Tag Archives: commitment

Jeremiah 29:11. Insert projectile vomit here.

On Saturday I began the “Scripture challenge” that’s going around Facebook right now. You post one passage a day for five days, and you tag two new people each day to do the same. Truthfully, I find things like that to be hokey, but there was some conviction for me: What could I possibly post that’s more important than the Word of God? I’m not trying to pull a Jesus juke here, but seriously. Sometimes passages are what others need to hear because they’ve lost a lot of hope. Sometimes they cut us where we need to be cut, but there is always the promise of being renewed, rebuilt, and restored. In an effort to not “Jesus juke” the challenge and make it sound like life is peachy and perfect, or that God is a wealth, health & prosperity God, and being a Christian means happy trails all day long, I’m instead posting a passage each day that I hear quoted rather often and with good intentions, but generally the understanding is lacking or the verse is taken out of context. So if you missed them, check out Day 1Day 2, and Day 3.

Day 4 – Jeremiah 29:11

Jeremiah 29:11. The verse seems to bring warm, fuzzy feelings all around. “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.” Aaaaw. Isn’t that nice? Allow me to explain my extreme want and need to hurl whenever I hear this verse quoted grossly out of context.

For those of you who read this verse trying to find comfort because you can’t decide what major to study, what job to take, what person to date, etc (insert hokey life decision here) you MIGHT want to read this verse in context. The Israelites were in captivity. Not just any ol’ captivity that they’d wandered into, but captivity that God had specifically put them in because of rebellion. Furthermore, what does God tell them in the verses prior to? (starting in verse 5)

Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, see the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper. (Emphasis mine)

These people are in the middle of exile.. banishment from their homeland because God had carried them there. Can you imagine the spiritual battles occurring?! Going on…

Yes, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the LORD.

God tells them that there are going to be people trying to convince them that they come in the name of the Lord, when really they’re doing nothing but tearing down their spiritual understanding in an already-distressed state. I understand that many people read this as “don’t worry, God has it under control.” Yes, that’s true. However, we’re failing to miss the real point in this story…

God may carry us into, or may allow us to be carried into spiritual exile – James 1:2-4 – “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Trials are going to happen. The trials Paul refers to are different from the exile that God has carried the Israelites into. Our faith may land us in trials, as does our lack of faith. Lucky us, we all get to face trials, difficulties, and probably even a little bit of exile-type feelings! :) What did God tell the Israelites to do while they were there? Settle down. Make it feel like home, because you’re gonna be here for a while. Get comfortable and go about your daily life. Don’t change anything. Keep on keepin’ on. Too bad we leave that out whenever we read Jeremiah 29. Get comfortable with your distress, because God may need you there to teach you something. Too often I think we look for a way out of our messes. Should we? I’m tempted to think that even when we bring this upon ourselves that we aren’t necessarily going to find a way out. Jeremiah 30: 12-15 –

Your wound is incurable, your injury beyond healing. There is no one to plead your cause, no remedy for your sore, no healing for you. All your allies have forgotten you; they care nothing for you. I have struck you as an enemy would and punished you as would the cruel, because your guilt is so great and your sins so many. Why do you cry out over your wound, your pain that has no cure? Because of your great guilt and many sins I have done these things to you.

Let’s face it: If we need disciplined, it’s because we’ve lacked judgment skills somehow, somewhere. Discipline is necessary. And so when we’re in the middle of that discipline, we can’t act like the two-year-old trying to worm his way out of time-out. We have to see that discipline through to the end. Sometimes discipline might feel a little bit like spiritual exile. And then we try to get out as if we don’t deserve to be there. That’s cute. Don’t misunderstand me: I don’t think God wants us to be miserable. However, for those of us who have this outlandish appetite for sin, sometimes we need to be carried into exile and left there for a while. I’m not talking a forever, done deal, you’re in hell sort of exile. That’s not biblical. I’m not meaning for exile to sound like we’re separated entirely from God. God was still speaking through prophets while Israel was in exile. He hadn’t left them. He was ticked, but he hadn’t left them.

There are going to be moments when we aren’t going to know why things are occurring the way they are. That may be a good time for us to step out of the situation and ask ourselves if we’ve done something to get ourselves there. If so, we can probably assume God’s trying to get our attention.

