Trip to Heaven

I remember a class period early in my first year of college. It changed my life.

It was a Bible School and I already knew the Bible pretty well. The subject of the class was Theology Proper, which is, the Study of GOD; His person, His attributes, His character. I actually thought the class would be dry, but upperclassman told me I was fortunate to have this teacher. Mostly he taught senior students.

So I turned up for the first class wondering what to expect.

Dr. Needham shuffled up to the podium (it was a large class with theater seating). He looked uncomfortable, and I wondered why. He hesitated, and started by confessing that he was nervous. I am really confused.

He said that he has taught this material before, but he is always fearful about it. My ears grew bigger to catch every word. I shewed away the question marks that were filling my head. And focused on what he would say next.

He said, “It is easy to talk about someone when they are not there with you. You might mistakenly give some false information or offer a few biased opinions, but they are not there to hear it. If later it comes back to you, you can always deny or make excuses for it.”

He continued, “The subject of this class is not an intellectual subject, it is a Living Person. More than that. This Living Person is not off somewhere else, He is right here in this room every minute of every class period. More than that, he observes every moment of work I put into preparing for this class. I cannot sneak anything past Him. And how can I be lazy or blasé before such a BEING?”

Dr. Needham must have given us some time to digest this, but then he led many of us on a trip we had never made before. He led us up, beyond the clouds, beyond earth’s atmosphere, beyond the known boundaries of our small galaxy and little universe, to a blindingly bright, holy Throne Room. Cherubim and seraphim and countless myriads of angelic beings surrounded the throne. The Indescribable Being on that Throne was too blindingly bright for a human to even dream of seeing. And Dr. Needham must have kept us there many minutes without us even thinking of time.

Somehow, Dr. Needham brought us back to earth. We found ourselves back in the classroom and sitting in our chairs. But some of us would never see life the same again.

N.B. Dr. Needham was not a rhetorician or a performer. And I have never attempted to do what he did that class period; leading others to the Throne Room. With him it was genuine. He knew God, not as a subject to teach. Not as a compilation of attributes to be labeled, described, and tested on. He knew God as The Divine Living Being, to be feared and worshipped and adored. May we do the same.

God is Letting us See

This galaxy – NGC 2336 – is around 100 million light years from earth.  It is also huge, like 200,000 light years across.

Let me see:

The speed of light is 186,000 miles a second.

There are around 31,360,000 seconds in a year.

So the distance we are talking about (in miles) is around 186,000 x 31,360,000 x 100,000,000! I’ve broken 15 calculators and three cylinders in my brain trying to figure this out!

And I have no idea how to write the answer if I ever did get it.

The most incredible BEING in the universe is letting us see more and more of His handiwork. Be Amazed!!!

“If God has placed you in Babylon, be a Daniel!”

I simply love this quote. Wow. There’s that nefarious fear. “Everything’s falling apart; going down the tubes; over a cliff into the deep, dark abyss!” What to do with this fear?

Daniel was displaced thousands of miles from home. Lost everything familiar. Separated from his immediate and extended families. He was forced to learn the language of his enemies, study the “wisdom” and laws of his enemies, and prepare for a lifetime of service TO HIS ENEMIES!

It is worthwhile observing how Daniel handled this.

1. He clung to his heritage and inner convictions. 

Normal behavior for captured, displaced young people (as far as I can imagine, anyway) would be to either: 1. Resist and be beat to a pulp, or 2. Say “yes” “yes” “yes” to every instruction. 

Young Daniel navigated a different path.

  • He held onto his background, his beliefs, his loyalty to his people and his God.
  • He determined – against all warnings and advice – to stick to his kosher dietary laws. Dan. 1:8.
  • He trusted that God would enable him to stay pure no matter what the circumstances. Dan. 1:13.

Elderly Daniel, on the other hand, was willing to practice outright disobedience because honoring his Lord meant more to him than life itself. Dan. 6:10.

“Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Write them deep within your heart. Then you will find favor with both God and people.” Pro. 3:3-4 (all scripture quotations are from NLT unless otherwise stated).

