Monthly Archives: December 2017

Job 1-2; It’s Not The “Why” You Might Think

Have you ever asked the question: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” I think most of us have at one time or another questioned why a God-loving, church-going, volunteer at homeless shelters, a giver to charities, and an all around nice guy gets ALS, or loses his job, or has a child addicted to drugs. Why does a godly church secretary find herself fighting cancer diagnosed late, effecting her major organs, in great pain, and having a severe reaction to chemo?

Why do you suffer? Why do I?

If you read the book of Job hoping to get those answers, you will be disappointed. Job never finds out “why” those things happened to him. Oh his friends think they know “why.” But they don’t. Not really.

If you read the first two chapters of Job you’ll discover the deeper question that Satan asks of God: “Do people follow You, God, because You bless them? Do they worship You so they can feel good? Do they obey You for what’s in it for them?”

Satan’s premise is that as soon as hard times hit, people turn their backs on God. Is he right to think that?

What about you? Have you given God an ultimatum: “I’ll serve You, God, as long as you don’t mess with my health, or my family. I’ll worship You, but don’t touch my career. If you do, I’m outta here.”

The question isn’t “Why do bad things happen to good people?” The question is “What do good people do when bad things happen?”

I am looking forward to spending some time in Job. I want to hear what the world has to say about worship. I want to define the “why” of my worship of God. And I want to hear from God about why He deserves my worship in every circumstance of life.

When all is said and done, I want to say with Job:

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised,

and mean it.

Esther; An Edict Not Revoked

Whenever I read this book I wonder, when I get to the part where the king who condemned all Jews to death, why he doesn’t just rescind his order and let them live once he discovers the truth. Why doesn’t he send out an updated edict and let the Jews off the hook? Instead, he gives the Jews a way to survive the death sentence.

Today Warren Wiresbe (With the Word Bible Handbook) put a light on the subject that helps me see things a bit more clearly. If you have read other posts of mine you know my strong conviction that all Scripture is given us by our loving Heavenly Father for the expressed purpose of revealing Himself to us. So what can a book that doesn’t even mention His Name teach us about God?

His Sovereignty. His dealing with prideful people. The fact He blesses obedience. And this:

JESUS!

Dr. Wiresbe reminded me God, from the time of Adam and Eve, has proclaimed an edict: Sin requires a death penalty. ALL sin, every sin comes with a deadly price tag whether we think that’s fair or not. And God is not going to revoke that edict.

Every impure thought, every vulgar word, every unkind action, all disobedience condemns you. You’re not going to talk God out of it, either.

Just like the Jews in Esther’s day were condemned to die, we are condemned to an eternity of death, separated from God.  But God provided a way for us to survive. He didn’t revoke the edict – He FULFILLED it! Jesus died so we don’t have to. That was our death sentence Jesus took on Himself.

Now here’s the other thing: The king didn’t write the new edict allowing the Jews to be saved, then lock the paper up in a vault. He sent couriers out into the land to tell the good news to everyone!

We need to be doing that, too. Your neighbor, your brother-in-law, your co-worker might need to know that they have a death sentence hanging over their heads, and that salvation is their’s for the asking! Jesus paid what they cannot pay. And they can have eternal life through the precious blood of their Savior.

Our Holy God cannot rescind the edict. Sin=Death. But Praise God that He Himself provided a way of salvation from the penalty of death my sin requires. I live because Jesus died. Praise God.

He did the same for you!

Nehemiah 10-13; Worship and Obedience

Well, that’s a downer. The wall had been built agains all odds. There was a revival among the Jews, hearts once again turned toward God. People were determined to obey the Word of the Lord. And a joyful ceremony was held to dedicate the completed wall that so many had worked so hard on.

The enemy defeated! The wall restored! Sins forgiven! Choirs singing! People worshiping God together. Now that’s a happy ending.

Then there is chapter 13. Things aren’t always as they appear to be. The emotional worship experience didn’t translate into real life obedience.

