Tag Archives: a relationship with God

Blessed Because (Psalm 145)

It is often that the verses my mother underlined in the Book of Psalms have to do with God’s love, protection, and faithfulness. Just in this one psalm, Mom underlined four verses:

“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.” (vs 3)

“The Lord is faithful to all his promises…” (vs 13b)

“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” (vs 18)

“The Lord watches over all who love him…” (vs 20a)

David tells us that God is worthy of praise. He is faithful, near to us, and watches over us. These verses are timely considering the unrest surrounding COVID 19. I pray that they are your experience in all this, that you are resting in the knowledge that God is with you every step of the way. I hope you aren’t living in fear like those who have no hope.

Mom seemed to understand the correlation between our personal relationship with God, and His blessings on us. He is near to all who call on him. But in verse 18, David repeats that thought with this caveat: “to all who call on him in truth.”

It’s a mistake to think God comes near to just anyone who prays, or just anyone who isn’t an axe murderer. Not all roads lead to God. Scripture makes it clear that if we want to be near to God, we have to come to Him in truth. How can you know that truth?

Jesus said HE IS THE TRUTH. (John 14:6) You draw near to God through His Son. Period. Read God’s Word. You will find the absolute one and only truth by which you can enjoy a closeness with God.

God doesn’t protect just everyone, either. He protects those who love him, according to  the psalmist. Scripture talks a lot about love, and what love for God looks like. It’s not just three words, “I love God.” Love for God involves obedience, sacrifice of self, commitment, and a servant’s heart that lives love out of gratitude for what God has done. God’s protection is reserved for those who love Him, to those who have accepted what Jesus died to give, the forgiveness of sin and a glorious eternal home.

God’s blessings are directly related to our relationship with Him. Because, no matter what happens, if we live or die, if we have a brick home or a cardboard box, if we are a part of a big old family or alone, those of us who know Him have God! And those of us who know Him know it doesn’t get any better than that.

I am blessed because of my relationship with the Creator, Holy, Eternal God through His Son Jesus. I pray you can say the same.

Purge (Deuteronomy 20)

I’m not what you’d call a hoarder, necessarily, but I will admit that I tend to hold on to things longer than I should. I have a closet full of clothes I haven’t worn in years, some of which I can’t even fit into any more. But I like them. So there they hang.

Others I know have a difficult time letting go of anything. They live in houses so full of things there is only a path from one room to another. Magazines thirty years old, food that has long outlived its healthfulness, toys that haven’t been in the hands of a child in decades, things stacked from floor to ceiling.

Sometimes the thought of purging is terrifying. So when I read God tell Israel to purge the evil from among them by destroying entire cities full of idolaters and people doing detestable things, I can’t believe that was easy to do.

“…do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them…”

But if the Israelites wanted God’s blessings, they had to obey 100%.

Now let’s be clear. The Bible emphatically declares our enemies are no longer flesh and blood this side of the cross. (Ephesians 6:12). We are NOT commanded to kill people who reject God. But the Bible says we do have enemies we need to purge from our lives.

Our enemies are spiritual forces of evil, powers in this dark world. Our enemy is Satan. Our enemy is sin. And that’s what we are to purge, destroy, annihilate.

I don’t know what enemies look like in your life. An addiction to video games? Pornography? Alcohol? Gossip? Lying? Putting your job above serving God? Yourself?

Whatever sin you are identifying in your life right now is something God is telling you to purge. Don’t let a remnant survive. You might have to sell your TV, erase some apps from your phone, change jobs, stop drinking if God leads you to that.

But God also told the Israelites over and over that if they obeyed Him, if they went to war against their enemies He would go before them. He would fight for them. And He’ll do the same for you.

God doesn’t want us to purge the sin from our lives because He is against fun. He invented fun. God wants us to purge sin from our lives so that we can enjoy a relationship with Him, free from any bondage.

