Category Archives: Bible

Ezekiel 11-15; Cardboard Houses

Jesus used the terms, “whitewashed wall,” and “whitewashed tombs” in reference to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. (Matthew 23) Here in Ezekiel 13 God uses the same terminology when prophesying against the false prophets in Israel during Ezekiel’s time. In this portion of Scripture God says in essence, you can paint a cardboard wall, but it won’t hold up in a storm no matter how good you make it look.

Sometimes you run into people who are adamant about their beliefs. They might believe God is merely a concept invented in the minds of needy people. They might believe you have to do X number of good deeds in order to escape hell. They might believe with all their hearts that good people go to a better place no matter what name they pray to. They might even believe all life is a delusion, or that whatever the Higher Power is out there, it certainly isn’t involved in the lives of individuals. 

If you press, even the most dogmatic of these lost souls, about where they base their beliefs, you’ll find them living in cardboard houses. Base my belief on science? On what is observable? On what makes sense to me? On the word of someone who claims to have had a message from God?

You might hear the argument that the Bible is flawed, that it’s no different than the Koran, or the Watchtower, or some other religious writing. Is it? Is the Bible just another collection of religious penmanship?

When I was getting my counseling degree, we studied a technique of the 5 Why’s. When presented with a problem, you ask “Why…” Then you use the answer to that question to ask the second “Why…” And so on until you get to the root of whatever is going on. 

I believe if we press deep enough into a person’s belief system, not just the “what” but the “why,” it will reveal if that belief system is based on Truth or opinion, on fact or myth. I have no problem going five whys deep into my belief because the bottom line is, I believe what I believe because God said it.

The God of the Bible tells us how the world began, it shows God is who He says He is with example after example of supernatural occurrences, many of which can be verified by extra-Biblical sources. God inspired many men over thousands of years, to write down a cohesive book that consistently reveals God the same yesterday, today, and forever. “I AM” is the name which this God calls Himself in the Old Testament, and that by which Jesus identified Himself in the New. The Bible clearly says that there is One God, one way to God, one Truth, so therefore cancels out any other religion as remotely true.

My belief isn’t based on opinion. It’s not based on someone’s imagination or reasoning. My belief is based on the Words of the Creator, the inventor of life, the eternal God who loves me.

If anyone’s belief is based on anything other than the entire book we know as the Bible, they can dress it up in intellect, in emotion, in religion, or even apathy, but it is still only whitewash on a cardboard wall. One day, at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, that God is who He has said all along He is, and that believing anything else is believing a lie. (From Philippians 2:10) And only those whose belief is grounded in Scripture will be able to withstand the judgment that follows.

I would challenge you to go “5 Whys” into your own belief system. Do you know the Scriptures that are the foundation for what you believe? Are you basing your beliefs on conjecture or downright lies or on Truth? Are you living on the solid rock of God’s Word, or are you hiding in a whitewashed cardboard house?

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Ezekiel 6-10; Know that God is the LORD

When I read about the devastation that God’s children were about to face, I can get caught up in the brutality of it all. God was relentless in His discipline of His disobedient people. But I’m reminded that the discipline, the severe consequences for their sin isn’t really the point.

I was struck at the number of times God said these awful things were going to happen so the people would KNOW that He is the Lord.

Friend, there are severe consequences for sin. There is no getting around it. But God would rather you see Him. He reveals Himself in those hard times. But He also reveals Himslef in nature, in blessings, in the beauty of life, in His written Word. And the God I know would rather you see Him in the good times, recognize Him as the One True God, and make Him Lord of your life before He has to punish you. He would much rather bless you as His child.

Read God’s Word. Get to know Him. Look for the ways He is trying to get your attention. Then bow before Him, obey Him, and allow Him to pour out His blessings on you.

The alternative is devastating.

Ezekiel 1-5; Not A Suggestion

Ezekiel’s encounter with the Living God changed him. We find him sitting by a river with the rest of the exiles when “the Lord came expressly” to him. Awesome.

