Tag Archives: salvation

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.

 

The Same Boat (Ecclesiastes 7-12)

Solomon was so wrong about so many things. He was looking through the eyes of a natural man, out of the framework of sin, of self, of trying to outthink, outsmart, and out maneuver God. As wise as he was, Solomon wasn’t God. He would never be God.

Solomon seems to believe we are all in the same boat. We live. We die. We succeed. We fail. Life is good. Life is hard. But Solomon misses the boat, so to speak.

I recently heard someone say, “We are all in the same storm. But we are NOT all in the same boat.”

Some people are weathering the storm of life in cardboard canoes, paddling against the waves with plastic straws. Some are trying to fashion their own lifeboats by grabbing at driftwood while trying to stay afloat in the torrent.

But some of us are resting in a sturdy, sea-worthy, ocean vessel called, Salvation. Some of us are enjoying peace in the midst of the storm of life while in the presence of the Prince of Peace. Some of us will come out of this storm more alive than ever when we finally step on the shores of heaven.

Yes, there is a storm raging that effects us all, Solomon. But we are not all in the same boat. Not even close.

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.

 

Do You Want Change? (Psalm 149)

The book of Psalms ends with praise to God, our Creator, Savior, Sustainer, Judge, and King. We are reminded of who He is and what He has done, and the fact that more than anyone or anything, He deserves our praise. He alone is worthy of our praise.

But there is a thought that struck me today as I read 149:6-9 in light of the present climate in our country these days. So often we pray – I pray – “God, defeat the enemy. God, bring about peace. God, show people the wonder of your salvation. God, fix this.”

Today I hear Him say, “No. I asked you to pick up the sword.”

God could turn this world into Eden with a word. He has the power to turn every heart of every person on this earth toward Him in an instant. But He won’t. In His sovereignty, His plan for the salvation of the world includes you and me. He’s made that pretty clear.

God will release His power to save through obedient children, yielded vessels. He will go to battle against Satan with an army of believers ready for battle. We not only need to pray that God will defeat the enemy, we need to then get off our knees, pick up the sword, and go into battle. We need to be armed with His Word, strengthen by His power, and following His lead. The battle won’t be won unless we do.

Don’t read these verses in psalms and picture Muslims, or atheists, or that jerk down the road. Our enemy is Satan. And if we want him defeated in the lives of those people we need to wield the sword against that snake. Not against people who disagree with us. Violence is not the answer.

But we who know Jesus need to go, and tell, and live, and love Christ so that people who don’t know Him will want to know Him. That’s how Satan will be defeated. That’s how the battle will be won. That’s how eternal souls will find forgiveness. And that’s how to bring about change.

Racism, political parties intent on taking away our rights and freedoms, abortion, the few corrupt policemen, and whatever else you think needs to change, won’t change until people accept the fact that they are sinners in need of a Savior, then accept the Savior! Sinners will act like sinners. Don’t expect them not to just because you are praying God will fix our country.

Pray. Don’t stop praying. But while you are praying, pick up the sword and join the battle. Nothing will change unless you do.

 

God’s Way Is Perfect (Psalm 22)

Psalm 22:31 is underlined in Mom’s Bible.

As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him.”

 

David is talking about how hard life has been for him. The man had enemies. His enemies wanted him dead, and pursued him relentlessly. But David recognized the many times God moved on his behalf to protect him, and to give him victory after victory over his enemies. The king knew it wasn’t by his own effort, but by the mercy of God that he was still alive.

I notice that David equates God’s hand of protection and the victories over evil with his own righteousness. Look at verse 21:

“The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.”

 

In this psalm, David says things like, “His laws are before me,” and “He rescues me because he delights in me,” “To the faithful, you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless, to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd.”

God reveals His faithfulness IF we are faithful. God demonstrates that He is blameless IF we are blameless. His purity is recognized IF we are pure. And IF we are crooked, IF we reject Him, He shows Himself to be someone you don’t want to mess with.

So many people are quick to say, “God is sovereign,” or “God’s will will be done,” as though God wrote a script we are forced to follow. Yet so often we see in Scripture the word “if.”

God, in His sovereignty, declared that His will will be accomplished if we obey Him. He is not willing that anyone die without Him, yet people who reject Him go to hell. Jesus died so that anyone can have eternal, but there is a “whoever believes” clause in that promise, an “if” if you will. You receive eternal life IF you believe in the Son of God.

And like the verse Mom underlined, God’s way is perfectly flawless IF we take refuge in Him. He is our protector IF we take refuge in Him. How do we do that?

Throughout Scripture God tells us the first step is to believe on the Lord Jesus, confess our sins, and accept what Jesus offers through His precious blood. Scripture tells us to obey Him, draw near to Him, be holy as He is holy. That relationship with God, available through the cross, is our refuge.

Please understand God doesn’t protect sin. He protects righteousness – His righteousness worn by people who receive it by His grace. To we who know Him, He is our refuge, our help in time of need, our strength when we are weak, our joy in all circumstances.

People are praying, “God protect our nation from this virus.” We need to pray, “God break the chains of sin in this nation. Convict us, forgive us when we ask, then heal our land.”

That’s God’s way. And it’s perfect.

Come What May (2 Samuel 16-18)

Ahimaaz wanted to run and tell David the outcome of the battle between his men and Absalom’s. Joab said no. He would send someone else to David because, “You don’t have any news that will bring you a reward.”

The news about the battle wasn’t all good news. David’s son Absalom had been killed in that battle, and that fact would destroy David. Or it would destroy the messenger like those who brought David word of Saul’s death. David had a history of killing the messengers of bad news, and Absalom’s death would have been the very worst kind of news.

Ahimaaz’s reply to Joab speaks to me:

Come what may, I want to run.

We have news to share with the world. It’s the best news ever in the history of the world. But with it comes some bad news, too.

The bad news is that we are sinners. You are a sinner. I am a sinner. And sin comes with a death sentence. We all deserve to go to hell. We need someone outside ourselves to save us from that awful end. Some people get angry when faced with the truth about their sin.

The good news is, Jesus is the Savior we need. Jesus paid the death sentence that would have sent us to hell, and instead offers us eternity right next to Him in a place too amazing for words. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us. Doesn’t get much better than that.

The thing is, you can’t share the good news without the bad. In order for someone to accept the Savior, they need to see their need of the Savior. And sometimes we might hesitate to share that message for fear of how it will be received.

Will I lose a friend? Will I be laughed at? Will people start treating me differently, unfairly, exclude me from things? Or as in some places in our world, will I lose my life?

Ahimaaz wanted to be the one to tell David, and he was willing to pay whatever price to share that message. He wasn’t concerned with his own safety. He wasn’t looking for some reward. It wasn’t about him. I believe, for Ahimaaz, it was about the message.

It’s still about the message. God is challenging me to take up Ahimaaz’s battle cry when given the opportunity to share His news with people He died to save.

“Come what may, God, let me be the one to tell someone about You today.”