The Bible demonstrates that our emotions are engaged in worship. We see accounts of people dancing in the streets, shouting praise, singing songs. We also see people grieved over sin, tearing their clothes, falling on their faces, and wailing as they worship.

We don’t turn off our emotions when we worship. But if experiencing worship is your goal, if going to church to get your weekly shot in the arm is your motivation, stay home.

First of all, worship is about God. It’s not about you. But secondly, we need to be reminded that those worship services end, and the daily grind begins. That worship service is meant for us to stop, focus on God, set aside self and care and heartache, and give what is due our Holy God. Then we continue our worship as we obey Him in the day to day.

It’s Christmas morning. I pray you and your family will be blessed as you celebrate Jesus’ birth. And I hope you’ll take time to set aside the busy-ness of the day, the laughter, and presents, and worship that baby who grew to be the man who died for you.

And may your worship translate into obedience for Jesus’ sake and for His glory.

Nehemiah 7-9; It’s Not Just History

God inspired the writers of Scripture fairly often to recall the events surrounding Israel’s exodus from Egypt, their forty year wilderness experience, and their occupation of the Promised Land. This time Nehemiah is praying as he takes us through those historical years.

Last week I watched the video of a lecture David Arthur gave on these chapters, and a lightbulb went on in my brain. I will never look at passages such as these the same ever again. Because  David Arthur did not spend time talking about the history of Jews. He referred to it as the history of God.

Of course!

God doesn’t want us focusing on the people, the nation of Israel. Lots of people write history books. God wants us to SEE HIM in the events and lives of the people He chose for that purpose. We think God chose Israel because somehow He loved them more, wants to bless them more. The reality is He chose the Jews to be an example to the world of who God is, and what He can do for those who obey Him. He chose that people group to reveal Himself, first through the Jewish people, and ultimately through Jesus. (Read Exodus and notice how often God tells us He does things so that the nations will know He is God)

So what does God tell us about Himself through the words of Nehemiah’s prayer? Here’s a quick list:

He alone is the Lord. He is the creator. He is faithful. He is righteous. He is compassionate. He has power over nature. He is present. He is holy. He forgives. He leads His people. He provides. He blesses. He is the victor. He must be obeyed. He is patient. He punishes sin. He is gracious, great, mighty, awesome, keeps His promises, answers prayer. He is just. His loving kindness is real.

I believe with all my heart that this is what God wants us to take away from the way He worked through one people group. The Bible is not about the physical nation of Jews. It’s about God.

It’s all about God.

Do you know Him? There is no better time than this season when we celebrate the birth of His Son Jesus. Read God’s Word and allow Him to reveal Himself to you. That is exactly what He longs to do.

Nehemiah 4-6; Fighting the Good Fight

The Jews worked fervently to get the wall built. But they never took their eyes off the enemy, and were always armed for battle. They recognized the enemy’s cunning attempts to thwart God’s work. But the wall was built in 52 days, in spite of the enemy’s best effort to stop it.

I think Christians working in churches are doing a pretty good job of getting things done. Outreach programs, inviting atmospheres, Bible studies, and child-care. I’m not so sure we’re doing a great job at arming ourselves against the enemy.

Read these chapters in Nehemiah and you will see Satan’s tactics; the offer of friendship, deception, fear, lies, etc. The enemy even “got in” to the inner circle by marrying the daughter of a prominent Jew. The Jew’s enemy was relentless.

And so is ours. God seems to be asking me to check my own battle stance. Am I busy doing things for the Lord, with one eye on my enemy? Or am I assuming that the enemy can’t touch me as long as I’m working for God? Have I put on the armor of God, do I wield the Sword of the Spirit? Am I studying God’s Word so that I understand Satan’s battle plan, can recognize his tactics, and fight when his arrows are pointed at me?

I must remember that Satan’s goal is to destroy the Church one soul at a time. May I fight the good fight as I do the things God asks of me. May you do the same.

Nehemiah 1-3; It Starts At Home

The conditions of Jerusalem grieved Nehemiah. His reactions to the news of that great city, reduced to rubble, was to fast and pray. His sorrow was a “sadness of the heart,” as observed by King Artaxerxes.

