Tag Archives: Jeremiah

Growing old, or growing up?

Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah….

(Ps 95.6-8)

“Hear this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear: should you not fear me?” declares the Lord.

(Jer 5.21)

“I could not address you as spiritual but as wordly – mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.

(1Cor 3.1-3)

I have a lot more to say about this, but it is hard to get it across to you since you’ve picked up this bad habit of not listening. By this time you ought to be teachers yourselves, yet here I find you need someone to sit down with you and go over the basics on God again….so come on, let’s leave the preschool finger-painting exercises on Christ and get on with the grand work of art. Grow up in Christ. The basic foundational truths are in place…God helping us, we’ll stay true to all that. but there’s so much more. Let’s get on with it!

(Heb 5.11-6.3: The Message; Eugene Peterson)

Much as we may enjoy and even cherish the infant stages of life, we would be deeply disturbed if they never passed into something else – it would be a sign that something was wrong, and cause for great concern. We are designed to grow up, to mature, to become capable of bearing responsibility and in time, nurturing the next generation. This is just as much true in our spiritual lives, as in our human bodies, as these words from an understandably exasperated apostle illustrate!

Each of us must make our own response to God’s word – we are charged to work out what God is saying to us, and then to do it. We are commanded to meditate on the word, letting it dwell in our hearts so that our thoughts and actions are transformed. God’s word can be resisted, we can close our hears and minds to his loving command and if we do so long enough, we become unable to hear him.

Is this not a terrifying prospect? I don’t believe that I can fall utterly away from God’s safe keeping, but I long to be found responsible in my handling of all the good gifts which I have received, to know that I have glorified God by bringing every aspect of my life under his command to be used as he pleases.

The bible teaches us in so many ways, that God is continually seeking to draw his people closer to him in faith and obedience, and that it is through their witness that his name is honoured. The people of Israel brought dishonour on God when they doubted him in the desert after leaving Egypt; they dishonoured him when they turned again and again to the worship of idols; they dishonoured him when – in Jesus’ day – they worshipped the observance of the law and temple procedure instead of the holy One himself. Am I bringing dishonour on Jesus by refusing to let him work out his purposes in  my life, closing my mind to what he says?

As a ransomed, new-created and holy child of God, I am called to grow out of my infant diet; to progress from the early stages of understanding my new position to working out in detail just what difference God makes in my life, and how he does it. Mine should be a mature faith which can stand the test and grow, stepping forward to embrace trials as a means by which God shows his love and manifests his glory. It is maturing faith which can step into positions of responsibility, and be entrusted with the pastoral care of others. It is mature faith which can say with Job – “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him”

I know that the days, months and years which God has yet for me will include difficult times, pain and suffering – my own, that of my loved ones and of the wider world. I do not want to be like a vulnerable infant, dependant on the people around me to look after me, but rather a responsible adult, one who can do the task for which God has called and enabled me. I want to grow up in my faith as I grow old in my body, making the most of the time that I am granted to serve my gracious God as faithfully as I can.

May God keep my spirit soft to receive his teaching, and my ears sensitive to his voice. Although I may weary of my own imperfections and repeated failings, God does not give up on me, and I ask for a persevering spirit to continue to grow in faith and to press on towards the glory which he has promised.

Like a spring of living water..

A voice says, “Cry out.” And I said, “What shall I cry?”

“All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands for ever.”

(Isa 40.6-8)

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.

(Jer 17.7&8)

On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”

(Jn 7.37&38)

On 31st August, 2014, the first ‘forgetfulsoul’ blog was published, the fruit of many months of pondering and preparation, and also a step of obedience to a call to speak, to cry out what was in my heart and trust that if God wanted my words, he had plans to use them to bless.

The writing of these pieces has been a great blessing to me, as well as a healthy discipline, proving over and over the truth that God’s word is alive and powerful, endlessly relevant and the only reliable foundation for our faith. In scripture, I find the great narrative of God’s actions in creation and re-creation, as he works to bring about his dwelling with his people in perfect union and harmony. I see that my salvation is but a tiny part of an eternal theme of love, redemption, and transformation. I see Jesus, high and lifted up, the man in glory where his resurrected body stands as a guarantee of my own eternal future.

As I have wrestled with concepts and scriptures week by week, I have been reminding myself of the truth; pursuing the renewing of my mind according to God’s will; seeking for strength, hope, comfort, words to express my joy or despair, and finding over and over that He is faithful. Although I am ashamed that I seem to need the same lessons over and over again, yet I am also exultant, because the Lord has called me beloved, precious and even beautiful. He sees my weaknesses and has taken all into account, so that I can rest in his love for me, as one who is fully known and yet delighted in.

