Sunday, October 19, 2014

No See I Told You So's

Lamentations 1

Jeremiah had prophesied for years about the sins of Jerusalem. He had a difficult ministry to say the least. 

Here are some of his struggles in his own words. He had grown up in Jerusalem. He had watched the people come for its feasts. He had seen the city overflow with people. Now it is desolate, like a widow whose husband left her. He is looking down on the city from a vantage point. 

There is on the site of Golgotha a cave that is called Jeremiah's Grotto. This cave known as Jeremiah's Grotto comprises a part of the face of the skull; hence the name Golgotha. Because as you look at the cliff, with these caves that are there in the cliff take the appearance of a skull. One of these caves is called Jeremiah's Grotto. It is interesting that from those caves there on the site of Golgotha, you have a tremendous view of the city of Jerusalem, for Golgotha is actually the top of what was once Mount Moriah. And it looks down over the city of Jerusalem.

Tradition declares that Jeremiah sat in this grotto when he wrote the Book of Lamentations, and there he wept and cried over the desolation of the city of Jerusalem as he saw its ruins, as he saw the walls destroyed, as he saw the buildings leveled. And from this vantage, he wrote this book.

In the Septuagint, which is a translation of the scriptures into Greek that was done by seventy Hebrew scholars about 200 B.C., they prefaced the book of Lamentations with these words, "And it came to pass, that after Israel had been carried away captive, and Jerusalem made desolate, Jeremiah sat weeping and lamented this lament over Jerusalem and said, 'How doth the city sit solitary.'" So, they have that as a prologue to the book of Lamentations, and it was picked up and put in the Vulgate.

There were those who told him and the inhabitants of Jerusalem that the LORD did not say what he was saying.
Jeremiah 14:14-16 Then the LORD said to me, “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds. Therefore this is what the LORD says about the prophets who are prophesying in My Name: I did not send them, yet they are saying, ‘No sword or famine will touch this land.’ Those same prophets will perish by sword and famine. And the people they are prophesying to will be thrown out into the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and sword. There will be no one to bury them, their wives, their sons and their daughters. I will pour out on them the calamity they deserve. 

The spiritual standing of a nation or a city or a church is shown by the intimacy with the LORD. Jerusalem was like a widow because she forsook the LORD. She left Him so He withdrew His Presence, Protection and Blessing.

Jeremiah was persecuted.

Yet,  when his predictions vindicated him, he did not throw it in their faces of the few who remained.  He couldn't  say anything to the inhabitants of the city because the city was desolate. (I told you so)

He didn't comfort his own soul with the vindication (I told them so). There is no, "If you only listened to me! If you had not mistreated me!" There is no rejoicing in himself being right by the weeping prophet. There is no sense that they had what was coming to them, look how they treated me.

The lament shows the real character of the man. He wept. He was broken like Josiah. Jeremiah understood what Samuel struggled with. It was not him they were rejecting but rather the LORD and His Word.

Jeremiah proclaimed judgement but when it happened he offered grace and mercy and proclaimed it while continuing to be known as the weeping prophet.

1. We Must Stand Up For The Truth- Jesus Christ.
 Stand up for Him
Stand against sin
Stand for righteousness and purity.
Pastors in Houston, TX today. Pray for them.

2. We Must Not Lose Our Concern For the Lost
They may be unrepentant. 
They may be obnoxious.
We must be true. 

3. We Must Not Become Judgmental Even If Someone Is Suffering Due to Sin.

Perhaps the strangest (and most distorted) things are said when someone suffers. If you have any doubts about that just look at Job or Jesus. Very few comforted them as they suffered. 

If they have sinned they need our prayers. Jeremiah's Lament is full of pity, not mushy sentimentalism but true compassion and pain for the city of Jerusalem.
He felt the pain they were going through. There is no hint of judgmentalism  here. There is no saying, "If you had only listened to me you could have avoided this horror."

There are many ways we can say, "I told you so."
You should have listened to me.
That is what you get.
Good for you!

We should not even think these things!

3. We Must Grieve When The Consequences of Sin Come.
No rejoicing over evil.
No rejoicing over judgement.
No rejoicing over someone getting "paid back" for the sins they have committed. 

Never say about anyone, "They got what they deserve." Have mercy. Have pity. They reap what they sow but by the time the harvest comes in they know.

Hosea 6:6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings. 

Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you?To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. 

Zechariah 1:16 “Therefore this is what the LORD says: ‘I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there My house will be rebuilt. And the measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem,’ declares the LORD Almighty. 

Blessed are the merciful for they will obtain mercy.

Mercy- helping the afflicted.

Our response to things people have come into their lives as a consequence of their sin should be that of mercy and compassion and a sense of what they lost due to their foolishness and rebellion.

