Category Archives: Sin

September 13; Raising Obedience

Esther 1-4

Queen Vashti was busy doing her own thing and couldn’t be bothered to obey her husband’s, the king’s, command. Her disobedience cost her her crown.

Enter Esther, a Jewish orphan being raised by a cousin. This seemingly insignificant girl would be queen in place of the disobedient Vashti. Scripture tells us Esther was pretty. We see that she wasn’t flashy or demanding. It appears she was beautiful inside and out.

But something else about Esther stood out to me today. Esther did as her cousin Mordecai told her, “for she continued to follow Mordecai’s instructions as she had done when bringing her up.” (1:20)

Esther learned obedience at home, and it opened doors for her and saved the Jews. Mordecai said, “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (4:14)

It reminds me of the heavy responsibility parents have to teach their own children to obey. It saddens me that so many have adopted the lie that children should be empowered to decide for themselves, that disobedience should be met with understanding and patience. That, my friend, is not what the Bible teaches.

The Bible teaches that God demands obedience. Obedience is not just one of several options He’ll accept. The Bible teaches consequences for disobedience are severe and painful. And disobedience toward God is never ignored.

Are your children learning those lessons in your home? Esther seems to have learned them in Mordecai’s. The way Mordecai raised her put her in a position to save the Jews, “for such a time as this.” Had she been willful, disobedient, prideful, I doubt Xerxes would have given her a second look.

I wonder what great things God is going to ask of your child. Will that precious one be ready to obey because they learned to follow your instructions while you were bring him or her up? I’m praying for you.

 

September 12; Don’t Praise The Lord

Zechariah 10-14

Are you careful about what kinds of things you attribute to God’s hand? I have seen people (and have occasionally been one) who are quick to say, “Praise the Lord,” and “God has blessed me,” when their actions bring into question whether or not God really did have a hand in it at all.

Like the shepherds God refers to through Zechariah in chapter 11. They were slaughtering their flocks for personal gain, and covering up their sin with, “Praise the Lord, I am rich!”

I hope you’ll read what God thought about that.

God does bless us, doesn’t He? And I hope you are quick to praise Him when he does. But always remember, God blesses obedience. Let’s not use Him to rationalize actions that don’t really honor Him. Let’s not try to justify sin with a, “Praise God.” He deserves better than that.

Besides, He will not turn a blind eye to any sin just because we give Him praise. Rather than using praise as a cover-up, just don’t praise the Lord. He knows when your praise is real.

September 11; I Choose God

Psalms 118, 129, 148-150; Ezra 6:19-22; Zechariah 9

I’ve sat here with my Bible open in front of me for some time this morning, wondering what God would say to me through these psalms of praise. These psalms talk about God’s enduring love, His power over the enemy, His goodness and salvation. “This is the day God made, let’s rejoice and be glad.”

But God made September 11, 2001, too. Are we to rejoice and be glad for the day 3000 people were murdered by Muslim terrorists? How do you reconcile that awful scene seared into the memories of all of us who were around that day, with a God of love?

So I started to re-read the psalms, asking God to teach me, and He pointed my attention to 118:4-9:

Let those who fear the Lord say; “His love endures forever.” In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. (emphasis mine)

God is good. And this good God DID NOT place in the hearts of those evil men a sinister plan to fly commercial planes full of innocent people into buildings full of innocent people in the name of Allah. God did not do that.

What God did, however, was remove His presence and protection from a nation that had removed ourselves from Him. The psalmist tells us God’s salvation is tied to our position in Him. Do I fear Him? Do I walk with Him? Because if God is with me, I need not fear any man, or terrorist cell, or Satan himself.

But hear this: if I reject God, I have every reason to fear.

I wish I could say we Americans learned our lesson that day eighteen years ago. We said we’d never forget. We’ve not only forgotten, we’ve made the evil of the Muslim religion look peaceable. We’ve elected Muslims into our government. Islam is more revered than Christianity to some in this country. We’ve made Muslims our heroes, and a former president even apologized for the USA inciting them against us.

We didn’t learn to embrace the God of the Bible. We’ve made Him the enemy.

I remember standing in front of a classroom full of sixth graders when I heard the first plane hit one of the towers in NYC. I remember one frightening event after another reported that morning, and looked in horror as the Twin Towers crumbled to the ground, picturing the terror those inside must have felt before they died.

I heard people cry out to God, saw churches filled, flags proudly flown, promises made.

