Category Archives: Sin

Hard Hearted and Hard Headed

Ezekiel 1-2

I read something in Ezekiel’s vision I want for myself and for the Church in 2022. First of all, the prophet felt the hand of the Lord take hold of him (1:3). Makes me wonder if we’ve placed ourselves in a position to feel the same.

Oh, I read the Bible every day. I teach Sunday School and Good News Clubs. The church emphasizes a worship experience and fun programs. But does God take hold of us as a result of our own efforts? Ezekiel was in exile by a river when God got hold of him.

Maybe I, maybe we ought to be still, and quiet our hearts in order for God to take hold of us. Maybe our busy-ness is preventing us from knowing what it’s like to feel the hand of God on our lives.

The second thing I read that I pray for myself and the Church is found in 2:8-9. God made Ezekiel hard hearted and obstinate. He gave him a hard head so that the prophet would not be afraid to speak the truth.

Should we be praying God will harden our hearts, too? Yes. When it comes to sin – yes! When it comes to compromising the truth or fearing what might happen if we actually stood firm – yes!

God told Ezekiel to eat the scroll, to let God’s words sink deep into his heart, to listen to God’s words carefully for himself – then get out there and tell the people: “This is what the Sovereign Lord says!”

Say it without apology or fear. And keep saying it, whether they listen or not.

So today, I’m praying for hard hearts, uncompromising spirits in you and me. I’m praying for hard headed Christians with a mission to speak the truth no matter what.

Let’s do this!

Are We Too Comfortable?

Jeremiah 49:28-33

God is judging complacency in His message to Kedar and Hazor. They were comfortable in their homes, living isolated in the desert, without protective walls to keep out the enemy. They didn’t even see an enemy. Life was good.

But God was going to scatter them, desolate them.

It’s a good warning to those of us who are complacent today, comfortable in our pews, in our safe homes, our full bellies and healthy bodies. It’s not just evil doers God judges. Not just idolators, adulterers, and murders. It’s people who live like they don’t need God, who are self-sufficient and basically good in comparison to others.

I’m ok. You’re ok.

But are we?

Let there never be a moment when I’m satisfied with thinking either of us are ok the way we are. Because none of us are ok on our own. None of us.

None of us are safe living in the desert, up in our ivory towers of success and self-worth. Hear God’s warnings. If we are satisfied with the status-quo, we are in for a world of hurt.

We need to arm ourselves with the presence and protection of God through the blood of His Son Jesus. We need to humble ourselves and accept His provisions, even when things are going well in our lives. We need to put on the armor of God every day.

Because there is an enemy lurking out there. And he’s someone I don’t want to have to face alone. I don’t want you to face him on your own, either.

Let’s not let complacency bring God’s judgment to His children, His Church. Be warned.

What Good Is It?

Jeremiah 22

What good is it to live in a nice house, go to church in a beautiful building, enjoy a healthy body, and not know God? The blessings are fleeting. The blessings don’t make you a good person. The blessings aren’t even a sign you are right with God.

In fact, God says many have eyes only for greed and dishonesty, they murder the innocent, oppress the poor, and reign ruthlessly. And that doesn’t make Him happy.

I warned you when you were prosperous, but you replied, “Don’t bother me!” You have been this way since childhood – you simply will not obey me! It may be nice to live in a beautiful palace paneled with wood from the cedars of Lebanon, but soon you will groan with pangs of anguish – like that of a woman in labor. (22:21,23)

I sure hope you are enjoying a healthy, prosperous, comfortable day today. I hope you have clothes to wear, food to eat, a job to go to. I hope you have a family you love and who loves you. And I hope you’ll go to church on Sunday..

But don’t neglect the most important thing. Don’t neglect obedience. Confess your sin. Be holy, separate. Stand for the Truth at all cost. Because things are going to change. You won’t live on this planet forever. And God is not going to care what your house looked like. Only what your heart looks like. He won’t care where you worshiped. He’ll care that you worshiped Him in spirit and truth according to Scripture.

Jesus asked this question:

What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:36)

How would you answer Him?

What good is it to live in a nice house, go to church in a beautiful building, and enjoy a healthy body?

Nothing, unless Jesus lives in you!

Where Does It Lead?

Jeremiah 2

We who have submitted to God and accepted His grace at the foot of the cross are no longer slaves to sin. God broke the yoke that oppressed us. (vs 20a). We are forgiven and free to serve and worship the God we love, because of the blood of Jesus.

