Tag Archives: the Gospel

May 10; One Thing I Ask Of The Lord

Psalms 9, 10, 27, 37; 2 Samuel 15:37, 16:15

I read a few of these psalms a couple of times this morning because I found myself thinking about the state of the world instead of the condition of my heart. I found myself identifying the “wicked” as those who are fighting against the Truth, people who are killing Christians, others who blatantly sin and then condemn those of us who speak against it.

Yes, there are evil people in the world. And yes, God wants His Church to defeat Satan in the worst of them. But I’m reminded God can’t change the world until He changes my heart.

The “wicked” David wrote about were flesh and blood people to him. To me, the “wicked” is Satan, my own inclination to sin, anything that keeps me from having the best relationship with God. David says this is Psalm 37:4:

“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

He continues to tell us what that looks like; Commit your way to the Lord. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. Refrain from anger and turn away from wrath. In Psalm 9 David tells us to praise the Lord with all our hearts, to be glad, rejoice, and sing praises.

Warning: if you think Psalm 37:4 is the magic formula to getting something you want, think again. This verse is absolutely not saying that if you do this, this, and this you can rub the magic genie lamp and have that windfall show up on your doorstep. I have little patience with people, including preachers, who say if you praise the Lord, raise your hands, shout your praises it will somehow result in you getting a material blessing.

For me, the key is found in Psalm 27:4:

“One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”

Notice David doesn’t say, “One thing I ask of the Lord is that my enemies drop dead around my feet.” Or “that I will win the lottery, or beat a physical illness, or that my political party controls the nation.”

David says to God, “The only think I want is just to be with You, to gaze upon Your beauty, to seek You in Truth.”

Is that the one thing I ask of God? Is that the desire of my heart? Is that the thing that is my focus, my goal, my joy – just to have God near me? Why wouldn’t it be? There is love in His Presence. There is strength, comfort, rest, protection, joy, peace. No material blessing, no amount of money can buy what God can – and wants – to give His people who are delighting in Him, to those who are His through the blood of Jesus.

And it is from there that God and I can change the world – one redeemed soul at a time.

April 19; He Has Done It

Psalms 13, 17, 22, 54; I Samuel 24

My one year chronological Bible had me reading Psalm 22 today. Today is Good Friday. Today is the day we remember and celebrate the cross. Jesus was crucified on the Friday of Passover, and that would be today. Of course April 19 is not always Good Friday. But it is today in 2019. And reading Psalm 22 on this Good Friday touched me deeply.

Psalm 22 is not just another psalm. It describes, in amazing detail exactly what we celebrate today. It starts out like this:

My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

Those are the very words Jesus spoke from the cross hundreds of years after David wrote them down. Now, some might say it’s no big deal that Jesus quoted Scripture from the cross. He quoted Scripture all the time.

But in verse 8 David tells us things that would be said about and to Jesus. Do you think Jesus’ enemies were quoting Scripture when they mocked him? They were trying to disprove His claims to be the Son of God. I doubt they’d pick a verse to quote that might support His claim.

And don’t even try to tell me the Romans studied Psalm 22, then crucified Jesus accordingly. Read verses 16-18. The piercings, the intact bones, the gambling at the foot of the cross. Those things happened just like God said through David. It is truly amazing. Crucification wasn’t even a thing when David wrote this psalm.

What we celebrate on Good Friday isn’t just a story about a nice guy being killed for something he didn’t do. It’s not a tragedy concocted in someone’s imagination. A real person named Jesus was nailed to a cross. He suffered a painful death. And all the time He was – and is – God. Holy. Blameless. Guiltless. Willing.

I hope you’ll take time to read Psalm 22, then turn over and read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ crucification today. He did that for you. And when your sin debt was paid, he said, “It is finished.” Paid in full.

If you haven’t accepted Jesus gift of forgiveness, what better time to do that than on Good Friday – the day we remember and celebrate the cross? He has done it.

For you.

 

March 21; Do You Want The Good News First, Or The Bad?

Deuteronomy 27-28

So the first thing the Israelites were to do after they’d crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land had to do with the Law. Moses instructed them to erect the equivalent of a modern-day billboard, and carve God’s Commandments clearly enough for everyone to see. Their occupation of that land came with conditions. Their future depended on them obeying God’s Law.

God gave them the good news first. “If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commandments… all these blessings will come upon you…” (28:1-2) Then He proceeds to describe what life would be life for God’s obedient children:

You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock – the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed. You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out. (vv 3-6)

It doesn’t even stop there. Victory over enemies, full barns, nations recognizing the fact they are God’s holy people, abundant prosperity…

I’d pick door number one!

