Monthly Archives: August 2014

As Long As It Takes

If you read the book of Lamentations you will feel the anguish over the state of things in Israel due to their disobedience. In fact, throughout the Old Testament you will often hear the Jews crying out to God: How long will you continue to forget us?

And often you will hear God’s reply: As long as it takes.

God doesn’t delight in punishing his people. He created us to fellowship with him, to love and obey him. And because he created us with the ability to choose or reject him, he drew a line in the sand. We call the condensed version of this line The Ten Commandments. There needs to be no guessing concerning the requirements for having a blessed relationship with him:

Worship me only. Love me above all else, Obey my instructions how to treat people, how to conduct business, what to believe. And for we who live after the cross: accept my Son as your Savior.

Sure it’s a tough list of rules. In fact, an impossible list to achieve for us humans. Yet God’s requirements don’t change. Here’s the line in the sand. Cross it and enjoy a forgiven life under grace. Stay where you are and accept the consequence.

Be assured. God won’t just let you stay on that side without doing everything he can to get you to come over to his side. You may even find yourself asking, “Why, God? How long are you going to cause me pain?”

AS LONG AS IT TAKES.

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You Lie

I was reading in Jeremiah 42 this morning the account of yet another time Israel disobeyed and God punished. As I read, my mind kept wandering toward pictures of things happening in the US today. Are we any different than those in the Old Testament who blatantly sinned, told God to back off, and were so prideful they thought they knew more and were stronger than God?

God’s warning through Jeremiah was: repent or die. Their response: You lie.

Today, Christians are still saying: repent or face the consequences. The world’s response: You lie.

They tell us we lie if we say Jesus is the only way to the One True God. They say we lie if we tell them homosexuality is a sin, that abortion is murder, that God created this universe with a word, that marriage between a man and a woman is a sacred union before God and meant to last a life time.

The list goes on and in many cases, Christians are portrayed as liars and haters. In some countries, there will be Christians TODAY who are tortured and murdered for speaking the Truth. The temptation to keep quiet is certainly there for many of us, in order to avoid the labels or the danger.

Oh Christians, and I know there are many of us out there, let’s determine to be heard with firmness and in love. Let’s use our voices to proclaim the Truth of Scripture with unwavering boldness. Read the newspaper, watch the news on TV, know what’s happening in our world and in our country. Vote intelligently. Run for office. Pray.

Pray.

The things we do – or don’t do – today will determine the future. Will our children and grandchildren face persecution because we sat in our recliners and did nothing? Will we face persecution because we were afraid someone would call us out, call us liars? We who know the Truth have a responsibility and a calling to proclaim that Truth whether they want to hear it or not.

May God find us faithful.

What is Hell?

The last thing Zedekiah saw was the slaughtering of his sons and friends. (The account is recorded in Ezekiel 25, Jeremiah 52 and 39) After this horrible event, the king of Babylon ordered Zedekiah’s eyes to be gouged out. The Jewish king was then thrown into prison where he lived out the rest of his life, alone and in pain. He must have longed for death.

But here’s the thing. Dying for an unrepentant sinner is so much worse then even Zedekiah experienced. No physical or emotional pain endured in this lifetime comes close to the absence of God forever. I imagine Zedekiah was unable to erase the picture of his sons being killed. All he had left to see were the images in his memories.

Have you ever seen something you wish you hadn’t? Maybe it was a traumatic event, or a disgusting act, or an embarrassing moment. Did you, for a time, relive that moment every time you closed your eyes? Did the picture in your mind haunt you, torment you, follow you everywhere you went? Imagine Zedekiah who had the image of those murders seared into his mind, and no means of distracting himself from the memory, from the knowledge that it was his own disobedience that caused his son’s deaths.

Zedekiah was a bad man. The Bible tells us that, as king of Judah, he did evil in the sight of the Lord. He was proud and refused to obey God or even pay attention to the warnings God sent him through Jeremiah and Ezekiel. But I don’t wish what he endured at the hands of King Nebuchadnezzar on my worst enemy.

