Category Archives: Bible

Unrecognizable (2 Kings 16)

I am shocked at the nerve King Ahaz had in regard to the Temple of the Lord. He had been to Damascus, and liked their place of worship (which, by the way, was a pagan temple). So he went home to Jerusalem and had an exact copy of the Damascus altar built, put it right next to the altar of God, and proceeded to offer the “right” sacrifices upon it. He ordered the priests to use both altars.

The king didn’t stop there. Do you remember how carefully God had given the blueprints for His Temple? No detail was too insignificant in His design, and the Temple had been built according to God’s specifications.

Ahaz decided to make changes. He redecorated the Temple and removed much of what God had placed there. Read about it. It’s appalling.

And here is what has my blood boiling today. Ahaz did all this, “in deference to the king of Assyria.” (verse 18)

I haven’t stood on my soapbox much lately, but my blood is boiling. As shocking as what Ahaz did, we’ve done the same.

Now, I know God didn’t ordain order-of-worship, or worship styles. But let’s look at what we’ve done in our own remodeling of the Church. We removed hymns, taken crosses off the walls. We no longer have altars, we have stages. We’ve thrown organs into the trash, and removed the word “sin” from our vocabulary. We’ve taken steeples off our buildings, and given our fellowships cutsie names to hide our denominational affiliation. We’ve removed “Reverend” in front of our pastors’ names and encouraged them to come to church in ripped jeans and dirty sneakers. We no longer have Sunday evening or Wednesday worship services, and many churches have removed the choir loft.

I had a teenager tell me that her peers did not come to services on Sunday because they didn’t like the name “Sunday School.” Her parents agreed with her. Let’s change that hour to “Life Groups.” That’ll bring in the kids! Really?

Why all these changes? Were they done in deference to God? Hardly! The God who told us we have to be set apart, cannot be honored when we try to fit in. The God who is serious about sin cannot be honored when we refuse to talk about it.

These changes were done in deference to unsaved and unchurched people, like Ahaz making changes in deference to a pagan king. And none of the changes made in the last thirty years has done anything to strengthen the Church.

Growing up, church was the single most important activity in my life. We arranged our weekly schedules around our church’s schedule, not the other way around. Our priorities were: Sunday School, Sunday morning worship, Youth Group an hour before Sunday evening worship, Bible quiz practice an hour before Wednesday evening Bible study and prayer time. Does any young person devote half that time to God these days? Do any adults?

No. Church, for many, is nothing more than another social gathering, no more than an hour or two a week, and only if there isn’t something better to do like baseball games and fishing trips. The Church that once was is unrecognizable today.

That makes me angry, and sad. I can only imagine how God views the redecorating of His Church.

 

Seriously? (Isaiah 5-8)

Do we really think we have better ideas than God’s? Are we foolish enough to believe our plans are good and fair, and God needs to get on board?  We can fight our own battles, but Isaiah warns us that we will be fighting against God. Do we honestly think we’ll win?

God has a solution for all the bad things in the world. He has the means for turning evil hearts into holy hearts. He’s provided a way to change hate into love:

The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (7:14)

God with us!

God has the answer to all that is wrong in our world. He sent His Son to BE the answer!

If I have a medical question, I don’t go to a two-year-old for answers. If I need advice I don’t ask an infant what he thinks I should do. Yet we are acting equally irresponsible when we listen to the advice and follow the plans of our fellow, fallen, sinful man. Whether it’s the CDC, Black Lives Matter, Joel Osteen, Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Lebron James, or any number of “experts” in all that is wrong with the world, we are asking two-year-olds to solve our problems.

There is only one answer. There is only one plan that will see success. There is only one person’s advice that is worth listening to.

Read your Bible. Get to know the Answer. Follow His Plan. Obey God and see our world change.

Do you think you have a better idea? Seriously?

 

What About Today? (2 Chronicles 26)

I don’t care who you are, or how kind and giving you’ve been, or even if you have done great things in the name of the Lord. Sin is sin. And all sin comes with consequences. My sin. Your sin.

We see King Uzziah, a good king who obeyed God. During his reign Judah was blessed because of their obedience as they followed the king. People had jobs, the building industry was booming, the army was strong and well equipped, and Uzziah’s fame spread far and wide.

