God called Jeremiah to be a prophet to the nations. So, it is fitting that Jeremiah ends with an extensive call to the nations to know the Lord and to walk in His ways. The Book of Jeremiah is no mere sorry tale of the demise of an ancient kingdom. But it is a constant refrain of grace, sung out to men who are utterly undeserving of it. It is a reminder that God’s promises are not for some particular tribe, language, nation or people, but for “every creature under heaven.” And most importantly, for you. You are not beyond God’s grace. You are not excluded from His offer. In John 6:37, Jesus says, “whoever comes to me, I will never cast out.” In Jeremiah 46-51, God calls the nations to turn back. In some of the Scripture’s most remarkable poetry, the Lord calls those who are far from him to return home. Join us as we see that God calls us to return as well.
My first mobile phone came in bag. The size of a lady’s purse, except with an antenna, it made me extremely self-conscious. Like a cross between a European tourist and a secret service agent, I felt sure everyone was staring. This phone was for emergencies only. No casual calling. No mobile internet. And coverage was as spotty as spotty could be. Only outbound calls made sense. After all, no one could reliably reach me. What about texts or voicemail, you ask? They were still in the future. My beeper is what alerted me to find for that rare place on earth with a signal.
In those heady days, the expectation of finding coverage was low. But today, we are indignant if we can’t get 5G at every remote Ozark swimming hole. We expect coverage and internet everywhere. And we expect it for free. Few and far between are those places which have ‘no service.’ And, between manned space launches, Elon Musk is working to drive those areas to near zero with Starlink. Perhaps one day concepts like ‘no service’ will be as foreign to our grandchildren as mobile phones that came in a bag.
But this is a distinctly human problem. God has no such limitations in his communication with his creation. God has always had a reliable network with coverage so vast there is no place where he must ask, “can you hear me now?” Problems hearing from God are never a network problem. God’s speaking is “living and active.” Always on. He is always speaking. He “speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting… he does not keep silence.” (Psalm 50:1, 3) And there is no place where you are out of coverage from his call. As Psalm 19 so memorably puts it.
The heavens declare the glory of God,Psalm 19:1-4
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
God speaks – and not just to a few select creatures. His Word, his promises, his mercy are not just for a particular culture, tribe, or spot on the earth. He is no regional or racial deity. He is the Lord over all the earth. People from every “tribe and language and people and nation” are the objects of his steadfast love and care. This is one of the remarkable things about Christianity. Other religions import cultural distinctives such as forms of dress, dietary restrictions, and particular sacred languages which become prerequisites for piety. But Christianity permeates and transforms every tribe, language, people and nation through a unity that produces remarkable diversity.
The repeated error of the people of Israel was to believe that God was theirs alone — their private higher power. A God who loved only them and those like them. A God who blessed them and cursed their enemies. A God who served their interest. And ironically, this ‘pagan view’ of the true God caused them to abandon Him for all the false gods of the nations. God set his love upon them to display the beauty of the Covenant of Grace to the whole world. Their faith was intended to call nations, far and near, to abandon false gods. But in their unfaithfulness, they abandoned the true and living God. They were called to be a missionary people. But if they would not willingly testify to God’s grace through faithfulness, they would unwittingly testify to it through unfaithfulness and judgement.
The Apostle Paul makes this point in his letter to the Romans.
So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!Romans 11:11-12
Jeremiah, the longest book of in the Old Testament, is filled with dire warnings of judgment. For four decades, the prophet called the people of Judah to turn back to God. He outlined their unfaithfulness in every area of life. He warned of the consequences of living with their backs to God. And he stayed with them in every descending step into God’s judgment of them as a nation.
But from the beginning, God called Jeremiah to be a prophet to the nations. And through his preaching, God’s Word to Judah becomes a word to the nations and to us. It shines through, time and time again. In every oracle of judgment, there is an offer of grace. So, it is fitting that Jeremiah ends with an extensive call to the nations to know the Lord and to walk in His ways. This book is no mere sordid history of an ancient kingdom’s demise. But it is a constant refrain of grace, sung out to men who are utterly undeserving. It is a reminder that God’s promises are not for some particular tribe, language, nation or people, but for “every creature under heaven.” And most importantly, for you.
You are not beyond God’s grace. You are not excluded from His offer. In John 6:37, Jesus says, “whoever comes to me, I will never cast out.” Jeremiah is filled with the threatened judgment, but more than that, with promised mercy. Are you headed toward judgment? God’s call is to turn back and find mercy. In Jeremiah 46-51, God calls the nations to turn back. In some of the Scripture’s most remarkable poetry, the Lord calls those who are far from him to return home.
