Monthly Archives: May 2018

Isaiah 5-7; My Vineyard

Did you read these chapters and see what God has to say to you today about your walk with Him? I did. When I read chapters 5-7 I realized I am the vineyard Isaiah is talking about. As a Jesus follower, God established me on rich, fertile ground. He did all the work to clear that land when Jesus died on the cross.

What He offers me is pure, perfect, and prepared in advance for me to produce good fruit. (Ephesians 2:10) He gifted me with abilities to serve Him. He built a hedge of protection around me to guard my heart. He is the watchman who protects me from Satan’s arrows. He gave me everything I need to live a godly life. (2 Peter 1:3)

Then God turns over the vineyard to me, and waits for me to start producing good fruit. After all, He did all the hard work to get it ready for me so that I can go and make disciples, so that I can be a light to the world, so that I can share the Good News of Jesus with lost souls. The potential is endless!

But it didn’t take long for me to feel the sting of conviction today. Verse 2b: but it (me) yielded only bad fruit.

Then God asks, What more could I have done? The answer sadly is, Nothing.

Verses 4-7 are sobering when you consider yourself as the vineyard who isn’t producing fruit. God won’t stay where He’s not wanted.

I hope you read the “Woe to’s” in chapter 5 and let God speak to you about choices you make, attitudes you have, whether you tolerate sin in yourself and ignore it in others, whether or not you think you have all the answers apart from God.

When Isaiah came face to face with Jesus he cried, “Woe to me! I am ruined for I am a man of unclean lips…”

Now I don’t know what kinds of problems Isaiah had with what came out of his mouth, but this is what spoke to me this morning. Look at 8:6-7. When Isaiah confessed his sin of speech, God sent an angel to touch Isaiah’s lips! God met Isaiah at the point of his need. Isaiah confessed a sin. God forgave that sin.

Another thing I see is, that cleansing hurt. Most of the time, it takes a broken heart to repent, turning from sin is not always easy. Sometimes it really does hurt to admit you’ve sinned, to humble yourself, to accept grace. And sometimes separating yourself from that sin means giving up some things and people you really like. Ouch.

I think God wants us to know that as we read His Word, asking Him to speak to us about our walk with Him, He’ll point out sin. He’ll reveal things to us about our hearts’ condition before Him. He’ll talk to us about our vineyard.

Don’t forget this: If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness! (I John 1:9)

Every. Time.

So, read God Word and allow Him to put a finger on the problem. Confess. Repent. Allow Him to cleanse you. Then go back to the vineyard and get to work. Turn that precious property into something beautiful, and useful in God’s kingdom.

Isn’t God’s Word amazingly personal and relevant? I love it!

Isaiah 1-4; It’s Personal

Honestly, I think it’s a bit unfortunate when people read books like Isaiah’s as merely an historical account, or a glimpse into the future, Yes, there was sin in Israel. Yes, they were captured by the Babylonians. Yes, Jesus is coming again. But I don’t want to miss what God wants to say to me in these pages about my walk with Him in 2018.

When I read this, I hear hear Him ask me why I am sometimes miserable, why I can feel defeated. He tells me it’s because I persist in rebellion, I’ve let foreigners (sin) in, and sin is stripping me of the blessings He would love to shower on me.

I hear Him tell me He’s sick of me going through the motions of serving Him when my heart isn’t in it. The He says in 1:18-20:

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.

In other words, “Come on, Connie. Use your head. Your sins will be forgiven, you will be washed clean…

If.

I must be willing and obedient. I must stop resisting and rebelling. Then He can bless me. There is order to His plan.

As I continue to read these chapters and make the “you” personal, I understand that God means what He says. Look at 2:5:

Come, O house of Jacob, (of which I am a part through the blood of Jesus) let us walk in the light of the Lord.

That’s God’s will for my life. To walk in His light, not the opinions of men, not in theologies or philosophies. God wants me to walk with HIM!