Nehemiah left the comforts of living in the palace of the Persian king, and went to Jerusalem to see what could be done to rectify the situation there. There are so many spiritual truths tucked into this precious book: How to go about beginning a project, how to handle opposition, what a healthy church looks like. This book is rich.

Here’s what came to mind this morning as I thought about these three chapters: So often I hear people lament the condition of the world, the corruption in our government, the immorality, the blatant sin, the disrespect for God in our society. I hear people grieved at the condition of the Church, bemoaning the fact the Church is losing its influence. I believe some are as grieved about the state of things today, as Nehemiah was at the state of Jerusalem.

Nehemiah went to Jerusalem, rallied the people to action, and the job got done. And here’s how:

People took care of the conditions in their own back yards.

Yes, the wall was rubble all around Jerusalem, an overwhelming task for any individual. But each person picked up a shovel and cleaned up the part of the wall closest to them.

Yes, the world is in sad repair. Yes, the task of cleaning it up seems too monumental. But I believe God would have us understand if we want our world repaired, it has to start at home.

You aren’t responsible for the world’s condition. But you are responsible for the condition of your home, which occupies a portion in the world.

Parents, do you hold your children to a Biblical standard of behavior? Kids, do you read the Bible and long to be right before God? Are you obedient? Adults, do you participate in drunkenness, pornography, vulgar language? Are you a watered-down version of what God demands?

Let’s not just shake our heads at the depraved condition of our world. We can change this world, one back yard at a time.

Ezra 4-10; Seriously Seeing Sin

What do you do when you are forced to face a wrong you have done? Do you accept the reprimand thankfully, do you take responsibility, ask forgiveness, and try to rectify the situation? Or do you get angry, place blame elsewhere, or blow it off?

Adam blamed Eve. And for most of us, that is our first inclination, too.

Not so Ezra and the Jews we read about in these chapters. Ezra prayed, and wept, and threw himself down on the ground in front of the temple. He met the truth of sin with agony and sorrow. The Jews followed his example.

With their repentance came drastic action. How do you correct the effects of a grave sin? Do you commit a “lesser” sin to rid yourself of the “greater”?

I’ve read several sources and their’s are varying opinions of the actions taken by the Jews. Some say, “Yes, of course. God commanded they not marry foreign women. Anyway, it was merciful to divorce them. The law provide for stoning them. They got off easy.”

Others say, “No way. God hates divorce. Marriage is forever. Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Honestly, I think both sides are right to a degree. Which makes this a very confusing passage in my mind. I notice Scripture does not use the words, “God said…” in reference to this drastic action. It seems to come as a response to a great revival, but not a direct order from God.

And I notice that each case was reviewed individually. Each marriage carefully examined before sentencing. I think that might imply there were some foreign wives who abandoned their idols and worshiped God with their husbands. Those marriages may have survived the cut. (purely my opinion)

What is undeniable is the seriousness with which God looks at sin. God inspired Ezra to name names. Every man who had married a foreign wife is listed here at the end of Ezra’s book. Name after name of the guilty is recorded for us to read thousands of years later.

What this Scripture says to me is that first of all, I need to be careful about going off half-cocked following an encounter with God. I want to be led by the Spirit, and not get ahead of what God is doing in my life.

Secondly, I need to take sin as seriously as God does. Sometimes He requires drastic action to purge sin from our lives. But if we never commit the sin in the first place, the drastic acton won’t be necessary.

Remind me of that truth, Dear Lord. Make me so in tune with You that I recognize sin before I commit it, and run! But when I sin and You point it out through Your Word or through the voice of one of Your children, help me to accept it graciously, and repent. Father, if there is drastic measures You need to take to purge sin from my life, do it. But I’m going to need You to help me every inch of the way. I only know I want to be a woman who sees sin as seriously as You do

Ezra 3:10-13; The Good Old Days

I got stuck here in Ezra 3. Something I read the other day has kept coming to mind, so I decided to take a closer look. It’s the picture of the celebration over the finished foundation of the temple.

