Category Archives: The Gospel

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!

Can It Get Any Worse?

2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chronicles 34

I opened You Tube today and saw the title of a video that got my attention. I’ve never listened to this man before, but he titled his talk: This Pastor Is Worse Than You Thought – Andy Stanley, Jordon Peterson, Voddie Baucham – My Analysis. (The Gospel of Christ; John Henry).

He played a portion of a workshop given by Pastor Stanley, and even though I wasn’t at that workshop or watched the entirety of it, what I did hear left me speechless. Stanley said he no longer refers to the Bible when he teaches. He doesn’t say “The Bible says…,” or “God’s Word says….” In fact, he says Christianity shouldn’t rise and fall on the inerrancy or accuracy of 66 ancient documents we call books of the Bible. It rises and falls on the identity of a single individual… Jesus of Nazareth.

He said that. And he posted the same on Twitter.

Now, to be fair, Stanley said his position on referring to the Bible isn’t a change in theology. It is merely a change in how he talks about theology. It seems he believes he can talk about what is in the Bible without using it as the authority.

In a podcast, Stanley said that in the beginning of Christianity, no preacher said, “The Bible says…, the Bible says…” He pointed out that the ancient Christians didn’t have a Bible, many couldn’t even read, and surmised that what drove the faith was an event, not Scripture.

“We have to shift the focus from the Bible to the resurrection…”

I want to ask him how can we know about the resurrection without the Bible?

Anyway, after listening to this You Tube video, I opened my Bible (yes, I still do that every day). My chronological Bible had me in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles where I read how reading God’s Word changed everything for King Josiah and the nation of Judah. They didn’t realize the seriousness of their actions until they READ what God had to say about them. That lead to repentance and revival in the land.

Ok. You might argue that is all from an ancient ANCIENT document. It’s Old Testament, and we live after the cross. So let’s look at Jesus.

Jesus often used Scripture (the Bible in Jesus’ day). Read Matthew 27, 23; John 13, 15. When he walked with the men going to Emmaus after the resurrection, He talked to them, not merely about the resurrection, but about what Scripture said.

Paul, after the cross, refers to Scripture repeatedly: 1 Corinthians 3, 18, 26, 30; Romans 10,15, and on and on and on.

To say we shouldn’t base Christianity on Scripture negates 2 Timothy 3:16-17. And if we want to base Christianity simply on Jesus’ miraculous resurrection from the dead, we need only read John 1 which clearly states that same Jesus IS the Word!

I hope you’ll investigate this for yourself. If I’ve misrepresented Andy Stanley, please listen to the video I referenced, and go to Stanley’s Twitter account (although I believe he has taken down some of what was said earlier). But let me know if I am in error. I don’t want to put words into Stanley’s mouth.

But let me ask you: what is the authority on which you base your faith? Personally, I am standing on the written Word of God, and I will continue to proclaim the Bible as that authority.

I’ll thank God for the privilege of proclaiming His Word, all 66 books, as His inspired Word live and effective today. And I’ll continue to urge you to read it every day.

Here I Am!

Isaiah 65

There is an old 35mm home movie of me at my parent’s Sunday School class’s Christmas party. I’m probably four or five at the time. Each year “Santa” would make an appearance and bring presents (provided by the parents) to pass out to the kids.

We’d usually sit on the floor in front of the jolly old man, and excitedly wait for our names to be called. All of us, dressed in our Sunday best. Me in a dress, hair ribbons in my braids, and my Mary Janes.

Santa must have called my name (it was before sound made it into home movies. Yes, I’m that old) because you see me jump up and hurry to stand in front of him. You can see him holding the present and looking to his left, totally ignoring me! “Connie,” you can see him call out again.

You can see my mouth move: “Here I am,” I say, my eyes looking intently into his face.

Santa looks to the right, still holding the present. “Connie, are you here?” he says.

This time you can see my little hand come up to my chest, pointing at myself, and watch my mouth say, “This is me. I’m right here.”

But the old guy still doesn’t seem to see me, even though I am nose-to-nose with him. He looks over my head and once again calls out my name.

You can see the look of disappointment and confusion on my young face, until he looks down and with surprise says, “There you are!” My face changes from disappointment to gladness in an instant. I walk back to my place on the floor, present in hand, and a smile on my face.

I thought of that this morning as I read the first verse of chapter 65.

The Lord says, “I was ready to respond, but no one asked for help. I was ready to be found, but no one was looking for me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am!’ to a nation that did not call my name.

So many people are looking for Truth, when Truth is standing right in front of them. Many are searching for God, when He is nose-to-nose with them. They look to the right, lean into the left. They look to science, philosophy, preachers and musicians. They look to politicians and influencers, and some even look to themselves.

Friend, if that describes you, hear God say, “Here I am, here I am!” Then run to Him. You’ll find His arms open wide. Submit to Him. You’ll find forgiveness and cleansing. Trust Him, and you’ll find eternity.

Can you hear Him?

“Here I am, here I am!”

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!

Living in the Presence

Psalm 84

The Old Testament Jew had to physically go to the city of Jerusalem in order to be in God’s presence. God dwelt only in the Temple Solomon built. If you wanted to be in His presence, you had to go to Him in Jerusalem.

It couldn’t have been easy for the elderly or sick to travel over desert and mountain. It probably cost more money to make the trip than most people could have afforded.

