Tag Archives: the Gospel

July 21; Subtle Sin and Satan. It’s Serious.

Isaiah 56-60

I wish the devil really did wear a red suit, had horns and a tail, and carried a pitch fork. It would be so much easier to recognize him and resist the temptations he throws my way. It would be so much easier to recognize Satan’s lies ands distortion of God’s Truth if a bull horn blared or thunder crashed when people spoke anything other than Truth.

But the truth of the matter is, that serpent is not so easily spotted. That’s why we need to be actively engaged in the study of Scripture. We have got to know what God has said, so we know what He does not say.

Isaiah tells us God is absolutely 100% able to save. (chapter 59). He is able and ready to accomplish His will, which is to redeem lost people. But we, who are His arms, legs, and voice, prevent Him from reaching the lost when we don’t address the sin in our own lives. Our iniquities separate us from Him, our sin hides His face from us, so that even our prayers fall on deaf ears.

Our hands, our fingers, our lips, and our tongues are useless to God when sin exists in us. (verses 1-3). And not just the blatant, “I’m having an affair” kind of sin. It’s pride, and jealousy, and laziness, and compromise, and tolerance, and whatever else Satan dresses up like truth, or however he helps us rationalize our evil. God can’t use blood-stained hands.

When we speak lies, when we live a lie, we conceive trouble and give birth to evil. A lie, whether spoken or lived, or just believed, takes on a life of its own. It becomes a poison that kills, a spider web that traps. Whoever is caught in those lies will die. (verses 4-5)

People caught in the web of lies, may wear that web like clothing. But Isaiah says the truth is, they wear the covering of evil, of violence, ruin and destruction. There is no peace in the life of the one who has put on a lie and tried to pass it on as truth. (verses 6-8)

They live in darkness. They try to feel their way around, they stumble and fall because they have no light in them. They are blind to the Truth, and they live without hope. (verses 9-11)

It’s a pretty bleak picture that Isaiah paints here in this chapter. And it’s serious business. It’s nothing to blow off, or minimize. All of us are subject to Satan’s lies. All of us have sinned. It’s easy to read the “they” of this post and of what God inspired Isaiah to write, and think, “Well, that’s not me.” But I wonder.

In fact, Isaiah tells us that God looked for one righteous man who would be able to intervene, someone without sin who could stand up to the lies. And there was no-one. Not even one of us. Your sins, and mine, have driven a wedge between us and God. That’s a fact.

So God, knowing that there will never be one of us able to set things right, did it Himself. He gave His own life. God, in human form, paid the price I deserve for following Satan’s clever lies. Jesus died for my sins.

The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins. (verse 20)

I started this post by saying I wished Satan was easier to spot. When the truth is, if I am in God’s Word, if my heart is pure, my sins forgiven by the blood of Jesus, Satan’s not as clever as he thinks. Greater is God in me, than that snake who is in the world.

I pray that each of us will deal with sin in our lives, even the sins we’ve labeled, “no big deal.” I pray that we all will want to be God’s hands, fingers, lips, and tongue to proclaim the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are souls God died to save out there that are yet walking in the darkness of sin.

God went to the cross alone, died so that we can be forgiven. He did that Himself. But He is depending on us to carry the light of His Truth to a world of people living in the darkness of sin. Let’s get out there and shine that light.

 

July 20; Wake up! I Mean It!

Isaiah 51-55

I will confess I am not usually a morning person. I’m better now than I was as an adolescent, but I still stay in bed until the very last minute every chance I get. My parents had the challenge of getting five girls up and ready to catch the bus every morning during the school year. I’m pretty sure they’d tell you that was not fun.

Our dad finally had had enough. “Time to get up, girls.” “Get up, girls.” “You’ll be late for school, girls.” “Get out of that bed RIGHT NOW.” And we would turn over and go right back to sleep.

So one day we heard, “Either get out of that bed right now, or I am going to pour water on your head.” And I turned a deaf ear, rolled over and went back to sleep. I’m pretty sure I was in a deep sleep the first time I got drenched with cold water. Let’s just say I got out of bed.

And, after that when Dad told us it was time to get up, all he had to do was turn the faucet on in the kitchen, and our feet hit the floor! “I’m up!” We learned that when he said, “Wake up,” he meant it.

I remembered that today as I read God saying, “Awake! Awake!” in Isaiah 51:9, then again in verse 17, and a third time in 52:1. It sounded rather urgent, so I decided to look at what else God was demanding of His children (just in case He had a glass full of water at the ready).

The first thing was, “Listen to me,” (51:1 and 4). Like a mom who takes her child’s face in her hands and is face to face with that little one. “Listen to me,” God says. “What I have to say is important.”

