Category Archives: Christianity

Micah; Jesus Is King

Chapter five contains a beautiful prophecy about the coming Messiah. I’m sure many of us are familiar with the words God inspired Micah to write. But, actually, I see Jesus and the Church throughout this precious book, not just in chapter five.

Jesus, our Rock, our Foundation, our Shepherd, the One the Old Testament prophets told us about, our eternal King. God, who is not willing that any should perish, did what the blood of thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of oil could not do when Jesus died once and for all. We Gentiles joined the remnant of Israel to form the Church, the eternal spiritual kingdom of God.

There is war in this spiritual kingdom. There are severe consequences for sin. But we win because Jesus is the Victor!

Yes, our hearts should be broken over present sin in the world and the judgment that is coming. God is serious about sin in the world, in the nation, and in our individual hearts.

But as for me I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light. Because I have sinned against him, I will bear the Lord’s wrath, until he pleads my case and establishes my right, He will bring me out into the light; I will see his righteousness. (7:7-9)

And so will you, if you know Him, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus the Christ.

Jonah; Wake Up

There are so many important lessons tucked into these four short chapters of Jonah. Please read it for yourself before you read the rest of this post, and let God speak to your heart about obedience, about evangelism, about attitudes toward the unsaved, about Jesus. He will tell you what you need to know. I’d like to share what God pointed out to me, but don’t let this be the only thing you get out of this amazing book today.

You know the story. God tells Jonah what to do. Jonah thinks he has a better idea. On his way to do “missionary work according to Jonah,” he and everyone onboard the ship are met with a violent storm. The ship is being tossed about. It is in imminent danger. Everyone on board is facing death. And what is Jonah doing while God’s judgment is being poured out?

HE IS SLEEPING! (1:5)

He is sleeping! He’d removed himself from the rest of the passengers and crew, hid below deck, and fell asleep. Do you see what I see?

Do you see too many Christians who hide within the walls of a church, who serve on church committees, sing in the church choir, give generously to the church, but can be described as sleeping while the rest of the world is facing judgment?

It wasn’t until Jonah woke up, dealt with his own sin, and obeyed God that, not only the people onboard the ship were saved, over 100,000 people of Nineveh were saved as well.

I’d like to shout, “Wake up, Church!” But the Church isn’t reading my blog. You, however, are.

God is telling you and me to go to Nineveh, to go into our communities, to talk to our neighbors about their need of the Savior. You might think you have a better idea. You might think that being involved in a church is enough.

But maybe it’s time we woke up and did what we are told.

Hosea 6-14; Take Words With You

The book of Hosea is a picture of unfaithfulness and judgement. But it is also a picture of God’s grace and mercy. It is so beautiful.

I would encourage you to read Hosea and ask God to speak to you about your own walk with Him. What was true concerning a group of people known as Israel or Ephraim in Hosea’s day, carries with it spiritual truth for us in 2018. I read these chapters today and replaced any reference to “Israel” with my name. It became very personal, because what God said to the Jews through Hosea, He is saying to me. I love God’s Word!!

When I read verses like 5:4, I ask myself if there are things I am doing that do not permit me to draw near to God. Do I have a spirit of prostitution in my heart by harboring hatred or unforgiveness, by holding on to a “secret” sin and telling myself it’s no big deal? Are there times I am more concerned about my “self” than about God?

I hear God say He hates His wicked children. (9:15) HATES! Do I give God reason to hate me because of my own disobedience? That is a sobering thought. Hosea reminds me God rejects the unfaithful.

But then I also read verses like 6:6 and realize God wants only to love me, to show me mercy. Look at 10:12:

Sew for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love…

Doesn’t that encourage you to sew righteousness by putting on Jesus’ righteousness? Don’t you hunger for the fruit of God’s unfailing love? I do.

When I read 14:2 I had to stop a minute and think what it means to “take words with you” as you approach God. God is not asking for an animal sacrifice. He’s not asking me to go to church, give to the poor, or be a good neighbor. What He’s asking is that I come to Him purposefully, repentant, and say the words, “Forgive me,” and mean it.

Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to him: Forgive all (my) sins and receive (me) graciously, that (I) may offer the fruit of (my) lips. 

It goes on to say God wants me to realize nothing else can save me. Nothing and no one but God Himself.

What is the result of such a prayer, of a heart that is honest before my Holy God? Hosea tells me He will heal my waywardness and love me freely! (14:4) God will give me everything I need to be fruitful. (14:8)

Then listen to the way God inspired Hosea to end his book.

Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them. (14:9)

I want my walk with the Lord to be intentional, honest, and fruitful. When I go to Him, I want to go with the words He wants to hear. And I want to mean them from the bottom of my heart.

 

 

Hosea 1-5; The Allure

We know God disciplines His children. You probably know that all sin comes with consequences. But Hosea reminded me something today about God I’d like to pass on to you.

