Category: Jeremiah (page 1 of 3)

Kingdom > Church (part 2)

The Hebrew Scriptures promised of a time when God would truly rule in people’s lives. He created and saved and called his people to be a Kingdom of priests for the whole world. But the Law and the Prophets talked about this Kingdom, not in terms of the religious rituals or the trappings of the establishment, but in terms of cooperating with God in fulfilling his ultimate mission. It was never intended to be about the institution. It was always meant to be about joining God in taking care of the orphans, the widows, and the strangers in the gate. Being a light to the Gentiles. Living your life in a way that reveals God and saves the world.

In Jeremiah 7, the old prophet’s preaching at the gates of the beautiful temple, the very symbol of the religion, and he says it’s not about this building or what goes on in here during corporate worship:

“Hear the Word of the Lord, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the Lord. This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘…Do not trust in deceptive words and say, ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!… Look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.'”

Later in the same chapter, Jeremiah says when you focus on what happens in here, you’re going backwards.

As Israel failed to live up to God’s vision for his people to protect the defenseless and feed the hungry and clothe the naked and house the poor; as Israel just couldn’t or wouldn’t keep it up; God’s prophets began to speak of a time that God himself would bring his everlasting Kingdom to earth. The Lord would reign supreme from sea to sea. Peace would come to all nations and the rule of God would transcend geography and politics and even religion. All of that is in the Old Testament.

The New Testament tells us that Jesus is the fulfillment of all those Kingdom hopes and promises.

Jesus preaches the Kingdom: “Repent! The Kingdom of God is near!” And what does he do? He frees the prisoner, heals the blind, rescues the oppressed. Those are the signs of the Kingdom. That’s the proof. When John the Baptist asks if Jesus is truly the Messiah, Jesus sends word back, “Look, you know the signs of the Kingdom. The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the Good News is preached to the poor.”

That’s the Kingdom.

Jesus, show us the Kingdom. What’s the Kingdom of God, Lord?

Never once did the Son of God ever say, “The Kingdom of God is that group over there that meets on Sundays for Bible class and worship.” “The Kingdom is identified by those who take communion once a week on the Lord’s Day and sing acappella.” “You’ll know the Kingdom when you get two songs and a prayer with announcements at the beginning and the end!”

No. Jesus says, here’s the Kingdom: it’s hurting people being comforted. It’s distressed people being encouraged. It’s cold people being warmed. It’s the outcasts being brought into a family. That’s the Kingdom of God.

When we talk about the Kingdom of God in terms of church and the institution, the rules and the order, when that’s our whole idea of Kingdom, we quickly lose sight of the very things that make the Kingdom of God what it is: when and where God graciously rules in people’s lives.

In Matthew 12, Jesus’ critics are claiming he’s driving out demons by the power of Satan. But he says, no, I’m driving out demons by the Spirit of God. “And if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, the Kingdom of God has come to you.” In other words, when and where you see people being delivered from evil, that’s the Kingdom. And then he explains it:

“How can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house.” ~Matthew 12:29

Jesus is sent here by God to invade Satan’s house. Jesus rams the gates and busts through the doors of Satan’s domain. He ransacks all the rooms and breaks open the safe. He tears apart the pantry and goes into the attic and the basement. And he snatches away every man, woman, and child held in bondage by the power of the devil. They are rescued! They are all saved! That’s the Kingdom of God.

Peace,

Allan

Here’s Looking at You

My kids tell me I’ve ripped this off from the movie “27 Dresses” which, as God is my witness, I’ve never seen. But when I’m at a wedding and the bride makes her appearance at the back of the church and begins to walk down that center aisle, I do turn my attention to the groom. I want to watch the groom as he sees his beautiful bride. Because the way that groom looks at the bride is the way our God looks at his Church.

Scripture tells us that God wants to be much more to us than just a mighty king with loyal subjects. He wants to be the groom to the bride. He wants a relationship of intimate love with us as profound and eternal as that between a husband and a wife. God calls himself the groom throughout the Old Testament.

“‘They broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,’ declares the Lord.” ~Jeremiah 31:32

Jesus calls himself the groom in the Gospels and compares the Kingdom of God to a massive wedding feast.

“How can the guests of the groom fast while he is with them?” ~Mark 2:19

“The Kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son… All things are ready! Come to the wedding banquet!” ~Matthew 22:1-4

And at the end of time, when everything is finally made right and all of our Father’s plans have culminated in the new heavens and new earth and perfectly righteous relationships with him and one another, there’s going to be a wedding feast to end all wedding feasts!

“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” ~Revelation 21:2

“Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” ~Revelation 19:9

This coming feast celebrates finally the intimate and permanent union of God and his people. This is how history ends. This is what God is doing.

