This morning when I woke up I began thinking about my study in Jeremiah. I am using as my guide, the New Inductive Series by Precept Ministries founder Kay Arthur. When I first began the study I was thinking it would lead me into the same theme that Kay found - Listening to God in Difficult Times. But the Lord has taken me in a completely different direction.
I began to notice after chapter three, that the Lord was showing me how the warnings from God through Jeremiah to his people apply to the people of this century. These warnings given centuries ago to the Jews are eerily similar to events transpiring today. And that is not a coincidence. The Bible wasn't preserved for over 2,000 years merely to entertain us with its stories. It is filled with words of wisdom, history, the plan of salvation, lessons and commandments on how we should live, and most importantly, how God expects us to live in light of His presence.
But one thing I keep seeing during my studies is how history is prone to repeat itself. Just as the people in the past were sinful, so is this world today. But will God deal with us the same way He dealt with people during Jeremiah's time? Most of the lessons I'm learning during this study seem to be saying yes. But sadly, it seems no one is listening.
Have We Forgotten the Past?
In 2 Chronicles 6 we read a lovely prayer from King Solomon as he dedicates the newly built Temple in Jerusalem to God. Immediately after his prayer this happened:
When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. The priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it. When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the Lord above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshipped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying,“He is good. His love endures forever.” Then the king and all the people offered sacrifices before the Lord. - Jeremiah 8:1-4)
God had just made Himself known and His glory filled the temple. Yet, it was this same temple that Jeremiah would stand at the gates of (see Jeremiah 7), hundreds of years later, warning the people that destruction was about to come upon them. Why? Because they had forsaken God and disobeyed Him.
But how did the people get so far off track, from seeing the glory of God to not being afraid of Him and not caring at all if they offended Him? It was because of their leaders. Incredibly, disobedience toward God and sinning against Him started first with King Solomon, the one who built the temple to honour God, whom God appeared to twice. - 1 Kings 11
And it continued on with his children and grandchildren.
In the seventeenth year of Pekah son of Remaliah, Ahaz son of Jotham king of Judah began to reign. Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. Unlike David his father, he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord his God. He followed the ways of the kings of Israel and even sacrificed his son in the fire, engaging in the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the high places, on the hilltops and under every spreading tree. - 2 Kings 16:1-4
The king led his people into sinning against God. And it didn't stop with Ahaz. It continued with Manasseh. "He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced divination, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger. - 2 Kings 21:6. He built altars to foreign gods and put them in the temple of God. You can read about all the evil he did in 2 Kings 21. In fact, if you go to Biblegateway.com and type in the words "did evil" you will get a list of all the kings who led their people into sin.
How Does This Relate to us Today?
Look at our leaders. What are their values? Where do they stand as far as God is concerned? What about the world in general? We don't have to look far to see how ridiculous things have become: Donald Trump, an egotistical, narcissistic, racist maniac is running for president of the United States and God's people (Evangelical Christians) are supporting him. This isn't just evil, it's crazy! Why wouldn't they support Ted Cruz or Mark Rubio, who have both professed belief in Jesus as their Saviour? Both of these men know their Bible. They know their God. Donald Trump "says" he is a Christian, yet it is clear by his behaviour that he is anything but. Donald Trump is a modern day Herod and the only reason Christians are favouring him is because they are no longer listening to God. If he is by some horrible twist of fate, EVER elected president, history will repeat itself and America will have its very own Herod the Great ruling over them.
Think it can't happen? How do you think Obama got elected? The people didn't listen to God and God said, "Fine. Here 'ya go. Here's the leader you wanted so badly." And then He stepped back and watched Obama destroy not only the inner workings of America, but the reputation of America. All because the people wanted a new king (1 Samuel 8:1-20). When people ask for unreasonable things, sometimes God gives them what they ask for just to teach them a lesson.
Obama has destroyed relations with Israel, the only democratic country in the Middle East, and he openly welcomed terrorists into the White House! He played a game of cat and mouse with the American people. Pretending to be a Christian to get votes and then showing his true colours when he was elected. And he didn't do it once - he did it twice! Donald Trump is ALREADY showing his true colours and yet against all reason, people are supporting him. And those Christians who have not fallen sway to a deceiving spirit are shaking their heads in disbelief. People are actually starting to fear Donald Trump might be elected as President. Think it can't happen? As a Canadian I am still stunned at our change in leadership.
