New Site Launch: Seven-Word Devotions

May 14, 2009

Between blogging and Facebook and Twitter, many people have turned to the internet to express themselves in very personal yet very public ways.  Chances are good that you are doing this in some way yourself.  Yet what do we really wind up saying?  What we’re eating?  Where we are going?  How our favorite sports team is doing and why that dramatically impacts our ability to cope with life?  With all the possible avenues of communicating, in the end we often wind up saying very little.  But it doesn’t have to be that way. 

In his book, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, John Piper talks about how Christians use their emotions.  Prevailing wisdom today says that our expression needs to be raw and unchecked if it is going to display authentic feeling.  However, the most powerfully emotional book in the Bible, Lamentations, literally the book of mourning or wailing, is also one of the most formally constructed.  In its 5 chapters, each consists of 22 stanzas, and the first four chapters use a literary device known as an acrostic.  To put it mildly, this book is anything but raw and unchecked, and yet it does not fail to pour out with genuine, authentic emotion.

So, here is the idea: let’s take the accessibility of our social networking capabilities and combine that with the thought provoking formality of Lamentations to create a site where we can reflect on the glory of God Almighty within the constraints of 7-words.  Call it Seven-Word Devotions, using seven short words to praise God’s character, to pray to him in hope or fear or doubt or sadness, to declare his majesty to the nations.  An example we see in Scripture is when the prophet Isaiah is standing in the throne room before God and cries out, “Woe is me!  For I am lost!”  Only seven words, but it conveys so much. That is what I propose we do.  It doesn’t even have to be original.  It could be a song lyric or a quote from the Bible or just anything that causes you to reflect on the glory of God and the marvelous works of his hands.  Seven words to express our hearts.

If you are interested in becoming a regular contributor to Seven-Word Devotions, please contact me at tburus@msn.com and I can set you up with access to post.  If you would rather post your devotions as a visitor, you can simply add them as a comment to any of the posts already up on the site.  Then before too long, we will have a site filled with short prayers of consecration directed to God, singing praises to his glorious name, and hopefully giving each other glimpses of his beauty that we may never have experienced on our own.

Please, join us in worshipping our great and wonderful God!


Impressions from the Word- Jeremiah 47-52

October 25, 2008

For, because you trusted in your works and your treasures, you also shall be taken.” (48.7a)

The theme of dependence on man versus dependence on God never leaves the Scriptures.  Ever since the Fall not a day has passed where man was not guilty of relying on himself to preserve himself.  Pelagianism is everyones natural religion.  With this so apparent, how do we constantly forget?

In those days and in that time, declares the LORD, iniquity shall be sought in Israel, and there shall be none, and sin in Judah, and none shall be found, for I will pardon those whom I leave as a remnant.” (50.20)

Here we see God proclaiming what Paul wrote in Romans 8.29-30, that God will choose a people according to his foreknowledge, call them out, and justify them.  This is the promise to the elect.  They shall be seen as white as snow, the burden of their guilty sin having been nailed to the cross with Christ (Colossians 2.13-14).

Every man is stupid and without knowledge; every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols, for his images are false, and there is no breath in them.” (51.17)

Another denouncement of the man-made idols of gold and of wisdom.  Just because our graven images lie in our minds and not on our mantle does not mean that we are any less pagan than previous peoples.


Impressions from the Word- Jeremiah 44-46

September 7, 2008

Why do you provoke me to anger with the works of your hands, making offerings to other gods in the land of Egypt where you have come to live, so that you may be cut off and become a curse and a taunt among all the nations of the earth?” (44.8)

It is so important to understand that the God who needs propitiation is not angry for no reason. I provoke him to anger, daily at that. We want to speak as if we are innocent and God is unjust, but how could we ever believe this. The evil nature of our behavior is transparent to us at all ages. When my 7-year old acknowledges that she does bad things that she shouldn’t, I know that the 25-year old who claims otherwise is deceiving himself.

I provoke God. I willingly, consciously provoke God, doing things I know are wrong in complete obstinacy to his commands. My choice puts me on the wrong team when I read what Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 8. Just because the punishment for my evil is not executed immediately I choose to go on doing it, counting on the ability to just ask forgiveness of it later and all be well. What can prevent my arrogance? God, please save me from myself and from spoiling all the blessings which you have given me. Help me to grow and put all this old self junk to death once and for all.

