Tag Archives: Jeremiah

New Books, a New Word, and a Lesson on Humility from Jeremiah

For my birthday, my in-laws sent me $20, so I decided to get some new books. Not that I need any new books, mind you, because I have quite a few that I haven’t read yet. But I was at the Cedar Hills Mall with my son last weekend because he wanted to go to Game Trader, and there is a Powell’s Books right next door. I just couldn’t resist. I want to share what wonderful books I found, in reverse order (because I want to write more about the first one I found).

The last book that I found was “Man In White” by Johnny Cash. I went to the music section looking for another biography of Johnny Cash and was pleasantly surprised to find that he had written a novel I did not know about. This book is Cash’s novelization of the life of the apostle Paul. I’ve only started the Introduction, but I will be posting a review when I finish this book. I think it’s going to be a good one!

The second book that I found was “Edge of Eternity” by Randy Alcorn. This book is a Christian novel. I’ve read some of Alcorn’s other books and really enjoyed them, so I am looking forward to getting a chance to delve into this one. With all the other books on my list, this one might be a while. I never seem to find as much time to read as I would like.

The first book I found was “What the Bible is all about: Bible Handbook NIV Edition” by Dr. Henrietta C. Mears. It looks like it will be a great resource for my Bible study. I’ve already learned some new things about the book of Jeremiah, which I am in the middle of reading. Although this isn’t the type of book you would read from cover to cover, it will be a great help to read the chapter on each book of the Bible as I begin reading it. This might slow down my already-behind-schedule Bible reading schedule, but if I get more out of my scripture reading that’s okay.

The discussion of Jeremiah begins this way, putting the whole book into perspective:

Here is the story of a diffident, sensitive lad who was called from the obscurity of his native town to assume, at a critical hour in the nation’s life, the overwhelming responsibilities of a prophet. (Mears, pg. 237)

I must confess that when I read this section of Mears’ book, I didn’t know what the word “diffident” meant, so I had to look it up. According to Dictionary.com, diffident means “lacking confidence in one’s own ability, worth, or fitness; timid; shy; restrained or reserved in manner, conduct, etc.” This definition is consistent with how I saw Jeremiah as I read what he wrote, and yet Mears’ concise manner of summarizing who Jeremiah was helped to solidify my mental image of him. And it is always good to learn a new word!

The diffident Jeremiah provides a perfect lesson on humility. Jeremiah did not think he was qualified to be God’s prophet. He thought he was too young, among other things. And according to Mears, in Jewish society most others would have thought him too young as well. But those who think they are unqualified, and sometimes those we think are unqualified, are often just the type of people God chooses to use for His glory. These are the humble ones who know they must rely on God for everything. Absolutely everything.

I think that as a follower of Christ, this is an important lesson to grasp. One of the gifts God has given me is the gift of encouragement. This lesson on how God uses the humble is important to me in two respects. First, I must remember that even when I do not think I am qualified for the task of encouraging someone, if He has called me to do it, He will give me the strength and wisdom necessary to accomplish it. Second, I must remember to use my gift of encouragement to spur on and embolden others who may not seem qualified, but whom God has called for some task. When a fellow Christian says, in Jeremiah fashion, “I’m too young” or “I can’t do that” or “I don’t speak eloquently enough,” I need to remind them what the Lord said to Jeremiah: “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you”. Jeremiah 1:8 (NIV).

I’ve heard a saying that humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of others more. But as I read Jeremiah and thought about what he has to teach us about humility, I realized that a better saying is that humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of God more. God made us in His image and made us to be in relationship with Him. We were never meant to live this life on our own, but to live dependent on our ultimate source of strength and wisdom, the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Jeremiah Preached the Gospel

I’ve been reading through Jeremiah, alternating with Hebrews, as part of my Bible-in-a-year reading schedule. I’m up to chapter 23 of Jeremiah, but I kept thinking about chapter 17. So I went back and re-read chapter 17 the other night. As I read through it, I realized that this passage encompasses the Gospel and that is why I was drawn back to it.

