Category Archives: Sin

Obediah; There is Hope

I can’t help but think of the sweet reunion between Esau and Jacob as recorded in Genesis 33. A lot had gone down between the two, but when the brothers met after years of separation, they hugged and kissed each other. It seemed all was forgiven. It seemed they would finally live in peace.

If you know their history, you know peace was short-lived. That makes me sad.

Obadiah tells the descendants of Esau that judgment is coming because of their hatred for and mistreatment of Jacob’s family, the family God chose above all other nations to be His instrument. Edom will be punished for rejecting God.

Once again I am reminded how serious God is about being obeyed, about being honored as the only true God. All other religions are doomed to destruction.

But I love how God, even after rendering a death sentence for sin, points to the Messiah. No one has to die in their sin. There is hope. There is salvation through the blood of Jesus for anyone who believes.

The kingdom is the Lord’s. I pray you are a citizen.

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 5-6; Parenting In The Lions’ Den

My Mom and Dad used to love taking their young grandchildren on adventures. One of their favorite destinations was the Columbus Zoo.

Dad said that one time, while visiting the lion exhibit, my nephew who was about three at the time, got the attention of one of the adult lions. Ryan walked up to the thick glass wall, and the lion met him there, face to face. Ryan walked a few steps to the right, the lion followed. Ryan walked to the left, the lion followed. It soon became a game between boy and lion, and the crowd of people at the exhibit laughed at the silliness.

“Isn’t that cute? The lion likes the boy.”

“Yeah,” my dad said. “For dinner.”

That lion wasn’t playing a game of follow-the-leader with the boy. That lion was stalking its prey. And only the glass wall prevented my nephew from being torn to pieces and savagely eaten by the wild beast.

Do you remember Roy Horn of Seigfried and Roy, entertainers who used white lions in their act? Roy raised those animals from a young age. He treated them like kittens, loved them, played with them. They were his pets.

But one night, one of those “pets” savagely grabbed Roy around the neck, and began to drag him off stage. Roy sustained life threatening injuries, and his life has never been the same.

A wild animal is not a character in a Disney cartoon.

Throwing Daniel into the lions’ den was sentencing the man to an awful, violent, and terrifying death. But we know he didn’t die.

The story doesn’t end there, however. Darius, the king who had been tricked into condemning Daniel, had the men who deceived him thrown into the den of lions. He sentenced those jealous, evil, conniving low-lifes to the same death they’d planned for Daniel.

Now if that was the extent of it, I’d say they got what they deserved. But the Bible tells us Darius didn’t stop with the men who’d plotted against Daniel. The king had their wives and children thrown into the lions’ den as well. Their wives and children met with the same gruesome end as the men.

I can hear you shouting, “NOT FAIR.”

I’m not going to try to argue that except to say, if you read this you’ll not see God tell Darius to kill those people.  I know the God of the Bible takes no pleasure in people dying without Him. He doesn’t want anyone to suffer the agony of hell. In fact, He paid the awful, violent, and terrifying death we all deserve.

But the Bible is also clear: the guilty will not go unpunished. Hell is real. And people who die without honoring God really do go there.

Here’s what occurred to me today: Many people – maybe you although I pray not – are ignoring God, or disobeying Him. Some deny Him or defy Him. The Bible tells us if that’s the case – be prepared for an awful, violent, terrifying existence for eternity, knowing you had a chance to avoid it all.

But I want to ask you – how many of your loved ones are you willing to take down with you?

You might brag like a post I read on FaceBook recently, “Yeah, I’m going to hell, and enjoying every step of the way.” But what is that message saying to your children? You do know, don’t you, that you are the single greatest influence on your children for the good or for the bad.

You might be appalled at the story here in Daniel, when you are doing the exact same thing. Your life does have an effect on your loved ones… an eternal effect. You may be foolishly willing to go to hell. Just understand that that precious child in your lap is watching you, imitating you, learning to think and believe like you.

It’s NOT FAIR of YOU to take them with you.

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.

Ezekiel 31-36; It’s Not Funny

One of Satan’s tactics against God’s people is seen most clearly in the media, and the entertainment business. When was the last time you saw a Christian favorably portrayed in a show? Not too long ago, a popular talk show host said our Vice President was mentally ill because he’d said he listened to God’s voice. People who hear voices in their heads are insane, she proclaimed. She got a big laugh out of that statement.

Maybe you’ve been the butt of someone’s joke because of your stand for the Truth of Scripture. Satan delights in making us look like fools.

Satan also uses his own hatred of us against us. People have heard so often that Christians are bigoted, intolerant, hate-mongers that they believe it. Satan’s hate produces hate.

It’s a serious thing to speak against, or lie about God’s people. Read in chapter 35 what God said to Israel’s cousins, the Edomites. They had encouraged Israel’s enemies, wanted the Jews to suffer, and were very vocal against God’s people. Hear what God said about that:

You boasted against me and spoke against me without restraint, and I heard it. (35:13)

I HEARD IT.

We Christians are God’s people. He is our Father, our Shepherd, our Champion. He’s the mama bear protecting her cubs, a dad protecting his family against invaders. You don’t want to mess with Him.

