Category Archives: The Gospel

(Genesis 32-40) Submission

Here’s where I think we have failed God.

As I was reading every detail of Bezalel’s work in the making of the tabernacle, once again I was frustrated. Didn’t we just get done reading those same details in the previous chapters? Why put us through that torture again? Why not simply report, “Bezalel obeyed?”

As I was forming that question in my mind somewhere around chapter 37, God seemed to challenge me to pay attention. There is a lesson to be learned from Bezalel’s obedience. I slowed down my reading and looked carefully at the level of Bezalel’s obedience and it dawned on me. The lesson here is…

submission.

We don’t see Bezalel going rogue. We don’t see him adding to or skipping over even the tiniest detail. He was an artist. I’m sure he was creative and imaginative in his own right. But he submitted to God. He laid aside his own desires and fulfilled the plan God designed exactly as it was told him.

Scripture tells us repeatedly that the tabernacle was made “just as the Lord had commanded Moses.”

Oh, that we would be as diligent, as careful to build the Church in 2021, just as the Lord commanded in His Word. I’m not sure we have submitted our wills as completely as Bezalel submitted his.

If we’re honest we have overlooked some important details. We’ve tweaked some details to be less offensive, more politically correct. Haven’t we turned our worship into entertaining productions? We are more concerned with what our worship looks like than in the condition of our hearts. We rationalize sin in our church and in our individual lives, and it’s getting harder and harder to recognize a follower of Jesus because we look very much like unbelievers.

The result of Bezalel’s level of obedience was blessing. Read chapter 40. It must have been an amazing spectacle as God revealed His Presence. There could be no question. God was in this. There is reward for carefully following what God says: HIS PRESENCE!

So today God is asking me to submit, to lay aside what I think, and look into His Word to find out what He commands. He is asking me to stop listening to christian-sounding ideas and plans, and to obey what He has made so clear in the pages of my Bible.

I realize my level of submission isn’t where it needs to be. Submitting to God isn’t merely a prayer, or an intention. If I truly submit to God it is going to be evident in my talk, my walk, my thoughts, and ultimately in my choices today. It’s going to be driven by God’s plan, not mine.

Have we as the Church failed to submit to God? If so, maybe it’s time we do.

(Exodus 5-12) What About The Plagues?

My goal this year is to cement in my mind exactly what I believe, and why. I don’t want to be satisfied with “that’s what I’ve always believed,” or “that’s what I was taught.” I want my faith in God to be intentional, defined, and based solely on God’s Word. I think God wants that of me, too, so that I am able to convey the Truth to others in a clear and confident way.

So today, as I read these chapters in Exodus, I ask myself what I really believe about these plagues. I’d like to share the questions I believe God laid on my heart, and the answers he pointed me to.

WERE THESE PLAGUES SOMETHING GOD COMMANDED WITH A WORD, OR DID GOD USE NATURAL OCCURANCES TO BRING ABOUT HIS PLAN? MIRACLE OR NATURE? There appears to be a natural order of things in the first six plagues. Bloody water would understandably cause frogs to go crazy and flee the banks of the river, dead frogs would draw gnats and flies, tainted food from those insects would cause animals to die, and also to spread disease to humans. I believe God set each plague in motion with a word, and that the orderly progression demonstrates He is the God of order. I believe it’s an example of God using, if not manipulating, His creation to exact punishment, and to reveal Himself as the God of creation. Is it a matter of miracles or nature? Or miracles and nature? Either way, this is a picture of God, not the plagues.

DID PHAROAH’S WISE MEN PERFORM MIRACLES? No. The term “occult practices” indicates a deception. In the original text the term is actually “by their flames.” Like a modern-day magician who throws flash paper to distract the audience, these OT magicians probably used their tricks to distract, then exchange their staves for snakes, or to throw chemicals into water to turn it blood red, or to release captive frogs so it looked like they brought them up from the river. Remember, they were magicians. Not miracle workers. And with magicians there is always illusion.