But as so often happens with us humans, Uzziah’s pride led to his downfall. Instead of being humbled by God’s blessings, the king became proud. And his sin led him to be unfaithful to God. I hope you’ll read God’s Word today and see what happened to him.

God didn’t give Uzziah a free pass just because he had obeyed God in the past. Uzziah sinned. And God punished the sin.

I was at a friend’s house yesterday and she had a plate of fresh fruit for us to nibble on. Colorful melons, plump, juicy grapes, tangy apples, berries that popped with flavor in my mouth. It was so refreshing on a 92 degree day in Pennsylvania.

Today I thought about that fresh fruit. It came at the hard work of farmers who planted and nourished and weeded and then harvested each melon, each bunch of grapes, each berry. Someone washed, then pealed, and cut the fruit she’d bought and displayed them on a serving platter. The end result of all that work was not only beautiful, it was so good!

But if you hid one rotten grape in the midst, one imperfect apple, one molded berry, it wouldn’t take long for that fresh fruit to rot, too. All the good work of those farmers wouldn’t prevent the fresh fruit from being ruined by just one rotten grape.

It’s interesting that if you put a healthy apple in a barrel of rotten ones, the barrel doesn’t become healthy. But if you put a rotten apple in a barrel of healthy ones, you’ll have a barrel of rotten apples in no time.

That’s like sin. The good things we did in our past, the times we were obedient to the Lord, brought us blessings at that time. Those blessings might still be felt years later. That’s how God works. But if you sin today, if you don’t obey God today, July 8, 2020, you will have put a rotten apple in your barrel of blessings.

The good king, Uzziah, died a leper. He was excluded from worshiping in God’s House toward the rest of his life, and couldn’t even be buried with the other kings because he’d been unclean. God did not give him a free pass just because he had been obedient in the past. Uzziah sinned that day, and didn’t deal with his sin.

So God did.

The same is true for each of us. My prayer is that all of us will deal with our sin problem today. Every time God brings a sin to our awareness, I pray we will fall on our knees and ask Him to forgive us. I pray that we will never be satisfied living with a sin, even just one.  Because one sin not confessed is a rotten apple that cannot help but spread.

You’ve been obedient in the past? Good! What about today?

When Bad Things Happen (Jonah)

Most of us have had bad news told us, or have gone through really hard times and have asked, “Why me?” If you’ve been with me very long you know I believe the correct question to ask is, “Why NOT me?”

But here we have  a boatload of men facing death at sea for no real fault of their own. Jonah was disobeying God. Jonah was receiving God’s hand of punishment. The sailors were merely caught in the middle. They were caught in the same storm Jonah was facing as a direct result of his sin.

So let me ask you: Are there people caught in the crosshairs of God’s judgment on you because there is sin you haven’t dealt with in your own life? Is your family facing difficulty because you are running from God?

When Jonah’s sin was dealt with, God calmed the sea. The sailors were saved, both physically and spiritually. Read the book of Jonah today. It is an amazing account of God’s grace.

I wonder, on a larger scale, if our nation is facing God’s punishment on Christians who are not dealing with sin in our own lives. Is the USA going through this awful unrest because the Church is trying to exist with Satan instead of fighting him?

I think the book of Jonah tells us when bad things happen, we need to first look at whether they are God’s punishment on us for tolerating sin in our lives. Then if God points out the sin we need to confess it, repent of it, ask God to wash it away and then live in obedience. If we don’t, that stormy sea will not calm. And we just might go down with the ship.

Do We Want His Help? (2 Chronicles 24-25)

It might have seemed logical for Israel and Judah to join forces against a common enemy. After all, they were family, all descended from Grandpa Abraham. And besides, isn’t there strength in numbers?

But God sent a message to the king of Judah:

O king, these troops from Israel must not march with you, for the Lord is not with Israel – not with any of the people of Ephraim. Even if you go and fight courageously in battle, God will overthrow you before the enemy, for God has the power to help or to overcome. (25:7-8)

God was against Israel because of their sin. He would not go to battle for them, and if Judah aligned with them, God would not go to battle with Judah, either. I think there is something in here for us today.

No matter on which side of the political aisle you sit, I imagine we all can agree our nation is in serious trouble. I think it’s time we figure out where God’s loyalties lie and align ourselves up to Him instead of a political party or ideation, because God alone has the power to help us or overcome us. Only with God can we hope to be on the winning side of this national crisis.

