Tag Archives: tolerance

August 11; Are We Them?

Ezekiel 5-9

You know what struck me as I read Ezekiel’s vision and heard God talk about the detestable things that were happening, and the way He was going to punish them? God is talking about His people! He’s not pointing out the sins of unbelievers. He’s pointing out the sins of His chosen Israel. And they are doing these detestable things right there in the temple.

It makes me sad when I read a bunch of them in the inner court of the house of the Lord, turned their backs on the temple, and bowed down to the sun in the east. They’d turned their backs on God right in the middle of God’s House.

Dear Church, please take the warning. God sees what goes on behind closed doors. He hears the conversations we’re having about compromising, tolerating, accepting all manner of sin in order to get people inside the walls of His house. He is very aware of the sin in my life – and in yours.

I’m afraid we’ve begun to turn our backs on God right in the middle of His house in 2019. Every time we back off a little on our message, every time we embrace a casual worship, or a feel-good theology, or ignore sin in our own lives, we make a shift toward worshiping the sun in the east.

I hope you’ll read Ezekiel’s vision. I think you’ll hear God’s anger, His rage. “Is it a trivial matter for the house of Judah (or the Church) to do the detestable things they are doing here?… Therefore, I will deal with them in anger, I will not look on them with pity or spare them…” (8:17-18)

I can’t help but believe these chapters are not just about an ancient people. What was true for them is true for us today. God may be talking to and about them, but, dear one, we are them.

May 7; First Things First

2 Samuel 5:13-16, 13:1-5:6; I Chronicles 145:3-7, 3:4-9

Amnon committed a sexual sin with his sister Tamar. What he did to her was vile and inexcusable. There should have been severe consequences for his behavior. But we don’t read that David, his father (and Tamar’s), said or did anything to Amnon.

Did David remember his own sexual sin he had committed with Bathsheba? Did the fact that the king had taken many women into his own bed prevent him from taking a stand against the sin Amnon committed?

Years ago I had a friend whose 18 year old daughter moved in with her boyfriend. My friend was not happy about it, but she threw up her hands and said to me, “How can I say anything? I did the same thing when I was 18.”

I wonder if she was giving her daughter permission to commit EVERY sin she herself ever committed, or just that one? I’ve come to believe that having committed sins in our past, then repenting and experiencing God’s forgiveness for those sins, gives us every right to speak up. I’d go so far as to say it gives us the responsibility to speak up. David took the easy, the comfortable way out and kept silent.

It angers me that Amnon was allowed to go on with life as though nothing had happened. Yet Tamar, the victim, ended up living in her brother Absalom’s house, “a desolate woman.” For whatever reason, Amnon’s sin was never addressed by David, and Amnon never repented.

Well it angered Absalom, too. Because two years later, Absalom had his brother Amnon killed. Yet another example of someone committing a sin to pay back a sin. When will we learn? What we see is another sin that is never addressed.

Absalom takes off and hides in Geshur. Good riddance, right? I mean the guy murdered his brother. Nope. Scripture tells us David “mourned for his son every day.” But even mourning his son’s absence didn’t prompt David to confront the sin. I believe that’s why, when the woman from Tekoa came to David, she could easily convince David to take Absalom back.

I mean, she invoked the name of God, so what she said must be true, right? “Send for poor Absolom, Bring him home. Accept him. You’re like an angel of God, David. You’ll do the right thing,”

So David, without asking God what he should do, invites Absalom home. Sounds like the Christian thing to do. I mean, who are we to judge?

What is glaringly missing from this account is any repentance on the part of Amnon or Absalom. Amnon died without asking for forgiveness. And Absalom doesn’t admit guilt, doesn’t ask for forgiveness for the murder of his brother.

Yet we read that eventually, David welcomes Absolom with open arms and kisses anyway. We will read more of this story, and see how embracing an unrepentant sinner will effect David and his entire kingdom.