I’m going to use my closet as an example. Right now I walk into that space and have to step over boxes, shoes, a pile of clothes I am considering donating. I have to force clean blouses onto the rack because there just isn’t room for another hanger. I long to go into my closet and be free to walk from one end to the other without tripping over stuff on the floor, to pull out a pair of slacks and not have to iron them because they’ve been smashed onto the rack between a dozen pairs of slacks and are wrinkled. There is nothing fun about that.

But when (notice I said “when” not “if.” I’m thinking during this virus quarantine, I have no excuse not to clean my closet) I purge myself from the things that are holding me back, entering my closet will be so much better. Do I dare say fun?

Is it time for you to purge, to repent of sin, to get rid of the evil that is keeping you from an unhindered relationship with God? Do it!

I AM and Me (Exodus 6)

This year I am reading my mother’s Bible. After she went to live with Jesus in 1996, I took her Bible home with me, and it’s sat on my shelf all these years. So this year, I decided to read through God’s Word and see the things Mom marked, the verses she underlined. Today I read the first of her underlined verses.

Mom underlined the things in chapter 6 that God said about Himself: “I am the Lord,” “I’ve heard your groanings,” “I remember my promises to you,” “I will free you,” “I will take you as my own,” “I am the Lord your God.”

I wish I knew what those verses meant to Mom, what was happening in her life when she underlined them. I wish I could talk to her. I can’t. So I asked God to speak to me about what He wants me to know about these verses that were special to my mother.

God is.

People have tried to deny that fact, but the truth is  – God exists. He is exactly who He says He is. Fighting against that truth is as futile as arguing that the sun doesn’t produce light and warmth, that trees that lose their leaves in fall, don’t bud again every spring. You simply can’t argue against what is.

God is.

He tells us His name is I AM. He is what He is. Period.

When Mom read this passage in Exodus, she seems to have been touched by the personal involvement the Great I AM has with His children, the fact that He is our Lord who hears, who delivers, who calls us His own. He is not a god. He is The God. And He wants to be involved in my life, like a Father, or a Shepherd, or a Friend, and a Savior.

I am humbled at the very thought that the God of the Universe, the Creator God, the eternal, powerful, majestic, and holy God wants a relationship with me. I think I know my mom enough to believe she was blown away by the same thing.

Please take a minute to bask in the precious truth. God, who IS, was, and is to come, loves you, wants to fellowship with you, loves you more than you can imagine, and died so that a relationship can happen. The Great I AM loves me.

And loves you, too.

December 21; A Charge

2 Timothy 2-4; Hebrews 1

I hope you will read Paul’s charge to Timothy and hear God speaking to you. The fact is, the time of Jesus’ return is 2,000 years closer than when Paul wrote these words. We may be 2,000 years before that blessed event yet today, but Scripture tells us to be prepared. It could be 2,000 years from now. It could be today.

This is Paul’s charge from chapter 4:

  1. Preach the Word
  2. be prepared in season and out of season
  3. correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction
  4. keep your head in all situations
  5. endure hardship
  6. do the work of the evangelist
  7. discharge all the duties of your ministry

Friend, our relationship with God has to be intentional. It cannot be mere emotion, or something we put on a shelf like a trophy. You and I need to be using our minds, keeping our heads in all situations.

In chapter 3 Paul talks about the evils of the last days and warns us about those who live lives of greed, pride, disobedience, slander… He tells us to have nothing to do with them. Why?

They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires… 

Now before you men start to feeling smug here, I’ve known some pretty gullible men, too. I don’t think I’m going out of bounds to suggest this warning is for all of us. None of us are immune from the wiles of the devil.

And I can’t help but think evil is worming its way into our homes through the internet and cable TV. Be ware!

That’s why my prayer is that any who read this blog will be encouraged to be in the God’s Word every day. Reading. Studying. Praying about it. Memorizing it. Re-reading it. And obeying it. Please let God grow you and strengthen you through the pages of His precious Word. And take Paul’s charge to Timothy as your own.

