Monthly Archives: July 2018

Daniel 1-4; What’s The Big Deal?

Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were among the Jewish young men held captive by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. They were being groomed to serve that pagan king in any way he saw fit. Their indoctrination included eating what they were told (although there is a great lesson in that fact. I hope you’ll read these chapters today),  wearing what they were given, and their names were even changed to wipe out any connection the Jews had with God. Now they were called by names honoring pagan gods.

The four young men had taken a stand early on to be true to God. They did not compromise their faith. And God blessed them.

So when Nebuchadnezzar had a gigantic statue erected in the middle of town, and ordered everyone to bow down and worship it, three of our boys stood tall. This did not go over well with the king.

The king confronted them, and gave them a second chance. “Either bow down and worship my statue like I told you, or be thrown into the furnace and die.” You probably know what they chose:

“We’re not about to bow to anything or anyone other than the One True God.”  So they were thrown into the fire. Read the rest of the story. It’s truly amazing.

As I was thinking about this this morning, it occurred to me that Nebuchadnezzar would not have been able to see the hearts of those men. What’s to say they couldn’t pray to God, worship Him in their hearts, and just look like they were worshiping the statue? What’s the big deal?

After all, just a few books earlier, in 2 Kings 5, didn’t we read about Naaman, the commander of the army of a pagan king, healed of leprosy through Elisha, and who became a believer as a result, take a different position?

In verses 17-18 in 2 Kings, Naaman asks Elisha not to judge him when, as a part of his job description, he helps the feeble pagan king into the temple of Rimmon, and then helps the king bow in worship of the pretend god. “God forgive me,” Naaman pleads.

And Elisha responds, “Go in peace.”

So if Naaman could bow and not worship, why couldn’t Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego do the same thing? God judges the heart, right?

Today I’m asking myself, how much can I go along with the world before I need to stand tall? I can’t answer that for anyone but me.

Paul said he became all things to all men, Jesus hung out with sinners all the time. It didn’t effect their commitment to God. But the Bible also tells us to come out and be separate, to avoid even the appearance of sin. So which is it?

Do you go through the motions of blending in with the world, believing you can keep your heart right before God? Or do you take a stand and refuse to bend? I think that’s between you and God.

But be warned. God does see your heart. And the truth is, you can go through the motions, or not go through the motions, and still be disobedient if your heart isn’t right with the Lord.

What’s the big deal?

Eternity.

Ezekiel 45-48; Sweet and Salty

My favorite dessert.

But I’m not going to talk about the gigantic piece of chocolate cake with thick fudge frosting, drizzled with hot fudge, a scoop of ice-cream, and peanuts that my friends and I shared last night at dinner. Give me a second…

Ok. I’m back. 🙂

I live on an island in the Atlantic, surrounded by beautiful, mysterious marshland. There are several rivers near me that flow through the marshes and into the ocean. You can take your boat from the salty waters of the Atlantic, right into fresh flowing water that comes from the mainland. And vise versa.

Sometimes those rivers overflow their banks and pour their sweet water into the marshes before rushing into the ocean. That is quite a sight to see. Really, the marshland scenery changes all the time. I love it.

The water from these rivers never stops flowing. Every minute of every day, thousands and thousands of gallons of fresh water pour into the ocean Yet with all that fresh water, the ocean is still salty. That’s a fact.

So when I read chapter 47 I was a bit confused. Water from a river making salty water fresh? That’s not the way it works.

So as I sat here considering how this passage could be true, God reminded me that this is a vision, Connie. Not a science lesson.

Oh right. A vision!

So – what does the fresh water represent?

Jesus! The Gospel!

What is described in Ezekiel’s vision is so true in the life a believer. This water we know as Jesus Himself, changes our saltiness, uselessness, our guilt, into something refreshing, and fruit-bearing. Sin cannot do what Jesus can do. The Gospel is life-giving! It’s a miracle.

Then I thought back to chapter 46 where God tells Ezekiel that people must come into the temple by one gate, walk straight through, and exit through the opposite gate. No turning back. It speaks about we who come to know the Lord, and leave our past behind to follow Him. That’s what God demands:

“Don’t look back, Lot’s wife. Don’t look back. Keep going.” (Oh, she turned to salt when she disobeyed, didn’t she? She didn’t accept the fresh water of salvation that was hers for the taking. And she died in her sin.)

Keep moving, Christian. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Keep sharing the Gospel and allow God to do the impossible – changing salt water into fresh, changing sinners into saints through the blood of Jesus as people confess their sins and repent.

Now that’s sweet.

Ezekiel 37-44; Beyond Feet and Inches

Ok. Confession time. When I read chapter after chapter of measurements and building plans, by mind shifts into neutral. I have to continually go back and reread portions because I realize I was reading words, and thinking about something else. Ugh. It’s frustrating.

