September 13; Raising Obedience

Esther 1-4

Queen Vashti was busy doing her own thing and couldn’t be bothered to obey her husband’s, the king’s, command. Her disobedience cost her her crown.

Enter Esther, a Jewish orphan being raised by a cousin. This seemingly insignificant girl would be queen in place of the disobedient Vashti. Scripture tells us Esther was pretty. We see that she wasn’t flashy or demanding. It appears she was beautiful inside and out.

But something else about Esther stood out to me today. Esther did as her cousin Mordecai told her, “for she continued to follow Mordecai’s instructions as she had done when bringing her up.” (1:20)

Esther learned obedience at home, and it opened doors for her and saved the Jews. Mordecai said, “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (4:14)

It reminds me of the heavy responsibility parents have to teach their own children to obey. It saddens me that so many have adopted the lie that children should be empowered to decide for themselves, that disobedience should be met with understanding and patience. That, my friend, is not what the Bible teaches.

The Bible teaches that God demands obedience. Obedience is not just one of several options He’ll accept. The Bible teaches consequences for disobedience are severe and painful. And disobedience toward God is never ignored.

Are your children learning those lessons in your home? Esther seems to have learned them in Mordecai’s. The way Mordecai raised her put her in a position to save the Jews, “for such a time as this.” Had she been willful, disobedient, prideful, I doubt Xerxes would have given her a second look.

I wonder what great things God is going to ask of your child. Will that precious one be ready to obey because they learned to follow your instructions while you were bring him or her up? I’m praying for you.

 

September 12; Don’t Praise The Lord

Zechariah 10-14

Are you careful about what kinds of things you attribute to God’s hand? I have seen people (and have occasionally been one) who are quick to say, “Praise the Lord,” and “God has blessed me,” when their actions bring into question whether or not God really did have a hand in it at all.

Like the shepherds God refers to through Zechariah in chapter 11. They were slaughtering their flocks for personal gain, and covering up their sin with, “Praise the Lord, I am rich!”

I hope you’ll read what God thought about that.

God does bless us, doesn’t He? And I hope you are quick to praise Him when he does. But always remember, God blesses obedience. Let’s not use Him to rationalize actions that don’t really honor Him. Let’s not try to justify sin with a, “Praise God.” He deserves better than that.

Besides, He will not turn a blind eye to any sin just because we give Him praise. Rather than using praise as a cover-up, just don’t praise the Lord. He knows when your praise is real.

September 11; I Choose God

Psalms 118, 129, 148-150; Ezra 6:19-22; Zechariah 9

I’ve sat here with my Bible open in front of me for some time this morning, wondering what God would say to me through these psalms of praise. These psalms talk about God’s enduring love, His power over the enemy, His goodness and salvation. “This is the day God made, let’s rejoice and be glad.”

But God made September 11, 2001, too. Are we to rejoice and be glad for the day 3000 people were murdered by Muslim terrorists? How do you reconcile that awful scene seared into the memories of all of us who were around that day, with a God of love?

So I started to re-read the psalms, asking God to teach me, and He pointed my attention to 118:4-9:

Let those who fear the Lord say; “His love endures forever.” In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. (emphasis mine)

God is good. And this good God DID NOT place in the hearts of those evil men a sinister plan to fly commercial planes full of innocent people into buildings full of innocent people in the name of Allah. God did not do that.

What God did, however, was remove His presence and protection from a nation that had removed ourselves from Him. The psalmist tells us God’s salvation is tied to our position in Him. Do I fear Him? Do I walk with Him? Because if God is with me, I need not fear any man, or terrorist cell, or Satan himself.

But hear this: if I reject God, I have every reason to fear.

I wish I could say we Americans learned our lesson that day eighteen years ago. We said we’d never forget. We’ve not only forgotten, we’ve made the evil of the Muslim religion look peaceable. We’ve elected Muslims into our government. Islam is more revered than Christianity to some in this country. We’ve made Muslims our heroes, and a former president even apologized for the USA inciting them against us.

We didn’t learn to embrace the God of the Bible. We’ve made Him the enemy.

I remember standing in front of a classroom full of sixth graders when I heard the first plane hit one of the towers in NYC. I remember one frightening event after another reported that morning, and looked in horror as the Twin Towers crumbled to the ground, picturing the terror those inside must have felt before they died.

I heard people cry out to God, saw churches filled, flags proudly flown, promises made.

But that was eighteen years ago. Things change.

Dear one, 9/11 is only a glimpse at what can happen when a nation turns from God, when He removes His protection. Are we any closer to Him than we were back then? Are our churches teaching the Truth, our brothers and sisters in Christ rejecting Satan’s lies? Our we praying for our nation, our neighbors, our families to fear God and serve Him?

Do we want God to protect us? Then we had better be running to Him, obeying Him, loving and serving Him on His terms. Otherwise, He’ll let us to our own devices.

Our choice: Ourselves or God?

I choose God.  I pray you say the same.