Pastor Chuck Smith from Why Grace Changes Everything:

Years ago a close friend operated a delivery business to a grocery store. During his rounds he met a wife of a man who owned a small market. They began to kid around with one another and, before long, they were meeting regularly to drink coffee and to talk. They soon fancied themselves in love, left their families , and moved in together. That's when this man's wife, also a dear friend, called us and asked if we would pray for him.

Meanwhile, the minister of the church where our friends had been attending paid a visit to the man. The pastor told him that he had a vision of a black hearse and if this man didn't leave this woman and go back to his wife, they were going to carry him out the room feet-first. This heavy handed approach only made the man more angry and entrenched him in his immoral decision. His wfe then called me and asked if I would go and talk to him.

I agreed to go and found my friend living in a shabby garage apartment on the bad side of town. When I saw this filthy little home, I was struck by how much he had lost. His wife and daughters were beautiful people. His home was in a wonderful area. This man had sold his soul for a crust of bread. As he came to the door, a look of shame covered his face. He was very polite and invited me to come in and sit down. As I looked around at my friend's new life I thought, "Oh God! How could he give up so much for so little?"

My heart was breaking because I loved this man. The sight of what he had fallen into tore me apart. I found myself unable to conceal my feelings, and much to my embarrassment I began to weep. I was overcome with grief, and when his lover emerged from the kitchen all I could do was sob. I finally got so embarrassed I said, "I'm very sorry. I came over to see you, but I can't talk right now." I got up, left, and went home feeling like a fool. Here my good friend's wife wanted me to visit him and make an appeal for reconciliation, and all I could do was sit there and cry.

The next morning I received a phone call with news that left me in shock. My friend had returned to his wife and family just hours after my visit.
What did God use to achieve this miraculous healing of a fractured relationship? Not a holier than thou attitude, to be certain. His Spirit had created in me a spirit of meekness and brokenness that ed to a joyful reconciliation. I thought I had blundered terribly- but I discovered that whenever we choose to walk in the Spirit, God delights to work powerfully in stunning and unexpected ways.

Jeremiah lamented because the people of Jerusalem and Judah did not listen to God's Word. They suffered immense loss needlessly.

God did not give up on His people. Even in Babylon He sent them prophets. One of them was Ezekiel. Ezekiel ministry began much like the story Chuck Smith told.

Ezekiel 3:15 I came to the exiles who lived at Tel Aviv near the Kebar River. And there, where they were living, I sat among them for seven days—deeply distressed. 

A brokenness in our own heart is needed when ministering to people who have messed up in life. Jeremiah had it, Ezekiel had it and of course our Supreme Example is Jesus. He came down the hardest on the self righteous. He had mercy on those who were lost. Matthew 9:36 When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 

No, "See I told you so's". Have mercy. Have compassion. Let your heart break over the things that break the heart of God.

For the audio of this message go to:

Sunday, October 12, 2014

God's Mysterious Ways

II Kings 23.29-30

Because he did what was right when the Book of the Law was uncovered in the temple, God had said to Josiah:
II Kings 22.19-20
"Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people, that they would become accursed and laid waste, and because you tore your robes and wept in My presence, I have heard you, declares the LORD. Therefore I will gather you to your fathers, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place."

1. God Always Does What Is Right.

We can depend upon this.
He is righteous.
Psalm 9:8 He rules the world in righteousness and judges the peoples with equity. 
Psalm 11:7 For the LORD is righteous, He loves justice; the upright will see His face. 

We may not always see it, immediately. 
Suffering makes it difficult.
Pain and sorrow - we need the LORD's Assurance (and we have it)

Psalm 34:18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. 
Psalm 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. 

For the longest time we have severely underestimated the value of a broken heart. Songs have been written about it as a bad thing. We do every and anything we can to avoid it. We pity those who have to experience it. We seldom look at the benefits of it until it happens to us and we find ourselves still  breathing, even though we walk with a limp. We are breathing and living and things are happening that are beyond our explanation.

Josiah was heart broken and grief stricken and horrified by what was read from the Book of the Law because of the spiritual condition of Jerusalem and Judah. It effected him deeply. He tore his clothes.  He had a tender heart.

The tearing of clothing was a traditional expression of horror and astonishment. In the strongest way possible, Josiah showed his grief on his own account and on account of the nation. This was an expression of deep conviction of sin, and a good thing. Good grief!

Josiah's heart was broken over the sin of the people he led. He was in grief because God's Word had been ignored and His Name dishonored. He did all he could to see that situation corrected. He brought about reform in the nation.

We are seeing here the benefits of a tender heart.
* It is open towards the LORD.
* It is undivided.
* It is responsive to things that are wrong.
* It seeks to do God's will. 

John Bunyan: The Advantage of a Tender Heart 
(Author of Pilgrim's Progress)
1.  Keeps you from sinning against God
2. It is yielded to prayer.
3. Repentance comes for the least of offense.
4. Contentment
5. Makes us wakeful and watchful
6. Ready to deny itself.
7. Is very forgiving.

