Monthly Archives: June 2022

Your Faith

Isaiah 7

Unless your faith is firm, I cannot make you stand firm. (7:9b, NLT)

What are your thoughts? God said this to King Ahaz when the kingdom of Judah was in serious trouble from Syria and Israel. Those two nations were primed and ready to attack the Jews in Judah, and they had the manpower to do some damage.

Ahaz was understandably nervous about the situation. Maybe nervous isn’t a strong enough word. Terrified might be more accurate. The king and the people “trembled with fear like trees shaking in a storm.” (vs2b)

God saw the fear, but He also had a plan that was much bigger than the fear the people were experiencing. So He sent Isaiah to Ahaz to encourage him.

Don’t worry, Ahaz. God’s got this. You don’t need to “fear the fierce anger of those two burned-out embers.” Sure, they are plotting an attack, but it will never happen.”

Now you’d think those words from God Himself would alleviate any uncertainty Ahaz was having. He had been looking at his enemies as formidable foes, but God saw them as has-been, ineffective weaklings. Ahaz had been looking at his enemies, thinking he needed to face them in his own power. God told him they had no power!

God said this about the threatening kings:

Syria is no stronger than its capital, Damascus, and Damascus is no stronger than its king, Rezin. (vs 8)

Israel is not stronger than its capital, Samaria, and Samaria is no stronger than its king, Pekah son of Remaliah. (vs 9)

But then he said the words I quoted at the beginning of this post. The King James version says it like this:

If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.

Ahaz had a choice. He could trust God to come through like He’d promised. Or he could face his enemy in his own strength, and take his chances. On the surface it seems like a no-brainer. But I’m not so sure it was.

In our present culture we celebrate self-reliance, don’t we? We admire people who have worked hard, who’ve overcome obstacles by sheer will, and who are self-made men. Yet I think that’s been true since the garden when Adam thought he didn’t need God, that he could make up his own set of rules and do just fine.

I read a post from a fellow-blogger, Darryl Dash (DashHouse.com), entitled “In Whom Do You Trust?). He said something that has me thinking:

“Whatever we trust in place of God will eventually turn on us and destroy us.”

Money? Popularity? Relationships? Power? Self? What is it you trust for your happiness and well-being? What is it you trust for your eternity?

Pastor Dash says, “Self-reliance is deadly.” I think Adam would agree.

If you read on in this chapter of Isaiah you’ll hear God say, instead of looking toward armies to protect you, look toward a child. A virgin will be with child…

There’s the crux of the matter. If you are trusting anyone or anything other than Jesus, you’re putting your faith in burnt embers and has-been kings. If you are trusting anyone or anything other than Jesus, God cannot and will not make you strong.

But, my friend. If you let go of self and shut out all the other voices out there, if you put your faith in God alone, there is no battle you need to face alone. There is no enemy too strong for God to defeat. There need be no fear, because God’s got this.

I hope you’ll take a serious look at your faith today. You might say you have faith in God. In fact, I hope you do. But do you really have faith in God? Or do you have faith in God, plus something else. You know, just in case God doesn’t come through.

Can you have equal parts of faith in God and in yourself? What could be wrong with that?

Simply put, that’s not faith in God.

And unless your faith is firm, God cannot make you stand firm.

Dear Jesus, Please Don’t Come Back Today

Amos 1-6

I know many well-meaning Christians wish Jesus would just come back today, end this evil world and get the party started. Yet I hear God through Amos say:

What sorrow awaits you who say, “If only the day of the Lord were here!” You have no idea what you are wishing for. That day will bring darkness, not light. In that day you will be like a man who runs from a lion – only to meet a bear. Escaping the bear, he leans his hand against a wall in his house – and he’s bitten by a snake. Yes, the day of the Lord will be dark and hopeless, without a ray of joy or hope.” (5:18-20)

Yes, I know we who know Jesus as our Savior will be caught up with Him in the air and will be ushered into a glorious eternity in heaven. I am looking forward to that day, for sure! But there is another reality to consider, a dreadful, horrifying reality we can only imagine.

