Tag Archives: judgment

Amos; The Day of the Lord

Years ago, the church I was affiliated with adopted the slogan, “Bring Back the King.” Amos tells us why that just might be dangerous thinking.

We Christians know without a doubt that we will live in heaven for eternity. For some, that assurance spurs them on to tell others so that they can have the same assurance through the blood of Jesus. For others, that sense of security creates a complacency. And that is what God addresses through Amos.

I don’t want to debate end-times events here, because there are differing opinions based on the same Scripture, and that’s not what God has laid on my heart today. But I think God is addressing one such opinion through Amos. I know many believe that God will rapture the Church before things get really bad here on planet Earth. Others believe the Church will go through the great suffering before the rapture. But often, when people talk about the pre-tribulation rapture, it is usually said with thanksgiving, and a sigh of relief. “Whew! We’re gonna dodge that bullet. Praise the Lord.”

Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord! Why do you long for the day of the Lord? That day will be darkness, not light. It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him. Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light – pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness? (6:18-20)

If the Church is raptured before a time of great suffering, and you’re ok with that – shame on you. Have you no compassion for the multitudes of people for whom Jesus died, but still don’t know Him, who will die in their sins and suffer eternity in hell?

“Oh,” some will say, “people will still get saved after we’re gone.” Does believing that give you an excuse to throw up your hands, and pray for the Day of the Lord while staring at your phone, trying to get to the next level on that all-important game you are playing?

God has a lot more to say through the shepherd/prophet Amos about judgment and sin, about restoration and grace. But God is speaking to me today about my own level of concern for lost people. Because judgment is coming, and we deserve it.

I don’t know when Jesus will return. I don’t know if the world will experience that great suffering the Bible talks about with or without the Church in its midst. But personally, I’m not going to pray for “The Day of the Lord,” or to “Bring Back the King” and not do everything I can while I am still able, to go, make disciples, share the good news of Jesus Christ before it’s too late.

Because Jesus is not willing that anyone die without Him. I shouldn’t be, either.

Joel; Only One Exit

A new trend these days is the “Escape Room.” These fun houses are popping up everywhere. Have you tried it? I confess I have not, although I think it sounds like fun. You and a few friends are locked in a room together. The clock is ticking, and you must find and follow the clues that will eventually open the door before time runs out. Of course, you are in no real danger. It’s you against the clock. But I can imagine the adrenaline rush as time ticks down.

I thought about that today as I read the book of Joel this morning. God is being very explicit as He inspires Joel to describe what was ahead for His disobedient children. Judgment is coming. It’s inevitable. And it’s ugly.

But within this book are the clues that can open the exit door:

“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart…” (2:12)

God goes on and tells His people to fast, weep, repent, because God is “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.” (2:13)

Someone has said you can’t flee from God’s judgment, except by fleeing to Him.

I hope you’ll read Joel today. It’s only three chapters. Hear God tell you that sin will be judged, and the consequences are devastating. Then hear Him tell you He’d much rather pour out His Spirit on you, to shower you with Living Water, and pardon your sins once and forever.

If you’ve never admitted you are a sinner, asked God to forgive you, and turned from your former way of life, I pray you’ll do that today. Judgment is coming. That’s a fact. And there is only one exit door.

His name is Jesus.

Ezekiel 21-25; What We Deserve

One thing about God is, as patient and loving as He is, there is a limit to what He will take from us. Sin in our world, in our country, our homes, our churches, our hearts will not go unpunished. And God, through Ezekiel’s example, tells us to quit whining about it.

God is a righteous Judge. And we’re only getting what we deserve:

“I the Lord have spoken. The time has come for me to act. I will not hold back; I will not have pity nor will I relent. You will be judged according to your conduct, and your actions,” declares the Sovereign Lord. (Ezekiel 24:14)

Yes, I know this was written to the flesh and blood nation of Israel during Ezekiel’s lifetime. But what makes us think God has changed His position concerning sin in 2018?

Another thing about God is, as right as He is to pass judgment, as justified as He is to punish us, He is still willing to forgive. Not just willing, but longing to forgive. And He Himself took on His own severe punishment so we wouldn’t have to.