Join us as we see that God calls us to return as well. We meet on the square in Pottsville, right next to historic Potts’ Inn at 10:30 am for worship. Get directions here or contact us for more info. Or join us on Facebook Live @PottsvilleARP or YouTube. You can also download the order of service.
We have all seen the threatening-repeating parent — warning the disobedient child of a judgement that never comes. For hundreds of years, God sent prophets to warn the children of Israel and Judah of judgement for their sin. Persistently, He called them to repent, but unlike the threatening-repeating parent, God always follows through. Beginning in Jeremiah 39 we see the terrible picture of God’s judgement, a picture that warns us not to presume upon God’s grace. The Bible warns us that today is the day of salvation. How urgently have you heeded God’s call to turn back to Him? Join us as we examine Jeremiah 39-41 and consider the urgency of God’s call to turn back.
[Parent in a Store:] “I’m counting to three!”
[Child:] (feigning deafness) …
[Parent:] Don’t let me get to three! (getting louder) I mean it.”
[Onlookers:] (thinking… “No You don’t”)
We have all played the part of the onlooker – or perhaps the parent or the child. We know how this plays out. The parent gives the impression of parenting without actually doing any parenting. And no one is fooled. Not the onlookers. And certainly, not the child. No one ever really gets to “three.” Cardinally, perhaps, but consequentially, never. The fact that a parent employs this tactic indicates that he or she is in no way prepared to be inconvenienced enough to offer a consequence.
Every child knows that “counting the three” is a disciplinary free pass. And every consistent parent knows that obedience never counts past “one.” The oft-repeated role-play above is just that – role-play. The unwillingness of the child to obey and the unwillingness of the parent to require obedience is paradigmatic. Parenting experts call this “threatening-repeating” parenting. Lots of sound and fury, but no follow-through. We have all seen it — the threatening-repeating parent, warning of a judgement that never comes.
But our heavenly Father paints a very different picture. He is a perfectly consistent parent — no shadow of turning, no promise broken, no threat unrealized. Whatever He promises, He does. For hundreds of years, God sent prophets to warn the children of Israel and Judah of judgement for their sin. Persistently, He called them to repent, but unlike the threatening-repeating parent, God always follows through. Beginning in Jeremiah 39 we see the terrible picture of God’s judgement, a picture that warns us not to presume upon God’s grace.
Peter warns us not to confuse God’s patience with overlooking our sin.
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.2 Peter 3:8-10
God always follows through, both in mercy and in judgment. His threats are not idle threats. His call to repent is urgent. The author of Hebrews expresses this urgency.
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.Hebrews 3:12-13
And Paul echoes this urgency.
For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.2 Corinthians 6:2
God’s judgement against Judah in the days of Jeremiah and Zedekiah is a glimpse of the final judgement we will all face.
Jeremiah 39 stands as a warning against every naïve hope of escaping the judgment to come…. The saddest thing about the final chapter in [King] Zedekiah’s tragic story is that the king could have written a happy ending. Right up until the very end, God gave him every opportunity to repent for his sins. Jeremiah repeatedly went to Zedekiah and pleaded with him to turn to God in faith and repentance. But the king rejected every last entreaty.Phil Ryken, Jeremiah and Lamentations, From Sorrow to Hope.
Zedekiah, like Pilate, Judas, and the impenitent thief resisted call after call to turn back. Their stories could have been quite different. They did not believe that God would follow through. Like men today, they scoffed at divine justice and condemnation. But what about you? How urgently have you heeded God’s call to turn back to Him? Why are you waiting? Zedekiah was a waffler, always hesitating. Always on the verge of grace, but always procrastinating – turning away from turning to Christ. Until, finally, it was too late. What about you?
Join us as we examine Jeremiah 39-41 and consider the urgency of God’s call to turn back. We meet on the square in Pottsville, right next to historic Potts’ Inn at 10:30 am for worship. Get directions here or contact us for more info. Or join us on Facebook Live @PottsvilleARP or YouTube. You can also download the order of service here.
In Jeremiah 36 we find the terrible picture of Judah’s King Jehoiakim, burning the words of the Prophet Jeremiah. He was not open to what God’s Word had to say. But he was not the only one. The people of his time neither listened, nor inclined their ears to hear God’s word through the prophets.