You remember, Hosea, don’t you? He’s the prophet God told to marry a prostitute as an example of God’s relationship with His people. I kind of feel bad for Hosea, because I think he might have loved the unfaithful woman. Then I remember – I am that unfaithful woman, and God is the One who loves me still.

Make no mistake about it: God hates sin. He never condones sin or ignores it. Every sin comes with a death penalty. God is a just, and harsh judge. But there is a side to God we might sometimes either overlook or misinterpret. That is His mercy.

God, through Hosea,  calls out His children, exposes our nakedness, our depravity, and God tells it like it is – we have turned our backs on Him. We deserve it if He turns His back on us.

But I want you to notice 2:14. After exposing Israel’s sin, God says this:

Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. (emphasis mine)

I love that so much. I would expect God to say, after expressing how He looks at our sin… “Therefore I’m done with you!” Instead, God in His mercy says, “You’ve done awful things, You have sinned, turned Your back on me, defied Me. So I’m going to court you, and woo you back to me.”

“Here I  am,” He says. “Love Me. I love you.”

That allure can occur as you read His Word, or in answered prayer, in the changed life of a believer, in a hint of joy in sorrow, in unexpected blessings, or any number of reminders of God’s love in your life. Those sweet whispers from God are personal and intimate. Don’t miss God’s repeated attempts to woo you, to entice you to come to Him.

Because God doesn’t want you to live – or die – without Him. Just don’t mistake God’s tenderness for acceptance. His mercy has conditions.

Please know, if you accept Him on His terms, His mercy and grace are yours! Jesus paid the penalty for your sin and for mine. And God only wants you to accept it.

I want to share what Matthew Henry had to say about this:

“Those who will not deliver themselves into the hand of God’s mercy cannot be delivered out of the hand of his justice.” (Commentary in One Volume, Zondervan Publishing, 1961; page 1107)

Pay attention to God’s attempts to allure you, whether it’s to find Him for the first time, or to draw you closer to Him as His child. There is no one He loves more than you.

Daniel 7-12; Daniel’s Prayer

Daniel’s heart-felt prayer reveals his agony over his sin, and the sin of God’s people. They were in captivity, prisoners of the Babylonians, and God had made it clear that captivity was a just judgment for their sin. They didn’t like it. But they deserved it.

It probably wouldn’t hurt us to be praying like Daniel prayed, too. We could use a bit of repentance these days, couldn’t we? Ann Graham Lotz wrote a study on Daniel’s prayer, and it’s a good one for today. If you’re inclined, I recommend it.

Why pray, though? Really. Doesn’t a Sovereign God already have things worked out the way He wants? Matthew Henry says this:

“God gives us leave not only to pray, but to plead, not to move him (he himself knows what he will do), but to move ourselves and encourage our faith.” (Commentary in One Volume, Zondervan Publishing House, 1961; page 1098)

God wants us to pray, to plead with Him, to boldly enter His throne room and lay our requests for ourselves and others, at His feet. But I respectfully disagree with Henry about one thing. Scripture gives many examples of God being moved by our prayers.

Hezekiah’s prayer in 2 Kings 20 bought him 15 more years of life, after Isaiah told him God said for him to get his affairs in order. Hezekiah’s prayer moved God.

God was moved when Manasseh prayed in 2 Chronicles 33, and God returned him to Jerusalem.

Jesus said he wasn’t going to heal the Gentile woman, until she pled with Him. He healed her. (Matthew 15)

However, our Sovereign God sees today as the past. So He knows whether or not we prayed for someone.

Do you remember the comic books that had alternate story-lines? You’d get to a certain place in the story and the character would have a decision to make. If you wanted the character to make one choice, the book would direct you to a certain page. If you wanted another choice, you’d be directed to a different page. Same character, different outcome.

I think prayer is a little like that. Someone has a need. And God knows what happens if we pray. He sees the end result of our pleading with Him to answer our prayer on that person’s behalf, to move Him to action. But He also knows what happens if we don’t pray, if we never ask Him to move in the life of that person. Same person, different outcomes.

The difference is prayer.

Two weeks ago, our much-loved pastor announced his resignation, to the shock and dismay of us all. God is undoubtedly leading him to pastor a church in another state. Now we are faced with the responsibility of filling the pulpit left vacant by this dear man.

We all, as members of this body of believers, want God’s will in this matter. Should we assume that will happen because God is Sovereign, and will bring His man right to us? Or should we pray?

We’re praying!

The Bible teaches us God hears and answers prayer. So we’re praying. The Bible teaches us God is moved by our prayers, that He is free to work in us when we pray. Pray on!

I know God does have a will as to who our next pastor should be. And He’s not going to play games with us to see if we can figure it out, and call the right man. But God isn’t going to force anyone on us, either.

So our prayer is for wisdom to recognize God’s leading. We are pleading with God to make His way known, that we will move only when He moves us. We want God’s first and best choice for our fellowship. So we’re praying that we will know God’s mind and heart in this matter, and that our next pastor will know it, too.

