Tag Archives: Christianity

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.

2 Corinthians 7-12; Examine Yourselves

Do you consider yourself a Christian? On what do you base that belief? Paul tells the church in Corinth:

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.”

Sadly, the name, “Christian” is almost meaningless these days. Some people consider themselves “Christian” if they go to church occasionally, or if they were baptized as a child, or if they aren’t an atheist or Islamic. But Paul goes a bit deeper and asks if we are “in the faith.”

Maybe that is the litmus test. Have you put your faith in the person of Jesus Christ? Have you confessed your sins and accepted what Jesus did for you on the cross? And did that confession change you?

Consider where you have placed your faith. Is it in yourself? In a preacher or philosopher? If you haven’t placed your faith in Jesus, I wonder if you should be wearing His name.

Paul says, “Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless of course you fail the test.”

Here’s the test: Romans 3:23 tells us we are all sinners. Romans 6:23 says the price of our sin is death. But God sent Jesus to die for you while you were still a sinner (Romans 5:8).

That is where your forgiveness – your justification lies. (Romans 3:24) God justifies freely through the redemption that comes by Christ Jesus. Not in right living. Not in church attendance. Not in volunteering at the homeless shelter.

Unless you have a relationship with Jesus through His precious blood, you fail the test. And if you fail the test, don’t wear His name. “Christian” doesn’t apply to you.

Examine yourself whether you’ve been calling yourself a Christian or whether you’re not sure where you stand. Take the test. It’s a matter of life and death.

Deuteronomy 26-29; First-fruits

Do you follow a daily routine? For those of you who work outside the home, I imagine that is true of you. Those of us who don’t have the demands of a job might be less inclined to follow a regular pattern every day.

But I noticed in reading chapter 20 today, God didn’t make provisions for different life-styles. All Jews – everyone – were commanded to take the “first-fruits” of their produce, and give it to the Lord. Matthew Henry tells us there are three things we can learn from this:

  1. to acknowledge God is the giver of every good thing. Sometimes we pride ourselves on our accomplishments, or possessions purchased with the fruit of hard work and dedication. “I did it my way…” is applauded in our society. But the reality is, everything we enjoy is a gift from God. Moses is reminding us it’s important to recognize that, and show God that we are grateful.
  2. to deny ourselves. The Jews had labored in the fields over that crop. They planted, weeded, watered, harvested each grape, each sheaf of wheat. But they gave up their “rights” to the food and gave it to God.
  3. to give God the first and best we have. The first of the crop is the choicest, best part of the harvest. That was the produce these Jews brought to the Lord, not the leftovers.

It should be the same in a spiritual sense, too. I like how Matthew Henry put it: “Those that consecrate the days of their youth, and the prime of their time, to the service and honor of God, bring Him their first-fruits.”

So what is the “prime” of your time? Are you at your best first thing in the morning? Or when the kids go down for a nap? Or at lunchtime at your work desk? Or before you go to bed at night?

I knew an elderly pastor who was a firm believer that if you didn’t have your quiet time with the Lord early in the morning, you weren’t giving Him your first-fruits, and therefore were disobedient to Him. I’m not sure that’s entirely true, because I know some people who are NOT morning people. Early in any day is definitely not their prime time.

But if morning is not your best time, when is? That is the time of day I believe God would have you honor him, deny yourself, and give Him the best you have. That’s the time of day you need to be in His Word, praying, communicating with your Savior.

And it’s the time of day you should be setting aside to do that. If we try to “find” time to spend with God, there will be days, perhaps weeks, when we don’t get around to it. That, my friend, is not pleasing to God.

Instead, we need to be making time to spend with God. We make time to do the things that are important to us, right? Plan ahead, set aside, get into a routine and follow it.

When I was working, and going to grad school in the evenings, I remember thinking I was too busy to have daily devotions. I was on a golf league, and a racquetball league, I played the organ at church, and sat on a couple of boards. I was a busy girl. I could barely get up in the morning, and worked late into the night. There was no time to open my Bible. I knew I should. I felt guilty about it. But I couldn’t imagine where I’d find another fifteen minutes of my day.

I made the mistake of saying that to my pastor who immediately said, “If you are too busy to spend time with God, you are too busy.” He talked to me about eliminating some of the demands on my life. But I loved to golf, I loved racquetball, and I couldn’t just quit school or my job just to read my Bible.

He looked at me and said one word, “Priorities.”