I will say Ezekiel’s encounter with God, with the vision of four creatures, and God Himself, was a bit more dramatic than my encounter with God. That’s why I’m glad God inspired Ezekiel to write it down for me to read. Because that same God who revealed Himself to Ezekiel in a fantastic, over-the-top vision, revealed Himself to me in the fantastic, over-the-top person of His Son Jesus Christ.

No, I haven’t seen His face yet, or heard what His voice sounds like. But that doesn’t mean He’s any less real to me than God was to Ezekiel after his vision.

But what stood out to me today wasn’t in the details of the vision. I understand the vision was to show Ezekiel (and me) that God is real, and we should hear Him. What stood out to me was God’s demand to be obeyed.

Here is the Truth, Ezekiel. Go and tell my people.

That’s what God is still telling us today.

3:17-21 is sobering. We who know the Truth do not have the option of keeping it to ourselves. God tells Ezekiel (and me) to tell the wicked they are wicked and need to turn from their wickedness. Sinners need to repent or die.

Don’t we know that already? If you’ve been a follower of Jesus for more than a minute, you probably know He commanded us to go and preach the Gospel. It wasn’t a suggestion. Here in Ezekiel we hear Him say if we don’t, and wicked people die in their wickedness, we’re to blame. God sounds pretty serious about us sharing the truth with lost souls.

But God pointed a verse out to me today that I wish he hadn’t. 3:20 tells me I have a responsibility to tell a righteous man who turns away from his righteousness to stop sinning, too. If I don’t, and this person dies in his sin, his blood will be on me every bit as much as the blood of the outright wicked man who I neglected to tell.

I think sometimes we think a brother or sister  in the Lord knows they are sinning and what to do about it, so I don’t need to say anything. They’ll figure it out, because you can’t lose your salvation, and if they don’t they were never saved in the first place.

3:20 has me questioning that. It makes me realize I shouldn’t assume anything.  Because if I don’t share what I know to be true with a non-believer OR a believer I will be held responsible if they die without confessing their sin. 

The point God is trying to get me to see is that I have a serious responsibility to share the Gospel with sinners. Sinners in the street and in the pews. We’ve begun to believe that people are entitled to believe what they want to believe and live like they want to live.

God seems to have a different view of that. And He tells us to do something about it.

It’s not a suggestion.

Lamentations; Great Is Thy Faithfulness

There are some verses in the Bible that have become beacons, or sources of comfort and blessing. They are the go-to verses for most of us like John 3:16. Or the 23rd Psalm. I Corinthians 10:13 has been one of those verses to me, as has Proverbs 3:5-6. I imagine you could quote a few verses that have come to mean a lot to you, too.

Isaiah 40:31 comes to mind.

Lamentations 3:22-23 is a passage that reminds us of God’s love and compassion, His intimate involvement in our daily lives, and His great faithfulness. It inspired one of the world’s most recognizable hymns, loved by millions.

But these verses were penned at a very low period in Israel’s history. They had abandoned God,  and were realizing what devastating consequences come when God abandons His people.

Yet in the middle of this painful time, in the midst of the deepest grief, the writer says these words:

The Lord’s loving kindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is your faithfulness.

Oh, that we as individuals would turn from our rebellion and know God’s great faithfulness, experience His lovingkindness and compassion when we repent of sin and run to Him.

Oh that the Church would renew our commitment, would turn from our sin, and worship and serve Him like He deserves. Do we not understand how much God longs to draw us to Himself, protect and bless us?

The hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfuless,” written by Thomas Chisholm, has this powerful verse:

“Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth. Thine own dear Presence to cheer and to guide. Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. Blessings all mine! With then thousand beside.”

May you experience God’s faithfulness as you yield to Him today.

Jeremiah 46-52; When It’s Close To Home

God had given Jeremiah a word, and Jeremiah was faithful to relay the message as it was given. It started out with a prophecy against Egypt, then against the Philistines. God continued to give prophecies against Moab, then Ammon, Edom, Damascus, and the Arabians. These nations, these people had rejected God, had fought against God’s people, and God let them know the consequences they would pay for going up against Him.