Do you care? Or are you just satisfied with your own destination? Read on and hear what God has to say about that:

I hate all your show and pretense – the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living. (vv 21-24)

If you continue reading this portion of Scripture you will hear what God has to say about people who sit back and get fat on their blessings while the rest of the world is in serious danger. He’s not too pleased.

If you call yourself a Christian, may I suggest you stop praying for the second coming of our Lord, and start being that endless river of righteous living, representing our coming King and drawing people to His saving grace before it’s too late?

If you call yourself a Christian, you ought to have the mind of Christ who is not wanting anyone to perish without Him. You ought to hear Jesus tell you to go, make disciples today, tomorrow, and the next day.

Do any of you remember timed tests in math class? The teacher would pass out the tests face down. When everyone had a test in front of them, she would say, “Begin,” with her eye on the second hand of the clock on the wall. You would frantically do the math, with the goal of getting an answer for every question before you heard her say, “Stop. Pencils down.”

How many times did you get to that last question, and run out of time? I remember the closer I got to the bottom of the page, the more intense I became, the more focused I was, so that I could complete the task. Ugh! I hated it when time ran out before I was done.

I hear God telling us time is running out. We may be at the bottom of the page, but our task is incomplete.

If you call yourself a Christian, maybe you should pray, “Dear Jesus, please don’t come back today. I’m not done. I have too much work to do for your kingdom right now.”

Signs of Repentance

Jonah

The King of Ninevah sent a decree out to the citizens of his city. He had heard Jonah’s warning and believed God was angry enough at their sin, to destroy the city. At that realization, the king repented and put on sack cloth and ashes, a visible sign of his repentance.

This is what the king said to the Ninevites:

No one, not even the animals from your herds and flocks, may eat or drink anything at all. People and animals alike must wear garments of mourning, and everyone must pray earnestly to God. They must turn from their evil ways and stop all their violence. Who can tell? Perhaps even yet God will change his mind and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us.

So they did, and God didn’t destroy them.

Should the Church come together in repentance? Should Christians fast, put on visible signs of mourning? I wonder if we all wore black arm bands to signify our own turning from sin. Can you imagine the conversations we would have, the opportunities we’d have to share Jesus?

We might not be 40 days from God’s judgment on our nation and the world. But God’s judgment is coming. Are you satisfied knowing at least you’d go to heaven? Or do you share God’s burden for all those who will not, all those who still need to surrender to Him before it’s too late?

The only thing that will stay His hand is repentance, obedience, surrender. Are you wearing visible signs of your own repentance? How you look, what you say, where you go, how you treat people, how you stand for God’s truth are visible signs I hope you are wearing.

Who can tell? Perhaps even yet God will change his mind and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us.

Who Are Your Friends?

2 Chronicles 24

What kinds of people do you surround yourself with? The old saying, “You are who your friends are,” is true.

Ben Franklin, in his Poor Richard’s Almanac wrote: “If you lie with dogs, you get up with fleas.”

Studies show that people who hang out together eventually adopt each other’s clothing styles, opinions, hand and facial gestures, and even voice intonation. I bet you’ve noticed some of that in siblings. Do you recognize it in your group of friends? It’s probably there.

When King Joash hung out with Jehoiada the priest, he did amazing things for the Lord. The people restored the Temple under Joash’s leadership, and true worship of God was once again filling those walls.

But it seems the minute Jehoiada died, Joash moved on. He surrounded himself with the “leaders of Judah” (vs 17) and reinstated idolatry. The nation would suffer God’s judgment for that.

We ought to follow Jesus’ example. He went to sinners, ate with them in their homes, touched them. But He didn’t park there. He surrounded Himself with believers, those who had left their old way of life to follow Him.

Jesus commands us to GO and make disciples. But Scripture also tells us to be separate from unbelievers, to not neglect the fellowship with believers. We are told to join together as children of God so that we are ready to venture out into the world to share Jesus with the lost.

