What Good Is It?

Jeremiah 22

What good is it to live in a nice house, go to church in a beautiful building, enjoy a healthy body, and not know God? The blessings are fleeting. The blessings don’t make you a good person. The blessings aren’t even a sign you are right with God.

In fact, God says many have eyes only for greed and dishonesty, they murder the innocent, oppress the poor, and reign ruthlessly. And that doesn’t make Him happy.

I warned you when you were prosperous, but you replied, “Don’t bother me!” You have been this way since childhood – you simply will not obey me! It may be nice to live in a beautiful palace paneled with wood from the cedars of Lebanon, but soon you will groan with pangs of anguish – like that of a woman in labor. (22:21,23)

I sure hope you are enjoying a healthy, prosperous, comfortable day today. I hope you have clothes to wear, food to eat, a job to go to. I hope you have a family you love and who loves you. And I hope you’ll go to church on Sunday..

But don’t neglect the most important thing. Don’t neglect obedience. Confess your sin. Be holy, separate. Stand for the Truth at all cost. Because things are going to change. You won’t live on this planet forever. And God is not going to care what your house looked like. Only what your heart looks like. He won’t care where you worshiped. He’ll care that you worshiped Him in spirit and truth according to Scripture.

Jesus asked this question:

What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:36)

How would you answer Him?

What good is it to live in a nice house, go to church in a beautiful building, and enjoy a healthy body?

Nothing, unless Jesus lives in you!

Accepting The Joy

Habakkuk 3

Any time we base our happiness on circumstances and/or relationships, we set ourselves up for disappointment, even devastation. I know from personal experience, how quickly situations change that can steal my joy, if I am depending on imperfect people (including myself) to make me happy. I’ve seen how quickly things can happen to change a sunny Sunday afternoon into the darkest day of my life.

But there is something deeper than happiness, something surer than circumstances, something more lasting than even the best and purest marriages and friendships. Listen to what the prophet Habakkuk says:

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! (verses 17-18)

Even when I don’t “feel” happy, I can rejoice in the fact my sins are forgiven at the cross of Jesus. Even when people fail me, or life gets hard, I have joy knowing God is my Heavenly Father who sustains me, embraces me, loves me, and strengthens me.

You see, joy is a fruit of the Spirit, something that supernaturally defines those in whom the Spirit dwells! It has nothing to do with whether or not I get that promotion at work, or if my children are obedient, or if I’m surrounded by friends. This joy is a result of my relationship with God, my Savior. It’s joy non-believers can’t understand or experience.

May we who have received God’s grace through the blood of Jesus rejoice in the Lord, separating that joy from our circumstances. May we accept the joy that come from knowing God who has saved us.

Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, said the following. I’d like to say the same to all of us today:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)

Can It Get Any Worse?

2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chronicles 34

I opened You Tube today and saw the title of a video that got my attention. I’ve never listened to this man before, but he titled his talk: This Pastor Is Worse Than You Thought – Andy Stanley, Jordon Peterson, Voddie Baucham – My Analysis. (The Gospel of Christ; John Henry).

He played a portion of a workshop given by Pastor Stanley, and even though I wasn’t at that workshop or watched the entirety of it, what I did hear left me speechless. Stanley said he no longer refers to the Bible when he teaches. He doesn’t say “The Bible says…,” or “God’s Word says….” In fact, he says Christianity shouldn’t rise and fall on the inerrancy or accuracy of 66 ancient documents we call books of the Bible. It rises and falls on the identity of a single individual… Jesus of Nazareth.

He said that. And he posted the same on Twitter.

Now, to be fair, Stanley said his position on referring to the Bible isn’t a change in theology. It is merely a change in how he talks about theology. It seems he believes he can talk about what is in the Bible without using it as the authority.

In a podcast, Stanley said that in the beginning of Christianity, no preacher said, “The Bible says…, the Bible says…” He pointed out that the ancient Christians didn’t have a Bible, many couldn’t even read, and surmised that what drove the faith was an event, not Scripture.

“We have to shift the focus from the Bible to the resurrection…”

I want to ask him how can we know about the resurrection without the Bible?

Anyway, after listening to this You Tube video, I opened my Bible (yes, I still do that every day). My chronological Bible had me in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles where I read how reading God’s Word changed everything for King Josiah and the nation of Judah. They didn’t realize the seriousness of their actions until they READ what God had to say about them. That lead to repentance and revival in the land.