When God’s people have little concern for God’s Word, disaster cannot be far behind. The people of Jeremiah’s day only wanted positive messages. While Jehoiakim’s Bible burning shocks us, what should shock us more is that the people who heard all these words were not afraid, nor did they think God’s Word applied to them. What about you? We profess to be a ‘people of the book,’ but is the Bible authoritative and sufficient in your life? Join us as we examine Jeremiah 36 and consider faithful and unfaithful responses to God’s Word.
Ah! Remember those heady days when we shook hands and inwardly laughed at the Asian tourists who wore masks? It seems years ago, but it was only March 2020. How we long to return, to undo all that Covid has done. Some still look forward to the day when “all this is over.” But will it be? Will it ever really be ‘over?’
Epidemiologists define ‘over’ in two different ways. First there is disease elimination. Elimination means zero cases in a defined geographic area. Elimination is ‘over’ with a small ‘o.’ Elimination does not mean the disease is gone, just inactive in a particular region. Eradication is what we want. Eradication means zero cases world-wide following deliberate efforts to prevent and treat a disease. The only human disease considered eradicated is smallpox. And it was only declared to be eradicated in 1980. To be eradicated, a disease must be both preventable and treatable. But we currently have no proven strategies for either when it comes to Covid-19. As with smallpox, eradication, if it were to ever come, is a difficult and distant future reality. Will we every be ‘over’ Covid-19?
Eradication is unlikely. Elimination is probably a distant likelihood. But ‘over’ could come sooner in a different form factor. Most probably being ‘over’ Covid looks like learning to live with it through lifestyle adjustments that become a permanent part of our social intercourse. Practical eradication comes when, though still present, we by and large ignore it. This kind of practical eradication through a willful apathy is probably the best we can achieve in the near term. And while this may be a necessary coping strategy when it comes to Covid, it is deadly when it comes to Scripture.
Since the dawn of time, ungodly tyrants have sought to eradicate scripture. Yet, no matter how often it has been confiscated or burned, God’s Word will not be silenced. The Bible is eradication-proof and proves Newton’s third law, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Every attempt to forcibly eradicate the Bible only caused it to proliferate. Though practical eradication does occur. Like Covid, learning to coexist with the Bible, while largely ignoring it, provides a kind of practical inoculation against its truths. Unfortunately, this is reflective of our society today.
In his article, The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy, Al Mohler concludes.
While America’s evangelical Christians are rightly concerned about the secular worldview’s rejection of biblical Christianity, we ought to give some urgent attention to a problem much closer to home–biblical illiteracy in the church. This scandalous problem is our own, and it’s up to us to fix it.
Researchers George Gallup and Jim Castelli put the problem squarely: “Americans revere the Bible–but, by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.”
Christians who lack biblical knowledge are the products of churches that marginalize biblical knowledge. Bible teaching now often accounts for only a diminishing fraction of the local congregation’s time and attention.
We will not believe more than we know, and we will not live higher than our beliefs. The many fronts of Christian compromise in this generation can be directly traced to biblical illiteracy in the pews and the absence of biblical preaching and teaching in our homes and churches.
In Jeremiah 36 we find the terrible picture of Judah’s King Jehoiakim, burning the words of the Prophet Jeremiah. He was not open to what God’s Word had to say. But he was not the only one. The people of his time neither listened, nor inclined their ears to hear God’s word through the prophets. “Neither the king nor any of his servants who heard all these words was afraid, nor did they tear their garments.” When God’s people have little concern for God’s Word, disaster cannot be far behind. The people of Jeremiah’s day only wanted positive messages. Words of sin, judgment, and wrath, were not what they wanted to hear. While Jehoiakim’s Bible burning shocks us, what should shock us more is that the people who heard all these words were not afraid, nor did they think God’s Word applied to them.
It is easy to sit in judgement on Jeremiah’s generation, but how different are we? How careful are we to hear and heed God’s Word? We have more flavors of the Bible than Baskin-Robbins has ice-cream. God’s word has never been more accessible. Mao and Stalin and Voltaire tried their best to eradicate it, but could not. But what Mao, Stalin, and Voltaire could never accomplish, the Church effects through growing ignorance. We profess to be a ‘people of the book,’ but is the Bible authoritative and sufficient in our lives? The response of Judah’s king and Judah’s people to the word of God offer a warning and challenge – how careful have we been to love and live God’s Word?
Join us this Lord’s Day as we examine Jeremiah 36 and consider faithful and unfaithful responses to God’s Word. We meet on the square in Pottsville, right next to historic Potts’ Inn at 10:30 am for worship. Get directions here or contact us for more info. Or join us on Facebook Live @PottsvilleARP. Here is the order of service.
