Category Archives: The Gospel

(2 Chronicles 6) Can You Imagine?

Solomon, standing in front of the finished temple with all its beauty, was overwhelmed – not by the artistry of the building – but by the Presence of God in that place.

“But will God indeed live on earth with humans? Even heaven, the highest heaven, cannot contain you, much less this temple I have built.” (vs 18)

Today, I am also overwhelmed. Not just at the thought of God living on earth with humans, although that in itself, in the person of Jesus Christ is absolutely beyond wonderful. I am overwhelmed that this great God who cannot be contained by the highest heaven actually lives IN ME!

Can I even grasp the fullness of that reality?

God, so vast, so beyond our understanding, the One who holds the universe – and every universe out there in the palm of His hand – knows ME, loves ME, and because His Son lived, died, and rose again to forgive sin, actually, without a doubt, lives in ME.

Solomon could not have imagined the truth of it. He was blown away by the thought of God taking up residence in the temple he had built. How much more would he have been amazed at that same God taking up residence in Connie.

Who?

I know. An insignificant, flawed, ordinary human living in the 21st century is the home of Creator God.

Can you imagine?

(2 Kings 18-20) Generations To Come

I’m not a big fan of King Hezekiah. Yes, he did some good things, and Scripture says he did right in the eyes of God. His prayer is an example, and a challenge to me. But I’m not sure I like him.

Verse 20:19 seals the deal for me when Hezekiah said all he cared about was his own comfort and safety. Too bad about his kids.

But I’m reminded he isn’t the only one looking out for #1, or living for the moment. I’ve been guilty of that, too. And you know what? I’m not sure I like me either, during those times.

If I’m not concerned about what life will be like when the babies in my family are grown, or if I have no passion for the kids in my church or neighborhood, or the dear ones in the school down the street, what does that say about me? I might as well pull the covers over my head and eat bonbons all day, get fat on my blessings, and die.

Because I certainly am not serving God unless I’m working toward making the world more Christlike by actively inviting people to know the Savior. I don’t have to be good with kids, teach a Sunday School for first graders, or even volunteer at the schools. But I can pray. I can support Bible-based children’s ministries, I can encourage parents, teachers, and caregivers in the name of Jesus. I can be an example of someone who is devoted to Jesus and interested in the souls of the next generation.

Do you know the percentage of people who give their hearts to the Lord as adults compared to that of children? It’s shocking. Someone recently showed me a statistic that said 2/3 of Christians say they accepted Jesus as a child. Children need to hear about Jesus and be given the opportunity to surrender to Him while they are young. I am not saying reaching out to adults isn’t important. It is. God is not willing ANY should die without Him. But let’s not neglect the next generation while reaching out to the present one.

I do not want to entertain the same attitude Hezekiah had. I’m not ok thinking the children alive today may have to face persecution and suffer for the Name. I’m not ok thinking the Gospel may not be recognizable in years to come. Yes, I most likely will be gone.

But can I be ok knowing that young people around me might have to live through God’s judgment for my decisions? Or that the same young people might become so hardened to the Truth that they never receive God’s grace?

We all have a responsibility in reaching children for Christ who will reach children for Christ for generations to come.

(2 Kings 16-17) What Do We Lose?

I’m going to challenge you to read these two chapters today. I’ll let Scripture speak for itself. But if you can’t read both chapters, hear what I believe God would have us consider today:

“To satisfy the king of Assyria, he (King Ahaz) removed from the Lord’s temple the Sabbath canopy they had built in the palace, and he closed the outer entrance.” (16:18)

“They (the Jews) feared the Lord, but they also worshiped their own gods according to the practice of the nations from which they had been deported.” (17:33)

“They (the Jews) feared the Lord but also served their idols.” (17:41)

Do you recognize the Church, or maybe your own heart? Are we trying to worship God and still satisfy the world? What do we lose when we do that?

I once heard someone we commonly refer to as a “worship leader” say his goal was to make worship fun.

Fun for whom? God?

