Tag Archives: Jeremiah

Placing God Second

I once read a wonderful book by Thomas Jones called “Mind Change.” (2) Having suffered for many years from gradually worsening multiple sclerosis Jones honestly shares the struggles he has just getting out of bed in the morning. But he also shares how he fights to maintain a proper mindset. He proposes that we place God second in our thoughts! At first reading that sounds strange, but here’s how he puts it. We either think “GOD BUT…” OR “…BUT GOD.” “Whenever we use the word ‘but’ in a sentence or in our thoughts, we go away emphasizing and focusing on whatever comes after the word ‘but,’ not what comes before it.”

In other words, when we’re in the middle of a difficult circumstance we have two options. We can say “I know God is loving and kind, but my life – or this problem…” We will then focus on the problem and the circumstance and think less about the rich resources of God. Or we can say “My life…this problem…but God is loving and kind.” We will then focus on the rich resources of God. The equation is either “God’s promises but the problem” or “The problem but God’s promises.” We choose to focus on either our emotions or on God’s resources and faithfulness.

In the same spirit the prophet Jeremiah chose to put God second in his equation. For 2 plus chapters in the Book of Lamentations he laments the desperate and hopeless situation in which he and Israel find themselves. Lamentations 3:19-20 is his summary: “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.” Then notice – “Yet this I call to mind…” (literally, “Make return to my heart”) “…and therefore I have hope…” It’s “The problem but God’s promises.”

The reality is the Bible is filled with “…but God” equations. Space doesn’t permit a thorough list, but consider a few examples.

  • Psalm 6: 3, 6-7, 9-10: the problem – “My soul is in anguish. How long, O LORD, how long? I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes.” But God – “The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer. All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed; they will turn back in sudden disgrace.”
  • Psalm 13: 1-2, 5: the problem – “How long, O LORD ? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” But God – “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.”
  • 2 Corinthians 1:8b-9: the problem – “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.“Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.” But God – “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”

Here’s the key to placing God second in our thoughts: Jeremiah makes the good thoughts return to his heart by exercising his faith: “The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.”

Sometimes we just need to exercise our faith , to get back in the presence of our Father and be quiet so we can focus on Him. When your situation seems hopeless and you’re ready to give up, try putting God second in your thoughts. And let me know what happens. I’d love to rejoice with you!

 

1- This blog is from a sermon by Pastor Curry entitled “Our Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Days” (Lamentations 3:1-26). For more information, or to request a copy of the sermon, contact [email protected]. For the audio message click here.

2 – For information on ‘Mind Change’, click here.

A Word About Syndromes

There is a new syndrome affecting many people. It’s called the Trump Anxiety Disorder (TAD). I get it, and somewhat understand it. And while I can get very political and biased I will resist the temptation to do so here – that’s not the purpose of my blogs.

Rather I am more inclined to reflect on how this new syndrome strikes me. As a Christian, what is my response? How do I react to the root causes of this syndrome? I look at the apostles and early Christians – they lived under the rule of the likes of Herod and Nero who gruesomely persecuted and killed Christians. I think about the Jews who lived under (and the many who died under) the horrific reign of Hitler. I read about the persecuted Christians of today who face inhuman punishment and execution daily. How is it that so many of them live each day without panic and overwhelming fear?

It’s because they’re affected by another syndrome – the Foundational Faith Syndrome (FFS). In my book A Nation Under God (1) I wrote about the core of this syndrome.

“The God who rules is sovereign. Jeremiah was disappointed that his message and ministry were not being followed by Judah. He felt he had done all he could with Judah and his heart was broken that she was still as wayward as ever. So God spoke to Jeremiah and told him to go to the potter’s house…Jeremiah observed the master potter at work. Using two wheels connected by an axle, the potter rotated and controlled the speed of the wheel with his foot and molded the clay with his hands. So adept was the potter that beautiful pottery was formed as if by magic. Mesmerized by what he saw, Jeremiah was jolted back to reality when the potter felt a flaw in the clay and stopped his work. Jeremiah anticipated he would throw out the clay and start with a fresh batch. But he was fascinated to discover the potter simply took the same clay and started over again to form a different pot. “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.”

