Tag Archives: forgiveness

Choose Me (Ezekiel 42-43)

He was so willing. God would have forgiven Israel for every evil thing they ever did or even thought. “Here I am,” He said. “Here is my throne and a place for the soles of my feet. I’m not going anywhere.” They just needed to turn from their sin, put away their idols, and He would live among them forever.

Let them consider the plan, and if they are ashamed of all they have done, make known to them the design of the temple… its whole design and all its regulations and laws. Write these down before them so that they may be faithful to its design and follow all its regulations. (43:10b-11)

He was so willing. But they couldn’t do it. And neither can we.

Sometimes connecting with God’s heart breaks mine. This morning as I read these chapters I could hear His longing, and could almost feel His pain. “Choose me!” He pleads.

He’s done all the work. That altar and its regulations were fulfilled perfectly when God sacrificed Himself on the cross. “Just choose me,” He cries.

I pray that you have, at some point in your life, chosen God, that you have repented from sin, turned from your idols, and turned to the Savior. But I hope that isn’t the only time you’ve dealt with sin in your life.

Even the Apostle Paul struggled with sin. He tells us He made a conscious decision to “die” every day, to put aside self and sin, and choose God. Every. Day. “To live is Christ,” he said.

Choosing God isn’t easy, and it’s not always fun. Choosing God comes with sacrifice, hardship, selflessness. Choosing God means getting out of our comfort zones, going to battle, loving people who don’t agree with us, and praying for them. Choosing God goes against everything we’ve come to believe is true; that we should be wealthy and healthy, that we deserve to be happy, that as “children of the king” we should live the high life.

Scripture tells us that Jesus knew the world would hate us for choosing Him, because they hated Him first.

But choosing God is the most amazingly wonderful choice you will ever make. Choosing God is choosing something better than anything this world offers. Better than money, or fame, or a home on Easy Street. Choosing God is choosing love and forgiveness, help and encouragement, purpose and fellowship, and eternity more wonderful than any of us can imagine.

“Choose me,” God is saying to you. “Choose me today, and tomorrow, and the next day. Choose me this hour, this minute. Choose me and I promise I will never leave you, I’ll plant the soles of my feet in your heart and bless you with Myself.”

I choose God today. I’m praying you’ll do the same.

God Is Revealed (Ezekiel 38-39)

God’s punishment for sin will always be evident in this world, because there will always be sin in the world until He comes again. Natural disasters will happen. Evil men will do evil things. There will be disease, and war, and heartache and suffering. There will continue to be times when God removes His protection, and even His children will suffer because of their sin.

But!

There will always, ALWAYS, be times of grace, of mercy, of victory when people humble themselves and repent of sin. God will always, ALWAYS bless those who obey Him.

Why? So that the world and everyone in it will recognize that God is Holy. God is Sovereign, God is who He says He IS and there is no other. This world is about God.

As I read His Word I understand that Truth. And here is the best part of that. God wants a relationship with me! God wants to protect and bless me as though I was His only child. Like a loving Father, He will discipline my rebellion, correct my self-centeredness, punish my disobedience. And like a loving Father, He will always, ALWAYS forgive me when I come to Him, humble myself, and repent.

May God be seen in me through every circumstance of life. May people recognize the Holy, Just, Fierce, and Forgiving God He is by watching Him work in my life. May I be a living example of His grace because:

God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

Everything that happens, the good and the bad, happen to point people to Jesus, to reveal God in all His holiness and goodness so that they will come to Him for forgiveness, and enjoy a relationship with the Sovereign, Holy God He is. I love to think that I may have a part in His plan, to reveal this wonderful God to a world that needs Him!

God’s Judgment (Ezekiel 20-21)

When you consider God’s final judgment, what comes to mind? Some people picture a big old drunken party around a campfire. Some see people wandering aimlessly through space, dragging the chains they formed in this lifetime. Many people don’t want to believe there will even be a final judgment, just nothingness, that we will cease to exist when we die.

God told Ezekiel to spell out exactly what His judgment on the disobedient Jews would entail, and Ezekiel complained, “Ah, Sovereign Lord! They are saying of me, ‘Isn’t he just telling parables?'” (20:49) Those Old Testament Jews didn’t want to believe in judgment any more than people in 2020.

So let me ask again: what do you believe about God’s judgment?

I notice as I read Ezekiel this morning how often God tells us His judgment protects His Name, that His judgment reveals who He is to the nations of the world. His Name which is Holy, Holy, Holy. If there was no judgment, He could not be Holy.