Really?

What do we lose if worship becomes about the enjoyment of the worshiper? What do we lose if we water down Scripture to make it more palatable for the listener? What do we do if we hide behind a cutsie name for our fellowship so the world will feel comfortable?

What do we lose? What does Scripture tell us?

(2 Samuel 9) Dinner’s On

Mephibosheth ate at King David’s table, was given land and protection, not because of anything he’d done, but because of whose son he was. Mephibosheth did not earn the right to be in the king’s presence by doing good deeds. The king extended grace because he loved Mephibosheth’s father.

Do you see a parallel? I am ushered into the Presence of the King through grace, not of myself, it is a gift of God. I can’t earn a place at the table, but I am blessed because God loves His Son, and I belong to His Son. God extends grace to me because He loves Jesus.

I realize Mephibosheth wasn’t healed. He remained a cripple. And God doesn’t always take away my problems, either. God’s grace doesn’t guarantee a trouble-free life. But I never want my problems to overshadow the blessings of God’s Presence and protection, or the fellowship He extends to me. Mephibosheth was blessed, and so am I.

I love living in God’s Presence. I hear Him say to me, “Pull up a chair, Connie. Dinner’s on.”

And I do.

(I Samuel 20-24) My Enemy, and Your’s

The whole Saul and David thing reminds me that I have an enemy, too. My enemy pursues me with the same determination Saul pursued David. My enemy wants to see me dead every bit as much as Saul wanted to see David dead.

My enemy is God’s enemy. My enemy hates me, simply for the fact I choose God. My enemy hates me because I love God, whom my enemy hates with a hate far greater than I know. My enemy’s hate for God is played out in my life with temptations, attacks, hardships, doubts, disease. My enemy is relentless, like Saul was relentless in his pursuit of David.

Whenever I read what David said to Abiathar, I hear God say to me:

“Stay with me. Don’t be afraid, for the one who wants to take my life wants to take your life. YOU WILL BE SAFE WITH ME.” ( 22:23, emphasis mine)

My enemy, and your’s, has no power over God. My enemy, and your’s, cannot touch us when we stay with God, when we become His children through the blood of Jesus, and choose to obey Him each and every day.

Stay with God, my friend. You will be safe with Him!

(I Samuel 13-15) God Regrets

God’s Sovereignty is such a mystery. Some people believe life on earth is predestined to play out exactly how God causes it to be. Others think God set the world in motion, then stepped back to see how it would progress without His intervention. Some people place themselves somewhere in the middle, and believe God’s will will always be done no matter the choices we make, because if we make one decision, He will orchestrate situations which lead to His will, if we make another decision, God will manipulate circumstances in another direction to bring about His will. Still others believe something in between all of those.

(Let me say here that I know there is one indisputable aspect of God’s will that will ALWAYS be true. That is that anyone who believes in Jesus will be saved. It’s the “whosoever” of John 3:16. Anyone who comes to God on His terms, He will in no wise cast out. Take that to the bank!)

The question of God’s Sovereignty comes up when Scripture tells us God “regretted” making Saul king. Does that mean He wished He’d appointed someone else in light of what Saul did? Is God really saying hindsight is 20/20? Are we to assume this is the same as an unhappy husband regretting he’s married his nagging wife?

The definition of regret is: “a feeling of sadness, repentance, or disappointment over something that has happened or been done.”

I think what we see here in I Samuel is God’s expression of sadness and disappointment. God has nothing to repent for! Remember His will for Israel was that HE would be their king. They chose a human king instead. I think God mourned the inevitable pain their rejection of Him is going to cause. What Saul did was the tip of the iceberg as we will see as we read on in the Scriptures. And that made God sad.

When you watch your child make a decision that you know is going to end up hurting them, isn’t there a bit of regret, or sadness, or disappointment? It’s the same with God. He loved the people. He loved Saul. And it grieved Him to know how their choices were going to hurt them.

God was disappointed. But He was not surprised. After all He, in His Sovereignty, had already watched the scene played out before it happened. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t break His heart.

