Love Doesn’t Divide

“True love doesn’t divide, it multiplies.” Mr. George Mathews.

Every Saturday evening us High Schoolers would go to youth group at an older couple’s home; Mr. and Mrs. Mathews. I was easily the quietest one in the group, happy to just observe and listen to all the others in the room.

One time, Mr. Mathews purposely sat beside me and did his best to start up a meaningful conversation. Proof that he succeeded is the fact that I remember it to this day. His talk went something like this:

Reggie, I want to talk with you about love. How true love works. When I married Virginia XX number of years ago, I truly loved her with all my heart. A year later, our first son, Hank, was born. Now there are two people for me to love. Do you think that I loved Virginia less? 

[I probably shrugged my shoulders as my answer.]

I want you to know, Reggie, that love doesn’t divide, it multiplies. The love I had for Virginia didn’t get smaller or weaker, it doubled because of Hank.

Then we had four more sons and then finally Pete was born. This left me with 7 people to love. Do you think I can love each one of them with all my heart, or is my love divided?

[Probably another shrug of the shoulders from me].

Reggie, love doesn’t divide, true love multiplies! With every addition to my family, God caused my heart to grow bigger. I love Virginia now more than ever. I also love each one of my sons, and their families, with that very same love. Through this experience I can understand how God loves everyone. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son…” John 3:16. This is how true love works.

These words from Mr. Mathews were absolutely on a level I could understand. He spoke in simple language about perhaps the most miraculous thing we can experience.

N.B. This article is excerpted from a manuscript of mine looking to be published—The Foundation Stones of Teaching.

Most Remarkable Weekend

Was Jesus inconsistent? This used to bother me. Jesus was so strong and “in control” throughout his life[1], but then seems to go limp and weak the last day or two in Jerusalem. He lost all fight. Becomes a “lamb being led to the slaughter.” Offers no resistance, no fight, not even a cry for help! I say this used to bother me, it doesn’t anymore, because with further study I learned something startling. [2]

Jesus was an accessory[3] to his own murder![4]

Could this be? Was Jesus involved in the plot to have himself murdered? Read on!

Jesus many times predicted the events of his arrest, trial, and murder. He knew “in detail” what needed to happen. “‘Listen,’ he said, ‘we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die. Then they will hand him over to the Romans to be mocked, flogged with a whip, and crucified.’” (Matt 20:18-19, see also Matt 16:21; 17:22; 26:1-2).

He not only predicted it, he purposely infuriated the religious leaders and forced their hand to do it! “When the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had done [removed corruption from inside the temple], they began planning how to kill him.” (Mark 11:18). “The religious leaders wanted to arrest Jesus because they realized he was telling the story against them– they were the wicked farmers. But they were afraid of the crowd, so they left him and went away.” (Mark 12:12).

A slight problem

Yes, there was a problem. Jesus stated the time that his crucifixion must take place. “As you know, Passover begins in two days, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.” (Matt 26:2). Jesus played his cards right, but the powers in charge were weak and scared. They were afraid to do it during the Passover feast, because too many people were around. “At that same time the leading priests and elders were meeting at the residence of Caiaphas, the high priest, plotting how to capture Jesus secretly and kill him. ‘But not during the Passover celebration,’ they agreed, ‘or the people may riot.’” (Matt 26:3-5).

This murder had to happen on the Passover;[5] the leaders wanted to wait until afterwards, so Jesus worked on the one option that could speed things up: If the leaders could arrest Jesus without creating a commotion (i.e., with no one around to create a fuss), then they could try-and-condemn him in private, twist the arm of the governor to allow crucifixion, then they could have him on a cross on “skull-mountain” before most people realized what was happening.[6]

So, Jesus egged Judas to do the dirty work.

  1. Jesus upset him by correcting him in front of the others (and even in front of a woman!).[7] “But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, ‘That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.’ … Jesus replied, ‘Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.’” (John 12:4-8).
  2. Jesus made the secret plot public. “While they were eating, he said, ‘I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.’ Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, ‘Am I the one, Lord?’” (Matt 26:21-22). And he even revealed the perpetrator. “Judas, the one who would betray him, also asked, ‘Rabbi, am I the one?’ And Jesus told him, ‘You have said it.’” (Matt 26:25).
  3. He even prompted the betrayer, when the time was right, and sent him off on his dastardly mission. “When Judas had eaten the bread, Satan entered into him. Then Jesus told him, ‘Hurry and do what you’re going to do.’” (John 13:27).

