Monthly Archives: July 2019

July 31; Time To Check Your Heart

Jeremiah 8:4-9:15, 22-10:26, 26:1-24

I often hear people lament the condition of the world based on what is happening in the US. “God must be coming back soon because Americans have legalized gay marriages,” when the truth is, we aren’t the first country to do that. We aren’t the first country to be “post-Christian.” For some reason, we believe God doesn’t think other countries quite as important as the good old USA.

I hate to break it to us, but it isn’t all about America. Jeremiah reminded me of that this morning. In fact, the prophet reminded me it isn’t about nations at all. It’s not about Congress, or school boards, or Parliament, or police states. It’s about uncircumcised hearts.

It’s about me. It’s about you. It’s about individuals who reject God’s law, who worship pretend gods, who are their own gods.

There are great things happening in Jesus’ name in countries all over this world. Why? Because one man and one woman at a time are giving their hearts to the Lord. Do you think that matters in God’s economy, or does He cancel out that particular work of the Holy Spirit because Americans are rejecting Him?

As I was reading in Jeremiah today, reading about Egypt, Judah, Edom, Ammon, Moab, Israel, God seemed to remind me nations are not entities unto themselves. Jesus didn’t die to save Mexico, or Israel, or Ethiopia, or the United States of America. Jesus died to save individuals. Nations are made up of people whose hearts are either given to God or to Satan.

Jeremiah 9:25 says, “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will punish all who are circumcised only in the flesh.”

So, dear one, it’s time to check your heart. It’s time for me to check mine. That’s the heart I am responsible for, that’s the heart that will usher me into heaven or hell.

So the next time we are praying for our country and the world, let me suggest we check our heart’s condition before our Holy God. God can’t heal a nation until He heals each of us.

 

 

 

July 30; Questions Not Asked

Jeremiah 22:1-17; 2 Kings 23:31-37; Habakkuk

Have you ever found yourself thinking, “When I get to heaven the first thing I’m going to do is ask God why…?” “Why is life so hard?” “Why do bad people prosper and good people struggle?” “Why do non-Christians get away with making life miserable for Christians?” “Why are there diseases, wars, catastrophes…”

Habakkuk had questions, and his sound pretty much like ours. He asked, “Why are you ignoring me, God?” “Why do you tolerate wrong?” “Why do your enemies swallow us up?”

In other words, “Why isn’t life fair?”

What we see here in Habakkuk is a man’s frustration, expressing his honest feelings about life. Is there anything wrong with that? I’ve always been taught that the only stupid question is the question not asked. Now I’m wondering if that is true.

God answers the prophet. And he starts by telling him to “Write this down.” Whenever one of my professors used to say that, I knew that what was to follow was something I shouldn’t ignore, something he expected me to understand and remember.

God’s reply to Habakkuk is a wake-up call. In effect He is saying He really doesn’t need us to tell Him what is wrong in the world. And to be sure we understand that he is not unaware, He gives warnings to five different classes of people.

Woe to thieves and dishonest people. (2:6-8)

Woe to people who use people to get ahead. (2:9-11)

Woe to bullies and criminals. (2:12-14)

Woe to drunks, lewd and violent people. (2:15-17)

Woe to idolators. (2:18-19)

God’s not blind. He sees what is going on. And He will take care of it. Sin will be punished.

Then God reminds us, “But the Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth be silent before Him.” (2:20) In other words, “I’m God. You aren’t. Shut your mouth.”

In 2:4, God says something that hit me. “See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright – but the righteous will live by his faith.” I believe God is telling us that when we have the nerve to demand answers from Him, we become puffed up, we try to put ourselves on equal footing with God. Those questions don’t come from a good place in our hearts.

In fact, those who are truly His trust Him. The righteous don’t need answers, they live by their faith in God instead.

Habakkuk speaks again to God in chapter three. This time he says, “You’re right, God.” The prophet says things like, “I stand in awe of you. We’ve seen your glory in creation, your splendor in a sunrise. We’ve seen  your heavy hand of discipline and your control over nature. You scare me, God. And I rejoice in you. I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

Habakkuk submits to the Sovereign God and says “…in wrath remember mercy.” In other words, “Do what you need to do, God. We deserve it. But please have mercy on us, too,”

Habakkuk starts out by asking God to defend Himself. God reminds Habakkuk who he is talking to. And Habakkuk replies by bowing before a Holy God.

He ends his book with,”The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enable me to go on the heights.” The answers to his questions don’t seem to be all that important any more. He turns his focus instead to God.

So, no. When I get to heaven the first thing I’ll do is NOT ask God anything. I’m going to spend the first billion years at His feet, loving Him, being loved by Him, simply drinking in His Presence. Then, after a billion years or so, if a question comes to mind, I’ll sit with my precious Savior another billion years before I ask.

 

July 29; Disobedience Kills

Psalm 81; Jeremiah 47-48; 2 Kings 23:29-30; 2 Chronicles 35:20-36:1

Josiah was a good man, a great king. He loved God and served Him with enthusiasm. His example bore fruit in the lives and hearts of the Jews who, because of King Josiah’s example, turned from idolatry and worshiped God.