My Apologetics Bible said this about this passage: “(God’s) relationships with people are authentic and personal, not pre-programmed.” I tend to agree.

As I think about this passage this morning, I am determined not to cause God any disappointment or sadness. I pray that I – that we all – will decide to obey Him today and bring Him only joy. No regrets.

(I Samuel 8-12) Gotta Let It Go

God had made Saul King of Israel. Yet when we next see Saul he’s out plowing his field like any other day. Wouldn’t you think God would want him doing king-stuff? It seems Saul was caught between his old comfortable life, and the unknown life for which God had anointed him.

Sometimes it’s hard to let go of our past. Most of us liked it there. It was familiar, predictable, perhaps exciting. It was “us.” But when we meet God and accept His will for our lives, He asks us to turn, to leave behind the old and put on the new.

It can be uncomfortable and scary. But if we are to be the people God wants us to be, we’ve got to let go of the people we were. Sometimes it means leaving home in a physical way, leaving former friendships, overcoming old habits.

Saul could not be king hanging onto a plow. We can’t be the people God wants us to be hanging onto our pasts, either. We’ve got to let it go, leave it behind, and step toward the blessings of life according to God.

(I Samuel 1-2) The Bargaining Prayer

It sounds like Hannah is making a bargain with God. If you… then I will…

Is that what are witnessing here? I wonder.

I remember when wearing seatbelts when driving became a law. I, like many, took awhile to get into the habit of buckling up. One morning, as I was heading to work, I was involved in a minor accident. The police were called. And I, who had not been wearing my seatbelt prayed, “God, if you’ll help me not get a ticket for breaking the seatbelt law, I promise I will never drive again without buckling up first.”

Turns out I didn’t get a ticket. And I began fastening my seatbelt every time I drove after that.

Did God accept my deal? Did He accept Hannah’s? We both got what we wanted.

A famous Bible teacher tells of her “salvation experience” by saying that as a divorced mom, she had a driving need to be with a man. Men. She confessed she lived a very sinful lifestyle that made her miserable. She said she didn’t know much about God, but at her lowest point she prayed something like, “God, I give you men, I give you my sons. Do what you will. Just give me peace.” Then she goes on to say at that moment she received the “Prince of Peace.”

Friend, that is NOT salvation, I don’t care who claims it to be. You don’t bargain with God. You don’t trade your sons for peace. Show me in Scripture where that prayer has anything to do with being saved. Scripture tells us peace comes when we humble ourselves, repent of sin, and receive what Jesus died to give us. Not promising to never sleep around again just so you can feel peaceful.

I believe there is a lot we can learn from Hannah. She was evidently a devout believer, a true worshiper of God. The prayer we see her praying was deep, and intimate with the God she loved. And her will, her wants and needs aligned with what God wanted for her.

What I see here is that she wasn’t bargaining with God as much as she was agreeing with Him. My seatbelt prayer, and the prayer of the teacher I sited above weren’t that. We were trying to trade something we had for something we wanted God to do.

Do you want God’s blessing? Then get to know Him. First of all humble yourself, confess that you are a sinner, and repent of sin. Accept the grace of God that is available when you believe the fact that Jesus lived, died on the cross, and rose again so that you can be forgiven. Accept His forgiveness.

Read the Bible. Pray. Worship Him in spirit and truth. Get to know His heart. Set your desires aside and seek His desires for you. Then when you receive the desires of your heart, you’ll realize those were His desires for you all along.

I don’t believe the fact I didn’t get a ticket, or the fact that Hannah got pregnant are signs that we can bargain with God to get what we want. Rather, I believe God blessed us both because of our relationship with Him.

Please don’t bother praying a bargaining prayer. If you need God to do something for you, go to Him on His terms. You have nothing He needs or wants except YOU.