Folks, welcoming sinners into the Church body is as destructive as David welcoming Absalom into his home. I believe Scripture is clear that repentance HAS to come first. The church that embraces sinners (who in reality are God’s enemies), the church that accepts sin, and refuses to keep the fellowship holy, is doomed for destruction. I know this is contrary to what most of us believe because it sounds so harsh, so unloving. But in reality, it’s the only loving thing to do.

I believe with all my heart that churches aren’t dying because of the hymns they sing on Sunday morning, or the lack of fancy technology, or a foyer with no coffee shop. Churches are dying because of sin in our midst. God will not bless sin. God cannot be present where sin is allowed to exist. Making our churches a comfortable place for sinners to come is counterproductive. That has never been what church was intended to be.

I think the account we see here of David’s life is an example of what happens when sin is allowed to exist without being addressed. I see Scripture telling us we need to keep the Church holy, undefiled, an exclusive organization for believers only. But I also believe Scripture is clear that we who are members of God’s Church need to be out there loving on people who haven’t dealt with their sin, spreading the Gospel, leading people to the Savior, making disciples, THEN inviting them to church.

First things first. And repentance has to be the first thing.

 

 

March 7; Stand Strong

Numbers 22-24

I love this story. I confess I laugh out-loud nearly every time. I get to where the donkey speaks, and Balaam answers it as though it was the most natural thing in the world to be having a conversation with a donkey, and I just can’t help myself. It cracks me up.

Today, however, my heart is heavy after reading these chapters. It’s not just a story about a talking donkey. It’s a message for us in 2019.

Balak wanted the Israelites gone, so he sent a delegation of men to Balaam, a prophet of God, and asked him to put a curse on the Jews. God, of course, told Balaam not to do such a thing, and Balaam made that clear to Balak’s men.

But Balak wouldn’t take “No” for an answer. He sent another delegation, this one more impressive than the first. They, too, asked on behalf of Balak for Balaam to curse Israel. Again, Balaam said he would not go against God, but then he agreed to go to talk to Balak in person.

It occurs to me Balaam had two chances to nip this in the bud. Twice he could have (should have) said “No” and stood strong. But he gave in just a little. And that put him in a tough situation. Now he was face to face with a very persistent Balak.

We read that Balaam goes through the motions of doing what Balak is asking of him, getting right up to the actual curse on Israel, but instead pronouncing a blessing on the Jews. Not what Balak wanted to hear.

But Balak is not easily swayed. He suggests they move to a different spot. Maybe Balaam could curse God’s people from over there instead. Balaam follows Balak, but ends up blessing Israel for the second time.

I love what Balak says next: “IF YOU CAN’T SAY ANYTHING BAD, DON’T SAY ANYTHING AT ALL.” (23:25) Doesn’t sound like he was too pleased with Balaam at this point. But not displeased enough to give up on what he wanted.

So, (I’m shaking my head as I write this) Balak leads Balaam to a third spot. Again, Balaam goes through the motions to appease Balak, and ends up not only blessing Israel a third time, but he goes on to spell out what was ahead for Balak and company. And it wasn’t good.

When I read this I find myself asking, why on earth didn’t Balaam stick to his original “No” and not even entertain Balak’s men, much less go with them? Why would Balaam build altars, sacrifice animals, after God told him “No.” And why would he follow Balak around like a lost puppy, doing what Balak told him to do, instead of what God said? Did Balaam want Balak to like him? Did he think he could change God’s mind, or catch God off-guard? Did Balaam find himself wanting to fit in to Balak’s world?

Ok, Church, this one is for us. God has given His Word to us as plainly as He gave it to Balaam. The Bible you have on your nightstand is the Truth. Period. So why do so many of us want to tweak it, or only hold on to the fun stuff while ignoring the Truth that breaks us?

