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.”
My wound is severe,
and my grief is great.
My sickness is incurable,
but I must bear it.
My home is gone,
and no one is left to help me rebuild it.
My children have been taken away,
and I will never see them again.
The shepherds of my people have lost their senses.
They no longer seek wisdom from the LORD.
Therefore, they fail completely,
and their flocks are scattered.
Listen! Hear the terrifying roar of great armies
as they roll down from the north.
The towns of Judah will be destroyed
and become a haunt for jackals. (Jeremiah 10:17-22)

According to Mark Twain, a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. Jeremiah was the prophet of the end, standing against such lies. He stood on the precipice and pointed at the pit with outstretched hand warning everyone to turn back, even as they closed their eyes and plugged their ears and rushed headlong into it.

God felt agony as he watched his people plunge suffer the horrible consequences of their long disobedience. God was angry at his people’s unfaithfulness, their insistence on chasing non-existent gods every night instead of staying home with him. His heart was broken in anguish. He loved them so much that even as they turned away from him, betrayed him, hated him, he took no pleasure in the discipline that they had forced him to give. As they lost their homes, their families, their loved ones, and as they were dragged into foreign bondage, God’s heart was cut. God mourned the destruction of his beloved Jerusalem and temple more than his people did. Their suffering was his suffering, their burdens became his.

His people had lost their senses: they threw away the truth and scrambled after lies. They exchanged hope for despair. They replaced stone and iron with sand and straw. Forbidden fruit tastes sweet, but in the end, it’s just a lie that will make us sick.

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But There is No Peace

“Thus says the Lord of hosts,
“They will thoroughly glean as the vine the remnant of Israel;
Pass your hand again like a grape gatherer
Over the branches.”
To whom shall I speak and give warning
That they may hear?
Behold, their ears are closed
And they cannot listen.
Behold, the word of the Lord has become a reproach to them;
They have no delight in it.
But I am full of the wrath of the Lord;
I am weary with holding it in.
“Pour it out on the children in the street
And on the gathering of young men together;
For both husband and wife shall be taken,
The aged and the very old.
“Their houses shall be turned over to others,
Their fields and their wives together;
For I will stretch out My hand
Against the inhabitants of the land,” declares the Lord.
For from the least of them even to the greatest of them,
Everyone is greedy for gain,
And from the prophet even to the priest
Everyone deals falsely.
“They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially,
Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’
But there is no peace.
“Were they ashamed because of the abomination they have done?
They were not even ashamed at all;
They did not even know how to blush.
Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;
At the time that I punish them,
They shall be cast down,” says the LORD. (Jeremiah 6:9-15)

The fortune teller makes a fortune for himself by predicting just what his customers want to hear. A message of peace, prosperity, and health will always find a gullible audience willing to unload its last penny for the pleasant hype.

As God’s people in Jeremiah’s day stood on the brink of destruction, watching circumstances turn against them, they were willing to suspend disbelief and cling to the hopeful words of those more concerned with lining their own pockets than with the truth of God.

They had become like couch potatoes fattened on empty gods. The personal trainer—Babylon—had come to kick their lazy bodies off their beds of ease. But they only wanted a simple, quick and painless fix from the disaster they had created.

God’s Babylonian diet was the only solution to their polytheism however. And one way or another, they were going to get on that treadmill and lose it all. In the end, they’d be happy with the results. But they didn’t want to hear it.

God will take us through what we need to go through. He’ll get the truth to us one way or another. But likely as not, we’ll resist him every step of the way.

