Tag Archives: Christianity

Turn Around (Ezekiel 8)

I think every time I read Ezekiel’s vision I gasp when the people turn their backs on the Temple and bow toward their pretend gods in the east. That picture of blatant rejection of God shocks me every time.

Yet, even with this defiant act of disobedience, these were still citizens of God’s chosen people, Jews, Israelites. They considered themselves God’s favored nation even when they worshiped other gods. It blows my mind.

Today, however, God is asking me to do a gut check. Here are some questions I feel Him ask of me today:

Do I call myself a Christian, but refuse to repent of a sin?

Do I attend church on Sunday, yet live a lifestyle no different than my neighbor who has no use for church?

Do I read my Bible out of duty instead of letting it change me?

Do I read my Bible at all?

Do I live my life focused on myself, my feelings, my needs, my rights, my dreams, yet tell people I follow Jesus?

Do I know what is right according to Scripture, yet compromise the Truth?

Do I go to church expecting an experience, or do I go humbly, trembling at the seriousness of approaching a Holy God as He demands?

Oh, there are a lot of ways I can turn my back on the temple, so to speak. And I should be as appalled with myself as I am with those twenty-five people in Ezekiel 8 when I do. Today I am asking God to reveal any shift, no matter how small, from my worshiping Him in total Truth. I don’t want any part of me turning away from Him.

In fact, if God reveals the slightest movement, I want Him to convict me. I want to be sensitive to Him, and obedient. If I am facing the wrong way, I want to turn around and bow down to the one and only God according to Scripture.

Where are you facing right now? Is it time you turned around?

The Desires of Your Heart (2 Samuel 13-15)

Some people are never satisfied. They are always looking for more, dreaming bigger, lusting for that person or job or possession they believe would guarantee happiness. Sometimes that “want” becomes an obsession, and they begin to compromise, deceive, use people and manipulate circumstances in order to get that which is the focus of their desire.

But often, once their dream becomes a reality, they are left empty, unfulfilled, and may even end up despising that very thing they had sold their soul to have.

That’s what happened when Amnon finally had sex with Tamar, after his obsession with her ended up with rape. He certainly didn’t find the happiness he thought he’d enjoy once Tamar was his. In fact, all he felt was hate.

God is asking me to consider the desires of my heart. Where are my thoughts, my dreams directed? For what am I working; what is it that I believe would make me happy or successful or fulfilled?

If my focus and desires are centered on what God wants for me, I won’t have to make myself sick over an obsession, or some person I am sure would make me happy, or a job I think I need in order for me to feel good about myself. In fact, if my “obsession” is to be as close to God as is humanly possible, everything else will fall into place without my compromises or manipulations.

Psalm 37:4 says this:

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. (emphasis mine)

Give you.

Now, what this isn’t is a magic formula to have Junior fall in love with you, or for you to get that raise you know you deserve. But here is what is so cool about God: If we delight in Him, if we walk with Him, communicate with Him, enjoy our position as His beloved child through the blood of Jesus, God will give us exactly what we delight in.

Himself!

And with that comes everything He wants us to have and be and enjoy in this lifetime. We will realize that what He wants for us is so much better than we can ask or even think. He will give you the desires of His heart.

Wow.

 

 

How Dare You! (Judges 13-15)

I am bothered by what I read today in God’s Word. Samson killed a lion with his bare hands. Then later he saw that bees had built a nest and were producing honey in the rotting carcass of the lion. Samson reached in, snapped off part of the honeycomb, and tasted it. He gave some to his parents to taste, but he didn’t tell them where he’d gotten it.

Then at his wedding feast (where he was marrying a Philistine woman – a huge act of disobedience toward God’s commands) he told a riddle. “Out of the eater, something to eat. Out of the strong, something sweet.” He made a game of it. He promised a big reward if someone could figure out the answer to his riddle.

I’ve read this story many times. It marks the beginning of Samson’s war with the Philistines, and the rescue of the Jews from Philistine rule. But it is also the beginning of the end of Samson.

I think there is a very important lesson in this part of Samson’s story. As a man brought up as a Nazarite, he absolutely knew God’s Law. He absolutely knew touching a dead animal rendered him unclean, and he knew the steps required by God to address the uncleanness. Samson knew the truth, and ignored it.

It’s one thing to blatantly disobey, but how dare he make that decision for his parents! Eating that honey made them unclean. Didn’t they have a right to decide for themselves whether they were willing to be unclean in order to taste the honey? And shouldn’t they have been able to then take the steps required for cleansing? They didn’t even know they needed to take the steps.

