Tag Archives: sin

Revenge. Seriously?

Joel

I know someone who, because a member of the church his parents attended said something that offended him, quit going to church. He was a teenager at the time. He’s in his thirties today. And he will give that incident as the reason he still doesn’t go to church today.

I’ve heard of others who see injustice in the world and say, “If God causes such bad things to happen, I don’t want anything to do with Him.” or “There must not be a God at all.”

Do you wonder how God feels when people convince themselves of such?

What do you have against me, Tyre and Sidon and the cities of Philistia? Are you trying to take revenge on me? (3:4a)

Do people who judge God and find Him guilty think they have the upper hand? Seriously?

If you are (taking revenge on me) watch out! I will strike swiftly and pay you back for everything you have done. (4b)

Everything YOU have done.

Joel goes on to remind us we all enjoy the blessings of God. We all live in a world where the sun shines, the rain falls, wounds heal, crops produce fruit, hearts beat…

But we have taken those blessings and carted them off to pagan temples. (vs 5) Instead of using them to glorify God, instead of being grateful, we turn it around and use them against Him

But be warned. Especially when God repeats Himself:

… and I will pay you back for everything you have done. (verse 7b)

Here’s the good news:

But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (2:32)

If you have any excuse why you haven’t called on the name of the Lord, if you have put yourself above God, found Him guilty, or blame your present circumstances on that old church lady who hurt your feelings – get over yourself!

Are you trying to teach God a lesson? Get even? Punish Him? That, my friend, is foolishness. Do you have any idea who it is you are dealing with?

Here’s the deal: obey God according to His Word, the Bible. Or not. Just remember your decision will stay with you for eternity. And in the end you won’t judge God. He will judge you.

I pray that when He does, He will be able to judge you according to the righteousness of His Son Jesus. The flip side of that is unthinkable.

Ya Do What Ya Gotta Do

Esther 1

I guess I don’t blame Vashti for not wanting to parade around in front of a room full of men who’d been drinking excessively for a whole week. Regardless of her reasoning, she had to pay the consequences for disobeying an edict from the king.

Should she have gone? It would have saved her a lot of trouble, and she would have been able to keep her crown. Aren’t there times when “ya do what ya gotta do,” whether you like it or not?

That’s a question I’m afraid we all need to be making these days. And it’s getting harder to answer that question by the minute.

I know of a school district that has told teachers they are not allowed to teach pronouns, that they must use the non/gender pronouns when they speak, that they have to honor a parents decision to let their children “identify” as a gender not given to them by God. And, they must teach all children that doing that should be accepted and considered normal.

There is a movement to normalize “furries.” Are you aware? People (including children) who pretend to identify as an animal. They want people, including teachers, to treat them as the animal they are pretending to be.

Teachers have received an edict from the powers that be, like Vashti received hers from the king. Now what? Do you do what you have to do, and teach what you’re told? Or do you do what you have to do, and resign?

Like I said, it’s getting harder every day.

What if the edict comes from your child? “I’m gay. Accept it.”

Or from your church? The Methodist denomination is facing some hard decisions, as is the SBC. Do you go progressive? Do you stand firm?

We don’t often think about what it took for Vashti to refuse the king’s order. But I think there might be a lesson there for us today.

May we all know when it’s time to say, “No.” And may God give us the courage to say it, then do what we gotta do about it.

Equal Shares

Ezekiel 47-48

The land was divided equally among the tribes of Israel. I love how God leveled the playing field. Everyone was given the same.

That’s something I love about God. He sees us, demands of us, treats us, and loves each of the same.

  1. All have sinned. Yes, that means you and me. All. Everyone has sinned. (Romans 3:23)
  2. That sin has earned us a death sentence. (Romans 6:23)
  3. God loved each of us and sent His Son Jesus to pay our death sentence. (John 3:16)
  4. Whoever (rich, poor, young, old, healthy, sickly, black, white, a murderer, a liar, me, you) believes won’t have to experience that death, but live forever with God. (John 3:16)
  5. When we repent, He forgives us completely. (1 John 1:9)
  6. When we repent, we are no longer slaves to sin. (Romans 6:1-7)

The flip side of that coin is also fair and equal. If you reject God, He will reject you (Matthew 10:33) no matter if you are rich, poor, young, old, healthy, sick, black, white, a murderer, a liar, me, or you.

