Tag Archives: salvation

Seeking and Sought (Mark 4-5)

Jesus went to the people. We see Jesus going through a storm to get to the demoniacs. These men, possessed by awful demons needed Jesus, so Jesus sought them out and healed them.

The people went to Jesus. Jairus for one, then a large crowd, then a woman who had been ill for twelve years all sought Jesus. They recognized their need and sought out the One who could meet their need.

John MacArthur, in his study entitled “Twelve Ordinary Men,” and in the chapter on the Apostle Philip talks about the “classic tension between sovereign election and human choice.” Both, Dr. MacArthur says, exist in perfect harmony.

Jesus Himself said this: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

We see our God, tirelessly revealing Himself, drawing all men to Himself, not willing any should perish, seeking us, calling us.

We see us, created with a God-sized void in our lives, trying to fill that void with all kinds of worthless idols. Idols of self, positive thoughts, money, relationships, alcohol…

We seek. God seeks.

And when our seeking meets God’s seeking, His sovereign plan is fulfilled. We are saved.

What a wonderful Savior. What a loving God.

Friend, I hope that if you have not yet received the forgiveness of your sins through Jesus’ work on the cross, you will recognize that is exactly what you are seeking. That is exactly what you need and what your soul longs for. And I hope that you understand that God Himself is seeking you! He wants you to know Him. Will your seeking meet His today?

That is my prayer.

It’s Not Enough (John 5)

First of all, if you think Jesus never claimed to be God, read this chapter in John’s Gospel. Verses 45-47 says clearly that He is the one about whom Moses wrote in the Old Testament. Jesus is the Messiah.

The other thing that stood out to me today is found in verses 39-40. Jesus was talking to Old Testament scholars, men who had dedicated their lives to the study of Scripture. These men knew everything they could know about the history of God in Israel. Their brains were full, but their hearts were empty.

It’s not enough to read the Bible, to memorize verses, to study the events surrounding the chosen people of God. So many people spend so much time with genealogies and timelines and blueprints that they neglect the most important thing God has to say to us through the pages of His Word.

Jesus chided the Old Testament scholars for thinking their knowledge about Scripture brought them eternal life. They had refused to go to Jesus for life. They missed the whole point of Scripture.

I hope you read your Bible every day. I hope you memorize verses, dig into its history if that is important to you. But understand none of that guarantees eternal life. Only Jesus can do that.

You and I have to go to Jesus Himself for the forgiveness of sins and our hope for eternity with Him. We must receive Him as our Savior, accept His grace, and obey Him as His dearly loved children. Your head can be overflowing with facts, but your heart empty, your soul doomed without Jesus.

Go to Him. Believe on Him. Accept Him as your Savior as you repent of your sin.

He is more than enough!

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’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?

I Will Be Found By You (Jeremiah 29)

The Israelites were in captivity. God was punishing them for years of all kinds of disobedience, including idol worship. They were prisoners, but God told them He would free them in seventy years…

For I know the plans I have for you,declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (verse 11)

God is talking to His children. This promise was not for just anybody. And, because I believe all Scripture is given for us here in 2020, this promise is not for people who don’t know God through His Son today. If you are a Jesus-follower, no matter how bad your circumstances seem, God has a plan for you that includes hope and a future. You may have to go through a period of bondage. Israel was captive in Babylon for seventy years. But be assured, God has a plan to get you through to the other side in amazing fashion.

Then listen to verse 12-14a:

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you…

Again, He is talking to His wayward children in Babylon. But there are many verses in the Bible that help me understand the same is true for us. Verses like:

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

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)

God is telling us that whoever believes in Jesus is saved, free, with a hope and a future. And He is telling us that if we seek Him, He will not hide from us. He will be found if we go to Him through the cross of Jesus.

I don’t know if your circumstances have you feeling like you are alone and in bondage, drowning and helpless. If you are His child, take heart, dear one. He will not forsake you. Go to Him. Trust Him. There you will find hope.

You might not have a relationship with Jesus today. But I know that if you humble yourself, go to God and ask Him to forgive your sins, if you repent and accept what Jesus did for you when He died on the cross and rose again from the grave, you will find God in a way you can’t imagine.