I love when I find the essence of the Gospel of Christ in the Old Testament (it’s all over the place, you know), but I didn’t really expect to find it in Jeremiah. This is a book by a prophet that the Israelites did not like. His gloom and doom predictions for Israel resulted in the priests and “prophets” plotting against him, and he was arrested, whipped, and put in stocks. He spoke on behalf of the Lord to warn the Israelites of God’s anger because they had turned away from Him, and he predicted that many of the Israelites would die at the hand of the Babylonians or from famine, and that others would be exiled to Babylon, if they did not change their ways.

But in the middle of all of the warnings and predictions is this passage that I believe encompasses the Gospel in a nutshell:

Wisdom from the Lord

 5 This is what the Lord says:
   “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans,
      who rely on human strength
      and turn their hearts away from the Lord.
 6 They are like stunted shrubs in the desert,
      with no hope for the future.
   They will live in the barren wilderness,
      in an uninhabited salty land.

 7 “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
      and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
 8 They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
      with roots that reach deep into the water.
   Such trees are not bothered by the heat
      or worried by long months of drought.
   Their leaves stay green,
      and they never stop producing fruit.
Jeremiah 17:5-8 (NLT).

Verses 5-6 speak of those who trust in their own ability to be righteous and believe they can earn their own way to heaven. When their judgment day comes, they will be cursed because they have trusted in human strength. Even in this life, their spiritual lives are barren and they have no real hope or strength in the face of the trials of this life.

Verses 7-8 speak of those who trust in the Lord Jesus for their salvation and know that they have no hope of righteousness on their own. They are not bothered by the trials of this world because they have the power of the Holy Spirit to sustain their spiritual life. They have the hope of eternity with God.

I love the imagery of this passage of Jeremiah. When trouble comes, and it will come for all of us, the one who trusts in human strength is “like stunted shrubs in the desert.” But the one who trusts in the Lord “like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water.” The stunted shrub is the perfect picture of worry and hopelessness. How can such a shrub ever survive? But the tree by the riverbank is the perfect picture of peace and hope. Such a tree will survive the worst drought because it has tapped into the source of life.

In this passage, water is life for the plant. In the New Testament, Jesus promises living water to all who believe in Him.

Jesus Promises Living Water

On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.) John 7:37-39 (NLT).

The question that faces every human being is whether they will trust in human strength or will put all their trust in their Creator. How about you? Do you seek to earn your own salvation through the strength of your own righteousness? Or have you chosen to trust in Jesus as the atoning sacrifice for your sins, recognizing that your strength and righteousness are nothing compared to His? When the drought comes, will you die of thirst because you have no power to create living water? Or will you thrive because you trust in the One who offers an endless supply of living water for all who believe?

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My Hands Are His Hands

I’m reading through Jeremiah as part of my Bible-in-a-year reading schedule. The other night I read Jeremiah 13. Probably the primary lesson of this chapter is the warning against pride, which in my opinion is the sin that is the root of most others sins. Pride leads us to believe we can live without God and that we know better than He does what behavior is best for us; pride puts each of us on our own throne and seeks to throw God out into the darkness (an impossible task, to be sure, but one pride will convince us we have succeeded at).

But that is not the aspect of this chapter that I really want to write about. Jeremiah 13 starts with God telling Jeremiah to do something that sounds quite strange. He is to wear a linen loincloth but not wash it; then bury the loincloth by the Euphrates River; then a long time later go and dig up the loincloth that he had buried. These are strange directions, but Jeremiah follows them in perfect obedience to God. It reminds me a bit of the Israelites following God’s direction for how to make the walls of Jericho fall, but with Jeremiah he doesn’t know the reason why God has directed him to act this way until after he has been completely obedient.

Ultimately, God uses the condition of the long-buried loincloth, now rotting and “good for nothing,” to illustrate the condition of the Israelites who have wandered far from God and rejected His ways to follow after false gods and worship idols. Their pride has made them good for nothing.

Sometimes God uses seemingly strange circumstances to illustrate a point to us, just as He used the rotting loincloth to illustrate a point to Jeremiah and the people of Israel. I recently had an experience where God used something odd to point out an important lesson to me about my own priorities. Interestingly, it was the afternoon before I read Jeremiah 13 that the lesson finally hit home.

