Tag Archives: the Gospel

(I Samuel 1-2) The Bargaining Prayer

It sounds like Hannah is making a bargain with God. If you… then I will…

Is that what are witnessing here? I wonder.

I remember when wearing seatbelts when driving became a law. I, like many, took awhile to get into the habit of buckling up. One morning, as I was heading to work, I was involved in a minor accident. The police were called. And I, who had not been wearing my seatbelt prayed, “God, if you’ll help me not get a ticket for breaking the seatbelt law, I promise I will never drive again without buckling up first.”

Turns out I didn’t get a ticket. And I began fastening my seatbelt every time I drove after that.

Did God accept my deal? Did He accept Hannah’s? We both got what we wanted.

A famous Bible teacher tells of her “salvation experience” by saying that as a divorced mom, she had a driving need to be with a man. Men. She confessed she lived a very sinful lifestyle that made her miserable. She said she didn’t know much about God, but at her lowest point she prayed something like, “God, I give you men, I give you my sons. Do what you will. Just give me peace.” Then she goes on to say at that moment she received the “Prince of Peace.”

Friend, that is NOT salvation, I don’t care who claims it to be. You don’t bargain with God. You don’t trade your sons for peace. Show me in Scripture where that prayer has anything to do with being saved. Scripture tells us peace comes when we humble ourselves, repent of sin, and receive what Jesus died to give us. Not promising to never sleep around again just so you can feel peaceful.

I believe there is a lot we can learn from Hannah. She was evidently a devout believer, a true worshiper of God. The prayer we see her praying was deep, and intimate with the God she loved. And her will, her wants and needs aligned with what God wanted for her.

What I see here is that she wasn’t bargaining with God as much as she was agreeing with Him. My seatbelt prayer, and the prayer of the teacher I sited above weren’t that. We were trying to trade something we had for something we wanted God to do.

Do you want God’s blessing? Then get to know Him. First of all humble yourself, confess that you are a sinner, and repent of sin. Accept the grace of God that is available when you believe the fact that Jesus lived, died on the cross, and rose again so that you can be forgiven. Accept His forgiveness.

Read the Bible. Pray. Worship Him in spirit and truth. Get to know His heart. Set your desires aside and seek His desires for you. Then when you receive the desires of your heart, you’ll realize those were His desires for you all along.

I don’t believe the fact I didn’t get a ticket, or the fact that Hannah got pregnant are signs that we can bargain with God to get what we want. Rather, I believe God blessed us both because of our relationship with Him.

Please don’t bother praying a bargaining prayer. If you need God to do something for you, go to Him on His terms. You have nothing He needs or wants except YOU.

(Ruth) It’s Not Just About Love

I usually look at the book of Ruth as a lesson in love, and it truly is that. But today, I see it mostly as a picture of redemption. I think this book could easily have been named, “Boaz.” Because without Boaz’s act of redemption on behalf of Naomi and Ruth, they would have had no hope. The would have continued in their poverty for the rest of their lives.

It wouldn’t have mattered how much they’d loved each other. Their love could not have saved them. Only the work of the redeemer would take them from curse to blessing, from bitterness to joy, from death to life.

Get the picture?

We can talk about love all day, but without the redemptive work of Jesus, we are without hope. Love cannot save until it is nailed to the cross.

Do you love God? Great! Do you know He loves you? He does! But His love without His redemption will not save you.

The book of Ruth isn’t just about love. It’s about redemption.

The Gospel isn’t just about love, either. It’s about redemption.

Ruth laid everything at the feet of her redeemer, Boaz. In that act she became totally dependent on him to save her. That’s the Gospel: Putting everything we have, are, and hope to be at the feet of Jesus, becoming totally dependent on Him, confessing our sin and turning from it is our only hope of salvation. Otherwise there is no saving.

Only the work of Jesus, our Redeemer, can take us from curse to blessing, bitterness to joy, death to life. Only Jesus.

Only our Redeemer.

(Joshua 1-5) The Forever Miracle

Do you believe in miracles? Some people read things like the Israelite’s crossing of the Jordan River, and because it would be impossible, write it off as fantasy, folk-lore, imagination. Others come up with what they think are plausible answers like the pull of gravity on that particular day at that exact time…

What these people don’t seem to understand is, if the event could be explained, it wouldn’t be a miracle. If we can understand the “how” of it, it isn’t miraculous. So the question again is, do you believe in miracles?

Do I believe the Jordan River water stopped flowing, that a new generation of Jews crossed over on dry ground like their fathers had crossed the Red Sea? I do.

Can I explain it from a scientific perspective? No.

Have I ever seen river water stop flowing like reported in the book of Joshua? Never.

Then why in the world would I believe it to be true?

Because I believe in the God of the Bible. And because I believe in Him, it’s not that hard to believe in miracles. In fact, I’ve seen even greater miracles than the Jordan River crossing.

Every time a sinner repents and is changed from the inside out through the blood of Jesus, there’s a miracle. There is no greater miracle than true repentance because it’s eternal. All other miracles had a time frame. Not so salvation.