Why, when Satan sends his delegates to ask us to compromise, do we even entertain the notion? Why do we follow the world, even if from a distance? Do we think we will change God’s mind, or catch Him off-guard? Is it more important for us to be accepted by the world than to stand for God’s Truth?

Satan’s delegates sound spiritual, loving, tolerant, enlightened, progressive, even philanthropic. But, friend, they are still Satan’s delegates.

Balak wanted the Jews gone. And he did not give up easily. His persistence wore Balaam down, and because Balaam didn’t stand by what he knew to be true, Balaam found himself in increasingly more difficult situations.

And, friend, Satan wants the Church gone, too. Don’t think for a minute he will give up easily. He is infinitely more persistent than Balak ever was.

This is why my heart is heavy. I see so much of Balaam in us. I think that because we Christians have not done a very good job standing firm on the Word of God, we’ve put ourselves in a very difficult situation. We have followed the world, we’ve entertained the lies, we’ve decided it’s important for us to blend in, and we are finding it harder and harder not only to stand on the Truth, but to even recognize the Truth.

I believe it’s because we Christians haven’t done a good job of standing for God’s Truth that babies are being murdered, that blatant sin has become the norm, that our world is where it is today. Oh, we can blame non-Christians all we want. We can contribute it all to Satan. But, I’m not so sure we don’t have a great deal of responsibility ourselves. We’ve put ourselves in a pretty tough spot because, like Balaam, we didn’t nip this in the bud right at the beginning.

It would have been so much better for Balaam if he had said the original “No” and meant it. It would have been easier for us if we had done the same. But we are in a delicate situation these days, put there by our own doing. What are we going to do about it?

God help us stand for His Truth starting today. I still believe God is greater than all the evil in this world. I believe that He is not ok with anyone dying without knowing Jesus as their Savior. And I believe God not only can, but wants to turn things around in this country and in the world. Come on, Church. Do we believe God’s Word or not?

Then let’s act like it. Let our “No” be “No” and our “Yes” be “Yes.” Let’s stand strong.

I Corinthians 1-5; A Little Yeast

It occurred to me as I read this portion of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that we Christians are concerned about the state of the world; we lament over the blatant sin, the disregard for Christianity, the increasing ungodliness accepted as normal. And we are right to do so

But Paul is talking about caring for the temple. I wonder if we’re as concerned about that as we are about the world. It’s easy to point fingers, to talk about “they.” It’s not as easy to point those fingers at ourselves.

Paul tells us we ourselves are God’s temple. (3:16) He asks us to consider our foundation, and our building materials. Are we building our faith on the standards of the age, the wisdom of the world? Or is our foundation Jesus Christ, our faith built on Scripture, God’s wisdom? Is our temple built by we who are servants, obedient, faithful?

Paul warns us not to go “beyond what is written.” Do we even know what is written? Building and protecting this temple called Connie involves reading and studying God’s Word apart from anything else. It means obeying God by keeping myself pure, by listening to His voice and sharing Him with others. Caring for this temple, where God lives on earth, involves effort, intentionality, humility.

Now, I believe if we Christians took better care of our temples, our own lives and relationships with God, then our world wouldn’t be in the state it’s in.

But God pointed out something else to me this morning. We Christians aren’t taking very good care of God’s Church, either. I guess that’s a direct result of not protecting ourselves from sin. But Paul addresses the problem of ignoring sin in the church. He even said the church in Corinth was proud of the fact that they embraced a man guilty of a sexual sin. “Shouldn’t you rather be grieved over this sin,” he asks?

I can’t help but think of whole denominations that embrace homosexuals in their congregations and their pulpits. Shouldn’t God’s people be grieved instead? But Paul doesn’t stop with the sexual sin this particular church-goer was guilty of. Paul includes, “greedy, an idolator or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler” in his list of people who should not be comfortable in our pews.

Paul goes so far as to say they shouldn’t be welcome in the church. I know that goes against what many of us believe these days. But I think we need to consider the truth of what God inspired Paul to write.