 

 

July 25; Backsliding Is A Slippery Slope

Jeremiah 2-4

God, through  Jeremiah, is talking to His children. This message is not for those outside the family of God, not for the unsaved, but for us who know God as our Father. He is talking to the ancient Jews, and to Christians this side of the cross.

He calls us an unfaithful wife, someone who wants to be married AND live like we aren’t. God, in chapter 3, tells us He doesn’t want a divorce, so He warns us, begs us to return to Him. But Jeremiah tells us God’s bride continues in her unfaithfulness. So to her He says:

“Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding.” (3:22)

Then in chapter 4, God tells us what coming back to Him looks like. Warren Wiersbe, in his Bible handbook entitled “With The Word” wrote an outline I’d like to share with you today. You can find his words on page 499 of that handbook. (Oliver-Nelson Books, copyright 1991)

  1. Returning to God looks like plowing a field (3:3). Breaking up the hard ground and planting only good seed is the picture here. A hard heart needs breaking to make it fertile. Am I willing to let God break my heart?
  2. It looks like surgery (vs 4). Circumcising the heart involves the painful cutting away of anything that identifies us with the world. But, like with surgery, the pain is temporary, the benefits long-lasting. What is it God is asking me to cut away today?
  3. Returning to God looks like joining the army (vv 5-6, 19-21). I remember when my nephew joined the army, he left home. We couldn’t go with him and, really, he wouldn’t want Aunt Connie following him around during training anyway. He tells us that training was hard, not always fun, they broke him in order to build him up. But that kid came home a man. That training changed him into a soldier. The Bible tells us a soldier answers the call of the trumpet, drops everything else, and reports for duty. Do we realize there is a battle raging in our lives? Returning to God might involve going back to boot camp, to study, to put on the whole armor of God, to pray, to go. God’s trumpet is blaring. Am I answering the call?
  4. It looks like taking a bath (vs 14). If we want to return to God we’ve got to wash the evil from our hearts, purify our minds, allow God to scrub the enemy off of us and get rid of any trace of the world. Paul calls it coming out from among them and being separate. God deserves a bride who is totally His. Does that describe me? Or do I still have a smudge of filth on my face?
  5. It looks like growing up (vs 22). Jesus tells us to come to Him like a child, but that’s different than being childish. Maybe it’s time I quit playing around and got serious about my relationship with God. Maybe it’s time I quit demanding my own way, throwing tantrums when I don’t get what I think I deserve. Maybe it’s time I quit putting myself at the center of my life like a two-year-old, and put my Bridegroom where He deserves to be.

Backsliding doesn’t come on anyone suddenly. It starts with a thought, a look, a taste. It starts with busy schedules that steal our time away from God’s Word, or from church on Sunday. It begins as a thought, then a desire, then an action. And one action leads to another, then another. That gradual stepping away from God is a slippery slope.

Hear God tell us to STOP! Hear Him beg us to return to Him, to do whatever it takes to be that Bride He deserves, even if the process is painful and humbling. God wants His Bride back. That means you, dear one!

May 20; Living In His Embrace

Psalm 50; Song of Solomon 1-3

There is so much imagery here in the love poem Solomon wrote. I hope you’ll read it with your relationship with your Savior in mind. Today, I am filled with praise for the great love God has for me, and for the privilege of being His.

Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my lover among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste. He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love. Strengthen me with raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am faint with love. His left arm is under my head, and his right arm embraces me. (2:3-6)

That’s where I want to be living. I want to rest in my Savior, to be strengthened and nourished by reading His Word to me, because I love Him so much. I want to be living in His embrace.

He wants that for me, too.

May 18; Clinging To The Altar

I Kings 1:1-2:12; Psalm 25: 2 Samuel 23:1-7; I Chronicles 29:23-30

Warren Wiersbe said something about this passage that has me thinking today. (With the Word; Oliver-Nelson Books, 1991; page 197). David was old and dying. God had told him Solomon would succeed him as King of Israel.

