Category Archives: Christianity

September 10; Marvelous

Zechariah 7-8; Ezra 5-6

Many times in Scripture God challenges our motivation. Why is it we do what we do for Him? Why do we worship?

“Is it really for me,” God asks, “or for you?”

Zechariah shares that God is going to return to Jerusalem, His people will enjoy prosperity once again. Then He says, “It may seem marvelous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?” (Zechariah 6:6)

We can’t deny that God has blessed His Church in America for centuries. We sit comfortably in our cushioned chairs with air-conditioning and state of the art technology, coffee in hand. We feel pretty blessed to be living in a land where we can go to church without fear. Many Christians in other parts of the world don’t share that reality. We are truly blessed.

It seems marvelous to us. But what is God’s take on it?

God makes it clear He’s not interested in the show. He is only interested in our hearts. Do we get out of bed every Sunday to worship God in Truth? Or do we go to church because it makes us feel good? Is our motivation for giving, or volunteering, or visiting shut-ins, our own self-esteem, or have we emptied ourselves and allowed God to use us for His glory?

I’m reminded there are some who are doing things in Jesus’ name, who don’t really know Him. In the end, those people will join the unrepentant sinners in an ugly eternity separated from God.

Let’s not take our blessings for granted. But let’s also not forget why and Who we worship. I pray that our motivation for life, and worship will be to please God out of grateful hearts for what Jesus did for us. Period. I pray that what seems marvelous to us, will be truly and gloriously marvelous to God.

September 7; Changing Anxiety Into Joy

Daniel 11b3 6-12:13; Psalms 93-96

Often when I read the psalms God will hit me right where I live. I’ll hear something on the news, or someone close to me will share something that has me concerned, or I will have something happen that shakes me. Then, when I read God’s Word, it’s like God is addressing that very thing that is on my heart. He is amazing!

I’m not going into detail today about what is specifically heavy on my heart because that which is on your heart is very likely something quite different. But I want to share with you what God has said to me through His Word about handling our concerns and battles. I think it applies to us all.

In Psalm 94 the writer begins by pointing out the things that are wrong in the world, that wickedness is seemingly going unchecked. But then we are reminded that God created us with ears, do we think He can’t hear? He created us with eyes, do we think He can’t see? The psalmist calls us foolish for thinking God can ever be caught off-guard. He knows every thought we have. We can rest assured that the things on our hearts are on His heart, too.

The psalmist points us to Scripture, the place where God teaches us, where we find relief from our trouble, where we are assured that as God’s inheritance we are not forsaken. It’s the place where I love to go to hear God’s heart-beat.

Then lastly, the psalmist tells us if we are fighting a battle, God fights with us. When we fall, He catches us. When we are weak, He is our fortress and refuge.  Then in verse 19, listen to this:

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.

You remember Philippians 4:6-7, don’t you?

Be anxious for nothing but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I Peter 5:7 says,

Cast all your anxiety on him because he care for you.

So I guess today, as my heart is heavy, as I find myself worrying about people I love, I am reminded that God wants to be in this with me. He wants to be my rock and my refuge. He wants to teach me, assure me, love me through it.

He wants to change my anxiety to joy. And I am going to let Him!

September 6; It Is Good To Praise The Lord

Ezra 3:1-13; Psalms 92 and 126; Daniel 10:1-11:35

It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High, to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night… For you make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands…The righteous will flourish like a palm tree… proclaiming “The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him. (Psalm 92)

It is good to praise God, and we on the coast of Georgia have a lot to praise Him for. We escaped Dorian when that hurricane stayed out at sea as it passed us by. We were spared, while others weren’t. We had no damage, while others lost everything – including the lives of loved ones.

Are we wrong to praise God for the outcome we experienced in light of the devastation in other parts of the world? We would be wrong NOT to praise Him.

So I will unashamedly praise God that I can drive across the causeway and go to my home, pick up a few twigs, and resume life as usual. I will praise God that my friends are safe, and their homes are just as they left them, God was merciful to us, and I want to make that known. We didn’t deserve His kindness, and that is a humbling realization.

Yet as I praise God, I will also pray that He will be merciful to those who are facing unspeakable loss from this storm. Dorian is not through with its fury. Others are battling the wind and rain right this minute. I pray that God’s hand will be evident to all who are involved even now.