You can bet I’m praying.

I do like what Henry said in the quote above about praying moving us. About prayer encouraging our faith. When I spend time talking to God, pouring my heart out to Him, loving on Him, I am changed. I am encouraged.

So today, I can honestly tell you I’m excited about what’s ahead for our church, because I am praying.

 

 

Daniel 1-4; What’s The Big Deal?

Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were among the Jewish young men held captive by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. They were being groomed to serve that pagan king in any way he saw fit. Their indoctrination included eating what they were told (although there is a great lesson in that fact. I hope you’ll read these chapters today),  wearing what they were given, and their names were even changed to wipe out any connection the Jews had with God. Now they were called by names honoring pagan gods.

The four young men had taken a stand early on to be true to God. They did not compromise their faith. And God blessed them.

So when Nebuchadnezzar had a gigantic statue erected in the middle of town, and ordered everyone to bow down and worship it, three of our boys stood tall. This did not go over well with the king.

The king confronted them, and gave them a second chance. “Either bow down and worship my statue like I told you, or be thrown into the furnace and die.” You probably know what they chose:

“We’re not about to bow to anything or anyone other than the One True God.”  So they were thrown into the fire. Read the rest of the story. It’s truly amazing.

As I was thinking about this this morning, it occurred to me that Nebuchadnezzar would not have been able to see the hearts of those men. What’s to say they couldn’t pray to God, worship Him in their hearts, and just look like they were worshiping the statue? What’s the big deal?

After all, just a few books earlier, in 2 Kings 5, didn’t we read about Naaman, the commander of the army of a pagan king, healed of leprosy through Elisha, and who became a believer as a result, take a different position?

In verses 17-18 in 2 Kings, Naaman asks Elisha not to judge him when, as a part of his job description, he helps the feeble pagan king into the temple of Rimmon, and then helps the king bow in worship of the pretend god. “God forgive me,” Naaman pleads.

And Elisha responds, “Go in peace.”

So if Naaman could bow and not worship, why couldn’t Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego do the same thing? God judges the heart, right?

Today I’m asking myself, how much can I go along with the world before I need to stand tall? I can’t answer that for anyone but me.

Paul said he became all things to all men, Jesus hung out with sinners all the time. It didn’t effect their commitment to God. But the Bible also tells us to come out and be separate, to avoid even the appearance of sin. So which is it?

Do you go through the motions of blending in with the world, believing you can keep your heart right before God? Or do you take a stand and refuse to bend? I think that’s between you and God.

But be warned. God does see your heart. And the truth is, you can go through the motions, or not go through the motions, and still be disobedient if your heart isn’t right with the Lord.

What’s the big deal?

Eternity.

Ezekiel 45-48; Sweet and Salty

My favorite dessert.

But I’m not going to talk about the gigantic piece of chocolate cake with thick fudge frosting, drizzled with hot fudge, a scoop of ice-cream, and peanuts that my friends and I shared last night at dinner. Give me a second…

Ok. I’m back. 🙂

I live on an island in the Atlantic, surrounded by beautiful, mysterious marshland. There are several rivers near me that flow through the marshes and into the ocean. You can take your boat from the salty waters of the Atlantic, right into fresh flowing water that comes from the mainland. And vise versa.

Sometimes those rivers overflow their banks and pour their sweet water into the marshes before rushing into the ocean. That is quite a sight to see. Really, the marshland scenery changes all the time. I love it.

The water from these rivers never stops flowing. Every minute of every day, thousands and thousands of gallons of fresh water pour into the ocean Yet with all that fresh water, the ocean is still salty. That’s a fact.

So when I read chapter 47 I was a bit confused. Water from a river making salty water fresh? That’s not the way it works.

So as I sat here considering how this passage could be true, God reminded me that this is a vision, Connie. Not a science lesson.

Oh right. A vision!

So – what does the fresh water represent?

Jesus! The Gospel!

What is described in Ezekiel’s vision is so true in the life a believer. This water we know as Jesus Himself, changes our saltiness, uselessness, our guilt, into something refreshing, and fruit-bearing. Sin cannot do what Jesus can do. The Gospel is life-giving! It’s a miracle.

Then I thought back to chapter 46 where God tells Ezekiel that people must come into the temple by one gate, walk straight through, and exit through the opposite gate. No turning back. It speaks about we who come to know the Lord, and leave our past behind to follow Him. That’s what God demands:

“Don’t look back, Lot’s wife. Don’t look back. Keep going.” (Oh, she turned to salt when she disobeyed, didn’t she? She didn’t accept the fresh water of salvation that was hers for the taking. And she died in her sin.)

Keep moving, Christian. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Keep sharing the Gospel and allow God to do the impossible – changing salt water into fresh, changing sinners into saints through the blood of Jesus as people confess their sins and repent.

Now that’s sweet.