Sunday, September 27, 2020

Jeremiah's Call to Return to God, Away From Deception

How often do we say, "What do you want me to do, Lord?"  Especially in times of national crisis, as we are experiencing now, the burden of doing something positive for the Kingdom of God becomes keen.  

But it always starts with me.  With you.  Oh, it may feel grand to go out into the streets, attend a church that defies wearing masks or gathering together to sing hymns outside despite the police asking you to hand over your identification and you refusing to do so.  

Beware of the snare of pride, brothers and sisters.  Don't cloak your pride in "I don't have any fear" (are you insinuating that I do if I wear a mask?) or, "I am more spiritual because I don't wear a mask" (insinuating that if I do, my faith is weak?).

God has made it very clear what we are to do:

He has told you, O man, what is good;

And what does the Lord require of you

Except to be just, and to love [and to diligently practice] kindness (compassion),

And to walk humbly with your God [setting aside any overblown sense of importance or self-righteousness]? (Micah 6:8 AMP)

Whoa. That says it all.   How do we walk humbly in this age of inflammatory language, opinions parading as facts and words spoken under the guise of Christianity, but seem to be a far cry from the Lord we profess to follow?  James weighs in with how poisonous our tongues can be, and in this age of social media, our words can become especially hazardous:

Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.

We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches.

But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. (James 3:1-6 NLT)

Perhaps you don't consider yourself a "teacher."  But as a follower of Christ, you are.  You teach others what a follower of Christ looks like, sounds like and acts like.  But isn't James being a bit dramatic, when he compares the tongue to being set on fire by hell itself?

No. Our pride is the open door that Satan uses to make an incursion, and to whisper in our ears how wonderful our opinion is, and how everyone is entitled to it.  Why?

  • Because we have Jesus, and they don't.
  • Because I am the smartest person in the room.
  • Because I can cut through all the muck and murk when others are deceived and I know the truth. 
  • It's my job to let others know how misled they are.

Once our pride is the driver for our tongues, all sorts of awful things can come out, even out of the mouth of people who love Jesus.

Our pride is at the core of our human nature.  Our ancestors--Adam and eve--picked their own way of viewing the world, by eating that fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  That other tree, the Tree of Life, would have made Adam and Eve eternal sinners, so God exiled them out of the garden.

Ever since, we have had an enemy whispering to our pride, "Did God really say?"  So, instead of God's way of good, which He consistently outlines in His Word, we choose the way of evil: that which our fallen nature says is good.  We follow our way, keeping the precedence set by Adam and Eve.

So, right now we are having a bumper crop of fleshly fruit in America, and not just in those who do not know the Lord:

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. (Gal. 5:19-21)

Spot-on.  We could take each fruit in these verses and have no problem finding those in the church and outside of it who are bringing that fruit to the public square and passing it off as somehow acceptable.  Truthful.  Spiritual.  Progressive.  

Jeremiah weighs in on how the people of Judah conducted themselves, speaking on God's behalf:

"My people bend their tongues like bows
    to shoot out lies.
They refuse to stand up for the truth.
    They only go from bad to worse.
They do not know me,”
    says the Lord.

“Beware of your neighbor!
    Don’t even trust your brother!
For brother takes advantage of brother,
    and friend slanders friend.
They all fool and defraud each other;
    no one tells the truth.
With practiced tongues they tell lies;
    they wear themselves out with all their sinning.
They pile lie upon lie
    and utterly refuse to acknowledge me,”
    says the Lord. (Jer. 9:3-6 NLT)

I stand stunned how much this sounds like America today.  Another translation of verse 6 reads, 

"You live in the midst of deception;
    in their deceit they refuse to acknowledge me,”
declares the Lord. (Jer. 9:6 NIV)

We become deceived because we hear something that sparks our sense of self-righteousness, our prideful thinking, so we listen more and more, not questioning why this something is so appealing.  Soon, we are knee-deep in "Oh yeah!  How could this be wrong?  It seems so right and explains everything!"