I am reminded that God is worthy of praise, period. He is worthy of praise no matter what circumstances we face. His worth is not based on how easy my life is, and He isn’t less worthy of praise if my life is difficult.

Praise God. He shows His love in the morning, and His faithfulness at night. He is my joy, my strength, my peace, my everything. I’m praising God for who He is. He’s worth it.

September 5; The Other

Ezra 2:21-70; Nehemiah 7:26-73a

Monday I shared that we had been evacuated from our island due to the threat of Hurricane Dorian. I’m thankful today to tell you we are able to go home. The storm has passed, and it’s safe to be on the island again.

The Jews we read about today in Ezra and Nehemiah are going home, too. Finally after seventy years of captivity, they were free. They didn’t know what to expect when they got there, but they were on their way home and, if they were anything like us returning islanders, they were excited. There is just something about going home, isn’t there?

The passages we read today are full of genealogies. Ezra reports name after name of people whose families were going home. And if reading the phone book isn’t boring enough for you, Nehemiah does us the favor of repeating the same list. So we get to read the list of name after name after name, twice! Woo Hoo!

What can we learn from these lists? Well, my friend, never blow off what God has breathed into print. He has something to say on every page of the Bible.

Here’s a blast from the past: “Newhart.” Bob and wife running an inn. A scraggly hillbilly comes through the door, followed by two more scraggly hillbillies. He introduces himself, “My name is Larry. This is my brother Darryl, this is my other brother Darryl.” (You are going to have to be a certain age to remember this one! Sorry, kids.)

I thought of them this morning as I read this genealogy record, then read it again. Because in Ezra 2:31, then again in Nehemiah 7:34 we meet “the other Elam.” Makes me wonder about the other Elam, or the first Elam, or the more important Elam. What would cause a person to be known as “the other?”

Most of us would admit that we like to be the one recognized as important, significant, talented, irreplaceable, whatever. We at least like to be recognized for what we have contributed to the work of God. But here we have a man who the only thing we know about him is, he isn’t THE Elam. He’s the other one.

This is what God whispered in my ear as I read this today. This Elam is going home. This Elam is listed with those who were freed from slavery, and he and his family were going home. He won’t be remembered for anything other than his freedom, and his destination. That’s all we need to know.

And that’s what needs to be known about each of us. Are you a Christian? Have you repented of sin and asked God to give you what Jesus’ death bought you? Do you know the Savior?

Then, friend, you are free! You are free from the chains and the penalty of sin. You are God’s child in every sense of the word, and you are headed home. Home! Eternity with God in glory.

And I know, without a doubt that when you look into Jesus’ eyes He won’t see you as just another Christian, or “the other” sinner He died for. You will look into His eyes and know He sees no-one but you, loves no-one more than He loves you, considers no-one else more important than you.

You won’t be “the other.” You will be “the one!”

 

 

 

 

September 4: To Obey, or Disobey

Ezekiel 1:1-2:20; Daniel 6:1-28; Nehemiah 7:4-25

The island where I live is under a mandatory evacuation order from the governor in preparation for Hurricane Dorian. Most of us left immediately, others have stayed. Our pastor sent an email to the church members and gently reminded us God told us in His Word that we are to obey our God-ordained leaders in authority. He encouraged us to leave the island we love, in obedience to those leaders.

But is there a time when we are to disobey our leaders?

Daniel got the word that no one was to worship any one or anything other than King Darius for thirty days. Might not be such a big deal, a month isn’t that long. What would be the hurt? After all, the government made the order.

Daniel did not obey. And he wasn’t very secretive about his disobedience. He continued to pray in front of his open window three times a day. And he wasn’t praying to any Darius.

I hope all of us reading these chapters in God’s Word today are good citizens of the countries in which we live. I hope we all pay our taxes, and follow speed limits. I hope we are law-abiding citizens.

But I also hope we are prepared to defy laws that would force us to compromise what God has ordained. I hope we know what the Truth is according to Scripture, and are ready to stand firm.

There may come a day when we, too, will have to decide if we are going to bow to ungodliness, or continue to stand in front of open windows and worship God.

