Tag Archives: the Gospel

Don’t Lose Your Awe (Proverbs 30)

It has been said we are in the Information Age. Do you have a question about something? Google it. You will have more information at your fingertips than you’ll know what to do with. I don’t think there is a topic out there that isn’t covered on the web.

Agur reminds us, however, that there are some things that are too wonderful for even Google to understand. He starts out by admitting he’s not God. He acknowledges that “every word of God is flawless,” and that we don’t need to add anything to what God has revealed to us. If we try, we’ll be found out as liars. God has all the answers. We don’t. We never will.

Then Agur looks in awe at Creation. He looks at an eagle flying in the sky, a snake crawling on a rock. He watches an ant, a badger, locusts, lizards, lions, roosters, and rams, and seems to just say, “Wow.” Some things are just too wonderful to understand.

Do you think you have everything figured out, that you understand the human body, the ecosystem, the physics and science behind nature? You may have studied these things for years, have multiple degrees on any given subject. That’s awesome! Just don’t lose your wonder.

Take a minute. Put down your phone. Turn off the TV. Then watch that eagle soaring in the sky, the bumblebee sitting on that daisy, the clouds as they lazily cross the sky, the ant carrying that bread crumb on its back, a panting dog, the tiny fingernail of a child.

Notice how when you inhale, your lungs fill with oxygen. Feel your heart beating. Become aware of the blink of your eye. Enjoy the smell of roses in your garden.

Yes, there are scientific reasons for things. And good for you if you’ve got an understanding of those scientific reasons. But allow yourself to be awed by science, too. God created science.

God created order. Thoughtfully, carefully, intentionally, everything that is was amazingly designed by God. With. A. Word. Don’t even pretend you understand how He did that! There are some things too wonderful for us to know.

Then consider this: the same God who fashioned this world from nothing, loves YOU. He wants to have a relationship with YOU. He died so that YOU can know Him intimately, eternally.

Let’s not lose our wonder just because we can fill our heads with information. This world is amazing. Our Creator is far above any explanation, the Bible far superior to any scientific journal.

Don’t lose your awe.

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.

 

It’s My Fault (2 Samuel 24, I Chronicles 21)

Warren Wiersbe says of these chapters of the Bible, that David’s sin was pride. David counted the fighting men in Israel and Judah, which demonstrated the Jews’ superiority over other nations, and revealed David as the most powerful king. But according to Wiersbe, he did not “connect the census with the redemption money,”  as was directed in Exodus 30. (With the Word by Warren Wiersbe; Oliver-Nelson Books; 1991; page 194) It would appear this census was motivated by David’s pride.

What I like about David is, when he recognized that he’d sinned against God, feeling the heavy hand of God’s conviction, he prayed: “I have sinned greatly.” He didn’t blame anyone else, he didn’t make excuses, he didn’t rationalize his behavior. He recognized his sin, and he confessed it to God. have sinned.

We must never ignore the feeling of guilt, or learn to live with a heavy conscience. We must confess our sin, because when we do God is faithful to forgive! What joy!

But there is a lesson here. Forgiveness doesn’t automatically cancel out consequences for our sin. And that’s what spoke to me today.

The consequences for David’s sin didn’t just affect him. The entire nation paid for what David had done. For days, David watched while the people charged to his care, the nation he loved and fought for and led, suffered. Tens of thousands of them died, and there was nothing David could do but sit back and watch it happen, knowing it was his fault.

We all have people we care about: our children, our siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, our friends, co-workers, neighbors, adults and kids whom we love, fight for, and nurture. We all have people for whom we are responsible in one way or another. Isn’t it hard to watch these dear ones go through hard times, suffer illness and loss while you stand helplessly by? It’s a horrible feeling.

But what if the things they are going through are a direct result of sin you’ve committed? Your family loses their home because your drinking ends up costing you your job. Your adolescent child is having trouble dealing with losing you through divorce. Your company goes under because you embezzled money, putting your co-workers and friends out of their jobs. Your family lives in fear because you don’t control your temper.

Even if you confess your sin and receive God’s grace, consequences don’t magically disappear. That is an important lesson for all of us. That sin we are committing has far reaching fingers.

I don’t think there is a much worse feeling than watching those dear people suffer for what you’ve done. I remember the first time I saw my dad cry. We had been out for a family hike at a nearby state park. We’d walked for a time when Dad and I ran ahead and climbed a steep hill to hide from Mom and my sisters. But when they finally came into view, they weren’t even looking for us. So Dad kicked a rock, thinking that would get their attention. The rock rolled down the hill, hit another, larger rock, and went airborne. We watched in horror as that rock was hurled into the eye of one of my sisters.

