Monthly Archives: September 2015

You Aren’t God

The Bible talks a lot about how we should consider our “selves”. I know modern psychology, and Oprah, and Joel Osteen, and the like say we need to feel powerful, and able, and special, fulfilled, and important. But I see the Bible telling us something quite different. I see Scripture saying we are helpless, sinful, depraved, that we need someone outside ourselves to save us from drowning.

Modern psychology does not work. We are a people drowning in a sea of “self”. People who are angry, depressed, anxious, violent, and who keep looking within themselves for answers because that’s the popular notion are looking in the wrong direction. How many people are medicated today because of psychological problems from eating disorders, to sexual confusion, anxiety to clinical depression? Even children are given pills for psychological problems.

Our children are taught that they are the most important entity in their own lives. So, when a police officer tells a young person to stop, to put their hands in the air, or to drop a gun, we end up reading about a shooting because the young person feels he is above the law. We hear about unspeakable crimes against children, against women, against the elderly because someone has considered their own desires more important than anything else. Abortion? Don’t get me started.

I was reading in Isaiah this morning and was impressed by God’s take on the whole thing. Chapter 45:9-10 tells us what is created has no business questioning the Creator. 47:10-11 says when we say, “I am, and there is no one else besides me,” evil will come upon us.  Proverbs 26:12 says a man who is wise in his own eyes has less hope than a fool.

These verses are only a few throughout the Bible that warn us about the foolishness of focusing on ourselves. Isaiah 48 spoke to me about who God really is. He is the Creator. He alone is God. And everything he does points to the fact of his absolute superiority.

Isaiah 46:5 asks a redundant question. Do I really want to put myself up next to God to establish equality? Do I really?

This just occurred to me as I was thinking about this subject. When a counselor or a pastor tells us to change our thinking about ourselves by telling ourselves how wonderful we are, we end up repeating things like:

I am powerful.

I am capable.

I am good.

I am worthy.

And in doing so, we replace the Great I AM with a counterfeit. Satan wins. We lose.

May you see yourself through God’s eyes today. You are someone who is lost, who is vile, who is powerless, and someone Jesus felt was worth dying for. Let him transform you into someone truly powerful and capable and good and worthy when he pours Himself into you, when HE gives you everything you need to face this day and its challenges.

There is nothing you can do for yourself that he can’t do so much better. After all, he’s God. And you’re not.

God Bless America! Why?

Do you pray that God will once again restore the United States of America to a nation under God? Why do you? Why is it we want our leaders to once again recognize and honor the One True God? Is it so we won’t have to fear imprisonment for loving Jesus like some in our world fear? Is it so that the USA will be restored to its former position of military and economic superiority? Is it so our children will not have to suffer at the hands of ungodly men?

Hezekiah got me thinking with his prayer concerning an enemy who was threatening to destroy Israel. First, he acknowledged that all the other gods in the world were not gods at all. Then, in Isaiah 37:20 we read that Hezekiah prayed the following:

“Now therefore, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you are the Lord, You alone.” (I added the bold print)

If you are praying for our country so you can be comfortable in your pew on Sunday morning, save your breath. God is intent on saving souls, even those who consider themselves enemies of the United States. He went to the cross for Muslims, atheists, Buddhists, those intrenched in ISIS, and those who simply ignore Him. And he wants them to come to Him no matter what it takes. “God so loved the world…”

If Americans elect leaders who fear God, who are intent on honoring and obeying Him, He will bless. Look how many times he did that for Israel in the Old Testament. And, if God blesses this nation as a result of our obedience, the rest of the world will have to sit up and notice. They will have to admit that the God of the Bible is the One True God. And hearts will turn to Him in response.

That’s got to be our prayer. If God can reveal Himself through a nation that turns to Him, I pray it’s us here in the USA. And if the nations will turn to God through our suffering, may God give his people the strength and ability to suffer gladly for His sake, so that the people of the world see Jesus.

Hezekiah reminds me that it’s not about blessing a nation for the sake of a nation. It’s about blessing a nation for the sake of turning hearts to the Savior.

