Tag Archives: obedience

(Haggai) What You Believe and What You Choose

In reference to the words of the prophet Haggai, my study Bible says this:

“To acknowledge the Lord as God has implications for ordinary decisions of life. It is to live before One who is all-knowing, all-powerful, and who has an agenda. He has a plan that impinges on the details of our lives.” (CSB Apologetics Study Bible; 2017; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, TN; p1143)

Do you believe in God? Then how does knowing He knows all, sees all, and has a plan for you that requires your obedience, effect the choices you’ll make today? I’m talking about your choice of clothing, the places you choose to go, the thoughts you allow yourself to think. How does your belief in God impact your day-to-day?

Haggai brings up an important point. It has to do with how close we choose to live with sin before we ourselves become stained with sin. He paints a picture of someone in dirty clothes rubbing shoulders with someone clean. Does the cleanness ever rub off on the filth so that the filth becomes clean?

Have you ever hugged a dirty, smelly person, and watched the dirt fall from their clothes, and their stench replaced by the scent of your shower gel? The answer, of course, is NO.

But, if you hug that dirty, smelly person, you walk away with smudges on your clothes, and the lingering scent of body odor on your skin. You walk away needing a bath yourself.

You catch diseases by being close to the diseased. But they never catch your health by being close to you.

Choices. You and I will make them today according to what we believe about God. And your choices will impact whether or not God’s will will be done in your life today.

(Hosea 1-3) A Real Life Object Lesson

Hosea lived a dramatic object lesson. It’s so dramatic there are people who believe he never actually married a prostitute. They would tell you God simply gave Hosea a parable to tell to the people, the lesson being what their unfaithfulness looked like to a faithful God. Their reasoning is that God would not tell a priest to marry a prostitute because that was strictly forbidden by God’s law.

Myself? I believe Hosea married a prostitute named Gomer in obedience to God, just like other prophets obeyed God by running around naked, or lying on their side for months at a time, or digging through walls with their bare hands, or burying leather belts. I believe the Jews’ rejection of God was as unthinkable as a priest marrying a prostitute, and that was the point of the object lesson. It was a lesson the Jews wouldn’t miss because Hosea married a real life prostitute.

I see myself in this object lesson – faithless, unclean, disgustingly drawn to sin, yet loved by a faithful God who longs to forgive and restore me to Himself. I see a God who blesses me even though I don’t deserve it, blesses me even though I might be faithful today, yet knowing I’ll fail Him tomorrow.

I want to recognize myself in Gomer, as filthy as she is, and learn a lesson here. Rather than pointing a finger at her, I want to recognize God pointing His finger at me:

“You are a sinner, Connie. But I love you. You are unfaithful, Connie, but I want to forgive you. Come to me, Connie. I long to bring you home.”

So today, as I read this first part of Hosea I am encouraged to return God’s love from a purity that isn’t mine. I want to be the woman he sees in me. I want to please Him rather than myself, love Him like He deserves, and run from any sin that would separate us.

I don’t want to miss what God wants me to learn through Hosea’s real life object lesson.

(Lamentations) Lord, Bring Us Back

If the Old Testament nation of Israel is a picture of the New Testament Church, all of us should share in Jeremiah’s grief. The frightening truth is that if God could turn His back on His chosen people, if the city of Jerusalem and the temple there could be destroyed, the Church had better pay attention.

Read Lamentations with our modern Church in mind. There are so many spiritual red flags here, from a look at starvation in a spiritual sense, to cannibalism which speaks to me of parents – and church members – who try to get what they want out of God while sacrificing the spiritual needs of their children, to the Church once revered now an object of scorn by the world, and seen as an enemy to be destroyed by some.

We have reason to lament.

God’s protection has always been linked to obedience. But there are people who believe the Church is somehow different, that because Jesus told Peter that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church, that the Church’s position on earth is untouchable.

Israel wasn’t untouchable. Jerusalem wasn’t. The temple wasn’t. And it’s my opinion that the Church in 2021 isn’t untouchable, either. God’s demand to be obeyed is as binding as it was in Jeremiah’s day. And disobedience means separation from God, and destruction.

An obedient Church is untouchable.

I am thankful that every time God warns His children about the coming consequences for our disobedience, He leaves us with a bit of hope. The writer of Lamentations prays:

Lord, bring us back to yourself, so we may return; renew our days as in former times, unless you have completely rejected us and are intensely angry with us. (5:21-22)

Yes, Lord. Bring us back to yourself.