Uh-oh.  But the Word, what God says, is the standard whereby we measure what we hear and the truthfulness of it.  Until we are grounded in His Word, our need to let our words be heard by everyone should be reined in:

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. (James 1:19-26 NIV) 

Wow.  Again.  Maybe instead of going to social media to get the latest whatever, go to the Word.  Not as exciting, to be sure.  Appealing to our sinful nature will win out every time if we let it.  But the Word is the rock upon which we build our house, for the storms, wind and rain are coming.  
I would like to be standing when all this madness is over.  I am sure you would like to be, too.   

True faith?  A good witness to those who don't know Jesus?  James gives us a striking definition:
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27)












Monday, September 21, 2020

Cleansing Rain & Living Water--Jeremiah 2

Last week, the smoke from fires burning all over the West made the air quality in Idaho absolutely awful.  The sky was a grayish brown, and all those wonderful things that mark the vista of living in a valley--distant trees, mountains on the other side and a warm glowing setting sun--were gone.  I couldn't see the mountains, the trees disappeared in the haze and the sun went from a fiery orange to a salmon pink disc from sunrise to sunset.

I live up on a rise in this valley and I love to look out my window and see the broad vista that I have.  It was gone, enveloped in a haze that was relentless.  

Did I start any of the fires that are consuming the West?  No.

But I am subject to their effects. Why?   Because I live in a community.  I am not alone.  My decisions affect others and others' decisions affect me.   

I fear we have entered a time when everyone wants to do their own thing, and consequences are either dismissed, are not allowed to be commented on, or viewed as those eggs that must be broken to make a societal omelette. 

Jeremiah, on God's behalf, laments,

My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
    the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
    broken cisterns that cannot hold water. (Jer. 2:13)

Before I moved to Idaho, I never really thought about water on a daily basis.  I grew up in Los Angeles, and just assumed that every time I turned on the kitchen or bathroom faucet, water would come out. Our lawn was green, and the neighbor's pool was always full of sparkling blue water.  We went to Malibu every weekend, and there was the ocean, proudly displaying its abundance.

Later, when I was married, my husband and I took a trip up US 395 to the Owens Valley.  The area was  a vast desert, with a long aqueduct running parallel to the valley floor.  My husband said that in the early part of the 20th century, the developers of the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles needed water.  Lots of it.  The amount available locally would not be enough to support a burgeoning area, with people and lots of agriculture.  So, this aqueduct was built to take water out of Owens Lake.  Once the locals realized what Los Angeles was doing, they started blowing up the aqueduct.  The city of L.A. used the National Guard to protect the building project.  The aqueduct was completed and the water from Owens Lake was siphoned out, until no water was left.  

When I visited the area, in the early 80s, a large dust devil was all that greeted us over what was once a beautiful verdant valley and lovely lake.  We traveled up the 395 further to Mono Lake.  It retained some of its grandeur, and local people then were fighting L.A. tooth and nail to prevent history from repeating itself.  "Save Mono Lake" bumper stickers were everywhere.

The need and greed for water drove L.A. to seek alternative sources, and all of this is recounted in a wonderful book called, Cadillac Desert.  It made me realize how water wars have shaped the West, for the simple reason is a lot of people want to develop, live, and farm here, but water was and will always be in short supply. 

But wherever I lived, it seemed we always had enough water.  These water wars and environmental concerns seemed out there, beyond directing affecting me.  

Now I live in Idaho, and water is not abundant.  People worry about the snow pack every winter replenishing the  reservoirs here. I am sure as this valley continues to grow, (and it is) water will become a topic of deep concern, calling out for better management.  I had lived in the mountains, where we had to drop a well.  I live off a well here now as well, and every now and then I worry that my lawn may use too much water, and our well will go dry.

Wells not regularly replenished by rain go dry.  It may take a long time, for much water has accumulated underground.  But still I wonder.  