Because of this God was going to let him rest in peace before the judgement fell on Jerusalem. I think of how blessed my brother Mark was to be with the LORD by the time 9-11 happened. As I moved my nephew to Astoria this week and came back on the BQE to the LIE I saw the skyline. I saw the new Freedom Tower. The Twin Towers were conspicuously missing. I thought how as you look at that skyline then think about America's spiritual condition today, the LORD brings a heaviness to your heart. And that is what separates the false teachers from those who proclaim God's Word today. Those who gather around them what their itching ears want to hear as opposed to those who hear the Truth, as difficult as it is to hear. A person who tells speaks the Truth in love is going to say things that bring comfort as well as things that make us uncomfortable. Positive truths energize us. Negative truths ground us. We need a balance of both.

God plainly told Josiah that the nation was not going to be spared.  He told him this time the sins were too great and it would have to be judged but because he did what was right he would be spared. 

Josiah becomes a type of believers today, in this time of tremendous uncertainty, dangerous threats being made and godlessness continuing to expand in our nation.

2. Many Times We Do Not Understand God's Ways.
Isaiah 55:8-9  Isaiah 55:8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, ”declares the Lord.  "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My  thoughts than your thoughts." 

So often we try and figure out what God is doing in our lives. As the LORD deals with our lives so often we don't understand what He is doing. So often we wonder about events in our lives.

He made a promise to Josiah that he would not live to see the judgement and its destruction. 

There are times when the mercy and Word of God are not seen for what they are or are not understood by those who watch. 

I remember a particularly difficult time in my life when well meaning Christians were saying all kinds of things about my situation that were just not accurate. It taught me be quieter when someone suffers. When folks are suffering or when someone dies the best thing to do at times is to be there for them and not say a word.

How we need to pray continually:  Psalm 141:3 Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD;   keep watch over the door of my lips. 
We cannot take back words once they are spoken.

The death of Josiah for many looking on must have left them wondering. After all the good he did and how he honored God he dies in battle at a young age and yet...

3. God Does What He Says He Will Do.
Often He does not tell us how. Habakkuk had trouble with the how.
Habakkuk 1.1-13
Habakkuk 1:12-13 LORD, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One, You will never die. You, LORD,  have appointed them to execute judgment; You, my Rock, have ordained them to punish. Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; You cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Why then do You tolerate the treacherous?Why are You silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves? 

God spares the righteous in times of judgement upon the unrighteous.

Isaiah 57:1-2 The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart; the devout are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death. 

As we encounter perplexing things it is good to have the Word of God hidden in our hearts.

Josiah was 39 year old when he died. 

The LORD kept His promise to Josiah. It is a interesting to realize it was his pride that brought into this battle. Chronicles tells us about this. He had been warned not to go. He died in it. God's promise was fulfilled even though it was Josiah's pride that was the cause of it. He did not see the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile.

II Kings 22.19-20
"Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people, that they would become accursed and laid waste, and because you tore your robes and wept in My presence, I have heard you, declares the LORD. Therefore I will gather you to your fathers, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place."

God keeps His Word. He is faithful when we are faithless.
- He died before the great spiritual disaster and exile came to Judah.
- He was gathered to the spirits of his fathers, who were in peace.
- He died in God's favor, though by the hand of an enemy.

He is faithful to all His Promises.

God rewarded him for his faith, repentance and fervor.

God's work in us brings wonder and at times is mysterious in that we don't understand, but we think about His love and goodness and that He is indeed in control we will not just make it through but we will make it through victoriously.

Romans 8:37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 
Romans 8:38-39 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our LORD.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Recovering The Word of God

II Kings 22.1-13

Things had gotten so bad under Mannasseh that the Book of the Law was no longer in the hands of the priests and therefore far from the people.

The spiritual situation in Judah that Josiah inherited was horrible. 
We are told of his father Mannasseh: 
2 Kings 21:2-9 He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had destroyed; he also erected altars to Baal and made an Asherah pole, as Ahab king of Israel had done. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. He built altars in the temple of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “In Jerusalem I will put my Name.” In the two courts of the temple of the Lord, he built altars to all the starry hosts. He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced divination, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger. He took the carved Asherah pole he had made and put it in the temple, of which the Lord had said to David and to his son Solomon, “In this temple and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my Name forever. I will not again make the feet of the Israelites wander from the land I gave their ancestors, if only they will be careful to do everything I commanded them and will keep the whole Law that my servant Moses gave them.” But the people did not listen. Manasseh led them astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites. 

When Josiah became King of Judah he went to work on tearing down the evil his father had erected, destroying the places of worship set up.

1. There was Ignorance Concerning What Was in The Book of the Law.

It was not even around. It probably had been buried in the temple under idols and things. Cleaning out the temple it was discovered. Cleaning out an attic or basement, treasures are recovered!