Then He says in 51:7, “Hear me.” And both here and in the verses above God is telling us His righteousness is unchanging, His salvation is forever. Just listening to the words is not enough. God wants us to take it in, to understand it, to pay attention.

When He tells us to “Awake,” He also tells us to get dressed. Clothe ourselves with strength. And in verse 2 of chapter 52 He tells us to free ourselves from the chains on our necks. Wake up… and get moving.

52:7 says we are to “Depart, depart, go out from there!” There is an urgency here for us to leave sin behind, to come out from among it and be pure.

In 54:1 He says, “Sing.” Burst into song, shout for joy. And in verse 4 He tells us, “Do not be afraid.” God is true to His Word. That is reason to rejoice, and put aside any fear.

I love that, in 55:1 God bids us to “Come.” Think about it. The Creator God wants you and me with Him so that He can bless us.

And lastly, He invites us to “Seek the Lord” (verse 6). Call on Him. Turn to Him and He will have mercy on us.

Friend, that is the Gospel in a nutshell. God has given us His Word. He has repeated the Truth over and over, given example after example, and tells us to pay attention. Listen! Hear!

Wake up! It’s time. It’s time to repent, to depart from Satan, to come out from the presence of sin and be separate. Because when we do, He gives us reason to sing. Our sins are forgiven, our hearts are clean.

And we need not fear. God is greater, more powerful, more loving than we can imagine. And He WANTS us to come to Him. He gives food for the hungry and water for the thirsty. We have reason for joy.

Then, as a sinner saved by grace, we can continually seek Him, read His word, pray, grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus, and be blessed.

In the middle of these chapters is the beautiful description of Jesus. (chapter 53) Jesus, the center of God’s plan to adopt each of us into His family. Jesus is the Gospel, the good news!

Listen. Hear. Awake. Depart. Sing. Fear not. Come. Seek.

I pray you are awake. God means it.

 

July 16; Stop Trying So Hard

2 Kings 18:3-7, 20:20-21; 2 Chronicles 29:2, 32:32-33; Isaiah 24:1-27:13

When I read Isaiah’s words I see Jesus, the Rock eternal, the upright One whose life, death, and resurrection makes the path of righteousness level, and who makes salvation a wall and a rampart that protects His children.

So many religions require their followers to do certain things, to suffer in certain ways, to make sacrifices in order to attain favor, or god-likeness, or whatever the goal of that religion is.

On the other hand, Jesus says: “Here, let me do that for you.”

In other religions people can be at different levels, different stages in their pursuit of heaven or actualization or enlightenment.

Jesus says, “Believe in me.”

Salvation Jesus’ way is a gift, not something you strive for or earn. In Jesus’ economy we are all equal. No one is saved more than someone else by virtue of a series of completed tasks.

Ask.

Receive.

That’s it. No matter who you are. And if you’ve done that you know there is such peace and rest given to us. When we finally stop trying so hard to earn that unattainable goal, and allow Jesus only be our goal, we can rest in His grace.

Isaiah has so much to say about this. I hope you’ll read it and see Jesus, see how He cares for His children, how He shows grace to the wicked in order to bring them to Himself. Let Him speak to you about your relationship with Him in 2019.

Then rejoice with me in the truth of 26:3,

You will keep him in perfect peace, him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.

July 11: Right Where I Want To Be

Psalms 87, 125; Isaiah 1:1-4:6

Reading what God has to say to His people through Isaiah, I can get a bit fearful. God is no one to mess with. It’s His way, or the highway. He refuses to even listen to the prayers of we who are sinful.

But then God throws in verses like Isaiah 1:18-19:

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow, though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land…”

Yes, God is to be feared. His judgments are harsh and devastating. Those who do not know Him will suffer greatly, and eternally. But He’s not just warning those who blatantly disobey.

God warns against religion, against simply going through the motions of obedience. Of that He says:

Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong! (Isaiah 1:16)

He calls lip-service, or hypocrisy evil deeds. That means church attendance, or volunteering at a soup kitchen, or whatever kindness and good works you do without first repenting of sin in your life. Evil deeds.

But as fearsome and Holy as God is, He delights in forgiving a repentant heart. He longs to turn sinful lives white as snow. And he does, whenever anyone accepts what Jesus did on the cross when He paid the harsh judgment for my sin and yours.

The psalmist says this in Psalm 125:2:

As the mountain surrounds Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore.”

I do not need to fear God’s judgment. That mountain around Jerusalem protected His people from the enemy. They were hemmed in on all sides.

And that’s right where I want to be. Right there in the middle of God’s protection, under His wings, safe, secure, loved both now and forevermore. So I repent of sin. I ask God to forgive me for impure thoughts and actions, for harboring anger and jealousy, for gossip and hypocrisy. I lay it all out there and ask Him to forgive me.

And He does.