I’m not even sure why God felt it necessary to go into such detail over a temple in a vision. Well, until I pulled out my friend, Matthew Henry. He revealed to me the glorious truth in these details, and I want to reread these chapters again just so I can see Jesus there. I had been concentrating on the yard stick, and nearly missed the truth.

These details are given us to show the intricate workings of God in the Church, His grace, Jesus’ position as our High Priest. It’s so cool!

From the vastness of the temple itself, to the exact measurements of the doors, Henry suggests is a picture of the grace of God making room for Jews and Gentiles alike who enter the exact same way. The vision of the Glory of God pictures Jesus as the Living Water and the Light of the World. And Henry points out there is no cloud this time!

“for we now ‘with open face behold the glory of the Lord,’ in the face of Christ…” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary in One Volume; Zondervan Publishing House, 1961; page 1077)

I don’t usually recommend that you read a commentary, but if you can get hold of a copy of Henry’s, I hope you read what he says about what he calls the “mystical temple” described in Ezekiel’s vision. Then read God’s Word again and get the picture of how amazing God’s Church is, how intricate is His temple (you and me, the places God dwells on earth today) and how glorious His work of grace.

I challenge you to set aside the feet and inches, and see God in all His glory! To think we are a part of that.

Amazing.

Ezekiel 31-36; It’s Not Funny

One of Satan’s tactics against God’s people is seen most clearly in the media, and the entertainment business. When was the last time you saw a Christian favorably portrayed in a show? Not too long ago, a popular talk show host said our Vice President was mentally ill because he’d said he listened to God’s voice. People who hear voices in their heads are insane, she proclaimed. She got a big laugh out of that statement.

Maybe you’ve been the butt of someone’s joke because of your stand for the Truth of Scripture. Satan delights in making us look like fools.

Satan also uses his own hatred of us against us. People have heard so often that Christians are bigoted, intolerant, hate-mongers that they believe it. Satan’s hate produces hate.

It’s a serious thing to speak against, or lie about God’s people. Read in chapter 35 what God said to Israel’s cousins, the Edomites. They had encouraged Israel’s enemies, wanted the Jews to suffer, and were very vocal against God’s people. Hear what God said about that:

You boasted against me and spoke against me without restraint, and I heard it. (35:13)

I HEARD IT.

We Christians are God’s people. He is our Father, our Shepherd, our Champion. He’s the mama bear protecting her cubs, a dad protecting his family against invaders. You don’t want to mess with Him.

But people still mess with God’s children. Listen to how God said He was going to deal with the Edomites who were messing with the Jews:

“While the whole earth rejoices, I will make you desolate. Because you rejoiced when the inheritance of the house of Israel became desolate, that is how I will treat you. You will be desolate, O Mount Seir, you and all Edom. Then they will know that I am the Lord.” (35:14b-15)

Here’s what God impressed on me this morning: Before I get too smug thinking people who are mean to me will get what they deserve, I need to ask myself if I’m giving them reason to hate me, or criticize me.

If they say I’m a bigot, do I talk like one? If they call me a hypocrite, am I hypocritical? If they want to see me suffer, is it because I’m not expressing the love of God toward them?

The Bible tells us very clearly how we should live, how we should treat people, what our attitudes should be. It tells us we can stand firmly on the Truth and still love our neighbor, do good to those who abuse us.

Understanding how seriously God views attacks against His children, and how devastating the consequences, I don’t want to provoke an attack by my poor choices. If they make fun of me or attack me because of sin in my life, I need to look at my sin and repent. But if those jokes or attacks are directed at me because I am living my life like Jesus lived His, then their behavior is on them.

People hated Jesus without cause. If people hate me, may they also have no cause. And may I warn them how fiercely God protects His children.

It’s not funny to our Father.

Ezekiel 26-30; Take That, Satan

Ezekiel shares that God likened the king of Tyre to Satan. A model of perfection, adorned with beauty, guardian of cherubs, blameless until the day he chose wickedness. His heart became proud, corrupt, and dishonest, so God threw him out of His Presence. And Satan landed on earth.

Who of us has not been prideful, corrupt, or dishonest ourselves at one time or another? A flash from my past came to mind as I sat here thinking about this. Forty-some years ago, when ATM’s first came on the scene, I pulled up to the ATM of a bank near the grocery where I was heading. I put my card in, punched in $40.00 from checking, then took the money from the machine. It was like magic!

I immediately realized it had given me one too many $20’s. I remember sitting there for a second, before driving away.

I stole that $20.

I even remember rationalizing my sin by telling myself God must have wanted me to have it, seeing that I was living paycheck to paycheck with a few unpaid bills sitting on my desk at home.