Not only that, but Samson made a joke out of the situation. A joke! Did he think disobeying God was funny? Evidently he wasn’t taking his disobedience seriously.

Some of you were raised in a Christian home. You’ve heard the Gospel, probably memorized John 3:!6. But something happened along the way. Now Sundays are for sleeping in, making pancakes for the kids. You’ve gotten in the habit of using God’s Holy Name as a punctuation mark. And you laugh the hardest at jokes about sin.

You’re like Samson. You know better, and choose sin anyway. That’s on you. But how dare you make that choice for your children.

I’ve heard people say they are going to let their children choose for themselves whether or not to do the Christian thing. So they don’t take their kids to church. They don’t talk about Jesus in their homes. They don’t sing the hymns, or read the Bible. And somehow they think they are allowing their children to decide for themselves.

If that is your thinking, let me ask you something. Where do you think your children are going to hear the truth? TV? School? Their friends? Maybe you think they’ll get some supernatural visit or something. If you want your children to make an informed choice, you’d better be sure they are informed. YOU’D better be sure they are informed.

Samson’s parents needed to know they were unclean before they could decide whether or not they would take the steps to be clean. The fact that Samson didn’t tell them, didn’t negate their uncleanness. It did, however, prevent them from being clean again.

Your children need to know they are sinners before they decide whether or not to accept Jesus as their Savior.  If you aren’t telling them, it doesn’t make them less of a sinner, or negate their need of the Savior.

I’m praying for you parents. Yours is an important responsibility. I know many of you are living examples of Christ to your children. I thank God for you and pray with you that your children will choose Jesus at an early age.

All of you are raising eternal souls there in your home. Are you raising them to choose heaven? Or are you okay if they go to hell? Are you willing to make that choice for them? If you know the truth and aren’t teaching it to your children, you are making decisions for them that have eternal implications.

How dare you!

 

 

It’s Time (Joshua 9-11)

God promised to give the land to the Israelites. But accepting that gift meant going to war. It required bloodshed and obedience. God went before them, fought for them, even miraculously brought victories on occasion. But the land wasn’t simply handed over to the Jews.

Scripture tells me Jesus died for the sins of the world. But that doesn’t mean the whole world is saved. Accepting God’s gift of redemption requires obedience.

God promises to never leave or forsake us, that He works all things together for our good. But to receive the blessing of these promises, we must obey.

I’ve heard it said in regard to this pandemic, “God’s got this.” That seems to be a common response when people go through difficult or uncertain circumstances. And absolutely our Sovereign God not only has got this, He’s already on the other side of it. Yes He’s got this. But do we?

Satan may have used his limited power to get this virus going, believing it would throw the world into a tailspin, that it would close church doors, and cause people to blame God. He’s not wrong, really.

But what if every quarantined Christian pulled out his or her Bible and began to read, to pray, to search, to get to know God again, to allow God to put a finger on sin in our lives, to break us, and heal us. What if during this forced isolation, Christians regained our first love, and were revived as we renew our faith through God’s own Words?

I know the temptation is to pick up a good commentary or study guide, or to read our favorite author. And I’m not telling us not to do that. But if you have time to read Josh McDowell or Joel Osteen or John Grisham, you have time to read the Bible. And, dear ones, we all have a lot more time than we did before this virus scare.

I know without a doubt that our world could experience the greatest revival of our history if Christians, if you and I, spent time reading the Bible, and asking God to do His thing in our lives as a result. Revival isn’t only possible, it’s a sure thing if we obey.

What Satan intended for evil, God can turn into something amazing. Think about it. When this time of isolation is over, can you imagine the impact revived Christians will make on our world? Can you picture what the Church will be when Christians are right with God? Can you even dream how our world would be changed if Christians change?

Is revival possible? I guess that depends on you and me. God’s giving us the land. Will we take it?

I think it’s time we did.

 

But we had food… (Exodus 16-18)

The problem with the Jews was, they had left Egypt physically – but not emotionally. Look how often they told Moses they wished they were back in Egypt where life was good.

“We had food in Egypt. We had water. We were protected.”

This following God stuff was hard. But the Jews seem to have forgotten that in Egypt, they had been slaves. They had no power, no free will. They were in bondage…

but they had food.

Didn’t they remember that the food they ate was produced by the sweat of their own brows, and the lashes on their own backs if they didn’t work fast enough or produce what was demanded? They were mistreated…

but they had food.