When God uses a metaphor to help us see him better, it also helps us better understand how he sees us. God calls us his Father, he calls us his children, and then Jesus says, “If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more…?”

If God is our groom, then he must really love us. He must truly delight in us.

What does the bride look like when she walks down that aisle? How does her groom see her? Have you ever watched the groom?

When the groom sees her, he’s absolutely delighted. You can see the love in his eyes. You can almost feel the commitment in his heart. You can sense the complete devotion to her in the deepest part of his soul. He’ll do anything for her for the rest of his life, he’ll stop at nothing to protect her and provide for her and please her, he’ll dedicate his whole existence to loving her forever — you can see it in the way he looks at her!

How dare our Lord use a metaphor like that! How dare the Scriptures tap into this really powerful image and its accompanying emotions!

Could it be that he really loves us like that? That he really loves you that much? That God is that committed to you?

How different would your life be if you lived every day — hour by hour, moment by moment — in the awareness of God’s great love for you? He’s looking at you right now. He thinks you’re beautiful. He’s proud of you. And he loves you more than our words can describe.

Peace,

Allan

You Are What You Eat

“When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight.”
~Jeremiah 15:16EatTheWord

When we meditate on the words of God, they become a part of us. These words deal specifically with our souls and they’re written to transform us into people who reflect the glory of God. A daily diet of Scripture allows these holy words to enter our souls just like food enters our stomachs. It spreads through our entire system of blood and air and organs and nerves and functions. We assimilate it. And it becomes holiness and love and wisdom.

The same is true of prayer. It’s a complex act of speaking to and listening to the Creator of heaven and earth. It’s an act of submission. It’s a declaration of faith. It’s basking in the presence of our God, delighting in his love and grace, and taking comfort in his mercy and forgiveness.

Reading God’s Word and praying to the Father are not intellectual exercises. It’s not a hobby or a pastime. This is life and death. It’s urgent. It’s right now. It speaks to every facet of our everyday lives. It nourishes us. It transforms us. It gives us the Holy Spirit strength we need to live as mature disciples in a hostile world.

You are what you eat. When I look in the mirror, I can see that the Whataburgers and Oreos have become a part of me — the biggest part of me. Yesterday, we fasted and prayed together as a church family in preparation for our Missions Sunday. Fasting and praying. I was focused on the Word yesterday. I was zeroed in on prayer all day. I didn’t eat. And no Dr Pepper. But at the end of the day I was full. Satisfied. I was changed, if only a little. I assimilated a little more of God’s Word and his nature into my soul. I had grown.

Jesus made a habit of withdrawing “privately to a solitary place.” Our Lord spent much of his time in Scripture and prayer: listening to God, speaking with him, communing with him. As his followers, we too set aside a time every day for prayer and Bible reading. Thirty minutes. An hour. In the morning. During lunch. Bedtime. The time and place are not important. Making this communion with God a daily priority is very important. It’s a vital part of “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

Peace,

Allan

Presence

Tabernacle

“I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.” ~Genesis 17:7

We’re going to be together. We’re going to live together, just like in the garden in the very beginning. God says we’re going to occupy the same places together just like in Act One. The covenant is about God being visibly, physically present with his people.

When he delivers them from Egypt, God leads them from a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Scripture tells us neither pillar “left its place in front of the people.”

And then God brings his people to a mountain in the middle of the desert and he tells them the details of the covenant. God is right there, physically and visibly on the mountain. There’s smoke and fire, thunder and lightning. The people are trembling with fear.

“They offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the LORD. Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, ‘We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey.’

Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.’

Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.” ~Exodus 24:5-11

God uses the blood of the covenant, the blood of the sacrifice, to cleanse his people so they can sit down together and share a meal. They saw God and they ate and drank. The blood made them righteous. Because of the blood, God considered them holy, so they could be right there in his face-to-face presence. Eating together! With God! It’s remarkable! But that kind of proximity, that kind of physical relationship and presence, is what God and the humans had in the garden in Act One. And that’s what God is working to restore with his covenant.

God longs to physically live with his people. So, next, he tells them to build him a tent.

“Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am the LORD their God who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them.” ~Exodus 29:45-46

“I will put my dwelling place among you… I will walk among you and be your God and you will be my people.” ~Leviticus 26:11-12

This is the promise, this is the language through the rest of the Old Testament. I will live with you; you will be my people and I will be your God. At the tabernacle. At the temple. Five times in Ezekiel. Five times in Jeremiah. Three times in Zechariah. God gives us his covenant so we can live together with him in his presence.