So, don’t you think God could have cut him some slack, maybe ignored a tiny little disobedience in this good man? It wasn’t like he bowed down to an idol. Or did he?

Josiah’s death always makes me sad. The guy died way too soon. There was so much good he should have been able to do in his lifetime. So why did God “take” him at such a young age?

Well, first of all, God didn’t “take” Josiah. In fact, God told him to stay away from the battle. God threw a roadblock in the king’s way, and Josiah just barged right through. It was Josiah’s disobedience that killed him. Had he put the idol of “self” back up on the pedestal? Why else would he have gone against what God said, and done his own thing? It was Josiah’s will, not God’s, that caused his death that day.

If good works, a public stance for the Truth, being an upstanding person was what God requires, Josiah would have been golden. He might still be alive in 2019 for all we know. He was that good.

But here’s what I believe God would have us understand: Disobedience kills. Period.

Disobedience doesn’t only kill rapists, thieves, and terrorists. Disobedience kills moms and dads, preachers and missionaries, and really, really nice people, too. And not just physical death. That’s not even the worst of it.

Your disobedience may be slowly killing any relationship you have with God. It may be causing a gradual hardening of your heart toward the Truth. It’s disobedience that leads to an eternal death.

Has God laid a finger on an act or attitude of disobedience in your life? Friend, you had better deal with it. Ignoring it, or holding on to it will have devastating results. If God speaks to you about an area of disobedience, and you don’t ask Him to forgive you, you’ve placed yourself above Him, put yourself as your own god. That’s idolatry.

And God has a pretty dim view of idolatry.

Throughout the Bible God is very clear: He blesses obedience. He will not tolerate disobedience. Not in me. And not in you.

Disobedience kills. But thank God, that through the blood of Jesus we can be forgiven, when we repent of that disobedience. Then in receiving God’s grace, we can have abundant life in this world, and in eternity!

July 28; Trusting The One We Fear

Nahum; 2 Kings 23:1-28; 2 Chronicles 35:1-19

Nahum reminds us that God is to be feared… and trusted. Feared because His judgment is harsh and inflexible. Trusted because He never places judgment on anyone who doesn’t deserve it. What is sin for you is sin for me.

And the wages of sin is death. He’s pretty upfront about that.

But here’s what else Nahum says about God: He is slow to anger.

“The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him.” (1:7)

Yes, God protects His honor and holiness with jealous zeal. Yes, there are devastating consequences for those who don’t play by His rules. But don’t get stuck there. Because the same jealous and avenging God took on Himself His own wrath, His own death penalty so you and I wouldn’t have to.

You might think God isn’t fair, and you would be right. It wasn’t fair that Jesus took your sins to the cross. He never committed even one sin. Yet our Savior endured the cross, didn’t give a second thought about the shame – for love of you!

Yes, the Creator God, Almighty, All-knowing, Eternal and Holy, is a God to be feared. You can look at Jesus’ death on the cross and get an idea how serious God is about sin, and what it cost His Son to take the punishment you deserve.

Look at the cross. That should be you up there. If that doesn’t make you fearful, I don’t know what will.

Then look into the face of your Savior, and know He can be trusted:

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; emphasis mine)

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24; emphasis mine)

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were STILL SINNERS, Christ died for us(Romans 5:8; emphasis mine)

We have reason to fear God. And we have every reason to trust the One we fear, when we are His children through the blood of Jesus.

July 27; Where Is Your Bible?

Jeremiah 16-17; 2 Kings 22:3-20; 2 Chronicles 34:8-33

I find it ironic and sad… and prophetic that Hezekiah found the Book of the Law tucked away inside the temple. The Law that should have been cherished, protected, read, studied, and obeyed was right there, untouched and unused.

I’m wondering where we have placed God’s Word ourselves. Is it tucked away in our bedside tables, gathering dust on our bookshelves, in boxes somewhere in our attics?

I’m wondering where the Church has placed God’s Word. Is it tucked behind tolerance, love, political correctness, fear? Have we set it aside as irrelevant, tradition, or flawed?

Hezekiah discovered God’s Law right there in God’s House. It had been there all the time, but neglect had rendered it ineffective. In the very place where God should have been honored, His Words were tossed aside like yesterday’s news.

When Hezekiah read God’s Word he didn’t just put it back where he found it. He did something important… he shared it! He took it to the king.

After the king heard the Word he also did something important… he repented. Then he encouraged others to repent as well. That Law of God was able to do what God had intended.

It changed lives.

But it had to be used by God’s people in order for it to do that. They read it, obeyed it, told others about it, and made it the standard for living. People don’t just “get” God by having a Bible in the home, or by going to church on Sunday, or by having a mother who is a child of God. People “get” God when they accept what it is He says through His Word.

So, where is your Bible, dear one?

Where is your Bible, Church?

July 26; Useless

Jeremiah 5-6, 13

God’s instructions to Jeremiah are kind of odd. He told the prophet to buy a linen belt and wear it around his waist for a few days. Then he was to go to the river, hide the belt in the rocks, and leave it there. Jeremiah obeyed. He bought the belt and wore it, traveled to the river and hid it, then went home.