Wow. Hadn’t thought about that in years. But I realize how much Satan’s influence is here on earth. He whispered the same lie in my ear that he whispered in Eve’s. “You deserve this.” And I fell for it just like Eve did.

I’m not the same person I was in my twenties, thankfully. Not too long ago I was putting groceries in my car when I realized a jar of onion powder was not in a bag. I checked the receipt and realized the cashier had not charged me for it. I found myself beginning to rationalize not paying for the onion powered. “It wasn’t my fault she didn’t see it.” “I want to get home to put the frozen stuff in the freezer,” “I don’t want to walk all that way back into the store for a measly buck and a half.” But I shut out those thoughts, and I took the jar back into the store to pay for it.

Now, I’m not saying that so you’ll think I’m some kind of saint. I’m not. But I share that to make the point that, even though Satan’s influence is as strong today, God is still stronger.  God gives His children every weapon we need to resist the devil. And God wins every time we allow Him to fight the battle.

Satan won’t stop shooting arrows, but we can put on the armor of God and not allow those arrows to penetrate. When Jesus places His righteousness on us when we repent of sin, His righteousness lives in and through us. We  begin to think, and act, like Jesus. And Satan has no power against Jesus! That’s great news!

And there’s more! Ezekiel reminds us that Satan is already defeated. God speaks outside of time, telling us:

… So I made a fire come out from you, and it consumed you, and I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching. All the nations who knew you are appalled at you; you have come to a horrible end and will be no more. (28:18b-19)

Take that, Satan. You are already toast. God wins. You lose. And those of us on God’s side win with Him.

Who’s side are you on?

 

Ezekiel 21-25; What We Deserve

One thing about God is, as patient and loving as He is, there is a limit to what He will take from us. Sin in our world, in our country, our homes, our churches, our hearts will not go unpunished. And God, through Ezekiel’s example, tells us to quit whining about it.

God is a righteous Judge. And we’re only getting what we deserve:

“I the Lord have spoken. The time has come for me to act. I will not hold back; I will not have pity nor will I relent. You will be judged according to your conduct, and your actions,” declares the Sovereign Lord. (Ezekiel 24:14)

Yes, I know this was written to the flesh and blood nation of Israel during Ezekiel’s lifetime. But what makes us think God has changed His position concerning sin in 2018?

Another thing about God is, as right as He is to pass judgment, as justified as He is to punish us, He is still willing to forgive. Not just willing, but longing to forgive. And He Himself took on His own severe punishment so we wouldn’t have to.

If we repent.

Repentance isn’t just a quick, “I’m sorry,” to hear, “Oh, that’s okay.” It’s not an apology with no intention of changing. Repentance involves drastic change.

It’s not just putting idols in a closet, but destroying them never to bring them out ever again. It’s denying sin in any form, resisting the devil, fleeing youthful lusts. It’s living without even the appearance of evil. It’s a choice every day to die to self and live for God.

Doesn’t it feel as though our world is on the brink of a great disaster? The examples in the Bible tell me that’s not what God wants, but what our sin demands.

So, dear one – QUIT SINNING! Quit condoning sin, or ignoring it. Quit giving lip-service to worship and start obeying God with every step you take.

If we don’t, and judgment comes, we’d best not cry about how hard life has become. It’s only what we deserve.

Ezekiel 16-20; God’s Got This

The elders went to Ezekiel because they wanted some answers from God. God’s response? “I will not be inquired of by you.” (20:3b)

Some people can get frustrated with God because they aren’t receiving the answers to their questions. “When I get to heaven, the first thing I’m going to do is ask God…” Some may hold God at arm’s length, or stop going to church because they have questions and aren’t getting them answered.

If that describes you, hear God ask, “Who do you think you are?”

When the elders came to Ezekiel to ask their questions, instead of getting answers, God proceeded to list their sins. And there were a lot of sins to list.

This is what I feel God is saying to me through His Word today: He doesn’t owe us anything. Not health or wealth or happiness or even answers to questions. We forfeited our right to equality with God the first time we disobeyed Mommy.

God didn’t even owe us His written Word. But He gave it to us anyway. In these pages are the answers to every question God thinks is important for us to know the answers to. The rest is none of our business.

I guess first of all, if you aren’t getting the answers you think you need to know, my question to you is: Are you reading and studying the Bible? If you aren’t getting answers, don’t complain if you aren’t reading the text book.

Secondly, if you aren’t getting answers – trust God anyway. The One who died for you, forgives you, never leaves or forsakes you, and promises you an eternity with Him, can replace your questions with Himself. When that happens, the unanswered questions don’t seem all that critical.

Rest assured, God’s got this whether you understand it or not.