Today’s Bible Reading: Jeremiah 28-29:32; 1 Timothy 1:1-20; Psalm 86:1-17; Proverbs 25:17
Jeremiah is confronted by a false prophet in Jeremiah 28. This false prophet claims that Jeremiah does not know what he is talking about and that the message he is spreading is wrong. This is not uncommon. There are still many people who think they know what God is like but they are wrong.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion about God, politics, science, or any topic. But too many people arrive at conclusions about God based on information solely from their own head. The problem with this is that it leads to erroneous conclusions. If we took the same approach with our neighbor we would end up with similarly wrong conclusions. The way we get to know people is to spend time with them. The same is true for getting to know God. To know God we need to spend time reading His word and praying. People who don’t spend time with God cannot know Him. Therefore their conclusions, and opinions, about Him cannot be respected.
So when someone tells us something about God (or any topic) we need to know their sources. Sadly, people will dash off to Wikipedia to verify data about many topics. But they blindly believe what people tell them about God (Jeremiah 28:15). They blindly believe that people get to heaven based on how good a life they live, as the Catholic church teaches. But this is wrong. They blindly believe that God only wants to shower us with material, earthly blessings as some teach. But this is wrong too.
If we want the most accurate information about anything or anyone we must go to the source. Speculation leads to misinformation. Misinformation leads to poor decisions. Poor decisions lead to wrong actions.
A couple of great examples are Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel. Both men were atheists who decided to challenge their own ideas. Mr. McDowell gave up his job as a professor to spend time proving the Bible was a hoax. Mr. Strobel used his background in the law and investigative journalism to interrogate the BIble’s claims. In the end both men came to the conclusion that the Bible is true and are now prolific authors and public speakers on Biblical matters. These are opinions that can be respected because they were arrived at based on thoughtful research. These men didn’t just continue to believe something because it was what they wanted to believe.
Many people, including myself, went into Christianity kicking and screaming. I didn’t believe it was true and didn’t want to believe it was true. But that didn’t make it not true. In the end I had no other conclusion than to believe it is.
While the Jews were in exile in Babylon God commanded them to settle down and live normal lives (Jeremiah 29:5-7). They weren’t where they wanted to be. Their circumstances were less than ideal. But God didn’t want them to be lazy or to give up on life. He wanted them to be industrious make things better for the people around them. Their lives could still be a witness for God.
When we find ourselves in situations we’d rather not be in we are not to sulk or complain. We are to keep our focus on God’s promises. God has great plans for every individual (Jeremiah 29:11). But they often come from the most unlikely places. I have often been in situations that I thought were pointless and would not benefit me at all. But I turned out to be wrong when God revealed His blessings through my circumstances.
We begin Paul’s first letter to Timothy today. 1 & 2 Timothy are called “pastoral” letters because in them Paul gives instructions to those people who are tasked by God to lead groups of believers.
Bible study is, of course, exceedingly beneficial. But It is pointless to spend time speculating about things we have no evidence for (1 Timothy 1:4). For example, discussing the “lost years” of Jesus is a waste of time. God does not tell us what Jesus did between the ages of approximately 12 and 30 so there is no point in discussing it. Speculation is one of Satan’s tricks to prevent us from focusing on what God really wants us to know.
Before Paul became Paul he was Saul and Saul was a persecutor of the fledgling movement that came to be known as Christianity (1 Timothy 1:13). But that did not stop God from reaching out and saving Paul. God has great patience with all people. And if Paul – a man who used to kill Christians – could be saved, anyone can be saved (1 Timothy 1:16).
God isn’t giving up on anyone, no matter what you’ve done. His offer of eternal life is not conditional on behavior. Otherwise, none of us could enter heaven. We can only get there through God’s mercy and grace.
Psalm 86 is all about seeking God’s help. Our culture encourages a self-sufficient attitude wherein we don’t ask for help – we tough life out on our own. For this people applaud us. But that is not God’s way. He cares for us and wants to help us. All we have to do is ask and He will come running.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.