IF ALL THE EGYPTIAN LIVESTOCK DIED IN 9:6, WHAT ANIMALS ARE LEFT TO SUFFER FROM DISEASE AND HAIL? How many days was it between the first plague and the tenth? We know Moses was 80 when he first spoke to Pharaoh. But we don’t know exactly how old he was when the Exodus began. Did the plagues take ten days? Ten months? Longer? Common sense tells me that if Egypt was without livestock because of a plague, Pharaoh wouldn’t sit around feeling sorry for himself. Wouldn’t he replenish what he’d lost? I’m very sure he would. Often, if necessary. The fact that more livestock showed up before the sixth plague doesn’t mean that what we read in 9:6 isn’t true. I believe it indicates a period of time passed between those plagues.

DID GOD HARDEN PHARAOH’S HEART AGAINST PHARAOH’S WILL? What do you think? Scripture is clear that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. But did God harden a believing heart? I am fully convinced it was Pharaoh’s own pride, his own rejection of God that caused the hardening. And that is a warning to all of us. With every rejection of God your heart – and mine -will become harder and harder toward God. Rejecting Him becomes easier and easier. Until the final, devastating moment when His hammer of judgment comes crashing down. God is very clear that He hardens hearts of those who reject Him.

I am not posting this in order to convince you to believe what I believe on these subjects. I am posting this to encourage you to think for yourself, to read God’s Word and allow Him to teach you. I challenge you to ask yourself hard questions, and to answer them according to Scripture, and to anticipate being asked the hard questions of those who are seeking.

Did you read something I wrote and say, “Now wait a minute?” Good! That means you are asking some questions yourself. Look to God for the answers.

This post is about what I am learning, about me putting into words what I believe so that I can share it with others. If you agree or disagree with me it doesn’t really matter, although I’d love to hear your thoughts. What matters is, do you know WHY you agree or disagree?

Let’s determine to study to show ourselves approved, fully equipped to share the Gospel of Jesus with a world that desperately needs Him.

(Exodus 1-4) Even Moses

Did God really want to kill Moses? 4:24 tells us He really did. Why? Wasn’t Moses going back to Egypt because God told him to? Hadn’t God said Moses would deliver the Israelites out of bondage? It seems odd that God would decide to kill this man.

If you read 4:21-26 you read the Gospel. Yes, Moses was going through the motions of obedience, but the fact remained he hadn’t been circumcised. That was disobedience. That was sin. And sin comes with a death penalty, no matter who you are, no matter how much you might appear to others to be following God.

It wasn’t until Moses was circumcised, until blood had been spilt, that God let him go. The same requirement is in effect today. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin. (Hebrews 9:22)

After Jesus, His is the blood that brings salvation. No one needs to be circumcised or cut or killed in order for sins to be forgiven. But make no mistake, blood needs to be applied in order for God to pardon a death sentence.

And that’s the Gospel.

Our bodies don’t need to be circumcised, but our hearts do. That involves a true repentance, an acceptance of God’s will. Forgiveness doesn’t happen until the blood of Jesus is applied to a surrendered heart. Then, and only then, will God “let (us) go” as He did Moses here in Exodus 4.

You can do all the religious stuff, and go through the motions of obedience like Moses did. But even Moses had to address his sin.

And so do you and I.

(Genesis 20-25) Not Harsh Enough

We question Sarah’s treatment of Hagar and think she was too harsh when she sent Hagar and Ishmael away. We see Abraham having other children after Sarah died, and he sent those children away as well. What’s up with that?

Sarah’s words spoke to me today:

Drive out the slave with her son, for the son of this slave will not be a coheir with my son Isaac. (21:10)

Are we that protective of that which we hold dear, of the very promise of God?