2. He found a way to navigate through the evil and remain pure.

  • Daniel went directly to the chief of staff to ask permission to abstain from unclean foods. His request was rejected. Dan. 1:8-10.
  • He then went secretly to the attendant directly responsible over him and his three friends. He proposed a 10-day trial-run with the diet. The physical effects of the diet could be weighed, and the official would decide what was next. Dan. 1:11-14.
  • The Lord honored each participant in this secret scheme. Dan. 1:18-19.

“Trust in the Lord with all you heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Pro. 3:5-6.

3. He developed, even in the oppressive surroundings, his God-given abilities.

Remember! Daniel had been ripped away from his family, his home, his land, the Temple, the holy scrolls, freedom of movement, freedom of expression, all that he knew growing up!

He now found himself surrounded by idol worshippers, amoral leaders, abhorrent foreign practices that directly violated God’s good laws.

Any “normal” person would grow bitter and self-absorbed. He was expected to work hard at learning the foreign language, religion, literature, and laws and customs. And he was to use this knowledge to guide and counsel the destroyer of his people!

The Lord gifted Daniel with a mind that was sharp, a memory that was strong, and a clear understanding of the hearts and minds of people. These gifts set him and his three friends above all the others. Gifts can be ignored or neglected and never become reality, but Daniel added diligence, hard work and discipline, and thereby exceeded all expectations.

“When the training period [three years] was completed, the chief of staff brought all the young men to King Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and no one impressed him as much as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they entered the royal service. Whenever the king consulted them in any matter requiring wisdom and balanced judgement, he found them ten times more capable than any of the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom.” Dan. 1:18-20.

4. Certain things can be left for later.

Consider what we expect or demand from life. What do you really want?  

Perhaps it is safety, ease and longevity. Perhaps outstanding achievements. Perhaps meaningful relationships. Perhaps leaving a mark or legacy. Or perhaps the greatest desire is to be loved, to be known. No one should be judged for having these desires.

However, these outcomes become far more difficult when uprooted against your will to Babylon.

But Babylon, with all its oppression, calls us to hear anew the “table flipping” words of Jesus. “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.” Mar. 8:35. These words are exce!!ent. And it can be easier to follow amidst the oppression of Babylon than in a land of peace and prosperity where we tend to get lazy.

Paul and his co-workers tell us that “sacrificing” for Jesus is an investment with the highest return.

“Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles [imprisoned frequently, flogged severely, exposed to death repeatedly, beaten with rods, pelted with stones … 2 Cor. 11:23-27] are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Cor. 4:16-18, NIV.

Daniel shows us how to grapple with waves of fear, how to see through the fog of disappointment, how to weave through opposition, and how to please a Higher Authority. 

How successful was he in pleasing God? A literal angel was sent from God’s presence with these words to Daniel.

“Daniel, you are very precious to God.”  Dan. 10:11.

“Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven.” Dan. 10:12.

So yes, If God has placed you in Babylon [or wherever you are], be a Daniel!

Jesus Enjoyed People

Still learning about something so basic as Christmas.

Charles Wesley wrote of Jesus, that he was “Pleased as man with men to dwell.”

I secretly thought of Jesus’ 33 years on earth as mostly a duty (and burden) that he put up with in order to accomplish a greater end.

But Wesley is right. The Gospels show a man who thoroughly enjoyed being human.
He loved people! He enjoyed being with them 24/7. Kids loved him. Parents loved him. He could engage respectfully and successfully with outcasts, with nobles, with rich, with poor, with religious zealots, political zealots, low lifers and high rollers. He was a dynamic person that no one could forget.

This Jesus shows the heart of the True and Living God. He loves people. Truly loves people. Not just loves what they can become, not just what they might do. He truly from His heart loves all people as they are, who they are, where they are. This is the message of Christmas. This is the truth that can transform individuals, families, societies. This is the Gospel.

(Sorry to “preach”, I really am excited to finally see this side of things.)

Deity “hearts” you, me, everyone

A most incredible truth in the universe is that God “hearts” each one of us.

What?

We are talking about an all-powerful, unstoppable BEING, and saying that he knows and cares about each of the estimated 7.8 billion mortals inhabiting this globe? Selah! [“Selah” means “take a break and ponder it”].

Honestly, this is more than our 1.5 kg (3.3 lb.) brains can comprehend. Trips the circuit breakers.