I am challenged to make this my prayer:

God, bless America so that other nations will recognize and turn to You, too.

The Sin of Prayer

I was reading Psalm 109 this morning and was struck by something in verse 7:

When he is judged, let him be found guilty, and let his prayer become sin. (NKJV)

The NIV translates it like this: …and may his prayer condemn him.

Can a prayer be a sin? Can whispering a prayer condemn us? It must be so or it wouldn’t be written here in this psalm.

David is talking about being treated unfairly. Remember, Saul wanted to kill David. And Saul’s followers pursued David relentlessly. David asks God to be their judge. Then he said what he did about prayer.

That got me to thinking. How can a prayer be sin? Certainly in these days after the cross, when Jesus told us to love one another, including our enemies, praying that harm might come to someone is probably a sin. I can see how praying for a selfish gain would be considered a sin. Praying that God would honor or ignore or, worse, bless a sin in my life is most assuredly a sin.

Maybe God is saying through David that praying in order to tell God what His will is is a sin. Saul’s men probably thought they were obeying God by trying to protect King Saul from David’s overthrow of the kingdom. Maybe they even prayed to God to help them kill David. Praying to Allah, or a higher power, or some dear departed loved one, isn’t a prayer that honors God. And what doesn’t honor God is sin.

Then the thought came to mind that a person who rejects God’s grace and lives in opposition to God’s demands, yet prays a quick prayer when their car slips on ice, or a family member receives a frightening diagnosis sins. A person who leaves God out of their life, yet prays to win the lottery, or get a promotion at work also sins.

Prayer is a privilege. But it’s serious business to go barging into the throne room. In the Old Testament we read where a king could only be approached by invitation. Going otherwise to talk to the king resulted in death. Unless the king granted audience, you died.

We who have accepted Jesus as our Savior are invited to come boldly before the throne of grace. (Heb 4:16) We have that ongoing invitation to talk to the King any time of the day or night. But it seems to me from what I read in the Bible, if you haven’t come to God through His Son, you have no business in the throne room.

And, if I go barging into the throne room with unconfessed sin in my heart, my prayer just might condemn me. This morning I am impressed with the importance of prayer. And the seriousness of having audience with a God who is Holy, Holy, Holy. I don’t want to take this privilege for granted. And I don’t want to sin in my prayer.

Holy God, Please forgive me for sin in my life. Help me to recognize those sins and be quick to confess them. Thank you for inviting me into your throne room where I can talk to you about the things on my heart. May I never take this privilege for granted. May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, my Lord and my Savior.

Hey! Don’t Take My Coat!

I had a slow drain in the tub of a mobile home I lived in for a while.  No matter what I tried, it would clog up regularly. So I started a new routine. Every Saturday morning I’d pour baking soda into that drain, then dump a cup of vinegar on it and watch it go to work. It fizzed, and popped, and bubbled while the chemicals reacted to one another. Then, I would pour some boiling water into the drain and listen for it to flow freely.

Solomon tells us, in Proverbs 25:20 that singing a happy song to someone who is sad is like pouring vinegar over baking soda. The reaction is anything but soothing. Telling someone to “cheer up” or to “get over it” doesn’t help a person who is mourning or depressed. In fact, it can cause more grief. It would be like doing your happy dance at a funeral.

Sometimes people need to be sad. And if I am overtly expressing my happiness without considering their feelings, I’m just being mean. Solomon says it’s like taking the coat away from someone standing in the middle of a snowstorm.

As a middle school counselor I learned that sometimes I needed to allow the person sitting in front of me to feel the feelings. Sadness. Anger. Confusion. I had to admit that I didn’t have all the answers, that any tidbit of advice I might throw out there could make matters worse. I learned to ask, even of eleven-year-olds, what it is they thought they needed. Did they want to talk about it? Or did they just want to sit next to me and cry? There would, undoubtedly, come a time when I would direct that person to finding solutions. But sometimes that didn’t happen for quite some time. They needed to feel the feelings first.

Life is hard. Everyone goes through difficult times. Grief is personal. Depression can be a disease. You wouldn’t tell someone to just “get over” cancer, would you?