Yet we see throughout the Bible examples of God’s people who try to worship God and worship idols at the same time. We see them making compromises, like not tearing down the Asherah poles and deciding to use those to worship God. Seems harmless enough. But it wasn’t harmless. No compromise is.

And compromises (God calls sin) are judged.

I think God might have something to say to His 21st Century people today. Are we compromising ourselves into judgment?

“We can bring Bethel or Hillsong praise music into our sanctuaries, and not agree with their theology.”

“We can embrace homosexuals, and welcome them into our fellowships without necessarily condoning homosexuality.”

“We can rewrite the Bible to eliminate the gender specific wording of the original, and still call it God’s Word.”

We can keep the Asherah poles, and hold our worship services there. We can align with the enemy, and still call on God to help us.

In order to make a compromise, you must turn (even slightly) away from that which is right and true. In the spiritual sense, a compromise is an ever so tiny step away from the holiness of our God.

Where does that lead?

What have you gained by your alliances with Egypt, and your covenants with Assyria? What good to you are the streams of the Nile or the waters of the Euphrates River? Your wickedness will bring its own punishment. Your turning from me will shame you. You will see what an evil, bitter thing it is to abandon the Lord your God and not to fear him. I, the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken! (verses 18-19)

Do You Worship Idols?

Isaiah 44

Are wood and molded metal the only kinds of idols out there? I don’t know anyone who has a statue they worship in their home. But I know many people (me included at times) who have fashioned gods to our own liking, and worship them.

Some worship self, others nature, the stars and moon. Some worship ancestors, some make gods out of relationship, careers, pubic figures, even their automobiles! There are those who twist the truth about Jesus to be loving without being holy, to be forgiving without being the righteous Judge, to being one of many ways to the Father, and accepting of all people everywhere without the need for repentance.

Most people would say they don’t worship idols. But their actions and priorities say something quite different. I know God is speaking through Isaiah about the wooden statues people were worshiping at that time. But I believe Scripture always has something to say to us as well whenever we read it.

I like how the NLT says so clearly what God would say to those who put anything or anyone above our devotion to Him:

How foolish are those who manufacture idols. These prized objects are really worthless. (vs 9)

Who but a fool would make his own god – an idol that cannot help him one bit! (vs 10)

Such stupidity and ignorance! Their eyes are closed, and they cannot see. Their minds are shut, and they cannot think. (vs 18)

The poor, deluded fool feeds on ashes. He trusts something that can’t help him at all. Yet he cannot bring himself to ask, “Is this idol that I’m holding in my hand a lie? (vs 20)

I pray none of those verses describe you. But I think God would have us all do an idol-check in our hearts. Hear God say repeatedly:

I am the Lord and there is no other. (vs 6b)

I, the Lord, speak only what is true and declare only what is right. vs 19)

Let all the world look to me for salvation! For I am God; there is no other. (vs 22)

I hope you’ll read this chapter in God’s Word and see the spiritual parallel that is there. Maybe it’s time we quit telling ourselves that God is just one of many, that His Word is outdated, not necessarily true for everyone. Maybe it’s time that we truly submitted to the Creator God because…

What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. vs 9a)

Stepping Between God and the People

Psalms 105-106

These psalms recount the Exodus of the Jewish nation out of Egypt in the days of Moses, and reminds us how God moved in dramatic fashion on behalf of His obedient children. I think one amazing thing about Scripture, however, is how often we are also reminded how God moves when His children aren’t so obedient, like in these two psalms. God doesn’t sugar-coat anything. I’m thankful for that.

What stood out to me today was in 106:23,30. The Jews were living in blatant disobedience, even after God had blessed them. So God declared He would destroy them. Their disobedience made Him that angry.

But Moses, his chosen one, stepped between the Lord and the people. He begged God to turn from his anger and not destroy them.

So God did not destroy them.

Later, as punishment for yet more disobedience, a plague broke out among the Jews.

But Phinehas had the courage to intervene, and the plague was stopped. So he has been regarded as a righteous man ever since that time.

This morning I am reminded that Jesus has done the same for me. My disobedience angers God as much as the disobedience of the Old Testament Jews angered Him. What makes me think He hasn’t considered taking me out, too?

But I have a Savior. When I sin and make God angry, Jesus steps between the Lord and me and pleads my case. One day when I stand before the Throne of Heaven, Jesus will intervene for the last time, and I will not be destroyed. He will usher me into Paradise unlike anything I have ever known in this lifetime.