If we repent.

Repentance isn’t just a quick, “I’m sorry,” to hear, “Oh, that’s okay.” It’s not an apology with no intention of changing. Repentance involves drastic change.

It’s not just putting idols in a closet, but destroying them never to bring them out ever again. It’s denying sin in any form, resisting the devil, fleeing youthful lusts. It’s living without even the appearance of evil. It’s a choice every day to die to self and live for God.

Doesn’t it feel as though our world is on the brink of a great disaster? The examples in the Bible tell me that’s not what God wants, but what our sin demands.

So, dear one – QUIT SINNING! Quit condoning sin, or ignoring it. Quit giving lip-service to worship and start obeying God with every step you take.

If we don’t, and judgment comes, we’d best not cry about how hard life has become. It’s only what we deserve.

I Kings 20-22; What We Deserve

Israel’s King Ahab was evil. His wife, Jezebel wasn’t much better. “There was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife.” (21:25) That’s quite the legacy.

They put a hit out on a guy so they could steal his vineyard. They blatantly worshiped idols. They were evil, and they encouraged evil in Israel. Doesn’t it seem fitting that these two receive their just desserts? Like leprosy or something?

However, God sent a prophet to Israel’s king and told him God was going to help Israel defeat their enemy. Wait. What? God was going to make this evil king successful?

Like it or not, that’s exactly what happened. Israel went to war with the Arameans and soundly beat them. Twice! Why would God give this rotten guy these victories? That’s just not how it’s supposed to happen. It’s just not right when evil people succeed.

Later on, after Naboth is murdered by order of Jezebel, God prompted Elijah to go to King Ahab and tell him he was going to die. His whole family was going to die for Ahab’s sin. From what I know of Elijah, that is probably one message he was more than happy to pass on to King Ahab. And it’s probably a message all of us think was long over due.

How did Ahab receive this message? He tore his clothes, he fasted, he put on sackcloth. And God noticed. 21:28 tells us God saw that Ahab humbled himself before Him. And for the next three years, Israel was free from war with the Arameans. Neither Ahab nor Jezebel died. Once again, this evil king seems to have gotten away with something. Ugh.

Well, old Ahab seemed to have gotten pretty comfortable in those three years of peace. Eventually he defied God again, and this time it cost him, and Jezebel, their lives.

Sometimes it’s hard to figure God out, isn’t it? It just seems obvious that good people should have good things happen to them and bad people should suffer. But if you’ve lived more than ten minutes on this planet, you know that just isn’t how things go.

In 20:13, before Ahab fought any battle with the Arameans, God explained Himself. It’s something I think all of us need to take notice of.

I will give it (the battle)  into your hand today, and then you will know I AM the Lord.

I am reminded that God is not willing that anyone die without him. That includes the terrorist, the child molester, or the neighbor who dumps their yard waste into your yard. (Ok. That last one was a personal note to self)

Your idea of justice isn’t the same as God’s. Your idea of justice is immediate, sometimes emotional, and certainly limited to this lifetime. God’s idea of justice is patient, loving, and eternal. Everything good that happens to a bad person happens to reveal God to them, just like the good things Ahab experienced revealed God to him.

And here’s something we don’t like to think about. Anything good that happens to you… anything good… is God’s grace. I don’t care how good you think you are, you don’t deserve one moment of the blessings that are yours every day. You are a sinner. You deserve God’s wrath as much as that drug dealer or rapist you read about on the news. If you got what you deserved, well, let’s just say I’m glad none of us get what we deserve in this lifetime.

God is full of grace. Every moment of every day He is working in my life and yours to reveal Himself. Sometimes He does it with victories in battle. Sometimes He does it with hardship and pain. But in and through everything that happens, there is one underlying reason: God.

God wants us to know Him. God wants us to love Him, to worship Him, to rest in Him.

The next time you secretly hope someone gets what you think they deserve, pray instead that they receive what Jesus died to give them. Not because they deserve it. But because God does.