As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD, we will not listen to you.” (44.16)

This is my response to God when I choose to sin. I am no longer unaware, I am no longer darkened. God has shone his light into my life and yet still I make choices to please the flesh in which I dwell. I fully understand Paul, as he struggles with this in Romans 7. I hate the flesh and the practices of my old self and yet so frequently I detach my eyes from the things of heaven and seek satisfaction in the things of earth. I hate myself.

There is so much conviction in reading these words and knowing that I do the same thing. I love God. I am so grateful for the way in which he has saved me and yet I find myself so quick to deny him with my actions and thoughts. It’s no wonder the New Testament is full of longings for the last days. Though I love this life and am thankful for how God has blessed me in it, I cannot wait until the day when this constant battle to be obedient ends.

Why are your mighty ones face down? They do not stand because the LORD thrust them down.” (46.15)

In the end we will see that all of our gods are going to be toppled by the Lord. Sex, money, status. Nothing will stay standing, all will be burnt up. In those days all that shall remain are the good things which give glory to the Lord. How much of what I do will still go on in those days? How much of my day is spent doing things which will be toppled in front of God? If it will be that way then then why do I waste time on them now? So much of my life is vanity. Vanity, vanity!

Fear not, O Jacob my servant, declares the LORD, for I am with you. I will make a full end of all the nations to which I have driven you, but of you I will not make a full end. I will discipline you in just measure, and I will by no means leave you unpunished.” (46.28)

God is true to his promise. He will not leave his people or turn them away in anger. Yet this does not preclude their punishment and discipline. In fact, the reason we are punished but not destroyed is to testify to our status as sons and daughters of God (Hebrews 12.7). Sanctify me, God. Conform me daily to the image of your son and lift me out of this sinful flesh which I wallow around in so naively. I thank you for your promise, that you will deliver me from exile and from destruction and please help me to become more and more obedient along the way. You are so merciful when simply annihilating me would be just. I can’t express how wonderful this is because I don’t think I really quite understand.


Impressions from the Word- Jeremiah 42 and 43

August 28, 2008

Then they said to Jeremiah, ‘May the LORD be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act according to all the word with which the LORD your God sends you to us. Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God to whom we are sending you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the LORD our God.’” (42.5-6)

This needs to be an element of all of our requests. Obviously there is a desired answer when we come to God, but our end purpose should be in “obey[ing] the voice of the Lord,” regardless of what his will reveals. So much of our submission is feigned, so rarely do I find myself perfectly submitted to any response by God. Instead I develop my own man-made provisions and go to God asking for his blessing over them. And even when he withholds that blessing I find myself doing it anyway and just asking for forgiveness. This is no way to serve God.

If you will remain in this land, then I will build you up and not pull you down.” (42.10a)

What does this say to our isolationist Christian subculture? God has placed us here, in this society, under this government, and he had his reasons to do so. Yet Christian consensus today seems to be screaming its discontent with our circumstance and so moving away, out of society, in order to be “safe.” We avoid things that we judge to be wrong, denying interaction, resisting infiltration. We appear to know the right way better than God and seek our own means of correcting the flawed places he put us in. We withdraw into our fortress, safe from R-rated movies, public schools, and single parents. We know utopia. We can make it and we can go there. Still all along it must be that God knew what he was doing and in denying that, we are denying him and his good intentions for our lives.

If you set your faces to enter Egypt and go to live there, then the sword that you fear shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine of which you are afraid shall follow close after you to Egypt, and there you shall die. All the men who set their faces to go to Egypt to live there shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence. They shall have no remnant or survivor from the disaster that I will bring upon them.” (42.15b-17)

We find that choosing to flee and escape where God intended for you to be in hardships will not preserve us. God promises that the evil which we fled in Jerusalem will follow us to Egypt and get us there, even though we expected to be safe.

‘You are telling a lie.’” (43.2b)

The world is quick to reject what it doesn’t like.  So is the Church.  It is important to develop a will which does not bear up with pride whenever our world view or comforts are challenged by the command of God.  Just last chapter we saw the Israelites say they would heed God’s word through Jeremiah, whether good or bad (42.5-6), yet when it’s bad they decide to fight against it.  As Christians we need to analyze our reaction every time we feel ourselves disturbed by a teaching in order to make if it is the Spirit which unsettles us or our own sin-dwelt flesh.