But we aren’t to look or sound like the world, not to accept or copy their sin.

I believe if we spend more time surrounded by non-believers, we run into the danger of looking and thinking like them. It’s human nature.

So again, what kinds of people do you surround yourself with? If your closest friends aren’t born again Christians, if you aren’t spending quality time in church and in small groups studying God’s Word with friends who will hold you accountable, you need to do better. Choose friends better.

You can pet a flea infested dog, you can feed it, and not get fleas. But if you lie down with a flea infested dog, you’ll get up with those little buggers on you.

And there’s a price to pay for that.

All or Nothing

Reading 2 Kings 10 today, I wondered why Jehu went through with sacrificing the burnt offering to Baal. I mean, I get why he called the prophets and worshipers of Baal to the temple with the promise of a big corporate worship service. Get them all in one place, then kill them all while you have them cornered.

But why go through the worship before destroying everything Baal?

Then I read on and it made sense. Jehu never intended to actually give up Baal. Oh, he obeyed God. He destroyed the idolators and their idols. But Jehu kept Baal in his heart.

He mostly obeyed. But mostly obeying is disobedience.

In fact, Scripture tells us “he refused to turn from the sins that Jeroboam had led Israel to commit.” (10:31)

It’s possible to look like an obedient servant of God, to go to church every Sunday, sing in the choir, maybe teach Sunday School. It’s possible to abstain from alcohol, show love to your neighbor, and say, “Praise Jesus” twenty times a day, and still be disobedient.

God’s not fooled by what we do or say. God sees our hearts. You can read your Bible every day, and be as disobedient as an atheist if you are refusing to totally submit your heart to the Lord.

You can’t mostly obey, and think it balances the scale. It doesn’t. True Christianity – the heart that God approves – is all in. It has to be all or nothing.

Perspective

2 Kings 3

It was just water.

The Jews were heading toward battle and had run out of water for themselves and their horses. Of course, their first reaction was to blame God for “calling” them to war just to kill them.

God delivered them anyway. And without any rain, God filled the valley with water enough to satisfy their need.

Here’s what struck me this morning. The Moabites were positioned on the other side of the valley. When the rising sun reflected off the water, it looked red and the enemy thought – blood!! “Those stupid Jews just killed each other. Let’s go collect the plunder!”

But the Jewish armies weren’t dead. They were armed and ready for battle and soundly defeated the unsuspecting Moabites who’d mistakenly thought they had won.

Christians and non-Christians are on opposite sides of the valley. We look at the events of life, the state of our nation, our health, our struggles, and the world from different perspectives. Non-Christians can see something as a victory, not realizing it will end in defeat. Non-Christians can fight the battle by their own logic and strength, but they will end up looking foolish when they do not win.

We Christians know that a battle is not the war. Things might be hard, we might lose a battle with evil here and there. But the war is already won. Jesus wins. And as His followers, we are on the winning side.

So, on which side of the valley do you stand? What is your perspective on the events of life? I pray your feet are firmly planted on the side of God, according to His Word the Bible, and through the blood of Jesus. Because, my friend, that is the only winning side. I don’t care if you’re seeing something else from a different perspective.

What Have You Done To Me?

1 Kings 17:8-24

When I think about the prophet Elijah, certain pictures come to mind: ravens, a soggy altar on fire, the starving widow, etc. Today I read about the miracle of the flour and oil in the hands of that widow. During a time of famine in the land, the little bit of flour and oil she had when she met Elijah never ran out. She had enough every day to feed herself, her son, and the prophet. Every day she was reminded of God’s power and provision. Every day she had tangible proof that God is greater than her need.

What rejoicing must have gone on in that house!

Until her son got sick and died. How quickly she seems to have turned on Elijah and, in turn Elijah’s God.

“What have you done to me?” she asked. “Have you come here to point out my sins and kill my son?”