So where do God’s loyalties lie? First of all, He is loyal to Truth. Absolute, unchanging Truth as recorded in the Bible. Truth, by definition is true 100% of the time. Opinion is just opinion, even if it is dressed up as “my truth.” What is true for you and not true for me is not true unless it is true in Scripture. It is crazy to suggest otherwise. It’s dangerous and divisive to believe otherwise. God will not bless multiple “truths.” He is loyal to Truth. Period.

Secondly, God is loyal to people who obey Him. If you read Scripture you can know exactly what is expected of God’s children. You will read the blessings that come through obedience, and the consequences for disobedience. God doesn’t demand we be politically correct. He demands we obey Him no matter what.

And God is loyal to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus, God’s Son, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the name above all names, the only One who saves. That Jesus. God is loyal to all who accept Jesus as their Savior. We who have that relationship through the blood of Jesus know we are on the ultimate winning side.

Are we ready to shed ourselves from allies God cannot and will not go to battle with? Hear Him say to the nation of Judah as though He were talking to us, that even if we align ourselves with the enemy and fight valiantly, sincerely, and courageously, we will lose.  God is very upfront about that. It’s His way or devastation.

“For God has the power to help or to overthow.” Do we want His help? I guess we know what we have to do.

Pray For CEF (2 Kings 11)

Joash was seven years old when he became king. That’s like a second grader. Granted he had adults like Jehoiada the priest calling the shots. But Joash was king.

I am reminded that God can and does use children in His kingdom. And God needs committed adults to guide them.

I have been a Good News Club volunteer for a few years, and I am convinced that children can understand God’s Word and make conscious decisions to ask Jesus to forgive their sins. Every week I see God move in young hearts and change young lives. It is an amazing ministry right there in our public schools.

My heart is burdened for Good News Clubs and CEF (Child Evangelism Fellowship, of which GNC is a ministry). There is something going on in leadership that has led to some people leaving the organization. Some have gone voluntarily, some have been relieved of their duties.

The thing is, it’s not a theological difference that is causing this discord. All the people involved are committed to the Gospel of Jesus. All of them want to see children have the opportunity to hear God’s Word and enjoy a relationship with the Savior.

I don’t know the details but I know they need our prayers. Satan would love nothing more than to stop us from going into our schools to tell children the truth about Jesus. This program is claiming eternal souls for God, and our enemy wants it stopped. And I believe he is working from within to accomplish his evil goal.

Is it the sin of pride? Is it the need for control, or a divisive spirit? Is it unwillingness to  listen? I don’t know. I can’t imagine one side of the issue is totally right and the other totally wrong. I just see it causing a serious division. And it breaks my heart.

Will you pray with me? I’m praying God will deal with sin in the hearts of all of us involved in this important ministry. I pray that God will break hearts, will prompt both sides to reach out to each other in love. I pray that there will be healing and that the cause of Christ will go on.

I don’t know how long Good News Clubs will be legally allowed to meet in our public schools. But I will be really mad if we implode because someone has drawn a line in the sand. I can’t believe this brings joy to my Lord.

Please pray for CEF.

The Wrong Questions (2 Kings 8)

Ben-Hadad, king of Aram, was sick. Was he dying? He wanted to know, so he sent a message to Elisha asking, “Will I recover from this illness?” Elisha answered the king, “Yes, you will recover from the illness.” But God had shown Elisha that the king would die anyway. He would actually be murdered in his sleep.

Do you remember Wile E. Coyote? The cartoon character would manage to navigate through a trap set by the roadrunner, only to have an anvil fall on his head. He would successfully get through a roadblock, only to be hit by a speeding truck.

I think that describes many of us. We pray that God will protect us from a virus, but we have not addressed sin in our lives. We ask God to bless our children, but we don’t talk to our children about Jesus. We pray for a better job, or a happy-ever-after-marriage, while our eternity is in question. We get so caught up in the present we forget there is something much more pressing, and that is our heart’s condition before a Holy God.

We may survive this virus only to be thrown into the lake of fire if we try to face God without Jesus.