God’s sovereignty is part of the fabric of Scripture. The Psalmist affirms it: “The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart throughout all generations.” (Psalm 33:10-11) “Praise our God, all peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard; he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping. For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance. (Psalm 66:8-12)

Even the pagan kings of Daniel’s day understood. “At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?”” (Daniel 4:34-35)

“Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations and men of every language throughout the land: “May you prosper greatly! I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. “For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.”” (Daniel 6:25-27)…

So God will have his way with nations. God puts them on His divine wheel and never lets up – He is continually molding, shaping, sculpturing. No matter how independent nations think they are, no matter how much control they think they have over their destinies, the truth is they are clay. They are being shaped, molded, controlled by hands other than theirs. They are being formed by God’s hands.
We also learn, however, that because God holds nations accountable, nations can influence God’s ways. Consider God’s explanation to Jeremiah: “If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.”

Therein is our hope; therein is our peace.

No wonder the Psalmist could say: “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!…The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress… “Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.”” (Psalm 46:1-3,7,10) That’s why Jesus, just prior to his excruciating trial and death could say, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) It’s my prayer that you will be affected not by TAD but by FFS.

(1) NOTE: To read more about the book follow the link. To order at a discount go here.

When the Judge’s Son Goes to Court

In recent months I’ve been thinking and studying about judgment – wondering if God is in the process of carrying out judgment in our midst. While doing so, I recalled an incident in my life from many years ago.

As a teenager, not long after receiving my driver’s license, I drove through a red light. Since I was right by the police station there were 2 officers in police cruisers on hand to witness my action – one of which instantaneously pulled me over. He was very nice – even as he ticketed me. But here’s the rest of the story. My ticket required me to go to juvenile court to face the judge – who just happened to be my father!

Today I boast about it – not because he let me off the hook, but because he practiced what God required. **


My father acted in steadfast love. He didn’t beat me down, or throw me out of the house, or scold me. Rather, he loved me enough to treat me fairly, as he would anyone else. He knew the system he used and oversaw was redemptive – it was designed to help people like me get back on track and move ahead more responsibly and safely. In doing so, he acted justly – I had broken the law and there was a judgment to be rendered, a penalty to be enforced, a price to be paid. I received the same assignment most other first time teen offenders received. (I was told to write a 250 word essay on the responsibilities of a teenage driver. This standard ‘punishment’ showed steadfast love to all who walked through those court doors in similar situations.) And my father demonstrated righteousness. He did what was right, what the law demanded. He recused himself from handling my case and turned it over to a colleague. No one could say I received preferential treatment. Only now, so many years later, have I recognized the true source and motivation behind my father’s actions and attitude. He understood God.

For God JUDGES WITH STEADFAST LOVE, JUSTICE AND RIGHTEOUSNESS.

• God judges with steadfast love. Steadfast love – kindness – is the driving force and underlying characteristic of all God’s actions. Psalm 136 is one long boast about God’s steadfast love. Twenty-six times God’s people utter this refrain: “His steadfast love endures forever.”

• God judges with justice – He is a God of justice. “I am going to bring a disaster on this place that will make the ears of everyone who hears it tingle. For they have forsaken me and made this a place of foreign gods…” (Jeremiah 19:3-4) He condemns the wicked. He vindicates the righteous. He will bring every deed to judgment, whether open or secret. It is true, God is slow to anger. Yet he will not leave the guilty unpunished. He is known for his justice: “The Lord is known by his acts of justice; the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands.” (Psalm 9:16) He loves justice. “For the Lord … loves justice; the upright will see his face.” (Psalm 11:7) He gives justice to all the oppressed: “The Lord judges in favor of the oppressed and gives them their rights.” (Psalm 103:6 GNT).

• God judges with righteousness. He does what is right, what the law demands. “In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord is our Righteousness.” (Jeremiah 33:15-16)

So to boast about steadfast love, justice, and righteousness is to boast about the lavish gift of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. “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.” (John 3:16) “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” (1 John 3:16).

No wonder the Psalmist concludes Psalm 2, “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”

“O God of earth and altar,
Bow down and hear our cry;
Our earthly rulers falter,
Our people drift and die;’
The walls of gold entomb us,
The swords of scorn divide,
Take not thy thunder from us,
But take away our pride.” ***

*This blog is an excerpt from Pastor Curry’s book A Nation Under God. (Still under construction)
**Picture from https://ref.ly/logos4/MediaTool;FormatId=1920;MediaItemId=191357-4410652–;ViewMode=Edit                                                                         ***G. K. Chesterton