Time to realize that HeDeity – has infinite capacity. Mental capacity, focus, attention span, all are unlimited and inexhaustible with Him. The Bible describes God as authentically relational and responsive toward human beings. He can engage with each man, woman, and child fully at the same time. Recognize God’s relational nature.

Has the Lord forgotten us? “Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you. See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands. Always in my mind …” Isa. 49:14-16.[1]

From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can snatch anyone out of my hand.” Isa. 43:13.

BUTTTTTT

How, how, how could there be so much injustice and suffering in this world? If God “hearts” us, wouldn’t He fix everything that is wrong? These are burning, legitimate questions. Let’s see if HE answers them for us.

Some of the most significant episodes in human history are provided to us in the early chapters of the Bible, Genesis chapters 1 – 3. They form the bedrock for understanding life as we find it on planet earth.

  • God did not delegate the work of creating us. He Himself created us humans. He did so not only by handcrafting our amazing physical bodies, but He also went “mouth to mouth” to breath his very own eternal life into us![2] We humans are the only ones of whom He says, we are “created in God’s image.”[3]
  • He placed us in a wonderful, fault-free environment.[4]
  • He wanted to develop us humans within a relationship of trust and understanding of Him.
    The first step toward this was a simple way for humans to show respect and obedience. There was one thing Creator withheld for Himself. One fruit tree that his image bearers were respect and reserve only for Him.[5] We had all the reason in the world to honor Deity by obeying, but instead, we began millenniums of rebellion. Humankind lost all purity, and descended from bad to worse, and is still going downhill.[6]
  • And every day, all of us suffer the consequences, sometimes horrible consequences, of our insurrection. Killing, looting, theft, gender-based violence, racial-based oppression, religious persecution, etc. etc. etc. have their genesis in this first rejection of God’s authority and goodness.

What has Deity done about this?

Deity has gone far beyond expectation. Rather than obliterate us obstinate rebels, He left His glorious throne and came down to this infected planet. He entered this world as A HUMAN BABY!  Recalibrate this in your thinking.

Deity planted Divine sperm in a young girl who carried Him to full term. Mary gave birth to this Divine-human like any other human baby. Let this bounce around in your 1.5kg (3.3lbs) of grey-cells!  

Angelic beings lit the sky to announce this birth.[7] Deity shifted even some stars to proclaim the news.[8]  

This divine/human grew like other boys and earned the respect of all.[9]

As an adult he walked the country sides and towns, interacting with people of all classes, cultures, and reputations.[10] He showed interest and solidarity with everyone. Mothers were attracted to bring their young children to be held by him.[11] Outcast women found him to be a safe haven.[12] Blind, paralyzed, lepers, infirmed, were healed by him.[13]

Religious heads were jealous and frightened by his popularity. Jesus went to Jerusalem at the busiest time of the year, and purposely inflamed their fear and hatred of him.[14] He often told his close companions that would be killed by these authorities, be buried for a brief time, then resurrect to life again.[15]

This is how much Deity “hearts” you, me, everyone! He died a horrible physical death before the eyes of family, friends, and enemies.[16] But he suffered much worse. Deity on earth called out to Deity above and said, “My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?”[17] Deity broke![18] The God/man was banished, abandoned, rejected for three hours of earthly time (but something incalculable in Divine “time”).[19]                                        

You, me, all our family members, friends, associates, neighbors, and even our enemies and strangers on the street and in the marketplaces, are both: 1, The direct cause of Deity suffering untold turmoil (We are guilty of murder+). 2, The potential beneficiaries of that Love Act.[20] (We are forgiven, able to engage with Deity, become his children through facing our guilt and accepting His transcending offer of forgiveness and restoration to a new life has His children.

“God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know. But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him. But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip.” Acts 2:22-24.

“Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent. You are witnesses of these things.’” Luke 24:46-48.

I wish I could say that Jesus’ followers have done an exemplary job of representing Him and displaying the same love, equity and service as Him. But the story of Christianity is a mishmash of highs and lows and everything in between.  But let’s not look at Christianity as a movement or a cause. See and ponder the revelation of Deity to all humankind. Deity sent his SON to this planet to make a way of peace and reconciliation. “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’ For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” 2 Cor. 5:19-21.