Scripture also tells us God’s judgment is without mercy. Can you wrap your mind around that truth? Some will argue that because God is love He wouldn’t condemn anyone to a terrible eternity in hell. That because God is merciful, He wouldn’t judge without mercy.

What do you say to that?

Was God speaking in parables, in fairytales, or using scare tactics to get us to obey Him? Or is there an actual place, void of God, void of light, void of fellowship, where the groans and wailings of the condemned are the only sounds, where there is no hope, no reprieve, no comfort? Is there a place where pain and suffering beyond anything anyone has ever experienced in this lifetime, no matter how awful, is the only reality forever?

What do you say to that?

Ezekiel kept telling Israel about the judgment that was coming even if they didn’t believe him. We need to do the same. Because God will seriously judge without mercy, and hell is real.

But, we also need to tell people the one and only way they can avoid God’s final judgment. They need to know that Jesus paid that awful penalty for them. He met His own requirements so no one has to spend eternity without Him.

Just as God judges the guilty without mercy, He shows mercy to those who come to Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. To all of us who repent of sin, who find forgiveness in the cross, we need have no fear of God’s final judgment.

What do you say to that?

What About Today? (2 Chronicles 26)

I don’t care who you are, or how kind and giving you’ve been, or even if you have done great things in the name of the Lord. Sin is sin. And all sin comes with consequences. My sin. Your sin.

We see King Uzziah, a good king who obeyed God. During his reign Judah was blessed because of their obedience as they followed the king. People had jobs, the building industry was booming, the army was strong and well equipped, and Uzziah’s fame spread far and wide.

But as so often happens with us humans, Uzziah’s pride led to his downfall. Instead of being humbled by God’s blessings, the king became proud. And his sin led him to be unfaithful to God. I hope you’ll read God’s Word today and see what happened to him.

God didn’t give Uzziah a free pass just because he had obeyed God in the past. Uzziah sinned. And God punished the sin.

I was at a friend’s house yesterday and she had a plate of fresh fruit for us to nibble on. Colorful melons, plump, juicy grapes, tangy apples, berries that popped with flavor in my mouth. It was so refreshing on a 92 degree day in Pennsylvania.

Today I thought about that fresh fruit. It came at the hard work of farmers who planted and nourished and weeded and then harvested each melon, each bunch of grapes, each berry. Someone washed, then pealed, and cut the fruit she’d bought and displayed them on a serving platter. The end result of all that work was not only beautiful, it was so good!

But if you hid one rotten grape in the midst, one imperfect apple, one molded berry, it wouldn’t take long for that fresh fruit to rot, too. All the good work of those farmers wouldn’t prevent the fresh fruit from being ruined by just one rotten grape.

It’s interesting that if you put a healthy apple in a barrel of rotten ones, the barrel doesn’t become healthy. But if you put a rotten apple in a barrel of healthy ones, you’ll have a barrel of rotten apples in no time.

That’s like sin. The good things we did in our past, the times we were obedient to the Lord, brought us blessings at that time. Those blessings might still be felt years later. That’s how God works. But if you sin today, if you don’t obey God today, July 8, 2020, you will have put a rotten apple in your barrel of blessings.

The good king, Uzziah, died a leper. He was excluded from worshiping in God’s House toward the rest of his life, and couldn’t even be buried with the other kings because he’d been unclean. God did not give him a free pass just because he had been obedient in the past. Uzziah sinned that day, and didn’t deal with his sin.

So God did.

The same is true for each of us. My prayer is that all of us will deal with our sin problem today. Every time God brings a sin to our awareness, I pray we will fall on our knees and ask Him to forgive us. I pray that we will never be satisfied living with a sin, even just one.  Because one sin not confessed is a rotten apple that cannot help but spread.

You’ve been obedient in the past? Good! What about today?

Meaning and Purpose (Ecclesiastes 1-6)

Solomon is a bit of a “Debbie Downer.” Is he right to say life is meaningless, a chasing after the wind? Should our focus be on living life to the fullest, to eat, drink, and be merry because tomorrow we die?

The thing about old Sol is that he was trying to give life meaning by his own effort. I’m sure if there had been self-help books back in the day, his library would have been full of them. Solomon tried using his intellect, his riches, his connections to try to find the meaning of life. And he came up short.

What Solomon found is that you can’t buy happiness. You can’t think your way in to a meaningful existence. Sadly, the king was very right to say his life was merely a meaningless puff of smoke.

But the truth is, we humans are created in the image of God, which gives our lives meaning. We were created to fellowship with our Creator, which gives our lives purpose. We are blessed by our Father with love, joy, peace, and we know that this puff of smoke we call life is only the beginning.

