Category Archives: The Gospel

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.

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.

September 1; The Lord Is There

Ezekiel 47-48, 29:17-30:19

God has one goal. Whether He is fighting monsters or positioning city gates, if he’s doling out acreage or making salt water sweet, He is revealing Himself to the world. He is reaching out to the only part of creation created in His image.

Us.

God can be seen in every circumstance of life. He can be seen in nature. He can be seen in a transformed life, or in the peace an aged saint has at the end of life. God wants us to know Him.

I love that the city in Ezekiel’s vision is named: The Lord Is There. I believe that’s what He wants us to know yet today.

I pray you will not miss the many ways God is revealing Himself to you every day. If you are His child through the blood of Jesus, He wants you to know Him better and better. If you have not yet accepted His grace, He wants you to know Him for the very first time.

Look around. The Lord is there.

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 27; Kinda Christian

Ezekiel 34-36

What happens when a person becomes a Christian? God, through the prophet Ezekiel gives us a description.

  1. God cleanses us from all our sins (36:25)
  2. He gives us a new, soft, and pliable heart (vs 26)
  3. He takes up residence in us, giving us His own Spirit (vs 27)
  4. God gives us a desire to obey Him, to turn from sin (vs 27)
  5. He brings us into His family (vs 28)
  6. He blesses us with everything we need (vs 29)
  7. He gives people reason to change what they think about us (vs 30)

This got me thinking today how (or if) my life looks any different right now than it did before I was a Christian. Or have I chosen to continue to live in the wilderness of anger, jealousy, biting tongues and gossip. Do I go where I’ve always gone, sound like I’ve always sounded, do what I’ve always done?

I’m reminded Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come; The old has gone, the new is here!

But is there a Christianity that changes a person into almost new? Is there such a thing as being kinda Christian? I don’t see Scripture teaching that is the case.

I think there might be some who believe they are Christians by virtue of having had repeated a prayer at some time in their life, and by going to church every Sunday. But their choices, their actions, thoughts, and words are unchanged the other six days of the week. They might say, “Lord, Lord,” but God doesn’t really know them at all.

Friend, that is serious. They are as lost as the unrepentant soul.

My question for myself is this: Does my claim to know Jesus translate into a changed life, a life that doesn’t look like a person who doesn’t know Him? I wonder if I stand out as a person who belongs to God. If I am a new creation through Jesus’ saving grace, if I am 100% His, if His Spirit lives in me, I can’t help but look and act differently than people who are not His..

Ezekiel tells us that if we’ve allowed God to do His work in us, people can’t help but notice. And what people notice is the reason God saves us, and keeps us here in this life. He saves us for the sake of His holy Name which is dragged through the mud in this world. He saves us so:

…the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes. (vs 23)

And that will result in this:

I will make their people numerous as sheep, as numerous as the flocks for offering at Jerusalem during her appointed feasts. So will the ruined cities be filled with flocks of people. Then they will know that I am the Lord. (vv 37-38)

God is convicting me today. If my life example isn’t drawing people to the Savior, if my words and actions aren’t a result of God’s Spirit in me, if my choices are no different than a non-believer, I need to check my relationship with my Holy God.

Because there is no such thing as a kinda Christian.

August 25; Terminal Until…

Jeremiah 30-31; Ezekiel 26

Have you ever heard the frightening words, “There is nothing more we can do?” The disease has progressed too far, the heart is too badly damaged, the brain is no longer functioning, the wound is too deep. God said these words to His children:

Your wound is incurable, your injury beyond healing. There is no one to plead your cause, no remedy for your sore, no healing for you… Why do you cry over your wound, your pain that has no cure… (Jeremiah 30:12-13, 15a)

I love how often in Scripture the three letter word, “but” is followed by such wonderful truth. God tells his people they are incurably wounded, facing total annihilation…

BUT I!

Listen to how many times God assures them: I will restore you, I will restore the fortune, I will add to their numbers, I will bring them honor, I will bring him near, I will come to give rest…

Then God tells his children: I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving kindness. (31:3b)

The thing is, there is nothing more any of us can do about our sin problem. We are terminal. Our sins are a death sentence hanging over our heads.

BUT GOD.

Only God can heal us, restore us, bring us to Himself and give us rest. When we confess our sin, when we repent and ask our Holy God to forgive us, He does. And only by His grace and mercy will we ever get out of this life alive.

We are all terminal… until God.