In Charge

Day 304

Prayer for the day

I will walk in the presence of the LORD in the land of the living.

Scripture for the day

Jeremiah 22-23, Titus 1

The prophecies of Jeremiah and the book of Titus seem to have little in common on the surface, save that they’re both found in the scriptures. Yet even a quick glance will show that the letter of Paul and the writings of the prophet are concerned with godliness, with holiness, and particularly with leadership.

In Jeremiah’s prophecies there is a special place reserved for those who lead poorly. Kings, prophets, and priests who turn aside from God and use their authority to lead others to do the same elicit violent and vehement reproof from the prophet and from the God he serves. Jeremiah is incensed by the callous disregard for God and God’s ways evidenced by the leadership of the people and calls special curses and prophecies down upon them for their complicity and leadership in the demise of the people of God.

Paul has similar angry words for those who lead the people of God away from the God they serve. His letter to Titus begins with a call to appoint elders who are good, who are worthy of respect, and to follow those elders. He then contrasts those “good” elders with those who would seek to do harm to God’s people by treating them poorly, by acting “badly” and who would lead in rebellion against God, to the harm of everyone involved.

The life of the church does not rest with leaders, but leaders are important. God has called some to lead, and those, according to Jeremiah and to Paul, must do their utmost to lead the people of God toward the path God has called them to. They must lead well, in order that God would be glorified.

To do any less is to be derelict in the duty to which they’ve been called.

Opposed

Day 303

Prayer for the day

Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling.

Scripture for the day

Jeremiah 20-21, 2 Timothy 4

It can be hard to have something tough to say to people. The bearer of bad news is rarely treated well, particularly if that bad news pertains to the way someone else is living and concerns their moral compass. It’s doubly difficult if the message comes from someone else who has chosen you to speak difficult words.

Jeremiah knew that God’s call on his life wouldn’t be easy, but it’s hard to imagine how difficult he thought it would be. When push comes to shove, Jeremiah ends up not having very many friends and supporters. Instead, Jeremiah is opposed at every turn. His message is unpopular and is contradicted by false prophets who speak comfortable words, words designed to please men rather than to please the God who actually speaks.

Jeremiah recognizes that he can’t stop speaking because the passion for the things of God will consume him like a fire if he doesn’t speak, but he’s tired of being opposed and seeing his people following falsity.

Paul, likewise, suffers significant opposition to his message because it is a difficult message to accept. He encounters suffering, persecution, and eventual death because of the message of the Good News that God has called him to speak, but throughout his letters Paul rejoices in the calling to which he’s been called. He urges Timothy to do the same, to fear no opposition or struggle, knowing that the rightness and righteousness of what he’s doing will be revealed in the harvest that is collected from the planting of the Gospel. God continues to be good, and Paul, Jeremiah, Timothy, and we have a responsibility to witness to that goodness, regardless of the consequences.

Terrible Times

Day 302

Prayer for the day

Open my lips, O Lord, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Scripture for the day

Jeremiah 18-19, 2 Timothy 3

There are a lot of preachers who start to weigh in any time there is a natural disaster. Hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, tsunamis, and the rest, are often described as a punishment by God for what we have done. They are described as God’s discipline, God’s retribution, and often, God’s anger manifest against wickedness. While this may be true, and I’m not saying that it isn’t true, it certainly is the case that these preachers are offering an interpretation of the events rather than claiming a divine revelation.

The difficulty with this pronouncement is that God rarely says anything about these events that happen these days. And certainly, we don’t hear a lot of warnings prior.

Unlike today, Jeremiah’s people were warned again and again. Sometimes the warnings were specific and sometimes they were general, but all of them point to a time in the history of the people of God when the people of God will suffer significantly for their disobedience. And God is clear that GOD will bring about these sufferings, and He will tell them when He is doing it.

Likewise, when Paul speaks to Timothy about the coming danger, he does not claim that what will happen is from God, but that it will originate from contentious men and women. Paul clearly outlines what these people will do and why these people will do it, in an effort to prevent the kind of wild speculation that can come whenever disasters overtake or whenever evil people triumph.

The differences between the account of Jeremiah and Paul’s letter to Timothy are stark, and intentionally so. One is clear that God is bringing the destruction. The other is clear that men are bringing the evil. We ought to be careful not to confuse the two here and now.

Remember

Day 301

Prayer for the day

Those who sowed with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

Scripture for the day

Jeremiah 15-17, 2 Timothy 2

It’s fascinating to me the number of times the word “remember” crops up in Scripture. The people of Israel are regularly exhorted by God, by their kings, and by their prophets to remember God, and to remember their promises and covenants with and to God. The people are supposed to remember where they came from, and where they are headed provided they remain in the one from whom they came!

Through the mouth of Jeremiah, God calls the people of Israel to a time of remembrance. He calls them to remember the law he had put in place for them, and particularly the Sabbath law, that they would do no work on the Sabbath day, and that it would remain a holy day to the people of Israel, dedicated to YHWH God.