We were born for eternity. No bank account can come close to what awaits us. No power, or applause, or spouse, or comfort, or a feeling of self-worth compare to what is ours through the blood of Jesus.

No life is meaningless. Every one of us is living our choice for eternity. You might think like Solomon and choose to eat, drink, be merry and die tomorrow. But you will find yourself face to face with the One who died for you. And you will give Him an account about what you did with His grace. At that moment you will realize just how meaningful your choices in this life really were. You’ll have eternity to realize the purpose of your life on earth was to prepare you for forever.

Stop trying to “find” meaning or purpose for your life. When you submit to God, He gives you meaning. When you accept Jesus as your Savior, He shows you His purpose for your life. Life is a blessing! Life is precious and purposeful when you know the Way, the Truth, and the Life. (John 14:6)

I pray that each of us will take a moment and thank God for this amazing gift of life. And I pray that we will live today in sweet fellowship with our Creator, a glimpse of what heaven will be for eternity.

If you don’t know Jesus as your Savior, I pray that you will confess your sins today and allow Him to forgive you, to give your life meaning and purpose that will bless you beyond what you can imagine.

Just know that your life has meaning and purpose. It is the vehicle that will usher you into eternity. Choose well, my friend.

 

That’s Harsh (Psalm 109)

David speaks pretty harshly about his enemy. He asks God to find his enemy guilty, to make his wife a widow and his children forced to beg in the streets. Then he prays that his enemy would lose everything, causing his family to be homeless. He even went as far as to say, “let no one extend kindness” to his enemy, and let no one take pity on his children. “Wipe him off the face of the earth,” David seems to ask, “and never forget what he did to me.”

David continued to pray that his enemy would get what’s coming to him. Karma, baby. He said his enemy loved to curse people, curse him back, God. His enemy found no pleasure in blessing, don’t bless him, God. Treat him like he treated me.

Yes, if you read Psalm 109 you’ll hear David ask God to show no mercy toward his enemy, and his enemy’s entire family – women and children. That’s harsh.

But I wonder if we’re not harsh enough on our enemy, Satan. I wonder if we’ve grown soft toward sin, if we’ve tolerated sin in ourselves and others, if we haven’t welcomed sin into our homes and churches by hiding it in our own hearts.

Maybe it’s time we look at our enemy the way David looked at his, and ask God to remove it, destroy it, so that it’s blotted out completely. Maybe we need to stop looking at sin like a little child or a widowed mother, and instead ask God to show no mercy in removing the sin from our lives.

Nail it to the cross, Lord!

Because the truth is, we can’t be too harsh on our enemy, Satan.

It’s My Fault (2 Samuel 24, I Chronicles 21)

Warren Wiersbe says of these chapters of the Bible, that David’s sin was pride. David counted the fighting men in Israel and Judah, which demonstrated the Jews’ superiority over other nations, and revealed David as the most powerful king. But according to Wiersbe, he did not “connect the census with the redemption money,”  as was directed in Exodus 30. (With the Word by Warren Wiersbe; Oliver-Nelson Books; 1991; page 194) It would appear this census was motivated by David’s pride.

What I like about David is, when he recognized that he’d sinned against God, feeling the heavy hand of God’s conviction, he prayed: “I have sinned greatly.” He didn’t blame anyone else, he didn’t make excuses, he didn’t rationalize his behavior. He recognized his sin, and he confessed it to God. have sinned.

We must never ignore the feeling of guilt, or learn to live with a heavy conscience. We must confess our sin, because when we do God is faithful to forgive! What joy!

But there is a lesson here. Forgiveness doesn’t automatically cancel out consequences for our sin. And that’s what spoke to me today.

The consequences for David’s sin didn’t just affect him. The entire nation paid for what David had done. For days, David watched while the people charged to his care, the nation he loved and fought for and led, suffered. Tens of thousands of them died, and there was nothing David could do but sit back and watch it happen, knowing it was his fault.

We all have people we care about: our children, our siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, our friends, co-workers, neighbors, adults and kids whom we love, fight for, and nurture. We all have people for whom we are responsible in one way or another. Isn’t it hard to watch these dear ones go through hard times, suffer illness and loss while you stand helplessly by? It’s a horrible feeling.

But what if the things they are going through are a direct result of sin you’ve committed? Your family loses their home because your drinking ends up costing you your job. Your adolescent child is having trouble dealing with losing you through divorce. Your company goes under because you embezzled money, putting your co-workers and friends out of their jobs. Your family lives in fear because you don’t control your temper.