I remember years ago, after the contemporary movement was introduced as a result of surveys given to unchurched people about what they would like to see in churches that would encourage them to attend, Ravi Zacharias said something to this effect:

Church should be the last place a sinner feels comfortable.

And I believe that. A church that prides itself on tolerance, on open doors, on a come-as-you-are-and-stay-that-way approach, isn’t a church at all, no matter how involved they are in their communities. It’s a social club. I think I’ve shared about the “church” that advertises by saying, “Come worship with us. We won’t tell you what to believe.” Is that where we’re heading?

It is if we don’t start protecting our temple, caring for our churches. It has to start with each of us individually. But it also has to spill over into our churches. Do we allow sin into our midst, hoping that somehow it will turn into purity? Paul says beware, a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough. “Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast.” (5:7) I think that is true both for my heart, and in my church.

If I accept a little sin here and there in my life, it doesn’t stay little. It grows, and it invites its friends in. If we accept, or ignore, a sin in our church it won’t stay little there, either. One sin becomes two, then four, and we end up with an unusable batch of dough. Paul challenges us to become “bread without yeast,” a fellowship without sin.

I hope you’ll read these chapters in I Corinthians. There is so much here. Some of it is hard to hear, some of it will thrill your soul. Let God speak to your heart today, and may it change us. May it change the Church.

Jeremiah 35-41; Ishmael in Your Home

God tells us not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. (2 Corinthians 6:14) Many believe that to apply to marriage, which it does. But Paul wasn’t even talking about marriage when he said it. You get his full message when you read on:

What do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Can light and darkness exist together? Do Christ and Satan live in harmony? Do believers have anything in common with non-believers? Does the Church agree with idolatry? (from 2 Corinthians 6:14-16)

In fact, God says: Come out from among them and be separate… (verse 17)

I thought of that when I read that Governor Gedaliah got chummy with Ishmael. Even the governor’s advisors saw past Ishmael’s fake smile, and warned Gedaliah that Ishmael was up to no good. But Gedaliah said, “No way! We’re BFF’s! What you are saying about Ishmael is not true.” (Jeremiah 40:16)

Do you find yourself with the same attitude? “Hanging out with non-believers won’t hurt me.” “Marrying an unbeliever won’t effect my walk with the Lord.” “Accepting half-truths, or tolerating outright lies about Scripture won’t weaken my commitment, or the Church.”

Allowing himself to get close enough to Ishmael that he trusted him more than his own advisors, wound up killing Gedaliah. Getting too close to ungodliness will destroy us, too.

Come out from among them!

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get to know non-Christians in order to share the Savior with them. We are all told to go and make disciples. Paul said he became all things to all people in order to win some of them.

But I believe God would have us examine who are the people closest to us. Who do we trust, confide in, fellowship with? Are they grounded in Scripture, walking with the Lord, holding us accountable? Or are they people who don’t believe like we do, and don’t have an interest in our relationship with God?

Are we trying to get light and darkness existing together? Are we trying to make Jesus and Satan get along?

Gedaliah got close to someone who only wanted him dead. Do you realize Satan wants the same thing of you? Gedaliah died because he blindly trusted an enemy of God. Do you understand that anyone who does not believe in Jesus is God’s enemy, too?

Being yoked in marriage, socially, politically, at the job, or at the gym, with unbelievers is like inviting Ishmael into your home. It’s the same fatal mistake Gedaliah made.

Choose your friends wisely, dear one. It could be a matter of life and death.

2 Kings 14-16; In Deference

As I continue to read through the history of kings, I notice some repeating themes. Like I said the other day, most of the kings follow in their fathers’ footsteps. Good kings influenced good kings, bad kings influenced bad kings.

It seems those who took on the position of a Jewish king may have had a death wish. Whether they reigned two weeks or twenty years, someone was always plotting to kill them and steal the throne.