(Jeremiah 46-49) Doing The Lord’s Business

God’s not a fool. And we are foolish if we think He is. We might go to church, teach a Sunday School class, visit the sick, give generously. But if we have not confessed sin, if we do those things with any other motive than to be obedient to our King, God says this to us:

The one who does the Lord’s business deceitfully is cursed. The one who withholds his sword from bloodshed is cursed. (48:10)

Bloodshed? Surely not!

Actually, Jeremiah was speaking of war, of destroying God’s flesh and blood enemies. But thankfully, after the cross, we are not told to kill anyone! We’re told to love our enemies.

Yet what Jeremiah said can and does apply to us. We need to destroy sin in our lives, cut it out, without mercy. Satan is the enemy that applies here. And we cannot withhold bloodshed against him by ignoring sin in our lives.

We can do all the right things and be first in line to volunteer for a ministry. But if we haven’t dealt with our sin at the foot of the cross, we do God’s business deceitfully. And we are cursed.

Jesus Himself addressed this in Matthew 7:21-23:

Not every who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?” Then I will announce to them, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!

The lesson for us here in Jeremiah and in Jesus’ own word in Matthew is: Deal with the enemy of your soul first by confessing your sin and accepting God’s grace through Jesus’ blood…

THEN get busy doing the Lord’s business! For His sake and His glory!

(Jeremiah 23-25) Do We Fear God?

The Jews considered themselves God’s chosen, most loved people on earth. Yet they acted like the rest of the world. They claimed to know God – but they did not fear Him.

Their preachers were preaching lies, and the people were soaking it up. God was about to show them what their lack of fear got them.

I wonder if Christians today really fear God. Our divorce rate rivals that of non-Christians. (yes, many non-Christians choose to live together without marriage, but so do many Christians these days). Some Christians carelessly use the Holy Name of God in their speech. There are Christians who lie, are judgmental, laugh at dirty jokes. Christians blend in with the world more and more every day. And many people who consider themselves Christians don’t even bother going to church on Sunday morning.

I’m not sure we fear God. And I think we are seeing the tip of the iceberg what that lack of fear will get us.

(Jeremiah 17-19) God Doesn’t Do Useless

We who have met Jesus at the foot of the cross, and accepted His death as a substitute for our own, want to serve Him. We want to obey. We want to live lives that bring Him joy and show how much we appreciate what He’s done on our behalf. We want to be the clay jar; clean, emptied, ready and eager to be filled and poured out for His purposes.

We want to.

But we convince ourselves a little smudge here and there can’t do harm. A tiny crack is no big deal. The pot can be used for a lot of things, even if it doesn’t hold water, right?

Wrong.

God says He will take that corrupted clay jar and shatter it. 19:11 tells us He shatters the potter’s jar that can never again be mended. Shatters it.

Just this week a dear friend posted a picture on FaceBook of two coffee mugs, filled with dirt and a few plants, she’d set on her window sill. Those mugs had been her husband’s favorite mugs, mugs he used every day for years until his death 18 months ago. It’s a sweet picture, a tender memory of this man she misses so much. She re-purposed those mugs in a creative and even useful way.

God doesn’t do that.

God doesn’t place a useless pot on the shelf to admire, or to remember how useful it used to be. He shatters it, destroy it, gets rid of it.

Now that’s not to say that God can’t perform a miracle and restore that useless pot to it’s original state. That’s a lesson on repentance, and that’s not the lesson God is speaking to me about today.

I hear God telling me not to entertain sin in any form – not in thought, not in a careless word, not in action. Because each smudge, every crack has the potential of rendering the pot useless.

And God doesn’t do useless.

(Isaiah 47-59) Go Ahead And Choose

Throughout Scripture we are told that, since we have the God-given ability to choose, we must choose wisely or face the consequences. We see that played out in the history of God in Israel in the Old Testament: the Exodus, the taking of the Promised Land, the years Israel was led by one king after another, etc.

We hear it from the mouths of the prophets of God. And we hear it in the New Testament from the mouth of God Himself in the person of Jesus Christ:

I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

Isaiah tells us to go ahead and make the choice to follow our own way, make up our own rules, live by our own wisdom and means. That is our privilege as people created by God in His image. But Isaiah, speaking for God, also warns us that if we choose to do our own thing, we won’t like what comes next.

Look, all you who kindle a fire, who encircle yourselves with torches; walk in the light of your fire and of the torches you have lit! This is what you’ll get from my hand; you will lie down in a place of torment. (50:11)

You can argue all day about whether or not there even is a God. You can twist Scripture to fit your world-view, to justify and tolerate sin. You can even flat out reject the whole thing. That, in God’s Sovereignty, is your privilege.

