Week 38: Trying Times

Readings for the week: Psalm 108-109, Jeremiah 14-28Acts 20-23Psalm 110-111, Listen to these passages

Opening Prayer:

Dear Lord, you are good. Some days life is not good and some seasons of life are pretty rough. But you are good and that gives me hope.  May I hear your words this week and be reminded of your promises. May I walk with you and not turn to different ways. May you be with me as I wrestle with some serious struggles. May I celebrate with you in all the good you are doing in my life. Help those around me and lead me to be the kind of person who lifts burdens and helps other people hear your voice. God fill me with new life this week. Fill my life with your presence.  Amen.

1. Psalm 108-109

2. Reading through Jeremiah 14-28

This isn’t an easy read. Not for the same reasons that Leviticus or other parts of the Law were not easy.  Those were a lot of lists and rules.  These chapters in Jeremiah are difficult because we see God coming to the end of his patience. I think of Acts 5, where the Spirit actually kills Ananias and Sapphira for lying. The lying there and in these chapters in Isaiah isn’t the run of the mill exaggeration. It’s a lying for one’s own social benefit and using God to get it.

God doesn’t like being used.

This is the challenge? How do we know we are right with God? How do we know if a message we’re hearing is a genuine message and not an ear-tickling falsehood. Those who lie sure sound like they know.

Jeremiah is difficult because we see how thoroughly falsehood and deception can sneak into our lives. At a certain point, then, God gives us over to that, and lets us experience the consequences. That sounds cruel. Doesn’t God love us? Yes, but God’s mission isn’t to help us feel better about our selves. God’s mission is truth and fullness, inviting a people to reflect this reality to a world that can’t recognize it. What if the people, though, are distorted?  They’re not just corrupt in themselves, they’re telling the world, “This is what God is like.”

Jeremiah knows better. But people don’t want to hear. Real prophets don’t get honors because they’re always the ones saying something others don’t want to hear. The tension is real. And these chapters lead us deep into that tension: the tension of God’s frustration, the tension of Jeremiah being caught between his calling and his experiences of rejection.  It’s a difficult life and a difficult read partly because when we read we often try to figure out where we fit, or our context fits, making it about us.

That’s not a very helpful way to read because we’re not in the same situation.  So, what then is Jeremiah’s lesson for us?  Jeremiah tells us about God, about what God values, about how God responds to this world.  Maybe we’re veering close to the edge of judgment, so we need to see that God is not a pushover. Maybe we’re caught in seeing what God is doing and yet feeling overwhelmed by life, dumped into a pit even though we’re telling truth. We’re reminded that this isn’t an indication of God’s disfavor.

What, then, does God value? What is God seeking?

3. Reading Through Acts 20-23

For some reason, we think that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. That’s true, in a sense, and Proverbs gives us that general pattern. But the life of Jeremiah and other prophets shows how this gets complicated in the context of lived life. Paul raises someone from the dead, that’s a sign of God’s favor. But what about the parts where his life is in danger? It’s not a pretty tail wrapped up in a bright bow, it’s a living reality that Paul dealt with through very pragmatic ways. In the midst of the pragmatic and details, the Spirit is continuing to do a work.  Paul continues to preach, his testimony isn’t about some bit of wealth or fancy horse or lavish feasts bestowed on him. That’s why he’s not torn down when things become difficult. Those aren’t defining the narrative. Jesus is defining the narrative.

This living drama speaks to me this week as I learned I don’t have a job after June, and despite doing above and beyond, everything is up in the air.  I can indulge anxiety, I can foster anger. Or, I can take a lesson from Paul and commit to being faithful, no matter what, I’ll press on and when bumps happen, I’ll testify to the goodness and calling of Christ. That’s why it’s so important to read the Bible, so we are given guidance and reminders of how God is telling this grand story and can continue to navigate in faith when we can’t see what’s ahead. Paul kept at it, and his faith still speaks loudly today, 2000 years later and a half a world away.  Worth reading these chapters a second time, as I could use the reminder that the work of the Spirit is powerful, active, and transforming beyond what I can see.

4. Psalm 110-111


5. Respond

If you’ve fallen behind in the readings or haven’t started yet, don’t worry.  Reading the Bible isn’t a limited time offer. Jump in this week, and catch up with what you’ve missed in future years.

I highly encourage you to share your thoughts with others in your family, or immediate community. Talk about this stuff! 

Since I sometimes feel lonely, share your thoughts in the comment section.

Talking about your thoughts and questions is a very important part of the reading goal. Writing out our thoughts can help us remember what we read and keep our minds on the passage.

It helps to share as we learn from each other.

Our questions or confusion can bring us together, as we highlight what others may have missed or address what a lot of us are also wondering.   Don’t feel like you have to say or write a lot, or feel pressure to be profound. Respond with honesty and openness.

Just jump right in where you’re at, knowing that Christ invites you to respond without pressure or anxiety. It’s a journey not a performance.