Good kings followed God in varying degrees. Bad kings didn’t follow Him at all.

We get to King Ahaz in these chapters today. He was not a good king, even though his father Jotham had been. Scripture tells us Ahaz made a treaty with the Assyrians, sworn enemies of God’s people. We read that Ahaz remodeled the Temple, removed the basins, the canopy, and the royal entryway, he moved the walls and the Sea, “in deference to the king of Assyria.”

“When you show deference to someone, you make a gesture of respect. The noun deference goes with the verb defer, which means ‘to yield to someone’s opinions or wishes out of respect for that person.'” (Vocabulary.com)

Has the Church made a treaty with the enemy? Look at what has been removed from our places of worship: altars, pulpits, Bible reading, hymns, organs, steeples, pews, the list goes on. We’ve remodeled our sanctuaries much like Ahaz remodeled his.

I read this invitation this morning: “If you are looking for a spiritual home that is full of love, acceptance of all, and truly tolerant of all beliefs, ask me about…”

I think too many churches have removed sin from their vocabulary, they don’t talk about God’s holiness and His righteous judgment. They’ve removed so much of what makes the Church God’s house, in deference to whom? Non-christians? Christians who want to feel good about going to a Sunday service without the responsibility of living a separate life during the week? Satan?

It’s time to break our treaty with the enemy, and defer to God instead. God who is Holy, Fierce, Unchanging, who went to the cross because of sin; God who accepts those who accept Jesus, and rejects those who reject Him.

Holy God, I thank you for pastors and churches who are standing on the Truth of Scripture. I thank you for congregations of people who are not afraid to resist trends and political correctness. Bless their fellowships in a mighty way. I pray for those who are caught up in the treaty between your people and the enemy. Convict hearts, Lord. Drive us to our knees. And may Your people worship You in spirit and in Truth, according to Your Word. Then, Father, enable us to get out there and do what You intend the Church to do, introduce lost souls to their Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

November 26 – Say It Anyway

Acts 17-18:18

Religion is a hot topic. People are generally passionate about what they believe. Their beliefs defend their behavior. And their beliefs are often considered personal.

The people of Thessalonica are some of many examples in the Bible of what happens when talk about religion steps on toes. They listened to Paul for several weeks, and some believed in Jesus as a result. But, as often happens, other Jews got mad. It was ok for Paul to talk about Jesus, as long as they didn’t have to admit what they had believed was not true.

So, the Thessalonians decided to form a mob, and attack Paul. When they couldn’t find Paul, they beat up Jason instead. That’s what  mobs do. And this mob fueled by jealousy wanted to hurt someone.

Then, when the Thessalonian Jews heard Paul was preaching in Berea, they followed him there to cause trouble. This was not a mob easily distracted.

Do you ever feel like people are out to get you because of your faith in Jesus? Someone seems always belittling you, or talking against you behind your back, or making fun of you in front of your peers, because “you think you’re better than everyone else”?  Take heart. You are not alone. It’s been that way for thousands of years.

We can learn from Paul who, although he left Thessalonica, he didn’t stop talking about Jesus. He went through some tough situations, but he kept sharing Christ.

Here is the thing. If you know Jesus, you know the Truth. And there is only one Truth. If you know what Jesus has said, you know all religions can’t be true. There is One way, truth, and life, and no one goes to the Father except through His Son Jesus.

If you are tempted to keep your mouth shut because of the backlash of sharing Christ, don’t do it. Keep talking. It’s eternally important that people accept Jesus. They may be passionate about their beliefs, but unless they believe that Jesus is the Messiah who died to pay for their sins, they are lost. That’s not an opinion. It’s the Truth.

Let’s not be bullied into silence. It’s not enough to know the Truth. We’ve got to be taking about it, sharing it, leading others to their Savior. When people tell us to tolerate other religions, to accept other beliefs, don’t do it. When we are told to stop saying Jesus is the only way, say it anyway.