For those who are truly walking with God, I don’t think he’ll hesitate to allow unfortunate circumstances to happen if that’s what it takes to get our attention when we’re spiritual space cases. I’m a little put off with people that say God won’t allow something unfortunate to happen to get our attention because he “loves us too much” to do something like that. Oh please. That’s the thing – he loves us too much to want to lose us. If it takes a little bit of pain to wake us up and turn us back to him, then I’m pretty sure that’s worth it.

My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Proof. Hebrews 12:5-11. When God’s trying to get your attention, don’t make light of it. Don’t tell yourself you can put off responding until tomorrow. He’ll do what it takes to get you to wake up.

Does anyone ever read past verse 11 (in Jeremiah 29), or anything besides verse 11? Look at what comes after (starting in verse 12)…

“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

So when will we truly find God and truly understand his plans? When we seek him with our whole heart. Can we have a come to Jesus moment real quick? If you honestly expect for God to reveal some magical, perfect plan (or really, any realistic, God-honoring plan for that matter) for your life without ACTUALLY doing a little bit of work, you crazy. No, our relationship with him isn’t based on works, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I see people quoting the bible on Twitter profiles, in tweets, in Facebook statuses, etc. and yet everything else is total trash. Cussing, hardcore partying, disgusting tweets from some sex-laden account on Twitter, getting high, making excuses for addictions. Do you HONESTLY believe that Jesus is your homeboy and has no issue with you not living right? Get serious. “For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12:34. Oh. Well snap. Guess that says something. Either you’re pursuing God or you’re not. Get off the fence and pick a side. Lukewarm isn’t the game Jesus plays (Revelation 3:16-18. Look it up.) Yes, he has plans for you, but if you’re sitting in the middle of exile, ask yourself why you’re there. Stop trying to fix the problem yourself. Look to Christ. Let him guide you. Let the Lord take you back to Jerusalem. You have to decide that you want to go back, but you have to allow him to take you back. You fell off the horse? Get back up and get back on the darn thing. Repent and do the things you did at first (Revelation 2:5). Keep going. There are few things as worthless as a Christian sitting and bathing themselves in self-pity. Jesus has this thing under control. Trust him and keep going. Guys, culture has lied to you. A lot of churches have lied to you. Some of you have seen the video of Debriah going on one heck of a rant about the church lying to people – it’s solid. A lot of people have silver tongues that promise a life of abundance if you’ll only believe in God. Please find that for me in the Bible. I must have missed that one. This girl right here has lived one serious lukewarm life. I was the ultimate fence rider for years. So many people did a wonderful job of loving on me during those years and for that I’m forever indebted to them. However, it wasn’t until a few friends basically looked at me, and with a whole lotta love said, “Pick a side. You aren’t a teenager anymore. This game is old. Grow up,” that I finally started doing it. And sometimes we need that. So if you’re pulling the crap I did: partying every now and then (“Hey, what’s a little too much to drink going to hurt?”), playing cat & mouse with the opposite sex (“I’ll only go this far…”), dancing with an addiction to, well, basically sex (“What’s it matter? I’ve screwed this up before. One more time isn’t going to do anything..”) – whatever it is you do – stop. Stop it. Just stop. This isn’t going to get you anywhere. There will always be another time. Knock it off and pursue Jesus. Your emotions may not be involved in your choices for a really long time – that doesn’t give you any excuse or reason to not choose the right thing. You want to know God’s plans for your life? Then pursue him instead of the rest of the world. You can’t do all of those things I was doing (or pick your sin – whatever) and still pursue God. It does not work that way. There’s a difference between falling short while pursuing God and pursuing the world while pursuing God. I was not just falling short – I was in an all-out pursuit for both lives and figuring out quickly that one had to win and the other had to die.

Scripture is a continual love story of God redeeming his people time and time and time and time and time again. But the thing about relationships is both sides have to work at it. Yes, God does have plans to prosper his people and not bring spiritual harm to them, however, if we think we can sit back and enjoy the ride without ever getting to know him, without ever listening for his voice and obeying that voice, without spending time in the Word then we’re lying to ourselves.

We should take heart in the fact that God is so relentless in pursuing us and knowing us that he’s willing to carry us into exile when we need it yet still speak hope into our lives. That’s an incredible God – a god that other religions have yet to ever know. Don’t make him into a shallow God that will be at your ever beckon call. His existence is not to cater to you when you need it and step aside once you have it figured out. We’re to be in communion with him. Walk with him. Spend time with him. Serve with him. He has plans for you, but it’ll be hard to listen for them if you don’t know the sound of his voice.

