Tag Archives: Christianity

July 26; Useless

Jeremiah 5-6, 13

God’s instructions to Jeremiah are kind of odd. He told the prophet to buy a linen belt and wear it around his waist for a few days. Then he was to go to the river, hide the belt in the rocks, and leave it there. Jeremiah obeyed. He bought the belt and wore it, traveled to the river and hid it, then went home.

Many days later God told Jeremiah to go back to the river and dig up the belt. When Jeremiah uncovered the belt it was “ruined and completely useless.” (13:7)

Shocker! Of course it was ruined, exposed to the elements, neglected, and filthy. No self-respecting prophet would be caught dead wearing such a thing. I get it. My question is, what would God have me learn from this belt fiasco?

God explained to Jeremiah, and us, the meaning of this picture. Believers are that belt, attached to God, useful to God, cared for by Him. We have purpose and identity and the Presence of God so long as we stay attached to Him. God tells Jeremiah he bound us to Himself for His renown and praise and honor. Holding us to Himself brings Him joy.

“But (we) have not listened.” (verse 11)

If you read chapters 5-6, and much of Jeremiah’s prophecy, you’ll see how often God speaks, God acts, and His people just don’t listen. His people choose sin. We hide ourselves in the rocks, and that’s what makes us as useful to God as a disintegrating belt.

Your wrong doings have kept these (God’s blessings) away; your sins have deprived you of good.” (5:25, emphasis mine)

It isn’t that God is randomly zapping people with disease and hardship, or that He is pushing a “hate” button in people’s hearts because He gets a kick out of reality TV. What is happening in this world is a direct result of our actions, not His.

God bound us to Himself when we accepted Jesus as our Savior. That’s where we are  protected, useful, and loved. That’s where God wants us to be. We break those bonds when we listen to the lies, when we ignore the Truth, when we hide in the rocks instead of purposefully clinging to Him.

God says there should be wine in wineskins. We say, of course we know wineskins are for wine. We aren’t stupid.

But then God says the land will be filled with drunkenness. Whether wineskins or belts, if we are doing our own thing without being attached to Him, there will be consequences. And it will destroy us. (vs 14)

I firmly believe our country is in the state it is in because too many Christians are useless. Including me.

The great thing about God, however, is that He can take a useless piece of disintegrating cloth and turn it into something beautiful and useful and a masterpiece that brings Him renown and praise and honor. Including me.

Including you.

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!

July 19; Don’t Say You Weren’t Warned

Isaiah 47-50

God, through the prophet Isaiah, is talking to his enemies, then to His people, and the message seems to be the same. “Go right ahead and keep doing what you’re doing. But don’t say you weren’t warned.”

Each of them goes on in his error; there is not one that can save you.  (47:15b)

If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea. (48:18)

There is no peace for the wicked. (48:22)

I can’t read the warnings to the ancient Jews recorded here in these chapters in Isaiah without making it personal. There have been times in my life when I’ve done my own thing, gone to church, served on committees, yet held on to a sin and told myself God was okay with it. There are times even today when I can rationalize sin, or tell myself God’s will will be done no matter what I do, and still think I’m a stand-up Christian.

God seems to be telling me today, “Go ahead, Connie. Try to be a Christian on your terms. But don’t say you weren’t warned.”

God has lovingly spelled out His demands, His plan, the Truth so that there can be no excuses. He is God and there is no other. He is the Way and there is no back door. He is the Truth and that Truth is not subjective. And God is very honest to say I either listen to Him and obey, or else. I can come up with my own idea of holiness, obey when I want, worship so I’m satisfied, but that won’t cut it in the end.

But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from my hand: You will lie down in torment. (50:11)

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

April 22; Practical Atheism

2 Samuel 22; Psalms 14 & 53; 1 Samuel 26

I love reading God’s Word. I look forward every day to opening my Bible and reading what God says to me. I believe every chapter, every verse, every word is included in these precious pages for an eternal reason.

So when He inspired men to repeat a phrase, or an entire story, I sit up and take notice. I figure God must think there is something there He doesn’t want me to miss.

Today I read two psalms that are almost identical. Sources say it wasn’t unusual for musicians to adapt a song to their own style, much like contemporary artists who re-work hymns to their own styles. But why would God inspire men to include two versions of the same psalm in the Bible? I took a closer look.

Both psalms being with,”The fool says in his heart there is no God.” In reality, these fools are corrupt and vile.

I get that. People who deny the existence of God are flat out God’s enemy. How much more vile can a person be who refuses to acknowledge the Creator? That’s the definition of “fool.”

But the psalms go on and say God is looking for anyone who understands and seeks Him. They say things like, all have turned aside, all are corrupt, no one is good. Not even one.

Now wait a minute. Does the psalmist dare to put all people in the same category as a vile atheist? Even me? Say it isn’t so.