A word of caution: accepting God on your terms is rejecting Him. Jesus said that He is the only way to God. (John 14:6) That is true for all of us.

It rains on the just and the unjust. The sun shines on everyone everywhere, night falls, morning dawns, and we all have 24 hours a day to choose God or reject Him.

I think you know how I am praying for you today.

A Wall of Righteousness

Ezekiel 22:30-31

I don’t know many people who would say they believe the US is on a healthy trajectory, whether monetarily, morally, or spiritually. Evil is called good. The economy is in the tank. The number of people who profess to be Bible believing Christians is dwindling, and what is scary is that some people think that’s a good thing.

A nation established under God has rejected Him. So we should not be surprised at what is happening here. Are we looking at the end?

God, through the prophet Ezekiel, told Israel why they were facing their own destruction. It was clearly God’s judgment for their unrepentant sin.

But God said something that made me think about our situation in 2022. He said:

I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one. So now I will pour out my fury on them, consuming them with the fire of my anger. I will heap on their heads the full penalty for all their sins. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken. (Ezekiel 22:30-31)

A wall of righteousness that guards the land.

For 200 years the USA was blessed beyond any other nation in the world. Oh, it wasn’t perfect. But there was something different about this country that made it stand out. I believe it was a wall of righteousness; a core group of God-fearing believers who worshiped God and, because of their relationship with God, they prayed, read the Bible, and weren’t ashamed to call on God in private and in public.

I believe it was a wall of believers wearing Jesus’ righteousness that guarded the USA.

Oh, you can try to erase our spiritual history, deny the intent of our Founding Fathers. You can be foolish (or woke, which is the same thing in my book), and deny God’s grace and mercy on this land. But the truth is – America enjoyed years of prosperity and peace as a direct result of our dependance on God.

Somewhere along the way a crack appeared in the wall. But instead of repairing it, we ignored it, accepted it. It didn’t stay a crack, did it? It became a gaping hole which grew until the wall began to crumble. Is there any portion of the wall still standing today?

Dear Christian, if we want to see this amazing country of ours survive, we have got to rebuild the wall! You and I need to not just wear the righteousness of Jesus in the privacy of our own homes. We need to flaunt it. We need to wear it loud and proud.

I AM A BORN-AGAIN CHRISTIAN!

I STAND FOR THE TRUTH OF SCRIPTURE!

I PRAY. I WORSHIP GOD ALONE.

I CHOOSE HOLINESS!

I FOLLOW JESUS AND WANT YOU TO FOLLOW HIM, TOO!

Can we join hands and hearts and pray for each other, our political leaders, our schools, our churches, our neighbors? Can we humble ourselves and pray God’s will be done in our own hearts, as well as in our country?

God was looking for SOMEONE to stand in the gap. Could that someone be you? I’m afraid if we don’t repair the wall of righteousness to guard this land, our future might look like that of Israel in the Old Testament.

Build the wall! It’s not too late.

Are We Too Comfortable?

Jeremiah 49:28-33

God is judging complacency in His message to Kedar and Hazor. They were comfortable in their homes, living isolated in the desert, without protective walls to keep out the enemy. They didn’t even see an enemy. Life was good.

But God was going to scatter them, desolate them.

It’s a good warning to those of us who are complacent today, comfortable in our pews, in our safe homes, our full bellies and healthy bodies. It’s not just evil doers God judges. Not just idolators, adulterers, and murders. It’s people who live like they don’t need God, who are self-sufficient and basically good in comparison to others.

I’m ok. You’re ok.

But are we?

Let there never be a moment when I’m satisfied with thinking either of us are ok the way we are. Because none of us are ok on our own. None of us.

None of us are safe living in the desert, up in our ivory towers of success and self-worth. Hear God’s warnings. If we are satisfied with the status-quo, we are in for a world of hurt.