Isaiah points out that the world seems to have it all, but there will come a time when every man and woman who has ever lived on this planet will be required to face God. Judgment will come to those who reject Him.

I know that in a general way. But God can convict all of us of the personal struggles we have with sin as we read this book. He can convict of us embracing pagans, or considering views other than those in Scripture, or aligning ourselves with ungodly people. He can convict us of tolerating idols, or making idols out of our families or careers or ourselves. He can convict us of arrogance and pride as we read what Isaiah penned so long ago.

I challenge you to read the book of Isaiah with me, and make it personal. What is God saying to you about your walk with Him? Let’s not miss it.

Song Of Solomon; Pursuing Love

Who doesn’t want to be loved? Unless there is mental illness or emotional baggage, I think all of us would admit a longing to be loved, passionately, exclusively, intentionally loved by another. The entertainment business thrives on the topic of love because they know love is the driving force behind nearly everything we do.

But I wonder, then, why there are so many divorces because one or both parties have “fallen out of love.” Friend, the Bible is pretty clear that true love is never out of our control. You don’t believe the lie that says “you can’t help who you love,” do you?

The Song of Songs is a beautiful picture of the passionate, exclusive, intentional love we all long for. In here you will see the man and woman seeking each other at various times. You know that sometimes your spouse needs you to take the initiative, don’t you? Sometimes you need to be the one to reach out, to plan something romantic or surprise them with something special. One person can’t always be the instigator of affection because true love is a two way street.

You will see in Solomon’s Song that neither of the lovers is willing to simply listen to what someone else has to say about their loved one. The watchman said one thing, the lover went and checked it out personally.

You will see examples of the couple taking time for each other, to study each other, to rest in each other while shutting away the rest of the world. You will see mistakes, and forgiveness, a love that thinks less of what it takes than what it gives.

Your marriage depends on the choices you make, not just the feelings you feel.

And so does your relationship with God. Everything in the Song of Solomon that applies to marriage applies to a healthy relationship with our Savior.

We know that He pursues us. Do we pursue Him, too? Do we spend time in His Word and in prayer? Do we long to know Him passionately, exclusively, intentionally the way He longs to know us?

Do we reach out to Him during the day? I remember watching my parents, the way Dad would reach out and touch Mom’s hand, or pat her leg. No words, just that gentle touch that said “I love you.” Do we, likewise, let God know during our day that we are loving Him, too?

All of us long to be passionately, exclusively, intentionally loved, AND WE ARE, if we know the Lord.

Let’s determine to nurture that love, and love God passionately, exclusively, and intentionally back.

Ecclesiastes 10-12; A Message For The Young

Solomon had the time and resources to test a lot of different philosophies concerning the meaning of life. His conclusion? Life is a gift from God with the possibility of great joy and fulfillment, or great sorrow and emptiness. The choice is ours.

I’d like to talk to you young people who read this blog. Solomon has quite a lot to say about youth, and I pray you will allow God to speak to you through the king’s words.

The imagery Solomon uses in chapter 12 to describe old age is kind of funny. Without saying the words, he draws a picture of, well… me. I’m not exactly there yet, really. But I see the signs!

Trembling arms and hands, stooped shoulders, false teeth, dimming vision, shaking voices, grey hair, and a fear of falling. Read the words Solomon uses and see if you can see these things there. And here’s what Solomon tells us: That’s exactly what every one of you can expect in the future. It’s life. We all start out young… and end up old if God gives us enough years. So, he says, remember your Creator before your youth is gone.

I spent a lot of time with young people in my 37 years as an educator, as a Junior High Sunday School teacher, a Bible quiz coach. And I’ve heard more than one child say that they planned to “live” while they were young; that they’d do the Christian thing when they were a bit older. What they were looking for was permission to sin.

But is that what Solomon advises? Warren Wiersbe, in his Bible study book on Ecclesiastes (Be Satisfied, SP Publications, 1990) says this on page 130:

“The best way to have a happy adult life and a contented old age is to get a good start early in life and avoid things that will bring trouble later on.”