Blood everywhere. Screams. Panic. Dad ran, picked her up, and ran to the car, Mom trying to get the others of us there as quickly as possibly. We crammed into the car and Dad sped to the nearest hospital.

My three sisters and I waited in the car while Mom and Dad took Peggy to the emergency room. I don’t know how long we sat there before we saw Dad come out of the glass doors. With head down, he walked slowly toward us. He opened the driver’s side door, sat down, then dropped his head onto the steering wheel and cried.

It wasn’t a whimper. The sounds coming from him came from a place very deep inside him. He moaned, and sobbed, it seemed like forever. Peggy had nearly lost her eye. And Dad knew it was his fault. He was responsible, and there was nothing he could do about it now. She would be scarred for the rest of her life.

Dad’s agony came from a place of innocence. And yet he always carried the guilt of that day. It was an accident. But that didn’t prevent Dad and Peggy from suffering the consequences.

How much worse, to know that the suffering of our loved ones comes as a result of our choices, our pride, our willfulness, our rebellion, our sin. How much worse when we are faced with the reality that there was something we could have done to prevent it.

Like confessing that sin, repenting, turning from it before it was too late.

I would encourage us all to be sensitive to the convicting hand of our Lord. If you are feeling guilty over a sin, no matter how small you think that sin is, confess it immediately. Ask God to forgive you BEFORE things get too far, and consequences begin to touch others. Repent before your stubborn pride boils over and burns the people you love.

I don’t think there are more bitter tears than ones that come from knowing:

It’s my fault.

Convicted (Psalms 32, 51, 86, 122)

These psalms have a lot to say about the forgiveness of sin. David said that when he lived with his sin, God’s hand was heavy on him. He had no strength, he groaned all day. David’s experience (and my own) tells me that the force of God’s conviction affects every part of our lives.

But when David confessed his sin, God forgave him and surrounded him with songs of deliverance. Instead of feeling the guilt and shame of his sin, David could confidently say this:

Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. (32:1-2)

David knew that when he confessed his sin, his whole life was changed:

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me and I will be whiter than snow. (51:7)

And, instead of  being weighed down by guilt, David could pray:

Restore to me the joy of your salvation. (51:12a)

David’s groaning turned to real joy when He asked and received God’s forgiveness. He knew God wasn’t interested in religion, or in David’s animal sacrifices any more than God is interested in our good deeds:

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (51:16-17, emphasis mine)

This God who lays a heavy hand of conviction on us who sin, doesn’t make us miserable because He is mean or vengeful. Listen to David describe God:

You are kind and forgiving, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you. (86:5)

David could say those things with confidence about God, even when the guilt of his sin caused him sleepless nights and agony. David knew…

In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me. (86:7)

Are you being convicted by a sin you’ve not confessed? I would urge you to bow your head right now, and ask God to forgive you. Turn from that sin and toward our God who is abounding in love to those who call on Him. He will answer your prayer. Then, with David, you will be able to say:

For great is your love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of the grave. (86:13)

Amen!

 

A Name On A List (I Chronicles 1-2)

My reading plan has me in the first two chapters of I Chronicles this morning. I spent some time trying to carefully pronounce all of those weird names as I read. “Why?” you might ask. Why not just skim over the names of people whose stories are not even recorded? Well for one thing:

All Scripture is God-breathed. (2 Timothy 3:16)

I know nothing about most of the men whose names I read in these chapters today, except maybe the names of their dads and their sons’ names. And the fact that God placed their names in His Holy Scripture.

Not all these people were obedient servants of God. Not all did amazing deeds, or won great battles. They were ordinary people. Yet all of them have a place in the history of God on this earth. All their names have been preserved for centuries. They were God’s children as part of His chosen people.

When you think about it, this is a pretty amazing list. What a privilege to be counted among God’s precious ones for ever. But this list is nothing compared to the list where you’ll find my name.

Scripture often talks about the Book of Life, or in Revelation, the Lamb’s Book of Life. That’s where you’ll find my name.

I know my name is there because I have believed that Jesus is the Christ. I have recognized my sin and confessed it. I have received forgiveness for those sins through the blood of Jesus, the resurrected Savior. And because I have been redeemed, my name was added to the list of God’s precious ones, His children for whom He is preparing heaven!

The Lamb’s Book of Life is filled with pages and pages of ordinary men, women, and children. Not all have done great deeds, or won great battles. Not all have taught Sunday School or preached in front of thousands. Not all have given their lives for the Name. But every name on that list has something in common.