It is rare in scripture when men are commended by God for their faithfulness. Yet, Jesus commends a Centurion in Matthew 8:10, saying, “truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.” And in Jeremiah 35, the Lord commends to Jeremiah the example of the Rechabites – not for the particulars of their vow, but for their faithfulness in keeping it, generation after generation. In faithless Judah, they are a remarkable example of steadfast commitment. The Rechabites illustrate the power of one generation discipling the next. Join us this Lord’s Day as we examine Jeremiah 35 and consider the power of multi-generational faithfulness.
One of the biggest challenges to space exploration is the sheer amount of time required to travel from one place to the next. Given today’s propulsion technology, inter-stellar travel is, by necessity, multi-generational. Project management in our digital age focuses on compressing the schedule, getting it done faster and more efficiently. We roll out major technology platforms and build skyscrapers in months, not years. But how good are we at project management spanning generations? Can we maintain vision? Sustain design commitments? And keep our attention focused for three or four consecutive generations?
As we turn our eyes to the heavens to think about traveling to Mars and beyond, our greatest challenge is the shortness of our life-span. Here it is helpful to look back to our medieval past. Men in the middle ages also had their eyes to the heavens. But they planned to travel by building great cathedrals. Projects that, without hydraulics and power equipment, took hundreds of years to complete.
The cathedral in Rouen, France, took 735 years to complete and the great Münster in Cologne, 632 years. On average the great cathedrals of Western Europe required 275 years to complete, three or four generations of craftsmen. Andreas Hein has written a fascinating comparison between the challenges of space travel and cathedral building. He concludes that “the products of our space program are today’s cathedrals.”
The sheer faithfulness of multi-generational craftsmen, to commit generation after generation of their families to build something they would never see finished, brings to mind the great hall of faith in Hebrews 11.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for…. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.Hebrews 11:1-2, 39-40
How steadfast is our faith? We often struggle to maintain “faith once for all delivered to the saints” in our own lifetimes. Do we have a vision to see that all the generations of our family, love the Lord with heart, mind, soul and strength? The promise annexed to the Second Commandment is that the Lord shows “love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Is that our vision? Do we have a multi-generational vision for faithfulness to Christ in our families? Are we Cathedral builders? Do we have our minds set upon things above? And do we desire this to be the vision that animates every generation of our progeny?
During the reign of King Jehoiakim, the prophet Jeremiah warned the people to turn back to the Lord. They were a faithless generation and they were training the next generation to be even more faithless. Time and time again, Jeremiah points out that even Judah’s young ones were caught up in their parent’s idolatry. They refused to listen to the words of the living God, or even incline their ear to what he had to say. But in their midst, God had placed a ready example to rebuke His people.
The Rechabites had been commanded by their forefather, Jonadab, not to drink wine or live in houses or cultivate fields or have vineyards. They were to live a simple, pastoral life, avoiding the settled comforts of contemporary culture. For over 250 years, they had carefully followed the instructions of their dead ancestor. God instructs Jeremiah to publicly challenge their convictions. Yet their commitment to Jonadab’s instruction was unshakable. While the Lord does not specifically commend their commitments, He does commend their commitment.
It is rare in scripture for God to commend men for their faithfulness. Jesus commends a centurion in Matthew 8:10, saying, “truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.” And in Jeremiah 35, the Lord commends the example of the Rechabites. In faithless Judah, they are a remarkable example of steadfast commitment. They provide a powerful illustration of one generation discipling the next.
What do our lives illustrate? Can the Lord point to us in the midst of a faithless generation as an example worth nothing? What will the world know of our faith by observing our descendants in 250 years? Join us this Lord’s Day as we examine Jeremiah 35 and consider the power of multi-generational faithfulness.
In Jeremiah 32, the prophet is in a hopeless place. It’s the eleventh hour. Jeremiah’s prophecies of doom and judgment are at the door. The Babylonian army has laid siege to Jerusalem. Jeremiah has been imprisoned for treason. But God gives a personal, yet puzzling, word to Jeremiah. He is instructed to purchase the plot, seal up the deed, and store it away for safe keeping. Nothing about this deal makes any sense. Jeremiah obeys, but struggles with the ‘why.’ Yet in this simple act, God offers a sign and seal that grace, not judgment, is the last word. Join us this week as we examine Jeremiah 32 and consider the importance of signs and seals as a means of grace for us.
Selecting a wedding band was once a straightforward affair. The only real decisions regarded size and engraving. A gold band was a gold band. Larger or smaller, bought at a pawn shop or jeweler, it was adiaphora – a matter of indifference. And as a pastor, the language used in the wedding service at the giving of the rings was also straightforward.