Ouch. I realized God wasn’t a priority in my life, and He deserved to be my first priority. “First-fruits” took on a whole new meaning.

I realized then and there that the minutes I spend with God each day are the most important minutes of any day. It’s part of obedience to the God who deserves my full attention. And God blesses obedience.

I pray that you will enjoy quiet time with God every day. Read His love letter to you, listen for His voice, pour out your heart to Him, and let Him bless you, strengthen you, hug you. You need it. And He loves that time with you. That’s why He created you in the first place.

Don’t miss it. Give Him the best you have. You’ll be blown away when He gives you the best He has!

 

Deuteronomy 18-20; Go Home

I came across some verses here today which remind me of something Jesus said. Moses is talking about warfare as the Jews prepared to take the Promised Land. “Don’t be afraid,” he tells them, “even if the enemy seems unbeatable, because the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, will be with you and will fight for you.” (from 20:1-4)

But then Moses instructs the army officers to weed out certain soldiers:

If you’ve recently built a house, go home.

If you’ve just planted a vineyard, go home.

If you are engaged to be married, go home.

If you are afraid, go home.

It makes me think of when Jesus, in Luke 9, tells a couple of guys the same thing:

You want to go bury your dad? Go home.

You want to go say goodbye to your family? Go home. Neither one of you is of any use in my kingdom.

An effective Jesus follower cannot have divided loyalties. Period.

Toward the end of his life, my dad spoke more freely about his experiences as a Marine fighting in the Pacific during WWII. He talked about fear, about duty, about focus and determination, senses heightened, everything forgotten but the task at hand.

He told me about a Marine in his division, who gave in to fear. He said the young man, at a critical point in the battle, stood up and tried to run away. He was immediately shot and killed by the enemy. I must have said something like, “How sad,” or “I feel bad for that guy.”

Dad quickly replied that there was nothing sad about it, that that Marine had jeopardized every other Marine in the area by revealing their position. He had no sympathy for that young man.

So what does this have to do with living the Christian life in 2017? I am reminded that being an effective follower of Jesus is not for sissies. It’s hard. It’s not popular. It takes intention and determination. It takes focus, and courage. It means loving Jesus more than your spouse, or your children. It means obeying Jesus even if it costs us a career, or a friendship. It means sharing the Gospel with that loved one, that neighbor, that coworker, even if that person will think you are an idiot.

It means living a life that doesn’t look like the world. This is war. And if you aren’t in this 100%, just go home. You might as well go golfing on Sunday morning, quit identifying with your church fellowship, stop quoting Scripture if your life doesn’t reflect the Truth.

Because you are putting the rest of us at risk. You are giving Christianity a bad name, you are undermining what God would like to do in the lives of the people you are in contact with. There are people who are totally committed to Jesus, who are obeying Him, loving Him, sacrificing for Him. And if you aren’t one of them, you are a liability.

The soldiers Moses was talking about were still soldiers, the men Jesus spoke to might have really loved Him. But they were told to go home anyway, because they were of no use in the battle at hand.

And neither are you if you aren’t in this all the way. The Bible doesn’t encourage us to kinda follow the Lord. It doesn’t tell us to turn over most of our life to Him. Scripture is pretty clear that it’s all, or nothing.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. (Matt 22:37)

I challenge you to find a verse that says differently.

I know this sounds harsh, but I think it needs to be said. We’ve come way too far away from this truth. And Christianity is suffering for it. There is nothing politically correct about being a Jesus follower. Jesus was hated and crucified because He refused to be politically correct.

I think it’s time we quit trying to look like the world, trying not to offend sinners, or by making sinners feel comfortable in the presence of a Holy God. It’s time we quit wimping out when it comes to standing for Biblical truth. The Church was never intended to be a country club.

It was intended to be an army of dedicated soldiers, giving it all for the purpose of sharing the Gospel. Here’s the good news: Moses reminded the people that God Himself, the God who rescued them from slavery, was fighting with them and for them. We aren’t in this alone. And that makes me believe I can commit myself 100% and He will give me the victory.

Otherwise, I might as well just go home.

Father, I pray for Your children today. Some of us might need to take a step back, to go home for a bit and be strengthened, and encouraged to join the battle. Some of us are ready to get in there and follow Your lead today. May each of us check our commitment level, and may we all make the determination to follow You 100%. You demand no less. You deserve no less. I pray Your Church will be strong, effective, and powerful as we submit ourselves to You, in Jesus’ Name, and for His sake.