Righteous Judge, I have to confess that sometimes I am frustrated that sinners seem to prosper and Christians don’t. I seem to have my own sense of fairness, and wonder why You don’t share my insight. I’m sorry about that. When you told us not to judge, lest we be judged, I think you were talking along these lines. I don’t want to judge You for working in ways I don’t understand. Help me to deal with the sin of my own life, as you reveal it to me, and allow You deal with the sin in others’ lives as You see fit. And, Lord, let me never forget how blessed I am that You don’t give me what I deserve.

 

Exodus 7-12 Why Isn’t Anyone Mad At Pharaoh?

One of my dad’s favorite movies was “The African Queen.” There is a scene in it where Charlie and Rose, heading down the river in his boat to get away from the Germans, drop anchor near the shore for the night. They aren’t there long when gnats start to swarm around them. Charlie immediately pulls up the anchor and heads toward mid-river to get away from the pesky insects. Rose bats her arms, then tries to cover her head, she pulls a tarp over her but the gnats are relentless. She shivers, and cries, and pleads for Charlie to do something. Eventually, they get far enough away from shore where there are no more gnats.

Rose is embarrassed. She apologizes for going “mad.” But Charlie assures her it’s a natural response to the swarming insects. He tells her whole herds of cattle have been known to drown in an attempt to escape the little buggers.

I can kind of relate. My nephews and their families are visiting me on the island this week. The sprawling live oak trees and hanging moss are charming, but they are also a haven for noseeums, tiny, biting gnats that can drive you mad. We’ve made a couple attempts at playing at the playground, but it doesn’t take long before the gnats drive us home.

So it’s no surprise I think about this as I read about the plagues in these chapters in Exodus. That plague alone would have been enough to get my attention, I think.

There are so many things God would have us know about Him in the account of the plagues that seem to culminate in the devasting deaths of thousands of men and boys. I’ve read these chapters several times over the past couple of days, I’ve pulled out my commentaries, and talked to some people whose insight I appreciate. I’ve prayed, and meditated. And I’d like to share my thoughts.

It’s hard to reconcile a loving God with the seeming murder of innocents. But we can’t look at the last plague without starting at the beginning. I’m going to address the first hard lesson, found in 7:3. God is going to harden Pharaoh’s heart. That just doesn’t seem fair, if it means Pharaoh is a puppet in God’s hand.

But God is not a puppeteer. What he said about Pharaoh is a warning to us. The truth of the matter is, God will harden your heart, too, if you reject Him. That’s how we are created. God woos, and draws, and loves us to Himself. In the account of the plagues we see a God who stops at nothing to get our attention. But He takes rejection very seriously. And with each rejection, He wants us to know we are in danger of becoming used to rejecting Him.

Did God harden Pharaoh’s heart? Yes. But He hardened Pharaoh’s heart because Pharaoh rejected Him. And He’d like us to learn from Pharaoh’s example.

Now let’s look at the attempts God made to get Pharaoh to listen to Him. First, He had Moses throw down the staff that turned into a snake. Harmless enough. But impressive. Pharaoh was not impressed. Rejection #1. A corner of a heart hardened.

Next, the Nile turned to a river of blood. Gross. Inconvenient. But again, Pharaoh didn’t budge. Rejection #2. A heart a bit more hardened.

A week goes by, then Moses tells Pharaoh if he doesn’t obey God, frogs will come out of the Nile and fill their houses. Yuck. Rejection #3. But there’s more. After Pharaoh pleaded with Moses to get rid of the frogs, Moses said “Ok, Pharaoh. You pick the time so that you know for certain this is from God.” Pharaoh picked the time. Moses prayed. The frogs left when Pharaoh said. This had to be from God. Rejection #4. It was getting easier to reject God. A harder heart still.

Then came the gnats. I’m sorry, but the story would have ended there if I’d been in Pharaoh’s shoes. I hate those gnats so much! But Pharaoh? Rejection #5, and a heart a bit more hard.

I hope you read these chapters. The plagues continue. Flies, then dead livestock, then boils, hail and fire, locusts. Each plague got a bit more difficult, a bit more severe. And with every plague, God is revealed as powerful, almighty, worthy of worship, and serious about obedience. Pharaoh’s response? Rejections # 6,7,8,9,10,11… And with each rejection a heart that is so hard, it has no trouble rejecting any attempt of God to bring Pharaoh to his knees.

But here is the other thing. It wasn’t just Pharaoh who was ignoring God’s attempts to get him to obey Him. The Egyptian citizens were experiencing the same plagues in their own homes. Why didn’t any of them step up and turn to God? They were not as innocent as some have painted them to be. They would have been saved, according to everything I know about the God of the Bible, had they acknowledged Him as the One True God to be worshiped, if they had obeyed Him instead of rejecting him.

The story of the plagues is actually a story about a patient and, yes, a loving God. God could have wiped out the Egyptians BEFORE Moses ever threw down that staff. He could have given them no warning at all. But God is not, and never has been, willing that anybody perish without Him. And this account tells me He is the God of second chances, and third, and fourth…

It’s easy to shake a fist at God if the only thing we consider is the death of those Egyptians. But why isn’t anyone mad at Pharaoh? Why don’t we shake a fist at him for his arrogance, his repeated denial of God’s supremacy, His rejection of God’s way?

Today, some will tell you a loving God wouldn’t send anyone to hell. But the same God who was that serious about obedience in the book of Exodus is still serious about obedience in 2017. Disobedience equals a death sentence. It’s been that way from the beginning. It’s that way today. And it will be that way tomorrow.

But just like God will provide a way of salvation for Moses and the Jewish believers, He provides a way of salvation for each of us. God HIMSELF, in human form paid the death sentence for each of us. He died so that any who accepts Him on His terms will be saved. Anyone.

Today, and every day, He will try to get your attention. He’ll give you repeated opportunities to accept Him. And He will be faithful to forgive when you ask Him to. If Pharaoh had accepted God, I believe we’d be reading a different account of how the Israelites gained the Promised Land.

Holy God, I pray that we will not allow Satan to stall us on that final plague. Help us to consider the whole picture and see You for Who You are, a patient and loving God who is not willing that any should perish. But also help us recognize that there will come a time when disobedience will be judged. You will be obeyed. Or else. Thank You for Jesus who took on Himself my death penalty for the sins I’ve committed. I pray that all who read this post will know the joy of sins forgiven through the blood of Your Precious Son. Thank you for working in our lives to bring us to the Savior. And thank you for second chances.

August 1 – Vindication

Isaiah 54-58

Sometimes I think we read passages like these in Isaiah and forget that God’s ultimate plan is not the downfall of a disobedient USA, or the rise of the Jewish nation, but rather the end of the spiritual battle between God and Satan. I read how God promises to vindicate His people, to condemn accusers, to defeat the enemy, to establish His people in righteousness, and I realize He’s talking about something greater than planet Earth.

The ultimate vindication is when all of God’s enemies will bow before Him and admit He is who He says He is. Everything that happens up to that point happens in preparation of that great day. God wins. Satan is defeated. We who belong to God will see our accusers admit that they were wrong.

“No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their vindication is from Me,” declares the Lord. (54:7)

Vindication. Eternity. Done.

July 17 – Lessons Still Unlearned

2 Chronicles 28, 2 Kings 16-17

I’ve never counted how many times the nation of Israel, blessed by God, sinned and endured punishment, only to repent and be blessed once again, then sin and face judgement. That cycle seems to be a major theme in the Old Testament.

I find myself frustrated with the Jews because of their weakness. Why couldn’t they just learn to obey? Why couldn’t they hold on to the One True God who dramatically proved His superiority over and over?

Then, just when I find myself getting angry with the ancient Jews for “walking in the customs of the nations whom the Lord had driven out” (2 Kings 17:8), the pages of God’s Word become a mirror, and I am face to face with my own weaknesses.

It’s easy to read these chapters as a history lesson and miss the living Truth right in front of me. I find I can’t condemn Israel with condemning myself.

God, I want to be steadfast and sure. I want to hold strong to the Truth of Scripture, to the God of Creation, to my Savior, my Lord. Forgive me if I look at the world and want what they have. What they have leads to judgment. I want to be faithful to You only. Be my strength. In Jesus’ name.