Abanindranath Tagore, Journey’s End, tempera on paper, 1913.
By Jill Carattini
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Frodo, the young hobbit, has been given the burden of bearing the one ring of power. It is a ring that has the potential to put all of Middle Earth under terror and shadow, and the darkness is already spreading. With a fellowship of friends, Frodo determines he must start the long, dark journey to destroy the ring by throwing it into the volcano from which it was forged. It is a journey that will take him on fearful paths through enemy territory and overwhelming temptation to the ends of himself. Seeing the road ahead of him, he laments to Gandalf the Wise that the burden of the ring should have come to him in the first place.
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”(1)
A fan of Tolkien’s epic fantasy once wrote the author to say that he preferred to read The Lord of the Rings particularly during the season of Lent. Though I don’t know all this reader had in mind with such a statement, Tolkien’s portrayal of a journey into darkness with the weight of a great burden and a motley fellowship of companions certainly holds similarities to the journey of the church toward the cross. The forty-day period that leads to Easter is both an invitation and a quest for any who would be willing, albeit a difficult one. The deliberate and wearisome journey with Christ to the cross is a crushing burden, even with the jarring recognition that we are not the one carrying it. On the path to Holy Week, the fellowship of the church far and wide is given time to focus in detail on what it means that Jesus came into this world that he might go the fearful way of the Cross. It is time set apart for pilgrimage and preparation, forty days with which we decide what to do with the time that is given us.
In fact, Christian scriptures attach special meaning to the forty-day journey. Considered the number of days marking a devout encounter with God, we find the occurrence of forty-day journeys throughout the stories of the prophets and the people of God. For forty days Noah and his family waited on the arc as God washed away and revived the earth. Moses spent forty days on Mount Sinai, where he received the Law of God to share with the Israelites. Later, he spent forty days on the mountain prostrate before the LORD after the sin of the golden calf. Elijah was given food in the wilderness, which gave him strength for the forty-day journey to Horeb, the Mount of God. Jonah reluctantly accepted forty days in Nineveh where the people, heeding his warning, repented before God with fasting, sackcloths, and ashes. For forty days the prophet Ezekiel laid on his right side to symbolize the forty years of Judah’s transgression. And finally, for forty days Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. As Mark reports: “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.”
It is with this same Spirit that any are invited to take the forty-day journey into the shadows and difficulties of Lent. In every forty-day (or forty year) journey described in Scripture, the temptations are real, the waiting is difficult, and the call to listen or to look, to obey or deny is wearying. But there is something about the journey itself to which God moves the journeyer. Jesus himself was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days, while Moses, Ezekiel, Noah, and even Jonah were each instructed to set out on the journeys that brought them closer to the heart of God, whether they were able to accept it or not.
Similarly today, the forty days that lead to Easter Sunday are not without burden or cost. “The Cross of Lent,” as Augustine referred to it, is one to bear year round, but one we learn to bear all the more intensely along the way to the cross during Lent. Here, the church invites the journeyer to remember that we are dust, that we follow Jesus to his death, that we recollect the acts of God to be near us, and we let go of the things that keep us from holding the Son who saves us. Of course, these are burdens that none will never bear alone. But each day we are given is one we decide what to do with. Jesus has given one option:
“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.”(2)
Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
(1) J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1994), 51.
(2) Luke 9:23-24.
Acclaimed oil painter Morgan Weistling began his love of art while sitting on his artist father’s knee. The boy was only 19 months old but was already showing talent. At age 15, he attended art school in Los Angeles, receiving classical illustration training and becoming a dedicated student of light and shadow. At 19 years old, he was recruited to join the top advertising agency in Hollywood. He soon had a successful niche in the movie poster business.
Morgan admits that art was his god in those days. Acknowledging his Creator wasn’t something he took seriously until 1988 when he met a girl while substitute teaching at a design school. He was instantly attracted and asked her for a date. “Unfortunately,” Morgan says, “she was a Christian, and the only way she would go out with me was if I agreed to go to church with her.” He spent several Sunday mornings at Calvary Chapel Downey. After the services, he would say to his girlfriend, “I don’t need this. I don’t need Jesus. I have art.”
Who’s got talent?
About six months into the relationship, Morgan was sitting in the pew not really paying attention to the sermon. But that morning the pastor did something unusual: He handed out sheets of paper to everyone in the congregation and said, “If you’ve got any talents God has given you that we could use here at church, write them down.”
Morgan stared at the blank piece of paper and at first felt smug, believing his success and abilities were the result of his own hard work. Then unexpectedly, God challenged his assumptions. He sensed God asking him, You think you did this all on your own? That you could draw since you were 2 years old and that the ability came out of nowhere? That was all you?
He concluded his talent was obviously something God had given him, and since that was true, he probably should stop promoting films that often exploited sex and fear — kidnapped cheerleaders and the like.
“It became very clear I’d been wasting my time,” Morgan says. “God had literally given me something that I should probably be giving back to Him.” Responding to the altar call that day, Morgan surrendered his life, talent and art to God. That night, he prayed with his girlfriend for a new direction in his profession.
The next morning, Morgan was offered a job to illustrate the covers of a children’s video series for an organization that promoted biblical values — Focus on the Family. Since following the light of Christianity, Morgan has chosen to serve God with his art and has inspired his family to do the same.
A fresh canvas for Morgan Weistling
In 1992, Morgan Weistling married the girl who had taken him to church — JoAnn Peralta. Together, the two spent many late nights meeting deadlines to further their illustration careers, with both of them pursuing work at Focus on the Family and other Christian clients. However, with the advent of computer illustration a few years later, Morgan’s illustration work all but dried up. He switched to oil painting after a friend suggested he get back to his original love of art.
“So I kind of got back in touch with my inner artist,” Morgan says. “I did a painting just out of my pure joy of being a new father.”
Sharing the Light of Christ
Morgan took that first painting, “Bouquet for Mother,” which depicted children putting flowers on a blanket, to a gallery and “everybody went nuts,” he says. Morgan quickly earned several honors and opportunities to show at prestigious galleries.
Leaving the world of media, he began painting stories from the Bible, including Jesus walking on water and turning water into wine. He only stopped doing biblical scenes when he ran out of ideas he was passionate to paint. Morgan didn’t want to create portraits of Christ holding kittens and puppies just because they might sell, he says. He began to focus on the late 19th-century pioneer life in North America as his subject matter.
Morgan aims to capture the joy and value of work in that simpler era, each painting telling a story. “The light of Christ is in these paintings,” he says. “[They also show] the virtues of hard work.” The paintings he does uphold wholesomeness and the values that the U.S. was built on. “God shut a door on illustration and opened up one that really lets me paint my heart. Every painting I do, I pray He helps me. So my faith in the future is set in hoping that I continue to let Him use my hands.”
Leaving a legacy
Morgan’s wife, JoAnn, has also developed into a master painter, receiving among other prizes the 2019 Autry Museum’s Artist Choice Award. “I have always tried to follow the leading the from Lord on what He would have me paint and leave it in His hands to use it,” she says.
The couple’s older daughter, 24-year old Brittany, has modeled for her parents ever since she was a toddler and is following in her parents’ brushstrokes. As a teen, she earned money painting portraits, and in 2011 she was invited to show her work at a master’s exhibit when she was only 15. Thirteen-year old daughter Sienna has also shown a strong interest and talent in painting, but Morgan has mixed feelings about that, commenting, “Boy, it’d sure be nice to have a doctor or something else in this family.”
The girls have learned to use their talents to honor God in the same way they learned art — by example. Both Morgan Weistling and JoAnn Peralta have studios on their property, and their daughters have open access to their parents during the day — as do the ducks and pigs Morgan uses as models.
“JoAnn and I have always taught our daughters that they need to know and recognize the gifts that God has given them to use for His glory,” Morgan says. “I have always been clear to them that being an artist and a Christian is not different than being a plumber, mechanic or whatever else people have gifts for. What’s important is that whatever they do, they give it their best effort because God didn’t give these gifts to be used halfheartedly.”
