Category Archives: The Gospel

The Wrong Questions (2 Kings 8)

Ben-Hadad, king of Aram, was sick. Was he dying? He wanted to know, so he sent a message to Elisha asking, “Will I recover from this illness?” Elisha answered the king, “Yes, you will recover from the illness.” But God had shown Elisha that the king would die anyway. He would actually be murdered in his sleep.

Do you remember Wile E. Coyote? The cartoon character would manage to navigate through a trap set by the roadrunner, only to have an anvil fall on his head. He would successfully get through a roadblock, only to be hit by a speeding truck.

I think that describes many of us. We pray that God will protect us from a virus, but we have not addressed sin in our lives. We ask God to bless our children, but we don’t talk to our children about Jesus. We pray for a better job, or a happy-ever-after-marriage, while our eternity is in question. We get so caught up in the present we forget there is something much more pressing, and that is our heart’s condition before a Holy God.

We may survive this virus only to be thrown into the lake of fire if we try to face God without Jesus.

I don’t think it’s wrong to pray about our health or our circumstances. In fact, the Bible tells us to pray about everything all the time. But let’s be careful to ask God the right questions.

Remember Jesus asked what good it does someone if they gain the whole word, yet lose their soul. (Mark 8) The answer to that is – none!

As we pray about this virus, our families, our nation, let’s first of all ask God to cleanse our hearts, forgive our sins. Let’s call on Him to do a work in our lives that will translate into action for His sake.

Because if the only thing we are asking God is for protection from COVID 19, we’re asking the wrong question.

 

Don’t Read My Blog (I Kings 12-14)

God used Jeroboam to rip the nation of Israel in two. But not because Jeroboam was such a great guy. God was punishing Israel’s disobedience.

So now there are two Jewish kingdoms. Jeroboam, son of Nebat and not related to King David, reigned over what was known as Israel. Rehoboam, son of Solomon and grandson of David, reigned over the tiny nation known as Judah. But both kings and nations worshiped idols.

Something struck me as I read 13:33. It tells us anyone who wanted to be a priest could be a priest. Now, remember God’s conditions for anyone holding that ministry. There were stringent requirements. Holding the position of priest meant something in God’s economy, and it was NOT open to just anyone who wanted to be a priest. But in the split Jewish nation, the opposite was true.

It reminds me of what Jesus said in Matthew 7. It’s something we need to be reminded of yet today.

I don’t know what church you attend, what TV preachers you follow, whose Bible Study curriculum you use, or whose workshops you attend. I don’t know what blogs you read. But I’m here to tell you, you HAVE to know that not everyone who names the name of Jesus is known by God. Not everyone who claims to speak for God does.

There are heresies being preached every day, by some very popular Christian-sounding “authorities.” Can you recognize the lies imbedded in the partial truths they speak?

In Matthew 7, God addresses people who prophesied in His name, who cast out demons and did mighty works in His name. Yet the bottom line was God never even knew them. They were speaking for God without taking the first step of obeying Him by dealing with their own sin. In the end, they were condemned to hell.

Dear one, YOU need to be in God’s Word. YOU need to know for yourself what He has written in Scripture. YOU need to know the truth so YOU can recognize the lies. Do not depend on someone else to do that for you.

I have often said that I would much rather you spend time in God’s Word than read my blog. I might be the only blogger out there that encourages you not to read what I write… IF the only exposure you get to God’s Word is through this blog. Because I am not the final authority. And neither is your pastor or Sunday School teacher, or that TV preacher, or Bible Study guru who writes volumes of their opinions on God’s Word.

I am thankful for theologians, for people who have studied God’s Word and share their opinions about its meaning. I am a big fan of Ravi Zacharias, of Matthew Henry, of Warren Wiersbe for example. There are some encouraging, Biblically sound devotionals and Bible Studies that are useful in our walk with the Lord. But I understand those are written by people who are merely sharing their opinions about God’s Word, and none of them are the final authority.

Thank you for taking time to read my blog. I really do hope you will continue. But I am begging you to not read this or any other text in place of reading God’s Word for yourself. Please do not listen to some TV preacher and think that’s enough. Don’t go to church on Sunday and let your pastor or Sunday School teacher read the Bible for you.