I believe He is telling you today that if you seek Him, “I will be found by you.”

This Is How You Talk… (Jeremiah 3)

God is patient and merciful. But sometimes I think people misinterpret that as being tolerant and weak. God is neither tolerant nor weak in any shape or form.

We are watching the rapid decline of our society. We are witnessing blatant immorality to the point that anyone who dares speak truth is immediately shut down, and labeled a hater or a bigot. There is a growing portion of the Church that has exchanged its Glory for a feel-good experience, stopped worshiping a Holy God and instead worships a sweet old grandpa who pats his disobedient children on the head.

Many of us are pleading with God to stop this downfall toward destruction. But here’s something that stood out to me this morning in Jeremiah 3:3b-5:

Yet you have the brazen look of a prostitute; you refuse to blush with shame. Have you not just called to me; “My Father, my friend from my youth, will you always be angry? Will your wrath continue forever?” This is how you talk, but you do all the evil you can.

Yes, we are calling out to God to heal our land. But are we dressed up like prostitutes at the same time? Are we asking God to save us, while we live our lives in disobedience? Do we say all the right words, yet continue in sin?

Throughout the Bible God tells us He insists on obedience. He demands that we come to Him by His rules. He promises to bless His children IF…

…If we humble ourselves, confess our sin, and repent, turn, change, unless we are transformed by the Holy Spirit and walk the talk. Then God will hear our prayers, and not before.

I hope you are praying for our nation and our world. We are on the brink of something big. I know Satan thinks He’s got this. But we who know God know that Satan doesn’t have any power over God. And if God moves, the “something big” we are heading for just might be the greatest revival history has ever seen.

I believe Scripture tells us over and over that God will unleash His power when His people are, first of all, obedient. Dear one, let’s stop dressing up like prostitutes, looking like the world, compromising the Truth that God revealed in His Word. Let’s throw off sin, and put on Jesus’ righteousness.

Then let’s pray that God will heal our land. Repent, pray, and stand back and watch God work! You ain’t seen nothing yet!

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.

 

Do You Hear It? (Isaiah 27)

Isaiah continues to talk about God’s judgment on sin. But he also reminds us God will protect His children from the outcome His enemies will face. I love this picture:

“Sing about a fruitful vineyard: I, the Lord, watch over it; I water it continually. I guard it day and night so that no one may harm it.” (2b-3a)

I am part of that vineyard, God’s Church, through the blood of Jesus. God says He protects it, waters it, guards it against harm. I know that a healthy vineyard goes through pruning, and harvest, and that’s not always comfortable. But God assures us He’s got our backs even when we face the trails of life. It gives me such peace to know the One who cares for me.

Then God says something that I need to remember. Listen to verse 4:

“I am not angry. If only there were briers and thorns confronting me! I would march against them in battle; I would set them all on fire.”

This verse should terrify some. God will pass judgment on anything and anyone who tries to harm His Church. And it will not be a gentle tap on the wrist. The idea of God going to battle against anyone, or condemning someone to that fire should throw fear into hearts. But God is not motivated by anger. He is motivated by love, and here’s how I know that:

“Or else let them come to me for refuge; let them make peace with me, yes, let them make peace with me.” (verse 5)

Do you hear God’s heart? I do. God’s will is that no one die without Him. He WANTS everyone to come to Him, to accept what He died to give. He WANTS to protect and defend and nurture and ultimately to spend eternity with each and every one of us.

Some people will go to hell. But that’s not what God’s heart wants.

Do you hear the tenderness in verse 5? He says He will destroy His enemies, but He’d would rather not. “Let them make peace with me.”

Have you ever heard the words, “I love you,” from that special person in your life? Those three words can bring such joy when you know the sentiment is true. What happens then, when that special someone repeats those precious words a second time? Maybe slower, softer, emphasizing each word?

“I love you. I. Love. You.”

That’s what I hear in God’s voice as He said these words in verse 5, as He talks about people who position themselves as His enemies. As He readies to go to war against them, to mete out that final judgment, His heart still cries out:

“Make peace with me. Oh, make peace with me!”

