Category Archives: The Gospel

Seeking and Sought (Mark 4-5)

Jesus went to the people. We see Jesus going through a storm to get to the demoniacs. These men, possessed by awful demons needed Jesus, so Jesus sought them out and healed them.

The people went to Jesus. Jairus for one, then a large crowd, then a woman who had been ill for twelve years all sought Jesus. They recognized their need and sought out the One who could meet their need.

John MacArthur, in his study entitled “Twelve Ordinary Men,” and in the chapter on the Apostle Philip talks about the “classic tension between sovereign election and human choice.” Both, Dr. MacArthur says, exist in perfect harmony.

Jesus Himself said this: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

We see our God, tirelessly revealing Himself, drawing all men to Himself, not willing any should perish, seeking us, calling us.

We see us, created with a God-sized void in our lives, trying to fill that void with all kinds of worthless idols. Idols of self, positive thoughts, money, relationships, alcohol…

We seek. God seeks.

And when our seeking meets God’s seeking, His sovereign plan is fulfilled. We are saved.

What a wonderful Savior. What a loving God.

Friend, I hope that if you have not yet received the forgiveness of your sins through Jesus’ work on the cross, you will recognize that is exactly what you are seeking. That is exactly what you need and what your soul longs for. And I hope that you understand that God Himself is seeking you! He wants you to know Him. Will your seeking meet His today?

That is my prayer.

Are You Listening? (Luke 8)

The parable of the Sower has something to say to all of here in 2020. Jesus says good seed was planted, and there were four results from the planting:

  1. Some seed fell along the path and were trampled, then eaten by birds.
  2. Some fell on rocky soil and didn’t take root.
  3. Some fell among weeds that choked the growth out of them.
  4. Some fell on good soil and yielded a harvest.

I have heard this passage interpreted to show how sinners receive the Gospel message. Some pay no attention, some hear it but don’t receive it, some allow the Gospel to take root but then the trials of life and the lust of the world smother it, but some receive the precious Gospel of Jesus with gladness and grow to maturity in the Truth.

I certainly can’t argue with that interpretation. And all of us, whether believers in Jesus or not, have or do fall into one of those categories.

But Jesus is talking to His disciples, His followers here in Luke 8 and, as always, I try not to apply God’s Word merely to any “them.” What does this parable have to do with my walk with Jesus today?

Therefore, consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.” (verse 12)

Jesus said these words to His disciples after sharing the parable of the sower, and the parable of the lamp stand. Be careful how you listen, He warns.

Every time I open my Bible or hear a sermon preached or lesson taught, there will be a response similar to one of the “seeds” in Jesus’ parable. Think about it:

  1. Maybe I don’t like the preacher or the tone of voice of my teacher. Maybe when I open my Bible I am distracted by the TV or by thoughts about my plans for the day. I hear or read the words, but they fall on deaf ears. The devil comes and takes away the word from my heart. That is a sobering thought.
  2. Maybe I really do listen to the message and/or lesson and may even squeak out an “amen” if I agree with something that is being said. But I walk out the doors of the church and promptly forget. I go about my life as though I never heard the Truth at all. Maybe I read my obligatory Bible verses in the morning and, although I read every word, my mind is elsewhere and I get to the end of my “quiet time” without allowing it to take root. Jesus said that when the trials of life come, there is a danger that I could fall away. Another sobering thought.
  3. Maybe I’m trying to balance my love of God with my love of the world. I go to church, maybe serve on committees and sing in the choir. But I surround myself with ungodly people the other six days of the week, I blend in, compromise, compartmentalize my life into the church me and the worldly me. My “quiet time” takes a back seat to the busy-ness of my day. I read my Bible and listen to the lessons, but all of that has to fit into an already cluttered heart. Jesus said I’ll never mature if that’s the case. Is it possible to be comfortable among the weeds? Yet another sobering thought.
  4. Or maybe I’m that fourth seed. I listen AND obey. I dig my roots deep into Scripture, I trust the Gardner to water and nourish my soul, and I use what I learn to get out there and share Jesus with people in my world.

I have to ask myself if I am growing every day or am I stunted, ineffective, allowing Satan to steal what is mine? Do I hunger to know more about God, eager to grow and learn and be strengthened by the Truth of Scripture? Do I take it in and allow it establish root to become a fruitful disciple of my Lord?

Every time I hear a sermon, every time I read God’s Word, there will be a response by me. God is challenging me to be careful how I listen.

It’s Not Enough (John 5)

First of all, if you think Jesus never claimed to be God, read this chapter in John’s Gospel. Verses 45-47 says clearly that He is the one about whom Moses wrote in the Old Testament. Jesus is the Messiah.