Ok. You might argue that is all from an ancient ANCIENT document. It’s Old Testament, and we live after the cross. So let’s look at Jesus.

Jesus often used Scripture (the Bible in Jesus’ day). Read Matthew 27, 23; John 13, 15. When he walked with the men going to Emmaus after the resurrection, He talked to them, not merely about the resurrection, but about what Scripture said.

Paul, after the cross, refers to Scripture repeatedly: 1 Corinthians 3, 18, 26, 30; Romans 10,15, and on and on and on.

To say we shouldn’t base Christianity on Scripture negates 2 Timothy 3:16-17. And if we want to base Christianity simply on Jesus’ miraculous resurrection from the dead, we need only read John 1 which clearly states that same Jesus IS the Word!

I hope you’ll investigate this for yourself. If I’ve misrepresented Andy Stanley, please listen to the video I referenced, and go to Stanley’s Twitter account (although I believe he has taken down some of what was said earlier). But let me know if I am in error. I don’t want to put words into Stanley’s mouth.

But let me ask you: what is the authority on which you base your faith? Personally, I am standing on the written Word of God, and I will continue to proclaim the Bible as that authority.

I’ll thank God for the privilege of proclaiming His Word, all 66 books, as His inspired Word live and effective today. And I’ll continue to urge you to read it every day.

Where Does It Lead?

Jeremiah 2

We who have submitted to God and accepted His grace at the foot of the cross are no longer slaves to sin. God broke the yoke that oppressed us. (vs 20a). We are forgiven and free to serve and worship the God we love, because of the blood of Jesus.

Yet we see throughout the Bible examples of God’s people who try to worship God and worship idols at the same time. We see them making compromises, like not tearing down the Asherah poles and deciding to use those to worship God. Seems harmless enough. But it wasn’t harmless. No compromise is.

And compromises (God calls sin) are judged.

I think God might have something to say to His 21st Century people today. Are we compromising ourselves into judgment?

“We can bring Bethel or Hillsong praise music into our sanctuaries, and not agree with their theology.”

“We can embrace homosexuals, and welcome them into our fellowships without necessarily condoning homosexuality.”

“We can rewrite the Bible to eliminate the gender specific wording of the original, and still call it God’s Word.”

We can keep the Asherah poles, and hold our worship services there. We can align with the enemy, and still call on God to help us.

In order to make a compromise, you must turn (even slightly) away from that which is right and true. In the spiritual sense, a compromise is an ever so tiny step away from the holiness of our God.

Where does that lead?

What have you gained by your alliances with Egypt, and your covenants with Assyria? What good to you are the streams of the Nile or the waters of the Euphrates River? Your wickedness will bring its own punishment. Your turning from me will shame you. You will see what an evil, bitter thing it is to abandon the Lord your God and not to fear him. I, the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken! (verses 18-19)

Here I Am!

Isaiah 65

There is an old 35mm home movie of me at my parent’s Sunday School class’s Christmas party. I’m probably four or five at the time. Each year “Santa” would make an appearance and bring presents (provided by the parents) to pass out to the kids.

We’d usually sit on the floor in front of the jolly old man, and excitedly wait for our names to be called. All of us, dressed in our Sunday best. Me in a dress, hair ribbons in my braids, and my Mary Janes.

Santa must have called my name (it was before sound made it into home movies. Yes, I’m that old) because you see me jump up and hurry to stand in front of him. You can see him holding the present and looking to his left, totally ignoring me! “Connie,” you can see him call out again.

You can see my mouth move: “Here I am,” I say, my eyes looking intently into his face.

Santa looks to the right, still holding the present. “Connie, are you here?” he says.

This time you can see my little hand come up to my chest, pointing at myself, and watch my mouth say, “This is me. I’m right here.”

But the old guy still doesn’t seem to see me, even though I am nose-to-nose with him. He looks over my head and once again calls out my name.

You can see the look of disappointment and confusion on my young face, until he looks down and with surprise says, “There you are!” My face changes from disappointment to gladness in an instant. I walk back to my place on the floor, present in hand, and a smile on my face.

I thought of that this morning as I read the first verse of chapter 65.

The Lord says, “I was ready to respond, but no one asked for help. I was ready to be found, but no one was looking for me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am!’ to a nation that did not call my name.

So many people are looking for Truth, when Truth is standing right in front of them. Many are searching for God, when He is nose-to-nose with them. They look to the right, lean into the left. They look to science, philosophy, preachers and musicians. They look to politicians and influencers, and some even look to themselves.