The future for Morgan
Morgan Weistling once wanted to be immortal through art, to have the world remember him through his work. Now he believes his daughters may one day eclipse him in talent — he jokes he’s just “Brittany Weistling’s father” in the art world, and that’s OK. He’s content to let God use his artistic talent one painting at a time. And he’s interested in creating a home as a legacy, a place where he’s hoping he can one day paint his grandchildren playing in the studio with the ducks.
John Paluska | ChristianHeadlines.com Contributor | Wednesday, February 17, 2021
Kelontae Gavin, a chart-topping gospel singer who is known for his singles “No Ordinary Worship” and “Hold Me Close” revealed he was molested by his cousin for years. This molestation, he said, caused him to be gay but he purposely suppressed his actions because he had the gift of singing. He now decries such a response and wished he came clean years ago so he could have received the help he needed.
“It’s scary to be gifted in the Church because sometimes your gift can cloud and block the thing that God really requires of you most, and that’s your heart,” he told The Christian Post.
He went on to state “It’s a conversation that the Church has to have because we’re not willing to be transparent. I knew when God was dealing with me about my life, I had to make a conscious decision, am I going to be concerned about what other people think? Or am I going to do what God has called me to do and see souls won to the Kingdom?”
He said the decision to go public about his life story was because of God changing him and convicting him about his actions. He said he was essentially just going through the motions and singing about God without really believing what he was singing. “I was giving God a lot of my gift but I wasn’t giving Him my heart, I was doing what I wanted to do. I just found myself — I didn’t care, like many people today, they don’t care. They serve God. We have to make sure that we’re doing what we do for the glory of God and our life aligns with our lips.”
Now he’s trying to get the church to open up about the struggles everyone faces so the body of Christ can come together and help each other, as the Bible calls Christians to do.
“So many people walk in guilt and shame, female and male, because of what they’ve done but not realizing, the Church doesn’t know, that is just fruit. That is not the seed. There is something that has happened; there is something that they had to encounter or experience that gave them sexual maturity before they had spiritual maturity. But because we focus more so on the lifestyle of the person, we don’t want to sit down and have conversations.”
Gavin says the solution is for churches to begin to focus more on the person and trying to get to the root cause and the reason for the lifestyle rather than ignore the problem altogether or try to shun people who disagree.
“Let’s stop the service, cut the microphones off, cut the lights on. Who touched you, or what’s your experience? Is this how you feel? Do you believe he was born this way? No, you wasn’t born that way, you accepted something in your life that you said, ‘OK, this is who I am.’ But that is not your name. That is not your identity and I wanted to make sure that God, if you gonna really get the glory out of my life, I’m just going to share with them my story that’s connected to the crucifixion of Jesus.”
We help the abused, the abuser and those affected by abuse to heal…just not all in the same setting. Contact us for assistance .
John Paluska has been a contributor for Christian Headlines since 2016 and is the founder of The Daily Fodder, a news outlet he relaunched in 2019 as a response to the constant distribution of fake news.
Christian author and speaker Brittni De La Mora believes that hardships and pain have purpose — a lesson gleaned from some of her remarkable and inspiring firsthand experiences.
De La Mora, a former porn star who famously left the industry behind to become a Christian, is now an author and speaker who regularly shares her faith and works to inspire people facing life struggles.
“Sometimes, hardships that come into our lives … are inevitable,” she said on a recent episode of “Let’s Talk Purity,” a show she co-hosts alongside her husband, Richard. “There was a time in my life … I actually was dating a guy who was murdered. He was stabbed in front of me.”
Listen to De La Mora reveal how she discovered the Bible during this traumatic event:
De La Mora went into hiding for a few days while authorities searched for the people who committed the crime, and it was there, while isolated in a hotel, that she encountered a Bible.
“I saw a Bible. I wasn’t a Christian. I was still in the porn industry during this time,” she explained. “And I remember taking that Bible … I just started reading all the scriptures that pertained to everything that I was going through, and I would write out the scriptures as they spoke to me, and I was so liberated during that time.”
Despite not yet being a Christian, De La Mora said the fear that had been overtaking her in the midst of the tragic killing started to dissipate.
“Something about the Word of God gave me so much hope, so much encouragement during one of the hardest seasons that I’ve ever been through in life,” she said.
After becoming a Christian, De La Mora more fully learned how to deal with the pain and struggles that often plague people’s lives.
In the end, she and Richard explained that “hardships are going to come” in life, but that people must keep their “faith in God.” The couple encouraged people to keep “a pure heart during hard times,” and explored a plethora of examples of the challenges that can come in life.
“There are so many things in this life right now that can affect the purity of our hearts,” Richard said early on in the “Let’s Talk Purity” episode. “We understand that there’s purpose in every season. When we understand that there’s purpose in every season, then we know there’s stuff God is trying to show us and teach us during every season.”
Richard said he has learned to stop asking “God, why are you doing this?” and to start asking what God is trying to show him through difficult circumstances.
“Nothing grows our faith better than hard times,” Brittni added. “It’s when you go through hard times that God shows up.”
The only true hope for all sinners is salvation by grace through faith in Christ. Apart from that, mankind remains “dead in [his] trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Only through God’s mercy and love can the spiritually dead be made alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:4–5). And by God’s grace, He continues to redeem sinners, drawing them to Himself in repentance and faith.
But in the wisdom of His divine design, God has also placed restraints within us and within the structure of society to mitigate the effects of man’s corruption and hold back the full chaos into which the world repeatedly devolves. And when these restraints are carefully maintained, life can be enjoyable. But when they’re assaulted, diminished, or destroyed, life quickly becomes difficult and miserable.
The first restraint is built into the heart of every man—the conscience. We know the conscience exists because so many people are full of guilt, anxiety, fear, and dread. All those issues frequently point back to a conscience that won’t be silent. Why?
We look to Romans for the answer. Paul writes, “For there is no partiality with God. For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified” (Romans 2:11–13). Put simply, all sinners stand equally guilty, regardless of their access to God’s law.
How is that fair? Paul explains: “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them” (Romans 2:14–15). Built into every human is a moral reality—a sense of right and wrong.
The conscience is a gift from God. In the same way that physical pain alerts you to not rest your hand on a hot stove, your conscience cries out to warn you of moral danger—it pleads with you to not do the thing you know you shouldn’t do.
The conscience isn’t a substitute for the law of God, or some means through which He speaks. Rather, it is aligned to the highest moral law it knows. That means the law of God that is written in every heart—don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t kill, and the other basic moral lines common to all people—can be overruled and replaced. In that regard, the conscience can be assaulted through misinformation. Some people have so twisted and distorted their consciences that they believe the right and moral thing to do is murder unborn children, attack police officers, or wear explosives into a crowded part of town to kill as many civilians as possible. History shows us just how susceptible the conscience is to propaganda and false teaching.
The conscience is also assaulted through abuse. Go back to the analogy of the hot stove—if you ignored the painful warnings long enough, not only would you suffer severe physical consequences, the consistent abuse could cost you the ability to recognize the pain altogether. If you ignore your conscience long enough, eventually there won’t be any alert to ignore. When you repeatedly ignore the internal warnings and return to a particular sin, you’re searing your conscience and destroying its ability to function properly.
One of the great costs of removing the Bible from a culture is that people can no longer make sense of the conscience—both what it is and how it should be informed. What should be seen as a great gift from God is considered a curse—one that must be silenced or reoriented. Of course, our therapeutic society is quick to tell people not to listen to their consciences in the first place. Psychologists are happy to redirect feelings of guilt and shame somewhere else. When that doesn’t work, many people turn to drugs and alcohol to drown out a conscience that won’t shut up.
And when the truth of God’s Word is withheld and denied from the conscience for long enough en masse, you wind up back in Isaiah 5:20, with a culture that calls good evil, and evil good. You have a culture like ours.