We need to arm ourselves with the presence and protection of God through the blood of His Son Jesus. We need to humble ourselves and accept His provisions, even when things are going well in our lives. We need to put on the armor of God every day.

Because there is an enemy lurking out there. And he’s someone I don’t want to have to face alone. I don’t want you to face him on your own, either.

Let’s not let complacency bring God’s judgment to His children, His Church. Be warned.

What Good Is It?

Jeremiah 22

What good is it to live in a nice house, go to church in a beautiful building, enjoy a healthy body, and not know God? The blessings are fleeting. The blessings don’t make you a good person. The blessings aren’t even a sign you are right with God.

In fact, God says many have eyes only for greed and dishonesty, they murder the innocent, oppress the poor, and reign ruthlessly. And that doesn’t make Him happy.

I warned you when you were prosperous, but you replied, “Don’t bother me!” You have been this way since childhood – you simply will not obey me! It may be nice to live in a beautiful palace paneled with wood from the cedars of Lebanon, but soon you will groan with pangs of anguish – like that of a woman in labor. (22:21,23)

I sure hope you are enjoying a healthy, prosperous, comfortable day today. I hope you have clothes to wear, food to eat, a job to go to. I hope you have a family you love and who loves you. And I hope you’ll go to church on Sunday..

But don’t neglect the most important thing. Don’t neglect obedience. Confess your sin. Be holy, separate. Stand for the Truth at all cost. Because things are going to change. You won’t live on this planet forever. And God is not going to care what your house looked like. Only what your heart looks like. He won’t care where you worshiped. He’ll care that you worshiped Him in spirit and truth according to Scripture.

Jesus asked this question:

What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:36)

How would you answer Him?

What good is it to live in a nice house, go to church in a beautiful building, and enjoy a healthy body?

Nothing, unless Jesus lives in you!

Where Does It Lead?

Jeremiah 2

We who have submitted to God and accepted His grace at the foot of the cross are no longer slaves to sin. God broke the yoke that oppressed us. (vs 20a). We are forgiven and free to serve and worship the God we love, because of the blood of Jesus.

Yet we see throughout the Bible examples of God’s people who try to worship God and worship idols at the same time. We see them making compromises, like not tearing down the Asherah poles and deciding to use those to worship God. Seems harmless enough. But it wasn’t harmless. No compromise is.

And compromises (God calls sin) are judged.

I think God might have something to say to His 21st Century people today. Are we compromising ourselves into judgment?

“We can bring Bethel or Hillsong praise music into our sanctuaries, and not agree with their theology.”

“We can embrace homosexuals, and welcome them into our fellowships without necessarily condoning homosexuality.”

“We can rewrite the Bible to eliminate the gender specific wording of the original, and still call it God’s Word.”

We can keep the Asherah poles, and hold our worship services there. We can align with the enemy, and still call on God to help us.

In order to make a compromise, you must turn (even slightly) away from that which is right and true. In the spiritual sense, a compromise is an ever so tiny step away from the holiness of our God.

Where does that lead?

What have you gained by your alliances with Egypt, and your covenants with Assyria? What good to you are the streams of the Nile or the waters of the Euphrates River? Your wickedness will bring its own punishment. Your turning from me will shame you. You will see what an evil, bitter thing it is to abandon the Lord your God and not to fear him. I, the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken! (verses 18-19)

Stepping Between God and the People

Psalms 105-106

These psalms recount the Exodus of the Jewish nation out of Egypt in the days of Moses, and reminds us how God moved in dramatic fashion on behalf of His obedient children. I think one amazing thing about Scripture, however, is how often we are also reminded how God moves when His children aren’t so obedient, like in these two psalms. God doesn’t sugar-coat anything. I’m thankful for that.

What stood out to me today was in 106:23,30. The Jews were living in blatant disobedience, even after God had blessed them. So God declared He would destroy them. Their disobedience made Him that angry.

But Moses, his chosen one, stepped between the Lord and the people. He begged God to turn from his anger and not destroy them.

So God did not destroy them.

Later, as punishment for yet more disobedience, a plague broke out among the Jews.