Friend, if that describes you, hear God say, “Here I am, here I am!” Then run to Him. You’ll find His arms open wide. Submit to Him. You’ll find forgiveness and cleansing. Trust Him, and you’ll find eternity.

Can you hear Him?

“Here I am, here I am!”

Do You Worship Idols?

Isaiah 44

Are wood and molded metal the only kinds of idols out there? I don’t know anyone who has a statue they worship in their home. But I know many people (me included at times) who have fashioned gods to our own liking, and worship them.

Some worship self, others nature, the stars and moon. Some worship ancestors, some make gods out of relationship, careers, pubic figures, even their automobiles! There are those who twist the truth about Jesus to be loving without being holy, to be forgiving without being the righteous Judge, to being one of many ways to the Father, and accepting of all people everywhere without the need for repentance.

Most people would say they don’t worship idols. But their actions and priorities say something quite different. I know God is speaking through Isaiah about the wooden statues people were worshiping at that time. But I believe Scripture always has something to say to us as well whenever we read it.

I like how the NLT says so clearly what God would say to those who put anything or anyone above our devotion to Him:

How foolish are those who manufacture idols. These prized objects are really worthless. (vs 9)

Who but a fool would make his own god – an idol that cannot help him one bit! (vs 10)

Such stupidity and ignorance! Their eyes are closed, and they cannot see. Their minds are shut, and they cannot think. (vs 18)

The poor, deluded fool feeds on ashes. He trusts something that can’t help him at all. Yet he cannot bring himself to ask, “Is this idol that I’m holding in my hand a lie? (vs 20)

I pray none of those verses describe you. But I think God would have us all do an idol-check in our hearts. Hear God say repeatedly:

I am the Lord and there is no other. (vs 6b)

I, the Lord, speak only what is true and declare only what is right. vs 19)

Let all the world look to me for salvation! For I am God; there is no other. (vs 22)

I hope you’ll read this chapter in God’s Word and see the spiritual parallel that is there. Maybe it’s time we quit telling ourselves that God is just one of many, that His Word is outdated, not necessarily true for everyone. Maybe it’s time that we truly submitted to the Creator God because…

What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. vs 9a)

Praying For Healing

2 Kings 20; Isaiah 38; 2 Chronicles 32

I sat here and wondered for a time why, when Hezekiah reminded God that he had been faithful to serve God and do what pleased Him, did God heal the king suffering from a fatal disease, and give him fifteen more years of life? I kept thinking how often Scripture tells us our best deeds are like filthy rags, that salvation is a gift and can’t be earned so that no one can boast. So why was Hezekiah saved from that death sentence because of works?

He wasn’t.

I believe he was saved because he went to God, laid it all at the feet of the Great Physician. Scripture says he wept bitterly, but it doesn’t tell us what those tears represented. Were they bitter tears, tears of regret, angry tears, or tears of repentance? It seems to me they were probably tears of surrender (my opinion only), the kind of prayer God still answers today.

However, this is not a recipe for healing. God doesn’t simply heal those who come up with the right attitude, or the right words to pray.

Here’s the thing: if we are faced with a terminal illness or another seemingly impossible situation, and we go to God and pray expecting to be healed, we aren’t really going to God. We are using Him.

But if, when faced with that diagnosis, we go to God, lay our illness or situation, heartache or anxiety at His feet, submit to His will with no strings attached, the outcome of our prayer will be everything He wants it to be!

When we truly put our faith in God, we release all expectations.

That’s why I am convinced the name-it-and-claim-it theology is anti-Christ. God is not our personal genie in a bottle to grant our wishes. How dare we reduce Him to that, and think we are being obedient.

Here’s another thing, and I believe it demonstrates what Paul said in Ephesians 2:8-9:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.

If you or I or anyone else is saved from sin or disease, we are saved because of God. Period. It’s not about us. It’s about God.

Sadly, after God saved Hezekiah, he became proud. He seems to have thought he had something to do with his healing in light of all the good things he said he had done for God in the past. And he squandered the fifteen years God gave Him.

Then he died.

I guess I feel God would have us consider Who He Is, not just what He can do for us. Do we really trust Him? Do we really have faith in Him? Can we honestly pray, “Not my will, but Thine be done?”

Then it doesn’t matter if we are healed in this lifetime or in death. I believe God wants us to pray for healing:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Ephesians 4:6)

That includes physical healing. Don’t worry about it. Pray about it. Pray with thanksgiving. Present it to God.