Here is something else that occurs to me. While I am still on this earth, I have the privilege of being a Moses or a Phinehas, one who intervenes for my loved ones, our nation and the whole world, and for you. I can beg God like Moses did, that He would turn from His righteous anger, and give each of us another chance to obey Him.

So today I want you to know that I am praying for you. I am going to step between the Lord and you and beg Him to have mercy. Will you do the same for me?

Praising the Judge

Psalm 98

For the first 9 1/2 verses the psalmist tells us to sing to the Lord, shout to the Lord, break out in praise to the Lord. Our victorious God has revealed His righteousness to every nation! He remembered His promises to love and be faithful to His people. Praise Him!

Living after the cross, we know God revealed Himself to the world when He became a human, and lived on this earth as a physical man. Jesus won the ultimate victory over death, Satan, and sin when he died on the cross and three days later came alive again. He saved the world.

Make a joyful symphony before the Lord, the King! (Vs 6b)

But here is why the psalmist tells all creation that God is worthy of our praise:

For the Lord is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with justice and the nations with fairness. (Vs 9)

Wait! Praise God for the coming judgment? Aren’t there psalms that tell us to praise Him for His goodness, faithfulness, grace, presence…?

Of course! He is all that and more, and deserves our praise. But these verses tell us to praise Him for the coming judgment as well.

Does standing before a judge in a court of law seem like something to be glad about? I had to stop and consider this for a while.

When I finished my course work in the School Counseling graduate program, I was required to take a comprehensive examination. It was a four or five hour test that would be the deciding factor whether or not I’d receive my graduate degree, and be qualified to be a school counselor. My future depended on my passing that test.

A few of us grad students got together periodically to study, and quiz each other on the different parts of the upcoming exam. We took practice tests, and discussed our answers.

I myself, would spend hours and hours on the Saturdays leading up to the test, pulling out every memorization technique I could think of. I actually started looking forward to the test date.

For one, I knew that I would receive my degree if I passed. That is what I had been working toward for a couple of years. Passing the test would mean no more evening classes to take after teaching school all day, no more papers to write, no more costly graduate fees.

That test marked the end of hard work, and the beginning of enjoying the benefits of the work. I was so ready to have it over.

On the morning of the test I remember standing in the shower and praying that God would help me recall what I had learned. Such a peace came over me I can only explain as from God. In fact, I felt so prepared, I almost dared the test-makers to come up with a question I couldn’t answer. (They actually did come up with one or two. 🙂 )

So I took the test that would judge my preparedness to be a school counselor. After several hours, I turned in my test, and walked away somewhat elated. I was pretty sure I had passed, and I did pass!

So why would God bring that to mind today as I considered the psalmist’s direction to praise God because He will come to earth to judge the world? Here are my thoughts:

The first is that we can know with certainty that God will judge the earth with justice and fairness. The truth is, He has been very upfront with His requirements.

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. (John 3:3)

Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

So the requirements the Judge will consider are whether or not we have accepted His grace and forgiveness through the blood of His Son Jesus. We all will be judged by the exact same standard. It will have nothing to do with how good or how bad we’ve been. Only whether or not we’ve received what Jesus died to give us. That’s fair.

The second thing I thought is, Jesus did the work. When my classmates and I were studying for our test, some of us put in the work before our sessions, others not so much. So when we actually took the test, we were judged on what we had put into it. As we should have been.

But if God operated on the same scale, none of us would pass the test. The standard for passing His test is:

For it is written “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16)

Are you a good person? Not good enough. Do you go to church? Not good enough. Do you abstain from certain sins? Not good enough. It’s not good enough to simply read your Bible, or stay faithful to your spouse. Holy is holy, without sin. And the Bible tells us:

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

You have sinned. And that renders you unholy, falling short of God’s standard. And falling short of God’s standard results in:

The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)

Now I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t make me want to praise God for the upcoming judgment. Who can stand before a holy God and expect to hear, ”Not guilty,” if all of us are guilty? No one!

That’s why Jesus did the work. That’s why He took on our sin and paid the death sentence we earned by telling a lie, taking something that doesn’t belong to us, thinking bad thoughts, or disobeying our parents. You see, because He paid my debt, I have no fear of standing before a Holy Judge who will judge with justice and fairness.

I did what He told me to do. I asked Jesus to forgive me, I repented of the sin that sent Him to the cross. I have been born again, not of flesh but of spirit. I wear His righteousness, His holiness, because I have none of my own.