But then God gave a prophecy against Babylon, and I have to think this message wasn’t as easy to deliver for Jeremiah. The Babylonians were enemies of Israel, just like Egypt and the rest of them. But Matthew Henry reminded me that the king of Babylon had been kind to Jeremiah. There was a personal connection between the prophet and the king.

This is what Henry says about Jeremiah 50:1ff:

“Here is a word spoken against Babylon. The king of Babylon had been very kind to Jeremiah, and yet he must foretell the ruin of that kingdom; for God’s prophets must not be governed by favor or affection. Whoever are our friends, if, notwithstanding, they are God’s enemies, we dare not speak peace to them.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary of the Whole Bible; Zondervan Publishing,1961; page 1018)

I don’t know about you, but as much as I appreciate Matthew Henry’s insight into God’s Word, sometimes reading him is like reading a foreign language. I guess, if you were born in 1662 like he was, his vocabulary wouldn’t sound so strange. But for those of us living in the 21st Century, here’s what I get out of Henry’s old world vocabulary:

It’s not always easy to talk to the people closest to us about sin, about their need of the Savior. It’s not always easy to tell someone they are wrong, especially if that person is a really nice, good, upstanding person. And it’s hard to speak the Truth when we know we might offend someone we have a personal relationship with.

But Henry reminds us that all unbelievers, everyone who rejects God or ignores Him, anyone who thinks they are ok on their own, are enemies of God. The Bible is clear; you are either for God or against Him. There is no category of “nice guy” that cancels out our guilt of sin, and our need of Jesus.

Did you get what Henry said? God’s prophets, those of us entrusted with the Truth must not let our affection for someone prevent us from sharing the Truth. And if our loved one, or our sweet friend, or our kind neighbor, has not confessed sin and accepted Jesus as their Savior, WE MUST NOT TELL THEM EVERYTHING WILL BE OK.

We must not say of someone who rejects Jesus and dies, that they are in a better place. They are in a horrible place. More horrible than we can imagine. We must not say of an unsaved person who suffers a painful death that, well at least they are not in pain any more. Because the reality is they are in more pain than they ever experienced in this life. If we say otherwise, what message are we giving to those of our friends and family who have yet to accept God’s grace?

We must not tell someone who is rejecting Jesus, ignoring Him, living in sin, that their choices aren’t carrying severe, eternal consequences. We must not speak peace to a non-believer because, no matter how nice they are in this life, they are without hope without Jesus. They have no promise of peace, so we must not pretend that they do.

It’s not easy sharing the Gospel when that lost person is close to home. But aren’t those the people we love the most, the people we care for above all people?

Do you believe lost people go to hell? Look into the eyes of that lost loved one and see their eternity. Can you be as faithful as Jeremiah to deliver the Truth in spite of your personal feelings for that person?

Can I?

 

Jeremiah 43-45; If You… I Will…

“God, I promise if You’ll heal my loved one, I’ll start going back to church.” “If you let me have this promotion, or win the lottery, I promise I’ll give lots of money to missions.” “Just answer my prayer and I’ll do whatever you want.”

That’s exactly what the Jews told Jeremiah. But the Jews, like most of us, couldn’t or wouldn’t keep their end of the bargain.

I imagine most of us have been at a point sometime in our lives when we find ourselves trying to cut a deal with God. “If You… I will…” Scripture is very clear, however. God is NOT the Great Negotiator.

Do any of us really think God wants us to love Him so much He’d let us determine the rules of the relationship? Do we think God is so weak He gives in to our lip service like a young mother trying to get her toddler to obey?

Here’s the deal: God is God. Obey Him. Period.

He says if we obey we’ll be blessed. If we don’t obey, there are severe consequences to pay. There is no room for negotiation. God doesn’t need to hear our lofty promises. He demands to see our obedience.

The next time you are tempted to make some promise to God in exchange for something you want, save your breath. There is only one “If you… I will…” that God honors. And He’ll honor it every time. It’s when He says to us…

“If you obey Me, I will bless You.”

 

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.