Because man’s conscience is so easily corrupted, God has also instituted external restraints and authorities within society for reining in the destructive chaos sin creates.
The family is one of those restraints. Of course, the Bible instructs Christian parents to raise their children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). But even unbelieving parents have a restraining influence in the lives of their children. In that sense, the family is a divinely created institution for the formation of restrained sinners, who—through generations of morality, discipline, love, virtue, and obedience—become a benefit to society and enjoy God’s gifts with gratitude.
What we’ve seen in recent years is a comprehensive assault on God’s design for the family, and the subsequent short-circuiting of its restraining effect. Between the feminist movement’s subversion of male leadership, the explosion of divorce rates, and the widespread corruption of gender and sexuality, there’s significant confusion about what actually constitutes a family, let alone how it should function. When you consider the number of children born without both a mother and father in the home, combined with those who have lost that privilege through divorce, you can see why the family isn’t doing much to restrain sin and its effects in society today.
The breakdown of the family shatters God’s design for administering the love, discipline, and direction that little lives so desperately need. Today we see generations of young people who were never taught to respect and submit to authority, or to take responsibility for their actions and face the consequences. The Bible tells us, “He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently” (Proverbs 13:24). Parents are meant to be a threat to unruly, disobedient behavior—they’re meant to rein in their children and teach them how to live and function as productive members of society. Today we’re seeing the mayhem that’s unleashed when the restraint of family fails.
In those instances, God has established a separate authority to restrain sin. We can think of the conscience as a kind of personal authority, while the family represents parental authority. God has likewise established the government as a societal authority. The prime role of government is not material welfare—rather, as Paul describes, it is divinely appointed to bear the sword.
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. (Romans 13:1–4)
God uses imperfect means to restrain sin. Nobody’s conscience is perfectly informed and always accurate—no family is perfect, either. In the same way, God uses imperfect human governments—and imperfect agents of those governments—to hold back the chaos and corruption of sin. Imperfect though they may be, civil authorities were ordained by God, and anyone who opposes them opposes Him.
What we see today is a society full of people who were raised without the discipline, love, and stability of a family; people who have seared or silenced their consciences, and reject the notion that they need to submit to any authority. With catastrophic failures at the personal and parental levels, it’s left to the police to establish some order and sanity amidst the chaos.
Don’t miss the rhetorical question in verse 3: “Do you want to have no fear of authority?” Paul presumes an affirmative response, and answers his own question: “Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good” (vv. 3–4). The point is simply that there is no need for us to live in fear of the government’s authority—it’s not an inherent threat to those who abide by the law. Instead, it bears the sword and brings the wrath of God “on the one who practices evil” (v. 4). Their resistance and rebellion must be punished. Where the restraints of conscience and family might fail, the government represents a unique and potentially deadly threat against the chaos and corruption of evildoers. And just like the world’s attempts to destroy the family and quiet the conscience, the calls to defund and disband the police are another direct assault on God’s ordained means of restraining sin.
There is one more restraint God has placed in society—the church functions as its spiritual authority. God has called His people to be a righteous and sanctifying influence in this world. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ said,
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:13–16)
We understand the effects of sin—how it has corrupted God’s creation and set it on a destructive trajectory. We understand the world is dark and decaying. But the Lord has established His church as the last line of restraint against sin’s influence. We are the salt that slows the decay and the light that diminishes the darkness. Through our Christlike influence—through our love, mercy, humility, kindness, compassion, and holiness—we’re called to restrain the corruption and chaos of sin. In that regard, the church is the most precious commodity in the world.
However, just as Christ warned, the effects of salt and light can be diminished. Salt can become impure and lose its taste. Light can be covered up and hidden. The tragedy today is that so many churches have failed to be a preserving, illuminating influence in the world. False teachers abound—charlatans promoting religious Ponzi schemes and selling phony miracles. Unholy and immoral leaders tarnish the church’s testimony. Worldly entertainments dominate, while hard truths are dulled or dismissed altogether. Whole denominations deny the authority, sufficiency, and inerrancy of Scripture. Others deny the deity of Christ. Too many churches don’t confront sin, don’t call for holy living, and don’t uphold the gospel as the only hope for salvation. What kind of restraint can a church like that provide?
We need to recognize the correlation between the state of the world and the state of the church. A weak, worldly, false church has no ability to restrain the chaos and corruption of this world. A church like that actually contributes to the problem.
God’s people need to be different. We need to be salt and light, and live holy lives that glorify the Lord and adorn His gospel.
(Adapted from Chaos Corruption and the Christian Response)
One thing we learned from our time in professional baseball was that if you were good, scouts would find you. You don’t have to sell yourself. Your game would do all the selling for you. Consistently gunning down runners at second as a catcher or smashing doubles off the wall would eventually catch the eyes of the scouts.
We quickly discovered that business is the same. You shouldn’t worry about begging to get eyes on what you’re doing. In fact, when we started franchising our business, we spent a grand total of 0 dollars on marketing. We just committed it to the Lord and created value. We lead with value, and opportunities chased us down. Or, in the words of one of our favorite baseball movies, “If you build it, they will come.” If you build an excellent business and put the needs of the client ahead of your own, profit will come, eventually.
If you speak to a dozen experts you’ll get a dozen opinions on the latest marketing tactics. We discovered that the best marketing is simply excellent work..and let marketing fall in behind that.
Throughout our years as business owners, we’ve boiled down excellent work into five core principles.
Be Faithful in Little If you can’t make your bed in the morning and get to a meeting on time (little things), then it’s not likely that you’ll be able to scale a massively successful business (big things).
Be a Fountain and not a Drain John 7:38 – “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” Christians in the marketplace should have a refreshing effect on those around them.
Breathe Life Wherever we go, we live, speak, and support life, both spiritually and physically.
Be a Producer and Not a Consumer The world doesn’t need more passive consumers. We need proactive producers who not only fulfill their duty but go above and beyond.
Give More in Value than You Take in Pay Create true value in the lives of others, and opportunities will continue to present themselves.
Backlash is rising against the Marxist critical race theory (CRT) behind The New York Times‘ “1619 Project” and other efforts to indoctrinate Americans with the idea that American society is fundamentally or “structurally” racist. This week, the Chinese American Citizens Alliance of Greater New York (CACAGNY) issued a powerful statement condemning critical race theory and urging Chinese Americans to oppose it.
“Critical Race Theory (CRT) is a hateful, divisive, manipulative fraud,” CACAGNY declared. “One way or another, CRT wants to get rid of too many Asians in good schools. Asians are over-represented. CRT is today’s Chinese Exclusion Act. CRT is the real hate crime against Asians” (emphasis original).
Critical race theory teaches that any racial disparities must ipso facto be proof of some hidden racial bias or discrimination, regardless of civil rights laws explicitly forbidding such discrimination. Since Americans of Asian ancestry are overrepresented in colleges, universities, and certain high-income professions, CRT effectively teaches that American society is structurally biased in favor of Asians.
“CRT appears in our workplaces under the cover of implicit bias/sensitivity training. It infiltrates our schools pretending to be culturally/ethnically responsive pedagogy, with curricula such as the New York Times’ 1619 Project and Seattle’s ethnomathematics,” CACAGNY argued. “From its very roots, CRT is racist, repressive, discriminatory, and divisive.”
The Chinese American group laid out the main “dogmas” of critical race theory, including (emphasis original):
You are not a person. You are only your race, and by your race alone you will be judged.
Justice is about equal rights, but Social Justice, or equity, is about equal outcomes. Only Social Justice matters; Justice does not. To achieve equal outcomes, forget equal rights.
All unequal outcomes by race — inequity for short — are the result of racial oppression.
All Blacks are oppressed and all Whites are oppressors. This is systemic: never ask whether oppression occurred, only how it occurred. Everyone and everything White is complicit.
If you are White and won’t admit you are racist, you are racist by implicit bias. To reduce implicit bias, you must self-criticize, confess to privilege, apologize to the oppressed race.