The rest of Romans 6:23 is:

but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

So yes. I can look forward to judgment day. It marks the end of all the struggles and hardships living in this world affords. It marks the beginning of an eternity, reaping the benefits of having Jesus pass the test on my behalf.

So, dear one, continue to praise God for all His benefits, His blessings, your health, your comfort, your family and friends, and on and on and on. Praise the One who deserves your praise.

And praise Him for the fact that when He judges the world, when He judges you on that day, there will be no surprises. One person won’t be judged more easily or more harshly for the same sin you’ve committed. You won’t fall short because you only did 9,999 good deeds, and someone else will get a free pass because he did 10,000 good deeds. No one will barely make it into heaven while someone else almost makes it there.

God is fair. God is just. God will judge each of us by the standard He has laid out so clearly in His Word. I look forward to judgement day. I hope you can say the same. I hope that because we both have been born again, cleansed and made holy by Jesus, we can praise the Judge together now and for eternity!

How Free Are We?

Proverbs 31

We will hear the word “freedom” a lot today, because today we celebrate the fact that more than 200 years ago, a group of people broke from the tyranny of an English king, and with thoughtful, prayerful consideration, implemented checks and balances to construct the republic we know as the United States of America. It is, in its truest sense, the absolute best form of government in the world.

From the very beginning, our founders recognized our inalienable rights, and insured our freedom from tyrannical rule. They not only set us free from England, they gave us the tools to keep us free from future tyrants.

It’s ridiculous for anyone to think that document, which ensures our freedoms in 2022, is outdated or irrelevant to modern society (a lie perpetuated by would-be tyrants).

How free are we? Not as free as we were when I was young. Not even as free as we were ten years ago. In fact, there are those who believe that unless you align yourself with the left, or are “woke,” you should have no rights, no freedom to speak your mind or take actions in support of your right to live free. We are looking in the face of tyranny.

How free are we? God has given us the freedom to choose. If we choose Him according to Scripture, we are set free from the judgment our sin deserves. We are free to live lives directed and protected by God Himself.

To the people who believed in him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 9:31-32)

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

For one who has died has been set free from sin. (Romans 6:7)

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17)

If we choose, however, to reject God, we give up our freedom and become slaves to sin.

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. (John 8:34)

Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:16)

I believe what we are seeing in the US is the result of sin, which leads to the eroding of freedom according to Scripture. We should not be surprised, considering the blatant sin around us, the unashamed depravity thrown in our faces at every turn. Sin is the opposite of freedom, no matter what we are being told.

When our freedom is gone, it won’t be just because of politics, but because of the sinful hearts of politicians. It won’t only be because of non-Christians, but because of weak, lazy, self-centered Christians who are unrepentant themselves.

I wonder what our nation would look like if the true Church in America lived like a Proverbs 31 wife of our Heavenly Husband. I wonder how free we would be if we, as God’s people, called by His name, would humble ourselves and pray and seek God’s face and turn from our wicked ways. Because God promises in that case to hear from heaven, forgive our sin, and heal our land. (see 2 Chronicles 7:14)

How free are we? We are as free as unrepentant sin affords.

True Worship

Isaiah 1:1-19

What is worship God accepts? It’s not just ceremony or sacrifices. It’s not parades, gifts, or pious meetings. It’s not even lifted hands.

True worship can only come from clean hearts. No matter what form worship takes in your church or in your home or car, God will not even pay attention if your heart is harboring sin. Clap your hands, jump up and down, work up a sweat, or shed some tears. None of it matters unless your heart is right with our Holy God.

Isaiah begins his book talking about the rebellion of God’s people. And then he tells us what God thinks about their acts of worship. God is sick of it. He gets no pleasure from it. In fact God says He hates their worship celebrations. Their worship has become a burden God wants nothing to do with.

Then Isaiah tells us what God requires from those who want to worship Him:

Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.
“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.” (16-19)

Let’s not make the mistake of thinking we can go into a worship service like we are attending a concert or ballgame. Let’s not make the mistake of thinking we ought to get something out of worship. It’s not about us.

Let us go into worship, whether in our closet or in the sanctuary of our local churches, with clean hearts, sober-minded with fear and trembling before a Holy God who demands holiness of any one who worships Him. I think God is very clear to say that before we sing the first note of any praise song, we had better have sincerely prayed:

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence; and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation; and uphold me with a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:11-12)

Then and only then, will your expression of worship be acceptable to God. True worship, worship He demands, comes from holy people.

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.”