September 3; Don’t Assume

Daniel 8:1-27, 5:1-31, 9:1-27; 2 Chronicles 36:22-23

I’m very thankful for the truth God laid on my heart yesterday. He is such a patient God. He’s always working in hearts, always revealing Himself in so many ways every day. And He lovingly breathed His Words into what we call the Bible to encourage us, convict us, give us hope, and warn us about the price of disobedience. He laid it all out there so there would be no question.

Yesterday we saw God warn Nebuchadnezzar, then gave the king a whole year to come around. When the king still refused to repent, the events God had warned him about came true, and Nebuchadnezzar paid the price for rejecting God.

Today God is reminding me another aspect of His Holy judgment. Nebuchadnezzar’s son was king now. Belshazzar, like his father, defied God, worshiped idols, and “set (himself) up against the Lord in heaven.” (Daniel 5:23)

So God warned him in a very direct, very dramatic way. God wrote the writing on the wall. “You are going to lose, Belshazzar.” And that very night, Belshazzar died. The end. The beginning of a devastating eternity without God.

Here is where God has directed my thoughts this morning; He has revealed Himself to every one of us whether or not you want to acknowledge that, so that no one has an excuse. No one can say they didn’t know He is God. He has even put in writing His demands and His plan of rescue. God is very clear: it’s His way or we pay severe consequences. Let there be no misunderstanding. He will be worshiped.

And as patient as God is, there comes a time when He gives people what we want. You want an eternity with Him? Accept His Son and you’ve got it. But if you want life without Him, He’ll give you that. And you’ll be without Him for eternity, too.

Here is a stark reality: God did give Nebuchadnezzar a year to humble himself after the warning. Belshazzar wasn’t given a year to obey. He died that same night God wrote the warning on the wall.

Friend, you aren’t guaranteed a year, a month, a day, not even a next breath. The fact is God has been tugging at your heart, maybe shaking your shoulders trying to get you to look at Him, to hear and accept Him on His terms. You have been warned about what is ahead.

Don’t assume you have time to listen to Him later. You have this minute. Right now.

I certainly don’t know your heart. But if you have been putting off obeying God, hear Him today tell you how much He loves you, that He died to save you. Hear Him tell you you are lost without Him, that there is no other way. No other way. Humble yourself. Ask Him to forgive you. Repent of your sin and invite Him to be Lord of your life.

Don’t assume you have tomorrow.

September 2; True To His Word

Daniel 4:1-37, 7:1-28; 2 Kings 25:27-30; Jeremiah 52:31-34

It wasn’t like he hadn’t been warned. God gave Nebuchadnezzar a dream, and the interpretation to Daniel. In essence, God told the king to repent. And if he refused to repent, he would lose everything.

Nebuchadnezzar didn’t repent. He was prideful and self-satisfied, and he liked it that way.

Now here’s what spoke to me this morning. God gave the king a whole year to repent. I’m thinking the man must have thought about what Daniel had told him during those twelve months. He’d already seen proof of God’s power before, so it wasn’t like he could just blow it off.

But a year after his dream, Nebuchadnezzar lost everything because he didn’t heed God’s warning. He lost his kingdom, his wealth, and his sanity. God was true to His Word.

The truth is, God is always throwing out warnings to people. We hear the urgency in His voice as we read His Word. We see His fury in a storm. We witness his tenderness and mercy in the face of a new born baby, and in the face of a new born Christian.

And God is patient. He will continue to work to get our attention, to demonstrate that He alone is worthy of worship. Do not take Him lightly.

Daniel had told Nebuchadnezzar that eventually the king would bow down to God. And after seven years of living like a wild animal, Nebuchadnezzar did just that.

God will be worshiped by you, too. Philippians 2:10-11 tells us ,”that one day, at the name of Jesus, EVERY knee will bow, in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and EVERY tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

One day you will know God is True, that Jesus is the Christ, and that He was trying to get you to love Him all your life. I pray you will come to that belief during this lifetime, before you look into His eyes for the first time. I pray that when you do bend your knee on that day in acknowledgment of the truth and glory of God, you will do it out of a heart that has been redeemed by Jesus’ blood, and not out of a heart that refused to accept him while you had a chance.

Please heed God’s warnings. He is true to His Word.

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Another hurricane, another evacuation from this island. Please continue to pray for all who are in the path of Dorian. We thank you.