I am going to chase a rabbit trail here.  We are at a crossroad in our country. Socialism is attractive to many who want “food.” They hear the word “free” and they jump on board. But hear me when I say nothing is free. The Jews paid for their food with hard labor. You will pay for yours with taxes from sparse earnings from companies where you work; government controlled companies struggling because of heavy taxes, and lack of autonomy. Those who are in favor of socialism are listening to a millionaire hypocrite, and although fiscal equality sounds good I doubt even you would work eight hours a day to support someone who would rather get what you earn for free.

But what we read in Exodus isn’t just about free stuff. There is an eternal lesson here. That manna that was given from God was Israel’s salvation. That water that came out of a rock came because God provided. Their victory in war wasn’t because they were superior soldiers. That victory was God’s.

The lesson here is that God IS salvation, and there is no other. There may be easier ways to live here on this earth. But there is no other way to the Father, no other door to Heaven. You can take what God offers, or leave it. Just beware. if you reject what God offers, you might have “food” for a while…

but that “food” won’t last for eternity.

 

December 19; Be Prepared

I Peter 2:13-5:14; Jude 1:1-6

When was the last time someone asked you to give the reason for the hope you have in Jesus? Some of you will answer that you had that opportunity yesterday. Others might have to confess it’s been a while – if ever. Why is that?

God is asking me today if people even know I’m a Christian without me saying anything. Do I stand out in a crowd by being joyful, content, kind, caring, willing to serve, truthful…? If the only thing people know about me is that I go to church, is that enough reason for them to ask me about the hope I have in Jesus? A lot of people go to church, and still have no hope.

Paul tells us to always be prepared for people to ask us about Jesus. I don’t think that just means reading your Bible and praying every morning – although I hope that is the first thing you do before stepping onto the battle field every day.

I’m thinking we prepare to share Jesus by the choices we make, the life we live, the words we say. If we wear His name, can people see Christ in us? Or do we look like everyone else in the crowd?

If people see Jesus in us, they’ll naturally want to know more about Him, because what we have with Jesus is so much better than what anyone has without Him. Do they see that in us? Are we an enigma in a world of distrust, anger, discontent, depression, and immorality? We should be.

If you call yourself a Christian I can guarantee someone is watching you to see if your hope is real. Let’s determine to prepare ourselves to show them it is, and to tell them how they can have the same hope in the Savior

 

December 10; Respectful and Firm

Acts 23:12-25:22

Paul was in prison, although he had not committed any crime. His incarceration, totally unjust, came from the jealous hearts of evil men. Paul was a victim.

But it was because of his imprisonment Paul was able to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with kings and rulers. Paul never turned down an opportunity to talk about Jesus. His example still speaks to hearts 2000 years later.

What example? In the face of a conspiracy of lies, Paul didn’t lose his cool. He didn’t strike back. Even when the crowd was in a frenzy, Paul did not react in like manner.

But Paul didn’t roll over and play dead, either. He respectfully and firmly demanded his rights. He respectfully and firmly faced his accusers and called their bluff. “Prove what you accuse me of,” he said. They couldn’t prove a thing because he wasn’t guilty of anything.

Paul’s example speaks to me today as I consider the climate in the US. We are a nation of reactionaries. We actually believe we have a right to get even, to shout louder, to destroy property if someone says something we don’t like. It’s insane.

Do you like the climate in our nation? We who hold the Truth need to respectfully and firmly proclaim it. And keep proclaiming it. Paul went to prison doing that. Are any of us willing to do the same?

Paul was able to look his accusers in the eye and challenge them to prove him guilty. Are we living our lives in such a way we could do that, too, and be confident there was nothing they could hold against us?

Christian, America’s hope lies in us. I think it’s time we were respectfully firm, and demanded our rights to proclaim the Truth of Jesus Christ. But here’s the thing:

What if the future of the Church in America, and the nation of The United States of America depended on you. Just you. Take a good look at your life, your commitment to Jesus and the Truth of Scripture. If we depended on you to be respectfully firm, what would our future as a nation be?

I’m asking the same of me, and I really don’t like what I’m finding.

May God raise up people like Paul who was respectful and firm when he stood up for the Truth that Jesus Christ is Lord. I want to be counted in that number.