Is there someone I know who needs to make peace with God? May I hear the anguish in the heart of my Savior as He pleads with them to come to Him. May I be faithful to tell them how they can do exactly that, to introduce them to the Savior who loves them so much.

But sharing Jesus isn’t just about helping someone avoid hell. It’s about hearing God’s heart. Do you hear it?

 

 

Do We Want His Help? (2 Chronicles 24-25)

It might have seemed logical for Israel and Judah to join forces against a common enemy. After all, they were family, all descended from Grandpa Abraham. And besides, isn’t there strength in numbers?

But God sent a message to the king of Judah:

O king, these troops from Israel must not march with you, for the Lord is not with Israel – not with any of the people of Ephraim. Even if you go and fight courageously in battle, God will overthrow you before the enemy, for God has the power to help or to overcome. (25:7-8)

God was against Israel because of their sin. He would not go to battle for them, and if Judah aligned with them, God would not go to battle with Judah, either. I think there is something in here for us today.

No matter on which side of the political aisle you sit, I imagine we all can agree our nation is in serious trouble. I think it’s time we figure out where God’s loyalties lie and align ourselves up to Him instead of a political party or ideation, because God alone has the power to help us or overcome us. Only with God can we hope to be on the winning side of this national crisis.

So where do God’s loyalties lie? First of all, He is loyal to Truth. Absolute, unchanging Truth as recorded in the Bible. Truth, by definition is true 100% of the time. Opinion is just opinion, even if it is dressed up as “my truth.” What is true for you and not true for me is not true unless it is true in Scripture. It is crazy to suggest otherwise. It’s dangerous and divisive to believe otherwise. God will not bless multiple “truths.” He is loyal to Truth. Period.

Secondly, God is loyal to people who obey Him. If you read Scripture you can know exactly what is expected of God’s children. You will read the blessings that come through obedience, and the consequences for disobedience. God doesn’t demand we be politically correct. He demands we obey Him no matter what.

And God is loyal to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus, God’s Son, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the name above all names, the only One who saves. That Jesus. God is loyal to all who accept Jesus as their Savior. We who have that relationship through the blood of Jesus know we are on the ultimate winning side.

Are we ready to shed ourselves from allies God cannot and will not go to battle with? Hear Him say to the nation of Judah as though He were talking to us, that even if we align ourselves with the enemy and fight valiantly, sincerely, and courageously, we will lose.  God is very upfront about that. It’s His way or devastation.

“For God has the power to help or to overthow.” Do we want His help? I guess we know what we have to do.

The Wrong Questions (2 Kings 8)

Ben-Hadad, king of Aram, was sick. Was he dying? He wanted to know, so he sent a message to Elisha asking, “Will I recover from this illness?” Elisha answered the king, “Yes, you will recover from the illness.” But God had shown Elisha that the king would die anyway. He would actually be murdered in his sleep.

Do you remember Wile E. Coyote? The cartoon character would manage to navigate through a trap set by the roadrunner, only to have an anvil fall on his head. He would successfully get through a roadblock, only to be hit by a speeding truck.

I think that describes many of us. We pray that God will protect us from a virus, but we have not addressed sin in our lives. We ask God to bless our children, but we don’t talk to our children about Jesus. We pray for a better job, or a happy-ever-after-marriage, while our eternity is in question. We get so caught up in the present we forget there is something much more pressing, and that is our heart’s condition before a Holy God.

We may survive this virus only to be thrown into the lake of fire if we try to face God without Jesus.

I don’t think it’s wrong to pray about our health or our circumstances. In fact, the Bible tells us to pray about everything all the time. But let’s be careful to ask God the right questions.

Remember Jesus asked what good it does someone if they gain the whole word, yet lose their soul. (Mark 8) The answer to that is – none!

As we pray about this virus, our families, our nation, let’s first of all ask God to cleanse our hearts, forgive our sins. Let’s call on Him to do a work in our lives that will translate into action for His sake.

Because if the only thing we are asking God is for protection from COVID 19, we’re asking the wrong question.