God's lament over His people is they were no longer drawing life from the Source of all life itself: God.  He equated Himself to a "spring of living water."  In a desert, this is not just water for green lawns; it is fresh rainwater, caught and held in cisterns that are clean and maintained, to keep the water in them fresh.  Bad water or no water:  both are terrifying prospects in the desert.  Without fresh water, crops fails, animals and humans thirst, and people sicken by having drunk unsuitable water out of desperation.    

What did these people then do?  They built their own cisterns, that were "cracked" and could not hold water "at all."  Not just poor water was found in these makeshift cisterns; their cisterns held no water at all. Whatever water was caught leaked out and the people, who thought they had something, had nothing.

How long did it take to run out?  When did the people notice that the water they needed was not there?  Did they just go dig another one, only to find the same result of water disappearing over time due to cracks?  

The water used by people in Jeremiah's day was still provided by God in the form of rain.  (God could have ceased the rain to fall, but in His longsuffering love for His people, the seasons still came and went.) But the water went in and then disappeared, for the hearts of the people had cracks in them--cracks made by disobedience, spiritual adultery, ignoring God, blaming God, choosing not to serve Him, wicked behavior and ultimately not returning to Him, seeking forgiveness and restoration.

In fact, the most terrible crack of all was the claim that, "I have done nothing wrong.  Surely God isn't angry with me!" (2:35)

Then, with that claim on their lips, the people,

First here, then there—
    you flit from one ally to another asking for help.
But your new friends in Egypt will let you down,
    just as Assyria did before.
In despair, you will be led into exile
    with your hands on your heads,
for the Lord has rejected the nations you trust.
    They will not help you at all. (2:36-7)

The man in the White House, the political party you adhere to, the church you go to, the conspiracies you believe sound right, the claims and evidence from this news source or another, your friends on social media...These allies "will let you down."  Why?  Because they are as cracked in their hearts as you are.  As I am.  

Fresh rainwater being siphoned from one cracked cistern to another will not work at solving the fundamental problem.  Why?  The heart of the matter is a matter of the heart. 

My heart.  Your heart.  The heart of this country. 

A recent rain storm cleared our valley up somewhat, and we saw blue sky again.  We all rejoiced.  It was temporary, however.  Why?  The fires themselves are still burning.

Whatever cistern, whatever ally we are seeking, unless it is an remorseful return to God, His Word and asking for a new heart, the water we need will disappear.  

Why?  Because the problem is our hearts--our angry and arrogant attitudes, our claims to be on the right side of the political divide, and how our sin (because it is really rather small compared to everyone else's!) doesn't affect anyone but ourselves.  Wrong. 

But the distant fires' smoke is once again taking over our Idaho skies.  We need rain--refreshing cleansing rain that will wash our skies clean and put out the fires.

We need His living spring water that will wash our hearts clean and bring our sinful fires under control:

Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

We choose.  


Saturday, September 12, 2020

The Eleventh Commandment--Jeremiah 2

You didn't know there was an 11th Commandment, did you?  It is rather simple: "Do not get caught."

But we are getting caught in America. 

Light is shining in, exposing those who seize and destroy women and children by trafficking them.  

Christian leaders whose behaviors speak of the idol of self and an utter disregard for Christ.

Sex addiction surveys that show how deep people have gone to fulfill their cravings, and how many of those sit in church and preach from the pulpit are caught in snare of porn. 

How nihilism (nothing matters) and moral relativity (my truth) have resulted in our cities burning, and how the real issue is not racism, but hatred:  hatred of America, the rule of law, and our ideals. We may have been imperfect in fulfilling our ideals, but they remain a goal to always strive for. But these ideals are now deemed worthless, kicked to the curb because of hypocrisy.    

Law and law enforcement are optional; those who seek to destroy are allowed to and those who question this are silenced.  There are differing standards and different groups are expected to adhere to them; this hypocrisy has led to a scofflaw attitude, even on the part of otherwise law-abiding citizens.  