It’s the forever miracle.

(Exodus 1-4) Even Moses

Did God really want to kill Moses? 4:24 tells us He really did. Why? Wasn’t Moses going back to Egypt because God told him to? Hadn’t God said Moses would deliver the Israelites out of bondage? It seems odd that God would decide to kill this man.

If you read 4:21-26 you read the Gospel. Yes, Moses was going through the motions of obedience, but the fact remained he hadn’t been circumcised. That was disobedience. That was sin. And sin comes with a death penalty, no matter who you are, no matter how much you might appear to others to be following God.

It wasn’t until Moses was circumcised, until blood had been spilt, that God let him go. The same requirement is in effect today. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin. (Hebrews 9:22)

After Jesus, His is the blood that brings salvation. No one needs to be circumcised or cut or killed in order for sins to be forgiven. But make no mistake, blood needs to be applied in order for God to pardon a death sentence.

And that’s the Gospel.

Our bodies don’t need to be circumcised, but our hearts do. That involves a true repentance, an acceptance of God’s will. Forgiveness doesn’t happen until the blood of Jesus is applied to a surrendered heart. Then, and only then, will God “let (us) go” as He did Moses here in Exodus 4.

You can do all the religious stuff, and go through the motions of obedience like Moses did. But even Moses had to address his sin.

And so do you and I.

(Genesis 20-25) Not Harsh Enough

We question Sarah’s treatment of Hagar and think she was too harsh when she sent Hagar and Ishmael away. We see Abraham having other children after Sarah died, and he sent those children away as well. What’s up with that?

Sarah’s words spoke to me today:

Drive out the slave with her son, for the son of this slave will not be a coheir with my son Isaac. (21:10)

Are we that protective of that which we hold dear, of the very promise of God?

I believe the Church has become a wishy-washy, bleeding hearts club where we are so concerned about offending, we’ve allowed anything and anyone into our midst. In fact, we have the idea we need to be inviting non-believers into our fellowship. We’ve been told to think we will rub off on them, but I wonder if the opposite isn’t true.

We’ve fashioned our worship service so it’s attractive to non-believers. We’ve watered down our sermons so as not to step on toes of non-believers, because we don’t want them to stop attending and giving to our worthless ministry.

Yes, worthless.

Because the Bible is clear. The purity of the Truth, the Gospel of Jesus and the Holiness of God must be protected. There are no co-heirs with God’s Promise. The Church must drive out any hint of compromise or threat of compromise in order to retain its purity.

You might think that’s harsh. I think it’s not harsh enough.

Last Days (2 Timothy)

Paul’s words to Timothy are still words to live by in 2020. There is no doubt we are in the “last days.” Paul told Timothy he was living in the last days, and we are 2000 years closer to the end than Timothy was.

The following verses describe life in Paul’s day. I believe he is describing 2020, too:

People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. (3:2-5)

Sound familiar? I bet you saw most of those behaviors on the news last night. Maybe in your own family. Maybe when you look in the mirror.

Oh, there’s more:

(They are) always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. (Verse 7)

It reminds me of the present day “Woke” movement. It reminds me of modern academia, our “cancel culture,” Bethel worship.

Here’s the thing. We can shake our heads, point fingers, even pray for Jesus’ quick return because things are so bad. Or we can do what Paul told Timothy to do:

I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. (4:1b-2)

Paul goes on to tell Timothy and us that eventually people will not put up with sound doctrine. And the movement will be huge.

But, dear one, it’s not enough to recognize our circumstances in God’s Word, in verses such as these that Paul wrote Timothy. Recognizing that our world is in serious trouble is important in so far as it motivates us to share Jesus with lost souls. If it is true that Jesus’ return is around the corner, then the window of opportunity for people to be saved is closing. Does that bother you?

Paul encourages us to be in the Word, but then to use what we’ve learned to evangelize:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (3:16)

Do you believe we are in the last days? Then God is asking us to patiently correct, rebuke, encourage each other. We need to be training people in righteousness, not just right living. People need to know Jesus and accept His righteousness.

We are celebrating the birth of Jesus this week. What better time to start a conversation with our unsaved loved ones about what that birth means. Jesus was born to die for them!

These are no doubt the “last days.” What are you and I doing about that?

Wisdom and Understanding (Colossians)

In these days when lies are declared truth, and madness applauded as sanity, we need to be reminded of a few things.

Paul said:

My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. (2:2-4)

I, too, want to encourage you in heart and unite with you in love so that we can have complete understanding. I pray that we will know the mystery of God – Jesus! Because only in Jesus will we discover real wisdom and understanding.

And I, with Paul, want us to be grounded in the truth which is Jesus, so that we’ll recognize – and reject – the deceptive arguments being touted by the world’s authorities today. They not only speak lies, but they would make us feel guilty, intolerant, bigoted, selfish, and deplorable if we dare not go along with them in their lies. Can you see it?

Paul tells us who have received Christ as Savior to:

,,,continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (2:6-7)

We have to grow our roots deep in Him! We need to read His Word, spend time in prayer, intentionally walk with Him every moment of the day. We need to believe and hold on to what He has revealed to us in Scripture.