Our new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has said he admires China's Communist dictatorship, echoing his father, Pierre Trudeau, who not only claimed communist leader Fidel Castro as a friend, but also deeply admired mass murderers Mao Tse Tong and Joseph Stalin. History shows that Pierre Trudeau was the one who liberalized Canada's laws on divorce, abortion, and homosexuality. Following in his father's footsteps, Justin is a huge supporter of gay rights, he also says yes to murdering babies and wants to make abortion clinics more accessible to women. In addition, he is in the process of allowing medically assisted suicide. So while he isn't personally burning children as sacrifices to Ba'al, his approval and encouragement of both of these practices show us that, like his father, Justin has rejected the Bible and God, by couching it with the words "equal rights."
These things are just the tip of the iceberg and are only about the leaders on this side of the world. Don't get me started on what is going on in Europe. One thing is certain, our world is on a downward spiral, whose leaders are setting the course of our demise and God will wait only so long for a nation to repent before He acts.
God warned the people, speaking through Jeremiah saying:
This warning rings true for us today. Our leaders have forced God out of schools, government, and businesses. They have consistently, as Anne Graham Lotz once said, "Shaken their fist at God." But we don't need to follow our leaders into immorality. We don't need to believe what they believe. We can stand firm in our convictions and believe in and continue to trust in God and follow Him and this is something we must do!
God will be patient for only so long and then He will act. Will you be ready?
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. - 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3
“Oh, Olive I’m so sorry we did not milk you last night.” She grabbed a stool and a bucket, sat down and began kneading the swollen udders of the disgruntled goat. “Here I was playing with the new baby and you are about ready to burst.” Soon, the steady rhythm of the milk squirting into the bucket soothed both her guilt and the goat’s discomfort. As Mary cooed comforting words, she gradually began to feel that she was not alone. “I’m almost finished Ima, I’ll be right in,” she said, turning her head slightly.
“Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.”
Mary scrambled off her stool and fell hard on her bottom, almost knocking over the bucket of milk. Her mouth hung open in a silent scream as she stared at the man before her. He had an aura about him that was ethereal. She knew at once that this was no ordinary man but a heavenly being.
He extended his hand toward her and pulled her to her feet.
“Who … who are you?”
“I am the angel Gabriel. Do not be afraid, Mary. You have found favour with God.” Gabriel smiled at the young girl before him. He motioned for her to sit on her stool, concern for her evident on his face. Grateful to be off her feet, Mary obeyed, her knees were almost buckling beneath her. Minutes passed in silence as Mary tried to process what was happening.
“Why have you come to me?” She lifted her to gaze to the angel before her and Gabriel smiled with compassion.
He drew himself up to an enormous height and with a resounding voice announced, “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever. His kingdom will never end.”
“How will this be since I am a virgin?”
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you, so the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elisabeth, your relative, is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”
“I am the Lord's servant,” Mary bowed her head and folded her hands in her lap. “May it be to me as you have said.” Shaky limbs kept her rooted to her stool. When the angel did not say anything else she dared to look up and discovered he was gone.
For a short time, she sat in stunned silence, unsure if she had been dreaming, or if it had been real. I am to have a child? A holy child of the Most High God?
“I wonder how it will happen?” she muttered as she resumed milking Olive. “What did the angel say Olive? The power of the Most High would overshadow me. What does that mean? Will I know when it happens? Will it hurt?”
Olive bleated, turned and nudged Mary with her nose. “I’m sorry Olive. I will try to be gentle. It’s just that I’m a little overwhelmed right now.” She explained as she lessened her grip on Olive’s udders.
“How will I explain this to Joseph?” She gasped. “Joseph!” She stopped milking Olive and placed her hand on her abdomen. “Do you think he will believe me, Olive? Or will he think I have been unfaithful to him?”
Olive bleated again and began to move away. Mary snatched the full bucket away from the errant goat’s hooves and slowly walked back to the house.
Will he think I am crazy if I tell him the truth? She wondered. What am I to do? How will I explain it to everyone?
Keeping her virginity was something her parents had taught her was special and important. They had warned her that if she ever lost it before marriage not only could she be stoned, but she could also lose her chance to be used by God.
Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.’ 
The scripture all but shouted at her. Why me? Why am I highly favoured? Does that mean that the prophecies are being fulfilled in me this very day?
“Elisabeth! Gabriel said Elisabeth was with child – in her sixth month. I must see her at once for surely the Lord has favoured her as well.”
 Isaiah 7:14
I've recently begun to dig into the book of Jeremiah and realized once again how God really does have things in control. For example, in my last post we discovered that God had a plan for Jeremiah's life before Jeremiah had even been conceived. Does this mean He also has our lives planned out in advance? If so, how much free will do we really have?