Many days later God told Jeremiah to go back to the river and dig up the belt. When Jeremiah uncovered the belt it was “ruined and completely useless.” (13:7)

Shocker! Of course it was ruined, exposed to the elements, neglected, and filthy. No self-respecting prophet would be caught dead wearing such a thing. I get it. My question is, what would God have me learn from this belt fiasco?

God explained to Jeremiah, and us, the meaning of this picture. Believers are that belt, attached to God, useful to God, cared for by Him. We have purpose and identity and the Presence of God so long as we stay attached to Him. God tells Jeremiah he bound us to Himself for His renown and praise and honor. Holding us to Himself brings Him joy.

“But (we) have not listened.” (verse 11)

If you read chapters 5-6, and much of Jeremiah’s prophecy, you’ll see how often God speaks, God acts, and His people just don’t listen. His people choose sin. We hide ourselves in the rocks, and that’s what makes us as useful to God as a disintegrating belt.

Your wrong doings have kept these (God’s blessings) away; your sins have deprived you of good.” (5:25, emphasis mine)

It isn’t that God is randomly zapping people with disease and hardship, or that He is pushing a “hate” button in people’s hearts because He gets a kick out of reality TV. What is happening in this world is a direct result of our actions, not His.

God bound us to Himself when we accepted Jesus as our Savior. That’s where we are  protected, useful, and loved. That’s where God wants us to be. We break those bonds when we listen to the lies, when we ignore the Truth, when we hide in the rocks instead of purposefully clinging to Him.

God says there should be wine in wineskins. We say, of course we know wineskins are for wine. We aren’t stupid.

But then God says the land will be filled with drunkenness. Whether wineskins or belts, if we are doing our own thing without being attached to Him, there will be consequences. And it will destroy us. (vs 14)

I firmly believe our country is in the state it is in because too many Christians are useless. Including me.

The great thing about God, however, is that He can take a useless piece of disintegrating cloth and turn it into something beautiful and useful and a masterpiece that brings Him renown and praise and honor. Including me.

Including you.

July 25; Backsliding Is A Slippery Slope

Jeremiah 2-4

God, through  Jeremiah, is talking to His children. This message is not for those outside the family of God, not for the unsaved, but for us who know God as our Father. He is talking to the ancient Jews, and to Christians this side of the cross.

He calls us an unfaithful wife, someone who wants to be married AND live like we aren’t. God, in chapter 3, tells us He doesn’t want a divorce, so He warns us, begs us to return to Him. But Jeremiah tells us God’s bride continues in her unfaithfulness. So to her He says:

“Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding.” (3:22)

Then in chapter 4, God tells us what coming back to Him looks like. Warren Wiersbe, in his Bible handbook entitled “With The Word” wrote an outline I’d like to share with you today. You can find his words on page 499 of that handbook. (Oliver-Nelson Books, copyright 1991)

  1. Returning to God looks like plowing a field (3:3). Breaking up the hard ground and planting only good seed is the picture here. A hard heart needs breaking to make it fertile. Am I willing to let God break my heart?
  2. It looks like surgery (vs 4). Circumcising the heart involves the painful cutting away of anything that identifies us with the world. But, like with surgery, the pain is temporary, the benefits long-lasting. What is it God is asking me to cut away today?
  3. Returning to God looks like joining the army (vv 5-6, 19-21). I remember when my nephew joined the army, he left home. We couldn’t go with him and, really, he wouldn’t want Aunt Connie following him around during training anyway. He tells us that training was hard, not always fun, they broke him in order to build him up. But that kid came home a man. That training changed him into a soldier. The Bible tells us a soldier answers the call of the trumpet, drops everything else, and reports for duty. Do we realize there is a battle raging in our lives? Returning to God might involve going back to boot camp, to study, to put on the whole armor of God, to pray, to go. God’s trumpet is blaring. Am I answering the call?
  4. It looks like taking a bath (vs 14). If we want to return to God we’ve got to wash the evil from our hearts, purify our minds, allow God to scrub the enemy off of us and get rid of any trace of the world. Paul calls it coming out from among them and being separate. God deserves a bride who is totally His. Does that describe me? Or do I still have a smudge of filth on my face?
  5. It looks like growing up (vs 22). Jesus tells us to come to Him like a child, but that’s different than being childish. Maybe it’s time I quit playing around and got serious about my relationship with God. Maybe it’s time I quit demanding my own way, throwing tantrums when I don’t get what I think I deserve. Maybe it’s time I quit putting myself at the center of my life like a two-year-old, and put my Bridegroom where He deserves to be.

Backsliding doesn’t come on anyone suddenly. It starts with a thought, a look, a taste. It starts with busy schedules that steal our time away from God’s Word, or from church on Sunday. It begins as a thought, then a desire, then an action. And one action leads to another, then another. That gradual stepping away from God is a slippery slope.

Hear God tell us to STOP! Hear Him beg us to return to Him, to do whatever it takes to be that Bride He deserves, even if the process is painful and humbling. God wants His Bride back. That means you, dear one!