Then listen to this word of warning:

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. (2:8)

Who are you listening to?

Paul goes on. We need to clothe ourselves “with compassion, kindness humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (3:12-14)

We Christians should not be fighting amongst ourselves over petty grievances. The world needs to see what a difference Jesus makes in our lives. They don’t need to see us acting like them, or in some cases, worse than them!

Now why is this so important? Is it so you and I can get our ticket to heaven? Paul says this:

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (4:2)

What should we watch for? What do we have to be thankful for?

that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ... loudly and clearly! (from 4:2-4)

Paul encourages us to make the most out of every opportunity that comes our way to share Jesus with someone who is lost. Jesus is a mystery to those who don’t know Him. It’s up to us to help them solve the mystery by introducing them to the Savior.

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (4:6)

People are believing the lies. Even some who call themselves Christians are falling for it. “A man is not a male unless he feels like a male.” “You can’t help who you love.” “Life begins with birth so that which is in the womb is not life.” “A woman should have say over what she does with her body.” “Truth is subjective.” “Faith is a crutch.” “All roads lead to heaven.” “God is love so He accepts everyone.”

LIES! But they are lies that have become a false truth to many. And woe to you who don’t agree with them.

I hope you’ll read Paul’s letter to the Colossians today. There is so much in here for us Christians in 2020. Let’s know what God has revealed in His Word, and let’s stand firm on that foundation. Let’s proclaim the Truth of Jesus loudly and clearly, and let’s never miss an opportunity to introduce a lost soul to their Savior.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (3:17)

What Are We Waiting For? (Acts 24-28)

You don’t have to wait until your life is in order before God can use you. Paul was imprisoned for years, not guilty of any crime. He was in chains because he preached the truth and people didn’t want to hear it. He went through storms, adrift at sea, and shipwrecked. His life was anything but orderly.

Yet Paul never missed a chance to share Jesus, no matter who his audience. Kings? Sailors? Jailors? Sick people? Heathen? Church leaders? Yes! No matter who they were, Paul was preaching the Gospel to them.

Paul was an overflowing vessel at God’s disposal, even though his life was a mess.

What are we waiting for? Until our kids are grown? Until we feel worthy? Until we are older and wiser? Until we get that promotion at work, or that college degree, or our health is better?

We can learn from Paul who, no matter his own circumstances, shared Jesus. He didn’t wait until he was free, or healthy, or safe. He had a mission every day: tell people the Good News of the Gospel.

Tell me again – what are we waiting for?

The Victory (I Corinthians 15)

Jesus lives. Many people saw Him die on the cross that day. His corpse was buried in a tomb and guarded by Roman soldiers. Yet three days later that tomb was empty, and hundreds of people saw the risen Jesus. They heard Him speak, they ate with Him, touched Him, and many people were there and saw Him rise up into heaven where He lives yet today.

Jesus lives. Now death is not the end of us who have accepted Jesus as our Savior. Oh, this old body will die some day unless Jesus comes back first. But in my physical death, this old body will be replaced with a spiritual body that I will enjoy forever.

Death and sin defeated, and remembered no more!

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (vs 57)

The Charges Against You (Matthew 27, Mark 14)

I woke up in the middle of the night last night, and couldn’t get back to sleep. After tossing and turning for what seemed like hours, I finally gave up, turned on the light, and finished a Christian fiction novel I had begun reading a couple days ago.

The main character, who had given her life to the Lord about three-quarters into the story, had been drugged and sabotaged by her conniving assistant. When the truth came out, the assistant, flanked by two police officers, stood before the main character. The guilty assistant was facing prison time for her crimes.

“Do you want to press charges?” one of the officers asked.

Then, because she realized how much God had forgiven her, the main character looked at her assistant and felt sorry for her. “No,’ she replied. “I won’t be pressing charges.”

Sounds very Christian.

Until you read the Scriptures I read this morning.

Sometimes we are led to believe that when we ask Jesus to forgive us, He simply erases the ledger. He doesn’t press charges. But that is not true. Those sins you confess don’t just go away. Each one comes with a death sentence, and saying, “My bad,” doesn’t make them disappear, no matter how sincere you are.

There is a price your sins and mine demand. It’s an awful, painful, serious price to pay. And a Holy, Just God demands payment.

Jesus paid.

He heard every lie, every insult. He felt every fist, every thorn, every lash, every nail. His blood poured out of His body like yours or mine would have flowed. He died a very painful death. His death was our death sentence.

Jesus didn’t go through all of that to simply let you off the hook. He endured that pain to pay for your sins and mine. Every sin. The debt ledger wasn’t erased. It was paid in full.

If you confess your sin you will be forgiven. But the charges against you have been made, and you have been found guilty. Accepting Jesus as your Savior means accepting the fact that He paid your death sentence. He took on Himself the punishment you deserve.

I pray you have received what Jesus died to give you, the forgiveness of your sin. But never think what He did was merely dropping the charges. It cost Him much more than that.