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Trusting the Wrong Thing

They have lied about the LORD,
And said, “It is not He.
Neither will evil come upon us,
Nor shall we see sword or famine.
And the prophets become wind,
For the word is not in them.
Thus shall it be done to them.”
Therefore thus says the LORD God of hosts:
“Because you speak this word,
Behold, I will make My words in your mouth fire,
And this people wood,
And it shall devour them.
Behold, I will bring a nation against you from afar,
O house of Israel,” says the LORD.
“It is a mighty nation,
It is an ancient nation,
A nation whose language you do not know,
Nor can you understand what they say.
Their quiver is like an open tomb;
They are all mighty men.
And they shall eat up your harvest and your bread,
Which your sons and daughters should eat.
They shall eat up your flocks and your herds;
They shall eat up your vines and your fig trees;
They shall destroy your fortified cities,
In which you trust, with the sword. (Jeremiah 5:12-17)

Even smart people can be conned. The people of Israel were ordinary people, no less intelligent than anyone else. Nevertheless, the words of the prophets were not the sorts of words they wanted to hear and so instead of heeding God, they listened to words that matched what they wanted God to be saying. Speaking the truth to power is usually a waste of time. But God told Jeremiah that he was with him , even though the Israelites dismissed the prophet’s words as nothing but wind.

God’s words could not help but have their effect simply because they were true. Regardless of whether the people believed them, they happened. When the Babylonians set fire to Jerusalem, the truth of God’s prophesy was obvious. Of course, believing at that moment of destruction was believing too late.

The truth hurts, because reality can be sharp and prickly. But reality is really all we have. Building our hopes on the pretty lies we prefer is ultimately disastrous.

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Coming Judgment

The word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see a branch of an almond tree.” Then the LORD said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.” The word of the LORD came to me a second time, saying, “What do you see?” And I said, “I see a boiling pot, tilted away from the north.”

Then the LORD said to me: Out of the north disaster shall break out on all the inhabitants of the land. For now I am calling all the tribes of the kingdoms of the north, says the LORD; and they shall come and all of them shall set their thrones at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, against all its surrounding walls and against all the cities of Judah. And I will utter my judgments against them, for all their wickedness in forsaking me; they have made offerings to other gods, and worshiped the works of their own hands. But you, gird up your loins; stand up and tell them everything that I command you. Do not break down before them, or I will break you before them. (Jeremiah 1:11-17)

Can you hear me now? God communicated to Jeremiah on several levels: he told him things, he showed him images, and he asked him questions. God made certain that Jeremiah knew what he was saying so he could communicate God’s message clearly to his people. God’s people understood Jeremiah so well that they got angry at him. The government repeatedly incarcerated him. It came close to having him executed. The Israelites understood precisely the message God had for them; they knew that God was promising them disaster at the hands of the invading Babylonians. They simply chose not to believe it.

The problem with God’s message to us most of the time is not so much that we don’t understand it, but that we don’t want to understand it. We have our own ideas, our own plans, and we believe whatever it is we are involved in is something very good. We want God to agree with our opinion about our activities and goals. We aren’t so interested in God’s opinion and plans—at least if they contradict ours.

God encouraged Jeremiah not to give up in the face of the difficult task that God had set him to perform. He could count on God to take care of him.

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Mad at God

“You heavens above, rain down righteousness;
let the clouds shower it down.
Let the earth open wide,
let salvation spring up,
let righteousness grow with it;
I, the LORD, have created it.
“Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker,
to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground.
Does the clay say to the potter,
‘What are you making?’
Does your work say,
‘He has no hands’?
Woe to him who says to his father,
‘What have you begotten?’
or to his mother,
‘What have you brought to birth?’
“This is what the LORD says—
the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker:
Concerning things to come,
do you question me about my children,
or give me orders about the work of my hands?
It is I who made the earth
and created mankind upon it.
My own hands stretched out the heavens;
I marshaled their starry hosts.
I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness:
I will make all his ways straight.
He will rebuild my city
and set my exiles free,
but not for a price or reward,
says the LORD Almighty.” (Isaiah 45:8-13)

Just because you got mad at God doesn’t mean that you should have. God is God and we aren’t. Israel suffered because it deserved to suffer. The nation had failed to worship God exclusively, chasing after meaningless idols instead. They had mistreated their neighbors and one another. But no one had a right to criticize God for how things turned out or for the pain and inconvenience they might experience, any more than a broken bit of pottery on the ground had any cause to be speaking ill of the artist who made pots.