Impressions from the Word- Jeremiah 36-40

August 24, 2008

Take a scroll and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel and Judah and all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days of Josiah until today.” (36.2)

Again we see God’s decree to record his words.

[S]o you are to go, and on a day of fasting in the hearing of all the people in the LORD’s house you shall read the words of the LORD from the scroll that you have written at my dictation.” (36.6a)

And here we see Jeremiah obeying God’s command of having the Word preached to the people.

For I will surely save you, and you shall not fall by the sword, but you shall have your life as a prize of war, because you have put your trust in me, declares the LORD.” (39.18 )

Here we have such a clear statement of what God demands to be saved from the coming judgment: ” . . . because you have put your trust in me.” Ebed-melech had faith that God would preserve the faithful, that God’s condemnation would be spared on the obedient, and God rewarded this. We need this. We need to see in this time of Christian religious ambiguity that what God says is that Ebed-melech was saved by faith. Not by good deeds. Not by seeing a poor, starving, mistreated member of society and helping him (Jeremiah 38.7-13). No. God surely saves him because he trusted in God.

Why should he take your [Gedaliah's] life, so that all the Judeans who are gathered about you would be scattered, and the remnant of Judah would perish?” (40.15b)

It is a great mistake to rest our hopes of peace or prosperity on any earthly leader. Here we see the Judeans placing the strength of gathering the remnant upon the presence of their governor and not on the promise of God. So do we do this. With politicians and pastors, we erect pedestals and cry that we cannot survive without some greatness of theirs. Yet the whole Bible speaks to the inability of man to sustain such hopes. We also stumble, fall, and let down whatever movement has built up around us. Instead, we should put the focus properly on God in Christ, who always remains faithful, and thus never fails us. Christ is Lord. This means over everything.


Impressions from the Word- Jeremiah 32-35

August 17, 2008

And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.” (32.38 )

This phrase always strikes me. It is the epitome of “one nation under God.” It is even more reason to believe and rejoice in the magnificence of God’s electing grace. There has never been a time when God was not planning to bring his people into his presence. It was never reactionary. Though all had turned their back to him and will all endure exile, God’s intention was always to regather his people in the end. This is a portrait of the living out of Romans 8.28.

And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.” (32.40b)

It is interesting that we see God doing the work to keep us from turning away. There are many who will argue that it is possible for a Christian to lose their salvation, but this does not seem to fit. If God places the fear of himself into our hearts in order to keep us from departing, then however could we? Could we overpower God or prevail over his purposes? It may be argued that it is just an influence that God exercises and that we can overcome that influence by our free will. How? Where is the reason for believing this? God had just said, “Is anything too hard for me?” (v.27b) and yet people would argue that fixing our will to not turn from him is just that, too hard. I am amazed how we do violence to God’s Word because it doesn’t appear to conform with our humanist philosophies. We take such great promises and tear them apart just to get our way (for now).

. . . for I have hidden my face from this city because of all their evil.” (33.5b)

Ouch! Yet this is what I have to look forward to if evil becomes me. God makes no excuses about the fact that his presence cannot strive with sin and evil. This is a great fear that drives me to repentance and sanctification. I have tasted God, I have felt the goodness of his communion. I no longer want to go back. Not to the emptiness before he was there.

I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me.” (33.8a)

That’s how. When people ask, “How can I get over my guilt?”, that’s how. God. Jesus. Expiation. You don’t need some uber-hip exegesis over living in the moment and focusing on the journey. What you need is Christ. The Passover lamb. Don’t miss this. It’s crucial!

For thus says the LORD: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings, and to make sacrifices forever.” (33.17-18 )

What an amazing picture of Jesus as eternal king and chief priest. Here we see Christ performing two of his offices. How easily we forget this. How easily we forget the sovereign who’s in control. How easily we forget the perfect mediator. We must never cease to marvel at all Christ has done and continues to do.