I believe the Church has become a wishy-washy, bleeding hearts club where we are so concerned about offending, we’ve allowed anything and anyone into our midst. In fact, we have the idea we need to be inviting non-believers into our fellowship. We’ve been told to think we will rub off on them, but I wonder if the opposite isn’t true.

We’ve fashioned our worship service so it’s attractive to non-believers. We’ve watered down our sermons so as not to step on toes of non-believers, because we don’t want them to stop attending and giving to our worthless ministry.

Yes, worthless.

Because the Bible is clear. The purity of the Truth, the Gospel of Jesus and the Holiness of God must be protected. There are no co-heirs with God’s Promise. The Church must drive out any hint of compromise or threat of compromise in order to retain its purity.

You might think that’s harsh. I think it’s not harsh enough.

(Genesis 3-5) Because I Love You

I never considered God’s judgment on Adam and Eve an act of love before. Had He allowed them to continue to live in the Garden, and had they eaten from the Tree of Life, they would have been forced to live forever in their sin, struggling in this sinful world century after century, millennium after millennium. They would have had no hope of heaven, because they would not have died.

Yes, they were doomed to a difficult existence during life on earth. They were to experience sickness, loss, heartache, enemies, and death. Sin does that to a person.

But God, even as He sent them away, promised the Savior. God did not leave them without hope.

The writer of Hebrews, and Psalm 3:12 tell us:

the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.

God always punishes sin because He loves us. He wants us to turn from sin so that we can enjoy a relationship with Him in this life, and forever. We can’t do that if we hold on to sin. He is holy. Holiness and sin do not exist together. God wants us to exist together.

God didn’t wash His hands of Adam and Eve when they sinned. When He threw them out of the Garden, He didn’t turn off the sun, or destroy creation to teach them a lesson They still enjoyed sunsets, smelled the flowers, tasted the food. God didn’t stop blessing them. I’m sure they laughed again, were excited about the births of their children, enjoyed a romantic get-away to the mountains occasionally. (Well, I’m not sure of that last one, really. I’m a bit of a romantic.)

I think they even enjoyed a relationship with God eventually, although much different than the one they knew before sin separated them. God still was involved in their lives as seen in His conversation with Cain, giving Cain a chance to repent. (4:6-7)

I’ve gone through times of discipline because of sin in my life. Our world experiences the judgment of God because of sin. And often our natural response is to ask, “Why?”

“Why is life so hard?” “What did I do to deserve this illness, or this loss, or this hardship?”

“WHY ME?”

And I hear God answer:

Because I love you.

Tears (Revelation 18-22)

My heart is heavy on this last day of 2020. Why not, right? This has been a very difficult year, unlike any I have seen in my lifetime. But I’m sitting here broken-hearted, not because of COVID, or isolation, or the loss of freedom. My tears are not for myself, but for a former student, the daughter of a co-worker and friend, who is facing life this morning without her nine-year-old daughter.

What started out as a fun road trip to California with extended family ended in a horrific accident which took the life of this precious child. Her mom and dad took the first flight out of Texas where they live, to rush to their daughter’s side in a California hospital, only to be met with the news their child had died. I can’t even think about what that was like for them.

Many of us have faced similar circumstances, and although we can’t know exactly how this young couple is feeling, we can remember how we felt when we received devastating news. Hearing what happened this morning brings back the feelings of the day we lost my nephew Geoff. It’s a pain I wish no one ever had to experience.

Yet Payton’s family is in that same heart stopping, suffocating, crushing pain this morning, and will continue to be for a very, very long time.

The last verse Mom underlined in her Bible is Revelation 21:4. Listen to what John had to say about what God has in store:

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain…”

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Personally, I’m ready to see that day come.

But let me say something to you in love. That day is reserved only for God’s children. There is another existence for people who reject God, who don’t accept the grace God gives to those who surrender to Him. It is a place where there will only be weeping and gnashing of teeth, no reprieve, no comfort. Forever.