It is clear when you read the complete first chapter of Jeremiah that we have quite a bit of free will. True, Jeremiah was born into a family of priests, so his future was somewhat marked out for him. He also would have been trained on how to approach God as well as the laws of the Torah and the respect that comes with that. So, his upbringing likely prepared him for the role God had in store for him. But was he ever in the position to say no?
Then I said, “Alas, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, because I am a youth.”
Clearly, Jeremiah felt comfortable voicing his concerns to God that he had the wrong man for the job. However, God convinced him that everything would be fine, because He would be with him (Jeremiah 1:7-8; 1:18:19). So we can see from Scripture that it is okay to relate our fears to God about what He wants us to do. But can we say no?
"Now, gird up your loins and arise, and speak to them all which I command you. Do not be dismayed before them, or I will dismay you before them."
The word "dismayed" in Hebrew is chathath and means to be shattered, dismayed, broken, abolished or to be afraid. God basically tells Jeremiah that if you are too afraid to do my will, I will keep you in that state. In other words, Jeremiah's actions would either be a victory for God or a harsh lesson for Jeremiah to learn to trust in God more. One leads to victory, the other would lead to a spirit of fear. God doesn't force us to do things we don't want to. He does however give us the power to do them and prepares our path to do them well. It comes down to your faith. How willing are you to trust God? It also means you must be absolutely sure God has called you to do His work. Not everyone receives visions and dreams like Jeremiah. So how can we know for sure what God's will is in any given situation?
For Christians we have the assurance of Ephesians 1:3-6. In particular, we have received the Holy Spirit as a pledge from God as to our inheritance in Him.
In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:13-14).
This promise of the Holy Spirit is crucial for Christians when trying to understand what it is God has called us to do in relation to our service to Him. Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that we were created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. In my own life, I always equated "good works" (caring for the sick, feeding the poor, helping your neighbour, etc. ) with helping others, but I have come to realize it is more than that. Because of my illness I cannot get out and "help" anyone. In fact, it is quite the reverse. I need help on a daily basis. However, my "service" to God my "good works" if you will, is sharing with you from His Word. Oh, yes I can give money to help a needy cause, but my mission, my calling from God is to discern His Word and share it. He prepared this in advance for me to do, by giving me a spirit that hungered after His Word. Yes, I questioned God on my ability to teach, but He confirmed His choice for me through people, circumstances and His Word.
For example, a good friend of mine (without telling me) paid for a course for me to take on teaching Scripture. Why? God told her do it. She put her faith into action at a conference we were both attending and paid for me to attend a training course. The result was that at the end of the conference I was feeling convicted to take a training course on teaching Scripture. The same course she had already signed me up for. When you step out in faith amazing things can happen!
You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.
It all comes down to how much you trust God. Scripture tells us that we did not choose God, but He chose us! Isn't that amazing? He does have a plan for your life and He will reveal it to you in time. Right now, you may not know what God wants you to do with your life, but know this - where you are right now will prepare you for what He wants you to do. And you have a choice. To say no to the God of heaven and forever be unsatisfied and unfulfilled with your life, (because you aren't fulfilling your God-ordained purpose) or live a life in accordance with God's will and reap the benefits.
So yes, we do have free-will and we can say no, but why would you want to?
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations."
Have you ever wondered if God has a plan or purpose for your life? Lately, I have been asking myself that same question. You see, for years I thought His plan was made perfectly clear to me when, at the age of 17, He revealed that I would sing for Him. I was in church on New Year's Eve. During prayer I heard the Lord say to me, "This year you will begin to serve me with your voice." I thought, "Cool! I love to sing and I would be willing to do that." But my immediate thought after that was, "How?" Well, God had it all figured out beforehand and I never had to worry about the "how". The day after New Year's Day I received a phone call from a Christian organization asking me to come sing for a weekend at their camp. I said I would but that I had never done anything like that before. They said, "Then come practice on us." They would provide meals, a room to sleep and a way to get there. Well you didn't have to tell me twice that God was up to something. Especially, when to this day, I still don't know how these people heard of me or got my number! I suspect one of my friends wanted to jump-start my ministry and recommended me but no one owned up to it, which has always made me feel God's hand was at work. So I accepted, despite my inexperience at performing. You see up until then I had been vocally trained and knew how to play a guitar. I had even written twenty or more songs. But I had never performed them in front of anybody. I was nervous, but God had a plan.