Young people, dark days are coming. Solomon would advise you to start building a good foundation today, while you are still young, while you still have the energy and ability, so that when trouble comes you will be able to stand firm. You don’t build a foundation after the house is built.

You see, Scripture tells us to be holy as God is holy. It doesn’t say start being holy on your thirtieth birthday. It tells us to resist the devil, come out from among them and be separate. It doesn’t say run with the devil and blend in with the world until you get it out of your system. Obedience is demanded for all of God’s children.

That means you.

I don’t envy you. It was hard for me to be holy and resist the devil while I was growing up in the sixties and seventies. And I know it’s hard for you today because you are being bombarded with lies that people accept as truth. Do you even know what truth is any more? I pray you do.

I will tell you that I wasn’t always successful being holy as a youth. There were temptations I fell for. But I want you to know that decades later, I am still carrying some of the consequences of those sins. Memories haunt. Regrets are real.

There are people I know who are suffering from diseases that are results of choices they made in their youth, some who are battling addictions that began while they were in school, some who are in toxic relationships, some who were never able to realize their dreams because of those momentary “pleasures.”

God doesn’t want that for you. He wants to give you a life that has meaning, and joy, and fulfillment, free of the baggage that comes from a misspent youth. And trust me. Some of that baggage can be really heavy. So don’t pack it with garbage.

Solomon’s final conclusion, after all of his searching for meaning is this:

Fear God and keep His commandments for this is the whole duty of man.

Do you have a healthy fear of God, understanding that He is Holy, and demands holiness of you? Do you revere Him, honor Him, obey Him knowing He could crush you at any moment? Or do you think of Him as your buddy, your pal, your kindly grandpa whose bark is worse than His bite?

Fearing God causes us to obey Him, to take Him seriously when He says He hates sin and punishes every single sin with death. Not just the sins of old people. Your sin comes with a death sentence, too.

The crazy thing about that kind of fear is that it brings joy, peace, purpose. Wiersbe quotes Oswald Chambers on page 135 of Be Satisfied:

“The remarkable thing about fearing God is that, when you fear God, you fear nothing else; whereas, if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.”

Oh dear young person. Think ahead. As Solomon was concluding his book he tells us six times to enjoy life while we can. He never tells us to enjoy sin. There is a difference.

You are in the prime of life. You can do almost anything you set your mind to do, you have opportunities surrounding you that I couldn’t have imagined when I was your age. And God wants you to enjoy every minute, go through every door He opens for you.

Take Him with you. You might not be the most popular kid on the soccer team if you don’t join in on the trash talk, or risky behavior (sin). But then again, those kids aren’t building your foundation. You are. One choice at a time.

I’m praying for you.

Ecclesiastes 6-9; Life Doesn’t Have To Be Lived “Under the Sun”

Wow. If you need some cheering up today I wouldn’t read these chapters in Ecclesiastes. Life, as Solomon describes it under the sun is bleak, depressing, futile. Solomon’s pessimistic, fatalistic view of life is certainly a downer.

I am reminded what he describes is life without God. A non-believer’s view of God contains no hope. But, dear one, there is life above the sun!

That life is full of hope, and joy, and purpose. That life stretches on into eternity where we who know God will live with Him forever. That life is worth living.

Do you know God through His Son Jesus, and by reading His Word? Have you experienced the joy that comes from knowing your sins are forgiven, never to be remembered ever again? Do you recognize God’s generous hand in your life apart from circumstance, as well as in the midst of them? Do you see Him in the warm summer sunshine, the refreshing spring rains, the sounds of birds, of children laughing, of the wind rustling in the trees?

You don’t have to live a life void of meaning. There is One who died so you could have life, and have it to the full!

Regardless of what Solomon expressed in his attempt to find meaning to life apart from God, there is joy in this life. There is purpose and value, hope and peace.

His name is Jesus!

Ecclesiastes 3-4; Religion?

One of the things Solomon looks at in his search for the answer to the meaning of life is religion. In 5:1 he warns us to watch our step when we go into God’s house. Watch our step? Why?