When you present something, you don’t hold back, do you? When you present something you trust the receiver with whatever you’ve given. Can we do that with our illnesses and sin?

So pray for healing for yourself or your loved ones. Pray for the salvation of those God lays on your heart. Do what God nudges you to do, go to the doctor, eat more vegetables, take that 20 mile bike ride, spend time with that person, whatever and wherever God leads.

Pray.

Then trust Him. Leave your request at His feet. No expectations, just God. Then Paul tells us that after we present our requests to God:

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 4:7)

I honestly believe that’s how we should pray for healing or anything, knowing God hears and answers our prayers. And we can have His peace knowing for sure that He will answer our prayers according to His own good will.

Another Jesus

The King of Assyria sent his thugs to threaten the children of Israel, to bully them into surrendering. They pointed out that Assyria had successfully defeated the nations around them, that none of their gods we’re able to saved them from the mighty Assyrian army, and that the writing was on the wall. Israel was next.

Surrender or die.

Then these representatives of the Assyrian king said something that has me thinking today:

What’s more, do you think we have invaded your land without the Lord’s direction? The Lord Himself told us, “Attack this land and destroy it.”

One of two things could be true about that. Either God is using Assyria to punish Israel for their sin, and indeed instructed the enemy to be His judgment on the Jews, or the men representing the Assyrian king were lying.

Today, Satan is to us what the Assyrian King was to Israel in this portion of Scripture. He is the one threatening to destroy God’s people, and bullying us into submission. And he is using the Name of God to do it.

Bethel names the name of God. Benny Hinn names the name of God. Joel Osteen calls himself a Christian minister. I could go on. And so could you.

The question is, are we going to stand with God according to His inspired written Word, or are we going to be bullied into surrendering to Satan?

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse. (Galatians 1:8)

But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. (2 Corinthians 11:3-4)

Guard your heart, dear one. Know what Scripture has to say so that you can recognize Satan’s lies. Then stand firm. Because the truth is, there isn’t another Jesus. There is only the One who is revealed in the pages of the Bible. If anyone says they have had a special revelation concerning Jesus… they are lying

There is only one true Gospel. There is only one true Jesus.

Do not be deceived.

Living As I Should

Psalm 119

May this psalm be my prayer. And may these verses describe my life:

Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord. Joyful are those who obey His laws and search for Him with all their hearts. They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in His paths.

You have charged us to keep your commandments faithfully. Oh that my actions would consistently reflect your decree! Then I will not be ashamed when I compare my life with your commands.

As I learn your righteous regulations, I will thank you by living as I should! I will obey your decrees. Please don’t give up on me. (Verses 1-8, emphasis mine)

Stepping Between God and the People

Psalms 105-106

These psalms recount the Exodus of the Jewish nation out of Egypt in the days of Moses, and reminds us how God moved in dramatic fashion on behalf of His obedient children. I think one amazing thing about Scripture, however, is how often we are also reminded how God moves when His children aren’t so obedient, like in these two psalms. God doesn’t sugar-coat anything. I’m thankful for that.

What stood out to me today was in 106:23,30. The Jews were living in blatant disobedience, even after God had blessed them. So God declared He would destroy them. Their disobedience made Him that angry.

But Moses, his chosen one, stepped between the Lord and the people. He begged God to turn from his anger and not destroy them.

So God did not destroy them.

Later, as punishment for yet more disobedience, a plague broke out among the Jews.

But Phinehas had the courage to intervene, and the plague was stopped. So he has been regarded as a righteous man ever since that time.

This morning I am reminded that Jesus has done the same for me. My disobedience angers God as much as the disobedience of the Old Testament Jews angered Him. What makes me think He hasn’t considered taking me out, too?

But I have a Savior. When I sin and make God angry, Jesus steps between the Lord and me and pleads my case. One day when I stand before the Throne of Heaven, Jesus will intervene for the last time, and I will not be destroyed. He will usher me into Paradise unlike anything I have ever known in this lifetime.

Here is something else that occurs to me. While I am still on this earth, I have the privilege of being a Moses or a Phinehas, one who intervenes for my loved ones, our nation and the whole world, and for you. I can beg God like Moses did, that He would turn from His righteous anger, and give each of us another chance to obey Him.

So today I want you to know that I am praying for you. I am going to step between the Lord and you and beg Him to have mercy. Will you do the same for me?