Acts 4:12 tells us there is no other name in heaven or earth that can save except Jesus. Jesus Himself told us that He is the Way and no one goes to the father except through Him. John 3:16 tells us whoever believes that Jesus died for the sins of the world will be saved and have everlasting life.

The names of the people who have accepted Jesus are listed in the Lamb’s Book of Life. My name is there. I pray yours is as well. But it’s more than a list. It’s a relationship with God Himself. It’s the joy of sins forgiven. It’s truth and life, and eternity.

Now that’s a list!

 

Blameless and Innocent (Psalm 19)

My mom wrote, “for 1991” in the margin of her Bible, next to these verses she’d underlined:

…Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me… May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:12-14)

Mom lived these verses about as well as anyone I’ve ever known. But it wasn’t so much the verses she’d underlined that stood out to me. I’ve sat here for a while considering the words she chose not to underline in verse 13. Those words are what speak to me today:

Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.

I do not claim to know why my mother didn’t underline this phrase, so I won’t pretend to speak for her. I knew Mom as a humble, less-than-confident servant of the Lord she loved. Did she feel unworthy to even suggest that she could be blameless or innocent, even if God had declared she was that and more through the blood of His Son? I don’t know. I only know she didn’t underline that phrase in 1991.

It occurs to me that it’s fairly easy to recognize someone struggling with pride. They tend to brag, they draw attention to themselves, they are critical of others in order to show themselves superior.

It’s not as easy to recognize someone struggling with guilt, regret, or feeling undeserving of God’s grace. They tend to serve God quietly, maybe self-sacrificially, and avoid recognition or praise But they struggle in the depths of their souls, often with a smile on their faces.

Let me share two things God has laid on my heart concerning this. 1) If you feel unworthy of God’s grace, you are right. You don’t deserve it. You are a sinner and what you deserve is hell. That is true for all of us. In fact, grace wouldn’t be grace if we deserved it.

But do not misunderstand, Jesus died for you and me while we were sinners. You do not deserve His forgiveness, but He deserves for you to accept it anyway. He willingly paid what you couldn’t pay. And being blameless and innocent is His gift for you if you would just receive it. We need to stop trying to feel worthy, and instead rejoice in the reality of God’s grace to we who are anything but worthy.

2) Because if we don’t, if we continue allowing ourselves to feel shame or guilt, or if we allow our unworthiness define us, we run the risk of having a works-based faith. We want to feel like we deserve God’s grace so we teach Sunday School, we visit people in hospitals, we fix food for shut-ins, we read our Bibles every day, we don’t drink or smoke or gossip. And we think that somehow living like that will make God love us more, or forgive us more, or maybe it’ll just help us feel good about ourselves.

We need to keep reminding ourselves that nothing – nothing- we do can make God love us more. He died once for you. It is finished, He said. You can’t earn what has already been bought.

Again, I don’t know why Mom didn’t underline this part of verse 13. But if you are struggling with guilt for sins already forgiven, or if you find it hard to accept what Jesus freely offers, understand those thoughts and feelings don’t come from God. They are the arrows of the enemy.

My prayer is that you will rejoice in the cross today, allow God to cover those sins He died for, accept His grace without hesitation. And with boldness, live your life as one who has been declared blameless and innocent.

Because through Jesus’ blood that is exactly what you are.

 

How Dare You! (Judges 13-15)

I am bothered by what I read today in God’s Word. Samson killed a lion with his bare hands. Then later he saw that bees had built a nest and were producing honey in the rotting carcass of the lion. Samson reached in, snapped off part of the honeycomb, and tasted it. He gave some to his parents to taste, but he didn’t tell them where he’d gotten it.

Then at his wedding feast (where he was marrying a Philistine woman – a huge act of disobedience toward God’s commands) he told a riddle. “Out of the eater, something to eat. Out of the strong, something sweet.” He made a game of it. He promised a big reward if someone could figure out the answer to his riddle.

I’ve read this story many times. It marks the beginning of Samson’s war with the Philistines, and the rescue of the Jews from Philistine rule. But it is also the beginning of the end of Samson.

I think there is a very important lesson in this part of Samson’s story. As a man brought up as a Nazarite, he absolutely knew God’s Law. He absolutely knew touching a dead animal rendered him unclean, and he knew the steps required by God to address the uncleanness. Samson knew the truth, and ignored it.

It’s one thing to blatantly disobey, but how dare he make that decision for his parents! Eating that honey made them unclean. Didn’t they have a right to decide for themselves whether they were willing to be unclean in order to taste the honey? And shouldn’t they have been able to then take the steps required for cleansing? They didn’t even know they needed to take the steps.