However, another son, Adonijah, had other ideas. Adonijah gathered support, including some of David’s top men, and made himself king before David died, and before Solomon was anointed in their father’s  place.

As soon as David heard what was happening, he took matters in hand and made Solomon king in a very official, very public way. Then he had King Solomon sit down on his throne in front of the world.

When Adonijah and his cronies heard the news, they panicked and ran for the hills. I’m sure the words “treason” and “death” were ringing loudly in their ears. Adonijah ran, too. But he didn’t run for the hills, he ran to the altar of God, grabbed hold of the horns of the altar, and stayed right there. He wasn’t there to offer a sacrifice for his sin. He wasn’t there to meet God. He was there because he thought the altar was as safe a place as any. Surely Solomon wouldn’t kill him while he clung to the altar of God, would he?

Wiersbe likens this to people who cling to their religion. “Adonijah fled to the altar for safety, not for sanctity.”

Some people feel “safe” if they attend church, write a check, volunteer at the church’s food kitchen or clothing closet, if they take communion, or pray a row of beads, if they’re baptized, or sing in the choir. They cling to the horns of the altar without letting the altar do its work in them, to change them, to deal with the sin in their lives.

I want to ask you a question today. Are you religious? Or do you have a personal relationship with God through the blood of Jesus? I’m asking myself the same thing.

January 12; Something More

Job 27-19

Job tells his friends: “Let me tell you what I know about God. I’m going to give it to you straight, even though He’s revealed Himself to you exactly the same way He revealed Himself to me. Maybe it will put an end to this meaningless talk.” (from 27:11-12)

God is still revealing Himself to all of mankind in the same way He showed Himself to Job and his friends. A beautiful sunset is seen by millions. Winter always turns into spring, which always precedes summer, summer leads into fall, and back to winter. Year after year after year. The tiniest insects or the largest animals are all unique by species, yet uniquely similar to others within their species.

Just look around. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies proclaim the work of His hand… (Psalm 19:1-6)

There are a multitude of other truths God reveals about Himself every minute of every day. Job uses mining as an example. Beneath the surface, there is treasure. It doesn’t come easy, But for those who dig for it, it is life-altering.

Yes, God reveals Himself in nature to all of us, so no one has an excuse if they refuse to acknowledge HIm. But there is so much more. And knowing God in an intimate way requires some digging.

Job calls it wisdom, understanding. “…The fear of the Lord – that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.” (28:28)

No one, not even Job knows everything there is to know about God. William Cowper, who wrote the hymn “There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood” said, “Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much; wisdom is humble that he knows no more.” Job’s friends may have had a knowledge of God, but Job realized there was something more, something worth digging for.

Friend, are you digging? Are you reading and re-reading God’s Word? Are you praying? Do you take God with you throughout your day? Do you know Him better today than you did yesterday?

I pray so. Because whatever your relationship is with Him now – there is always something more He has in store for you

 

 

Hosea 6-14; Take Words With You

The book of Hosea is a picture of unfaithfulness and judgement. But it is also a picture of God’s grace and mercy. It is so beautiful.

I would encourage you to read Hosea and ask God to speak to you about your own walk with Him. What was true concerning a group of people known as Israel or Ephraim in Hosea’s day, carries with it spiritual truth for us in 2018. I read these chapters today and replaced any reference to “Israel” with my name. It became very personal, because what God said to the Jews through Hosea, He is saying to me. I love God’s Word!!

When I read verses like 5:4, I ask myself if there are things I am doing that do not permit me to draw near to God. Do I have a spirit of prostitution in my heart by harboring hatred or unforgiveness, by holding on to a “secret” sin and telling myself it’s no big deal? Are there times I am more concerned about my “self” than about God?

I hear God say He hates His wicked children. (9:15) HATES! Do I give God reason to hate me because of my own disobedience? That is a sobering thought. Hosea reminds me God rejects the unfaithful.