But your choice is not without rewards and/or consequences. God is very clear about that. You can choose Him and obey His rules and receive His blessings both now and eternally. Or you can choose something else, and receive His punishment.

Choose obedience. Choose Truth. Choose God.

If you have read this today, you WILL make a choice. Not choosing IS choosing to reject Him. Right now, this minute, you are faced with a life-changing choice.

Go ahead and choose.

(Isaiah 36-39) One And Done

Satan is never one and done. And his tactics haven’t changed since the days of Hezekiah.

First, the evil one tried intimidation to get Hezekiah to surrender to him. Hezekiah went to the Lord, and stood firm.

But the devil isn’t easily deflected. He sent his army. This was war! Hezekiah went to God and in one night 185,000 of Satan’s soldiers were killed as easily as I can wipe out an entire ant colony by stepping on it.

So Satan attacked Hezekiah’s body. The king was sure he was going to die. But instead of giving up on God, Hezekiah went to God. And God gave the king fifteen more years of life.

Take THAT, Satan!

Intimidation, war, physical illness, – none of those altered Hezekiah’s devotion to God. But Satan is never one and done (or three and done). This time Satan used flattery.

No threats. No arrows. Satan used a smooth-talking group of his representatives, and made Hezekiah feel important. Their flattery awakened pride in Hezekiah and he couldn’t wait to show off his accomplishments. More flattery.

Hezekiah never went to God when the Babylonian envoy came for an “innocent” visit. Why would he? It certainly didn’t look like an attack. It didn’t sound like threats. There could be no harm in being cordial, right? Satan (and God) were the furthest things from Hezekiah’s mind.

But this led to Hezekiah’s sin. A sin that would not only effect him, but his family, and the nation for years to come. Big mistake, Hezekiah.

Don’t think Satan isn’t interested in bringing you down, either. You might not be at war, you might not feel threatened. You might be in the best physical shape of your life, successful, respected, adored by many. But beware.

If you aren’t going to God every day, in every situation, if you aren’t discerning and on high alert for Satan’s tactics, you need to stop. There is danger ahead that could take you by surprise, and bring you down.

Because Satan isn’t one and done in your life or mine.

(Isaiah 15-19) Who Do You Listen To?

I think we all like to believe in our abilities. We want to believe we are strong and capable and powerful and clever and can handle (or should be able to handle) anything life throws our way.

But Scripture – and experience – tells us that just isn’t always so. If God is not in it, our efforts are doomed.

We need to be careful who we listen to. The world wants us to suck it up, pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, overcome by our own resolve. God wants us to trust Him.

God promises to defeat any enemy of we who obey Him. God longs to move mountains, destroy enemies, give us victory. But so often we get in His way. The result, like we see here in Isaiah is drought, defeat, devastation.

I want to surrender today to God, completely, unreservedly, happily. I’m not ashamed to admit I need Him.

(Isaiah 9-12) That’s Fair

God is fair. He is patient and loving. He calls us to Himself and blesses us when we obey.

God is demanding. He will accept nothing short of complete obedience and holiness. And just like He blesses us when we obey, He punishes us when we disobey.

That doesn’t make Him unfair. In fact, the accepted belief today is what is unfair:

“What’s right for me doesn’t have to be right for you.”
“All roads lead to God.”
“I am master of my life and you are the master of yours.”
“I come first, and what I want trumps what you want.”
“Good people should go to heaven and bad people should go to hell. (But my definition of good and bad doesn’t have to be the same as your definition of good and bad).”

God has set the bar pretty hight – holiness. Then He inspired men to define His holiness so there would be no question as to what He demands. He was fair enough to also tell us in no uncertain terms the results of our obedience, and the punishment of our disobedience. We have no excuse. We don’t have to suppose, or learn by trial and error. God put the rules in place before we were born.

I played pickle ball for the first time this week. Even before I hit a ball, my sister went over the rules, pointed out the boundaries, explained the serve, and how to keep score. Even before I hit a ball, I knew what was required to play the game.

Now, had she handed me a paddle and served a ball to me and expected me to figure out the rules on my own while we played and kept score – that wouldn’t have been fair, would it?

Or if she had made up her own rules while we played, changed them with each serve so she’d have an advantage, and expected me to make up my own rules at the same time, would that have been fair?

Believe me, if I could have I would have made the serving area much bigger on her side of the net. But that wouldn’t have been fair.

You might not like God’s rules. Too bad. You aren’t going to change them, making up your own rules won’t work. He is very clear about that.

And that’s fair.