 

 

September 10; Marvelous

Zechariah 7-8; Ezra 5-6

Many times in Scripture God challenges our motivation. Why is it we do what we do for Him? Why do we worship?

“Is it really for me,” God asks, “or for you?”

Zechariah shares that God is going to return to Jerusalem, His people will enjoy prosperity once again. Then He says, “It may seem marvelous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?” (Zechariah 6:6)

We can’t deny that God has blessed His Church in America for centuries. We sit comfortably in our cushioned chairs with air-conditioning and state of the art technology, coffee in hand. We feel pretty blessed to be living in a land where we can go to church without fear. Many Christians in other parts of the world don’t share that reality. We are truly blessed.

It seems marvelous to us. But what is God’s take on it?

God makes it clear He’s not interested in the show. He is only interested in our hearts. Do we get out of bed every Sunday to worship God in Truth? Or do we go to church because it makes us feel good? Is our motivation for giving, or volunteering, or visiting shut-ins, our own self-esteem, or have we emptied ourselves and allowed God to use us for His glory?

I’m reminded there are some who are doing things in Jesus’ name, who don’t really know Him. In the end, those people will join the unrepentant sinners in an ugly eternity separated from God.

Let’s not take our blessings for granted. But let’s also not forget why and Who we worship. I pray that our motivation for life, and worship will be to please God out of grateful hearts for what Jesus did for us. Period. I pray that what seems marvelous to us, will be truly and gloriously marvelous to God.

September 9; I Love God

Zechariah 1-6

Sometimes I think we can get so caught up in the details of the visions like Zechariah’s vision we might miss the message. Colorful horses, horns, flying scrolls, and mountains of bronze make for an intriguing mystery. And everything in these visions is symbolic of something important.

But today as I read these six chapters I see God’s Sovereignty. I see His love for people, and His hatred of sin. I see Him providing the means of salvation, and the blessings that come from obeying Him.

I see a God who tirelessly works to draw all people to Himself, a God who has thrown open the doors of the temple, torn down the walls around Jerusalem, so that anyone who comes to Him can enter and join His family. I see my Savior who, because I have accepted His grace, has exchanged my filthy life for His righteousness, the Branch clothed in majesty, and who is building the Church one redeemed soul at a time.

I see a God who loves me. And I love God.

September 8; Give Careful Thought

Psalms 97-100; Ezra 4:1-5, 24; Haggai 1:1-2:23

Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” (Haggai 1:5-6)

Does that describe me? Am I always trying and falling short of what I want? Is my focus on being comfortable, worshiping God when it’s convenient, obeying Him when it benefits me?

God, through the prophet Haggai, tells us to give careful thought to our ways. Are we as intent on building God’s House, His Church, as we are of building ourselves up? If we feel unsuccessful or dissatisfied in life or in ministry, we need to ask ourselves, for whom am I working?

God tells us in verses 9-10 that our failures come at His hand, our efforts result in ruin because God withholds His blessing.

I hope you worship today in a church filled with believers in Jesus. I hope you aren’t there to fellowship, or have a cup of coffee, or because it’s convenient. I hope you are there to worship God at great cost to yourself. I pray you will empty yourself, and allow God’s will be accomplished in and through you. I pray that when you leave that building you are ready to get out there and build God’s House according to His blueprint.

Let’s give careful thought to our ways.

September 7; Changing Anxiety Into Joy

Daniel 11b3 6-12:13; Psalms 93-96

Often when I read the psalms God will hit me right where I live. I’ll hear something on the news, or someone close to me will share something that has me concerned, or I will have something happen that shakes me. Then, when I read God’s Word, it’s like God is addressing that very thing that is on my heart. He is amazing!

I’m not going into detail today about what is specifically heavy on my heart because that which is on your heart is very likely something quite different. But I want to share with you what God has said to me through His Word about handling our concerns and battles. I think it applies to us all.

In Psalm 94 the writer begins by pointing out the things that are wrong in the world, that wickedness is seemingly going unchecked. But then we are reminded that God created us with ears, do we think He can’t hear? He created us with eyes, do we think He can’t see? The psalmist calls us foolish for thinking God can ever be caught off-guard. He knows every thought we have. We can rest assured that the things on our hearts are on His heart, too.

The psalmist points us to Scripture, the place where God teaches us, where we find relief from our trouble, where we are assured that as God’s inheritance we are not forsaken. It’s the place where I love to go to hear God’s heart-beat.

Then lastly, the psalmist tells us if we are fighting a battle, God fights with us. When we fall, He catches us. When we are weak, He is our fortress and refuge.  Then in verse 19, listen to this:

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.

You remember Philippians 4:6-7, don’t you?

Be anxious for nothing but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I Peter 5:7 says,

Cast all your anxiety on him because he care for you.

So I guess today, as my heart is heavy, as I find myself worrying about people I love, I am reminded that God wants to be in this with me. He wants to be my rock and my refuge. He wants to teach me, assure me, love me through it.

He wants to change my anxiety to joy. And I am going to let Him!