The sons of Jonadab the son of Rechab have kept the command that their father gave them, but this people has not obeyed me.” (35.17)

If the Rechabites can obey their mortal earthly father, why can’t we obey our heavenly eternal one? I hate how I sometimes give into that cheap grace mentality which says, “It’s okay to sin. You can just ask forgiveness later.” I wish, pray, that God’s glory, Christ’s perfect sacrifice, were at the front of my mind every minute. But instead I fix my eyes upon earth and do things of disobedience. I become concerned with my own ego or fame or pleasure and try to take the glory away from God. If only I could be focused, watch and pray, and avoid entering those temptations. Father, rest your glory in my heart and in front of my eyes forever, that I will not be distracted by other things which are less worthy.


Impressions from the Word- Jeremiah 30 and 31

August 13, 2008

Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Write in a book all the words that I have spoken to you.” (30.2)

It’s just interesting to see God command the recording of Scripture.

For I am with you to save you, declares the LORD.” (30.11a)

The promise of God’s presence as our salvation is a message of hope that we cannot relinquish. Salvation is not our own but it is of the Lord (Jonah 2.9). He is the author, he is the effector, he is the securer. Oh how I don’t want for my salvation to depend on me. I am too weak. I thank God for his promise of redemption that he shall break the yoke of our enslavement to sin and death (v.8 ) and deliver us into the promised land of his presence.

I will discipline you in just measure, and I will by no means leave you unpunished.” (30.11c)

Compare this with Hebrews 12.7-11; our punishment and discipline, our refining by fire (1 Peter 1.7), is our validation as being adopted sons of God. This is assurance that we should look forward to instead of shying away from. Do I look forward to it as I should?

In the latter days you will understand this.” (30.24)

I recognize that it is a flaw of mine to seek an answer and understanding for everything. Though I abhor the mindlessness of emergent, I still must seek to avoid the arrogance of all-knowingness which I have no expectation of gaining. Instead I should thank God for his mysteries and embrace the extended glories which yet remain outside my reach in this flesh. There is a sweet anticipation in knowing I will never plumb the full depths of God’s greatness. There will never be a reason to get complacent or feel bored in him.

Thus says the LORD: ‘The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness.’” (31.2)

Notice that after the 30 previous chapters of judgment and coming destruction we see that God still has a people. All will not be lost. And see how it wasn’t on their own merit that they were saved and restored. It was God who gave grace to them. In the verses to follow we find that God is still warm and loving to his children. As v.3 says that he has “loved [the remnant] with an everlasting love” and has “continued [his] faithfulness to [them].” They are the elect and have from all-time been set to be preserved. God has cleaned out all the false believers and has regathered and rebuilt his people.

I desire every day that God would clean out the false believers in our own time. That no more deceivers would rise up calling themselves Christians and leading others to damnation. But I am kept strong in knowing that God is powerful enough to bring and intend good to come from such a frustrating evil.

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (31.33-34)

This is the glorious promise which God brings to pass in Christ. This is the promise of freedom from the yoke of the law. From the need for priests and intercession and sacrifices. It was God’s plan to give us a perfect sacrifice and a great high priest that we may ultimately be saved and giving glory to him for eternity. We take for granted what a relief this promise is and instead have a perverse desire to put the yoke back on just like the Jews in Acts 15. When will we recognize the greatness of God’s promise in light of the uselessness of our own moralism?


Impressions from the Word- Jeremiah 29

August 8, 2008

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (29.7)

God’s people are charged to intercede for peace and blessing on where they live and who rules over them (1 Timothy 2.1-4). Whether here we should read exiles in a city or exiles on earth I’m unsure, but regardless I think the principle is the same: seek peace and well-being for all people. How, if at all, should we translate this into our democratic state? If we can do more than prayer for welfare should we? If nothing else we should certainly be concerned with the welfare of our state, since we are told that that is where our welfare is found.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.” (29.11-14)

God has plans for his people (elect? I believe so; Romans 8.28). His plans will work to enact our reconciliation. That which God has planned he will effect, since notice that no preconditions are given. This is such a beautiful promise and has such far reaching implications if we view it in light of our salvation. God has people (unconditional election) and plans for his people which will give them reconciliation without merit (irresistible grace).

Thus, unless God means to save all people then we must face a dilemma, either God’s Word’s fail or all are not forgiven. I can’t help but go for the latter. But if this is the case then I feel we must be careful in throwing around verse 11. We have no reason to believe God will work to the wholeness of those not called by his name and yet we act like this passage is a universal blessing and declaration of God’s desire and plan for all men.