Please consider the implications of what is stated here. Deity truly does “heart” you, me, everyone more than we can fathom.

This article is part two in a three part series. Part one is found here: https://heardivinewords.com/2020/12/17/lets-apprehend-hope/

Next week we will look what has been called the Five Love languages, and how Deity uses each of these 5 languages to declare his love to us again and again and again.

Blessings!


[1] All Bible quotations are from the New Living Translation.

[2] “Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.” Gen. 2:7.

[3] “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it.’” Gen. 2:27-28.

[4] Eden, Gen. 2:8.

[5] Gen. 2:15-17.

[6] Gen. 3:7-8, 14-19, 21, 22-24; 4:8; 6:5-7; 11:4, 6-8 ???`

[7] Luke 2:8-15.

[8] Mat. 2:1-11.

[9] Luke 2:52.

[10] Even his band of 12, who stuck with him for 3 long years, was diverse group. A political zealot (Mat. 10:4), a political traitor (Mat. 10:3), fisherman (Mat. 4:18-22), and a thief and betrayer (John 12:4-6).

[11] Mat. 19:13-14.

[12] Luke 7:36-50, Luke 8:1-3; John 4:6-42; Mark 5:24-34; Luke 10:38-39

[13] Luke 11:4-6; Mark 10:46-52; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:12-14; Mat. 4:23

[14] Mat. 21:45-46; Mark 14:1-2; John 7:30-32; Mat. 23.

[15] Mat. 16:21, 17:22-23, 20:17-19.

[16] Mat. 27:31, 33-37, 54-56; John 19:25-27.

[17] Mark 15:33-34.

[18] Human language fails us here. Theologians will ask me to recant and denounce this description. They will vehemently say “Deity can’t break!” I will answer, “Nor can deity die. Nor can Holy Trinity be divided. Nor can Deity forsake Deity.” What happened that afternoon on a hill outside Jerusalem is above and beyond our comprehension and description. But the message, the impact, the relational meaning is inescapable. Deity “hearts” you, me, everyone to a degree that is inexplicable in human terms. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom. 5:8.

[19] As stated in the previous footnote. We are talking about truths beyond our comprehension. Like a colony of ants trying to discuss quantum physics.

[20] Deity does not make peoples’ decisions for them; this is why we are “potential beneficiaries.” Deut. 30:19; Josh. 24:14-15; Rom. 6:16.

Let’s Apprehend Hope

Words do silly things:

The noun “Apprehension” is defined as “a fear or anxiety about something.”

The verb “to Apprehend” is defined as “to take hold of,” “to come into possession of.”

BUT, no one wants to apprehend [come into possession of] apprehension [fear and anxiety]!

We want to shed it, overcome it, to remove the anxieties and fears that haunt us. To be rid of it and live on a higher plane.  We would love to throw all our anxieties into a bottomless pit and banish them forever.

How can this be done?

This past year has created all sorts of apprehension among us humans in all stages and walks of life. The pandemic, the economy, shutdowns, elections, sickness, and loss of life, have assaulted our hearts with fears, doubts, insecurities – apprehensions.

To apprehend is to face the causes of apprehension and willfully overcome them.  

We have been hurt physically, mentally, emotionally, economically, relationally, and spiritually. Some of us may have considered dropping out permanently. Life deals tough blows. But here we are. Still moving forward. Still looking for light, relief, peace, belonging and joy.

Hope requires a decision (actually, repeated decisions), but willpower alone is not enough. We need help from outside ourselves. We can receive this help from trusted friends, relatives, counselors, and most of all, our Loving Father, the Royal Son, and the Resident Advocate (Eph. 1:3-14).

God wants to relate with us honestly, with integrity. Look at how David approached Him. “Be gracious to me, Adonai, because I am withering away; heal me, Adonai, because my bones are shaking…I am worn out with groaning; all night I drench my bed with tears…Adonai has heard the sound of my weeping, Adonai has heard my pleading, Adonai will accept my prayer.” Psa. 6:2,6,8,9 (Complete Jewish Bible). Wherever we find ourselves, be genuine with God.

A most incredible truth in the universe is that God “hearts” each one of us.