But then I also read verses like 6:6 and realize God wants only to love me, to show me mercy. Look at 10:12:

Sew for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love…

Doesn’t that encourage you to sew righteousness by putting on Jesus’ righteousness? Don’t you hunger for the fruit of God’s unfailing love? I do.

When I read 14:2 I had to stop a minute and think what it means to “take words with you” as you approach God. God is not asking for an animal sacrifice. He’s not asking me to go to church, give to the poor, or be a good neighbor. What He’s asking is that I come to Him purposefully, repentant, and say the words, “Forgive me,” and mean it.

Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to him: Forgive all (my) sins and receive (me) graciously, that (I) may offer the fruit of (my) lips. 

It goes on to say God wants me to realize nothing else can save me. Nothing and no one but God Himself.

What is the result of such a prayer, of a heart that is honest before my Holy God? Hosea tells me He will heal my waywardness and love me freely! (14:4) God will give me everything I need to be fruitful. (14:8)

Then listen to the way God inspired Hosea to end his book.

Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them. (14:9)

I want my walk with the Lord to be intentional, honest, and fruitful. When I go to Him, I want to go with the words He wants to hear. And I want to mean them from the bottom of my heart.

 

 

Proverbs 21-24; Poverty-Stricken

It’s kind of hard to read these proverbs and not think about people other than myself. I mean, I don’t drink so you couldn’t say I’m a drunkard. I worked for 37 years, and am busy these days serving at my church so I wouldn’t be described as a sluggard. I’m honest most of the time. I’m not a jealous person, and my friends are upstanding, God-fearing people. So these proverbs must be talking to someone else, not me. Right?

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

“So read it again, Connie,” God seems to be saying. “I’m talking to you.”

So I read these chapters a second time. And a third. I looked at what a couple of people had to say about these proverbs, but mostly I just let God do the teaching about my walk with my Savior.

Which leads me to share my thoughts on the end of chapter 24. At first glimpse it seems to be talking about farming, about making a living. And if that’s all you get out of it, it’s still a good lesson. But when Solomon says he applied his heart to what he observed, I did the same.

What does this passage have to do with me? How can this passage be profitable to me, to correct and instruct me in righteousness so that I can be better equipped to do the good work God has for me to do?

When I take a good look at my relationship with my Savior, I wonder if it is well manicured, or if there are thorns and weeds allowed to grow. Have I neglected to root out sin in my life, am I ignoring the signs? One thing I know about gardening, if you don’t take care of the weed problem the minute it raises its ugly head, the harder it is to get rid of. Once those roots have taken hold, once it spreads, it’s a nightmare, and can take over your whole landscaping.

The same can be said of sin. If I allow sin to exist in my life, even just one more day, it doesn’t stay stagnate. It digs its roots in, and can take over my life. I don’t want Solomon’s vineyard in these verses to be a picture of my relationship with God.

The walls around the vineyard Solomon describes are tumbling. And God would have me look at the wall I’ve built around my heart. Am I really guarding my heart against the enemy? Or have I allowed it to crumble one thought, one TV show, one sin at at time? Is my heart exposed to the enemy due to my lack of care?

I’ve looked today at the land God has given me, this thing called salvation, and considered my care of this precious gift that is mine through the blood of Jesus. God would have me consider the time I spend in His Word, not just reading the verses, but letting the verses speak to me, to meditate on it, memorize it, ingest it so it becomes a part of me and crowds out any of the weeds Satan would try to plant before they take root.

God would have me consider how important is guarding my heart, taking a look at the wall that would keep out my enemy. Is it strong and healthy because I’m praying, being intentional about my walk with the Lord?

Or, and this is what convicted me this morning, am I too lazy to make an effort to make this relationship with God something really beautiful and fruitful?

A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest – and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man. (24:33-34)

The picture of a poverty-stricken soul makes me sad. If I’m thinking my walk with the Lord isn’t what it could be, if I feel a bit removed from Him, if I’ve allowed sin to grow like a weed, I need to get up and get to work.