The other thing that stood out to me today is found in verses 39-40. Jesus was talking to Old Testament scholars, men who had dedicated their lives to the study of Scripture. These men knew everything they could know about the history of God in Israel. Their brains were full, but their hearts were empty.

It’s not enough to read the Bible, to memorize verses, to study the events surrounding the chosen people of God. So many people spend so much time with genealogies and timelines and blueprints that they neglect the most important thing God has to say to us through the pages of His Word.

Jesus chided the Old Testament scholars for thinking their knowledge about Scripture brought them eternal life. They had refused to go to Jesus for life. They missed the whole point of Scripture.

I hope you read your Bible every day. I hope you memorize verses, dig into its history if that is important to you. But understand none of that guarantees eternal life. Only Jesus can do that.

You and I have to go to Jesus Himself for the forgiveness of sins and our hope for eternity with Him. We must receive Him as our Savior, accept His grace, and obey Him as His dearly loved children. Your head can be overflowing with facts, but your heart empty, your soul doomed without Jesus.

Go to Him. Believe on Him. Accept Him as your Savior as you repent of your sin.

He is more than enough!

We Know What We Know (Matthew 2; Luke 2:39-52)

We don’t know much about Jesus’ childhood. It would be kind of nice to have had some stories about Him growing up. What were His first words? Did He have His mother’s eyes? He had her DNA. Did He kick a ball around with His buds? Was He left-handed or right-handed? Did He have a best friend or a favorite teacher; favorite food, color, song?

We know He was a small town boy. We know He was a wise and insightful youth. We know by the time He was 12 He was already single-minded about His mission. And we know that Jesus:

grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. (Luke 2:52)

But that’s pretty much it. That’s really all God thought was important for us to know about the child. Jesus didn’t come to be a boy. He came to be the Savior of the world.

He lived His first thirty years in preparation for His last three. Those three years were packed with amazing moments, some of which are recorded for us in Scripture. John, who shares a lot about Jesus’ life and ministry, ended His Gospel with:

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. (John 21:25)

Yes, the things we don’t know about the child Jesus could write a book. But the things we don’t know about the last three years of His life could write volumes… and volumes…

We see, through Scripture, the tip of the iceberg. But what we see is all we need to see. What we see in God’s Word is enough for us to recognize the fact that Jesus is God, the Savior, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. What we see is enough for life and eternity.

We might not know every detail of those thirty-three years. But what God has revealed to us about His son, written in the precious pages of the Bible, is everything God wants us to know about Him. I hope you take time to read and re-read it, and get to know your Savior better and better with each reading.

We know what we know because God wants us to know.

Causing Fear (Esther 6-14)

I always thought the result of Mordecai’s stand was twofold: the enemy was destroyed, and God’s people were saved. That in itself is enough to celebrate! But there is something more to this I hadn’t considered before. And it might be the most important lesson of all.

In every province and in every city, wherever the edict of the king went, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating. And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them. (8:17) (emphasis mine)

People not born Jewish were converted and became Jews by choice. Yes, God’s people were saved. Yes, their enemy Haman was executed. But let’s not overlook the fact that people came to God because of it!

That is worthy of praise!

God blesses His children. God answers prayers of the faithful, and the enemy is defeated. But what is our ultimate goal? A virus-free world? No abortion clinics? Fat bank accounts? Filled pews? A care-free life?

People came to the God of Truth because fear of the Jews had seized them! Shouldn’t unsaved people fear Christians, too? Shouldn’t they be fearful of disrespecting God’s children? Shouldn’t the thought of God’s intervention on behalf of His children give them pause?

I wonder if unsaved people don’t fear God because they don’t see us taking Him seriously, either. I wonder if they don’t think twice about disrespecting Christians because we disrespect each other, and them. What is it about us that would cause an unsaved person fear the God they should fear?

The celebration that was happening here in chapter 8 wasn’t what drew the people to God. Makes me wonder if we aren’t making Christianity look like a party instead of what it really is, commitment, obedience, fighting battles, humility, and surrender to a Holy God. Yes we have reason to rejoice and I hope we are the ones who are the most joyful, the most fun, the most loving people in the group.

But I hope we are causing fear in the hearts of unsaved people, too. The truth is, without Jesus they have every reason to be scared out of their minds. The people in Esther’s day got the message. Are people getting that message through us today?

Despite Their Fear (Ezra 1-3)

Have you ever considered the possibility that we in the US have become a nation of whiney, angry victims? We’ve become reactionaries, emotional cripples, entitled, tantrum-throwing thugs. And a world that once envied and admired us, now looks at us as people to be pitied, or at least as the biggest joke ever.

It’s hard to take a stand for the Truth when that stand could offend someone who lashes out verbally, or even physically. People have been killed for wearing a hat someone didn’t like. To disagree is to invite violence.

So what are we to do? The Truth we as Christians possess is an offensive message. If we are to share the Gospel, we are to show people their need of a Savior, point out sin in their lives, help them realize they are without hope unless they conform to the demands of God.

Them’s fighting words.

Some people, in light of the present climate, seem to think silence is the answer. Keep your faith to yourself, let others believe what they want to believe, stay under the radar. Other people appear to be going along with the crowd rather than ruffle feathers; be tolerant, be loving, be accepting of all beliefs, don’t offend by calling things like abortion or homosexuality sin.

But what does God want us to do? Jesus Himself warned that we would be hated for following Him, and reminded us that they hated Him first. Jesus didn’t tell us to change the message, or to keep the message to ourselves.

GO!

Make disciples.

The Jews had been commissioned to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. The only ones glad about that, however, were the Jews. The opposition tried to discourage, threaten, and intimidate the Jews out of completing their mission. But look at what God tells us in Ezra 3:3,

Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening sacrifices.

The Jews didn’t fight back. They didn’t get into Tweet wars. They simply carried on with what they knew they were to do – and they did it openly and honestly. I think God would have us do the same.

Christian, let’s continue to build God’s Church by revealing God to those around us, by sharing the Gospel no matter how afraid we are that it will offend. Let’s continue to worship God in spirit and truth, and to love our neighbors enough to talk about the hard things.

Despite our fears.

Understanding (Daniel 10-12)

Daniel was sad about the state of Israel. God had revealed to him that the day of judgment was imminent. After fasting from choice food for three weeks, the prophet stood at the riverbank. It was there he received his final vision.

The angel said something to Daniel that spoke to me today:

“Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.” (10:12)

Isn’t that amazing? God hears our prayers for understanding, then helps us understand. I see that same encouragement throughout Scripture. If we seek God, we will find Him.

…if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding… then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:2-5)

Think over what I say for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. (2 Timothy 2:7)

I think we should start out every morning humbling ourselves and confessing to God that we don’t understand everything. We don’t understand His mind or His ways. We don’t understand His plan for us. But we’d like to. So we set our minds to understand.

We read our Bibles to get to know God’s heart. We pray to bare our souls, to repent, to draw near to God. And when we do, God gives us the understanding we seek, and He wants us to have.

Why? Why is it important to God that we understand? Look at how the book of Daniel ends:

As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance. (12:13)

God wants us to have an understanding so that we can take it and use it to reveal God to a world that needs Him. We don’t gain understanding just so we know more facts than the next guy. We don’t study to show ourselves superior to others.

We gain an understanding for the purpose of sharing it, going about our way, making disciples until this life is over.

Do you understand Scripture? There’s more for you to understand.

Do you feel you can’t understand Scripture? That’s a lie from the enemy. Ask God for understanding. Ready your heart. Draw near to Him. Humbly repent of sin. Then know He hears you, and will be right there to give you understanding in response to your prayers.

Then may we all share what we know is true according to Scripture as God gives us understanding. Let’s be workmen who have no reason to be ashamed because we are rightly understanding God’s Word and sharing it with those who are lost without Him.

May our God-given understanding result in changed hearts for Jesus’ sake.

Choose Me (Ezekiel 42-43)

He was so willing. God would have forgiven Israel for every evil thing they ever did or even thought. “Here I am,” He said. “Here is my throne and a place for the soles of my feet. I’m not going anywhere.” They just needed to turn from their sin, put away their idols, and He would live among them forever.

Let them consider the plan, and if they are ashamed of all they have done, make known to them the design of the temple… its whole design and all its regulations and laws. Write these down before them so that they may be faithful to its design and follow all its regulations. (43:10b-11)

He was so willing. But they couldn’t do it. And neither can we.

Sometimes connecting with God’s heart breaks mine. This morning as I read these chapters I could hear His longing, and could almost feel His pain. “Choose me!” He pleads.

He’s done all the work. That altar and its regulations were fulfilled perfectly when God sacrificed Himself on the cross. “Just choose me,” He cries.

I pray that you have, at some point in your life, chosen God, that you have repented from sin, turned from your idols, and turned to the Savior. But I hope that isn’t the only time you’ve dealt with sin in your life.

