Category Archives: The Gospel

All We Need To Know (Psalm 119)

Why did God inspire men to write down His words, to spell out His plan for the human race, we who are created in His image? To what degree does it pertain to life in 2020?

The reality is, God is not playing games here. In His sovereignty and because of His great love, He has told us everything we need to know about life, about death, and about Himself. We don’t have to guess about anything He considers important. It’s all here right in the pages of the Bible.

Is it relevant for today? Let me ask you this: Do people experience any emotions today that weren’t experienced by people four thousand years ago? Do people have complicated relationships any differently than they did when Scripture was written? Were there temptations to sin back then, to lie, to cheat on their wives, to take what wasn’t their’s, to put their interests ahead of others and God? Was their illness and war and poverty and unfairness and prejudice? Let me assure there was all of that. And what God inspired men to write in what we know as the Bible is as up-to-date today as it was back then.

Verse 133 says this:

Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.

As we read God’s Word we become aware of sin and the devastating and eternal consequences for sin – for our sin. But God also demonstrates in His Word that He has done what it takes to break the chains of sin so that sin no longer has to control us.

As we read God’s Word each day, let’s pray with the psalmist:

May my cry come before you, O Lord; give me understanding according to your word. (vs 169)

Give me understanding. But, dear one, we need to be reading God’s Word if we want Him to help us understand it. May this be the prayer of our hearts:

May my lips overflow with praise, for you teach me your decrees. May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous. May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts. I long for your salvation, O Lord, and your law is my delight. Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me. I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commandments. (verses 171-176)

That’s Harsh (Psalm 109)

David speaks pretty harshly about his enemy. He asks God to find his enemy guilty, to make his wife a widow and his children forced to beg in the streets. Then he prays that his enemy would lose everything, causing his family to be homeless. He even went as far as to say, “let no one extend kindness” to his enemy, and let no one take pity on his children. “Wipe him off the face of the earth,” David seems to ask, “and never forget what he did to me.”

David continued to pray that his enemy would get what’s coming to him. Karma, baby. He said his enemy loved to curse people, curse him back, God. His enemy found no pleasure in blessing, don’t bless him, God. Treat him like he treated me.

Yes, if you read Psalm 109 you’ll hear David ask God to show no mercy toward his enemy, and his enemy’s entire family – women and children. That’s harsh.

But I wonder if we’re not harsh enough on our enemy, Satan. I wonder if we’ve grown soft toward sin, if we’ve tolerated sin in ourselves and others, if we haven’t welcomed sin into our homes and churches by hiding it in our own hearts.

Maybe it’s time we look at our enemy the way David looked at his, and ask God to remove it, destroy it, so that it’s blotted out completely. Maybe we need to stop looking at sin like a little child or a widowed mother, and instead ask God to show no mercy in removing the sin from our lives.

Nail it to the cross, Lord!

Because the truth is, we can’t be too harsh on our enemy, Satan.

It’s My Fault (2 Samuel 24, I Chronicles 21)

Warren Wiersbe says of these chapters of the Bible, that David’s sin was pride. David counted the fighting men in Israel and Judah, which demonstrated the Jews’ superiority over other nations, and revealed David as the most powerful king. But according to Wiersbe, he did not “connect the census with the redemption money,”  as was directed in Exodus 30. (With the Word by Warren Wiersbe; Oliver-Nelson Books; 1991; page 194) It would appear this census was motivated by David’s pride.

What I like about David is, when he recognized that he’d sinned against God, feeling the heavy hand of God’s conviction, he prayed: “I have sinned greatly.” He didn’t blame anyone else, he didn’t make excuses, he didn’t rationalize his behavior. He recognized his sin, and he confessed it to God. have sinned.

We must never ignore the feeling of guilt, or learn to live with a heavy conscience. We must confess our sin, because when we do God is faithful to forgive! What joy!

But there is a lesson here. Forgiveness doesn’t automatically cancel out consequences for our sin. And that’s what spoke to me today.

The consequences for David’s sin didn’t just affect him. The entire nation paid for what David had done. For days, David watched while the people charged to his care, the nation he loved and fought for and led, suffered. Tens of thousands of them died, and there was nothing David could do but sit back and watch it happen, knowing it was his fault.

We all have people we care about: our children, our siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, our friends, co-workers, neighbors, adults and kids whom we love, fight for, and nurture. We all have people for whom we are responsible in one way or another. Isn’t it hard to watch these dear ones go through hard times, suffer illness and loss while you stand helplessly by? It’s a horrible feeling.

But what if the things they are going through are a direct result of sin you’ve committed? Your family loses their home because your drinking ends up costing you your job. Your adolescent child is having trouble dealing with losing you through divorce. Your company goes under because you embezzled money, putting your co-workers and friends out of their jobs. Your family lives in fear because you don’t control your temper.

