ambassadors of Christ!

If ministers preach about a ten percent tithe to the Lord –which is nowhere found in the New Testament, but was an ordinance for the Israelite nation so that their temple priests, who did not own land, could be provided for, then why do they not preach that we should be giving at least ten percent of our time to the reading of God’s Word? Let’s see… if we have 24 hours in a day, and we subtract 9 hours (for sleeping and eating), then we’ve got 15 hours daily. Ten percent is an hour and a half. Who’s giving that to the Lord for His honor and glory? Is money more important than quality time spent with the One who wants fellowship with us? Hmmm… but it’s the American way. It’s what they do with their “loved ones” all the time: Give them money, rather than time spent together –talking, laughing, reading, hiking, doing work or projects together… Uh-huh. Because to give money is easier, quicker, and more concrete. The dad can say, “I gave you $50 last week” and make the kid feel he’d then better do what Dad wants today. The husband can think, “I gave her a nice house. She needs to appreciate what a great guy she has and not complain when I stay out late with my buddies.”

A tithe is not a satisfactory substitute for what Christ tells us to do in following Him. There’s no tithe anymore. We are to be generous and do exactly what the Spirit commands, and that may be to give up more than ten percent of our money. However, the issue is about obedience –constant obedience in everything– which means we will be holy, pure, and just like Christ. But this can only come by spending time with Christ, the Word of God, in the Scriptures, being taught by The Counselor Himself.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel