Monthly Archives: September 2016

September 30 – God Hates

Malachi

The Lord declares, “I have loved Jacob, and hated Esau.” Yet Jesus Himself said God loves the whole world and forgives whoever believes in Him. How can the God who claims to love everyone say He hates anyone?

Esau and Jacob were both the sons of Isaac. In fact, they were twin sons. Was God’s choice to love one and hate the other an arbitrary choice? Was Esau doomed to be hated from the start? Were Esau’s descendants considered God’s enemies just because they were Esau’s descendants?

Here’s what I know about God who is not willing that ANY should perish, but that ALL people come to Him:

Jacob and Esau started out on equal footing. One chose to obey God, the other chose his own route. God would have us know He loves those who follow Him. But He views those who reject Him as His enemies. He hates them.

That’s something I don’t like thinking about, much less saying outloud. I am devastated thinking there are people I love who are hated by God. He’s that serious about disobedience. People who reject Him are God’s enemies.

But they don’t have to continue in the hate column. Jesus died to bridge the gap, to provide a way for us to get from the category of Enemy of God, to Child of God. We can’t go from one to the other on our own. We are enemies of God by virtue of unforgiven sin. We can only be God’s beloved by repenting, by being forgiven by the one we have sinned against, by accepting God’s grace through the blood of Jesus.

God, who throws a blanket of love over the world, woos and pokes and prods his enemies in order to get them to come to Him. He works tirelessly to draw all people to Himself so that He can forgive them, and demonstrate His love in a personal way.

Esau could have been loved by God just as much as Jacob was IF he had turned from sin and obeyed God. The same can be said of us. That’s why it is so important that we who know the Savior be telling others about Him, and leading them to the loving arms of their Savior, too.

 

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September 29 – Hidden Chambers

Nehemiah 11-13, Psalm 126

It seems as though as soon as Nehemiah went back to his job as King Artaxeses’ cupbearer, the people in Jerusalem, with their newly repaired wall, began to do their own thing. The priest even took one of the temple chambers and made it into a hotel room for Tobiah. Yes, THAT Tobiah who had been one of the liars and cheaters trying to stop the Jews from rebuilding the wall. The enemy was allowed to live IN THE TEMPLE!

The Jews began to disrespect the sabbath by farming, buying, and selling on that holy day. And…

wait for it…

a son of Eliashib the high priest married Sanballet’s daughter. The enemy had infiltrated Jerusalem and the temple without firing a shot.

So who’s living in your temple? Are there hidden chambers in your heart where you’ve prepared a place for the enemy? A secret room you think no one sees? Do you hide jealousy, lust, tolerance, unforgivness, internet sites or TV shows, drunkenness or dishonesty?

Have you established relationships with ungodly people, anti-christ and/or politically correct theologies that oppose Scripture? Are you one person at church and another in the workplace or in your home?

God is asking me today to clean out my temple like Nehemiah cleaned out the temple in Jerusalem. Completely. If I am comfortable living with sin in my life, in those hidden chambers of my heart, God is not going to be comfortable living in me.

And more than anything I want God to feel at home and welcome in my heart.

September 28 – A Worthless Pledge

Nehemiah 6-10

The school where I was guidance counselor celebrated Red Ribbon Week each year. I always tried to make the emphasis fun, informative, and challenging. We’d ask students and staff to take a pledge to be drug-free. They’d sign a banner or a poster, then receive a red ribbon they would wear to show evidence of their pledge.

Student leaders were in charge of sitting at tables in the hallway and asking kids to sign the pledge and receive their ribbons. I’d often have them perform skits or share information during our morning announcements about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. We’d have contests, and try to make it cool to be drug-free.

Years later, I got a call from a young woman who had been one of my student leaders while she was in Middle School. She had recently asked Jesus into her life, and felt the need to confess some past sins to people she felt she had hurt. She told me that she had started using drugs in Middle School, that while she had been one of the more vocal advocates of a drug-free lifestyle, she had been using. She’d signed the pledge every year. She just didn’t keep her pledge and wanted to apologize for lying to me.

I read the list of names of the men who signed a pledge to obey God (Nehemiah 10) and wondered how many of them were able to keep their promises once the ink dried on the paper. Did they sign it like my young friend, not intending to keep their word, but because it seemed like the acceptable thing to do? Or did they sign it with good intentions, only later discovering they couldn’t hold to it? We know the Jewish nation failed in their attempt to obey God. Did any of those men succeed?

Sometimes I think we Christians are guilty of trying to get people to say the right words, raise a hand or kneel at an altar, or promising to change, then we walk away and assume we’ve done our part. But salvation isn’t a name on a ledger. Salvation isn’t even a promise to quit sinning. It isn’t church attendance, or praying for a meal at the restaurant.

The New Testament tells us we can recognize Believers by their fruit, their love for one another. The test isn’t church membership. It’s a life that look’s like Jesus’ life. It’s a person who thinks more highly of others than himself. It’s a heart that belongs to the Savior because that person has asked Jesus to forgive them.

I wish I had paid more attention to that young Middle School girl. Maybe I could have recognized the signs of drug abuse in her. I think because she said what I wanted to hear, I figured she was ok. She wasn’t.

Do you know a person who is young in their faith? Get to know them better. Nurture them. Hold them accountable out of love. Don’t assume because they went forward last Sunday that they will be ok. Those of us who have walked with God for a while now know that accepting Jesus is the first of many steps in this Christian life.

Walk with someone today who is learning to use their faith-legs. Your interest might be exactly what they need to help them keep the promises they’ve made to the Lord.

 

 

September 27 – Don’t Dance

Nehemiah 6-7

I watched some of the Presidential debate last night. I have to confess I turned it off after about 45 minutes. My blood pressure was going through the roof. I’d had enough of watching that example of how NOT to handle a bully.

And there were three of them on that stage. One hid behind a desk, one hid behind a condescending smile, and the other wore that familiar scowl. But they all acted like bullies, and all of them reacted badly to being bullied by the others. (only my opinion)

Nehemiah is a great example of how to handle bullies. He refused to react, or to sling mud back. He recognized the lies and refused to take the attacks personally. And he never lost focus on the job at hand, on what was really important.

I used to tell the Middle School students I counseled that most of the time bullies do and say mean things so they can watch you dance. Nehemiah didn’t dance.

If you are the recipient of some kind of bullying, I hope you learn from Nehemiah’s example and NOT from the dance we witnessed last night. You’ll never out-bully a true bully, anyway. But you can shut him or her down if you refuse to stoop to their level.

At least that’s what I get from Nehemiah’s example. And I’m thinking if God put it there in His Word, there must be something to it.

September 26 – Git ‘er Done

Nehemiah 1-5

Every time I read Nehemiah I am impressed with the unrelenting passion the Jews had for rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. They worked together, supported and protected each other, even in the face of threats and opposition. They had a job to do and they just wanted to get it done!

Wouldn’t it be exciting to be a part of such a fellowship? I pray that your local church has the same kind of focus, the same determination to get God’s Church built one soul at a time. I trust it’s a fellowship that supports and protects each other, that works together and prays together as you share the Gospel.

But if your church isn’t working like that, why not? Is there bickering or jealousy? Blatant sin, or acceptance of sin? Are one or two people carrying the bulk of the load while the rest warm a pew on Sunday morning?

Are you part of the problem? Are there sins you need to confess, people whose forgiveness you need to ask for, responsibilities you need to take on? Your church has the job of spreading the Gospel to your community. Are you doing your part to make that happen, or are you a Sanballat or Tobiah in the midst?

Satan would love to stop your church fellowship from being effective in the work of the Lord. The Jews in Nehemiah didn’t let that happen. Don’t you.

You and your church fellowship have a job to do. May you have that unrelenting passion and together, git ‘er done!

September 25 – But I Just Want To Be Married

Ezra 7-10

If you are single, you would probably agree it’s not easy meeting people these days. If you’re a Christian, do you really want to go bar hopping in hopes of meeting Mr or Ms Right? Churches aren’t necessarily a hot spot for young singles to meet. The internet is scary, and your dear aunt might mean well, but her friend’s nephew just isn’t your type. Your married friends find married friends, and you find yourself tempted to settle for the next single person who comes along.

Don’t.

The Bible uses marriage as an example of the relationship between God and His people. It’s sacred and holy and exclusive and self-sacrificing, and blessed by God if the two are of one mind and heart. “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14) is not a suggestion.

Read Ezra’s book to see how serious God is about that.

I believe this is a warning to any of you who are dating a non-believer. You might think you can bring that person around, or that their lack of interest in church is no big deal. Please, think again.

I have no magic potion that will cause your perfect spouse to appear. I can only pray that you will nurture your relationship with your Heavenly Bridegroom, and not settle for someone who doesn’t love Him as much as you do.

Dear God, you created men and women for a reason. When you said it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone, you created Eve. It’s not easy being single. But I know for a fact that being single is not the end of the world. I know that being single is better than being in an unhealthy marriage. And I know that when a Christian is married to a non-Christian, there are added problems and temptations You do not want us to experience. So, Father, would you protect Your single children out there? I pray that they will wait for Your timing, that they will be busy doing things You prompt them to do in sharing the Gospel. Would You give each one direction until they meet that person who will encourage them in their relationship with You, who will glorify You in a marriage? Give strength and patience that will lead to a lifetime of serving You with a godly husband or wife.

September 24 – Purim

Esther 6-10

Not being a Jew, and unfamiliar with Jewish customs, I googled “Purim” this morning after reading these chapters in Esther. I found that this holiday “is the most fun-filled, action-packed day of the Jewish year.” (chabad.org)

Jews go to the synagogue two times in two days to hear every word of the book of Esther read publicly. Whenever Haman’s name is mentioned, they twirl noisemakers and stamp their feet to “eradicate his evil name.”

The Jews give money and food to at least two needy people during Purim. And they donate to whoever asks, without verifying the need.

Every Jew gives food gifts to at least one Jewish acquaintance. They enjoy a festive meal with family, complete with a beautifully decorated table, and dressed up in their finest clothes or in cheerful costumes.

They eat, and laugh, and sing, and pray. They enjoy remembering the day they, as a nation, were saved thousands of years ago.

Which got me thinking. My own salvation was only a few decades ago. And I can’t begin to tell you how many days, or weeks (or years) go by when I don’t even give that glorious day a thought. Oh, I’m aware of it, and thankful for it. But I don’t think I celebrate that day like it warrants.

As I sit here today, I remember. I remember where I was sitting in the sanctuary of Westwood Alliance Church that February evening. I was a teenager among others in our youth group. I remember the evangelist who played beautiful music by using his fingertips to rub the rims of crystal glasses filled with water to different levels. I remember sitting there, while the congregation sang an invitation hymn, and trying to tell God that my friends would think there was something wrong with me if I went forward. I didn’t want anyone to think I was a bad person. Besides, hadn’t I asked Jesus into my heart when I was in pre-school?

I remember watching my sister go to the altar that night, and knew I had no excuse. God was asking me to take that step, to make Him Lord of my life once and for all. And I did.

I feel like singing!

That day changed my life. I wonder why I don’t celebrate my second birth like I do my birthday. It wouldn’t hurt! I have reason to live generously, lovingly, joyfully because I was born again. Sounds like a party!

God, thank You for this lesson in Esther, and for the Jewish tradition of Purim that has me remembering the day I was saved from my enemy. Thank You for that evangelist, and the words he spoke that night that penetrated my heart. Thank You for forgiving me, for paying my sin debt, for living inside of me all these years later. And because of that day, I can have a fun-filled, action-packed life walking with You. I love You!!