Whiteness is belief in, among others: achievement, delayed gratification, progress, schedules and deadlines, meritocracy, race-blindness, the written word, facts and objectivity (they deny lived experience) , logic and reason (they deny empathy), mathematics and science (until they are de-colonized and humanized).
CRT suppresses dissent with cancel culture: publications withdrawn, college admissions rescinded, online presence wiped out, business relationships ended, jobs terminated.
The Chinese American group presented three instances of CRT at work. In June 2020, Seattle ran an “anti-racism” training that began with the claim that all White people have a natural sense of racial superiority. The session required participants to confess their complicity in “white supremacy” become “less white,” and become accountable to black people in their every thought.
In August 2017, Nevada high school senior William Clark took a mandatory class in which the curriculum told students that white people are racists who enjoy the privileges of oppression. Classmates, teachers, and administrators allegedly began harassing Clark merely because he was identified as white.
In January 2021, a teacher in Cupertino, Calif., told an elementary school math class that students lived in a dominant culture of white, cisgender, educated Christians, and that the culture was created to hoard power. As CACAGNY explained, “a Chinese parent found out about this and organized parents to stop it. It reminded them of Mao’s bloody Cultural Revolution.”
Although Chinese Americans “are people of color and therefore start from the oppressed side of CRT’s binary,” CACAGNY explained that “as we overcome discrimination and achieve upward mobility, we are now White by adjacency” (emphasis original). The Chinese American group claimed that Black Lives Matter rioters with CRT signs assaulted a CACAGNY rally supporting merit-based education.
CACAGNY condemned various forms of sleight-of-hand that allow universities like Harvard and top high schools to select “lower-qualified Blacks” over “better-qualified Asians.”
CACAGNY called on Asian Americans to loudly denounce critical race theory and to fight back.
“We need to recognize CRT through its fraudulent packaging, call it out, resist. Parents need to watch for CRT in schools, talk to each other, and organize, like the Cupertino Chinese parents,” the group argued. “Regardless, parents need to speak with their kids to anti-indoctrinate (or un-doctrinate) them at home. This needs to start early, because CRT indoctrination also starts early. Don’t trust schools and teachers blindly.”
CACAGNY acknowledged former President Donald Trump’s executive order to ban CRT on the federal level, but noted that President Joe Biden rescinded that order upon taking office. That means state and local efforts provide the most promise.
Republicans in various states have filed legislation to ensure that schools do not indoctrinate kids with the 1619 Project. These efforts are likely to grow.
CACAGNY made powerful arguments against Marxist critical race theory without mentioning that this ideology inspiredmuch of the destruction of the Black Lives Matter and antifa riots over the summer. While protesters rightly expressed outrage at the treatment of George Floyd, many of the protests devolved into looting, vandalism, and arson in which lawless thugs — acting in the name of fighting racism — destroyed black lives, black livelihoods, and black monuments.
When vandals toppled a statue of George Washington in Portland, they spray-painted “1619” on the statue. When Claremont’s Charles Kesler wrote in The New York Post, “Call them the 1619 riots,” Hannah-Jones responded (in a since-deleted tweet) that “it would be an honor” to claim responsibility for the destructive riots.
Parents of all races should oppose this dangerous and divisive ideology. Critical race theory pits Americans against one another on the basis of skin color, teaches children a basic distrust of the social elements that make America great, and inspired violent and deadly riots.
I am confident of this: that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).
The Bible teaches not only does Jesus save us, but He keeps us in the faith. It teaches God not only gives eternal life, but will preserve us in that life. It is not life until we sin again, it is not life until we feel differently, it is not life until times get tough and our faith grows weak, it is eternal life which will never end. Scripture is filled with the assurance that our salvation is secure.
Many people, however, tend to doubt their salvation. Here are five reasons why:
1. They have a faulty understanding of how they are saved.
If a person thinks he is saved by good works, then it stands to reason he would think his salvation could be lost by bad works. This is the problem with many people today. They feel they can lose their salvation. They say, “If I could earn it, I could lose it. If I could deserve it, I could desert it.” But this is incorrect. The truth of the matter is since we cannot earn it, since it is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast, then we did not deserve it in the first place.
This is why a proper theological understanding of salvation is important. God chose to save us, not based on our merits or what we deserved. Rather, He chose to save us in spite of who we are and contrary to what we deserved. Salvation is based on His goodness and grace, not on our merit. When we get a proper understanding of that, when we get a clear picture of how bad our sins are and how great God’s grace is, it will give us a new and deeper appreciation for our salvation.
2. They do not have a biblical understanding of perseverance.
Instead of realizing what God has said and trusting He will be faithful to His Word, many people have based their beliefs on what someone has told them, how they feel, on faulty interpretation, or something other than the revelation in God’s Word. This is the fundamental problem with all doctrinal error, that people have not rightly divided the Word of God and have based their belief on a view which is not biblical.
Many people base their beliefs on experience. They might say something like this: “I knew a person who was a great Christian for many years, but then one day he decided to walk away from the faith and leave God behind. He just laid down his salvation and abandoned God.” Scripture gives insight into such cases: “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us” (1 John 2:19). If we are truly saved, we will persevere in our salvation to the end.
3. They are ignorant of God’s promises in His Word.
The level of biblical illiteracy today is astonishing. Many professing Christians know more about their favorite sports teams than they do the doctrines of the faith. It is no wonder why so many of us are so easily led astray by every wind of doctrine which blows across the ecclesiological landscape.
The antidote for this is simple: get grounded and rooted in the Word of God, and learn what it says about who God is. God’s Word tells us He gives eternal life: “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know you have eternal life” (1 John 5:12-13).
4. They are out of fellowship with God and do not sense His presence.
There are many Christians today who experience doubts about their salvation for no other reason than they are out of fellowship with God. Our salvation is all about relationship. It is about walking and talking, breathing and being; it is about practicing the presence of God in our lives. But many Christians have allowed sin to remain in their lives, unconfessed and unaddressed. They have grieved the Holy Spirit of God and are no longer sensitive to His presence in their lives, nor are they aware of His movement around them. It is little wonder why people in such a state doubt their salvation.
The solution for this is simple: Get right with God. “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2).
5. They are not saved and sense they are lost because they really are.
One of the reasons people doubt their salvation is simply because they are not saved. They may have knowledge of the church. They may have knowledge of Scripture. They may have grown up in a Christian home, surrounded by Christian friends and family, but at the end of the day, they cannot say they have ever experienced a transformation of their life, the kind of transformation which only Jesus can bring when He gives a person a new heart and a new mind.
It is to this end that Paul tells the Christians at Corinth: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5). The reason many people will go to hell from a church pew is because they never gave themselves a spiritual examination. They never stopped to consider whether or not they were really saved. If you are truly saved, you should know it. God does not want you to be paralyzed by fear or doubts, which are ungrounded or unfounded.
The solution is clear: know what God’s Word says about your salvation. Stand on the truth that it is Jesus who saves you and not anything you have done. Ground yourself in good doctrine. Remember your salvation is a reflection and an extension of God’s character. Let Him show you if there is any sin in your life and stop for a moment to examine yourself spiritually to see if you are truly in the faith: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Now, I told you a couple of weeks ago that we had finished the New Testament. Doesn’t mean I’ll never go back there again. I will. I have some plans to. But the natural assumption is that we’re going to take a look at the Old Testament. And I do have some plans for that. I’m working on kind of putting together a sort of a long series that could last the rest of our lives together, that you could – you could sort of call “The Road to Emmaus.”
You remember in Luke 24, Jesus on the road to Emmaus said to the disciples, it says that he said to them, “Beginning at Moses and the prophets and in all the holy writings, He spoke to them of the things concerning Himself.” Well, Moses, that’s the law; the prophets, the prophets; the holy writings, all the other books. Those are the three categories of the Old Testament.