I don’t think it’s wrong to pray about our health or our circumstances. In fact, the Bible tells us to pray about everything all the time. But let’s be careful to ask God the right questions.

Remember Jesus asked what good it does someone if they gain the whole word, yet lose their soul. (Mark 8) The answer to that is – none!

As we pray about this virus, our families, our nation, let’s first of all ask God to cleanse our hearts, forgive our sins. Let’s call on Him to do a work in our lives that will translate into action for His sake.

Because if the only thing we are asking God is for protection from COVID 19, we’re asking the wrong question.

 

Taking Us Down (Obadiah)

One of Satan’s most effective weapons against God’s people is the sin of pride. You see examples of this many places in Scripture, like in the lives of Adam and Saul. You see it in history as nations have been brought down because of pride like in Hitler and Napoleon.

But Scripture also tells us how God views pride:

“See, I will make you small among the nations; you will be utterly despised. The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’ Though you soar like an eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,” declares the Lord. (Obadiah 2-4)

What is the best nation in the world? Who has the best economy, the best hospitals and universities, the strongest military, and the most successful citizens? For my entire life we could sing, “Proud to be an American,” knowing the USA was the best place on earth. The American dream was something that people of every nation wanted for themselves.

God is telling us that we who live on the heights and soar like eagles need to beware. The pride of our hearts can very well deceive us. I see this every time I turn on the news. But we who say to the rest of the world, “You can’t touch this,” need to understand that from there, God can and will bring us down.

I don’t believe God is speaking to unbelievers here. We Christians are not immune to the sin of pride. “My church is the best.” “My relationship with God puts me above you who do not have a relationship with Him.” “I’m a child of the King!”

It will only be God’s people humbling ourselves and seeking His face, that will save this country from going the way of Edom. It will only be because we have confessed our sinful pride and asked God to forgive us that the Church will be instrumental in keeping America a nation under God, blessed and protected by Him.

Dear one, we have got to be in God’s Word, on our knees grieved over sin in our own lives and in our nation, seeking God’s face and doing His will. Because if I read the signs correctly, God is getting ready to take us down.

Every Day (I Kings 17)

Many Old Testament stories are familiar. If you grew up going to Sunday School, and if you are as old as me, you might remember flannel boards. Sunday School teachers would put up pictures of the Bible story, move the characters around on the board, as the account of that Old Testament man or woman would come alive. I loved flannel boards.

I thought of that today as I read about Elijah. I remember the flannel board story of the prophet lying beside a stream, hand stretched upward while ravens brought him dinner. I remember the same man standing before an altar, with fire coming down from heaven and burning up the sacrifice while terrified priests looked on. I remember seeing Elijah in the kitchen with a widowed mother.

And that’s the story that spoke to me this morning. The widow was starving. There was a serious famine in the land and the food supply was dwindling. When Elijah meets her, she tells him she is getting ready to fix dinner from the last of her resources. She was going to use the last of her flour and oil to make bread for her son and herself, knowing that would be their last meal before they starved to death.

Elijah, upon hearing their situation, said to the woman, “Feed me first.”

Really Elijah? You want this woman to use her last bit of food to take care of you before she takes care of her son? What are you thinking? I am sure none of us would condemn the woman had she turned the prophet down and fed her son.

But Elijah promised the woman that the flour and oil wouldn’t run out until God made it rain. What speaks to me is the woman’s reaction. She fed Elijah with her last bit of flour and oil. She fed Elijah instead of feeding her son.

When this dear widow went back to her kitchen she probably didn’t know what to expect. I don’t think she could prepare herself for what she saw. There was flour in the jar and oil in the jug. She fed her son! And she continued to feed her son. In fact, Scripture tells us:

“So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.” (17:15-16, emphasis mine)

If you are like me, you might be missing out on God’s provisions because you don’t give Him the first of your day or you’re finances. You might read your Bible when you find time, and give to your church after you pay your bills. You make sure you take care of yourself before you obey God’s command to take care of widows, or to go and make disciples, or to love your enemies and do good to those who mistreat you.

In fact, there is a popular lie out there, touted by some Christians, that say we need to take care of ourselves first. They will tell you you can’t love others until you love yourself. They say you can’t serve until you are satisfied, can’t be effective unless you are happy. That is totally opposite of what Scripture teaches us.