Let us encourage one another in this journey; assist each other along the way. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Pride gets us nowhere. It is up to us as individuals, families, communities, churches, etc. to turn the noun into the verb, for ourselves and for others.

More will be written about this in the next two weeks. Hope is not a flimsy feeling; Biblical hope is a most powerful, transformational force.

The first follow-up post is here: https://heardivinewords.com/2020/12/24/deity-hearts-you-me-everyone/

Let’s overcome apprehension by fully apprehending hope!

With an Alert Mind

“Devote yourselves to prayer, with an alert mind and thankful heart.” Col. 4:2.

I have been praying for 60 years. I am told that the Lord already knows what I will pray for, and He already knows what He will do about it. This “knowledge” of God’s knowledge HINDERS my prayer life. Worship and praise and thanksgiving still make sense, but prayer requests? I honestly cannot get my head around asking an all-knowing Being for something that he already knows I will ask for, and has already decided what he will do in response.

In any other situation, I would call this a “farce!”

I DON’T GET IT!      I HONESTLY DON’T GET IT!

I am writing this essay today [Dec. 4,5,6,7,8,9, 2020] in an honest attempt to figure “it” out.

I am sorting through my theological brain. Sorting through the Scriptures that have led my pursuits for decades. The slogans I have come up with. The preaching and writing I have presented to others. I am shaking it all up like a penny jar and ready [I hope] to dump it out for the whole world to see.

Laugh if you will. Argue if you want. But at least give it some thought and get back to me.

First, lets take note of three things:

1. Human beings severely overestimate our ability to comprehend things beyond our reach. The eternal, infinite, holy BEING exists and behaves 1000 levels above our paygrade. Let’s get this into our thick skulls.

Evidence:

  • “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isa. 55:9. (All quotations from NLT).
  • “God … is able … to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Eph. 3:20.

2. From cover to cover, the Bible portrays the eternal, infinite, holy BEING as genuinely interacting with his human creatures and responding to them. Never lose sight of this!

Evidence:

  • Gen. 18:17-33 – Abraham barters with God.
  • Exo. 33:12-23 – Moses bargains with God.
  • Lev. 26:3-46 – God lets his people determine much of their future.
  • Jer. 26:1-19 – God allows people to determine His response.
  • Mat. 7:6-11 – God’s children told to ask.
  • Acts 10:30-33 – An army officer told how to obtain the Lord’s blessing.
  • Acts 28:7-9; Jam. 5:14-15 – Prayers bring about healing.

Therefore, as a professor of mine stressed, the Bible shows that “God chooses to move through time with us.” (David Needham).  If God sets this parameter, us creature-lings should act accordingly. Don’t bring the doctrines of God’s omniscience and predestination into our prayer lives!

3. The eternal, infinite, holy BEING admits that he keeps secrets from us.

Evidence:

  • “The Lord has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them.” Deut. 29:29.
  • “Truly, O God of Israel, our Savior, you work in mysterious ways.” Isa. 45:15.

So then, where does this lead us?

Let’s stop pretending to be a colony of ants able to debate the merits of astrophysics! God’s eternal nature, God’s omniscience, is totally beyond our comprehension!

Here are 5 suggestions.

1. Learn to stay in our lane and Let God alone be God – the eternal, infinite, holy BEING!

  • He is eternal in nature and orientation, who chooses to invade our time-based life and world.
  • Life for us is sequential and spatial. One event follows after others, which will then be followed by more and more.
  • Therefore, pray in the “now” for changes and developments we desire to see in the future.

2. Let God have the right to reveal what He chooses to reveal when He chooses to reveal it.

  • Dive into, and hang on to, a relationship of trust, over just a knowledge-based trust. John 13:7.
  • We are alerted to spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:10-18; 1 Thes. 5:8), but note that the armor is defensive, protective. We are told to “stand firm”, not to “march and attack.”  
  • “But we worship at your throne – eternal, high and glorious!” Jer. 17:12.

3. Live forever in the ever-developing “now”, not in some yet to be experienced future.

  • What did Jesus do at the funeral of a corpse he was about to resurrect? “Then Jesus wept.” John 11:35.
  • “That is why the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today when you hear his voice…’” Heb. 3:7.
  • “You must warn each other every day, while it is still ‘today,’ so that…” Heb. 3:13.