So Jesus went to the Old Testament and taught them the things from the Old Testament that were about Him. So I can’t cover everything in the Old Testament, but I think we’ll go on a road-to-Emmaus journey and we’ll go through the Old Testament and find all the things that refer to Christ there. And there are many of them, and you might be surprised to know that Christ appears first in the Old Testament in Genesis 1:1. And last, in the last chapter of the Old Testament, in Malachi. So He is the beginning and the end of the Old Testament and whole lot of places in between. So that’s one of the things I want to do, among several others, and I’m kind of working on that as I attempt to reinvent myself this summer.
Now, I want to demonstrate to you that I do really know there is an Old Testament, and I am actually willing to teach the Old Testament to you. So let’s get a sample, all right? Open your Bible to Jeremiah – open your Bible to Jeremiah, the remarkable prophecy of the man known as the weeping prophet. He wrote this great prophecy of fifty-two chapters, and in addition to that, of course, he is responsible for the wonderful, deep, and insightful book of Lamentations. Jeremiah.
And I want to talk about Jeremiah because I think Jeremiah is a man for a time like our time. The Old Testament prophets were historical figures, real figures living in real events that are laid out for us in their prophecies and in their histories. But they are not unique in the sense that the times and the seasons and the issues that faced them were somehow never repeated. They are, in fact, the same cycles that are repeated through all of human history. Jeremiah lived in a time in a nation that is very instructive for us, living in the time and the nation in which we live today.
I think you are pretty much aware, if you are at all attuned to the character of our culture, that naturalism dominates our society. You might say there was a time in America when supernaturalism dominated our thinking. In other words, we were a nation under God. And you know they’re deleting that from the Pledge of Allegiance, I understand even at a golf tournament, trying to figure out how to get it off our coins. But there was a time when we were happy to say we are a nation under God, we are supernaturalists.
We believe in a Creator. We believe in God as a sovereign ruler of the universe. But we have abandoned that and we are essentially now rapidly becoming a nation of naturalists. The most influential intellectuals, philosophers, scientists, educators, politicians, judges in America are mostly naturalists.
Naturalists assume that God exists only in the imagination of religious people, that the idea of God is, frankly, a superstition, an irrational superstition that is created out of a pre-scientific era to meet certain anxieties of the human heart. The truth is, however, there is no God and everything is simply a consequence of natural effects. Naturalism is the idea that nature is all there is, that virtually everything that exists is simply the product of unplanned, uncontrolled accidents. Life is based on this assumption, that we have just randomly evolved into what we are today.
Creation, then, is the result, as we know it, life as we know it is the result of unconscious forces randomly mutating. Man says evolutionary science is the purposeless end of a purposeless process that did not have him in mind. Oops, he just showed up. This is what is taught in the universities and then this is what is learned by the students. Those students then become the next generation of educators, the next generation of politicians, the next generation of social architects, the next generation of judges who make their legal decisions. They become the next generation of journalists who interpret things that are going on in the world from a naturalist perspective. It is a form of atheism.
And while not all of them would deny the existence of some god, they are almost all very anxious to deny the existence of the biblical God. Those who believe in God are seen as irrational. Those who believe in the biblical God are seen as dangerous and must be kept out of the public discourse. And in the name of separation of church and state, we cannot have people who believe the Bible and the biblical God to be the true God have anything to say about public policy, public life, education, government, social order, law, courts, or morality.
All this rejection of God is purported to be based on science. It is called for by intellectualism. It is demanded by freedom and tolerance and mutual respect. There’s no place for anybody being an authority, anybody saying there is one God who is the absolute ruler who has written one book in which is contained all His will and all truth pertaining to Him and life in His world that is necessary. That is absolutely objectionable. There is this wholesale rejection of God. It is, however, not intellectual, it is the product of the love of iniquity. That’s all it is. Not a love of freedom, not a love of intellectualism, it’s not a love for science, it is a love for sin that drives this.
If you get rid of the God of the Bible, you get rid of the Bible. If you get rid of the Bible, you get rid of biblical morality. If you get rid of biblical morality, you can live any way you want with the assumption that there would be no consequences. So all the supposed intellectual naturalists are nothing but Hedonists wanting to express their lust in an unbridled way. Anybody with half a brain knows that all of this didn’t come from no one. Spurgeon said, “I can scarcely conceive a heart so callous that it feels no awe or a human mind so dull and destitute of understanding as fairly to view the tokens of God’s omnipotent power and then turn aside without some sense of wonder and obedience.”
How can you look at what exists and not be in awe of the source of it? How can we sin against so great a reality by denying it and then sin against the will of the very God we deny against the greatness of the Almighty? Well, our instruction today is going to come from the prophet Jeremiah as to how we respond to a society like ours which is very much like his.
Turn to Jeremiah chapter 5 – Jeremiah chapter 5. In a 52-chapter book, obviously there’s a lot more than we would attempt to cover, but I think I can give you a feel for the man and his time that will relate to how we approach the time and the place where we find ourselves today. Chapter 5 and verse 20 is one of the sermons of Jeremiah that comes from the Lord, and it gives us a good insight into the way things were.
Jeremiah is told by the Lord to say these things. “Declare this in the house of Jacob and proclaim it in Judah, saying,” – here is the message that God gives him – ‘Now hear this, O foolish and senseless people who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear. Do you not fear me?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do you not tremble in my presence? For I have placed the sand as a boundary for the sea, an eternal decree so that it cannot cross over it. Though the waters toss, yet they cannot prevail. Though they roar, yet they cannot cross over it.
“‘But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart. They have turned aside and departed. They do not say in their heart, “Now let us fear the Lord our God who gives rain in its season, both the autumn rain and the spring rain, who keeps for us the appointed weeks of the harvest.” Your iniquities have turned these away and your sins have withheld good from you.’”
Now, what is this saying? It’s really a very, very clear statement. He is saying that the people of God, the men of Judah, the people of Jacob, the Jews have looked at the creation, they have seen the ocean and the land that bounds it, they have understood the rain at the appropriate season and the seasons and the rain that together produced the food that sustains life. They have seen the enduring consistency of all of this. They have seen the power of these provisions and the wonder of them – that is to say, the majesty of God in creation is on display. The providence of God is manifest, and it ought to stir up their hearts in worship. That’s why he says in verse 22, “Do you not fear me or worship me? Do you not tremble in my presence?”
On the contrary. They say in their heart, “Let us” – verse 24 – “not really fear the Lord.” It should say, “Let us fear the Lord now.” But they don’t. Their wills do not submit to Him. They don’t even give Him honor as the Creator and the provider. The almighty power of Jehovah is manifest, it is visible in the works of His creation, that should constrain His covenant people, Israel, and any people in any era of history to fear His name, to be in awe of Him as the Creator, to reverence Him as the source of provision, the One who controls the sea, provides the land and the seasons and the food.
How can we contemplate this God and not worship Him and not give Him honor and not turn to Him and not obey Him? That is the question that God tells Jeremiah to pose to Judah, the southern kingdom, the remaining people in the land of Israel. The northern kingdom already had been taken into captivity for their own apostasy.
But there’s more here than fact. There is an analogy here, and I want you to see the analogy. The analogy appears in verse 22. It is a fact that God places sand as a boundary for the sea. It is a fact that the waves toss and yet they cannot prevail, they roar yet they cannot cross over. It is a fact that God controls the oceans with the shore. The sea, then, Jeremiah says, never breaks its boundary. It obeys me in all its movements. It may toss and turn, there may be an occasional tidal wave, there may be an occasional tsunami, but the sea will go back to its ordered place.
However, on the contrary, verse 23, “This people has a stubborn and rebellious heart. They have turned aside and departed. They will not be bound. They will not stay within the confines of God’s will and purpose. They are a revolting and rebellious people. They go astray. They break all the boundaries. This pure, puny, sinful man, this little creature that God could crush like a moth under your shoe, this man will resist the restraints of God and overrun all his boundaries. Man in his fallenness cannot be held in check, either individually or collectively. The sea tosses and turns but it obeys. It is restrained by a little belt of sand. Its mighty powers are held back.”