December 7; It Couldn’t Hurt

Romans 11:11-14:23

You know, I think it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have Romans 12 read aloud at the start of every day in our public schools. It certainly couldn’t hurt to have it read before every political meeting, or at the beginning of impeachment hearing testimony. And I think it would benefit us all if each of us began our day reminding ourselves what God said through Paul:

  1. Be a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.
  2. Don’t conform to the world, be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
  3. Use your gifts and abilities for the good of others.
  4. Love sincerely.
  5. Hate sin – not the sinner.
  6. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
  7. Learn to share.
  8. Don’t be conceited.
  9. Don’t seek revenge.
  10. Do what is right; live in peace
  11. Be kind to people who aren’t kind to you.
  12. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

I think we need to read this chapter often, and learn to do what it says. It couldn’t hurt!

October 4; Getting Ahead of Maturity

Matthew 9:1-17, 12:1-8; Mark 2:1-28; Luke 5:17-39, 6:1-5

So John the Baptist’s disciples fasted, but they were aware that Jesus’ disciples did not. They wanted to know why. I’ve always loved Jesus’ response:

“Because I’m here.”

But then He goes on and gives examples of garment patches and wineskins. And to be honest, I’ve sat here today trying to make the connection between the Bridegroom, clothes, and wine. I pulled out my old friend Matthew Henry, and wasn’t disappointed.

Henry reminded me Jesus’ ministry was brand-spankin’ new. (that wasn’t a direct quote of the Puritan theologian if you hadn’t guessed 🙂 )  Christianity wasn’t even a thing. Jesus had to grow his disciples before they could be useful.

You don’t put a new patch on old clothes, or new wine in old wine skins, any more than you put new believers into ministry. Jesus is telling us the maturing process is crucial. His disciples needed to spend time with the Bridegroom before the Bridegroom sent them on their way.

I know you’re probably tired of hearing that I’m on the Nominating Committee at church. But as we fill our various committees, these passages of Scripture are timely. There is something for all of us to be doing in ministry, no matter how long we’ve walked with the Lord. But I pray we won’t jump ahead of maturity, by inviting someone to serve where they are not yet spiritually prepared.

Because in Jesus’ example, that results in disaster.

October 3; Hometown

John 4:27-46; Mark 1:14-15, 21-45; Matthew 4:12-17, 8:1-4, 14-17; Luke 4:14-15, 30-44, 5:12-16

Many of us Baby-Boomers grew up going to church, Sunday School, Bible Schools, and often Wednesday night prayer meetings and youth groups. We were raised with at least a knowledge of God in a country that honored God in many ways. Even the shops were closed on Sundays.

For many of us, our association with all things Christian became more than church attendance. We made it personal when we repented of our sin, and invited Jesus into our hearts and lives.

Fast forward fifty years. Things have changed, haven’t they?

We didn’t give our children the same Biblical foundation. We encouraged them to find truth for themselves. We sacrificed Sunday worship for baseball and soccer games. We stopped meeting on Sunday nights and Wednesday evenings. We chipped away at the foundation that our own lives had been built on. Now our children are raising our grandchildren with no foundation at all.

I know that is a vast generalization. I hope you who are reading this are not described by it. But when I look at our country and our world, I think too many people are.

I got to thinking about this today as I read about Jesus’ ministry in His hometown. Scripture tells us He couldn’t do a lot of great things there among the people closest to Him,  people who had watched Him grow up.

Jesus reminded them that in Elijah’s day there were a lot of starving widows in Israel, but God had to go to Sidon to find a woman of faith. There were plenty of lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha. But it was Naaman the Syrian who had the faith to be healed.

I am reminded it’s not exposure to Jesus, not church attendance, or familiarity with creation, or a belief in a higher power that saves. Living in a house where believers live does not save. You can know everything there is to know about Jesus. But that knowledge won’t save you.

Please don’t assume your kids and grandkids will be saved because of your faith. They, like us, will have to decide to accept grace for themselves. Don’t assume your children know Jesus just because they know about Him. They will have to establish that relationship with the Savior themselves.

Our children can be living in Jesus’ hometown, so to speak, and never put their faith in Him. And God cannot do great things in their lives if that’s the case.

Are we giving our children and grandchildren a chance to build their faith on the Truth of Scripture the sure foundation of Jesus, the Holiness of God, and the only way to the Father? Or are we ok with them watching Christianity from the cheap seats?

People in Jesus day could say, “Yeah. I’m from Jesus’ home town. I grew up with Him.” In our day we can say, “Yeah. My Mom knows Jesus. I grew up in church.”

It’s just not enough.