I’m pretty sure the widow didn’t feed Elijah because she felt good about herself. She fed Elijah while her own tummy was growling and while she feared the future. She fed Elijah, knowing her own son was starving.

And because she did, there was food every day.

Do you trust God? Really? Do you trust Him with your time and money, with your family and friends, with your job, your health, your future? Then give Him the first of what you have. Paul tells us to die to self, not build ourselves up. Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, not get revenge. He tells us that the first will be last and the last first, that we who give up our lives find life.

God can, and wants to, bless us every day beyond what we ask or think. The only thing that is holding Him back is you and me. He promises that if we give Him all we have, if we surrender ourselves, if we don’t hold back, He will bless us…

every day!

Don’t Read My Blog (I Kings 12-14)

God used Jeroboam to rip the nation of Israel in two. But not because Jeroboam was such a great guy. God was punishing Israel’s disobedience.

So now there are two Jewish kingdoms. Jeroboam, son of Nebat and not related to King David, reigned over what was known as Israel. Rehoboam, son of Solomon and grandson of David, reigned over the tiny nation known as Judah. But both kings and nations worshiped idols.

Something struck me as I read 13:33. It tells us anyone who wanted to be a priest could be a priest. Now, remember God’s conditions for anyone holding that ministry. There were stringent requirements. Holding the position of priest meant something in God’s economy, and it was NOT open to just anyone who wanted to be a priest. But in the split Jewish nation, the opposite was true.

It reminds me of what Jesus said in Matthew 7. It’s something we need to be reminded of yet today.

I don’t know what church you attend, what TV preachers you follow, whose Bible Study curriculum you use, or whose workshops you attend. I don’t know what blogs you read. But I’m here to tell you, you HAVE to know that not everyone who names the name of Jesus is known by God. Not everyone who claims to speak for God does.

There are heresies being preached every day, by some very popular Christian-sounding “authorities.” Can you recognize the lies imbedded in the partial truths they speak?

In Matthew 7, God addresses people who prophesied in His name, who cast out demons and did mighty works in His name. Yet the bottom line was God never even knew them. They were speaking for God without taking the first step of obeying Him by dealing with their own sin. In the end, they were condemned to hell.

Dear one, YOU need to be in God’s Word. YOU need to know for yourself what He has written in Scripture. YOU need to know the truth so YOU can recognize the lies. Do not depend on someone else to do that for you.

I have often said that I would much rather you spend time in God’s Word than read my blog. I might be the only blogger out there that encourages you not to read what I write… IF the only exposure you get to God’s Word is through this blog. Because I am not the final authority. And neither is your pastor or Sunday School teacher, or that TV preacher, or Bible Study guru who writes volumes of their opinions on God’s Word.

I am thankful for theologians, for people who have studied God’s Word and share their opinions about its meaning. I am a big fan of Ravi Zacharias, of Matthew Henry, of Warren Wiersbe for example. There are some encouraging, Biblically sound devotionals and Bible Studies that are useful in our walk with the Lord. But I understand those are written by people who are merely sharing their opinions about God’s Word, and none of them are the final authority.

Thank you for taking time to read my blog. I really do hope you will continue. But I am begging you to not read this or any other text in place of reading God’s Word for yourself. Please do not listen to some TV preacher and think that’s enough. Don’t go to church on Sunday and let your pastor or Sunday School teacher read the Bible for you.

YOU need to open the precious pages of the Bible every day. YOU need to ask God to give you understanding, to speak His Word to your heart. YOU need to turn off the TV, exit out of the internet, close the study books, and open your Bible.

Because YOU are going to be held accountable for what is in there. YOU are going to stand before God and give an account for what you believe, what you’ve done with the truth recorded in God’s Word.

Read the Bible. Then read it again. Read it today and tomorrow and the next day. Pray over it. Think on it. Memorize it. Love it.

Then if you have the time, read my blog, or do a Bible Study by a trusted author. But please, let God’s Word be your first and  final authority. Read everything else through the lens of Scripture, not the other way around.

Don’t read my blog. If you get so caught up in reading God’s Word that you don’t have time to come here, or to read anything else today, that would be awesome. Nothing is more important than your time reading God’s love letter to you. Nothing is more worth your time and effort than reading the Bible for yourself.

I’m praying for you today.