But people, says God, who have stronger restraints than sand are rebellious and overrun the borders that God has established. That’s what the people of the nation Israel had done. The borders, the boundaries, His promises, His threats, His judgments, His commands, His Covenants, and they overran them all. Man is hellbent on revolt. It’s just the way it is. That is how, God says, Jeremiah must see His people.
Now, into this situation in the southern kingdom of Judah, God drops this prophet, and he’s a remarkable man. His message is the judgment that is coming and it is coming fast. In fact, the judgment came in his lifetime. About a century earlier, there was another very familiar prophet, Isaiah, who said the same thing, “Judgment is coming, judgment is coming, judgment is coming,” and he was referring to the Babylonian captivity, the holocaust of the arrival of the Babylonian-Chaldean army to desecrate the temple, destroy the temple, conquer Jerusalem, massacre multiple thousands of people, and carry the rest off captive into a pagan culture. That particular holocaust, among many in the life of Israel, Isaiah said would come. About a century later, Jeremiah arrives, and it’s during his lifetime that it actually does come.
Jeremiah was a preacher for about the same length of time as I have been here, 42 years – 42 years. He preached during the reign of five kings. The first king was a man named Josiah – Josiah. The end of the reign of Josiah was a time of reformation and a time of revival. The law was recovered, and Josiah sought to bring the law to the people, and it produced a revival.
However, a prophetess named Huldah showed up and said, “This is superficial. This is man-centered. This is not going to last. This will have no permanent reformation.” That was true. The superficial revival under Josiah didn’t last. What Josiah did was right, he did all the right things, but the people’s response was surfeited and superficial.
Josiah’s reign was followed by the second king during the ministry of Jeremiah, a man by the name of Jehoahaz. He only lasted three months. He was followed by Jehoiakim and he returned the people to corruption. He led them right back into idolatry and the worship of false gods.
He was followed by Jehoiachin, who also lasted three months. And Jehoiachin was followed by the final king during the time of Jeremiah and the last king of the southern kingdom before the captivity, a man named Zedekiah, who was a vacillating weakling, saw the nation more swiftly down the steep slide of depravity that led to absolute ruin and deportation. He had tough going.
The first king, superficial revival; the next four, rapid decline. And through 42 years of these five kings, Jeremiah’s message never changed – never, ever changed. He was always the voice of God to that society, as any faithful preacher must be. His preaching in no way deterred the idolatry. His preaching in no way stopped the slide. His preaching in no way eliminated the judgment. He never saw, essentially, any impact on a national level through 40 years of his efforts. He was faithful and he was despised, and eventually they threw him in a pit to try to shut him up.
I see so many parallels between Jeremiah’s time and Jeremiah and our time and faithful preachers today. We stand near the holocaust. We have to be on the brink of a devastating judgment in this nation. We have gone through some quasi revivals. There are people who would argue that we’ve had some revivals, that the gospel has spread, that Bibles have spread, that we’re on television and radio and through all kinds of media, the gospel is going out and yet we see no – no reversing of the direction of this nation. We see no lasting results.
The church seems superficial and shallow and consumed with self-fulfillment and self-gratification. So we come to a place in the life of Jeremiah that parallels our own time, and we ask this question: How do we approach a nation on the brink of judgment? Let’s learn from Jeremiah. I’m going to show you three elements.
Number one, Jeremiah understood that he had a divine mission – a divine mission. I’m sure there were people in those days who were calling for all kinds of social reform, all kinds of political action, all kinds of educational advancement. But none of those had anything to do with the calling of Jeremiah, nor did they have anything to do with our calling. Ours is a divine mission – a divine mission.
In other words, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” That becomes clear to us in the commission of Jeremiah. Let’s go back to chapter 1. It’s one of the most fascinating callings that any man of God has ever had and here, Jeremiah is informed of things about which he had no knowledge. Verse 4, “The Word of the Lord came to me,” he says. “The Word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you. I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.’” Wow.
Here’s the first thing to understand about a divine mission: Your life is predestined by God – your life is predestined by God. Long before Jeremiah was ever conceived in the womb of his mother, long before Hilkiah, his father, and his mother came together to bring him life, long before that, sometime not only before the birth of Jeremiah, before the conception of Jeremiah, but probably before the foundation of the world, Jeremiah was chosen and appointed as a prophet, not only to Judah but to the nations. His message extended beyond Judah and it’s still extending even today, across the globe wherever the prophet is read.
Long before life ever was given to this man, God had determined to separate him, put him in a unique place at a unique time as a consecrated prophet of God to speak for God – predestination. Here, in this brief beginning with eleven short Hebrew words, God gives Jeremiah his own biography. Beginning in eternity past, the timeless eons of eternity, right on through until there are no more nations left for him to preach, God sums up his calling as predestined. He is an intensely human personality, this Jeremiah, and if you read the book and read it and read it and read it, you’re going to learn to love this man.
He is very human, and yet his humanity does not explain the power of his preaching and the relentless endurance of his faithfulness. He is a man who is mysteriously endowed with power from on high to survive the rejection that marked his entire life. He is so humanly weak that he can’t stop crying, and yet he is so unassailably strong that he will not yield and compromise. He is a powerful personality. He is a lovable personality.
Now let me tell you something. When there is a crisis, people look for a program, but God looks for a man. When there is a crisis, people look for some system to fix it, and God looks for a man and God looks for a woman. When God wanted to deal with a crisis, He started with a baby. In this case, Jeremiah was that baby. And He designed him in the womb. And He put him together to have the human capabilities that he needed to do this. He also endowed him with the spiritual equipment to fulfill his appointment by God.
Jeremiah knew this, and this was the bottom line, he was sovereignly ordained by God to do what he did. And it was never a matter of results. It was never a matter of his will. In fact, to show you that, look at verse 6, “Then I said, ‘Alas, Lord God’” – sounds like Isaiah, “Woe is me.” Are you kidding? “Alas, Lord God, I don’t know how to speak, I’m no speaker, and I’m just a youth.” You’re looking at the wrong guy. I’m inadequate, I’m not qualified, I can’t do this.
How did he overcome that sense of insufficiency, inadequacy? What took him beyond that was the clear indication that he had been predestined by God to this calling. By the way, whoever doesn’t have a sense of being predestined by God to service will never lead a spiritual revolution. Most people living in the church today have no sense of divine mission, they’re just bouncing from job to job and event to event and engagement to engagement and activity to activity. That’s the way they live, that’s the way they raise their kids.
There’s no sense of an overarching divine mission. There’s no sense – and this is tragic – in the life of believers that the birth of every believer was ordained by God, the death of every believer was ordained by God, which means the middle was ordained by God and for purposes that advance the name of Christ and the glory of the kingdom, and that’s the last thing on our priority list. Not Jeremiah. He knew that he had been called by God from before he was born, designed in the womb, separated from the womb, separated from the society, appointed to be a prophet, and he had been called to fulfill his mission.
Not only was he predestined by God but he was provided by God what he needed. He says, “I don’t know how to speak and I’m a youth.” So the Lord says to him, “Don’t say ‘I’m a youth,’ because everywhere I send you, you shall go, and all that I command you, you shall speak.”
Now, the first thing you would say is, “What am I going to say? What am I going to say?” The educators say that the greatest fear that humans have is the fear of public speaking. Well, the reason people have a fear of public speaking is very often related to the fact that they have no idea what to say or they think that what they have to say isn’t important and most of the time they’re exactly right. In fact, some of the people who do most of the public speaking have the least to say and should be embarrassed about speaking.
But when you have the most important message, that hesitancy has a way of disappearing, does it not? When you see the children on the brink of being consumed in the house fire, you really don’t stumble over the fact of whether you should publicly yell, “Fire, get out” and grab somebody. It’s about the passion of it. You don’t have to worry about what you’re going to say because you’re not going to have to invent it – you’re not going to have to come up with it. I’m going to provide it.