There are many religions in the world. But all religions have something in common – ritual. Like: before entering, dip your fingers in water and make the sign of the cross. Pick up the beads and recite a prayer over and over. Bow down facing east every day at just the right time. Touch the box before entering the house.

Religions have set rules one must obey in order to follow that religion. That’s why you hear that Christianity is not a religion. It’s a relationship.

There are dozens of churches on this island where I live, and you will find dozens of expressions of worship. Oh, there is order to worship. But each church has the freedom to express worship as they wish, and still be a Christian church IF Jesus is proclaimed as Savior, Lord, and the Son of God whose death on the cross paid for the sins of the world.

But there might be a danger to making even our freedom in worship become religion. So many of us barge into a worship service like we’re attending a family reunion or a football game. We come laughing, joking, and high-fiving, while we sip on our lattes. We sing the praise songs over and over with our minds on what’s for lunch, or we work up that feeling of euphoria some equate with worship. We go through the motions, because that’s what we’re supposed to do.

But is that worship? Or is it religion? Is that nurturing a relationship or going through the motions?

Solomon goes on in chapter 5 to tell us our worship may be the same as the sacrifice of fools. Don’t be hasty in word, rather listen. Worship is communion with God, not performing for Him. It’s that connection that allows Him to place a finger on sin in our lives, to encourage us, to teach us. We’ve got to quiet our hearts, and listen.

The king also talks about the kinds of vows we make to God. Do not be mistaken, God takes us seriously. You don’t say something to God, then later take it back.  “Oops. My bad” doesn’t cut it with our Holy God. How serious are we when we come into the presence of that Holy God in order to worship Him?

Whether you attend a church that uses rituals, or one in which there are no rules, why are  you there? My prayer is that we will attend our churches because we love Jesus, because we have acknowledged that we are sinners in need of the Savior, and have accepted Him as the only means to the Father. I pray that as we walk through those doors, we have hearts that are open to fellowship with the Creator God, and worship Him like He deserves.

Don’t let religion get in the way.

 

Ecclesiastes 1-2; Life Worth Living

Solomon was unhappy. The wisest man who ever lived, arguably the most wealthy, most powerful ruler who ever walked this earth despaired of life. After a concerted effort to find meaning and happiness, he’d come to the conclusion that life was futile. From where he was standing, I’d have to agree.

And, like Solomon would remind us, nothing has changed in the thousands of years since he wrote this book. We can see that fact in our 2018 world; people who are the richest, most famous, most powerful, those with astronomical IQ’s and multiple doctorates are some of the unhappiest people. Suicides, divorces, substance abuse, health issues relating to stress are symptoms of rampant unhappiness.

Yet, aren’t the “things” these people have the very things millions of people are working toward or dreaming of? Solomon would advise, “Don’t bother.”

I remember when I was in college, hearing it said that achievement is the birth of despair. Because once you’ve reached your goals, now what do you do? Do you start over again? Do you just sit on it? Because the truth of the matter is, someone is eventually going to surpass you. The euphoria you feel as a result of achieving your goal is short-lived. Then often, despair follows.

Meaningless, Solomon would say. A chasing after a wind.

The key to Solomon’s despair, and to so many others who relate to what he is saying, is that the pursuit of happiness apart from God is hollow at best. Solomon is right to think “if this is all there is, it’s not that great.”

Those of us who know God know this isn’t all there is. We know there is nothing new under the sun, and we’re ok with that because we know what’s above the sun. We don’t put our lives in the hands of money, or fame, health, or people. We know all of that will pass away, like everything else.

But we would not say that this life is meaningless, or a puff of wind. We know life is a gift from God, and He is the giver of all good things. We believe Jesus when he said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

We know that (our) labor is not in vain. (I Corinthians 15:58). There is meaning, and purpose, joy, and assurance in the Lord, every day of this amazing life we live in Him.

And, God’s mercies are new every morning! It’s God Himself who makes life worth living.