For thirty years I stepped out and sang for God until it all came to a crashing halt, after an emergency surgery resulted in doctors ruining my vocal chords. The devastation I felt is hard to express. It wouldn't be wrong to say that my meaning in life (my purpose) vanished and I would wander aimlessly for many months. But God had a plan.
God had a plan for the prophet Jeremiah as well. He had that plan before Jeremiah was even formed in his mother's womb. Think about that. Before Jeremiah was born God knew him. Before he was born, God sanctified him to do a specific work - to be a prophet to the nations. Did Jeremiah question God on His designs for his life? You bet! Jeremiah's number one concern was that he was too young for such a mission.
Then said I:“Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth.”
In other words, Jeremiah was worried that no one would listen to him because he was too young. This verse doesn't mean he couldn't speak eloquently or that he wasn't intelligent enough to tackle matters pertaining to God. It means he was too young to speak on matters concerning God to his elders. You see Jeremiah came from a family of priests (Jeremiah 1:1) and being a teenager, he would never presume to speak for God to them. He was worried God had got the wrong guy.
When I discovered that I would never get my singing voice back, I struggled with my identity. I still do sometimes, because in my mind I was created to sing for God. I do not feel qualified to teach His Word, I only know that I'm supposed to. How? It was the way He prepared me. Long before the surgery I had taken an interest in writing as a hobby. So much so I took a writing course. In addition, I had discovered a whole new world of Bible Study through Precept Ministries and I was "digging deeper" with each study. I also took training on how to teach these studies. God used all those experiences to fulfill the next stage in His plan for me - to write and teach Bible studies (and occasionally pen a novel or two). When I finally said yes to God I will never forget the moment. I was at my computer and said, "Okay Lord, not my will but yours be done. Use my hands the same way you used my voice." The next thing I knew, a novel was pouring out through my fingertips about the life of Christ through the eyes of his mother. That book, Come to Me, would go on to win a Reader's Favorite Award and be the jumping start for future Bible Studies I would write. By writing the book I had to dig into history, research the culture and dig deeper into Scripture. The more I did that, the more I realized how much I loved digging into God's Word and sharing it with others.
So, do I still wonder what my purpose is? Sometimes. You see I now have another battle to deal with. I have been told I will be in a wheelchair before I'm sixty because of the disease I'm battling. Currently, I'm fifty-seven and can no longer walk without assistance or stand for long periods (I have to use a scooter outside and a walker inside my house). I also need help getting my socks and shoes on and off. So trying to stay positive while my future looks bleak has been a challenge. But, this one thing I know and cling to - God has a plan.
God has a plan for your life too and like Jeremiah, He knew you before you were born. He has created you for a specific purpose. To have fellowship with you. And He gave you talents and passions (maybe even a disability or a hardship) that He wants you to use to bring others to Him. You may think God cannot use you in your current state. You would be wrong. He wants fellowship with everyone He has created. He does not wish for anyone to die in their sins. To that end, He had a plan. His name was Jesus. His purpose was to bring sinners into fellowship with God, through his atoning sacrifice on the cross. His plan is that no one should perish in their sins (John 3:16). His life was freely given to save yours. If you know him as your Saviour then you already know God's plan for your life. You have been commissioned by Him to go and make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:16-20). So go! Be a Jeremiah and trust that God's plan for you will be fulfilled.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Do you ever use the term "God Bless You" or has anyone used the term for you? Someone might say it after you sneeze, or offer it as a form of condolence over the loss of a loved one ("May God Bless You"), or as a farewell message in a card or letter. But what does it really mean to be "blessed" by God?
In Jesus' famous Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-11) he gives us eight definitions of who is blessed and the outcomes of those blessings. Let's look at them closely because it could be that you are missing out on blessings Jesus wants you to have.
1. "Blessed are the poor in spirit . . .
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." The International Standard Version translates “poor in spirit” as “destitute in spirit.” God’s Word Translation says, “Those who are spiritually helpless.” Those who are poor in spirit recognize how unworthy they are to stand before the throne of God. They agree that their sin is ever before them and without God they are utterly and hopelessly lost. People who are poor in spirit, therefore, recognize their spiritual condition and the need to make themselves right before God. The promise of course is the kingdom of heaven.
2. "Blessed Are Those who mourn . . .
for they shall be comforted." I recently lost my mother and was greatly comforted by all the friends and family who came alongside me to mourn her loss. But I don't think this is where Jesus was going with this. Why? I believe when Jesus was teaching his disciples he had a more spiritual goal in mind. For example, when building on the first blessing listed above (Blessed are the poor in spirit), if you recognize that you are poor in spirit, do you mourn your separation from God because of your sin? If you do, then God not only promises you the kingdom of heaven, but he promises that you will be comforted as well. To those who believe in Jesus as their Saviour your sinful state was washed clean and God sees you as a new creation, holy and perfect in His sight (2 Corinthians 5:17). What a comfort to the soul that is!