Oh dear one, none of us is guaranteed another second in this life. Not if you are 90 – or 9. Please don’t wait another moment to give your life to Jesus. If you never have asked Him to forgive your sins and be your Savior, do it now while you still have time. You might not see 2021. Payton didn’t.

Would you pray with me for the Osmond/Veigel families? They are hurting right now in an unspeakable grief. May God be their strength and comfort.

And may you know the assurance of an eternity where there will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain. A place where God Himself will wipe away your tears.

He Will Not Win (The Revelation of John)

God allowed John to see the big picture. He showed him the Church, our role in the world, our blessings for obedience, and God’s judgment for disobedience. John saw God’s enemy at work, and the fact Satan only has power given him by God.

I think we miss the point of John’s revelation when we try to fit it into a material box, or try to place events on a timeline. John’s vision is both an encouragement for us, and a warning we need to heed.

The fact is, there is a war going on, and all of us must choose a side. The enemy is clever. He uses both force and subtleties, to bring people to his side. He is cunning, and a pretty good imitator of God.

But he is not God.

And while Satan tries to cloud the Truth that is Jesus, while he tries to put up a smoke screen against the Gospel, he cannot and will not change the Truth. God will be reckoned with. And only we who are on God’s side will escape God’s wrath.

Oh, Satan has and will continue to enjoy certain victories along the way. God’s Church will be beat up, persecuted, and ignored.

But take heart, dear one. Satan will not win this war!

Our Conduct (Philippians)

I imagine we all can agree our world is changing. People live in constant fear. Tempers flair. Families are forced apart by government and even by political opinion. The US is imploding. It looks like we are on the brink of defeat, not from some outside military force, but from within ourselves.

Then I hear God say through Paul:

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. (1:27)

What does that mean? How are we who know the Savior supposed to conduct ourselves during these uncertain times? I want to share with you some verses Mom underlined in her Bible here in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. It pretty much answers those questions.

2:4 Each of you should look not only to your own interest, but also to the interests of others.

So, does this mean we wear masks? Maybe. Do we speak truth instead of promoting hysteria? Probably. But I think more importantly this tells us that we should not merely be satisfied with our own ticket to heaven. I honestly think God is more interested in whether or not we share the Gospel, than whether or not we wear a mask. I think it’s more likely that God is telling us to reach out to lost people, even if it means we’ll be rejected, made fun of, mistreated, or worse. Telling people about Jesus isn’t always convenient. We should do it anyway.

2:5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.

Read verses 6-11 if you want to know more about that. Having a humble, servant’s attitude is so contrary to today’s Me First society. Yet that is what God requires of His children.

2:14 Do everything without complaining or arguing.

Pretty much speaks for itself, doesn’t it? Just don’t miss the word, “everything.”

3:1 …rejoice in the Lord!

We can get so caught up in the climate of fear and anxiety we miss the real joy that comes from a relationship with God Himself. Our circumstances might not give us reason for joy. But the Lord does! Rejoice in the Lord!

3:13-14 …Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Forget the past. Don’t hold grudges or try to even the score. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Focus. Focus. Focus. Press on by being that humble, obedient servant God intends for you to be. Jesus is ahead! Keep moving toward Him.

4:5 Let your gentleness be evident to all.

Sadly, some people equate gentleness with weakness. There is a difference. Be strong in the Lord while you show love to one another. Forgive as you’ve been forgiven. Share Jesus with kindness and firmness. I’m pretty sure few people are saved by someone thumping them on the head with a Bible.

4:6 Do not be anxious about anything.

Yes, not even COVID. Not even socialism or communism or China or the stock market. Anything means anything. Do not allow anxiety to possess you.

Paul goes on to tell us:

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (4:7)

Does the world witness the peace of God in you? Or are you wringing your hands like those who have no hope? God is telling us we can have His peace. Do you trust Him? Prove it.

Most of us Christians would say that our desire is to be the people God wants us to be. Most of us want to by used by God to win people to His saving grace. Most of us, I would think, want to live lives worthy of the precious Gospel we received through faith in Jesus.