This story starts about 6 weeks ago with fingernails. Generally, I have very nice fingernails; they have always been long and strong, and I never wear polish and have certainly never had fake nails. I frequently get compliments about how beautiful my hands and nails are, and have had quite a few people tell me I should have been a hand model.

About 6 weeks ago my nails were all looking particularly beautiful when I managed to get a small break in one of my thumbnails right at the base. Normally when that happens, I would trim the nail so that it stayed long but would be skinnier to cut out the break, and then trim the others so that they matched in length. At church that Sunday I complained to a friend that I had this break and was going to have to trim all my nails, and she said if they can glue on fake nails I should be able to get something that would glue this break and not have to cut my nails at all. So after church I went to the store and bought some clear nail strengthening polish with minerals, and went home and put on the polish. For the next 3 weeks I tried in vain to save that nail, with the break getting bigger and bigger. I finally cut it quite a bit shorter and shortened the others, but continued to use the polish. The very next day as we were headed out of town to visit family, I realized I had a similar break in another nail, and spent all weekend trying to save it only to catch it on something and rip off the nail super short.

When we got home that Sunday, I decided to take off the polish and trim all of my nails a little shorter. Much to my dismay, when I removed the polish I discovered that all of my nails were in terrible shape. They had cracks and were brittle and white even over the nailbeds. My nails have never, ever looked so bad. For the next 2 weeks, as my nails tried to grow out, they all kept breaking and peeling. I’ve been very frustrated.

Then the other night I complained to my husband about how frustrated I was just before heading off to a meeting at church. But as I drove to the meeting, God revealed to me my pride and vanity over my fingernails. He showed me that I had become more concerned with how my hands looked than what I did with them. The real beauty of hands is not in how they look but in what they do. The real beauty of hands comes in using them to serve and help others. With so much need in the world, my concern and frustration over the length and look of my nails was so petty and unimportant.

The hands of Christ healed and fed many, and then were nailed to a cross so that all might be healed. We are now the hands of Jesus on this earth. As Christians we are called to use His hands to heal and comfort, to feed the hungry, to minister to a lost and hurting world.

As I was writing this, I was reminded of this wonderful song by Casting Crowns from their debut CD, called “If we are the body.” It reminded me that our hands, my hands, need to be used to help heal those in need of His grace. The Christian church these days is known so much for what we are against. We use our mouths to condemn instead of our hands to heal. We need to be His hands healing, and we need to use His Word to teach the truth of His love and grace.

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An Attitude of Kneeling?

This week, and today in particular, have been mentally exhausting. I had to prepare for a big presentation at work, which I gave this morning. The presentation went just fine and was very well received by my audience. But it resulted in a decision that will involve big changes for my department in the coming months, and so the mental exhaustion is really just beginning.

This week I’ve been listening to Audio Adrenaline in my car, and one of the songs fits my situation just perfectly. It’s called “Underdog” and the first verse is:

I am so weak and I’m so tired
It’s hard for me to
Find enough strength to feed the fires
That fuel my ego
And consequently all my pride has all but died
Which leaves me
Down on my knees
Back to the place I
Should have started from

The stress of what has been going on at work has literally brought me to my knees in prayer every morning for the past two weeks. Now for some of you, that might not seem like a big deal, but for me it is huge.

Until we remodeled our house last year, we lived in 768 sq. ft. of very crowded space. My bedroom and home office were in the same very small 1941-style bedroom, and there was no place physically big enough for me to kneel to pray. And so I would always say to God that I had an attitude of kneeling in my heart, and that was good enough. When the space was not there, He didn’t argue with me on this point. But now that we have remodeled I have a very large new bedroom with soft new carpet, a reading chair and footstool, and plenty of open space and quiet to kneel and pray. Several weeks ago, God reminded me of this, and I again responded that I had an attitude of kneeling in my heart, and that was what really mattered. Turns out I was wrong, and He let me know as much.

So for the past two weeks I have been literally kneeling to pray. At first it was strange for me, but now I wouldn’t want to start my day any other way. It is the best place to draw upon God’s wisdom and strength for what will inevitably be an exhausting and stressful day. My attitude about work and the changes that are occurring has improved immensely. I am trusting God more that He is really in charge of the final outcome. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11.