The ring is a visible symbol of the spiritual covenant that you are making today before God. The ring will serve for you, and for your children, and for all who see it as a reminder of the purity and the permanence of your marriage covenant.
Like the gold in the ring which symbolizes purity and beauty, your love for one another is to be pure — unmixed and uncompromised by any other priorities, second only to your love for Christ. And like ring whose shape, the circle, has neither beginning nor end, you are covenanting today, before God, to enter into a marriage that is permanent and unbreakable.
[Groom], one day when your children see your ring and ask you what it means, you can tell them that it is a symbol of your promise to love and cherish their mother for all time and that it is to be a reminder to them that you will never leave them or forsake them.
And [Bride], when your children see your ring and ask you why you wear it you can tell them that it is a symbol of your promise to love and respect their father and that it is to be a constant reminder to them of your loving, unbreakable commitment to your family.
The gold in your ring may get scratched from time to time, but its beauty and luster will endure. In the same way there will be trials in your relationship as you learn what it means to live as one-flesh, but your ring will be a constant testimony to you that God has brought you together for keeps.
But now, during pre-marital counseling, I know to ask, “what type of ring will you have?” While the design of the ring does not define its value, the liturgy must acknowledge that gold is no longer a given. Millennials opt for titanium, silicone, and even tattoos. And nothing says ‘permanence’ like a tattooed wedding band.
While I don’t jibe with everything the in her blog, I appreciate what Laura Ulveling writes in a post promoting GrooveLife alternative rings.
Your ring is simply a universally recognized symbol to show the world and each other that you have committed your life to someone. Whether the wedding ring you chose is cheap or extravagant, gold or platinum, diamond or silicone, its design has no impact on its value.
Even if you decide to exchange traditional wedding rings at the altar, you can still order a set of Groove rings for your adventurous days so you don’t lose your diamonds while you’re climbing waterfalls or deep-sea diving on your honeymoon!
A ring’s design has no impact on its value. Signs illustrate. Seals authenticate. A wedding ring is a sign and seal of the covenant of marriage. The ring does not make you married and the absence of one does not remove that covenant. But the ring does point to the undeniable fact that you belong to someone. The ring can’t make you a spouse, but it can make you a liar. You have made and received promises. And those promises define everything about your life.
In the Bible, one of the pervasive analogies of faith is that of husband and wife. In the Old Testament, the Lord says to his people, “I will be your God and you will be my people.” This is the wedding vow of the ancient world. God is the husband to his people. The New Testament picks up this analogy. The church is the bride of Christ. God makes a covenant of grace with his people. A promise is made and sealed with his own blood in the person of Jesus. And this promise changes everything.
But there are days when life crashes in. Our experience seems to contradict or nullify God’s promises. Can we trust his promises? Can we trust him? Is God a faithful spouse? And when I am not faithful, will he still love me and keep his vows? Psalm 103 declares that the Lord knows our “frame, that we are but dust.” Yet, even in our spiritual fragility, he has compassion on us and shows steadfast, unwavering, unbreakable love. To shore up our flagging faith and soothe our doubts, he gives us signs and seals – reminders of what he has promised and assurances that he is as good as his word.
In the Old Testament God gave repeated sacrifices and sacred spaces to teach the people to expect a once-for-all savior who would secure all God’s gracious promises. Now, he has given us clearer signs and seals – baptism and the Lord’s Supper. But their purpose is the same, to point us to his promises and assure us of his faithfulness.
In Jeremiah 32, the prophet is in a hopeless place. It’s the eleventh hour. Jeremiah’s prophecies of doom and judgment are unfolding. The Babylonian army has laid siege to Jerusalem. Jeremiah has been imprisoned for treason. But God gives a personal, yet puzzling, word to Jeremiah. His cousin will offer a piece of land for sale. Jeremiah has the right of redemption, but this was no time for land speculation. The market hates uncertainty. And nothing is more uncertain than a Babylonian invasion. But Jeremiah is instructed to purchase the plot, seal up the deed, and store it away for safe keeping. Nothing about this deal makes any sense.
Jeremiah obeys, but struggles with the ‘why.’ Yet in this simple act, God offers a sign and seal that grace, not judgment, is the last word. Join us this week as we examine Jeremiah 32 and consider the importance of signs and seals as a means of grace for us. We meet on the square in Pottsville, right next to historic Potts’ Inn at 10:30 am for worship. Get directions here or contact us for more info. Or join us on Facebook Live @PottsvilleARP