Living that life isn’t easy nor convenient. Sometimes we get it right, other times we fail miserably. But Paul reminds us:

I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (4:13)

You can live a life worthy of the gospel of Christ. You can do it all through your relationship with Him!

Then…

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Conduct worthy of the Gospel might not be easy or politically correct. But it comes with benefits, my friend. It comes with all the glorious riches in Jesus!

Doesn’t get better than that.

Wisdom and Understanding (Colossians)

In these days when lies are declared truth, and madness applauded as sanity, we need to be reminded of a few things.

Paul said:

My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. (2:2-4)

I, too, want to encourage you in heart and unite with you in love so that we can have complete understanding. I pray that we will know the mystery of God – Jesus! Because only in Jesus will we discover real wisdom and understanding.

And I, with Paul, want us to be grounded in the truth which is Jesus, so that we’ll recognize – and reject – the deceptive arguments being touted by the world’s authorities today. They not only speak lies, but they would make us feel guilty, intolerant, bigoted, selfish, and deplorable if we dare not go along with them in their lies. Can you see it?

Paul tells us who have received Christ as Savior to:

,,,continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (2:6-7)

We have to grow our roots deep in Him! We need to read His Word, spend time in prayer, intentionally walk with Him every moment of the day. We need to believe and hold on to what He has revealed to us in Scripture.

Then listen to this word of warning:

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. (2:8)

Who are you listening to?

Paul goes on. We need to clothe ourselves “with compassion, kindness humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (3:12-14)

We Christians should not be fighting amongst ourselves over petty grievances. The world needs to see what a difference Jesus makes in our lives. They don’t need to see us acting like them, or in some cases, worse than them!

Now why is this so important? Is it so you and I can get our ticket to heaven? Paul says this:

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (4:2)

What should we watch for? What do we have to be thankful for?

that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ... loudly and clearly! (from 4:2-4)

Paul encourages us to make the most out of every opportunity that comes our way to share Jesus with someone who is lost. Jesus is a mystery to those who don’t know Him. It’s up to us to help them solve the mystery by introducing them to the Savior.

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (4:6)

People are believing the lies. Even some who call themselves Christians are falling for it. “A man is not a male unless he feels like a male.” “You can’t help who you love.” “Life begins with birth so that which is in the womb is not life.” “A woman should have say over what she does with her body.” “Truth is subjective.” “Faith is a crutch.” “All roads lead to heaven.” “God is love so He accepts everyone.”

LIES! But they are lies that have become a false truth to many. And woe to you who don’t agree with them.

I hope you’ll read Paul’s letter to the Colossians today. There is so much in here for us Christians in 2020. Let’s know what God has revealed in His Word, and let’s stand firm on that foundation. Let’s proclaim the Truth of Jesus loudly and clearly, and let’s never miss an opportunity to introduce a lost soul to their Savior.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (3:17)

What Are We Waiting For? (Acts 24-28)

You don’t have to wait until your life is in order before God can use you. Paul was imprisoned for years, not guilty of any crime. He was in chains because he preached the truth and people didn’t want to hear it. He went through storms, adrift at sea, and shipwrecked. His life was anything but orderly.

Yet Paul never missed a chance to share Jesus, no matter who his audience. Kings? Sailors? Jailors? Sick people? Heathen? Church leaders? Yes! No matter who they were, Paul was preaching the Gospel to them.

Paul was an overflowing vessel at God’s disposal, even though his life was a mess.

What are we waiting for? Until our kids are grown? Until we feel worthy? Until we are older and wiser? Until we get that promotion at work, or that college degree, or our health is better?

We can learn from Paul who, no matter his own circumstances, shared Jesus. He didn’t wait until he was free, or healthy, or safe. He had a mission every day: tell people the Good News of the Gospel.

Tell me again – what are we waiting for?