Prayer is so important that I don’t know why I’ve neglected it at times in my life. I suspect there will be times in the future when I will neglect it again, though I will try not to. I want to remember that prayer is the perfect antidote for anxiety and worry. The apostle Paul wrote:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7.

I love that idea of peace that transcends all understanding. I don’t have to know how it works that prayer brings me peace in situations where I would naturally feel stress and anxiety. All I have to know is that it works. If I pray, God will grant me peace. He will grant you peace, too, if only you will kneel and pray. As Audio Adrenaline sings, this is the place we should have started from.

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There’s a Knock at the Door

My in-laws have a picture in their house of Jesus standing at a door knocking. It is a very old painting on a wood burl. I love that image, and so when I found the same picture framed at Christian Supply a few years ago I had to buy it. My copy, which hangs in my living room, includes the verse the picture is based on – Revelation 3:20 – “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”

The interesting thing about this picture is that there is no doorknob on the outside of the door. Jesus knocks on the door, but we must let Him in. God does not force Himself on those who do not wish to believe, but will gladly come into the life of any person who wants.

Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” A mere intellectual pursuit of God is insufficient. The search for a God that conforms to what we already believe and want will not do. We must seek Him with all our heart if we truly want to know Him.

I was reading a blog this morning that I found on my WordPress dashboard, and it had this quote by Emil Brunner that I really liked:

If you really enquire about God, not with mere curiosity, not, as it were, like a spiritual stamp collector, but as an anxious seeker, distressed in heart, anguished by the possibility that God might not exist and hence all life be vanity and one great madness — if you ask in such a mood as the man who asks the doctor, “Tell me, will my wife live or will she die?”– if you ask thus about God, then you know already that God exists; the anguished question bears witness that you know.

The thought that God might not exist, that this mortal life is all there is, brings me great anguish. That there are people who believe He does not exist makes me terribly sad. There are those who will never hear His knock at the door, and still others who will hear the knock but refuse to answer it. To think they will miss out on dinner with the King and the abundant life of fellowship with Him!

There’s a knock at the door. Do you hear it?

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Holding on to What I Know

A dear and wise friend of mine once told me that I should never go by what I feel, but by what I know. Feelings can be fickle and reactionary, and oftentimes they do not reveal the truth about the situation they are a reaction to.

Lately my feelings have been all of those things. I’ve gone from sad to angry to depressed to disillusioned and back to angry again. My feelings have been a reaction to what has been going on with some dear friends of mine, and to things that have been said to me as well as about me and others whom I care deeply about. I’ve been feeling a bit hopeless and been in disbelief of the things that have transpired. I feel lost.

So I’m going to listen to my dear friend and turn to the things I know to help me get through how I am feeling, to get to the truth of the matter. Here is what I know:

  •  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28. The important word in this verse for me is “all.” It is not just in some things, but in all things, that God works for the good of those who love Him. I may not see the good that will come from my present circumstances, but God does.
  • “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11. God has planned my days, now and for eternity, and His plan is one of hope.
  • “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31. Even though my own strength may be insufficient to get me through difficult times, the strength of the Lord is always there for me to lean on.
  • “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7. God loves me and will take my burdens and anxiety if I will only let go.
  • “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:3. Eternal life starts now by knowing Jesus, not just when this body dies.
  • “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38. This is one I have proven to myself. As I am a blessing to others I receive a blessing in return much greater than I gave.
  • “Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10. There is joy to be found when I trust in the Lord.
  • “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:16-17. Grace and truth go hand in hand, and they are the great blessing that we all have from Jesus.
  • “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10. Jesus came that we might live an abundant life, the best life that God could possibly want for us, something much better than we can ever imagine. Satan is the thief who promises pleasure and great things, but means us only harm.
  • “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalm 23:6. This is a promise and a truth that can get me through any day.

These are just some of the things I know. God’s Word is full of promises of hope, love, joy, and redemption. It is full of stories of how those who had faith in God, who trusted in His promises, were blessed beyond measure. God is greater than my feelings. I may feel hopeless, but that does not negate the hope He offers. I may feel lost, but that does not change the fact that He has found me and will never leave me. For all these promises I am grateful.

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