I have to ask myself, then, why is it I ignore the fact that some of my loved ones are facing an eternity so much worse? How can I not share Jesus with them, with my neighbors, with dear friends? What can be worse than watching your children be murdered, then having your eyes ripped out of your head?

Hell – where the darkness will be as thick as total blindness, where memories, guilt, and regret will haunt and burn forever.

Dear God, Thank you for this picture of Hell, here in the life of Zedekiah. I know some people think Hell will be a drunken party, or a burning furnace. But as I look at your Word, I see Hell as being something much worse. There is no fellowship in Hell. It’s personal. It’s solitary. It’s living with the burning regret of a life lived without you. I put myself in Zedekiah’s shoes and realize what he experienced is a fraction of what Hell will be for those who reject you. An eternity without eyes to see, darkness that is so complete, and all they will have are the memories of the times you reached out to them, and they rejected you. They will realize how much they were loved by you, and agonize over the times their pride got in their way of receiving your gift of grace. God, help me not to forget this picture. And may I be faithful to share you with people in my world while I still have time. While they still have time to find you.

Jesus Only

As I read in Ezekiel this morning, I was impressed with this reality: God will judge each of us according to our own actions. We can’t blame parents, or a pastor, or hypocrites sitting in pews.

“I’m not a Christian because my parents never took us to church growing up.”

“I’m not interested in church because there are too many hypocrites who call themselves Christians.”

“I don’t want anything to do with God because there are people starving in Africa.”

When we stand before God, he is not going to ask us, “Why?” He is going to ask us, “What”.

In the Old Testament, people were judged by their day to day choices: How they followed God’s law, how they treated others, how they conducted themselves in business.

After the cross, there is a different plumb-line. When we stand before God, there is only one question he will ask: “What did you do with my Son’s gift of grace?”

That’s not to say that living out our faith by being good, honest, giving, compassionate people isn’t important. Jesus tells us the world will know us by our love, he challenges us to be salt and light to a sinful world. But heaven will not be gained because we went to church, or volunteered at the homeless shelter. Being a good person will never be good enough.

You can say that’s not fair, that God is wrong. But he will answer us like he answered Israel through Ezekiel’s vision.

“No! YOU are wrong.” (Ez 18:25-29)

Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and no one will approach the Father without him. There are no loopholes.

Jesus. Only.

A Tattoo On My Life

Tattoos are the rage these days. I have a friend who got her first tat when she turned 60. I recently saw a boy of about eight with a cross tattooed to his leg. Both his parents were covered in colorful ink.

Tattoos are no longer “Mom” written on a sailor’s arm. Flowers and skulls and dragons and butterflies, even faces and catchy phrases are worn from the scalp to the toes and everywhere in between by a growing number of people.

In Ezekiel’s vision, an angel was given the task of putting a mark on the forehead of the people who were grieved over sin. (Ez 9) Only those few, with the angel’s tat, were saved. Everyone else lost their lives as a result of God’s judgement.

So I ask myself: is there a visible sign in me that identifies me with the Savior? Is it possible to be a closet Christian? Or, like in Ezekiel’s vision, are we to live as though we had “JESUS” tattooed on our foreheads? The Bible tells us there is no other name under heaven that can save us.

I have no plans to ever have a tattoo. I’ve only ever seen one worth having, and that’s my niece’s personal tribute to her brother, who was tragically killed in an auto accident two years ago. It’s the Hebrew word for “brother” that Jesus used when he spoke to his disciples, and it’s on her right wrist.

I don’t want a tattoo. But I want to live my life in such a way that Jesus is as visible as if his name was tattooed to my forehead. May Christ be seen in me by the words I say, the places I go, the things I do, by the very look on my face.