Priests, dressed in their finest, trumpets, cymbals, the choir singing, “He is good; his love to Israel endures forever.” All the people shouting praise to God.

Well, maybe not all the people.

Scripture tells us many of the older folk wept aloud. Why? Did they not want the temple rebuilt? Were they lamenting a personal loss? Scripture tells us their weeping was as loud as the praises of the others.

I used to hate it when Dad would talk about “the good old days,” how great things “used” to be, and how awful things were in the present. (That was fifty years ago when I was young. Ouch!)

Now all these years later, I hear Dad’s words coming out of my own mouth. Maybe there was something to what Dad was feeling all those years ago.

The old folks who cried when they saw the new foundation were the ones who remembered Solomon’s magnificent temple back in the day. They remembered the splendor adorning God’s house, and could recall the worship that was given Him there. Those truly were the good old days.

No wonder some of the people were grieved as they realized the refurbished temple wouldn’t come close to what it once had been. No wonder they were sad to know this new generation had no idea what they were missing.

We were talking in Sunday School recently about how things used to be in the church, the years of Billy Graham crusades when the focus was on meeting God, the main draw was the preaching, and the thought of being entertained was the furthest thing in anyone’s mind.

I remember walking into a church and feeling like I was in a church and not a venue. I remember sitting there for an hour without a coffee in my hand. I remember caring how I presented myself to God for worship in His house. I remember altars at the front of churches where people were able to kneel for as long as it took to get right with God. I remember pulpits.

Forgive me if I “weep aloud” when I see the refurbished church today. You see, I remember the splendor.

Now having said all that, let me also say I know worship is happening in churches today where Jesus is proclaimed as the Savior. I praise God that sin is being confessed, souls are being won through the precious blood of Jesus. I love my church where guitars accompany praise songs and hymns, where people aren’t all in suits and dresses.

But there is a part of me that wishes we could go back to the way things used to be, and I’m not apologizing for that. You see, I remember Solomon’s temple.

Now before you jump down my throat, I know things weren’t perfect back in the day. I know there were problems in churches fifty years ago, disagreements, lukewarm hearts, and sin isn’t something that just reared it’s ugly head in the twenty-first century. But I would be foolish to think a new approach to worship has eliminated those same problems in churches today.

In fact, I’m not sure the church is any better at addressing those problems today than they were fifty years ago. Maybe we aren’t even doing as well at it.

All you young people out there, mark my words. If God tarries another fifty years, you’ll be looking back at 2017 as the days of Solomon’s temple. And one day you might hear your own voice talking about “the good old days,” and wishing your grandchildren could know what worship was like when you were young.

Heavenly Father, Thank you for churches where Your Holy Spirit is free to work in the hearts and lives of people, for pastors who proclaim the truth of Scripture, where Jesus is known to be the only way to You, and where You are worshiped as You demand. But God, I also see that the further we get from the cross, the more tolerant we are of sin, the more we talk about Your love, and fear You less. I see an increasingly casual approach to worship that is contrary to Your Word, and I am grieved. I don’t want to live in the past, Lord. But I also don’t want to discount what was right and good about the way things used to be. Give us wisdom. Give us discernment. May Your Church throw away tradition and trend, for the sake of tradition and trend, and just be people who want to worship You, serve You, love You, obey You, learn about You, and please You. May our worship of You be about You, and not about how it makes us “feel.” May we all, young and old, be the Church You want us to be, for as long as You give us life on this earth.

Ezra 1-3; Getting Our Priorities Straight

This was a great time in Jewish history. After 70 years of captivity, they were going home. King Cyrus gave them the go-ahead to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. He even provided much of what they needed to get the job done. Over 40,000 people packed up their things for the long, happy journey.

I love that the first thing they did upon arriving in Jerusalem, was to repair the altar. And as soon as they could, they began using it for the sacrifices they had so long been unable to make.