I went to some of my trusted commentators and read what they had to say concerning these psalms. The term, “practical atheism” was a common theme among the writers. Matthew Henry, on page 633 of his Commentary In One Volume, says this:

“Atheists, whether in opinion or practice, are the greatest fools in the world.”

Opinion or practice.

I guess you don’t have to verbally pronounce you believe there is no God. How you live might be expressing the same belief just as clearly.

The psalmists put people in two categories. Fools, and those who understand and seek God. I am reminded that Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds. Hebrews 11 tells us without faith it is impossible to please God, and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him.

So I ask myself: Can I be a Christian and live like I’m not? Can I be a Christian and not read my Bible, pray, serve God, love God, and obey Him?

When I think about it, I don’t see anything in the Bible about God recognizing a mediocre, or a half-Christian. Scripture repeatedly tells us it’s all or nothing. If we’re not for God, we’re against Him. We can’t serve two masters.

God must think it’s important for us to consider whether or not we are in this with Him, or we wouldn’t be reading the same psalm twice. A fool says there is no God, either by speaking the words, or by living as though we think there is no God. A practical atheist is no less an atheist than one who proclaims “There is no God.”

So what might practical atheism look like in my life? Putting something or someone ahead of God in my life. Dishonoring God’s name. Not living a life set apart, not making disciples. Complaining, jealousy, selfishness, thinking myself more highly than I should. As I sit here and think about what practical atheism looks like, I come to realize that allowing any sin to exist in my life gives the message that I don’t really believe in God as He is presented in the Bible. Isn’t that what an atheist is?

I thank God for the latter verses of these psalms, and for the Truth of Jesus Christ. Because there was a time when I was corrupt, vile, evil, and lived like I thought there was no God. That is, until I accepted Jesus as my Savior and became His precious child.

Now, I want to live my life acknowledging the One who loved me and gave Himself for me. I want to live my life understanding and seeking Him, loving Him with all my heart, soul, and strength, diligently pursuing Him. I want to recognize sin in my life and repent of it immediately, understanding that God will not tolerate any sin.

What does your life say about God? That there is a God you love and serve, a God who you seek diligently above all else. Or does your life say that you don’t really believe in God even though your words say you do?

Practical atheism? That’s so foolish.

March 7; Stand Strong

Numbers 22-24

I love this story. I confess I laugh out-loud nearly every time. I get to where the donkey speaks, and Balaam answers it as though it was the most natural thing in the world to be having a conversation with a donkey, and I just can’t help myself. It cracks me up.

Today, however, my heart is heavy after reading these chapters. It’s not just a story about a talking donkey. It’s a message for us in 2019.

Balak wanted the Israelites gone, so he sent a delegation of men to Balaam, a prophet of God, and asked him to put a curse on the Jews. God, of course, told Balaam not to do such a thing, and Balaam made that clear to Balak’s men.

But Balak wouldn’t take “No” for an answer. He sent another delegation, this one more impressive than the first. They, too, asked on behalf of Balak for Balaam to curse Israel. Again, Balaam said he would not go against God, but then he agreed to go to talk to Balak in person.

It occurs to me Balaam had two chances to nip this in the bud. Twice he could have (should have) said “No” and stood strong. But he gave in just a little. And that put him in a tough situation. Now he was face to face with a very persistent Balak.

We read that Balaam goes through the motions of doing what Balak is asking of him, getting right up to the actual curse on Israel, but instead pronouncing a blessing on the Jews. Not what Balak wanted to hear.

But Balak is not easily swayed. He suggests they move to a different spot. Maybe Balaam could curse God’s people from over there instead. Balaam follows Balak, but ends up blessing Israel for the second time.

I love what Balak says next: “IF YOU CAN’T SAY ANYTHING BAD, DON’T SAY ANYTHING AT ALL.” (23:25) Doesn’t sound like he was too pleased with Balaam at this point. But not displeased enough to give up on what he wanted.

So, (I’m shaking my head as I write this) Balak leads Balaam to a third spot. Again, Balaam goes through the motions to appease Balak, and ends up not only blessing Israel a third time, but he goes on to spell out what was ahead for Balak and company. And it wasn’t good.

When I read this I find myself asking, why on earth didn’t Balaam stick to his original “No” and not even entertain Balak’s men, much less go with them? Why would Balaam build altars, sacrifice animals, after God told him “No.” And why would he follow Balak around like a lost puppy, doing what Balak told him to do, instead of what God said? Did Balaam want Balak to like him? Did he think he could change God’s mind, or catch God off-guard? Did Balaam find himself wanting to fit in to Balak’s world?

Ok, Church, this one is for us. God has given His Word to us as plainly as He gave it to Balaam. The Bible you have on your nightstand is the Truth. Period. So why do so many of us want to tweak it, or only hold on to the fun stuff while ignoring the Truth that breaks us?

Why, when Satan sends his delegates to ask us to compromise, do we even entertain the notion? Why do we follow the world, even if from a distance? Do we think we will change God’s mind, or catch Him off-guard? Is it more important for us to be accepted by the world than to stand for God’s Truth?

