Tag Archives: a relationship with God

(Ecclesiastes 5-7) Guard Your Steps

Solomon is speaking as a man who literally had an abundance of everything. The wisest, richest, most powerful, most respected, most famous person of his time had a thousand women at his beck and call, and was miserable.

His search for happiness and fulfillment apart from God could not be found no matter how hard he tried or how much money he spent. Much of the wisdom he spoke came from a dark place in his life.

That being said, there is much we can learn from the king’s experience.

Things about worship: “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God.” (5:1) Approach God in obedience, don’t be hasty to speak, don’t promise God something you can’t fulfill.

Things about wealth: use what you have to help the poor, don’t allow gaining wealth prevent you from enjoying what you have, live a balanced life with both work and rest.

Things about wisdom: pursue it, but don’t accept everything you hear. Know the difference between wise and foolish counsel by knowing God.

Yes, Solomon was in a dark place when he wrote this book. Scripture tells us that toward the end of his life he actually began worshiping the pretend gods of his foreign wives.

Let this be a warning. And let Solomon’s experience and his questions encourage us to “guard our steps” as we approach God, as we protect our walk with our Savior. Because the further we get from Him, the darker our world becomes.

(Genesis 3-5) Because I Love You

I never considered God’s judgment on Adam and Eve an act of love before. Had He allowed them to continue to live in the Garden, and had they eaten from the Tree of Life, they would have been forced to live forever in their sin, struggling in this sinful world century after century, millennium after millennium. They would have had no hope of heaven, because they would not have died.

Yes, they were doomed to a difficult existence during life on earth. They were to experience sickness, loss, heartache, enemies, and death. Sin does that to a person.

But God, even as He sent them away, promised the Savior. God did not leave them without hope.

The writer of Hebrews, and Psalm 3:12 tell us:

the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.

God always punishes sin because He loves us. He wants us to turn from sin so that we can enjoy a relationship with Him in this life, and forever. We can’t do that if we hold on to sin. He is holy. Holiness and sin do not exist together. God wants us to exist together.

God didn’t wash His hands of Adam and Eve when they sinned. When He threw them out of the Garden, He didn’t turn off the sun, or destroy creation to teach them a lesson They still enjoyed sunsets, smelled the flowers, tasted the food. God didn’t stop blessing them. I’m sure they laughed again, were excited about the births of their children, enjoyed a romantic get-away to the mountains occasionally. (Well, I’m not sure of that last one, really. I’m a bit of a romantic.)

I think they even enjoyed a relationship with God eventually, although much different than the one they knew before sin separated them. God still was involved in their lives as seen in His conversation with Cain, giving Cain a chance to repent. (4:6-7)

I’ve gone through times of discipline because of sin in my life. Our world experiences the judgment of God because of sin. And often our natural response is to ask, “Why?”

“Why is life so hard?” “What did I do to deserve this illness, or this loss, or this hardship?”

“WHY ME?”

And I hear God answer:

Because I love you.

Who Are You? (Jeremiah 9)

Who are you? When you are introducing yourself to someone you want to impress, what kinds of things do you want them to know? Do you tell them about your career? Your accomplishments? Do you talk about your health, your intellect, your bank account? When you are trying to put your best foot forward, who are you?

Listen to what God says in verses 23 and 24:

This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.

When you are talking about yourself, does the conversation revolve around you or do you turn the attention on God? Do you talk about what you’ve done, or what He has done in your life? When people describe you, do they describe you as smart, funny, ambitious, accomplished? Or do they describe you as someone who knows God?

Just wondering today, who are you?

 

God’s World (Isaiah 13-17)

We who know God through His Word understand that this is His world. It’s His creation. And He makes the rules. He has made it plain that he demands and blesses obedience. His judgment on disobedience is without mercy.

But here’s what touched my heart today. In the midst of warning the nations about the upcoming judgment on their sin, God says this:

My heart laments for Moab like a harp, my inmost being for Kir Hareseth. (16:11)

God grieves when anyone has to pay the price for sin. Because no one has to! That account is already paid in full. God has done everything He can, short of taking away our ability to choose, in order that no one need pay for their sin.

And He hurts when we don’t accept what He offers.

It must be a little like loving an addict, sitting by while you helplessly watch them give in to their addiction, knowing you’d do anything to make them whole, yet having no control over their choices. You know there is an answer. But the choice to accept the help has to be their’s. You can’t force them.

Friend, God loves you. He wants to have a relationship with you, but it has to be on His terms. He has done everything He can to make that possible, to heal you from your addiction to sin. In fact, He paid your death penalty. But He won’t force you to accept it.

God grieves every time any of us reject Him. He laments from His inmost being, an anguish that is unspeakable. He certainly doesn’t take pleasure in meting out judgment on we who are created in His image.

This is God’s world. You are His creation. And He loves you enough to die for you. Will you bring Him joy today? Or grieve Him by rejecting Him?

I’m praying for you.

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.