The light that is exposing the darkness in America is there to bring out sin.  Sin, like a disease, must be exposed, diagnosed and then removed.  We love to quote John 3:16, but look at its larger context:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. (John 3:16-21)

Getting caught means full exposure to the light and to the Light:  Christ Himself.  The standard of what is dark and light, good and evil, is not each other, the past from the present, or between the races.  It is God Himself.  He is the standard, and all of us fall short.  

Paul hammers down on the same theme of the Light's purpose in Ephesians 5:1-7, and how we live in the light as Christ Himself did:

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.

Paul then goes on to why the Light is so essential and our response to it:

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.” 

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

So when His light comes in, and shows us who we really are, what do we do?  How do we react when we are exposed?  How did Judah react when God's light shone on them?

They were aggrieved, not because of their sin but because they got caught:

How can you say, ‘I am not defiled;
    I have not run after the Baals’?
See how you behaved in the valley;
    consider what you have done. (2:23)

The shameful evidence was all around Judah, and yet upon exposure, the nation reacted with utter denial.  She would not own her complicity in her sinful ways, but blamed God when things went badly:

As a thief is disgraced when he is caught,
    so the people of Israel are disgraced—
they, their kings and their officials,
    their priests and their prophets.
They say to wood, ‘You are my father,’
    and to stone, ‘You gave me birth.’
They have turned their backs to me
    and not their faces;
yet when they are in trouble, they say,
    ‘Come and save us!’
Where then are the gods you made for yourselves?
    Let them come if they can save you
    when you are in trouble!
For you, Judah, have as many gods
    as you have towns. 

Why do you bring charges against me?
    You have all rebelled against me,
declares the Lord.
In vain I punished your people;
    they did not respond to correction.
Your sword has devoured your prophets
    like a ravenous lion. (2:26-30)

Instead of allowing exposure to turn to repentance, the people of Judah became defiant, denying God and then blaming God.  The correction God gave them, once His light exposed their deeds, was meant to restore the relationship between Him and His people.  

Earlier, Judah had said, 

 Long ago you broke off your yoke
    and tore off your bonds;
    you said, ‘I will not serve you!’
Indeed, on every high hill
    and under every spreading tree
    you lay down as a prostitute. (2:20)

When did America throw off its "yoke"?  When did it became post-modern and post-Christian?  When  did it decide that the Bible was an antiquated document, filled with repugnant morality that limited free sexual expression and needed to be removed from public life?  

When did the church decide that music and a "Sunday Experience" was more important than having the Word front and center?  

The evidence is everywhere.  Our country is more steeped in sin, chaotic and in bondage than it was when I was growing up.  No, nothing was perfect then, but marriage was still an honored institution, and certain behaviors were wrong because God's Word was everywhere.  Even if the family Bible was never opened, it was considered an important element in the home, for its presence spoke to a transcendent set of values that culture couldn't change.

Now, His light is shining and exposing our sin.  

God called Judah to examine closely how God has provided for Judah and blessed this nation, even with its hypocrites, sinners and saints.  Judah's response?  They killed the messengers because the message was spot on:

In vain I punished your people;
they did not respond to correction.
Your sword has devoured your prophets
like a ravenous lion.
You of this generation, consider the word of the Lord:

Have I been a desert to Israel
or a land of great darkness?
Why do my people say, ‘We are free to roam;
we will come to you no more’?
Does a young woman forget her jewelry,
a bride her wedding ornaments?
Yet my people have forgotten me,
days without number.
How skilled you are at pursuing love!
Even the worst of women can learn from your ways.
On your clothes is found
the lifeblood of the innocent poor,
though you did not catch them breaking in.
Yet in spite of all this
you say, ‘I am innocent;
he is not angry with me.’
But I will pass judgment on you
because you say, ‘I have not sinned.’ (2:30-35)

Wow.  God's judgment comes only after exposing the sin and offering the remedy:  a return to Him and His values, His ways, His ordering of society.  