3. "Blessed are the meek . . .
for they shall inherit the earth." Each blessing seems to build on the next. If you recognize that you are unworthy to stand before God and you mourn that spiritual state, then when you humbly bow before Him confessing that sin and repenting of it, God promises that you will inherit the earth. But what does it mean to "inherit the earth?" Psalm 37:11 also talks about the meek inheriting the earth, but goes on to say that they shall also "delight themselves in the abundance of peace." Jesus was probably referring to this verse in his Sermon on the Mount discourse because it would have sent a strong message to the Jews of his day that were being persecuted by the Romans. Read Psalm 37:9-13 and you will see that the wicked will not prosper (God is actually laughing at their plans) and that in the end it is the meek (the lowly, poor, humble, needy, etc.) who humble themselves before God, who will inherit His promises.
4. "Bless are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness . . .
for they shall be filled." Who fills us when we seek the Lord with all our hearts? The Holy Spirit. He alone makes us complete in Christ. Jesus said in John 15:4-5: Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If you are not actively pursuing God by getting to know Him through His Word, if you don't hunger and thirst for His Word, you will never truly be filled with His Holy Spirit. If you just believe in Him but don't pursue a relationship Him, you are missing out on the blessing of being filled by Him. Jesus confirmed that apart from Him you can do nothing. So if you are actively pursuing God, you have the promise of being filled with His Holy Spirit.
5. "Blessed are the merciful . . .
for they shall receive mercy." How do you treat others? When they wrong you are you forgiving? How about when it comes to sharing the Gospel? God’s eyes roam the earth. Will He find you merciful toward others in that you have freely shared not only His love and kindness, but His message of salvation as well? There are many opportunities to extend mercy to another. But the greatest mercy of all is sharing the truth about Jesus with one who does not know Him.
6. "Blessed are the pure in heart . . .
for they shall see God." “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Because of this, no one can see God face to face and live (Exodus 32:20). But those who are made new in Christ Jesus are justified by His blood and will one day see Him face to face (Revelation 22:3-4). God has wiped their sins away and they are no more. On judgement day they will be considered pure of heart and will see God face to face.
7. "Blessed are the peacemakers . . .
for they shall be called the children of God." Are you starting to see a pattern? The Beatitudes don’t single out one type of person. Jesus was describing the blessings that all who follow Him will receive. The early Christians sought to live in peace with each other as much as possible. They were known by their love for each other. They lived their lives for God and because of Him and were known as a peaceful people. While there were many issues they had to deal with from within their own circles, such as eating food sacrificed to idols and whether or not Gentile converts should be circumcised for example, they were still devoted to each other (Acts 4:32-35). To my knowledge (and please point me to Scripture that I am missing if I'm wrong) the early Christians did not single out unbelievers and attack their lifestyles as Christians do today with homosexuals. Yes, if sin was found within the church it was dealt with, but as far as I can tell they did not openly attack people outside the church. They shared Jesus' message of redemption and free gift of eternal life, but they let the Holy Spirit convict the hearts of those listening to the message. They were known as a peaceful people, something today's Christian's need to practice.
8. "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness . . .
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Christians are currently the most persecuted people in the world. “Out of every ten people, seven cannot live their faith in full freedom. And the most persecuted faith is Christianity, with at least 200 million people suffering from discrimination.”1 Jesus added to this blessing by saying, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:11-12, NASB). Yes, serving God is a risky business, but great are the rewards for those who follow Him.
Finally, did you notice that it is the persecuted and the poor in spirit who will receive the kingdom of heaven? Each blessing as I said, builds on the other. Each blessing gives a description of a person who is living for God. All these blessings are intertwined and are granted to those whose hearts are set on God, ready to serve Him. But what does the phrase, "for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" mean? Revelation 3:21 gives us a hint of what it will be like to receive the kingdom of heaven. Revelation 20:6 goes even further to suggest we will reign with Christ. This is the gift of the kingdom of heaven. To not only serve as priests to God, but to serve with Him in the new heaven and new earth. What an inheritance awaits those who live their lives with God as the center and focus of their beings! Don't miss out on these blessings. Set your heart and your mind toward the King of Heaven and be welcomed into the family of God.
1 Rome Reports TV News Agency, November 30, 2010