Even if you confess your sin and receive God’s grace, consequences don’t magically disappear. That is an important lesson for all of us. That sin we are committing has far reaching fingers.

I don’t think there is a much worse feeling than watching those dear people suffer for what you’ve done. I remember the first time I saw my dad cry. We had been out for a family hike at a nearby state park. We’d walked for a time when Dad and I ran ahead and climbed a steep hill to hide from Mom and my sisters. But when they finally came into view, they weren’t even looking for us. So Dad kicked a rock, thinking that would get their attention. The rock rolled down the hill, hit another, larger rock, and went airborne. We watched in horror as that rock was hurled into the eye of one of my sisters.

Blood everywhere. Screams. Panic. Dad ran, picked her up, and ran to the car, Mom trying to get the others of us there as quickly as possibly. We crammed into the car and Dad sped to the nearest hospital.

My three sisters and I waited in the car while Mom and Dad took Peggy to the emergency room. I don’t know how long we sat there before we saw Dad come out of the glass doors. With head down, he walked slowly toward us. He opened the driver’s side door, sat down, then dropped his head onto the steering wheel and cried.

It wasn’t a whimper. The sounds coming from him came from a place very deep inside him. He moaned, and sobbed, it seemed like forever. Peggy had nearly lost her eye. And Dad knew it was his fault. He was responsible, and there was nothing he could do about it now. She would be scarred for the rest of her life.

Dad’s agony came from a place of innocence. And yet he always carried the guilt of that day. It was an accident. But that didn’t prevent Dad and Peggy from suffering the consequences.

How much worse, to know that the suffering of our loved ones comes as a result of our choices, our pride, our willfulness, our rebellion, our sin. How much worse when we are faced with the reality that there was something we could have done to prevent it.

Like confessing that sin, repenting, turning from it before it was too late.

I would encourage us all to be sensitive to the convicting hand of our Lord. If you are feeling guilty over a sin, no matter how small you think that sin is, confess it immediately. Ask God to forgive you BEFORE things get too far, and consequences begin to touch others. Repent before your stubborn pride boils over and burns the people you love.

I don’t think there are more bitter tears than ones that come from knowing:

It’s my fault.

A Smoke Screen (2 Samuel 10, I Chronicles 19)

Why didn’t they just admit they were wrong, and ask for forgiveness? When the Ammonites realized that what they had done put them on Israel’s bad side, instead of apologizing, they ran to the neighbors, got the neighbors riled up against Israel, and joined forces to fight the very people they themselves had offended.

The Bible tells us 40,000 men died that day, and it was because the king of the Ammonites couldn’t humble himself and admit his sin. No, he actually made the people he’d sinned against (Israel) appear like they were the enemy. The Ammonites tried to make their victims look like the aggressors. And it ended in death.

I sin. You sin. Sometimes we like the sin we sin so instead of repenting of it, we start pointing fingers at other people’s sins. We rally the troops against abortion, against homosexuality, against racism, against corruption in government. Maybe we “ask for prayer” for someone we know entangled in sin, pointing our fingers at their need hoping no one will recognize our own. It’s like we throw out a smoke screen and think that will hide the truth of our guilt.

What Hanun did by not accepting responsibility for his sin caused the death of many. Which makes me consider how many people are suffering consequences because I refuse to repent of my own sin. My life touches many lives. I don’t sin in a vacuum, even if I think no one sees or no one gets hurt.

I want to be clean before my Lord because I know that is when I enjoy my best life, my closest relationship with God, and am blessed beyond what I deserve. But today I realize I want to be clean before my Lord for your sake, too, for the sake of my family and friends, my church, my community. May it never be said that God can’t pour out his blessings on those people I love because I refuse to admit my sin and don’t ask Him to forgive me. And a more sobering thought, may it never be said that anyone else suffers the consequence for my pride, my arrogance, my sin.

Jesus said people will know I am His disciple if I love you. Until today I never considered that maybe one way I can show you I love you is to repent of sin, to allow God to bless and not have to punish me, and in turn you, my neighborhood, maybe even my country. Maybe God is telling me the healing of our land begins with me humbling myself and asking Jesus to forgive me.

Maybe God is saying the same thing to you.

 

 

 

Sounds About Right – But Oh So Wrong (I Samuel 13-14)

Saul believed in God. Saul wanted to honor God. He wanted God’s guidance. So Saul went to God, offering an animal sacrifice on the altar. Sounds about right, doesn’t it?