I believe our theology must be large enough to incorporate a God whose wrath still rests on some, and we should never let ourselves slip into the complacency of believing that God is just some pie-in-the-sky bestower of universal benediction. We need to see a God who always presents himself as a purposeful and unconquerable redeemer, who works all things for good for his people, though not necessarily all people.


Impressions from the Word- Jeremiah 26-28

August 4, 2008

It may be they will listen, and every one turn from his evil way, that I may relent of the disaster that I intend to do to them because of their evil deeds.” (26.3)

Again we see man’s responsibility for God’s judgment and punishment of him. We also see what God asks for: repentance. This is so overlooked in our prevailing culture of moralism, but it is repentance that God has always desired. It is preferable to him over wrath. Yet in our pride we sit in towers, we think we are above everyone else, but like God in Babel, our towers are so small he must come down to see them (Genesis 11). It is our sin which initiates our suffering and our pride which seals it.

But any nation that will bring its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will leave on its own land, to work it and dwell there, declares the LORD.” (27.11)

Here we see God’s call to submit to the authorities he’s given over us (Romans 13.1-7). Our society is ripe with people dishonoring the authorities, the government and the President. I feel in myself a fear at my inability to submit and honor particular politicians if the Lord were to will them to attain power. Yet I must keep committed to God’s Word, and what his word says is “submission.” I cannot lie, I don’t inherently like this. My gut reaction is to lash out against authority which is unpleasing to me. But I have to know that there is a higher calling and a firm reason why I must refrain, that being the command of God.

And Jeremiah the prophet said to the prophet Hananiah, ‘Listen, Hananiah, the LORD has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. Therefore thus says the LORD: “Behold, I will remove you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die, because you have uttered rebellion against the LORD.” ‘ ” (28.15-16)

In a time where error abounds and a new movement of false teaching begins to breath down on the church, it will be necessary for people to rise up against the false teachers and say “Liar! You have given people hope in a lie!” God is clear where he stands on this, between millstones, castration, and death, the promises for false teachers are not promising. However, far from the teachers themselves, our concern should be over the students. Just because a false teaching is presented to them they are no less responsible for their sin in believing. Thus we must be actively correcting falsehoods, confronting false teachers, and bringing the truth to those who’ve been led astray. This won’t be fun. We’ll be called names, labeled intolerant or fundamentalist, but we cannot be doing it for the praise of men. This is about God’s glory and being obedient to his commands of “instructing in sound doctrine” and “rebuking those who contradict it” (Titus 1.9). We won’t save anyone, but hopefully God will be glorified through our efforts and he will see fit to regenerate many, lead rebellion against false teaching, and cause revival throughout the world. But no matter what happens we must always stand true to speaking the truth as revealed in Scripture.


Impressions from the Word- Jeremiah 25

July 29, 2008

Yet you have not listened to me, declares the LORD, that you might provoke me to anger with the work of your hands to your own harm.” (25.7)

the responsibility of the people for what befalls them could not be any clearer. People constantly want to argue “Free Will! Free will!,” but what does that will get them? Here what we see is that God’s people, in their freedom brought wrath upon themselves! I am thankful for a God who is not interested in my works towards salvation, since if he were I’d be screwed.

Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant.” (25.9b)

Ouch! God’s servant! It is a testament to both his power and his sovereignty that God will use the wicked to enact his plan. It also speaks to our stubbornness that God would use the unbelievers to punish those who are to be called by his name. Do we see this today?

For behold, I begin to work disaster at the city that is called by my name, and shall you go unpunished?” (25.29a)

Recall Peter’s words in chapter 4, verse 17, of his first epistle. God chooses to punish (judge) his people first, that they may be purified and come to repentance. But this serves as even greater warning for the rest of the world. If he did not spare his people, nay, if he did not spare even his son (Romans 8.32), then what hope do those not called by his name have? It is this knowledge of God’s just judgment, viewed first among his people, which will condemn all unbelievers, leaving them without excuse.

And those pierced by the LORD on that day shall extend from one end of the earth to the other.” (25.33a)

What argument do Universalists have if it be the case that the Lord will “put to the sword” “the wicked” (v.31) and those pierced shall be of so great a number that they span the globe? What grounds for salvation can you base for these whom the Lord himself declares he will slay in judgment? All meaningless wishful thinking that does great violence to the glory of our Lord!