Because beginning in verse 15, God describes in gruesome detail what life would be like if they chose disobedience over obedience.

You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country. Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed. The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out. (vv16-19)

Oh, it gets worse. Much worse. From devastating losses in battle, to awful diseases, to broken relationships, barren land and famine, such suffering that cannibalism would be the only means of survival.

There’s more. It’s just too awful.

God spent fourteen verses talking about the blessings for obedience. He took 53 verses to warn them about the consequences for disobedience.

I’m reminded God does not want ANYONE going to hell. He takes no delight in the death of an unrepentant sinner. He is desperate for us to know the truth about what is ahead.

The blessings speak for themselves. You know what I mean, if you’ve given your heart to the Lord, and are careful to follow His rules. The blessings are there! It’s the bad news God wants to make clear.

If you think what we read in chapter 28 is bad, you’ve seen only a glimpse of eternity without God. Only the first day of eternity in hell.

The good news is that God is so desperate, so driven to have us with Him, He came to earth Himself and paid the price for all our sin. When we accept His gift of grace, when we follow Him and choose to obey, He opens the floodgates of blessing. Our enemy is defeated, our sins are forgiven, we experience love and joy and peace like never before. And we know for certain that no matter what happens in this life, what comes next will knock our socks off.

And because God is so desperate that no one die without Him, He wants you to know what it is you are choosing when you choose to deny Him, As you read what God said to Israel here in chapter 28, put yourselves in their shoes. Feel the pain, the humiliation, the fear. Feel what it would be like if God removed Himself, no longer tried to get your attention. Realize the desperation, the anguish, the abandonment that comes from disobedience.

Then understand that without following God, there is no hope for mercy. No possibility of relief. Ever.

The bad news… the really bad news is…

Eternity is a very long time to be without God, my friend.

 

March 13; No Admittance

Deuteronomy 1-2

God inspired Moses to give a history lesson to the Israelites poised and ready to take the Promised Land. None of these Jews remembered the Exodus from Egypt forty years earlier. Most of them hadn’t been born when their parents and grandparents crossed the Red Sea on dry ground. Many of them weren’t even born when their parents refused to take the Promised Land forty years earlier.  So Moses wanted to be sure this generation knew the truth, knew exactly why their parents had turned about a two week walk from Egypt to Canaan into forty years of bouncing around in the wilderness.

Their parents were whiners. But it wasn’t their persistent complaining that caused God to shut the door on the Promise.

Their parents were disobedient. But their disobedience wasn’t the reason they were kept out of Canaan.

Their parents worshiped idols. But it wasn’t even their idolatry that caused them to die in the wilderness.

Moses wanted this generation – and ours – to know that the reason none of their parents and grandparents stepped foot into the Promised Land was because of unbelief. They closed the door themselves when they refused to trust God.

And that’s still true today. The only thing standing between an unsaved person and God is unbelief.

Do you believe God when He says Jesus is His Son, and the ONLY way to God? You may be a liar. God can forgive that. You may be an adulterer or a homosexual. God can forgive that. You might be angry, hateful, jealous, dishonest… All forgivable. You might even consider yourself agnostic, atheistic, Muslim, Mormon, Buddhist… all of which God can forgive…

if you believe. If you repent while your heart is still beating.

I John 1:9 If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.

But, friend, you will not see God or know what it’s like to walk with Him in this lifetime if you don’t believe in Jesus, if you don’t accept God’s forgiveness bought for you when Jesus died on the cross. The truth of Scripture as seen in the Old Testament and the New is that there is a “No Admittance” sign on the gate of heaven for anyone who has not believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Your past doesn’t matter. But what you do with Jesus really does.

March 1; No More, No Less

Numbers 7

Every time I read this chapter I am blessed. It may seem repetitive and boring to read each word. But the truth it represents gets me every time.

The fact this chapter so beautifully portrays is: we are all on equal footing before God. Every tribe came to the Presence of God with the exact same things. Big tribes weren’t required to give more, small tribes didn’t get away with less.

And that’s how it is today. Every one of us is on equal footing before our Holy God:

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

We are all sinners. None of us has anything more to offer God than the next guy:

For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Every one of us is saved in exactly the same way:

If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9)

Because, and this is the kicker:

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven give to men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

And Jesus tells us exactly who that Name is:

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

That’s it. That’s what the Bible tells us in the Old Testament and the New. We can’t be good enough, generous enough, spiritual or religious enough to approach God on our own. Everyone is required the exact same thing. No more. No less.

 

February 28; Get Out

Numbers 5-6

Let’s face it. Sometimes Scripture is hard to swallow. Sometimes what we read doesn’t make us feel good about ourselves, and often what Scripture tells us to do seems impossible. Political correctness? Forget about it.

