Truth or Consequences

As I was reading Jeremiah 26-29, I read that the prophet Jeremiah had a message from the Lord for the people of Israel. And this message was that if they repent and return to God’s ways, he will revoke the punishments he has planned for them. And when Jeremiah shared that message with those in charge, they didn’t like the message. Jeremiah confronted the evil of the day, and they wanted to kill him. He had to defend himself against an angry mob. Some of the leaders agreed that he shouldn’t be killed. Then when someone else prophesied the same message, he was killed. But a courageous man named Ahikam stood up for Jeremiah, and Jeremiah’s life was spared.

Nevertheless, Ahikam son of Shaphan stood up for Jeremiah and persuaded the court not to turn him over to the mob to be killed. Jeremiah 26:24

Now there was another prophet named Hananiah who also shared a message he said was from God. Only the message was a bit different. This message said that once the Israelites were exiled to Babylon, they and all of the items removed from the temple would be returned to Jerusalem in two years. And that was in stark contrast to God’s message to Jeremiah that they would be held captive by the Babylonians for 70 years. And yet Hananiah said it would only be two years. Of course, the people wanted to believe Hananiah because a two year exile was much different from 70 years.

Jeremiah continued to tell the Israelites of God’s warnings and plans to punish them for ignoring him and turning their backs on his commands on how they were to live their lives. They disobeyed God and bowed down to idols. They worshipped the creation instead of the Creator. When Hananiah had given his message that their punishment would only be two years, Jeremiah told him that he had shared a great message. I hope you’re right. Jeremiah said. But the only way we know that if the message is from God is if it comes true, because all of God’s promises and prophecies come true.

This story reminds me of a story in the New Testament. A man named Stephen was sharing the gospel, the good news that Jesus Christ was the actual promised Messiah, the Son of God. Many people didn’t believe it and were hunting anyone who shared or believed this type of message. They would hunt them down, imprison or kill them. And when Stephen had the courage to speak up and share his testimony, the crowd went crazy. They grabbed him and took him outside the city gates. There they stoned him to death. As they were stoning him, a man standing by the wayside was holding the coats of the people throwing stones. He stood by silently watching these people kill Stephen. And as Stephen knelt on the ground being pummeled by stones, he looked up into heaven and said, Father forgive them. Don’t hold them guilty for this. He begged. Even in his final moments of life, he was still asking God to forgive these people of the damage they were doing by killing Christians. He didn’t want them held responsible.

And this man holding the coats of those who were stoning Stephen was just as guilty as any one of the stone throwers. He could have stopped them. He could have stopped the people from throwing stones. He could have stopped this death penalty verdict that was handed out so easily. He could have spoken up. But he didn’t speak a word. He agreed that Stephen should be killed.

People didn’t like what Stephen was saying. They totally disagreed with him, because he was preaching a new way. He was preaching that the Promised Messiah had come to earth already. And these other Jews did not believe it. So they were hunting him and others who believed that same message. They were hunting them down and Saul stood there in silence, approving this act of violence against an innocent man. And that day Stephen faced his eternity and found himself in heaven with Jesus Christ. His suffering was no more.

We know that Saul approved of the killing of Stephen. Saul was trained in the Jewish tradition by a sought after rabbi named Gamaliel. Saul observed the Jewish traditions. He could quote the Torah. But he hadn’t accepted the message that Jesus was the promised Messiah. He fought the truth when the truth was staring him in the face.

Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen. A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria. Acts of the Apostles 8:1

Now in the Old Testament, Ahikam stopped the killing of Jeremiah the prophet. Ahikam, the protector of the prophet, came from a strong family line. His father was a prominent scribe, who also led the restoration of the temple. This family was well respected in their time. So it was right that this son stood up for the prophet, Jeremiah. And when he spoke, the people listened. Jeremiah’s life was saved.

We read in the New Testament of what happened to Saul when he approved the killing of an innocent man. We also know that Jesus spoke to him and called him to preach that Jesus was the Son of God. And Saul’s life was changed. He recognized that he was chasing innocent people. He was going after the wrong crowd, imprisoning them. He had a change of heart. He became one of the hunted instead of the hunter, because his message of forgiveness and redemption was powerful. He had first-hand experience of what a changed life was like when Jesus saves you from your sins. He lived forgiven and he shared the message that forgiveness and salvation were available for everyone. Saul realized that he had been wrong. He had been standing for the wrong message.


Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14


Who do you identify with?

So today, we also have a choice. Are we going to be like Stephen and Jeremiah who speak the truth? Are we going to stand up for biblical truth, for justice, and for right. When those who disagree with us want to cause physical harm, financial ruin, or job loss, are we still willing to stand? Or will we silently stand to the side?

Are we willing to stand as Jeremiah and Stephen did, or will we take the easy way out? Will we go with the crowd and stand by silently approving the harm of innocent people. People who are determined to be courageous in a fight for truth. We need to seriously consider how we’re going how we live our lives. What we’re standing for and what we’re standing against.

Truth seems to be a rare commodity these days. Something else that’s hard to find is those who will support truth tellers. Why is it so hard to stand for truth these days? Oh. We’ve never faced persecution and threats for speaking the truth, but the tide has turned. We may become the hunted. Are we prepared?

Will we stand with Ahikam for those who speak biblical truth or will we remain silent as Saul and overlook the persecution of believers? We have a choice. Will we find our voice before it’s too late?

Just so you know, Satan wants to bring God’s followers down. We too could be hunted and threatened. Are we willing to accept that? Oh, we say it’s not happening to us because we live in America. That doesn’t mean it won’t ever happen. It is happening in America today to people who stand against biblical truths. They are sued and repeatedly taken to court for daring to stand for their beliefs. Their faith has not wavered. Is my faith that strong? Am I that courageous? We need to stand true and strong to our beliefs. God help us.

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:10-12

Repercussions

He walked into my office and chatted for ninety minutes. Yes. Ninety minutes. I lost an hour and a half talking to the big boss one morning at work. And he told me a story I’ll never forget. His friend in Florida, a minister by the way, was driving and hit a thirteen year old girl who was riding her bike. Instead of stopping, he drove away. It was a hit and run. And then he proceeded to drive an hour away to get his car repaired. The young girl is now in intensive care. He was apprehended and arrested. The fate of each of these individuals is in limbo.

The man telling me the story asked why. Why would someone do this? Just drive away? It’s a question for the ages. But it’s not the first time something like this has happened. And it most likely won’t be the last. But it still is a very haunting question. What makes someone do the unthinkable? Was he so panicked that he wasn’t thinking straight? Did he know what he hit? Was he intoxicated? Or unknowingly cognitively impaired? Or was he just paralyzed with fear? It was an accident. Now it’s a crime scene.

I don’t know what I would do in that situation. I hope that common sense would set in and I would stop to help the girl. After all, it’s another human being. But we never know how we will respond until the moment is upon us. And we may do the unthinkable, just as this man did. I’m sure he’s having many regrets as his liberty has been cut short. His twilight years may now be spent behind bars. His retirement savings may be used to pay for legal counsel. His aging wife will be alone. What was he thinking? We ask.


But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. Look down and have mercy on me. Give your strength to your servant; save me, the son of your servant. Psalms 86:15-16


As I was talking to the man, he mentioned that his wife was raised as a Communist. But then she decided to research and study Christianity. She decided that it wasn’t worth pursuing. And as she heard the story of this minister, she asked how a Christian could do such a thing. If that’s the way Christians act, she wants no part of Christianity. I told him that I was a Christian. He quickly assured me that he was, too. I wanted to ask for his definition of being a Christian, but decided that was a conversation for another day.

I went on to tell him that as humans, we all make mistakes. Some mistakes have serious consequences. We don’t always choose to do the right thing. Christian or not. Our mistakes don’t have to define us, but they sure can leave their mark on our lives and on others. Should someone who makes a mistake be punished for the rest of their life? I guess it depends on the severity of the situation.

We’re told it’s not our place to judge. Christian or not. And rightly so. Some mistakes are public knowledge. Others are private and never disclosed. Only God knows our intentions, and he will judge accordingly. Of course, remorse and repentance is always the path to take. We would ask for the same benefit of the doubt if the shoe were on the other foot.

As Christians, we know that God will be with us in our moments of mistakes. He’ll forgive our sins. We should learn and grow from each lesson in our lives. If we learned a valuable lesson and changed our ways after every mistake we make, our lives would be so changed that others would see the difference. But we’re human. We’re always prone to mistakes. We’ll never be perfect. It’s the long road of obedience to God’s commands that usher us forward into each new trial and test. Wisdom comes from learning from our past experiences and obeying God. Let’s show grace to others in their time of need and uncertainty. But let’s also consider others above ourselves and do the right thing. Regardless of the consequences.