I’m going to give you the words to say. You’re going to speak for me. You’re going to have divine wisdom. All that I command you, you shall speak, and everywhere I send you, you shall go. That’s how any true minister, any true preacher that represents God has to approach ministry. I am predestined to this and I am provided the message. Jeremiah was resisted and hated and despised and abused.
That leads to the third aspect of his calling, not only predestination and provision but protection. Verse 8, “Don’t be afraid of them, I am with you to deliver you,” declares the Lord. You have nothing to fear. You are called by me. You are empowered by me. You’re going to face opposition. You’re going to face antagonism, and he certainly did, constantly.
Nobody listened to him. Nobody paid attention to him. The nation didn’t turn. It was a very hard, discouraging 42 years, and people hated what he said and hated him for saying it. If you want to do an interesting study sometime in your Bible, find all the places where it says, “Fear not,” and it’s not said just to little widows who didn’t know where their next meal was coming from or orphaned children who didn’t know who was going to care for them and protect them.
“Fear not” is said by God to Abraham and Moses and Daniel and Mary and Peter and Paul because any human being, even the strongest leaders, face the fear that comes with confronting people with a message they don’t want to hear. But you’ll have protection from God.
There’s a fourth component here, verses 9 and 10, power. “The Lord stretched out His hand, touched my mouth and the Lord said to me, ‘Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.’” Verse 10, “‘I have appointed you this day over the nations, over the kingdoms, to pluck up, to break down, to destroy, to overthrow, to build’ and to plant.’”
That is amazing. Jeremiah feared he was nobody. He was young, he wasn’t effective as a communicator, he was unskilled in oratory. The divine answer is, “Don’t worry about it. I am going to give you the words to speak. Don’t worry about the reaction, I will protect you from the enemies of that truth. And know this, that the words that come out of your mouth will shatter and build. They will tear down and they will plant. Your words will be destruction to people and nations and construction to other people and nations.”
This is the power that belongs to the one who proclaims the truth. The great power brokers in our world, the kings and potentates and the rulers, have no power – they have no power. The power they do have is the weakness of human power or even worse, the power of the kingdom of darkness, neither of which can even approach the power of God. Kings, nations, empires boast of their power, yet the power in the world belongs to the mouths of the messengers of heaven. God picks up this obscure young man of about 30 years of age from a tiny, little, obscure country and says, “I will set you over nations, over kingdoms of the earth. Your Word will destroy and your Word will build.”
So this was his calling. He was on a divine mission. And, people, we live in a nation in a dire crisis of abandonment of God, headed for a holocaust of judgment. We’re already under the judgment of Romans 1, we’ve been turned over to our immorality, our homosexuality, and a reprobate mind. We’re on the brink of divine judgment, and what is needed is that the kingdom of God. And the representatives of that kingdom understand that our mission is divine. The reason for your birth, the reason for your death and your conversion in the middle is so that you can speak the Word of God to this culture on the brink of a holocaust. It’s a divine mission, it’s why we live.
Secondly, what characterized Jeremiah was a direct message – a direct message. He didn’t pull any punches, we would say. He didn’t pamper, cajole, soft-soap, skirt issues. He didn’t say, “Well, we don’t really want to talk about sin,” and he paid for it. Chapters 30 to 33, he wrote when he was in prison. He didn’t spend his life trying to avoid controversy, trying to make everybody happy. If you read chapter 14 and verse 7, you will hear him say, “We have sinned against God as a nation.”
If you read chapter 17 and verse 9, you will hear him say, “Your hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” He preached against sin. He indicted the nation. He indicted the sinners for their sin categorically in chapter 3, chapter 9, chapter 11, chapter 19. He accused them of being involved in false religion – false religion. You have turned to idols from the true God.
Chapter 2, verse 12, “Be appalled, O heavens, at this. Shudder, be very desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils. They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water” – that’s false religion. They have turned away from the fountainhead of life, the Lord God, the One who made His Son the living water to quench the thirst of the soul of every penitent sinner.
This wicked thing they have done, turning from the fountainhead and trying to fill up their broken buckets, concocted and created by themselves as if they could hold the water of life. Labor long, do they, in false religion, hewing out cisterns, man-made, collecting dirt and dead animals but holding no water. That’s false religion.
If you are to be a faithful prophet in a nation in decline and crisis, you must expose false religion where it exists. This is not a time for tolerance, this is not a time for embracing everybody and saying, “It doesn’t really matter what you believe as long as you follow your heart.” Listen, this world is full of damning false religion. I have been accused through the years of being intolerant and I accept that as a compliment. Of course I’m intolerant, I am as intolerant as God is, as Christ is, as the Bible is of anything that damns people’s souls while promising them heaven. It is a direct message. We’re not just talking about making people feel good, we confront lies.
In the seventh chapter of Jeremiah, Jeremiah indicts them for worshiping the queen of heaven, who is now cast under the name of Mary, the mother of Jesus. And so we confront Roman Catholicism and Mormonism and every other ism and spasm and schism and whatever it is, any of it, all of it, because we have no choice but to confront and expose false religion. That’s what Jeremiah did. He did it all the way through chapter 19 and beyond that.
He also confronted corrupt spiritual leadership. Go to chapter 5, where we were, and we’re just looking briefly at these, but chapter 5, verse 30, an appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land. What is it? The prophets prophesy falsely, the priests rule on their own authority. He confronted the false prophets. He confronted the deceivers and the liars who had infiltrated Judaism. So on the one hand, he attacked the idolatry of false religion, and then he attacked the corrupt infiltrators of the true religion.
You cannot be the prophet of God, you cannot be the mouthpiece of God, you cannot be the representative of God unless you have a direct message that goes at false religion as it exists contrary to the truth and as it exists inside the categories of the truth. Jeremiah 23 says the same thing. Jeremiah 25 says the same thing.
These were false teachers who were saying whatever they wanted to say, whatever satisfied them, and the people loved it. Sure, they fill up those places where false teachers tell them what they want to hear, how good they are, how wise they are, how powerful their thoughts and their words are and how they can create their own euphoria in this world. All those liars find people who love to hear that, but what will you do at the end of it? What’s going to happen at the end when you face the judgment?
This is a direct message. He addressed wickedness in general in chapter 3. Chapter 3, verse 24 and 25, will be a sufficient illustration. “The shameful thing has consumed the labor of our fathers since our youth, their flocks, their herds, their sons, and their daughters.” It’s just – the whole society is immoral. Shame describes all conduct. Verse 25 talks about lying down in our shame. We have sinned against the Lord our God and our fathers from our youth, even to this day have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God.
There’s overtones of sexual deviation, sexual perversion, sexual immorality, all about the book of Jeremiah. Perversion of marriage in chapter 3, sexual perversion there and elsewhere as well, the sexual perversion coming physically as a part of the spiritual perversion of worshiping idols. They were a wicked, wicked people.
They were also dishonest, chapter 5. This is really an indictment that we can identify with. Aren’t you weary of being lied to by people in power? Listen to what Jeremiah says in chapter 5, verse 1, “Roam to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem. Go everywhere in Jerusalem, look now and take notes, seek in her open squares. If you can find a man, if there’s one who does justice, who seeks truth, and I’ll pardon her.” Huh. I’ll halt the judgment if you can find one guy who tells the truth – one person.
Liars, deceivers, “O, Lord,” verse 2, although they say as the Lord lives” – as the Lord lives, that’s a way to swear. I swear I’m telling you the truth, God is my witness, as the Lord lives, I’m telling you the truth – they still lie, they still swear falsely. “O Lord, do not your eyes look for truth?”
Sounds so much like our society. Corrupt religion abounds everywhere. False prophets have infiltrated Christianity everywhere. Moral corruption abounds on every front. Dishonesty is everywhere. There’s a rejection of Scripture.