Even the Apostle Paul struggled with sin. He tells us He made a conscious decision to “die” every day, to put aside self and sin, and choose God. Every. Day. “To live is Christ,” he said.

Choosing God isn’t easy, and it’s not always fun. Choosing God comes with sacrifice, hardship, selflessness. Choosing God means getting out of our comfort zones, going to battle, loving people who don’t agree with us, and praying for them. Choosing God goes against everything we’ve come to believe is true; that we should be wealthy and healthy, that we deserve to be happy, that as “children of the king” we should live the high life.

Scripture tells us that Jesus knew the world would hate us for choosing Him, because they hated Him first.

But choosing God is the most amazingly wonderful choice you will ever make. Choosing God is choosing something better than anything this world offers. Better than money, or fame, or a home on Easy Street. Choosing God is choosing love and forgiveness, help and encouragement, purpose and fellowship, and eternity more wonderful than any of us can imagine.

“Choose me,” God is saying to you. “Choose me today, and tomorrow, and the next day. Choose me this hour, this minute. Choose me and I promise I will never leave you, I’ll plant the soles of my feet in your heart and bless you with Myself.”

I choose God today. I’m praying you’ll do the same.

God Is Revealed (Ezekiel 38-39)

God’s punishment for sin will always be evident in this world, because there will always be sin in the world until He comes again. Natural disasters will happen. Evil men will do evil things. There will be disease, and war, and heartache and suffering. There will continue to be times when God removes His protection, and even His children will suffer because of their sin.

But!

There will always, ALWAYS, be times of grace, of mercy, of victory when people humble themselves and repent of sin. God will always, ALWAYS bless those who obey Him.

Why? So that the world and everyone in it will recognize that God is Holy. God is Sovereign, God is who He says He IS and there is no other. This world is about God.

As I read His Word I understand that Truth. And here is the best part of that. God wants a relationship with me! God wants to protect and bless me as though I was His only child. Like a loving Father, He will discipline my rebellion, correct my self-centeredness, punish my disobedience. And like a loving Father, He will always, ALWAYS forgive me when I come to Him, humble myself, and repent.

May God be seen in me through every circumstance of life. May people recognize the Holy, Just, Fierce, and Forgiving God He is by watching Him work in my life. May I be a living example of His grace because:

God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

Everything that happens, the good and the bad, happen to point people to Jesus, to reveal God in all His holiness and goodness so that they will come to Him for forgiveness, and enjoy a relationship with the Sovereign, Holy God He is. I love to think that I may have a part in His plan, to reveal this wonderful God to a world that needs Him!

God’s Judgment (Ezekiel 20-21)

When you consider God’s final judgment, what comes to mind? Some people picture a big old drunken party around a campfire. Some see people wandering aimlessly through space, dragging the chains they formed in this lifetime. Many people don’t want to believe there will even be a final judgment, just nothingness, that we will cease to exist when we die.

God told Ezekiel to spell out exactly what His judgment on the disobedient Jews would entail, and Ezekiel complained, “Ah, Sovereign Lord! They are saying of me, ‘Isn’t he just telling parables?'” (20:49) Those Old Testament Jews didn’t want to believe in judgment any more than people in 2020.

So let me ask again: what do you believe about God’s judgment?

I notice as I read Ezekiel this morning how often God tells us His judgment protects His Name, that His judgment reveals who He is to the nations of the world. His Name which is Holy, Holy, Holy. If there was no judgment, He could not be Holy.

Scripture also tells us God’s judgment is without mercy. Can you wrap your mind around that truth? Some will argue that because God is love He wouldn’t condemn anyone to a terrible eternity in hell. That because God is merciful, He wouldn’t judge without mercy.

What do you say to that?

Was God speaking in parables, in fairytales, or using scare tactics to get us to obey Him? Or is there an actual place, void of God, void of light, void of fellowship, where the groans and wailings of the condemned are the only sounds, where there is no hope, no reprieve, no comfort? Is there a place where pain and suffering beyond anything anyone has ever experienced in this lifetime, no matter how awful, is the only reality forever?

What do you say to that?

Ezekiel kept telling Israel about the judgment that was coming even if they didn’t believe him. We need to do the same. Because God will seriously judge without mercy, and hell is real.

But, we also need to tell people the one and only way they can avoid God’s final judgment. They need to know that Jesus paid that awful penalty for them. He met His own requirements so no one has to spend eternity without Him.

Just as God judges the guilty without mercy, He shows mercy to those who come to Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. To all of us who repent of sin, who find forgiveness in the cross, we need have no fear of God’s final judgment.

What do you say to that?