God is telling me today to choose my words, my attitude toward the people in my life who are facing hardships. Sometimes well intended words are just mean, like exposing someone to freezing weather, or pouring vinegar over baking soda. I want to be sensitive to what it is they are going through at the moment, set myself aside, and allow them to grieve, or rant, or question.

Lord, forgive me when I’m so taken with good things in my life that I walk over someone who is hurting. I don’t do it intentionally. I don’t want to make anyone feel worse than they already feel. Help me to notice the hurt in someone’s eyes or in the sound of their voice. Give me the words to say that will soothe and encourage. Or help me to keep my mouth shut and just be present. More than anything, Lord, I pray that they will be drawn to you as a result of my caring about their feelings.

God Loves A Cheerful Giver

Tithing is a touchy subject for many churchgoers. And woe to the preacher who feels led to speak on the subject during a Sunday morning service!

A lot of time we use our finances as means of control. “Don’t shop at that department store because they accept gay marriage”. “Don’t buy that soap because the company donates to Planned Parenthood”. “Don’t buy that brand because they advertise during that ungodly TV show.”

Money talks. And I don’t think it’s a bad thing in the above examples. As stewards of God’s provisions, we need to be intentional about where we spend our money. But does the same principle apply to the money we give to our churches?

Paul speaks about the giving record of the church in Corinth in the 9th chapter of his second letter to that church. He talks about their promised financial gift. He tells them about the importance of financial support of the ministry, and likens it to seed sown for a harvest.

Scripture tells us to bring our tithe to the storehouse and leave it there.

I remember, when I was a teenager, I was standing in the foyer of our church on a Wednesday evening. A woman who lived in the neighborhood walked in and handed me an envelope. “This is my tithe,” she said. “But you tell the treasurer I don’t want a dime of this going to the preacher’s salary.”

I did what she asked. The treasurer said for me not to worry about it. He said she does this all the time.

Dear one, that’s not Scriptural. If you don’t like how money is spent at your church – tithe anyway. Go ahead and become an elder, or get on the governing board if you want. Voice your opinion. If you are convinced that God is not in the running of that church, and you’ve tried and failed to make a difference, find another church. But remember, God didn’t tell us to give 10% with strings attached.

It’s our responsibility – and privilege – to plant seeds for the kingdom. That’s what your tithing is intended to do.

And God loves a cheerful giver.

Oh Give Thanks

Psalm 107 begins with these words:

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! For his mercy endures forever.

I am reminded that we have every reason to give thanks. God is good. And the mercy he has shown us is eternal. But it seems that the author of this psalm realized that thankfulness isn’t necessarily one of our strong points. Several times these words are repeated:

Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!

I’ve been in a funk lately. I find myself sitting alone in my home, watching TV or reading, and sighing a lot. I haven’t been motivated to walk even though the weather in my part of the world is nearly perfect this time of year. I read my Bible every day, and continue to write in my journal. I just haven’t felt led to post anything for several weeks. It seems God has been silent. Can that be? Does he have nothing of value to say to me through his Word?

Then I read Psalm 107 and recognize the problem is in me. I’ve neglected thankfulness. God has rescued me time after time, he has seen me through hard times, he’s revealed himself through victories. Every day there is evidence of his love and his presence. But I think I’m taking him for granted. I’m too busy feeling sorry for me.

So it’s time for an attitude check. I stopped this morning to consider how blessed I am, and the words of an old hymn came to mind. The lyrics are old school, but powerful:

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

I don’t know what life is like for you right now. But if you know Jesus as your Savior, you are blessed beyond what could be recorded in the skies. I would encourage you (and me) to take our eyes off situations, other people, the challenges of life, and consider God. He is personal. He is present. And he wants you to know how much he loves you. Isn’t that reason enough to be thankful?

Here’s how my Father nudged me to read this psalm today:

Oh that Connie (you can insert your name if you are led) would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to her personally, lovingly, intimately.

May my life be lived out of a thankful heart to God, through whom all blessings flow.