God made the universe and everything within it. And when he made it all, he announced that it was all very good, from beginning to end. How could it be otherwise with God as its maker? The heavens above declare the glory of God and the same from the earth below. Is there suffering, is there evil? God is still in control and still going about the business of building his universe. The unfinished pot has no cause for criticism or concern. In the end, it will look just fine. A half baked thing never looks so good. But wait until you taste the finished bread!

Even Cyrus, a man who didn’t even know God, would do just what God wanted and in a wonderful way.

We can only see a tiny portion of eternity, the smallest fraction that exists during the course of our single lifespan. We don’t see enough of the finished pot to legitimately criticize the artist putting it all together.

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The Messiah

The LORD said to Cyrus, his chosen one:
I have taken hold
of your right hand
to help you capture nations
and remove kings from power.
City gates will open for you;
not one will stay closed.
As I lead you,
I will level mountains
and break the iron bars
on bronze gates of cities.
I will give you treasures
hidden in dark
and secret places.
Then you will know that I,
the LORD God of Israel,
have called you by name.
Cyrus, you don’t even know me!
But I have called you by name
and highly honored you
because of Israel,
my chosen servant.
Only I am the LORD!
There are no other gods.
I have made you strong,
though you don’t know me.
Now everyone from east to west
will learn that I am the LORD.
No other gods are real.
I create light and darkness,
happiness and sorrow.
I, the LORD, do all of this. (Isaiah 45:1-7)

God really can use anyone. The word translated by “chosen one” is the Hebrew word that comes into English as “Messiah” or by way of its Greek equivalent, “Christ.” The word more literally means “anointed one” and refers to how priests and kings had oil poured on their heads when they took their positions of authority.

Cyrus, the pagan king of Persia, the man who conquered Babylon and issued a decree that the captives of Israel could go home and rebuild God’s temple in Jerusalem, was chosen by God for just that task. God had “anointed” him to perform a valuable service: to defeat the enemies of his people Israel, to rescue them, and to set them free.

Even though Cyrus didn’t know God, God knew him and used him for his own purposes. Thanks to Cyrus, a pagan, many people would come to know the one true God. God pointed out that there were no other gods. Yahweh alone existed. From Yahweh alone came all that there was, whether light or dark, good or bad, happiness or sorrow. The universe as it exists in all its many states was a consequence of God’s creative effort.

We must never imagine that simply because God used us that it means everything is okay between us and God. How useful we are to God doesn’t prove our righteousness. God used a pagan idolater and called him his Messiah, after all.

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“Coastlands, listen to Me in silence,
And let the peoples gain new strength;
Let them come forward, then let them speak;
Let us come together for judgment.
“Who has aroused one from the east
Whom He calls in righteousness to His feet?
He delivers up nations before him
And subdues kings.
He makes them like dust with his sword,
As the wind-driven chaff with his bow.
“He pursues them, passing on in safety,
By a way he had not been traversing with his feet.
“Who has performed and accomplished it,
Calling forth the generations from the beginning?
‘I, the LORD, am the first, and with the last. I am He.’ ”
The coastlands have seen and are afraid;
The ends of the earth tremble;
They have drawn near and have come.
Each one helps his neighbor
And says to his brother, “Be strong!”
So the craftsman encourages the smelter,
And he who smooths metal with the hammer encourages him who beats the anvil,
Saying of the soldering, “It is good”;
And he fastens it with nails,
So that it will not totter. (Isaiah 41:1-7)

Sometimes God has to chase us. When God pursues people, it can be for good or ill. The word translated “pursued” in this passage is most commonly used—as it is here—when someone is being chased, as an animal might be chased by hunters. But it can also be used more positively, as in the final verse of the famous Psalm 23 which explains that “goodness and love” will “follow” us all the days of our life. That word translated as “follow” is the very word here that appears as “pursue.” Goodness and love pursue us all the days of our life. God has to chase us with it. We resist his will for us. Too often we fear what God wants to do, imagining it is something he intends to do to us rather than for us.