They repaired that altar, even though they had a bit of fear concerning the people around them. But they did not let their fear paralyze them. They celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles, offered the regular burnt sacrifices, the New Moon sacrifice, and all the sacrifices for all the sacred feasts. Plus freewill offerings! That altar got a workout. And all of this happened before the temple foundations was even laid.

I like this example. It demonstrates the priorities that we should have when doing God’s work. How many good projects fail when God’s people get ahead of Him? We are excited to get started on that building project, or that outreach program, or hiring a pastor. But we don’t spend a lot of time dealing with the sin in our own lives, worshiping God and praising Him for who He is, and seeking God’s direction first.

The Jews in Ezra took two years at that altar before going ahead with the building project. Two years before the temple foundation was even laid.

We are a people who demand instant gratification. It’s hard to wait, even for the light to change. But so often in Scripture God tells us to wait, to be still, to seek His kingdom, to hear from Him.

Let’s face it. We like to win. We like to be the first church in town with a state of the art sound system, or the catchy named coffee shop in our foyer, or the satellite site, the largest sanctuary, anything that will make us stand out as THE church.

None of those things are necessarily bad. But I wonder if sometimes we get focused on the project, and forget to wait for God’s direction before jumping in. I wonder if our projects are counter-productive when we allow sin to go unchecked in our hearts, if we don’t wait on God’s timing and direction.

Do we want God’s blessings on our efforts? Whether it’s the events of our day, or a major decision we must make, or a big project in our churches, I would suggest we follow the example here in Ezra.

Spend time… a lot of time… at the altar; wait on God… no matter how long it takes; then follow his lead and get busing doing what He asks. That seems to me what getting our priorities straight looks like.

 

 

2 Chronicles 33-36; There Is No Time Like The Present

A few weeks ago my pastor, who is doing a series of sermons through the Gospel of Mark, shared a heart-felt, heart-wrenching sermon on the unforgivable sin. We all went away from there knowing one of two things: either we would not commit that sin because we have already accepted God’s gift of grace through the blood of Jesus, or we were guilty of that sin because we are rejecting Him.

A couple of days later I was at our Good News Club at a local elementary school. The leader was helping the kids with our memory verse, John 3:16. “Jesus died,” she said, “so that anyone anywhere who believes in Him will be saved, and have eternal life.”

One boy raised his hand. “My pastor says some people run from God. They say, ‘I’ll get saved later. I want to live life my own way first.'” The boy and his family have been attending our church for several weeks. I rejoiced that his youngster understood what he was hearing.

I thought about that as I read the last chapter of 2 Chronicles this morning. Manasseh was the son of Hezekiah, a good king who did mostly what was pleasing to God during his reign. But when Manasseh became king, he wasted no time undoing the good his dad had done. Under Manasseh’s leadership, the Jews did more evil than the pagan people around them.

Manasseh eventually quit running from God, humbled himself, and repented. Then, with as much fervor as he’d had doing evil, he began to clean up his mess. He got rid of foreign gods, restored the altar, and told the people to start serving God.

All good things. But his years of defiance took its toll. His son Amon, who became king after Manasseh died, totally defied God his entire reign. Manasseh may have given his life to the Lord, but his son who had lived in his house during Manasseh’s rebellious years, never did. Manasseh had time to clean up the mess he’d made of the nation, but the time to repair the damage he’d done to his son ran out.

Sometimes I think we forget that our influence, our actions and attitudes, effect those closest to us in a very real way, for a very long time. If you are holding anything back from God, don’t think that isn’t effecting the dear ones who live in your home, or who love you and are loved by you.

I certainly hope you aren’t one who is saying, “I’ll get right with God later.” Don’t be living with that unforgivable sin hanging over your head. And for goodness sake, don’t give your children the impression that’s ok. They are watching your example, and learning from you.

Let our loved ones see that NOW is the time to deal with sin, to humble ourselves before God, and accept His forgiveness. Model for your children what a Christian looks like, by the things you do, the places you go, the things you say, the attitudes and passions you have.

There is no time like the present.