But Phinehas had the courage to intervene, and the plague was stopped. So he has been regarded as a righteous man ever since that time.

This morning I am reminded that Jesus has done the same for me. My disobedience angers God as much as the disobedience of the Old Testament Jews angered Him. What makes me think He hasn’t considered taking me out, too?

But I have a Savior. When I sin and make God angry, Jesus steps between the Lord and me and pleads my case. One day when I stand before the Throne of Heaven, Jesus will intervene for the last time, and I will not be destroyed. He will usher me into Paradise unlike anything I have ever known in this lifetime.

Here is something else that occurs to me. While I am still on this earth, I have the privilege of being a Moses or a Phinehas, one who intervenes for my loved ones, our nation and the whole world, and for you. I can beg God like Moses did, that He would turn from His righteous anger, and give each of us another chance to obey Him.

So today I want you to know that I am praying for you. I am going to step between the Lord and you and beg Him to have mercy. Will you do the same for me?

Praising the Judge

Psalm 98

For the first 9 1/2 verses the psalmist tells us to sing to the Lord, shout to the Lord, break out in praise to the Lord. Our victorious God has revealed His righteousness to every nation! He remembered His promises to love and be faithful to His people. Praise Him!

Living after the cross, we know God revealed Himself to the world when He became a human, and lived on this earth as a physical man. Jesus won the ultimate victory over death, Satan, and sin when he died on the cross and three days later came alive again. He saved the world.

Make a joyful symphony before the Lord, the King! (Vs 6b)

But here is why the psalmist tells all creation that God is worthy of our praise:

For the Lord is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with justice and the nations with fairness. (Vs 9)

Wait! Praise God for the coming judgment? Aren’t there psalms that tell us to praise Him for His goodness, faithfulness, grace, presence…?

Of course! He is all that and more, and deserves our praise. But these verses tell us to praise Him for the coming judgment as well.

Does standing before a judge in a court of law seem like something to be glad about? I had to stop and consider this for a while.

When I finished my course work in the School Counseling graduate program, I was required to take a comprehensive examination. It was a four or five hour test that would be the deciding factor whether or not I’d receive my graduate degree, and be qualified to be a school counselor. My future depended on my passing that test.

A few of us grad students got together periodically to study, and quiz each other on the different parts of the upcoming exam. We took practice tests, and discussed our answers.

I myself, would spend hours and hours on the Saturdays leading up to the test, pulling out every memorization technique I could think of. I actually started looking forward to the test date.

For one, I knew that I would receive my degree if I passed. That is what I had been working toward for a couple of years. Passing the test would mean no more evening classes to take after teaching school all day, no more papers to write, no more costly graduate fees.

That test marked the end of hard work, and the beginning of enjoying the benefits of the work. I was so ready to have it over.

On the morning of the test I remember standing in the shower and praying that God would help me recall what I had learned. Such a peace came over me I can only explain as from God. In fact, I felt so prepared, I almost dared the test-makers to come up with a question I couldn’t answer. (They actually did come up with one or two. 🙂 )

So I took the test that would judge my preparedness to be a school counselor. After several hours, I turned in my test, and walked away somewhat elated. I was pretty sure I had passed, and I did pass!

So why would God bring that to mind today as I considered the psalmist’s direction to praise God because He will come to earth to judge the world? Here are my thoughts:

The first is that we can know with certainty that God will judge the earth with justice and fairness. The truth is, He has been very upfront with His requirements.

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. (John 3:3)

Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

So the requirements the Judge will consider are whether or not we have accepted His grace and forgiveness through the blood of His Son Jesus. We all will be judged by the exact same standard. It will have nothing to do with how good or how bad we’ve been. Only whether or not we’ve received what Jesus died to give us. That’s fair.

The second thing I thought is, Jesus did the work. When my classmates and I were studying for our test, some of us put in the work before our sessions, others not so much. So when we actually took the test, we were judged on what we had put into it. As we should have been.