But that was eighteen years ago. Things change.

Dear one, 9/11 is only a glimpse at what can happen when a nation turns from God, when He removes His protection. Are we any closer to Him than we were back then? Are our churches teaching the Truth, our brothers and sisters in Christ rejecting Satan’s lies? Our we praying for our nation, our neighbors, our families to fear God and serve Him?

Do we want God to protect us? Then we had better be running to Him, obeying Him, loving and serving Him on His terms. Otherwise, He’ll let us to our own devices.

Our choice: Ourselves or God?

I choose God.  I pray you say the same.

 

 

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 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.

August 29; Saving Grace

Ezekiel 31:1-33:20, 40:1-27

God tells us, “The righteousness of the righteous man will not save him when he disobeys…” (33:12) That’s an important truth. It would be like getting stopped for speeding. The officer walks up to your car window and asks, “Do you know why I pulled you over?”

“No, sir, I don’t.”

“Well, Ma’am, you were going 60 in a posted 35 MPH zone.”

“My bad,” you reply. “But last year I made dinner three times for people in my church who had surgeries.”

What are the chances the policeman would ignore your offense just because you did some good things in the past? Not likely.

Verse 12 goes on to say, “and the wickedness of the wicked man will not cause him to fall when he turns from it.” In fact, God later says this:

None of the sins he has committed will be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he will surely live. (verse 16)

Sometimes I think we need to be reminded of both these truths. First, we need to know and understand that no amount of good deeds will ever earn us a free pass when we disobey God. Our past righteousness is unable to save us.

But neither is our past sin able to condemn us once we’ve asked God to forgive us. I think that’s often the harder of the two truths to grasp. God will never use the sins washed by Jesus’ blood against us at any time. Ever.

We remember our past – but God forgets our past when we repent, when we turn from our sin. That promise is straight out of God’s mouth. Those sins are buried in the deepest sea as far as God is concerned. Gone. Forgiven. It cost Jesus a lot to make that happen. But He did make it happen.

God is reminding me today that Satan is a master at throwing up our past sins, to keep us chained to the past, ineffective in service to God when we let our past paralyze us. Guilt over a sin God has forgiven is a feeling that doesn’t come from God.

Our past has shaped us into the people we are today. Even our past sins have contributed to who we are, and can be instrumental in how we are used by God to reach others. But I believe God would have us consider our past forgiven, our lives redeemed by the blood of Jesus.

I believe God would have us repent, allow Him to forgive our sins, then have us move on from there to serve Him without guilt, without apology, without hesitation as people who can’t do enough for the One who has saved them.

Have you sinned? Ask God to forgive you. He will. Then move on and be the man or woman God can use to lead others to His saving grace.

 

 

August 28; Spiritually Speaking

Ezekiel 37-38

God is speaking to Gog, an enemy of Israel. He tells the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal that He is going to bless His children. The Jews will live in peace, have riches livestock and goods – and Gog won’t be able to handle it.

In fact, God who sees the future, sees Gog look at the blessings that are Israel’s and an evil thought will come to his mind. His jealousy will reveal itself in an attack on the Jews. God tells the enemy prince that will cost him his own life.

It’s true that when some people see others prosper, jealousy and anger rear their ugly heads. The blessed become a target, “If I can’t have those things, neither can they.”

Now as often happens, God diverts my attention from the material to the spiritual when I read His Word. Spiritually speaking, God blesses His obedient children with peace and joy the world cannot understand. Our genuine smiles are like salt in wounds to people who are holding onto their sin, and are under the convicting hand of God.

Their attempt to drag us down to their level might start out as name calling: “Goody Two-Shoes,” or “Holier Than Thou.” It might progress to slander when they call us bigots, racists, homophobes. It can escalate to lies, law suits, discrimination, even bodily harm because unhappy people resent happiness in others.

Jesus said we can expect to be hated because people hated Him, too. Hated. Not ignored or disliked. Hate is a powerful, active emotion that leads to trouble. Expect it.

But God also has laid on my heart this: if we are genuinely His, God will fight our battles for us and we will have the victory. He will never leave or forsake us, we will continue with His peace and joy and strength and love no matter what is thrown at us.

However, if we are hated because we are hypocritical, untouchable, unloving, then their hatred of us just might be the discipline God will use to get our attention and draw us back to Him.

Spiritually speaking, we are in a war zone. Spiritually speaking we are targets of the enemy. And spiritually speaking, we who know the Lord are on the winning side.