When I read this portion of Scripture telling the Jews to toss all the diseased people out of the camp, I get it. In order to keep the rest of them healthy, the infected ones had to be removed. It was black and white. Are you diseased? Get out.

I imagine there were tears as loved ones were separated. I imagine someone felt it wasn’t fair. But it had to be done to keep the rest of them undefiled.

That makes sense, until I remember that Scripture often likens disease to sin. Putting the spiritual spin on these verses isn’t as black and white, although I guess it should be.

I believe the modern day Church has gotten so far from what God intended. I see us becoming more concerned about people’s feelings instead of their souls. I wonder if we think that if we provide an inviting setting, an exciting experience, a laid back atmosphere, sinners will come into our midst. Do we think that’s a good thing?

Isn’t that the opposite of what we see here in Scripture? “Oh, you have leprosy? Come right in and make yourself comfortable. My healthy skin will just rub off on you.”

It burdens my heart to know the church has in some cases, not only turned a blind eye to sin, it’s welcomed sin into our midst. And don’t use the argument that we live under grace after the cross. Grace is not acceptance of sin. Grace is not even love. Grace is God dealing harshly with sin, forgiving sin through the blood of Jesus which He shed in a very, very painful way.

The New Testament writers continue to tell believers to come out from among the world, to flee sin, to brush the dust off our feet. Yes, God loves sinners. Yes, Jesus ate with sinners. But Jesus went to them. He didn’t bring them into the synagog first to tell them the Gospel.

Matthew Henry reminded me that when Jesus returns He will “gather out of his kingdom all things that offend.” In the new Jerusalem, nothing unclean will enter. (from Rev 11) (Commentary In One Volume; Zondervan Publishing; 1960; page 146) Will there be people who sit in our pews today who will be “gathered out,” fully expecting to be accepted just like they are in those pews?

The assembling of ourselves as a church body is intended to edify believers, strengthen believers, encourage and challenge believers to go into the world to share the Gospel. And, dear one, we must keep it pure, undefiled. It’s not a social club. The Church is an exclusive organization. Only believers in Jesus Christ can be included. You might not think that’s fair. And that might be the problem.

Sin should not be tolerated in the church. Period. But I thank God that, even those diseased Jews who were thrown out of the camp, were welcomed back once they were disease-free. But the healing came before the welcome.

I just think maybe we shouldn’t be so concerned about growing our churches. The number of people attending your church is meaningless. However, the number of new believers who come as a result of someone from your fellowship leading them to the Savior is everything.

Keep the sin outside the camp.

 

 

February 27; Out Of The Mouths Of Babes

Numbers 3:1-4:33

I find it significant that when God told Moses to take a census of the eleven tribes of Israel, they were instructed to count all the men twenty and older who were able to serve in the army. Now, when God gave the order to count the Levites, they were to count every male a month old and older.

Obviously, little children were not given jobs for the care of the Tabernacle, any more than the children from the other tribes were expected to go to war. So why count babies at all?

(Side note: in our current climate where murdering babies is applauded, let me remind all of us that life is a gift from God, and every life is precious to Him, and should be to us. God forgive us for what is happening in this country.)

The children born to the Levite clan were going to grow up to be priests, to carry on the work of their fathers as the spiritual leaders of Israel. And I believe they were counted as infants for a reason.

Proverbs 22:6 tells us to train up our children in the truth, in the way they should go. I don’t think it’s ever too early to teach your children the difference between right and wrong. I don’t think a child is ever too young to recognize sin, and experience consequences for sin. I believe children should experience what repentance and forgiveness feel like before they realize their need to go to their Heavenly Father for the same. And I don’t think a child is too young to be used by God in leading someone to the Savior.

A friend of mine shared about a little boy who was standing in the checkout line with his mom at the grocery. The cashier began entering prices into the register, and packing the groceries in bags when the little boy asked her, “Is your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life?”

The cashier burst into tears. Uncontrolled weeping caught the attention of everyone around, including the manger who quickly came and took the cashier aside. The mom and boy followed.

Right there, in that grocery store, the cashier prayed to receive what Jesus died to give her. And so did the manager!

Out of the mouths of babes.

I think God made a distinction between the census of the eleven tribes and that of the Levites for a reason. A child is too young to wield a sword in battle. But when he is older, he must become a warrior. There will be battles to fight.

But a child is never too young to wield the Sword of the Spirit. We must be teaching our children about God, reading to our children from the Bible, talking to our children about God, leading our children to God’s saving grace, and equipping our children to share Jesus with others. Because God can use a child as much as He can use you and me.