Priests Turned into Puppets

The Israelite nation was captive to the nation of Rome, but the people were led by the Chief Priests and the Great Sanhedrin (a religious and legislative body). There were sometimes severe conflicts between the Jewish leaders and the Roman appointed leaders, but the Sanhedrin often got its way because the Jewish people were so religions and loyal. It was a great honor and responsibility to be a member of the Sanhedrin.

Jesus manipulated and goaded these esteemed leaders.

  1. He answered their “difficult” questions leaving them stunned (Mat. 21:23-27; 22:15-22, 23-33).
  2. He posed questions the leaders were unable to answer (Mat. 22:41-46; 26:55-56).
  3. He told parables describing the leaders’ duplicity (read Mat. 21:33-46). “When the leading priests and Pharisees heard this parable, they realized he was telling the story against them–they were the wicked farmers. They wanted to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowds, who considered Jesus to be a prophet.” Mat. 21:45-46.
  4. He publicly scorched these proud peacocks, detailing their hypocrisy in vivid detail. “Everything they do is for show” (v. 5). “You shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces.” (v. 13). “You cross land and sea to make one convert, and they you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!” (v. 15). “Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs — beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity.” (v. 27). “Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell?” (v. 33).

The Lion becomes a Lamb

By deliberate choice (in obedience to His Father), Jesus changed his Modus operandi at the appropriate time.

No one could state this better than Prophet Isaiah: “He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. Unjustly condemned, he was led away … He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal, he was put in a rich man’s grave.” Isa. 53:7-9.

He did this with eyes wide open and in full agreement with the Father: “But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people. He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave.” Isa. 53:8-9.

Given the chance to defend himself and thereby escape death, [note how capable Jesus was in winning any argument] he kept silent. Jesus did not resist his death, because his murder was the very thing he knew needed to happen.

This is incredible. The Sanhedrin that condemned him to death, the Roman officials who authorized it (Pilot and Herod), the crowds who shouted for his crucifixion, and even the Roman soldiers who carried it out were all merely pawns in his hands. They were carrying out the plan long ago agreed upon by Father and Son in eternity. Rev. 13:8b.

Yes, Jesus was an accessory to his own murder. His death was not a surrender. Satan did not win a victory. He died entirely voluntarily. He did so, just like he lived his life, not for himself, but for those he loved. This includes you and everyone in your life.

This is the Jesus we love, worship and obey. This is the Jesus for whom we can invest everything – to know HIM better, to appreciate more fully, to love totally each day of our lives.


[1] Consider this. Alone, without food for 40 days, weakened in body, he overcame Satan’s cleverest of temptations. No one was able to compromise him. Mat. 4:1-11.

[2] The concepts behind this chapter were inspired by the following words penned by Philip Yancey. “The might of the world, the most sophisticated religious system of its time allied with the most powerful political empire, arrays itself against a solitary figure, the only perfect man who has ever lived. Though he is mocked by the powers and abandoned by his friends, yet the Gospels give the strong, ironic sense that he himself is overseeing the whole long process. He has resolutely set his face for Jerusalem, knowing the fate that awaits him. The cross has been his goal all along. Now, as death nears, he calls the shots.” The Jesus I Never Knew, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, 1995. p. 188.

[3] In legal terms, the word “accessory” means “someone who is instrumental in making a crime take place.”

[4] The High Priests and Sanhedrin were guilty of murder to the first degree, “To intentionally plot and cause the death of an innocent person.”

[5] The Divine plan and schedule.

[6] They were fixated on getting rid of their greatest irritation but had to navigate (and manipulate) the Roman “authorities.” Once Jesus was on the cross early in the morning, they had the upper hand over the common people. The visual effect of seeing their “son of David” in a horrible state on the cross was more than enough to cause the crowds to lose all hope in their “would-be” Messiah.

[7] Men were rather inflated back then.

Jesus Enjoyed People

Still learning about something so basic about our LORD.

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.)

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!

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