Pray. Seek. Do.

Soli Deo Gloria.

P.S.

I didn’t include this in the post because it would have made it even longer, however, please keep in mind that this letter is written to a group, not an individual. Often we make it sound like God has one path and only one path for us *as individuals*, and we make ourselves miserable trying to figure that out. Well, take heart, friends. That’s not what this verse is about either. God was speaking to a community, not you as an individual. That’s a different post for a different day, but it’s some food for thought – you can do the dishes. ;)

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The ‘L’ Word: The world will hate you for it.

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” -John 15:18-20

 

Warning: If you have sensitive feelings, you might want to click that X up in the corner right now.

I’ve had it up to my nose with this crap about loving people in a sense that we are to accept all behaviors. If you’re a Christian and there isn’t a single person in this world who hates you because you have a biblical worldview, then perhaps you aren’t defending the Gospel and the teachings of Jesus to the degree which he seems to expect. The verses I just quoted seem to be pretty darn explicit with how this whole following Jesus thing works. Sometimes you’re going to look like a jerk because you have chosen to accept, defend, respect and honor a Scriptural worldview. If you don’t agree with Scripture and you don’t like the teachings, then stop calling yourself a committed follower of Christ (that was NOT a passive aggressive comment to any single person. I believe this about Christianity in general). You’re going to have to look like a jerk at some point because you have to take a stand for one side or the other. Being a “martyr” for the sake of others’ feelings is nothing but cowardice and lukewarm faith.

I’m going to provide a little push-back on my own view. I’m wrestling with a lot of what I’ve already talked about/will talk about in the rest of this blog. I’m not trying to prove my own opinion as the correct opinion. I’m simply goin’ with Scripture here, folks, and I’m working it out as I go. Anyway.. Push-back..

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” -John 13:34

We turn to this passage a LOT in Christianity, as we definitely should. What we should not turn to, however, is a worldly definition of love. Does this agape love mean that we accept any and all opinions, belief systems, or even personal definitions of love? I can’t say yes to that in good conscience. Brotherly Christian love does not allow unbiblical, worldly things to stand in the way of their brother’s life. Loving one another does NOT mean accepting any and all behaviors. It doesn’t mean never offending people. When people have gotten in my face over something in my life that needed corrected, was I offended?! Yeah! Who enjoys being told their lifestyle is wrong?! Would it have been loving to let it go by the wayside and for them to have never said anything? Actually, that would have been the exact opposite of love: fear. Fear that they would offend me. Fear that perhaps I would push back on what they were saying. Fear that they’d choose the wrong words. But allow me to quote a lengthy, but amazing passage from Scripture (I would normally just reference it, but I want to make sure you read this). From 1 John 4:7-21…

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 
We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

You cannot have fear in love. You cannot love God if you hate your brother. I’m led to believe it’s difficult to love your brother if you fear loving him. So, how do we know what love is?

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” -1 John 3:16

Love means laying down one’s life. Commitment. Sacrifice. Servanthood. Love does not mean accepting what any definition or personal opinion has to offer. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it does not mean embracing alternative lifestyles as acceptable. It doesn’t mean sitting on the sidelines and never getting involved in defending the Gospel. It doesn’t mean you get to go to church on Sunday morning and be let off the hook. It doesn’t mean you get to justify your bad behavior with excuses. It doesn’t mean you get to say yes to Jesus and no to his teachings! If we are to love Christ above all else, then that means EVERYTHING better be submitted to Christ: our views, our opinions, our definitions, our lifestyles, etc. It means that because Christ laid down his life for us, we do the same for him. We put it all on the line. We lay our reputations on the line. We lay EVERYTHING on the line. Why? Because that’s love, guys! That’s love! Being willing to totally die to self and live through Christ!

A love that accepts anything and everything isn’t supported in Scripture. It just isn’t. If you have a problem with this, then go take it up with God. The media wants you to accept everything. Political correctness wants you to accept everything. Tolerance wants you to embrace and accept everything (unless it’s Christianity – because those nutjobs are intolerant, so we’re going to say that we need to be tolerant of everyone but the intolerant, therefore shooting our own logic in the foot. Real tolerance would tolerate the intolerant, but that must be beside the point). Nowhere, NOT ONE PLACE to do I read that Jesus accepted sinful behavior with open arms. How many times do we read about him saying, “Go and sin no more,” or, “Go, leave your life of sin.” How many times?! Quite frankly, Jesus ticked a lotta people off! He died to make the unrighteous righteous, therefore constantly pissing the Pharisees off because they thought they had their acts together and deserved first place. If he died to renew the sinner’s life, then we spit in his face if we choose to continue our lives without allowing Scripture to critique and correct our lives. We deny love if we elevate others’ feelings to being above Truth. Many walked away from Jesus because they couldn’t accept the Truth he brought. John 6: Jesus says that unless you’re willing to eat his flesh and drink his blood, it’s a no-go (verses 53-58). But what happens after that?