4. Pray for others 20 times more than you pray for yourself.

  • “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” Eph. 6:18.
  •  “I pray for you constantly.” Eph. 1:16. “We always pray for you.” Col. 1:3. “So we keep on praying for you.” 2 Thes. 1:11.
  • The love God has for you, he has equally towards everyone in your life. Rom. 5:8.

5. Let God embrace you. Let Him reassure you. He wants you to know, wants you to FEEL His solid heart-love for you.

  • David was caught in an absolutely horrible situation when he prayed and wrote Psalm 52. But, within that horror he could honestly say, “But I am like an olive tree, thriving in the house of God. I will always trust in God’s unfailing love.” Psa. 52:8. This is genuine relationship. It exceeds, overcomes, and outlasts any and all circumstances.
  • Live and breathe Psalm 23.

This article is incomplete. Input from you and others is most welcome. I myself have only begun this journey of learning to pray with integrity. May God bless us. 

Reggie Howard.

Palpable Tension – Potential verses Actual Outcomes in Life

The book of Jeremiah says tons about the dynamic relationship between Past, Present, and Future. This an essential paradigm to observe and embrace.

1. The ebb and flow of life here on earth is not a matter of randomness and odds.

2. Events are connected. People are connected. And Creator God is actively involved in it all.[1]

The book of Jeremiah boldly displays an underlying tension between the good things that could happen and the bad things that do happen; especially regarding the state of the nation of Israel – past, present, and future. This tension is clear throughout the Bible, but Jeremiah presents it with insight into the causes of this disconnect. And these causes are very instructive.

The Great Beginning

Look at how the Lord describes the early days of the nation of Israel. They were doing well and the Lord had good plans for them:

“I remember how eager you were to please me as a young bride long ago, how you loved me and followed me even through the barren wilderness.  In those days Israel was holy to the LORD, the first of his children. All who harmed his people were declared guilty and disaster fell on them [those who sought to harm Israel]. I, the LORD, have spoken!” 2:2-3. (All references are from Jeremiah, unless stated otherwise).

“I said to your ancestors when I brought them out of the iron-smelting furnace of Egypt, ‘If you obey me and do whatever I command you, then you will be my people, and I will be your God.’ I said this so I could keep my promise to your ancestors to give you a land flowing with milk and honey – the land you live in today.” 11:4-5a.

Jeremiah interjects into the text his full support of God’s good plans.

“Then I replied, ‘Amen, LORD! May it be so.’”  11:5b.

But . . . things fell apart

It turns out, though, that things quickly went sour.

“And when I brought you into a fruitful land to enjoy its bounty and goodness, you defiled my land and corrupted the possession I had promised you.” 2:7.

“But I was the one who planted you, choosing a vine of the purest stock– the very best. How did you grow into this corrupt wild vine?  No amount of soap or lye can make you clean. I still see the stain of your guilt. I, the Sovereign LORD, have spoken!” 2:21-22.

This is super tragic. The land “flowing with milk and honey” is immediately defiled, corrupted, and ruined. Listen to these questions as the LORD interrogates his people:

“The LORD says: ‘What did your ancestors find wrong with me that led them to stray so far from me? They worshiped worthless idols, only to become worthless themselves’”. 2:5.

“’Why do you accuse me of doing wrong? You are the ones who have rebelled,’ says the LORD.” 2:29.

“O my people, listen to the words of the LORD! Have I been like a desert to Israel?  Have I been to them a land of darkness? Why then do my people say, ‘At last we are free from God! We don’t need him anymore!’  Does a young woman forget her jewelry? Does a bride hide her wedding dress? Yet for years on end my people have forgotten me.”  2:31-32.

“Why do these people stay on their self-destructive path?  Why do the people of Jerusalem refuse to turn back? They cling tightly to their lies and will not turn around.  I listen to their conversations and don’t hear a word of truth. Is anyone sorry for doing wrong?  Does anyone say, ‘What a terrible thing I have done’? No! All are running down the path of sin as swiftly as a horse galloping into battle!” 8:5-6.

And . . . there is heartache expressed in many of the LORD’s words.

