Monthly Archives: April 2014

Satan’s Subtile Strategies

As I continue to read in 2 Samuel I see that David is once again running for his life. This time it’s his own son Absalom who wants him dead. Absalom was a wicked, sneaky man who set his plan in motion by playing the part of a good guy. (Read 2 Samuel 15) Then after he got the people on his side, he made his move. He made himself king.

That’s a picture of Satan. If his only means of getting us to follow him was by using his pitchfork, he’d be easy to recognize and resist. But he comes playing the part of an innocent. He whispers in our ears and makes sin seem harmless, desirable.

“One drink won’t hurt.”

“One peek at pornography is no big deal.”

“One lie, one dirty joke, skipping church just once can’t hurt anything.”

But all addictions begin with “one”. All habits begin with doing that thing the first time. 

Soon Satan quits whispering in our ears and makes his move. And we are caught up in something that is meant to destroy our souls.

David ran for his life and we should, too. “Flee youthful lusts.” Think on things that are true, lovely, right.  “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” “Put on the whole armor of God.”

Do you take Satan seriously? Do you understand that he is actively working in your life to make you his own? David took Absalom seriously. We could learn from his example.

Heavenly Father, I pray for your people today. May we not ignore Satan’s subtle attempts to destroy our souls. May we recognize sin and be quick to repent of it. May we guard our hearts and minds. And if there are those reading this who are caught up in addictions and habits that keep them from a right relationship with you, I pray that they will look to you for strength and healing. Give wisdom. Give direction. I pray for victories today.

Sex=Love? Not even close!

Oh that young people would learn from the account in 2 Samuel 13, the lives of Amnon and Tamar. 

Lesson 1: Lust and obsession are not love. Amnon’s feelings for his sister had nothing to do with her. He didn’t long to make her happy, he only wanted to satisfy his own desires. I Corinthians 13 says, “Love is not self-seeking”. What Amnon felt was not love.

Lesson 2: Sex is not “making love”. Sex may be a beautiful expression between a married man and woman who already love each other. But having sex does not make someone love someone else. I wish that message would be heard today.

Lesson 3: Sex changes everything. After Amnon stole Tamar’s virginity he looked at her and hated her. He had used her and threw her away. “Love is kind.” Amnon was anything but kind.

I hope you read I Corinthians 13, Paul’s description of love. You won’t see Amnon there. And you won’t see any adolescent I have ever met. And I spent 37 years in public education, 20 of them as a middle school counselor.

Our young people are having what they describe as casual sex. They are performing sexual acts on one another and trying to convince themselves that what they’re doing is not sex. They believe the lie that sex is no big deal. But they are wrong.

Innocence lost way too soon, way before their underdeveloped minds and emotions are able to deal with it.

Having sex changes a person. God didn’t forbid sex outside of marriage out of spite. God invented fun! He wants us to experience fun. But the aftermath of premarital sex is not fun. God demands we save sex after that public commitment we know as a wedding ceremony for a reason. God wants to protect us from emotional pain, guilt, physical diseases, loss.

What Amnon did ruined his life, it ruined Tamar’s life, and it ruined his family. That, my friend is not love.

Dear young person, don’t listen to Satan’s lies. Don’t get caught up in the popular notion that sex is no big deal. It is a very big deal. And God blesses sex after marriage. Not before. Not in any shape or form. If you think you are different, that you can handle it, you are proving that you are too immature to have sex.

If you have already given your virginity away to someone and you’re not married to that person, stop. Talk to someone… a parent, a pastor, a Christian adult friend, about what it means to live a pure life from today on. And if you are still a virgin, hold on to it. You can only give it away once. And it’s a precious gift you will want to give to your husband or wife when the time comes.

 

Trust God. He really does know what he’s talking about.

 

God Forgives

I like Psalm 51. David pours his heart out to the Lord and repents of sin. And the psalm explains what happens when I do the same.

The stains of my sins are blotted out. I am purified because of God’s great compassion. “Wash me and I will be whiter than snow”

I, too, am a sinner from birth. I, too, deserve God’s just judgment. But God does not reject a broken and repentant heart. I, with David, pray:

“Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and make me willing to obey you.”

Yes, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from our unrighteousness when we confess our sins, when we repent with broken hearts.

I have sinned. And my sins cost Jesus so much more than I can know. May I recognize sin in my life today and be quick to confess it, to repent of it. May it grieve me to sin against the Holy God who loves me so, who wants to forgive me, and who will forgive me when I ask him to.

Then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness, O God who saves.

I hope you’ll take time to read Psalm 51 some time today. Let it speak to your heart and may you confess sin as God brings it to mind. Let him forgive you, to wash you whiter than snow, to renew a loyal spirit in you and make you willing to obey him. You will be blessed!

 

Where Good Intentions Lead

In 2 Samuel we read that Recab and Baanah had good intentions. Ishbosheth was David’s enemy so these two men risked their lives to kill Ishbosheth in his sleep. They cut off his head and proudly presented it to King David. I’m sure they expected a different reception than the one they got. 

David reminded them that it was the Lord who saves him from his enemies. Then he ordered his men to kill Recab and Baanah for being evil men who killed a man in his own bed.

That’s what will happen on judgement day. Some people will stand before God expecting a much different outcome than they will receive. 

“I worshiped Buddha with a pure heart”. “I attended church faithfully.” “I was faithful to my wife.” “I loved the earth and fought for the rights of abused animals.” “I never killed anyone.” “I didn’t go to church because there were hypocrites there.”