“On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.”
  From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
  ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the worlds of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God. ” -John 6:60-69 (emphases mine)

Let’s make something crystal clear: Jesus let the people walk away. He gave them a choice as he did/has from the dawn of time. Love is a choice. Love is an action. Why did Jesus let MANY of his disciples walk away? Because crapped out, half-hearted, half-interested, half-committed, lukewarm, do-it-when-it’s-convenient, do-it-on-my-time, Sunday morning faith is NOT what this guy is after! Having a handful of people willing to go the distance is of far more value than having droves of fans who show up for a concert and then leave. Christians, we need to nut up or shut up. Jesus didn’t have a bleeding heart when they didn’t stay. Why? Because following him is hard and it takes being willing to be hated by all others as the price. While he absolutely wants everyone to walk the narrow road, he himself said few will walk it. Few find the gate so small. Following Christ is about surrendered perseverance. It’s defined by endurance. It isn’t like a microwave. It isn’t instant. It isn’t simple. It isn’t easy. Not because loving Jesus is hard, but because living in a world unfathomably complicated by sin is what is hard. We have confused the two. Obedience shouldn’t be viewed as something that takes strain and pain. Obedience to Christ should be easy, yet it’s complicated because we must battle fleshly sins at the same time. Following Jesus ain’t hard. Dying to yourself, however, is impossible without obedience and surrender.

I’m not saying go out and attempt to get people to hate you. I’m not saying that at all. What I am saying is that if you’ve had the opportunity to defend the Gospel and you’ve passed up on such an awesome opportunity, then maybe it’s time to put the cares about others’ opinions of you on the back burner and bring the urgency of the Gospel to the front. Every time we choose to not defend that which is Right, True, and Just when we know it’s needed is a laugh for Satan. It’s another victory for him. It’s another crack of the whip on the back of the Savior who died for us.

All that being said, allow me a moment of narcissism. Allow me to bring myself back into this picture.
There are few times, if any at all, that I’m unwilling to go toe-to-toe with someone who wants to slander and slash the Christian lifestyle, the Bible, etc. Not because I claim to have wisdom or knowledge about anything, but because I do think I am capable of removing the veil of culture and popular Christianity from over my own eyes. All that being said, my presentation of the Gospel isn’t one that’s always super attractive. I don’t sugarcoat a darned thing. I’d go as far as to say I might be confrontational (which is totally unrighteous and not cool if it’s prideful) in a bad way at times. I’ll step on the feelings of others because I just. don’t. care. It’s not that I don’t care about the person, but I just don’t care about hurting feelings because that seems to be ALL the rest of the world cares about. What I care about is a clear view of the Gospel. I care about Truth. I care about peoples’ salvation, not their happiness. I care about the Gospel being defended intelligently in a time that tries to skew it to fit personal lifestyles. I care about the Gospel being defended when those who know absolutely nothing about it try to act like they do. Reading the Bible really isn’t all that impressive. Anyone who is literate can do that. Applying the Bible, understanding the context, culture, language, and time period in history when it was written all need to be present when drawing conclusions about Scripture. That’s what gets my heart racing. Nothing will wake me up more than someone providing a pathetic definition of love, Christianity, faith, etc. I’m far more critical of those who claim to be followers of Christ than I ever will be of those who want nothing to do with him. Why? I don’t expect the dark to behave like the light. I do, however, expect the light to shine in the darkness. Christians, please. Understand that you do no good in choosing to never stand up for the Gospel. When you stand face to face with Jesus, is he going to ask you, “Why didn’t you tell them? Why did you stay quiet when you knew there was injustice, when you their behavior was wrong?” I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Saving people isn’t your job. Let Jesus do that. Telling them about him and defending Scripture is your job.

Love requires some sort of battle. The cross told us that much. I’ll leave you by asking this. What are you fighting for? Are you even fighting at all? Or maybe, are you even willing?

Pray. Seek. Do.
..Hannah

 

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