YOU need to open the precious pages of the Bible every day. YOU need to ask God to give you understanding, to speak His Word to your heart. YOU need to turn off the TV, exit out of the internet, close the study books, and open your Bible.

Because YOU are going to be held accountable for what is in there. YOU are going to stand before God and give an account for what you believe, what you’ve done with the truth recorded in God’s Word.

Read the Bible. Then read it again. Read it today and tomorrow and the next day. Pray over it. Think on it. Memorize it. Love it.

Then if you have the time, read my blog, or do a Bible Study by a trusted author. But please, let God’s Word be your first and  final authority. Read everything else through the lens of Scripture, not the other way around.

Don’t read my blog. If you get so caught up in reading God’s Word that you don’t have time to come here, or to read anything else today, that would be awesome. Nothing is more important than your time reading God’s love letter to you. Nothing is more worth your time and effort than reading the Bible for yourself.

I’m praying for you today.

 

 

The Same Boat (Ecclesiastes 7-12)

Solomon was so wrong about so many things. He was looking through the eyes of a natural man, out of the framework of sin, of self, of trying to outthink, outsmart, and out maneuver God. As wise as he was, Solomon wasn’t God. He would never be God.

Solomon seems to believe we are all in the same boat. We live. We die. We succeed. We fail. Life is good. Life is hard. But Solomon misses the boat, so to speak.

I recently heard someone say, “We are all in the same storm. But we are NOT all in the same boat.”

Some people are weathering the storm of life in cardboard canoes, paddling against the waves with plastic straws. Some are trying to fashion their own lifeboats by grabbing at driftwood while trying to stay afloat in the torrent.

But some of us are resting in a sturdy, sea-worthy, ocean vessel called, Salvation. Some of us are enjoying peace in the midst of the storm of life while in the presence of the Prince of Peace. Some of us will come out of this storm more alive than ever when we finally step on the shores of heaven.

Yes, there is a storm raging that effects us all, Solomon. But we are not all in the same boat. Not even close.

Meaning and Purpose (Ecclesiastes 1-6)

Solomon is a bit of a “Debbie Downer.” Is he right to say life is meaningless, a chasing after the wind? Should our focus be on living life to the fullest, to eat, drink, and be merry because tomorrow we die?

The thing about old Sol is that he was trying to give life meaning by his own effort. I’m sure if there had been self-help books back in the day, his library would have been full of them. Solomon tried using his intellect, his riches, his connections to try to find the meaning of life. And he came up short.

What Solomon found is that you can’t buy happiness. You can’t think your way in to a meaningful existence. Sadly, the king was very right to say his life was merely a meaningless puff of smoke.

But the truth is, we humans are created in the image of God, which gives our lives meaning. We were created to fellowship with our Creator, which gives our lives purpose. We are blessed by our Father with love, joy, peace, and we know that this puff of smoke we call life is only the beginning.

We were born for eternity. No bank account can come close to what awaits us. No power, or applause, or spouse, or comfort, or a feeling of self-worth compare to what is ours through the blood of Jesus.

No life is meaningless. Every one of us is living our choice for eternity. You might think like Solomon and choose to eat, drink, be merry and die tomorrow. But you will find yourself face to face with the One who died for you. And you will give Him an account about what you did with His grace. At that moment you will realize just how meaningful your choices in this life really were. You’ll have eternity to realize the purpose of your life on earth was to prepare you for forever.

Stop trying to “find” meaning or purpose for your life. When you submit to God, He gives you meaning. When you accept Jesus as your Savior, He shows you His purpose for your life. Life is a blessing! Life is precious and purposeful when you know the Way, the Truth, and the Life. (John 14:6)

I pray that each of us will take a moment and thank God for this amazing gift of life. And I pray that we will live today in sweet fellowship with our Creator, a glimpse of what heaven will be for eternity.

If you don’t know Jesus as your Savior, I pray that you will confess your sins today and allow Him to forgive you, to give your life meaning and purpose that will bless you beyond what you can imagine.

Just know that your life has meaning and purpose. It is the vehicle that will usher you into eternity. Choose well, my friend.