The Lord’s good plans are constantly frustrated.

“I thought to myself, ‘I would love to treat you as my own children!’ I wanted nothing more than to give you this beautiful land – the finest possession in the world. I looked forward to your calling me ‘Father,’ and I wanted you never to turn from me. But you have been unfaithful to me, you people of Israel!” 3:19-20a.

“Your wickedness has deprived you of these wonderful blessings. Your sin has robbed you of all these good things.” 5:25.

“Time after time I sent you prophets, who told you, ‘Turn from your wicked ways, and start doing things right. Stop worshiping other gods so that you might live in peace here in the land I have given to you and your ancestors.’ But you would not listen to me or obey me.” 35:15 (This is an oft-repeated theme, see also 25:4-6, 26:5, 29:19).

And … the LORD is angry, no, furious!

A majority of the text of Jeremiah is painted in the red of anger. It is not fluffy, uplifting, “heavenly” language. It is severe. It is cutting. It is confrontational. It is this type of language and subject matter that perhaps keeps people away from studying this grand book. Here is a sample:

“I looked, and the fertile fields had become a wilderness. The towns lay in ruins, crushed by the LORD’s fierce anger.” 4:26.

“Pack your bags and prepare to leave; the siege is about to begin. For this is what the LORD says: ‘Suddenly, I will fling out all you who live in this land. I will pour great troubles upon you, and at last you will feel my anger.’” 10:17-18.

“I myself will fight against you with a strong hand and a powerful arm, for I am very angry. You have made me furious!” 21:5.

“Look! The LORD’s anger bursts out like a storm, a driving wind that swirls down on the heads of the wicked. The fierce anger of the LORD will not diminish until it has finished all he has planned. In the days to come you will understand all this.” 30:23-24.

“You expect to fight the Babylonians, but the men of this city are already as good as dead, for I have determined to destroy them in my terrible anger. I have abandoned them because of all their wickedness.” 33:5.

“These things happened because of the LORD’s anger against the people of Jerusalem and Judah, until he finally banished them from his presence and sent them into exile”. 52:3.

These hardships and disasters were not the LORD’s choice. They resulted from the peoples’ choices. Tension remains over what could have been, what was supposed to have been. But rather than thriving, the people experienced defeat and disaster. The good things God planned did not transpire.

This raises a lot of questions. A close reading and careful evaluation of the text of Jeremiah will lead one to believe the future is contingent;[2] it is conditional, based on people’s behavior and choices. It is not totally predetermined and confined by the creator. Please continue reading.

Summary for now

The book of Jeremiah speaks volumes about the relationship[3] between the Lord and his people. It began well, with the people excited by their privilege and welcoming their closeness to the LORD. But quickly,  distance grew as the people wandered away from their Savior and Provider. This both grieved and angered the LORD and brought grave consequences to their life and welfare. The LORD is deeply invested in his people’s wellbeing. The entire world would be a different place if the utopian relationship could have continued. The LORD called Abram and promised him great things (more than just the wonderful land). The plan was to use Abraham’s descendants to spread the knowledge of God and thereby extend this utopian relationship by fulfilling the promise, “I will bless those who bless you and … All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” Gen. 12:3.


[1] To say that God is “involved” (as used here) does not necessarily state that he “controls” or “dictates” or even “planned” everything in exact detail.

[2] A key word in Jeremiah is the little word “if”. More will be said about this in the pages to come.

[3] Another key term, and a concept that is crucial to understanding the nature of God and his actions in dealing with people. God is above all else a relational being.

That ????? 2020

2020 is a most inexplicable year for members of the human race. Neck deep fighting a world-wide killer. Hearts feeling fears, anxieties and questions – deeper and stronger and longer than ever experienced before. Many have lost loved ones without the closure that comes by being with near as they pass. No gathering for a funeral service. No burial. Human hearts are being bruised and battered – north, south, east and west. What do we do about our hearts?

We are mandated by our Creator to take care of our hearts. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Pro. 4:23 (NIV). Such a thing was neither natural nor intuitive with me. “My heart is to be crucified, not fed,” I said, “There is a great commission to fulfil, who cares how I’m doing on the inside!”[1]  So, over some decades I have learned a few things that I want to pass on about “guarding our hearts” during this difficult time.