But the lesson here is – you don’t go to God using your own devices, even if what you are doing appears to be religious, or sincere, or God-like.

Saul was not a priest. And God had always made it very clear that only priests could offer sacrifices on the altar. Even though Saul was the highest ranking individual in Israel, he was not authorized to offer a sacrifice to God. No matter if his heart was in the right place, and even if he followed every priestly act exactly as he’d always seen them do, his act was blatant disobedience.

When people say there are many avenues to God, I think of Saul. To an outsider, Saul’s offering made perfect sense. To an outsider, God should be happy to accept that act of worship. But anyone who thinks like that IS an outsider. They don’t even know God.

The God-breathed Scriptures tell us there aren’t multiple ways to God. It’s His Way, or no way. The God-breathed Scriptures tell us Jesus is THE way, THE truth, THE life, and NO ONE goes to the Father except through Him. (John 14:6)

It’s Jesus, or no way.

There are individuals, churches, some popular so-called Bible teachers who believe in a back door, or multiple doors to God. Jesus said He is THE door (John 19:9). Anyone who says something different reveals they don’t really know who God is. There will be nothing but condemnation for them when they stand before God and realize they are standing before THE way. It will be too late then.

My prayer is that everyone who reads this will follow The Way, that is the forgiveness of sin through the blood of Jesus. We are remembering Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross this weekend. Have you accepted for yourself what Jesus did there for you? Friend, there is no other way to God, no other hope of eternity with Him.

What you believe, how you live your life, your religious affiliation might look and sound right to the world. But without Jesus, you are oh so wrong.

 

No Excuse (Joshua 8-9)

It’s devastating to see the lengths to which jealousy can take a person. Abimelech may not have been treated equally to his brothers. His mother was a slave. Maybe the seventy sons of Gideon’s legal wives bullied their half-brother. Maybe Gideon himself showed favoritism toward his legitimate sons. It’s possible Gideon’s seventy sons lived in luxury while Abimelech lived like a slave. We don’t know the details. But after Papa Gideon died, Abimelech showed his true colors.

He convinced the citizens of Shechem to make him ruler. Then his first order of business was to publicly execute his seventy brothers. I wonder if Abimelech felt vindicated after that, or if killing his brothers brought him a sense of peace. Let’s just say, I doubt it.

I wonder if any of us reading this today are harboring ill feelings about the way we were raised, the way we were treated by our middle school classmates, the fact we were overlooked for a promotion at work, or that our neighbor’s kid is captain of the football team, and ours is last chair saxophone in the high school band.

What do we do with those feeling of inequity, or jealousy, or resentment? Do we feed them? Grow them? Use them throughout the day to justify a bad temper or depression?

I’m projecting because the Bible doesn’t tell us Abimelech’s motivation behind the murder of his brothers. But common sense tells us he didn’t act the way he did out of love, or from a place of forgiveness.

There isn’t one of us reading this who hasn’t been mistreated or treated unfairly, who hasn’t been bullied or been made to feel inferior some time in our lives. Yet some of us still feel the anger, resentment, and jealousy years later. Some of us let our past justify our present, which causes even more ill feelings. Which can lead to destructive behavior.

The Apostle Paul knew what it was like to be mistreated. He knew what it was like to be homeless, penniless, hated and physically abused. Maybe in some people’s minds, he had a right to get even, or to feel anger or jealousy toward his abusers. But hear what Paul had to say about it all:

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 8-9)

Paul didn’t have time for a pity party. He didn’t feel the need to get even. In fact, he called his abuse “treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God, and not from us.” (verse 7)

Your past may have been truly awful. Some people imagine childhood abuse, you may have really lived it. People may actually treat you unfairly, actually do mean things to you. But none of that is an excuse for you inflicting harm on anyone else, even those guilty of hurting you.

In fact, none of us has an excuse for hurting others. Not with the words we say or the things we do. And holding on to jealousy or anger or bitterness is only hurting you. You do that to you.

We who know Jesus can, with Paul, look at the inequities of our lives and say confidently that we are not crushed, not in despair, not abandoned, or destroyed. Why? Because we have the Spirit of God living in us, and He is none of those things. In fact, the Spirit brings love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control with Him.

The Bible tells us that “all things work together for good” for those of us who love God. Do you believe that? I believe with all my heart that the good God brings out of our difficult circumstances is Himself. And we as His children have the privilege of revealing His “all-surpassing power” when we love instead of hate, when we do good to those who harm us, when we forgive as we have been forgiven.

Those of us who have the Spirit of God living in us have no excuse to do otherwise.