 

Do You, or Don’t You? (Proverbs 26)

Solomon has a lot to say about fools and what our response should be toward them. In Psalm 14, Solomon’s father King David described a fool as one who says there is no God. So, believing Solomon must have learned from his dad, I’m going with that definition of “fool” rather than merely someone who does stupid things.

If you are reading chapter 26 and get to verses 4-5, and if you are like me you’d probably have to stop and question what you see there. Do you, or don’t you, “answer a fool (one who denies God) according to his folly?”

This morning I’ve sat here and thought about these two seemingly contradictory verses, prayed that God would give me understanding, and dug through some commentaries to see what others have said about it. As a result, I’ve come to the conclusion that the answer to the question, “Do you or don’t you?” is “Yes.”

The difference is the fool himself.

You know the person who loves to debate, finds a platform to expound an opinion every chance he gets, the person who loves to hear himself (or herself) speak. Most of the time it doesn’t take long to figure out if this person is genuinely interested in having a conversation, or is intent on having an argument. If the latter is true, that person is not ready to hear the Truth. Solomon would tell us to walk away if all he wants is to bait you into a war of words. Walk away rather than stooping to his level of meaningless dribble. He doesn’t even know how foolish he sounds. Don’t be like him.

However, if someone is expressing the foolish notion that there is no God, or that the Bible isn’t true, or that Jesus isn’t the Savior, and you feel the Holy Spirit nudging you to speak up, you need to obey. If you ignore the nudge and stay silent, that person will walk away thinking his foolishness is true. If this person is sincerely seeking answers, and you don’t share what you know is true, you will have lost an opportunity to share the Gospel. You will have disobeyed.

I pray all of us are ready to give an answer for the hope we have in Jesus. I pray that the Gospel is never far from our thoughts and that we are eager to share the Good News with anyone and everyone. Our world needs Jesus. Let’s be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, let’s not get caught up in word wars or argumentative encounters. But let’s be quick to lead a sinner to his or her Savior as God gives us opportunity.

So, do you or don’t you share the Gospel? Yes! May God give us the wisdom to know when to speak up and when to remain silent. And may He be glorified in our response to the fool who says He doesn’t exist.

Do You Want Change? (Psalm 149)

The book of Psalms ends with praise to God, our Creator, Savior, Sustainer, Judge, and King. We are reminded of who He is and what He has done, and the fact that more than anyone or anything, He deserves our praise. He alone is worthy of our praise.

But there is a thought that struck me today as I read 149:6-9 in light of the present climate in our country these days. So often we pray – I pray – “God, defeat the enemy. God, bring about peace. God, show people the wonder of your salvation. God, fix this.”

Today I hear Him say, “No. I asked you to pick up the sword.”

God could turn this world into Eden with a word. He has the power to turn every heart of every person on this earth toward Him in an instant. But He won’t. In His sovereignty, His plan for the salvation of the world includes you and me. He’s made that pretty clear.

God will release His power to save through obedient children, yielded vessels. He will go to battle against Satan with an army of believers ready for battle. We not only need to pray that God will defeat the enemy, we need to then get off our knees, pick up the sword, and go into battle. We need to be armed with His Word, strengthen by His power, and following His lead. The battle won’t be won unless we do.

Don’t read these verses in psalms and picture Muslims, or atheists, or that jerk down the road. Our enemy is Satan. And if we want him defeated in the lives of those people we need to wield the sword against that snake. Not against people who disagree with us. Violence is not the answer.

But we who know Jesus need to go, and tell, and live, and love Christ so that people who don’t know Him will want to know Him. That’s how Satan will be defeated. That’s how the battle will be won. That’s how eternal souls will find forgiveness. And that’s how to bring about change.

Racism, political parties intent on taking away our rights and freedoms, abortion, the few corrupt policemen, and whatever else you think needs to change, won’t change until people accept the fact that they are sinners in need of a Savior, then accept the Savior! Sinners will act like sinners. Don’t expect them not to just because you are praying God will fix our country.

Pray. Don’t stop praying. But while you are praying, pick up the sword and join the battle. Nothing will change unless you do.

 

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 there illness and war and poverty and unfairness and prejudice? Let me assure you 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.