Does Your God Fall Over?

The Israelites were at it again. They had turned their backs on God again. And again. And God kept reminding them through his prophets that if they didn’t repent and return to obeying him, they would be severely punished. But they didn’t listen. They made their own gods and worshipped them. But when life got tough. When the drought and famine came along, and neighboring countries defeated them, then they cried out to God. Where are you? They asked. Why aren’t you taking care of us? And all the time God had been speaking through his prophet to turn back to him, they had ignored him. And now they wanted his help.

“When you tell the people all these things, they will ask, ‘Why has the Lord decreed such terrible things against us? What have we done to deserve such treatment? What is our sin against the Lord our God?’ “Then you will give them the Lord ’s reply: ‘It is because your ancestors were unfaithful to me. They worshiped other gods and served them. They abandoned me and did not obey my word. And you are even worse than your ancestors! You stubbornly follow your own evil desires and refuse to listen to me. So I will throw you out of this land and send you into a foreign land where you and your ancestors have never been. There you can worship idols day and night—and I will grant you no favors!’ Jeremiah 16:10-13

We can’t just fall in step with the majority and worship the god of the moment. Whatever is visually appealing isn’t what should take priority in our lives. We see in Isaiah that the Son of God was not attractive at all. He was ordinary to a fault. Yet he was God. He was worthy of our praise, our adoration and our allegiance.

This is what the Lord says: “Do not act like the other nations, who try to read their future in the stars. Do not be afraid of their predictions, even though other nations are terrified by them. Their ways are futile and foolish. They cut down a tree, and a craftsman carves an idol. They decorate it with gold and silver and then fasten it securely with hammer and nails so it won’t fall over. Their gods are like helpless scarecrows in a cucumber field! They cannot speak, and they need to be carried because they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of such gods, for they can neither harm you nor do you any good.”
Jeremiah 10:2‭‭-‬5 NLT

I wonder what God would say to us today. Does his rebuke still stand? We in this world who have made our own gods out of so many man-made items. Do our gods stand on their own today? Or do they fall over?

As long as it’s still today, we have time to repent and turn from our false gods. What do you say we do that? Let’s not make unto ourselves any graven images. Let’s serve the God who is fully capable all on his own of doing anything and everything.

I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost; Christianity without Christ; forgiveness without repentance; salvation without regeneration; politics without God; and Heaven without Hell.

William Booth

The whole human race is foolish and has no knowledge! The craftsmen are disgraced by the idols they make, for their carefully shaped works are a fraud. These idols have no breath or power. Idols are worthless; they are ridiculous lies! On the day of reckoning they will all be destroyed. But the God of Israel is no idol! He is the Creator of everything that exists, including Israel, his own special possession. The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name! Jeremiah 10:14-16

How many gods do we need? After all, there is only one true God who rules the universe. All other gods are man-made who can do nothing. They’re worthless. Why do we spend so much time worshipping them? They can’t hear us when we pray. They don’t know our needs. They do nothing for us but leave us feeling empty.

Look now, people of Judah; you have as many gods as you have towns. You have as many altars of shame—altars for burning incense to your god Baal—as there are streets in Jerusalem. “Pray no more for these people, Jeremiah. Do not weep or pray for them, for I will not listen to them when they cry out to me in distress. Jeremiah 11:13-14

I know, Lord , that our lives are not our own. We are not able to plan our own course. Jeremiah 10:23


Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Isaiah 55:6


Why not worship the one God, the one true God who knew us before we were even born? The God who knows the number of hairs on our heads. He who created us knows everything about us. The number of days we will live. He knows everything we will do and say. He knows the good, the bad, and the ugly. And he still loves us. He’s ordained our lives from the moment of conception to our final breath. He’s created us to worship the Creator of life, not the creation. How often do we consider the One who created all things?

Does your god fall over? Can your god pick you up when you’ve been let down? When life is crashing all around, does your god comfort you? If you feel comforted for awhile, does the comfort last? When you need your god the most, is he available? Does he hear you? Or provide for you? Do you trust your god?

Come every one who is thirsty in spirit;
Come, every one who is weary and sad.
Come to the fountain, there’s fullness in Jesus –
All that you’re longing for; Come and be glad!