1. Be honest with yourself. We talk to ourselves all the time, an inner monologue from morning to night. Listen in. Examine it. Look for half-truths, minor twists of reality, or even outright lies within your monologue. Many of us possess a negative bent that is not helpful to ourselves, and not honoring to our Creator and Lord. Time to clean up our inner monologues.

2. Feel what you need to feel. Don’t criticize yourself for how you feel. Hear that? Give yourself a break – a hundred breaks a day. Feelings are human, the mechanisms are built-in by our Creator Himself. They are a result of what is happening within and without. When we find ourselves down, down in the depths, feel it, but don’t take it out on yourself. Own it, but realize that it is temporary. You are not defined by, nor locked into these feelings.

3. Seek help. If you can’t physically be with the people you need, then pick up the phone, get them online, connect with them however you can. Connect with a trusted friend or family member or professional counselor or pastor. It is OK to bawl our heads off with someone on the other end. Do this when the occasion calls for it. But let this be a part of something bigger. Seek help for healing. Listen to ones you trust. Let them help you with your inner monologue. Let them correct your skewed assessment of yourself. Face the fact that you are loved. That some people might be willing to give their lives for you.

4. Let your heart lead you into the arena of the spirit. Feelings of loss, loathing, loneness, and despair might seem to come from the depths of your being. It indeed feels that way. But you are more than body and soul. Everyone is more than a body plus a soul. There is a core nature residing in us, deeper, stronger, and truer than our hearts or souls. Every human is a physical, social and spiritual being. This spirit creates a connection with the Spirit of spirits, the Creator Himself. Let the troubles warring within us lead us to HIM.

How can this happen? How can we “know” an Eternal, Invisible, Spiritual Being? Please consider these following 4 things.

1. He who made us is repeatedly summoning us to meaningful relationship with Himself. This may not make logical sense. It may go against what you have come to believe and how you feel. But perhaps your reading this far is part of His summoning you to come. Can you be open to take a few steps in His direction?

2. The Creator gave humans such great power and responsibility that from the beginning, the health and future of this universe was placed in our hands.  Yep. You read that right. God is a generous delegator. He created the living, breathing, growing masterpiece of our universe and handed over ownership and management to the first humans (Gen. 1,2). Those humans did the absolute worst thing [outright disobedience] and things went downhill from there. But don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.

3. Every good thing you see, acts of kindness by yourself and others, acts of forgiveness, people like our health workers who serve above and beyond their occupation. The beauties of our natural world all around us, if we simply take an honest look. See these signposts showing us the original design of the Creator, and what is in His heart. He is a Being of love, imagination, beauty and generosity.  The deepest needs and longings of our hearts will find their answer in Him and His people, but how is this possible?

4. There is something in the Bible called “the mystery of the gospel”, “the mystery of Christ.” It is something everyone needs to hear and consider. If you know some Christians that you trust, please talk with them. Ask them to help you come to Christ. If you would like to respond to this post please feel free to do so. I can be reached directly at ReggieHowardAuthor@Gmail.com.  Let your heart lead you deeper, lead you to discover the Spirit side of life.

There is more to life than we have experienced yet. More to this life on earth that God has planned for us. During these difficult times, listen to your heart, search for the Spirit, come to connect with the True and Living God. I will close with a most popular greeting. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”[2]  


[1] This has been called “worm theology” (based on a misapplication of Ps. 22:6). It denies the effectiveness of Jesus’s death for today. It denies the Fatherhood of our heavenly Father. And it denies the cleansing, renewing and empowering work of God’s Spirit within.

[2] 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; Phi. 1:2; Col. 1:2; 2 The. 1:2

Start of Journey

I was set on a journey by this message on Twitter. The journey is painful, lonely, costly. I am maybe 1% along and determined to continue to the end.

My ignorance of the background of hundreds of millions of people is shameful. Yes, their history was never taught in school, repressed for whatever reason. But if I said I cared about them, why did it take up to a few days ago for me to ask Google to tell me who Jim Crow was? This is not right.

How I would like to see my relatives, friends, friends of friends also enter this painful but enlightening journey. We will be better people for doing it. How about you?

Blessings everyone.