But if God operated on the same scale, none of us would pass the test. The standard for passing His test is:

For it is written “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16)

Are you a good person? Not good enough. Do you go to church? Not good enough. Do you abstain from certain sins? Not good enough. It’s not good enough to simply read your Bible, or stay faithful to your spouse. Holy is holy, without sin. And the Bible tells us:

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

You have sinned. And that renders you unholy, falling short of God’s standard. And falling short of God’s standard results in:

The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)

Now I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t make me want to praise God for the upcoming judgment. Who can stand before a holy God and expect to hear, ”Not guilty,” if all of us are guilty? No one!

That’s why Jesus did the work. That’s why He took on our sin and paid the death sentence we earned by telling a lie, taking something that doesn’t belong to us, thinking bad thoughts, or disobeying our parents. You see, because He paid my debt, I have no fear of standing before a Holy Judge who will judge with justice and fairness.

I did what He told me to do. I asked Jesus to forgive me, I repented of the sin that sent Him to the cross. I have been born again, not of flesh but of spirit. I wear His righteousness, His holiness, because I have none of my own.

The rest of Romans 6:23 is:

but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

So yes. I can look forward to judgment day. It marks the end of all the struggles and hardships living in this world affords. It marks the beginning of an eternity, reaping the benefits of having Jesus pass the test on my behalf.

So, dear one, continue to praise God for all His benefits, His blessings, your health, your comfort, your family and friends, and on and on and on. Praise the One who deserves your praise.

And praise Him for the fact that when He judges the world, when He judges you on that day, there will be no surprises. One person won’t be judged more easily or more harshly for the same sin you’ve committed. You won’t fall short because you only did 9,999 good deeds, and someone else will get a free pass because he did 10,000 good deeds. No one will barely make it into heaven while someone else almost makes it there.

God is fair. God is just. God will judge each of us by the standard He has laid out so clearly in His Word. I look forward to judgement day. I hope you can say the same. I hope that because we both have been born again, cleansed and made holy by Jesus, we can praise the Judge together now and for eternity!

How Free Are We?

Proverbs 31

We will hear the word “freedom” a lot today, because today we celebrate the fact that more than 200 years ago, a group of people broke from the tyranny of an English king, and with thoughtful, prayerful consideration, implemented checks and balances to construct the republic we know as the United States of America. It is, in its truest sense, the absolute best form of government in the world.

From the very beginning, our founders recognized our inalienable rights, and insured our freedom from tyrannical rule. They not only set us free from England, they gave us the tools to keep us free from future tyrants.

It’s ridiculous for anyone to think that document, which ensures our freedoms in 2022, is outdated or irrelevant to modern society (a lie perpetuated by would-be tyrants).

How free are we? Not as free as we were when I was young. Not even as free as we were ten years ago. In fact, there are those who believe that unless you align yourself with the left, or are “woke,” you should have no rights, no freedom to speak your mind or take actions in support of your right to live free. We are looking in the face of tyranny.

How free are we? God has given us the freedom to choose. If we choose Him according to Scripture, we are set free from the judgment our sin deserves. We are free to live lives directed and protected by God Himself.

To the people who believed in him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 9:31-32)

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

For one who has died has been set free from sin. (Romans 6:7)

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17)

If we choose, however, to reject God, we give up our freedom and become slaves to sin.

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. (John 8:34)

Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:16)

I believe what we are seeing in the US is the result of sin, which leads to the eroding of freedom according to Scripture. We should not be surprised, considering the blatant sin around us, the unashamed depravity thrown in our faces at every turn. Sin is the opposite of freedom, no matter what we are being told.

When our freedom is gone, it won’t be just because of politics, but because of the sinful hearts of politicians. It won’t only be because of non-Christians, but because of weak, lazy, self-centered Christians who are unrepentant themselves.

I wonder what our nation would look like if the true Church in America lived like a Proverbs 31 wife of our Heavenly Husband. I wonder how free we would be if we, as God’s people, called by His name, would humble ourselves and pray and seek God’s face and turn from our wicked ways. Because God promises in that case to hear from heaven, forgive our sin, and heal our land. (see 2 Chronicles 7:14)

How free are we? We are as free as unrepentant sin affords.