Since it was not read people did not know what was in it. 
I am convinced that the reason the behavior of Christians is often as bad as unbelievers is due to their lack of knowing what the Bible says. I hear of people who claim to be believers who are not reading the Word of God and it boggles my  mind and troubles my heart.

Imagine losing the Word of God Within the House of God!
We really don't have to imagine much- that has happened in so many churches. Those churches that say the worship was amazing have lost their first love and
are worshipping worship rather than the LORD.
Too much emphasis on experience can precipitate a loss of God's Word.
Churches who are going against God's Word when it comes to things clearly stated within God's Word have lost the Word of God within.

My friend Pastor Steve Willoughby, of first Baptist in Patchogue this week:
The Apostles never took any surveys or test-marketed anything. 
They got on their knees to ask what God was saying and then stood up to declare: "Thus Says the LORD..." 
Their Power was not in their technology or presentation but in the Holy Spirit.

The Western Church would do well to remember that we don't "market" Jesus or try to put our stamp on Christianity as some kind of Name-brand:
-Jesus overturned the tables of the money-changers
-Peter told  Simon Magnus to perish with his money
-The Holy Spirit struck Ananias and Sapphira dead.

Josiah became king in a time of ignorance concerning the Law and the Prophets (21.8, 10) and therefore a breaking of it.
Micah was one of the prophets during the time of Mannaseh and Jeremiah during  Josiah's reign. Interesting we think of Jeremiah's ministry as bitter yet it appears he had great influence on Josiah. 

2. Josiah understood the enormity of the Nation's Sin. vs. 11-13

Like David his father, "Against Thee and Thee only have I sinned and done this great wickedness."
Psalm 51:4 Against You and You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight; so You are right in Your verdict and justified when You judge. 

Often how bad things really are is not made known until it is seen in light of God's Word.

He saw it as against God.

Throughout the history of the God's people, when the word of God is recovered and spread, then spiritual revival follows. It can begin as simply as it did in the days of Josiah, with one man find and reading and believing and spreading the Book.

*He was grief stricken and heart broken over the national sin of the loss of God's Word. We need more awareness of this today.  Great creature comforts cause many to rest when they ought to be alert. Jesus spoke of this often. The current threat of ISSIS. We are being warned eerily as we were prior to 9-11. 

*He asked for prayer in regards to God's honor.
We ask for prayer for ourselves or loved ones. When we begin to pray for God' Honor and the loss of it in a nation, we are moving closer to God's heart. It is a mature prayer, a servant's prayer, a heart for God, like David.

1 Samuel 17:26 David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” 

3. God Honors a Humble Heart. vs. 18-20

When a nation has gone too far, become too wicked, the LORD hears the prayers of His people and brings them special blessings but the nation still is going to be judged.
Judah had gone too far. There had to be an accounting of the innocent bloodshed. Apostasy and idolatry had been ingrained in their national character.

Josiah was blessed by the LORD for his faithfulness. 
 II Chronicles 34.3 In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David. How wonderful when teenagers seek Him, when they truly thirst for God in their lives.

Reformation alone will not change people, there must be repentance and renewal within the heart. There was outward reform but not  much inward change of heart. The changes under Josiah were superficial. 
Isaiah's cry reflected the reception of his prophecy in that day: Isaiah 53:1 Who has believed our messageand to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 
Jeremiah began his ministry in the 13th year of Josiah. His prophecy reflects the spiritual life of the nation. A nation that treats these prophecies with contempt is ripe for judgement. 
Jeremiah 3:10 In spite of all this, her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to Me with all her heart, but only in pretense,” declares the LORD.

Even if Reformation does not ward off God's Judgement it is still right.
We want to escape judgement but our primary concern like Josiah's ought to be for the glory of God. Heartbroken over His Name being dishonored.
He did what was right knowing in the end Judah would be destroyed, Jerusalem turned upside down and the people carried into exile in Babylon.

Josiah heard the Word of God and humbled himself before the LORD. Before this he had he example of David his father. He followed his example as a man after God's own heart. Let's thank God for godly examples but make Christ the One Whom we will seek to be like.
Become more like Him.
Have His Mind... 
Philippians 2:5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.

The Word of God when read is self humbling, self stripping and life changing for those who believe it. To those who do not believe: Luke 16:31 But He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though One rises from the dead.’” 

Josiah sought to bring his life and the nation into conformity with the Word of God. Jeremiah must have had a positive influence on Josiah, one for the LORD, a source of encouragement, like Brother Hazard.

God's call today is for us to humble ourselves. Fall on our faces before Him Who sit on the throne. As we read and hear the Word of God today and each day let it renew your heart, show you where you need to grow and change, all for His Glory, All For Jesus.

To listen to the audio version of  this message go to: