Tag Archives: knowing God

There’s no fool like an… (Isaiah 42)

If you read the history of God in Old Testament Israel, you will see one miraculous event after another. You will hear God declare Himself in no uncertain terms as Creator and Savior, Holy and demanding holiness. You will see him judge – and forgive – sin over and over again.

If you had been a Jew at the time, you would have experienced God in very tangible, first-hand ways. Even other nations witnessed God in Israel, and recognized Him as something uniquely powerful and real. Yet people still worshiped idols, carved wooden figures that could not hear, speak, or move to rescue. Even faced with the evidence that God is God, they continued to reject Him.

Not just Gentiles, either. Jews rejected God, too. This is what God says about that:

Hear, you deaf; look, you blind, and see! Who is blind but my servant, and deaf like the messenger I send? Who is blind like the one committed to me, blind like the servant of the Lord? You have seen many things, but have paid no attention; your ears are open, but you hear nothing. (42:18-20)

It is sad when a person is physically and medically unable to hear. But the deafness of a hearing person is foolishness. A seeing person who refuses to see is unimaginable, and foolish. Yet God accuses His people of choosing deafness and blindness when they were, in fact, capable of hearing and seeing what was right in front of them.

You’ve heard it said, “there is no fool like an old fool.” I think God is saying there is no deafness like the one who refuses to hear, no blindness like the one refusing to see.

God had spelled everything out, had demonstrated exactly who He was, made “his law great and glorious.” Yet instead of living with the blessings of bowing to God, they had become plunder to their enemies. Instead of living in peace, they lived with “the violence of war.” How foolish could they be?

Well, before I get too judgmental here toward the Old Testament Jews, I am reminded that God has revealed Himself in unmistakable ways here in 2020, too. For one thing, we have the benefit of holding His own Words in our hands, reading them whenever we want. We can listen to preachers and teachers who hold true to the Truth that is Jesus as found in Scripture. We have eyes to see His creation, ears to hear His still, small voice, or the thunder of His voice from the skies.

Yet some of us are still worshiping idols of our own making. We worship self, money, power, right-ness. We honor rock stars and athletes above God. We listen to politicians while we ignore what God says. We spend more time pursuing fun than we do in pursuit of God.

God would tell us today that there is no fool like a blind seeing person or a hearing person who refuses to listen.

Which of you will listen to this or pay close attention in time to come? (verse 23)

Exactly! (2 Chronicles 30)

God was very clear about how the Old Testament Jew was to approach Him. There were strict laws to follow, including a very important purification ceremony. They were not to participate in the Passover unless they first went through the process of purification spelled out by God Himself. These rituals were important and pointed to God and the coming Messiah.

So when a bunch of Jews came to Jerusalem to celebrate the first Passover since the Temple had been restored, they got there too late to do the purification thing. They jumped right into celebrating the feast without going through the prerequisites. Not good.

So King Hezekiah prayed God would forgive “everyone who sets his heart on seeking God… even if he is not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.” (verses 19-20)

I had to stop and think about that because God has made it pretty clear that He has set the rules and His rules stand. You don’t just get a free pass if you are sincere. Yet these people seem to have been given a free pass because of their sincerity.

Is that what I should take from this? Does God accept any and all worship if a heart is sincere? NO! That is not the lesson here at all.

As I was thinking and praying about this, God brought to mind an example in my own life. Years ago I was the choir director at a Christian Church where salvation through baptism was preached. In fact, there were some dear people in that congregation who firmly believed heaven was being prepared for people of that denominational affiliation only.

Anyway, one Sunday I was shocked when, after the invitation during the morning worship service, two teenage boys went forward to pray to receive Jesus and be baptized. (The baptismal was always full and ready to go.) The pastor got on his knees with the boys at the altar and quietly prayed with them. He took a minute or so to have a private conversation with them, then stood up to face the congregation.

Now this is what shocked me: he announced to the congregation that the boys agreed to come back to be baptized during the evening service instead of right then at the end of the morning service. We sang a hymn, and the service ended.

I spoke with the paster after church. He had plans that afternoon and didn’t feel like he had time to baptize the boys and get to where he needed to be on time. I asked him if that wasn’t a bit hypocritical, seeing he preached you can’t be saved unless you’ve been baptized. What if the boys die this afternoon without being baptized?

He answered, “Well, then God will judge their hearts.”

EXACTLY!!!

I feel God brought that memory to mind today to emphases that fact. I think in the case of the Jews for whom Hezekiah prayed, God is giving a glimpse of the New Covenant, His rules after the cross. Salvation is NOT found in religion, or in religious activities, not in sacrifices, not in baptism, or church attendance, or reciting prayers, or doing things like carrying a Bible, abstaining from alcohol, not shopping on Sunday, or whatever else one thinks looks Christian.

God judges the heart.

Here’s the other thing, though. The Jews in these verses weren’t sincerely worshiping Baal or some other figment of imagination. They were sincerely worshiping the God of the Bible. Not religion. God.

The point is, God sees the heart. He alone knows which of us have confessed our sins and accepted the gift of grace through the blood of Jesus. That is salvation. Whosoever believes. (John 3:16) If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)

It’s not a religion. It’s not a ceremony. It isn’t even praying a certain prayer. Hezekiah prayed for everyone who “sets his heart on seeking God.” It’s all about God.

So I ask you: Are you sincerely seeking God? If you are, you will have to look into His Word, seek Him as He revealed Himself in those pages of the Bible. You might have to give up your preconceived notions of ceremony or the rules of the sanctuary or denomination you attend.

But God promises that if you seek Him with all your heart you WILL find Him. (Deuteronomy 4:29, Jeremiah 29:13, among others) He isn’t hiding or playing games here. He wants you to know Him. And He wants to forgive your sins if you’d just ask.

Let’s not get so caught up in religion that we miss the most important thing: our hearts’ condition before a Holy God. He knows what is in there. And He will judge us accordingly.

 

Blessed Because (Psalm 145)

It is often that the verses my mother underlined in the Book of Psalms have to do with God’s love, protection, and faithfulness. Just in this one psalm, Mom underlined four verses:

“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.” (vs 3)

“The Lord is faithful to all his promises…” (vs 13b)

“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” (vs 18)

“The Lord watches over all who love him…” (vs 20a)

David tells us that God is worthy of praise. He is faithful, near to us, and watches over us. These verses are timely considering the unrest surrounding COVID 19. I pray that they are your experience in all this, that you are resting in the knowledge that God is with you every step of the way. I hope you aren’t living in fear like those who have no hope.

Mom seemed to understand the correlation between our personal relationship with God, and His blessings on us. He is near to all who call on him. But in verse 18, David repeats that thought with this caveat: “to all who call on him in truth.”

It’s a mistake to think God comes near to just anyone who prays, or just anyone who isn’t an axe murderer. Not all roads lead to God. Scripture makes it clear that if we want to be near to God, we have to come to Him in truth. How can you know that truth?

Jesus said HE IS THE TRUTH. (John 14:6) You draw near to God through His Son. Period. Read God’s Word. You will find the absolute one and only truth by which you can enjoy a closeness with God.

God doesn’t protect just everyone, either. He protects those who love him, according to  the psalmist. Scripture talks a lot about love, and what love for God looks like. It’s not just three words, “I love God.” Love for God involves obedience, sacrifice of self, commitment, and a servant’s heart that lives love out of gratitude for what God has done. God’s protection is reserved for those who love Him, to those who have accepted what Jesus died to give, the forgiveness of sin and a glorious eternal home.

God’s blessings are directly related to our relationship with Him. Because, no matter what happens, if we live or die, if we have a brick home or a cardboard box, if we are a part of a big old family or alone, those of us who know Him have God! And those of us who know Him know it doesn’t get any better than that.

I am blessed because of my relationship with the Creator, Holy, Eternal God through His Son Jesus. I pray you can say the same.

18 Reasons To Praise God, from Psalm 103

  1. He forgives my sin
  2. He heals my diseases
  3. He redeems my life
  4. He crowns me with love and compassion
  5. He satisfies my desires with good things
  6. He renews my strength
  7. He is right and just all the time
  8. He is compassionate and gracious toward me
  9. He is slow to get angry with me
  10. He overflows with love for me
  11. He doesn’t stay angry forever
  12. He doesn’t give me what my sins deserve
  13. He loves. (He is love)
  14. He removes my sin completely, forever.
  15. He is a compassionate Father
  16. He knows how I was made, understanding my humanity
  17. He sits on His throne in heaven and rules my life
  18. He loves and blesses all who fear Him

Praise the Lord!

The More You Know (Exodus 33-35)

One of the verses Mom underlined in her Bible is Exodus 33:13. I love this so much about her, and want this to be my prayer, too:

If I have found favor in your eyes, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you.

So many times my prayers sound more like, “If I have found favor in your eyes, heal me, or pay my rent, or make me happy.” Moses (and Mom) prayed, “If I have found favor draw me closer to You, let me know You better, Lord.”

Reading that verse makes me ask myself about the focus of my life and my relationship with my Savior. Is it health? Wealth? Happiness? Or is it God Himself, knowing Him, growing in Him, loving Him rather than always focusing on His love for me? I want my focus to be on God alone, about obeying Him and fellowshipping with Him. But sometimes what I want doesn’t translate into what I really do every day. Sometimes I’m more about me.

Mom also underlined 34:6, about what God said about Himself. Moses asked God for the privilege of knowing Him better, and in response God said this about Himself:

The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness…

God always answers the prayer, “teach me about you.” He has everything we need to know about Him in the pages of Scripture. Do you know the compassionate God He IS? Have you experienced His grace? Do you know that, although God is a righteous judge who hates sin, He is slow to anger, that He gives chance after chance after chance for us to repent BEFORE he drops the hammer?

The more you know these things about God, the more you want to know, and experience. And God never disappoints.

I go back to 33:14, God’s reply to Moses’ prayer about getting to know Him better:

My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.

I want to know more about that!

November 14; To Change or Not To Change, That Is The Question

Acts 7:54-9:31

Simon believed he was someone great. He wasn’t the only one. It sounds like he had quite a following. His sorcery must have been amazing, because people even thought he was divine.

That is, until they heard Philip preach the “good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus.” Many believed in Jesus, and were baptized – including Simon. Simon ended up following Philip around after that. Being a sorcerer, he was amazed at the miracles he saw Philip do.

Then when Simon witnessed Peter and John placing their hands on believers who then received the Holy Spirit, he wanted in on the action. He was willing to buy that ability. Peter recognized Simon for who he really was, and addressed Simon’s sin in no uncertain terms. “You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right with God.”

Simon had believed in Jesus. But Simon was still the same old Simon. His heart had not changed.

Saul, on the other hand, was not only NOT a believer, he had dedicated his life to destroying the church by getting rid of anyone who did believe in Jesus. But his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus changed him.

Completely.

Saul became Paul who then dedicated his life to sharing Jesus with everyone, in hopes that everyone would believe. Paul’s belief in Jesus didn’t stop with the knowledge that Jesus is the Savior. Paul’s belief in Jesus changed his heart.

Do you believe? Scripture tells us even the demons believe, and shudder. (James 2:19). Belief is the first step, but it isn’t the only step.

If accepting Jesus as your Savior hasn’t changed you, let me suggest you check your heart. Is your belief head-knowledge, or a heart-changing, person-transforming, sin-defeating relationship with God Himself?

Change, or no change? That’s the question. And the answer is the difference between being a child of God, and being someone who has no part in His ministry, His kingdom.

Let your belief in Jesus change you.

October 3; Hometown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s just not enough.

September 10; Marvelous

Zechariah 7-8; Ezra 5-6

Many times in Scripture God challenges our motivation. Why is it we do what we do for Him? Why do we worship?

“Is it really for me,” God asks, “or for you?”

Zechariah shares that God is going to return to Jerusalem, His people will enjoy prosperity once again. Then He says, “It may seem marvelous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?” (Zechariah 6:6)

We can’t deny that God has blessed His Church in America for centuries. We sit comfortably in our cushioned chairs with air-conditioning and state of the art technology, coffee in hand. We feel pretty blessed to be living in a land where we can go to church without fear. Many Christians in other parts of the world don’t share that reality. We are truly blessed.

It seems marvelous to us. But what is God’s take on it?

God makes it clear He’s not interested in the show. He is only interested in our hearts. Do we get out of bed every Sunday to worship God in Truth? Or do we go to church because it makes us feel good? Is our motivation for giving, or volunteering, or visiting shut-ins, our own self-esteem, or have we emptied ourselves and allowed God to use us for His glory?

I’m reminded there are some who are doing things in Jesus’ name, who don’t really know Him. In the end, those people will join the unrepentant sinners in an ugly eternity separated from God.

Let’s not take our blessings for granted. But let’s also not forget why and Who we worship. I pray that our motivation for life, and worship will be to please God out of grateful hearts for what Jesus did for us. Period. I pray that what seems marvelous to us, will be truly and gloriously marvelous to God.

September 5; The Other

Ezra 2:21-70; Nehemiah 7:26-73a

Monday I shared that we had been evacuated from our island due to the threat of Hurricane Dorian. I’m thankful today to tell you we are able to go home. The storm has passed, and it’s safe to be on the island again.

The Jews we read about today in Ezra and Nehemiah are going home, too. Finally after seventy years of captivity, they were free. They didn’t know what to expect when they got there, but they were on their way home and, if they were anything like us returning islanders, they were excited. There is just something about going home, isn’t there?