Look at chapter 11, and we’ll wrap this up in a minute. Chapter 11, verses 8 to 10, “They didn’t obey or incline their ear but walked each one in the stubbornness of his evil heart. Therefore, I brought on them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do; they did not. The Lord said to me, ‘A conspiracy has been found among the men of Judah, among the inhabitants of Jerusalem. They have turned back to their iniquities of their ancestors who refused to hear my words. They have gone after other gods to serve them. The house of Israel, the house of Judah have broken my covenant which I made with their fathers.’”
Pull one statement out, “They refused to hear my words.” Characteristically, they rejected the Word of God. They rejected the Word of God. They deliberately abandoned the Word of God. You know, that’s characteristic of our culture. There’s no place in our society for the Word of God, the truth of God, the Scripture, the Bible. It’s an amazing thing. And then in chapter 13, just to kind of summarize this second point, God does a very interesting thing. It’s a visual aid. You don’t need to read it, I’m just going to tell you what happened.
He tells Jeremiah, “Go get a pair of shorts” – underwear – “and put it on and wear it and don’t wash it.” You’ve heard of wash-and-wear, this is wear-and-don’t-wash. “Wear it and don’t wash it.” And then He comes to him and says, after he’s done that, “Go take that pair of shorts and go far away, go” – according to chapter 13, verse 4 – “up to the Euphrates River and hide it. Bury it in the crevice of a rock.” What? That’s two hundred miles. And by the way, two hundred miles is a long trip when you’re walking.
Go two hundred miles and bury dirty shorts? What is this? Well, he goes and does it, and the Lord tells him later, “Go back and get it.” What? “Go back, get those dirty shorts.” And when he goes back, by the time he digs them out, they’re horrible, disintegrated. And He says, “That’s my people. I drew them to myself as intimately as I could, and they became more foul and more foul and more foul, and I separated myself from them, and they corrupted, and they’re under judgment.” God doesn’t change the rules, right? And we don’t have covenant protection. Jeremiah was a man who had a divine mission and a very direct message – very, very direct.
There’s a third thing, and I’ll close with this. He was characterized by a deep mourning. He’s known as the weeping prophet, chapter 13, verse 17, “If you will not listen, my soul will sob in secret for such pride. My eyes will bitterly weep and flow down with tears because a flock of the Lord has been taken captive.” This is God weeping, and God wept through the eyes of Jeremiah. God wept through the eyes of Jeremiah. Jeremiah says, “O, that my head were a fountain of waters, that my head were a spring that just kept gushing water so that my tears could continually flow for my people.”
We don’t ever want to get to a place where, as we go to a nation on the brink of a holocaust of divine judgment, we become indifferent or callous. We want to have the heart of Jesus, who saw the city of Jerusalem that He was going to judge and wept over the city of Jerusalem. We want to have the heart of Jeremiah. I’ll read that to you, chapter 9, “O that my head were waters and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people.” I just wish my head was a fountain of unending tears. He even calls, in chapter 9, later in the chapter, for mourning women to come out and mourn with Him over the condition of His people.
So for 42 years, he followed his divine mission. preached his direct message, and was characterized by deep mourning. What was the result? What was the result? Chapter 7 – quickly – the result, verse 23, I’ve already told you, “This is what I commanded them saying, ‘Obey my voice and I’ll be your God and you’ll be my people and walk in all the ways I command you, that it may be well with you.’ Yet they did not obey or incline their ear but walked in their own counsels and in the stubbornness of their evil heart and went backward and not forward.” Wow. Discouraging – discouraging. Why do you do this if nobody listens?
I’m going to close with the twenty-fourth chapter – twenty-fourth chapter and the fourth verse. “Then the Word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Like these good figs’” – that had been illustrated on a fig tree – “‘Like these good figs, I will regard as good the captives of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans. I will set my eyes on them for good. I will bring them again to this land. I will build them up and not overthrow them. I will plant them and not pluck them up. I will give them a heart to know me, for I am the Lord, and they will be my people and I will be their God, for they will return to me with their whole heart.’”
What is that saying? There is a remnant. There is a remnant. After the destruction and the devastation and the judgment and the purification of the captivity, there is a remnant that God will save.
Why do we preach if nobody listens? Because the nobody is qualified. Within that vast number of rejecters, there is a remnant that God will save, that God will forgive, whose hearts He will change. That’s why we do what we do. You, dear ones, are that remnant, part of that remnant in a nation on the way to judgment.
Father, thank you for your Word to us. We are so grateful for its richness. It’s life-giving to us. Thank you for this precious church. I pray for those here who have not come to Christ. O Lord, would you give them that new heart? Would you cleanse them? Would you love them and seek them and draw them to yourself and save them? Thank you for all that you’re doing here and will continue to do as we’re faithful to you, and we’ll thank you in your Son’s name. Amen.
“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” (Psalm 34:8 NKJV)
The irresistible scent of home-cooked goodness permeated the air, torturing our faithful yellow Lab and her spastic beagle companion. They struggled to restrain themselves, maintaining perfect posture, as their eyes followed every move, hoping their patient obedience would reap tasty rewards.
Suddenly, the beagle began to shake violently; her eyes bulging; looking as if, at any moment, she would spontaneously combust! Finally, I picked some samplings of the coveted feast and headed toward the two beggars. The beagle could no longer contain herself. She broke her obedient posture and began impatiently flailing and squawking about.
“Sit!” I commanded.
The rule is… if you want a treat, you have to sit still and wait for me. But, she refused. She had been patient long enough!
Our Lab, however, was the perfect model of discipline and obedience; never once breaking her posture; but patiently watching, as the beagle repeatedly disobeyed. Finally, she realized that her blessing wasn’t coming until the beagle submitted. So, she reached out her paw, placed it atop the beagle’s sitter, and shoved her down into the sitting position.
Grinning at her firm correction of her impatient, unruly companion, I treated the Lab to a double portion.
“Okay, God!” I chuckled. “I get it!”
It was our first Thanksgiving in our new house. The previous two years, one month, and 13 days … our family of six cohabitated in a rented camper on our farm, while we undertook the task of building our own home with our own 12 hands.
“I’m a good sport!” I assured my husband when the builder announced the project would take six to nine months. “It’ll be an adventure, like a six-month-long camping vacation! Let’s do it!”
My enthusiasm sprang from our certainty that God was calling us to stop pursuing the country club lifestyle and move to the country instead; to release our children into the wild, and teach them the values and blessings of a simple life and good old-fashioned hard work.
Everything that could go wrong … did! Avid do-it-yourselfers, we eagerly accepted the task of doing all the cosmetic work after the builder completed the structure. But one heartbreaking disappointment and delay after another resulted in our family becoming responsible for way more of the building process than we ever intended.
Every day, my husband ran our business, while the children and I did what little projects we could. Every evening, he came home, ate dinner, kissed the kids goodnight, and the two of us worked on the house until we got tired and started making mistakes, or until we got on each other’s nerves. Some evenings we finished late … some early!
I learned how to use rechargeable power tools because waiting on my husband to finish the construction all by himself was taking too long! We had already spent two Christmases in the camper! Finally, our power was scheduled to be turned on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving number three. Victory was soooo close … we could taste it!
But, our power lines had been improperly installed. We weren’t going to have power for Thanksgiving, after all. At that point, I must have looked like the beagle. I think my husband was afraid that I might actually spontaneously combust! Like our faithful Lab, he took control and made me “Sit!”
He dug a hole in the sand, lit a charcoal fire, and cooked corn on the cob in a stockpot using an old grill rack and two cinder blocks. He placed a portable roasting oven atop a lawn table, plugged into the camper’s power pole, and roasted the turkey. We cooked sweet potatoes inside the camper in a portable skillet and boiled green beans in a crockpot inside the house using a 50-foot extension cord.
We savored our Thanksgiving feast in our new home without electricity, but not without power. When I finally submitted, became still, and waited upon God, He blessed us with a double portion of His power, provision, and blessing. It was the best Thanksgiving meal we ever tasted … not because the treats were great … but because our God is!
“Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.” (Psalm 107:8-9 NKJV)