Dear Jesus, I love you. What you did on the cross so that I can be with you is everything to me. Help me live my life so that others know that about me. May they recognize your love, your grace, your peace, your Presence when they look at my life. Convict me when I begin to get off track and may I be quick to confess. I would be honored to represent you today according to your Word. You have tattooed your Name on my heart. May I wear it proudly and truly so that someone will recognize you and want you in their life, too.

How Do I Look?

I’ve heard the account of Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego many times and for many years. But when I recently read about Daniel’s desire to abstain from the kings food, I found myself wondering what it is I am ingesting myself. Not the chips I ate yesterday, or the big piece of angel food cake I had for dinner last night. I’m wondering what it is I’m feeding my soul.

What do I read, watch on TV? What is it a pastor or teacher or friend or blogger has said? The Bible tells me to guard my heart. How am I doing?

If I’m watching acts of sin played out on TV, what is that doing to my heart’s condition before God? If I go to a church with a “God is Love” theology without preaching the truth about his holiness, is that effecting my relationship with God? Is the music I listen to slowly separating me from God’s Presence? Relationships, thoughts, what I do in secret, are feeding my soul.

The difference in Daniel and his friends was noticeable They looked better than everyone else because of the food they rejected, the pure food they ingested. 

I wonder if people, when they look at my life, can tell I’ve feasted on God’s Word and abstained from what was offered to me by the world. I want to look different: better, more joyful, kinder, more honest. I want to BE a person others identify with my Savior.

 

 

The Bible Hurts My Feelings

God is speaking through Jeremiah concerning those prophets who claim to speak for God  – but don’t. (Jeremiah 23) These liars are preaching a health and wealth gospel at the same time Jeremiah is telling them how angry God is, and how God is going to punish them for their disobedience. 

The false prophets tell them they are ok: “Don’t worry! The Lord says you will have peace!… No harm will come your way.” (23:17)

The thing is, God’s Word is not a “feel good” book. In fact, in verse 29 of the same chapter, God asks, “Does not my word burn like fire?… Is it not like a mighty hammer that smashes a rock to pieces?”

I think that’s why there are so many different religions out there. I mean, who wants to worship a God who makes you feel bad about yourself? So let’s make up a theology that tells us how great we are, how worthy, how powerful we are in and of ourselves to become better and better. We want to believe we are ok just the way we are. If you listen, you’ll recognize those lies in some of the most popular churches spewed by some of the most famous preachers of our time. Maybe even in your home town, in tiny churches, that go unnoticed expect for the faithful few who attend.

But have you ever experienced that heavy blow that comes from the realization that you are wrong? Have you felt the convicting fire of the Holy Spirit over unconfessed sin? It’s not comfortable, is it? It might even hurt your feelings, big time.

When you are at that point, you have a choice. You can tell yourself you’re ok, you can repeat a mantra to make yourself feel better, you can self-medicate, or even learn to live with the discomfort. Or you can accept what Jesus died to give you.

Forgiveness.

Then you can know the spiritual health that comes from having a pure heart. You can enjoy the wealth of having the God of Creation living in you, the sure hope of eternity with him. No false theology can come close to it!

So I challenge you read the Bible for yourself. But get ready to have your feelings hurt. If you ask God to speak to you through his Word, he will. He will tell you you are lost without him. He will tell you you are a sinner. He will tell you you are wicked, self centered, unclean. But he will also tell you about his love and his grace. He will tell you about how he went to the cross to pay for your sins. And he will ask you to come to him, to say you’re sorry and mean it, to allow him to turn your life around…

And bless you beyond what you could ever ask or even think.

God, thank you for tearing down all my defenses, for making me look at myself the way you see me. I am a sinner. There is nothing good in me. And I have to tell you, that hurts my feelings a little. But, God, I also want to thank you for lifting me up, for forgiving me when I asked you to, for blessing me with yourself. Thank you for your Word that cuts… and heals. Thank you for you!