When God shows up, answers prayer, reveals Himself in tangible ways, it’s easy to get on board. It’s easy to believe in a good miracle-working God who meets our needs, then goes beyond to shower us with blessing after blessing.

But what happens when disaster strikes? The death of a loved one. A cancer diagnosis. The loss of a job or a relationship. What happens when we suddenly find ourselves drowning in sorrow or uncertainty?

“What have you done to me, God?”

Now, I am not assuming the widow’s question was a sin or showed lack of faith. Elijah doesn’t scold her for it. It may have been a natural question to ask considering the circumstances. We don’t know her heart.

But we know God raised her son to life again. The death of that boy gave God the opportunity to reveal that even death has no power over Him. Talk about a tangible object lesson!

So the next time trouble comes, ask. Go ahead and let God know your sorrow, your frustration, your questions. Then follow it up with, “Now, what do you want me to do about this, God? What do you want me to do, to say, to be so that You can be glorified?”

James 1 tells us to count it a joy to face trials of any kind. Read what the apostle says about that if you don’t believe me.

Paul, in Philippians 1 tells us he welcomed imprisonment because his troubles advanced the Gospel. Again, read it for yourself.

These men knew God can use the worst possible situation to pour out his greatest blessings. And, when we ask, He gives us the ability to do and be what He intends for our good, and in order to bring Him glory.

What have you done to me, God? Let’s do this!

A Sad Tale

Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, I Kings

I can’t read the Song of Solomon or the book of Ecclesiastes and not be sad at how Solomon turned out. 1 Kings tells us he loved God when he first became king of Israel, and I have no doubt he did. But 1 Kings 3 tells us Solomon loved God, BUT…

We find him offering sacrifices to God on the pagan high places. He may have loved God sincerely, but he wanted to worship God in his own way. He loved God but he wanted things the way he wanted them.

Like marrying an Egyptian woman, expressly forbidden by God. I believe Solomon loved this woman, especially if she is the main character in the book of Song of Solomon. His marriage to her even put the nation of Israel at peace with Egypt. That had to be a good thing, right? I mean, who doesn’t want world peace?

The problem was Solomon’s way wasn’t God’s way. Solomon’s way was disobedience. And God takes a dim view on disobedience, no matter who you are, and no matter what your intentions are. Solomon’s way led him down a path toward despair and destruction. It couldn’t lead anywhere else.

What started out as a hopeful reign for Solomon over Israel ended up with pagan worship and a king’s heart turned away from God. It ended up with the nation of Israel split in two, with both sides at each other’s throats for generations that followed.

It’s such a sad tale. It didn’t have to be that way.

If we want life to mean something, if we want to walk with God and be blessed by Him, we have to live life according to God’s way. Anything else is like chasing after the wind.

Why Is There So Much Evil In The World?

Proverbs 14:34

Our nation is reeling in the aftermath of pure evil, the vicious murder of innocent children and their teachers, the violent deaths of people in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, California, Arizona, Illinois, Colorado, Florida, all since May 20. (Google recent mass shootings and see for yourself. I just included states where there were deaths. And I included each state only once, even though some states were attacked more during this time period. It’s truly awful).

It’s not just gun violence. How many innocent children were murdered by abortion in the same time period? We in this nation are facing food shortages as a result of attacks on our food supply (not just human attackers, but accidents as well). Families are finding it hard to afford the basics needed to care for their families. The price of gas is out of control.

And we ask, “Why? Who is to blame? It must be the guns. It must be the schools, the government, Putin, and probably Trump.”

Solomon gives us the “why” in just a few words:

Godliness makes a nation great, but sin is a disgrace to any people. (Proverbs 14:34)

What is happening in our nation is a disgrace. But the cause of it, the people responsible for the rampant evil is you and me. It’s our godliness that can give us the ability to change the present course this nation is on. God will not bless a nation that turn its back on Him.

Unless you and I, unless the Church in America, make godliness our priority, we will continue to be a disgrace. And if you think it’s bad now…