Satan’s delegates sound spiritual, loving, tolerant, enlightened, progressive, even philanthropic. But, friend, they are still Satan’s delegates.

Balak wanted the Jews gone. And he did not give up easily. His persistence wore Balaam down, and because Balaam didn’t stand by what he knew to be true, Balaam found himself in increasingly more difficult situations.

And, friend, Satan wants the Church gone, too. Don’t think for a minute he will give up easily. He is infinitely more persistent than Balak ever was.

This is why my heart is heavy. I see so much of Balaam in us. I think that because we Christians have not done a very good job standing firm on the Word of God, we’ve put ourselves in a very difficult situation. We have followed the world, we’ve entertained the lies, we’ve decided it’s important for us to blend in, and we are finding it harder and harder not only to stand on the Truth, but to even recognize the Truth.

I believe it’s because we Christians haven’t done a good job of standing for God’s Truth that babies are being murdered, that blatant sin has become the norm, that our world is where it is today. Oh, we can blame non-Christians all we want. We can contribute it all to Satan. But, I’m not so sure we don’t have a great deal of responsibility ourselves. We’ve put ourselves in a pretty tough spot because, like Balaam, we didn’t nip this in the bud right at the beginning.

It would have been so much better for Balaam if he had said the original “No” and meant it. It would have been easier for us if we had done the same. But we are in a delicate situation these days, put there by our own doing. What are we going to do about it?

God help us stand for His Truth starting today. I still believe God is greater than all the evil in this world. I believe that He is not ok with anyone dying without knowing Jesus as their Savior. And I believe God not only can, but wants to turn things around in this country and in the world. Come on, Church. Do we believe God’s Word or not?

Then let’s act like it. Let our “No” be “No” and our “Yes” be “Yes.” Let’s stand strong.

January 24; Generational Christianity

Genesis 28:10-30:43

Are you a Christian? Were you raised in a Christian home? Many of us were. And many of us had grandparents who were Christians, too. Generational Christianity – is there such a thing? I wonder.

If you were asked, what you would say is the reason you are a Christian? Is it because that’s all you’ve known?

Jacob was raised in the equivalent of a Christian home. His dad was a believer. His grandpa had been a believer. Both Abraham and Isaac had received God’s promises, and trusted God to keep them. Jacob grew up watching trust in God played out, sometimes in extraordinary ways. His parents no doubt told him what God’s promises were, that he would be the father of a great nation some day.

But something happened in the passage we read today. This time it was God Himself making the same promises, this time to Jacob. And this time Jacob made it personal. He accepted what God said, not because his dad believed, but because Jacob finally believed for himself.

I know there are some that suggest a leopard can’t change its spots. Once a deceiver, always a deceiver. And they see the old deceiver in what Jacob says in response to his encounter with God.

But I wonder if the vow he made to God wasn’t necessarily self-seeking. I see that it just might be an expression of humility and gratitude. God had just got done saying He would make Jacob great, would bring him home one day, and that He would never leave Jacob until every promise was fulfilled.  I don’t see any reason for Jacob to try to bargain with Someone who just promised to bless him beyond imagination.

When I read this I hear Jacob say, “If God is going to be with me and supply my needs, if God is going to bring me home and never leave me, how can I not make Him Lord of my life?”

And that’s what I want us to consider today. If you are blessed to have gone to church growing up, and if you were blessed to have seen faith lived out in your parents and grandparents, then hear God say the Promises they believed and trusted, are promises made to you, too.

Jacob had to claim them for himself, and that’s what I see happening here in this portion of Scripture. Jacob no longer followed his dad’s God. Jacob made God Lord of his own life here.  And we need to do the same.

It’s not enough that your parents were Christians. The issue is, are you? Have you asked Jesus to forgive YOUR sins, have you made Him Lord of YOUR life. Is He YOUR God and Savior?

Or are you banking on the idea that Christianity was handed down to you? Friend, there is no such thing as generational Christianity. It is a personal encounter with God, a decision each of us has to make in an intentional, truthful way.

Is Jesus Lord of your life?

1,2,3 John, Jude; Love Came Down… And Out

Merry Christmas! Jesus is born. God, who is love, came down from glory and began life in human form. We celebrate that incredible birth today. Happy birthday, Jesus.

This portion of Scripture that I read today reminds me that I can claim to be a Christian, I can go through the motions of worshiping Him, but unless I am changed by my encounter with Jesus – I don’t know Him.

Period.

I can’t claim to be a Christian if I have hate in my heart. I can’t claim to be His child if I mistreat people He came to save. If God is love, then when He comes to live in me, love lives in me. And I can’t help but express that love to others. His love comes down, then reaches out to others through me.

Enjoy the day with family and friends. Take time to worship the new born King. And may His love be evident in all of us who truly know Him.