The Sabbath for the people of God was not supposed to be an onerous requirement, but a life-giving affirmation that we live and move and breathe entirely in God and for God’s pleasure. It was a day and is a day to remember the one who made us and to whom we belong.

Paul says something similar as he exhorts Timothy to always remember Jesus Christ, and the gospel concerning Jesus that Paul taught to Timothy. His desire is that the young man would always live in the awareness of God’s love and care for him and that that awareness and memory would fuel Timothy’s passion and ministry so that others would come to know the good news Timothy is preaching.

Memory is a powerful agent in our lives. It gives us joy and sadness. Let the memory of Christ and what He has done fuel your life and ministry as you surrender to him.

Everyone Has Deserted Me

Day 300

Prayer for the day

All your works praise you, O LORD, and your faithful servants bless you. They make known the glory of your kingdom and speak of your power.

Scripture for the day

Jeremiah 12-14, 2 Timothy 1

As a minister and a missionary, the apostle Paul certainly had his fair share of trouble. Constantly beaten, imprisoned, tortured, shipwrecked, ridiculed, and now, to add insult to injury, abandoned by those who were supposed to be co-workers in Paul’s spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the midst of what may have been some of Paul’s darkest times, the ones he really needed had given up and deserted him to whatever fate awaited him. You can almost read the pain in Paul’s writing as he talks of those who have been loyal through difficulty, contrasting the betrayal he feels from being deserted by workers who should have been dedicated to the work of God to the very end.

In the First Testament, the prophet Jeremiah speaks the words of God to a very similar problem: the people of God have abandoned their love of God, moved away from this God to seek after other pleasures and other gods, and now, when they cry out because of punishment or because of pain or even simply out of a desire to reconnect with this, the true God, they are left to their own devices. God has rightly tired of being abandoned, and though he will never entirely do the same to his people, he certainly has every right to. The people have walked away from the covenant, not simply forgotten, but actively run from the covenant God made with them.

Most of us live with some kind of fear of abandonment or rejection. Most of us believe that it would be better to be dead than to be unloved. Yet we treat our God with the kind of rejection and contempt we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemies.

Lord, have mercy.

The Pursuit

Day 299

Prayer for the day

Test me, O LORD, and try me; examine my heart and mind.

Scripture for the day

Jeremiah 9-11, 1 Timothy 6

It happens every year, as we get closer to Christmas time. You see the parents starting to sweat, starting to keep a closer eye on the flyers, checking the internet more regularly. They know that Christmas is coming and they’re scouring the city and the net for that gift. You know that gift. It’s the one that every kid wants and every parent wants to buy for his kids. The parents get a certain manic gleam in their eyes, as they seek out what will guarantee their children’s love for another year.

These parents pursue the perfect gift with a fervour and zeal that would have made Jeremiah proud. Jeremiah longed to see his people pursue God and his covenant love with this kind of single-minded purpose. Instead, he watched as the people of God threw away what should have been most precious to them, their relationship with God, and ran after relationships with other Gods made of wood, straw, and stone. Jeremiah’s lament in these chapters is palpable. He longs for his people to obey, to return to the God who gave them life. Instead, he sees them falling further and further from relationship.

God Himself speaks of this as a regular breaking of the covenant, so that in the end God is forced to bring upon His people the curses that were contained within the covenant.

Paul, knowing the history of his own ancestors, urges his pupil Timothy to pursue something so much better than wood and straw and stone. Paul commands Timothy to pursue righteousness, something that will, in the end, last. The pursuit of righteousness will lead to the apprehending of righteousness, which will develop the characteristics of godliness.

And godliness is what we all ought to pursue.

Worthless

Day 298

Prayer for the day

Search for the LORD and his strength; continually seek his face.

Scripture for the day

Jeremiah 6-8, 1 Timothy 5

Jeremiah is a prophet who has it rough. His prophecies rarely offer much hope, but instead, speak pain, suffering, and disaster for the people of God. This pain, this suffering, and this disaster are all a result of the people leaving the prescribed worship of their God, seeking instead the comfort of other gods, other nations, and other practices. They are fickle people, seeking pleasure wherever they may find it, looking for the favour of the gods, regardless of which god it is.

Their practice of religion then, when they DO turn to God, is worthless in God’s sight, because they refuse to acknowledge the God they serve as the ONLY God they serve. Instead, they acknowledge this God only as a god among gods, who may give some benefit, but to whom only passing allegiance is required.

Rather, God is the only one worthy of worship, and He regularly says so to the people of God, sadly with little effect. The effect of this partial worship is the practice of false or worthless worship. Instead of truly worshipping God, they hand over true worship and settle for worthlessness.

Timothy receives instruction on true religion and worship from his mentor, Paul. Paul teaches Timothy that the true practice of religion has much to do with ritual, it is true, but far more to do with the living out of the ritual, a living out of the state of the heart, in caring for one another. True religion according to Paul is religion that is active, religion acting itself out in the love and care of others, in order that the name of God might be praised in every way.

May we practice God’s good religion truly and with pure heart.