Then, and only then, am I His child, surrounded by His love and protection. Yes, my friend. That’s right where I want to be.

July 5; The Answer

2 Chronicles 29:1-31:1; Psalms 66-67

I believe that, as the Jews were worshiping pretend gods, deep inside they knew something was not quite right. Something was missing. Then, when Hezekiah cleaned house, restored the temple, reinstated the Passover and worship of God, the Jews could hardly contain their joy.

They came from all around, traveled many difficult miles to get to Jerusalem, to go to where God was.

Have you ever been really, really thirsty? Your tongue probably felt like it was made of cotton balls, you might have begun to see stars. When you took your first sip of water – what was it like? Could you feel the moisture slide down your throat? Were you aware of every drop as it worked its way through your body, refreshing and energizing you down to  your fingers and toes? With each swallow you began to return to your former state of health.

I think that was kind of what the Jews must have experienced as they returned to God.

I look at our present day world full of restless people. I see them worshiping all kinds of pretend gods: science, self, religion, money, relationship, excitement, whatever. And I know the reason they are restless is because deep down they know they are missing something. They are dying of thirst.

Using my analogy, I see these restless people trying to satisfy their thirst by eating potato chips, or drinking toilet water, or convincing themselves they aren’t really dying of thirst.

They make new idols, thinking that’s the answer. Or they turn their attention within themselves believing they’ll find what they need. They might tell themselves they’ve found what they were missing, but deep down inside they keep looking. The restlessness continues.

Friend, I know the answer to the world’s problem. I know it’s exactly the same answer we read about in the lives of the Jews under Hezekiah. It’s what Jesus called, “Living Water.” It’s Jesus Himself.

You might disagree. But that doesn’t change what is true. You might choose to continue to try to find fulfillment making pretend idols, and trying to quench your thirst with pebbles. But I am here to tell you, the answers you are looking for are written to you in love from God Himself. It’s in the pages of the Bible.

I know that if you read it, if you accept who God says He is, and allow Jesus to change you, you will find the answers you were looking for all along.

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, that (His) ways may be known on earth, (His) salvation among all the nations. (Psalm 67:1)

 

June 28; We Are The World

Hosea 4-5; 2 Kings 14:24-29, 15:8-12,13-16; Jonah

The book of Jonah is really two stories in one. The first is about our God who loves the world. It’s about a God who does not want anyone dying without Him, who wants all people everywhere to be saved, even those we might think are unworthy or beyond hope. It’s a story about our amazing God who goes to great lengths to draw all of us to Him, a story about God who forgives the sin of anyone who repents.

The second story is about our God who loves me. You. Jonah. Every one of His children. It’s about a God who doesn’t ignore our sins, who doesn’t throw a blanket of forgiveness over us once we come to Him. It’s about our loving God who patiently reveals our sins to us, so that we can repent and have fellowship with Him restored. We might try to run from God, to try to do something “Christian” even though we know He’s asking us to do something else. We might sleep while we should be praying. We might pout, or complain. But God is there, whispering truth in our ears, patiently waiting for each of us to swallow our pride, and run into His open arms.

The book of Jonah is about God who loves the world, and who loves individuals like you and me. Every time I think of John 3:16 I know I can substitute my name in there. Yes, it’s true that God so loved the world. But it is also true that God so loved Connie that He gave His Son Jesus to die in my place.

God so loved the world… and we are the world!

June 25; A Good News Day

2 Kings 7:3-20, 8:7-15, 13:12-21,24-25, 14:15-23, 15:1-5; 2 Chronicles 26; Amos 1

The lepers who were forced to live outside the city gates were starving, as were the people living inside the city because the famine was great. To make matters worse, the Aramean army had set up camp outside the city ready to attack.

Until God.

When the enemy army heard the sound of a great army approaching with chariots and horses, they dropped everything and fled. They knew they had no defense against such a great army. The thing is, they didn’t. What they heard was the sound of God’s army.

The lepers had given up hope. Not knowing what had transpired in the Aramean camp, they decided to throw themselves on the mercy of the enemy. They figured they were going to die anyway.

When they walked into the enemy camp – no one was there! The soldiers had disappeared. So the lepers ate the food and loaded themselves with the treasures that were left. They’d hit the mother-load!

Then they said to each other:

We’re not doing right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves… Let’s go at once and report this to the royal palace. (2 Kings 7:9)

The entire city was saved from the famine that day.

Dear Christian, today is the day of Good News! God has given us everything we need for this life and eternity. We have the treasures of heaven – Jesus Himself. We’ve hit the mother-load, and it’s not right to keep this Good News to ourselves.

Let’s shout it from the rooftops. Let’s talk about it over coffee. Let’s whisper it in the ear of a hurting friend.

Jesus saves!

This is the day of Good News!