Some parents today dread a two day road trip to Grandma’s with a few toddlers or teens in tow, even driving 60 MPH in air conditioning, a movie playing in the back seat, on paved roads and a McDonald’s every few miles.

Imagine a road trip on foot with whining kids, on hot, sandy paths with the sun blaring down, and rations of food and water on Daddy’s back. Bed time could have been on mats at the side of the road or perhaps a room in an inn in a town along the way. But if they wanted to be where God was, they had to make the difficult trip to Jerusalem. They had to go where God lived.

The writer of Psalm 84 longs to enter the courts of the Lord. In fact he wanted it so badly he said he was faint with longing. His whole being, body and soul wanted to be able to praise God to His face. He couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be a sparrow that could build its nest right there at the Temple, to live close to God’s presence continually.

The writer of Psalm 84 would be blown away at the privilege we have after the cross.

We no longer need to go to God. HE CAME TO US! We don’t have to go to church, much less Jerusalem, to praise God face to face, to whisper in His ear, to walk with Him who is closer than a brother.

Of course, we know from Scripture, that privilege is reserved only for those who repent of sin, and receive God’s gracious forgiveness through the blood of Jesus. We live in God’s house, our bodies His Temple. I’m not sure we get the entirety of that truth.

Because sometimes we don’t even acknowledge Him, much less praise Him. It’s like that married couple who have been together for so long, they can go to a restaurant, enjoy a meal together, and not speak to each other the whole evening. They love each other. They are used to being in each other’s presence. But the old adage can be true: familiarity breeds contempt. (or at least apathy). The couple has grown comfortable with silence.

Does that describe your relationship with God? Are you so used to having His Spirit indwelling your heart you are comfortable with the silence?

I hope you’ll read Psalm 84, especially verses 10-12 and ask yourself if it describes how you view God’s presence in your life. Are you as passionate about being in the presence of God as the author of the psalm is?

I pray that you, and I, will walk with God today with the excitement of having Him with us. May we speak, think, act, with the blessed knowledge that our Holy God has come to us, to live with and in us in a real, vital, and amazing way.

Go with God today. Live intentionally in His presence. And rejoice for the privilege!

Your Faith

Isaiah 7

Unless your faith is firm, I cannot make you stand firm. (7:9b, NLT)

What are your thoughts? God said this to King Ahaz when the kingdom of Judah was in serious trouble from Syria and Israel. Those two nations were primed and ready to attack the Jews in Judah, and they had the manpower to do some damage.

Ahaz was understandably nervous about the situation. Maybe nervous isn’t a strong enough word. Terrified might be more accurate. The king and the people “trembled with fear like trees shaking in a storm.” (vs2b)

God saw the fear, but He also had a plan that was much bigger than the fear the people were experiencing. So He sent Isaiah to Ahaz to encourage him.

Don’t worry, Ahaz. God’s got this. You don’t need to “fear the fierce anger of those two burned-out embers.” Sure, they are plotting an attack, but it will never happen.”

Now you’d think those words from God Himself would alleviate any uncertainty Ahaz was having. He had been looking at his enemies as formidable foes, but God saw them as has-been, ineffective weaklings. Ahaz had been looking at his enemies, thinking he needed to face them in his own power. God told him they had no power!

God said this about the threatening kings:

Syria is no stronger than its capital, Damascus, and Damascus is no stronger than its king, Rezin. (vs 8)

Israel is not stronger than its capital, Samaria, and Samaria is no stronger than its king, Pekah son of Remaliah. (vs 9)

But then he said the words I quoted at the beginning of this post. The King James version says it like this:

If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.

Ahaz had a choice. He could trust God to come through like He’d promised. Or he could face his enemy in his own strength, and take his chances. On the surface it seems like a no-brainer. But I’m not so sure it was.

In our present culture we celebrate self-reliance, don’t we? We admire people who have worked hard, who’ve overcome obstacles by sheer will, and who are self-made men. Yet I think that’s been true since the garden when Adam thought he didn’t need God, that he could make up his own set of rules and do just fine.

I read a post from a fellow-blogger, Darryl Dash (DashHouse.com), entitled “In Whom Do You Trust?). He said something that has me thinking:

“Whatever we trust in place of God will eventually turn on us and destroy us.”

Money? Popularity? Relationships? Power? Self? What is it you trust for your happiness and well-being? What is it you trust for your eternity?

Pastor Dash says, “Self-reliance is deadly.” I think Adam would agree.

If you read on in this chapter of Isaiah you’ll hear God say, instead of looking toward armies to protect you, look toward a child. A virgin will be with child…

There’s the crux of the matter. If you are trusting anyone or anything other than Jesus, you’re putting your faith in burnt embers and has-been kings. If you are trusting anyone or anything other than Jesus, God cannot and will not make you strong.

But, my friend. If you let go of self and shut out all the other voices out there, if you put your faith in God alone, there is no battle you need to face alone. There is no enemy too strong for God to defeat. There need be no fear, because God’s got this.

I hope you’ll take a serious look at your faith today. You might say you have faith in God. In fact, I hope you do. But do you really have faith in God? Or do you have faith in God, plus something else. You know, just in case God doesn’t come through.

Can you have equal parts of faith in God and in yourself? What could be wrong with that?

Simply put, that’s not faith in God.

And unless your faith is firm, God cannot make you stand firm.