In writing and publishing these meditations each week, I have offered them to God for his use in blessing others, in encouraging his children wherever they may be, to persevere and to trust him. It has been a privilege to occasionally hear from people that they have indeed been blessed – and all the glory goes to the great author himself, who has given me the words and spoken through them. What a delight and honour, to be able to serve in this way, and to cry out for the Lord who loves and has saved me!

So I give thanks today, for these five years of service to the King of Kings, offered in faith and for the blessing of his people. Rejoice with me in the love which has been bestowed on us; the costly salvation which has been won for us; the grace which daily covers all our weaknesses and continues to forgive and cleanse us.

Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will.

Praise the Lord, all his works everywhere in his dominion. 

Praise the Lord, O my soul!

(Psalm 103.20-22)

When your place is in the shadows..

Cursed be the day I was born!

Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?

(Jeremiah 20.14&18)

My splendour is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord.

(Lamentations 3.18)

The prophet Jeremiah is not perhaps our favourite personality in cast of bible characters. He has a name for gloom, for predicting disaster and generally spoiling the party! It is quite true that much of his writing is filled with warnings of judgement to come, of rebuke to a stubbornly rebellious people from their long-suffering God. Jeremiah spoke the heart of God; a broken heart, a jealous heart, which could no longer hold back the tide of invasion, destruction and exile which would finally destroy the last hold of idolatry from the heart of the people whom He loved.

But do you ever think about the cost which this ministry was to Jeremiah? As you take the time to read his words – both the long prophesy and also the devastating book of Lamenations which follows it – you find a desperate man, bereft of comfort and wrestling with the God who called him to this appalling ministry.

In his words, his grief, anger and despair, I find comfort for my own struggles. Am I the only follower of Jesus who is disappointed with some of the ways that God has chosen to direct their life? Does everyone else really live in the sunlight all the time? I beg to doubt it, and I thank God that in the words of this faithful prophet, we find permission to speak our pain; and comfort that we are not alone in it.

Very few of us are called to such a difficult path as that which faced Jeremiah – and that alone should give us cause to rejoice, and to see that we are greatly blessed to have been spared much pain! The point is that Jeremiah was doing exactly what God had called him to do, and yet his life was incredibly hard and sad. How often do we fall into the trap of thinking that a difficulty or sadness in our lives is a sign that we should be changing something, “fixing it” in any way that seems good to us? I believe this can be a very clever distraction and even a trap for us, by which the devil distracts us from faithful obedience into a fretful dissatisfaction with God, and even outright disobedience.

God is not primarily in the business of making life easy for his children. Does that surprise you? It shouldn’t, because the bible never promises that He will. Instead, we are assured that we will suffer; we are told that the world will hate us for Jesus’ sake; we are reminded that until the coming of the new creation, there will be sin, pain, death and suffering of all kinds. God is in the business of calling his people, of making all things new, and only he can see the full picture of which our lives are a tiny part. He is building a kingdom, making the name of his son known throughout the world and creating disciples. My role in the process will not be clear to me, and indeed I may feel it is completely insignificant if it has any value at all. BUT.. if I am making choices about my life directed by God’s word, desiring always to obey and glorify him then I will be a useful tool in his hand and bring him pleasure through my service.

So, whether it is a job which becomes incredibly difficult and challenging to sustain – seeming to call for qualities which I do not possess – or a relationship which drives me continually to my knees in prayer for strength to go on giving love, forgiving hurt and trusting God for the future; in all and any such callings, I have the example of Jeremiah to draw on in my struggles. What did he do? Over and over again, and often in the midst of a prophecy, he turns to God in his agony and pours it all out. First the pain, the anger of being in such a difficult position; and then his determination to trust God to be good and to be faithful to him.

Heal me , O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me and I shall be saved, for you are the one I praise. 

They keep saying to me, “Where is the word of the Lord? Let it now be fulfilled!” I have not run away from being your shepherd; you know I have not desired the day of despair….do not be a terror to me; you are my refuge in the day of disaster.

(Jeremiah 17.14-16)

May we know and share the faith which allowed Jeremiah to cling to God in the darkness and to continue in faithful submission to the calling which he had received. Our Lord quailed in Gethsemane at the prospect of pain which lay before him, but chose obedience – may we by His strength be enabled to do likewise.