I will pour water on him that is thirsty;
I will pour floods upon the dry ground.
Open your heart for the gifts I am bringing;
While ye are seeking Me I will be found.

Child of the world, are you tired of your bondage?
Weary of earth-joys, so false, so untrue?
Thirsting for God and His fullness of blessing?
List to the promise, a message for you.

Child of the Kingdom, be filled with the Spirit!
Nothing but fullness thy longing can meet.
’Tis the enduement for life and for service.
Thine is the promise, so certain, so sweet! 

Lucy Rider Meyer

Persecuting Jesus

Saul and his crew were on their way to Damascus. After all, he had received written permission from the high priest authorizing him to hunt and arrest anyone who believed the message of Jesus Christ. As he traveled down the road in midday, a light brighter than the sun shone all around him. He was instantly blinded. Suddenly, he heard a voice from heaven. Jesus, the Son of God, asked Saul why he was persecuting him.

Saul was not searching for Jesus when Jesus called his name. He was searching for those who believed in Jesus. Oh. Saul knew what he was doing. He was persecuting those who believed that Jesus, the promised Messiah had come to earth to deliver his people from their sins. And Saul didn’t believe that. He was stuck in the traditional Jewish beliefs and traditions. He didn’t believe the prophecy about God’s Son had actually been fulfilled. So when Jesus called his name, Saul asked who was calling. And he then realized this Jesus was the one he had been denying.

Saul, Saul.  Why do you persecute me? 

Every believer that Saul persecuted was taking the place of Jesus Christ.  For all intents and purposes, Saul was persecuting Jesus Christ everywhere he went.  When he arrested and imprisoned those who accepted the Good News of Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection, he was arresting and imprisoning Jesus himself. With every capture and arrest Saul made, he thought he was honoring God. He thought he was following God’s will. But instead, he was persecuting God’s son. He was fighting God, not obeying him. How could he have gotten it so wrong? 

What Saul didn’t realize was that he couldn’t hold back the Son of God from doing the work he was commissioned to do. Sure. The Son of God had returned to heaven, but his followers on earth were now doing his work. And nothing Saul could do could stop what God had started.

I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene. Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus. I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities. Acts 26:9-11

Saul was a learned man of his times. He had studied under the well respected Jewish scholar, Gamaliel. Saul knew the Scriptures. He was determined to punish anyone who dared to believe differently from the traditions. And yet, God had to bring him to his knees and blind him before he was willing to admit the truth that Jesus was the Son of God, born and died for every last one of Saul’s many sins.

To read the full story of Saul’s conversion, read Acts 9 and Acts 26.


Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Colossians 3:16


Soul, soul.  Why do you persecute me? 

What if my name was in front of that sentence.  Why do I persecute God?  Why do I challenge him and run from his ways?  Why don’t I automatically fall on my knees and worship him in adoration?  Why don’t I automatically choose to obey God? I who know the Scripture and have been taught from an early age to love and honor God. Why am I so careless with my faith?

Do we not do the same as Saul did?  Every time we act selfishly and sinfully, we are acting against God. When we reject Christ and his will for our lives, we’re persecuting him. Do we even realize what we’re doing? Do we take God’s knock on the door of our hearts seriously and open up to him?

What will God have to resort to to bring us to our knees in humble acknowledgment and repentance? Why do we run from him?  Why do we think our ways are higher than his ways? We who’ve been taught the Bible know the truth, yet we deny what we’ve been taught. We ignore the Scripture teaching us how to live an authentic Christian life. We do our own thing. We don’t look for God’s guidance. We become complacent. It’s all about us, we think. Not about God.

I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! Revelation 3:15-16

Anytime we sin, we’re nailing Jesus to the cross all over again. Our decision to deny Jesus and please ourselves puts him right back on that cross. Each time we disobey, the weight of our sins becomes heavier for Jesus to bear as he hung on that cross, causing him more pain and suffering. If we continue to run from God and disobey him when he’s calling our name, we’re persecuting him. Is that what we want?

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Romans 3:23

If we are the body of Christ, let’s wear the name in humility. We must consciously hear and obey God’s words. Let’s act on the promptings of the Holy Spirit and live in obedience. let’s listen well and listen thoroughly when God calls our name. Let’s not be surprised when God calls our name to follow and obey him. Let’s follow willingly.