Whatever the excuse. Intentions will be meaningless. It’s like holding up the head of Ishbosheth. And the result will be the same.

Death.

Eternal separation from God. More agony than you’ve ever experienced.

The only thing that will matter on judgement day is whether or not Jesus is your Savior, if you have repented of sin, if you have accepted his grace.

Period.

Father, I pray for everyone who takes time to read this. May your Spirit draw them to you. May we all set aside the things we think we are doing for you, the rules we pride ourselves in obeying, our good intentions, and look to Jesus. He alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and none of us will see heaven unless we accept his forgiveness. Thank you for what you are going to do in the hearts and lives of people today.

It’s All About Jesus

2 Samuel tells us that the nation of Israel was divided. David was king over Judah and Saul’s son Isbosheth was king of Israel. It’s sad to note that there was war between the two. I wonder what the other nations thought when they saw God’s people fighting among themselves. 

I am one who is not bothered by the fact that the Christian Church is divided into denominations. If a group finds it necessary to get excited and speak in tongues, or insists on baptism, or takes communion every Sunday I’m ok with that. The question is – is Jesus proclaimed as God, as the Savior? Is he worshiped as the Way, the Truth, the LIfe, and the only way to the Father? Is sin recognized and rejected in an act of repentance? Is God’s grace embraced when we allow Jesus to wash us with his precious blood?

If Jesus is the focus of the church, we should not be fighting with each other. I attended the sunrise service at the pier on the ocean this morning and worshiped the risen Savior with several hundred other people from many denominations. It’s a bit like I imagine heaven to be. Our differences will be put aside when we gaze into the eyes of the One who loves us and gave himself for us.

Jesus!

Crucified!

Alive!

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

Get Rid of It?

In I Samuel we read that the Philistines captured the Ark of the Lord and took it to their temple. They placed the Ark next to the statue of their god, Dagon. During the night, God pushed the idol over and the next day the people put the idol back where it was. That night, God did the same thing and in the morning the people found Dagon face down again. This was no coincidence.

When the Philistines began to break out in an epidemic of tumors, they had a choice to make. Faced with the reality that the God of Israel was real and powerful they said, “We can’t keep the Ark of the God of Israel here any longer. He’s against us! We will all be destroyed along with Dagon, our god.”

That’s just sad.

Here they were in the presence of God himself and their answer was, get Him out of here. They had to admit that their god was powerless, yet they decided to cling to that worthless carving.

Why didn’t they bow before the One True God and destroy the idol themselves? Why did they cling to it instead of turning to the Living God who was trying to get their attention? Why did they decide to get rid of the Ark?

Oh God, I see America 2014 in this story.

When the facts show that God has blessed America while we were a nation that honored him, and when those same facts reveal that he cannot bless us when we turn our backs on him, why don’t we bow before him and turn from our worthless idols of self, of science, of intellect, of power, things as worthless and meaningless as Dagon?

We’re doing the same thing the Philistines did. Get rid of God. Take him out of schools, Label Christians “haters”. Remove the 10 Commandments from our courtroom walls. Legislate laws that contradict God’s Word. Tolerate all faiths and differences. Pay homage to a god of love at the exclusion of his holiness. Don’t talk about Jesus. Deny the existence of God.

That’s not just sad. It’s serious.

Dear God, I pray you will raise up Christian men and women who will get involved in our political system and reclaim America as a nation under God. Forgive us for sitting back and allowing ungodly people slowly expel you from our country. May your children pray, speak out, stand up against Satan and his pawns. I pray for a mighty revival in the hearts of each of us who call the US home. Don’t go, God. Please don’t go.

Putting the Cart Before the Horse

Reading about Israel during the time Eli was their priest makes me think about so many of our modern day churches. The Jews had been living by their own standards. I Samuel 2:30 says God would not honor them because they didn’t take him seriously. In fact, he said, “I will despise those who think lightly of me.”

But when Israel was being defeated by the Philistine army, they ran to get the Ark of the Covenant and tried to use it to save them from their enemies. The Jews rejoiced when they saw the Ark coming into camp. The Philistines were terrified because they knew about Israel’s God.

But the battle continued and 30,000 Jewish soldiers died that day. Parading the Ark around did nothing to win their battle.

Today many have devised a religion by their own standards. They portray God as a buddy, as a tolerant god who accepts all manner of good intentions, who loves people, who turns a bind eye to sin, who rewards positive thinking with health and wealth. And when things get difficult these people hold up the name “Christian” like it’s some magic potion. 

In both examples, people put the cart before the horse. The horse being repentance, humbling oneself before a holy God, accepting his forgiveness through the blood of Jesus. 

We cannot preach God’s love at the exclusion of his holiness and expect him to bless us. We cannot eliminate the word “sin” from our vocabulary because it offends. We cannot tolerate any side-step to God when Jesus clearly says HE is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and NO ONE goes to the Father except through him.

Wearing the name “Christian” is meaningless unless we take God seriously. My prayer is that each of us will spend time in his Word, in thinking about what we read, in praying about what God would have us do in light of his Word. I pray that we would bow before our Holy God and turn from sin so that he can bless us with heavenly blessings.

Then, once we have dealt with our sin and accepted God’s grace, let’s get out there and fight the battles, defeat Satan, draw people to Jesus. That’s when wearing the name of “Christian” means something real.