The discipline that God was bringing against the Israelites for their unfaithfulness was going to be unpleasant. God didn’t pretend otherwise. But like bad tasting medicine that made people shudder, in the end it was for their good. So it is with whatever God does. It may frighten us, but in the end, we’ll recognize that it’s all for the best.

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The Martian: Surviving Mars

Source All about our solar system, outer space and exploration.

This infographic from does a good job of explaining the nuts and bolts of both the book by Andy Weir, as well as the movie. Both were excellent and I highly recommend you read the book as well going to see the movie. And if you can see the movie in 3-D, you won’t regret spending the extra money for the privilege.

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Count on God

This is a message about Egypt:
The LORD comes to Egypt,
riding swiftly on a cloud.
The people are weak from fear.
Their idols tremble
as he approaches and says,
“I will punish Egypt
with civil war—
neighbors, cities, and kingdoms
will fight each other.
“Egypt will be discouraged
when I confuse their plans.
They will try to get advice
from their idols,
from the spirits of the dead,
and from fortunetellers.
I will put the Egyptians
under the power of a cruel,
heartless king.
I, the LORD All-Powerful,
have promised this.” (Isaiah 19:1-4)

Lies can live for a long time. For thousands of years Egypt had endured as a major world power, independent and wealthy. They had worshiped their gods, performed their rituals with little change for those same thousands of years, never feeling the need for change, never knowing that the foundation of their civilization was like the sand beyond the Nile.

But God told them the time would come when their civilization would come crashing down. A few hundred years after Isaiah, the Macedonian general, Alexander the Great, conquered Egypt completely. He took its wealth for his own, and crowned himself Pharaoh. When he died, one of his generals, Ptolemy, took the Egyptian throne in his place. That general’s descendents ruled Egypt thereafter, known as the Ptolemies. The last of Ptolemy’s descendants was a woman named Cleopatra. When she killed herself with an asp’s bite, the Egyptian nation was absorbed by the Roman Empire.

The idols, fortune tellers, the mediums—those the Egyptians had depended upon for thousands of years—ultimately failed them. In the end, the Egyptians came to realize they had put their trust in empty lies.

We need to be careful about who and what we put our trust in. Only God can really be counted on.

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God Has Plans

This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says:
“I, myself, have risen against Babylon!
I will destroy its children and its children’s children,”
says the LORD.
“I will make Babylon a desolate place of owls,
filled with swamps and marshes.
I will sweep the land with the broom of destruction.
I, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!”
The LORD of Heaven’s Armies has sworn this oath:
“It will all happen as I have planned.
It will be as I have decided.
I will break the Assyrians when they are in Israel;
I will trample them on my mountains.
My people will no longer be their slaves
nor bow down under their heavy loads.
I have a plan for the whole earth,
a hand of judgment upon all the nations.
The LORD of Heaven’s Armies has spoken—
who can change his plans?
When his hand is raised,
who can stop him?” (Isaiah 14:22-27)

You can’t spoil God’s plans. Whatever God has decided to do is what will happen. Babylon and Assyria imagined themselves invincible. They thought that they were in the driver’s seat, the captains of their souls, the architects of their fates. Reality was something else all together and God’s plans for them were a bit different from their plans for themselves. From God’s perspective, the Assyrians and Babylonians were merely tools in his hands that he used for his purposes. When God was done with them, he set them aside.

For the Babylonians and Assyrians, the end of their power was a disappointment and a surprise. From the standpoint of the Jewish people, however, it was a moment of great pleasure, a time of intense thanksgiving. No more would the Jewish people be enslaved, no longer would they be barred from their homes. At long last their great suffering that they had endured as punishment for their sins would be lifted. Hundreds of years before it came to pass, God let his people know everything would turn out well. He granted them his divine perspective.

We know how the story of the universe ends: God wins. Since we belong to God we will win too. We have an eternity to spend with him. So things couldn’t be better for us.

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