Not only that, but Samson made a joke out of the situation. A joke! Did he think disobeying God was funny? Evidently he wasn’t taking his disobedience seriously.

Some of you were raised in a Christian home. You’ve heard the Gospel, probably memorized John 3:!6. But something happened along the way. Now Sundays are for sleeping in, making pancakes for the kids. You’ve gotten in the habit of using God’s Holy Name as a punctuation mark. And you laugh the hardest at jokes about sin.

You’re like Samson. You know better, and choose sin anyway. That’s on you. But how dare you make that choice for your children.

I’ve heard people say they are going to let their children choose for themselves whether or not to do the Christian thing. So they don’t take their kids to church. They don’t talk about Jesus in their homes. They don’t sing the hymns, or read the Bible. And somehow they think they are allowing their children to decide for themselves.

If that is your thinking, let me ask you something. Where do you think your children are going to hear the truth? TV? School? Their friends? Maybe you think they’ll get some supernatural visit or something. If you want your children to make an informed choice, you’d better be sure they are informed. YOU’D better be sure they are informed.

Samson’s parents needed to know they were unclean before they could decide whether or not they would take the steps to be clean. The fact that Samson didn’t tell them, didn’t negate their uncleanness. It did, however, prevent them from being clean again.

Your children need to know they are sinners before they decide whether or not to accept Jesus as their Savior.  If you aren’t telling them, it doesn’t make them less of a sinner, or negate their need of the Savior.

I’m praying for you parents. Yours is an important responsibility. I know many of you are living examples of Christ to your children. I thank God for you and pray with you that your children will choose Jesus at an early age.

All of you are raising eternal souls there in your home. Are you raising them to choose heaven? Or are you okay if they go to hell? Are you willing to make that choice for them? If you know the truth and aren’t teaching it to your children, you are making decisions for them that have eternal implications.

How dare you!

 

 

Savior or Executioner (Judges 3-5)

Sisera was running from his enemies, the children of Israel. Jael gave him shelter, AND guarded the door. Sisera was thirsty and asked for water. Jael went one better, and gave him milk. I can only imagine how that sweet liquid felt to Sisera as it hit his tongue. Sisera was weary. Jael provided him with a warm bed.

Yet with all the kindness Sisera received at the hands of this Jewish woman, Sisera remained an enemy of God. He did not repent. And the one who had lavished him with grace and mercy became his executioner.

We must not take God’s grace and mercy for granted. The sun rose today on everyone. There is oxygen to breathe in every corner of the world. Working limbs, hearing ears, love and laughter are enjoyed by the vast majority. And to top it off, Jesus died for the sins of every individual. For God so loved the world!

Yet some who are enjoying the grace and mercy that is ours at the hand of a very patient and loving God, will one day meet Him as their executioner. Some who accept His blessings in this lifetime will die His enemy unless they accept what is their’s through the blood of Jesus.

Yes, God is a loving God. He is slow to anger. He is actively working in the hearts of people everywhere to come to Him, to love and obey Him, to repent of sin and know Him.

But one day we will look into those eyes and see our Savior, or our Executioner. There is no third option.

Once and For All (Leviticus 16-18)

When I read about all the different kinds of sin sacrifices, and all the different regulations for each, I can’t help but think of Jesus.

When Aaron lays hands on an animal and then slits its throat, I see Jesus’ blood dripping down His face, drops of blood from His hands and feet dripping down the cross to the ground below. When Aaron sprinkles blood on the altar or touches an ear or thumb with blood, I know Jesus’ blood was applied to me.

I think it’s important for us to read the Old Testament account of the sacrificial system which God provided for dealing with sin. When we read all the regulations, all the intricate details, we can better understand what Jesus’ death did.

Because it is nothing short of amazing to know that Jesus fulfilled every regulation, every detail perfectly…

once and for all!

Call It What It Is (Leviticus5)

Sometimes we can rationalize our sin. We call it a mistake, or an accident, a momentary weakness, or lack of will-power. We might feel better about our transgressions – but God is not looking at our sin for anything other than what it is:

Sin.

That truth occurred to me this morning as I read what God said to the people who could not afford to bring an animal sacrifice. He told them they could bring a handful of fine flour and give it to the priest. BUT… they were to bring the flour without adding oil or incense to it. Just the flour.

They were not to try to dress it up, or to make it smell better. They were to offer the flour in its natural form. It was their sin offering – not a mistake offering.

Let’s stop trying to camouflage our sin. Because unless we confess our SIN, I’m not sure God forgives us. I don’t read anywhere that Jesus died for my momentary weakness or for your lack of will-power.

Jesus died for sin. We need to confess our sin. Let’s call it what it is.