The passages we read today are full of genealogies. Ezra reports name after name of people whose families were going home. And if reading the phone book isn’t boring enough for you, Nehemiah does us the favor of repeating the same list. So we get to read the list of name after name after name, twice! Woo Hoo!

What can we learn from these lists? Well, my friend, never blow off what God has breathed into print. He has something to say on every page of the Bible.

Here’s a blast from the past: “Newhart.” Bob and wife running an inn. A scraggly hillbilly comes through the door, followed by two more scraggly hillbillies. He introduces himself, “My name is Larry. This is my brother Darryl, this is my other brother Darryl.” (You are going to have to be a certain age to remember this one! Sorry, kids.)

I thought of them this morning as I read this genealogy record, then read it again. Because in Ezra 2:31, then again in Nehemiah 7:34 we meet “the other Elam.” Makes me wonder about the other Elam, or the first Elam, or the more important Elam. What would cause a person to be known as “the other?”

Most of us would admit that we like to be the one recognized as important, significant, talented, irreplaceable, whatever. We at least like to be recognized for what we have contributed to the work of God. But here we have a man who the only thing we know about him is, he isn’t THE Elam. He’s the other one.

This is what God whispered in my ear as I read this today. This Elam is going home. This Elam is listed with those who were freed from slavery, and he and his family were going home. He won’t be remembered for anything other than his freedom, and his destination. That’s all we need to know.

And that’s what needs to be known about each of us. Are you a Christian? Have you repented of sin and asked God to give you what Jesus’ death bought you? Do you know the Savior?

Then, friend, you are free! You are free from the chains and the penalty of sin. You are God’s child in every sense of the word, and you are headed home. Home! Eternity with God in glory.

And I know, without a doubt that when you look into Jesus’ eyes He won’t see you as just another Christian, or “the other” sinner He died for. You will look into His eyes and know He sees no-one but you, loves no-one more than He loves you, considers no-one else more important than you.

You won’t be “the other.” You will be “the one!”

 

 

 

 

August 10; Mind-Blowing

Ezekiel 1-4

Have you ever wanted to see God? The Old Testament tells us a person could not look God in the face and live. He is that Holy, that awesome, truly mind-blowing. Once in a while though, God gives us a peek. Once in a while God cracks open the door with the “Do Not Enter” sign, and shows us a glimpse of Himself.

Like here in Ezekiel’s vision. Now, I’m not going to try to draw a picture of four living creatures with multiple faces and wings, because that is not what God looks like. It is, however, who God wants us to see. It’s what God wants us to know about Himself.

I see a force that reveals God in nature, a power so incredible that the sun doesn’t rise without God raising it, animals and birds don’t even move unless He moves.  I see a fire burning so brightly we can’t get close. We are all subject to the One in Ezekiel’s vision.

And this is what thrills me about this awesome, untouchable God: Ezekiel “saw a hand stretched out to (him)” (2:9). In that hand was a scroll that Ezekiel was instructed to eat. Do you see what I see?

Scripture makes it plain that we cannot even hope to approach God. We can never go to Him. He is too holy, too powerful, too awesome. So He comes to us!

He comes to us in the form of Scripture, that scroll Ezekiel ate, the Bible you hold in your hand. God is in there and He wants you to know Him through His own words. He doesn’t want you to just read it. He wants you to ingest it, devour it, make it a part of you.

He comes to us in the human person of Jesus, His Son. God experienced life on earth, not so He could understand what it was like to be human, but so humans could be assured He’s always understood us. Jesus came, died, and rose again so that “Do Not Enter” sign could be removed once and for all who accept what Jesus did for them.

Ezekiel’s response to seeing this vision was to fall on his face in worship. He sat for seven days afterward, “overwhelmed.” And that’s what I want my response to be, too.

When faced with the reality of who God truly is, I can only fall on my face before Him and cry, “Holy! Holy! Holy!” I am unworthy to stand in His Presence. But look at what God does when Ezekiel was facedown in the dirt:

As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. (2:2)

Wow. Just, Wow!

This holy, untouchable God wants to be touched. We can’t reach up to Him, but He reaches down to us, and lifts us up to Himself. It’s not an out-of-body experience. It’s an out-of-self experience. The Spirit of God comes into me and raises me to great heights that I cannot hope to reach without Him.

To think that the God of the Universe, the Creator God, Holy, Holy Holy, reaches down to me to lift me up, that He wants me to be with Him, that He loves me, died for me. And one day, I will look straight into His face without fear, because I have received what He Himself bought for me.

Mind-blowing.