What is our response?

Let me conclude with this.  As I sit here in my office in a small town in Idaho near Boise, the sky is enveloped in a dirty gray.  If the wind blows in just the right direction, the smoke from all the western fires is pushed out of the Treasure Valley.  We have high mountains that surround us and they tend to hold in whatever comes into this valley.  

For a few days this past week, we have some lovely blue skies, mild temperatures (for summer in the high desert) and we could almost forget that the West is on fire to an unprecedented level.  But today?  No.  The wind has changed direction, and now all that smoke from Oregon, Washington and California, coupled with local fires, is rushing into Idaho.  

Our landscape is bleak.  I cannot see the distant mountains from my window, and the sun rises and sets a pinkish orange.  

The air quality is horrible.

The only hope in this rather disquieting time of the year is the possible arrival of some rain early this week.  

Even in this rather bleak landscape that is America right now, we still have hope.  Hope has a name: Jesus.  Sometimes we are able to forget how America is careening out of control with the blue skies of family, friends and sunny summer days.

But the sky is gray.  Are we willing to repent and call out to God for forgiveness?  

I pray so. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Our Idols are Not Idle--Jeremiah 2

In chapter 2 of Jeremiah, God charges Judah with committing spiritual adultery.  She wandered away from her spiritual Husband, Who had selected her to His Bride.  He called Jeremiah to speak God's very words, and remind Judah of all He had done and would do if she repented of her adultery.

God called the Jews His people not because of anything they had done.  He gave them the Promised Land out of His affection for them.  He nurtured them out of His affection for them.  He wanted them not to commit spiritual adultery, so upon entering the Promised Land, they were to forsake all others (gods):

This is what you are to do to them: Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire. For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. (Deut. 7:5-6)

Why did God pick these people? 

The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction; he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him. (Deut. 7:7-10)

Judah saw how Israel, who went down the exact same road years before, was warned and because they refused to turn form their wicked ways, disappeared into the dustbin of history when the Assyrians swept in and destroyed them.  

Judah watched how God was true to His word.

Yet, they did not repent.

We have their history too as a warning.

Will we repent?

God, who loves us so, will not stand idly by while we are consumed with our idols.  He will confront us, tell us where we have sinned and show us the way back to full restoration.  Is America in any way like Judah?  Are we God's people, and having turned away to lust after modern gods, will be both wooed and warned in the days to come? 

Yes.  America was founded by people who wanted "a city on a hill." They wanted the Bible front and center and they knew that God's blessings still were in operation to a people dedicated to Him.  

We didn't replace Israel, but our founders desired to have a country where the Judeo-Christian ethic was fully in view, and informed both public and private life.  Were our founders hypocrites for holding slaves and yet declaring that "all men are created equal"?  

Yes.  But show me people who aren't.

Church and our American past doesn't have the corner market on hypocrisy--despite all the claims being made today.  If you don't want to be around hypocrites, then stay home. would still have yourself to deal with.  How so?

The word for "hypocrite" in the Greek comes from the word for actor--that is, one who wears a mask.  Ancient Greek theater was held in large amphitheaters, and the actors wore large, highly stylized masks of character types: the old man, the old woman, the ingenue, the servant, etc.  People could see these rather large representations of the human face and its corresponding character type from a distance. Of course, the audience knew the actors had masks on, but for the length of the play, the actors assumed another persona. 

Sound familiar?  Do we wear masks that influence how our "audience" sees us?   Are we nice and patient in church and a hellion on the road? (Yes, sadly, that would sometimes be me.)  Are we one way with our kids and kick into another way when our friend calls?  

We have all done it.  

In a culture that now prides itself on tolerance and suspending judgement, the current cancel culture does nothing but judge, with people in the past being a favorite target.

In fact, judgment, self-righteousness, failure to acknowledge personal wrong-doing and excoriating those who dare to disagree with us is the new idol we bow down to in America.  