Even if you confess your sin and receive God’s grace, consequences don’t magically disappear. That is an important lesson for all of us. That sin we are committing has far reaching fingers.

I don’t think there is a much worse feeling than watching those dear people suffer for what you’ve done. I remember the first time I saw my dad cry. We had been out for a family hike at a nearby state park. We’d walked for a time when Dad and I ran ahead and climbed a steep hill to hide from Mom and my sisters. But when they finally came into view, they weren’t even looking for us. So Dad kicked a rock, thinking that would get their attention. The rock rolled down the hill, hit another, larger rock, and went airborne. We watched in horror as that rock was hurled into the eye of one of my sisters.

Blood everywhere. Screams. Panic. Dad ran, picked her up, and ran to the car, Mom trying to get the others of us there as quickly as possibly. We crammed into the car and Dad sped to the nearest hospital.

My three sisters and I waited in the car while Mom and Dad took Peggy to the emergency room. I don’t know how long we sat there before we saw Dad come out of the glass doors. With head down, he walked slowly toward us. He opened the driver’s side door, sat down, then dropped his head onto the steering wheel and cried.

It wasn’t a whimper. The sounds coming from him came from a place very deep inside him. He moaned, and sobbed, it seemed like forever. Peggy had nearly lost her eye. And Dad knew it was his fault. He was responsible, and there was nothing he could do about it now. She would be scarred for the rest of her life.

Dad’s agony came from a place of innocence. And yet he always carried the guilt of that day. It was an accident. But that didn’t prevent Dad and Peggy from suffering the consequences.

How much worse, to know that the suffering of our loved ones comes as a result of our choices, our pride, our willfulness, our rebellion, our sin. How much worse when we are faced with the reality that there was something we could have done to prevent it.

Like confessing that sin, repenting, turning from it before it was too late.

I would encourage us all to be sensitive to the convicting hand of our Lord. If you are feeling guilty over a sin, no matter how small you think that sin is, confess it immediately. Ask God to forgive you BEFORE things get too far, and consequences begin to touch others. Repent before your stubborn pride boils over and burns the people you love.

I don’t think there are more bitter tears than ones that come from knowing:

It’s my fault.

God’s Way Is Perfect (Psalm 22)

Psalm 22:31 is underlined in Mom’s Bible.

As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him.”

 

David is talking about how hard life has been for him. The man had enemies. His enemies wanted him dead, and pursued him relentlessly. But David recognized the many times God moved on his behalf to protect him, and to give him victory after victory over his enemies. The king knew it wasn’t by his own effort, but by the mercy of God that he was still alive.

I notice that David equates God’s hand of protection and the victories over evil with his own righteousness. Look at verse 21:

“The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.”

 

In this psalm, David says things like, “His laws are before me,” and “He rescues me because he delights in me,” “To the faithful, you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless, to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd.”

God reveals His faithfulness IF we are faithful. God demonstrates that He is blameless IF we are blameless. His purity is recognized IF we are pure. And IF we are crooked, IF we reject Him, He shows Himself to be someone you don’t want to mess with.

So many people are quick to say, “God is sovereign,” or “God’s will will be done,” as though God wrote a script we are forced to follow. Yet so often we see in Scripture the word “if.”

God, in His sovereignty, declared that His will will be accomplished if we obey Him. He is not willing that anyone die without Him, yet people who reject Him go to hell. Jesus died so that anyone can have eternal, but there is a “whoever believes” clause in that promise, an “if” if you will. You receive eternal life IF you believe in the Son of God.

And like the verse Mom underlined, God’s way is perfectly flawless IF we take refuge in Him. He is our protector IF we take refuge in Him. How do we do that?

Throughout Scripture God tells us the first step is to believe on the Lord Jesus, confess our sins, and accept what Jesus offers through His precious blood. Scripture tells us to obey Him, draw near to Him, be holy as He is holy. That relationship with God, available through the cross, is our refuge.

Please understand God doesn’t protect sin. He protects righteousness – His righteousness worn by people who receive it by His grace. To we who know Him, He is our refuge, our help in time of need, our strength when we are weak, our joy in all circumstances.

People are praying, “God protect our nation from this virus.” We need to pray, “God break the chains of sin in this nation. Convict us, forgive us when we ask, then heal our land.”

That’s God’s way. And it’s perfect.

Come What May (2 Samuel 16-18)

Ahimaaz wanted to run and tell David the outcome of the battle between his men and Absalom’s. Joab said no. He would send someone else to David because, “You don’t have any news that will bring you a reward.”

The news about the battle wasn’t all good news. David’s son Absalom had been killed in that battle, and that fact would destroy David. Or it would destroy the messenger like those who brought David word of Saul’s death. David had a history of killing the messengers of bad news, and Absalom’s death would have been the very worst kind of news.