Peace,

Allan

Very Good

CreationGodWe’ve spent this week looking at the inspiring beauty of Act One of the Story of God, the Pattern of the Kingdom the Creator establishes: God and mankind living in perfect harmony together, ruling and reigning together over a perfectly wonderful heavens and earth. Act One is good. It is “very good.” It’s an eternal blueprint for everything God is doing.

Now, today we don’t live in Act One. It’s long past. But what Act One tells us has important meaning for all people right now. In the beginning God created. That doesn’t just mean back there and back then. The Story says not only that God was Creator but that God is Creator! God’s creative activity is not limited to the distant past. It’s not like a long time ago God did everything he planned to do and then retreated from the scene to let the world run by itself.

Romans 4 tells us that even now, today, our God gives life to the dead and calls things into existence that do not exist. 2 Corinthians 5 declares that right now, today, we are a new creation in Christ Jesus our Lord. When we confess that God is the Creator, we are saying that God is continuously making new beginnings, opening up new possibilities, initiating new events. God is our Creator. And he is doing new things in our lives.

The psalmist did not say, “God created Adam and Eve a long time ago and we’re all descended from them.” He said, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Read that again. You’ve heard it dozens of times. Read it again.

“You knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

We know the facts of life. We know where babies come from. But we also know that the process of procreation and gestation and giving birth don’t tell us the whole truth about where we came from, who we are, and where we’re going. We believe that God the Creator stands at the beginning of every single human life and goes with us on every single step of our own ways.

Your life might be formless and empty. Chaos. Darkness. Void. It can be obvious darkness and chaos like addiction or abuse or violence or disease. Or it could be a chaos underneath the surface, a chaos of the heart that’s hidden from almost everybody.

Jeremiah 31 says, “The Lord will create a new thing!” Our God, the Creator of “very good” things, can speak light and life into that darkness and void. He made you in his image. He made you “very good.” And his desire to live in a righteous relationship with you means he came here in Christ Jesus to make it happen. He’s committed to it. Your story, whatever it looks like to this point, is being written by a powerful and loving Creator who is devoted to your “very good.”

“Be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create!” ~Isaiah 65:18

Peace,

Allan

God is The Creator

School2015And then there was one. For the first time in thirteen years, when we took first day of school pictures this morning, there was only one child standing in the frame holding her school supplies. Carley starts her sophomore year today at Canyon High School. Val began classes today at WT and Whitney is at United. So, yeah, this is different. Carley lamented last night that when I sing our traditional first-day-of-school song (that all the girls publicly protest, but secretly admire) she’ll be the only one I’m singing to. That’s right. Of course, I sang it loud enough so that maybe Valerie could have heard it. But how would I know: she’s not returning phone calls or texts.CarleySchool2015

Carrie-Anne is beginning her third year as the Culinary Arts Director at Canyon High. We had to stick C-A in one of the photos because Carley was feeling lonely.

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CreationBeginning“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” ~Genesis 1:1

We mostly blow right past this opening sentence, when this opening sentence ought to blow us away. You can’t create a pencil. I can’t create a ping pong ball. We can’t create anything. And God created the heavens and the earth.

You can theorize about a big bang and discuss primordial matter all afternoon. But what we clearly have in Act One, Scene One is God speaking into nothing and creating everything. In the beginning, there is an explosion of life and God is the sole initiator. This story counters all the other stories that were out there at the time: that creation was a mistake, that it was the result of strife between rival gods, that human beings were an accident. All the creation stories before the one in Genesis were about conflict and hate and violence and war and mistakes. Our story says creation is the intentional action of a loving God.

“The Lord is the true God;
he is the living God, the eternal King.
These gods who did make the heavens and the earth will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.
God made the earth by his power;
he founded the world by his wisdom
and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.” ~Jeremiah 10:10-12

Act One tells us there was a beginning and in the beginning there was God. A person. With an identity and character and a consciousness. A God with a personality and traits and emotions. We are a theistic people. But we are not a generally theistic people, we are a specifically theistic people: we believe in the God of the Bible. He is all powerful and he is all responsible.

Sometimes we shake our fists at God. When he’s not doing what he think is loving or just or wise, we yell at God. “Why are you doing that? Why are you not doing this?” The reason we believe he is all responsible is because we believe there is no other God.

In Acts 4, the early church is praying for God to do something great. The Christians are being persecuted and arrested and thrown in prison. And the church prays. “God start healing people. God start doing miracles. God handle the problem of the government. God perform some mighty wonders.” They’re expecting great things. Why?

“Sovereign Lord, you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.” ~Acts 4:24

God is the The Creator. It’s basic. It’s foundational. It’s so important. All of salvation is predicated on Creation. Once we get a handle on it, the whole rest of the Story of God makes perfect sense. The ugliness of sin, the redemption and New Creation of all bodies — it truly adds up when Creation is the first Act.

Peace,

Allan

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