(Ruth) It’s Not Just About Love

I usually look at the book of Ruth as a lesson in love, and it truly is that. But today, I see it mostly as a picture of redemption. I think this book could easily have been named, “Boaz.” Because without Boaz’s act of redemption on behalf of Naomi and Ruth, they would have had no hope. The would have continued in their poverty for the rest of their lives.

It wouldn’t have mattered how much they’d loved each other. Their love could not have saved them. Only the work of the redeemer would take them from curse to blessing, from bitterness to joy, from death to life.

Get the picture?

We can talk about love all day, but without the redemptive work of Jesus, we are without hope. Love cannot save until it is nailed to the cross.

Do you love God? Great! Do you know He loves you? He does! But His love without His redemption will not save you.

The book of Ruth isn’t just about love. It’s about redemption.

The Gospel isn’t just about love, either. It’s about redemption.

Ruth laid everything at the feet of her redeemer, Boaz. In that act she became totally dependent on him to save her. That’s the Gospel: Putting everything we have, are, and hope to be at the feet of Jesus, becoming totally dependent on Him, confessing our sin and turning from it is our only hope of salvation. Otherwise there is no saving.

Only the work of Jesus, our Redeemer, can take us from curse to blessing, bitterness to joy, death to life. Only Jesus.

Only our Redeemer.

(Judges 14-16) Struggles With Sin

Samson led a violent, self-centered life. Even though he had been a Nazarite from birth, his actions were far from godly. Yet God blessed this man with superhuman strength. God used Samson to punish the Philistines for their rejection of Him. Samson ended up dying with the enemy.

So, where is he today? Heaven or hell? I wonder the same thing about Ravi. Can a person who does great things in the name of God, yet live an overtly sinful life, hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” when they face a Holy God? Or do they hear God say, “I never knew you?”

I ask myself the same question about all of us who profess Jesus as our Savior, yet struggle with sin. Does one unconfessed sin get a free pass when we face our Judge? What about two sins not confessed? Ten? What is the limit if we die before confessing every evil thought, every vulgar word, every act of disobedience?

I think of Paul, who admittedly struggled with sin (Romans 7), yet was mightily used by God and continues to be used by God 2,000 years later. Paul called himself the worst of sinners, a wretched man, and confessed that he had to “die daily” to self. Paul was not one and done in his walk with the Lord. He committed himself to the Lord every day.

We can’t NOT be human. Humans have a sin nature. So there will always be a struggle between the spirit and the flesh. Scripture goes so far as to tell us if we think we don’t sin, we make God out to be a liar. (I John 1:10).

The struggle is real. But so is the victory over sin. Paul talks a lot about our focus, our goal. If we fix our eyes on Jesus, if we draw near to God, if we flee temptation, “God has delivered us and will continue to deliver us.” (2 Corinthians 1:10) The closer I am to God, the faster I am convicted about sin, and the quicker I am to repent of it. It is a daily struggle, sometimes a minute to minute struggle. But, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 7:25).

I guess I’m understanding that if a person can live in sin, can hold on to a sin and refuse to repent of it, I have to question their relationship with God. A Holy God cannot have communion with unholiness. A person comfortable with sin cannot have a real relationship with God, neither in this life nor the next.

So, the answer to my question about how many sins get a free pass, the answer is zero. But because I in myself am incapable of living a sin-free life, I need to look to Jesus. I need to check my relationship with Him every day, confess any sin immediately, and put on His righteousness since I have none of my own. I cannot be comfortable entertaining sin in my life and expect to have a right relationship with my Holy God. It can’t happen.

I don’t know what Samson, or Ravi, or anyone else said to God before they died. I believe if they confessed their sin, God was faithful and just to forgive them, to cleanse them, and to ultimately welcome them into His Presence forever. If they died holding onto their sin, I believe they will have taken those sins with them into hell.

I pray that as you and I struggle with sin today, we will look to Jesus for the victory, that we will confess quickly and sincerely repent so that sin is not repeated. I pray that none of us will become comfortable in any sin, whether in thought or word or deed. And I pray that those around us will recognize the righteousness of Jesus we wear, humbly, thankfully, boldly.