Ahimaaz’s reply to Joab speaks to me:

Come what may, I want to run.

We have news to share with the world. It’s the best news ever in the history of the world. But with it comes some bad news, too.

The bad news is that we are sinners. You are a sinner. I am a sinner. And sin comes with a death sentence. We all deserve to go to hell. We need someone outside ourselves to save us from that awful end. Some people get angry when faced with the truth about their sin.

The good news is, Jesus is the Savior we need. Jesus paid the death sentence that would have sent us to hell, and instead offers us eternity right next to Him in a place too amazing for words. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us. Doesn’t get much better than that.

The thing is, you can’t share the good news without the bad. In order for someone to accept the Savior, they need to see their need of the Savior. And sometimes we might hesitate to share that message for fear of how it will be received.

Will I lose a friend? Will I be laughed at? Will people start treating me differently, unfairly, exclude me from things? Or as in some places in our world, will I lose my life?

Ahimaaz wanted to be the one to tell David, and he was willing to pay whatever price to share that message. He wasn’t concerned with his own safety. He wasn’t looking for some reward. It wasn’t about him. I believe, for Ahimaaz, it was about the message.

It’s still about the message. God is challenging me to take up Ahimaaz’s battle cry when given the opportunity to share His news with people He died to save.

“Come what may, God, let me be the one to tell someone about You today.”

Convicted (Psalms 32, 51, 86, 122)

These psalms have a lot to say about the forgiveness of sin. David said that when he lived with his sin, God’s hand was heavy on him. He had no strength, he groaned all day. David’s experience (and my own) tells me that the force of God’s conviction affects every part of our lives.

But when David confessed his sin, God forgave him and surrounded him with songs of deliverance. Instead of feeling the guilt and shame of his sin, David could confidently say this:

Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. (32:1-2)

David knew that when he confessed his sin, his whole life was changed:

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me and I will be whiter than snow. (51:7)

And, instead of  being weighed down by guilt, David could pray:

Restore to me the joy of your salvation. (51:12a)

David’s groaning turned to real joy when He asked and received God’s forgiveness. He knew God wasn’t interested in religion, or in David’s animal sacrifices any more than God is interested in our good deeds:

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (51:16-17, emphasis mine)

This God who lays a heavy hand of conviction on us who sin, doesn’t make us miserable because He is mean or vengeful. Listen to David describe God:

You are kind and forgiving, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you. (86:5)

David could say those things with confidence about God, even when the guilt of his sin caused him sleepless nights and agony. David knew…

In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me. (86:7)

Are you being convicted by a sin you’ve not confessed? I would urge you to bow your head right now, and ask God to forgive you. Turn from that sin and toward our God who is abounding in love to those who call on Him. He will answer your prayer. Then, with David, you will be able to say:

For great is your love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of the grave. (86:13)

Amen!

 

A Season For War (2 Samuel 11-12; I Chronicles 20)

There is a phrase in both 2 Samuel and I Chronicles that caught my attention this morning: “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war…”

Why spring? It sounds like the start of baseball season or something. I did some research and this is what I found:

Spring was the ideal time for going to war because, first, the rains were over which meant the soldiers could march on solid and dry ground. There was grass in the fields, fruit on trees, and ripe corn, food for both soldiers and horses. There was wisdom in the timing.

Now, soldiers could suit up at any time of the year. Not all battles were fought in the best circumstances. But if a king could wait until spring before going into battle, he had a better chance of success because his soldiers didn’t have to fight the enemy AND the elements.

I am reminded of Paul’s second letter to Timothy when he told the young preacher to “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season…

We, like the Old Testament soldiers can suit up at any time. In fact, we are told to put on the armor of God every day. We are instructed to always be prepared to give an answer for the hope we have in Jesus. Our battles, and our opportunities to share the Gospel, don’t just come at prime time. We are told to be prepared to preach the Word at all times.

But I am challenged today to plan my battle strategy, to look for the signs that tell me the time is right to go to that person God has laid on my heart to confront their sin in order to lead them to their Savior. Sometimes we might be tempted to barge in when it’s convenient for us, only to be met with the challenge of fighting the elements of distractions or resistance or misunderstandings while we are trying to fight the battle against sin.

I want to wait for God’s timing, because He is preparing the ground for battle. I want to recognize His season for war against Satan, and be prepared to fight the fight He is leading. Not my season. But His.

May I be prepared every day by putting on the whole armor of God, by being ready to give an answer, to share the Gospel whenever the opportunity presents itself. May I be sensitive to God’s timing. And may I be a faithful and obedient soldier so that when God says, “Charge!” I’m the first to go.