But people still mess with God’s children. Listen to how God said He was going to deal with the Edomites who were messing with the Jews:

“While the whole earth rejoices, I will make you desolate. Because you rejoiced when the inheritance of the house of Israel became desolate, that is how I will treat you. You will be desolate, O Mount Seir, you and all Edom. Then they will know that I am the Lord.” (35:14b-15)

Here’s what God impressed on me this morning: Before I get too smug thinking people who are mean to me will get what they deserve, I need to ask myself if I’m giving them reason to hate me, or criticize me.

If they say I’m a bigot, do I talk like one? If they call me a hypocrite, am I hypocritical? If they want to see me suffer, is it because I’m not expressing the love of God toward them?

The Bible tells us very clearly how we should live, how we should treat people, what our attitudes should be. It tells us we can stand firmly on the Truth and still love our neighbor, do good to those who abuse us.

Understanding how seriously God views attacks against His children, and how devastating the consequences, I don’t want to provoke an attack by my poor choices. If they make fun of me or attack me because of sin in my life, I need to look at my sin and repent. But if those jokes or attacks are directed at me because I am living my life like Jesus lived His, then their behavior is on them.

People hated Jesus without cause. If people hate me, may they also have no cause. And may I warn them how fiercely God protects His children.

It’s not funny to our Father.

Ezekiel 26-30; Take That, Satan

Ezekiel shares that God likened the king of Tyre to Satan. A model of perfection, adorned with beauty, guardian of cherubs, blameless until the day he chose wickedness. His heart became proud, corrupt, and dishonest, so God threw him out of His Presence. And Satan landed on earth.

Who of us has not been prideful, corrupt, or dishonest ourselves at one time or another? A flash from my past came to mind as I sat here thinking about this. Forty-some years ago, when ATM’s first came on the scene, I pulled up to the ATM of a bank near the grocery where I was heading. I put my card in, punched in $40.00 from checking, then took the money from the machine. It was like magic!

I immediately realized it had given me one too many $20’s. I remember sitting there for a second, before driving away.

I stole that $20.

I even remember rationalizing my sin by telling myself God must have wanted me to have it, seeing that I was living paycheck to paycheck with a few unpaid bills sitting on my desk at home.

Wow. Hadn’t thought about that in years. But I realize how much Satan’s influence is here on earth. He whispered the same lie in my ear that he whispered in Eve’s. “You deserve this.” And I fell for it just like Eve did.

I’m not the same person I was in my twenties, thankfully. Not too long ago I was putting groceries in my car when I realized a jar of onion powder was not in a bag. I checked the receipt and realized the cashier had not charged me for it. I found myself beginning to rationalize not paying for the onion powered. “It wasn’t my fault she didn’t see it.” “I want to get home to put the frozen stuff in the freezer,” “I don’t want to walk all that way back into the store for a measly buck and a half.” But I shut out those thoughts, and I took the jar back into the store to pay for it.

Now, I’m not saying that so you’ll think I’m some kind of saint. I’m not. But I share that to make the point that, even though Satan’s influence is as strong today, God is still stronger.  God gives His children every weapon we need to resist the devil. And God wins every time we allow Him to fight the battle.

Satan won’t stop shooting arrows, but we can put on the armor of God and not allow those arrows to penetrate. When Jesus places His righteousness on us when we repent of sin, His righteousness lives in and through us. We  begin to think, and act, like Jesus. And Satan has no power against Jesus! That’s great news!

And there’s more! Ezekiel reminds us that Satan is already defeated. God speaks outside of time, telling us:

… So I made a fire come out from you, and it consumed you, and I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching. All the nations who knew you are appalled at you; you have come to a horrible end and will be no more. (28:18b-19)

Take that, Satan. You are already toast. God wins. You lose. And those of us on God’s side win with Him.

Who’s side are you on?

 

Ezekiel 21-25; What We Deserve

One thing about God is, as patient and loving as He is, there is a limit to what He will take from us. Sin in our world, in our country, our homes, our churches, our hearts will not go unpunished. And God, through Ezekiel’s example, tells us to quit whining about it.

God is a righteous Judge. And we’re only getting what we deserve:

“I the Lord have spoken. The time has come for me to act. I will not hold back; I will not have pity nor will I relent. You will be judged according to your conduct, and your actions,” declares the Sovereign Lord. (Ezekiel 24:14)

Yes, I know this was written to the flesh and blood nation of Israel during Ezekiel’s lifetime. But what makes us think God has changed His position concerning sin in 2018?

Another thing about God is, as right as He is to pass judgment, as justified as He is to punish us, He is still willing to forgive. Not just willing, but longing to forgive. And He Himself took on His own severe punishment so we wouldn’t have to.

If we repent.

Repentance isn’t just a quick, “I’m sorry,” to hear, “Oh, that’s okay.” It’s not an apology with no intention of changing. Repentance involves drastic change.

It’s not just putting idols in a closet, but destroying them never to bring them out ever again. It’s denying sin in any form, resisting the devil, fleeing youthful lusts. It’s living without even the appearance of evil. It’s a choice every day to die to self and live for God.

Doesn’t it feel as though our world is on the brink of a great disaster? The examples in the Bible tell me that’s not what God wants, but what our sin demands.

So, dear one – QUIT SINNING! Quit condoning sin, or ignoring it. Quit giving lip-service to worship and start obeying God with every step you take.

If we don’t, and judgment comes, we’d best not cry about how hard life has become. It’s only what we deserve.