Idols don't demand we repent and become contrite over our poor treatment of others.  Idols are there for it to be all about us.  Judah loved its idols for the very same reason:  The idols stood by while the people sinned.  They did not exhort the people to consider a morality tethered to a higher set of values.  The idols said, in their complicit silence, 

It's all about you and your needs, your values, your wants.  Who cares about others?  We don't.  We care about you and what you want to keep your little universe operational.  So, if your child has to burn to death in the arms of a hot metal idol, it's a small price to pay.

Who told them these lies?  The people in charge.  

Who believed these lies?  The people who listened to the people in charge.

But everyone knew the Mosaic covenant and history of God and His commandments for His people.  No one could claim ignorance.  

Everyone was involved with turning away from God's word.

Today, we are turning our backs--leaders and people alike--from God's Word.  It details all we need for a just society and for living lives that reflect God's standards.

But we are listening to the silent message from our idols:  It's all about us.  

What are our idols?  

Sex:  Tolerance, no judgment, lust, affairs, underage, non-binary, non-everything that the Lord has designed.  Even the Biblical design of male and female is being reframed to where our identities are our choice and no one should say anything to us or about us that is less than celebratory.  

Social Media:  Conspiracy theories, stories that must be "true," selfies, a verbal gladiatorial arena that mocks, scorns, derides and then eliminates the competition.

Entertainment: Distractions, virtual reality and video games that take us deeper into the dark side of imagination.

Politics:  If we agree, then we can strut around with self-righteousness and excoriate those who disagree with us--fellow and non-believers alike--and if we disagree, woe unto you.  The man in the White House is either celebrated or vilified, and we are absolved of any responsibility because we want him to do our job.  

Greed:  It's everywhere.  We want more and yet we scorn those billionaires who have made money providing that "more" to us.

Our reaction to all of this?  Are we growing quiet, and seeking God's face with a contrite heart, or are we plunging deeper into sin, running away from our conscience and wanting more our words than God's?

God says this of Judah:

"My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
    the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
    broken cisterns that cannot hold water...

Your wickedness will punish you;
    your backsliding will rebuke you.
Consider then and realize
    how evil and bitter it is for you
when you forsake the Lord your God
    and have no awe of me,”
declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty. 

"Long ago you broke off your yoke
    and tore off your bonds;
    you said, ‘I will not serve you!’
Indeed, on every high hill
    and under every spreading tree
    you lay down as a prostitute.
I had planted you like a choice vine
    of sound and reliable stock.
How then did you turn against me
    into a corrupt, wild vine?'  

I find these word especially sad and convicting:

As a thief is disgraced when he is caught,
    so the people of Israel are disgraced—
they, their kings and their officials,
    their priests and their prophets.
They say to wood, ‘You are my father,’
    and to stone, ‘You gave me birth.’
They have turned their backs to me
    and not their faces;
yet when they are in trouble, they say,
    ‘Come and save us!’
Where then are the gods you made for yourselves?
    Let them come if they can save you
    when you are in trouble!
For you, Judah, have as many gods
    as you have towns.

Why do you bring charges against me?
    You have all rebelled against me,”
declares the Lord.

If we are not blaming God for our woe, we are blaming everyone we disagree with or scorn. We blame America.  We revile God's light as we bask in the fire light of burning cities.

But it starts with us:  Are we truly seeking Him?  Living in Him and for Him?  Acting like a child of  God or are we, like Judah?

On your clothes is found
    the lifeblood of the innocent poor,
    though you did not catch them breaking in.
Yet in spite of all this
     you say, ‘I am innocent;
    he is not angry with me.’
But I will pass judgment on you
    because you say, ‘I have not sinned.’

God is angry at the sin, to be sure, but He is very angry at the lack of remorse and a willingness on Judah's part to acknowledge it and repent from it.

Are we any different right now?   




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