Category Archives: The Gospel

2 Chronicles 33-36; There Is No Time Like The Present

A few weeks ago my pastor, who is doing a series of sermons through the Gospel of Mark, shared a heart-felt, heart-wrenching sermon on the unforgivable sin. We all went away from there knowing one of two things: either we would not commit that sin because we have already accepted God’s gift of grace through the blood of Jesus, or we were guilt of that sin because we are rejecting Him.

A couple of days later I was at our Good News Club at a local elementary school. The leader was helping the kids with our memory verse, John 3:16. “Jesus died,” she said, “so that anyone anywhere who believes in Him will be saved, and have eternal life.”

One boy raised his hand. “My pastor says some people run from God. They say, ‘I’ll get saved later. I want to live life my own way first.'” The boy and his family have been attending our church for several weeks. I rejoiced that his youngster understood what he was hearing.

I thought about that as I read the last chapter of 2 Chronicles this morning. Manasseh was the son of Hezekiah, a good king who did mostly what was pleasing to God during his reign. But when Manasseh became king, he wasted no time undoing the good his dad had done. Under Manasseh’s leadership, the Jews did more evil than the pagan people around them.

Manasseh eventually quit running from God, humbled himself, and repented. Then, with as much fervor as he’d had doing evil, he began to clean up his mess. He got rid of foreign gods, restored the altar, and told the people to start serving God.

All good things. But his years of defiance took its toll. His son Amon, who became king after Manasseh died, totally defied God his entire reign. Manasseh may have given his life to the Lord, but his son who had lived in his house during Manasseh’s rebellious years, never did. Manasseh had time to clean up the mess he’d made of the nation, but the time to repair the damage he’d done to his son ran out.

Sometimes I think we forget that our influence, our actions and attitudes, effect those closest to us in a very real way, for a very long time. If you are holding anything back from God, don’t think that isn’t effecting the dear ones who live in your home, or who love you and are loved by you.

I certainly hope you aren’t one who is saying, “I’ll get right with God later.” Don’t be living with that unforgivable sin hanging over your head. And for goodness sake, don’t give your children the impression that’s ok. They are watching your example, and learning from you.

Let our loved ones see that NOW is the time to deal with sin, to humble ourselves before God, and accept His forgiveness. Model for your children what a Christian looks like, by the things you do, the places you go, the things you say, the attitudes and passions you have.

There is no time like the present.

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2 Chronicles 29-32; You Are Invited

King Hezekiah did some house cleaning. He not only rid the temple of any pagan worship, he re-established worship of the One True God. Many Jews tirelessly worked to restore what had been lost due to the disobedience of former kings, and the Jewish ancestors who followed them.

A couple of things stood out to me as I read these chapters this morning. One is the Passover feast was delayed because the priests had not done what they needed to do to consecrate themselves for the work of the Lord. The church leaders seem to have been dragging their feet. Why, when so many Jews were tearing down idols, and getting the temple ready for worship? Why didn’t the priests get ready, too?

We can only guess. Maybe they were working with the people, restoring the temple and just lost track of time. Maybe they were holding off to see how far this transformation would go before it got stopped in its tracks. Maybe they were reluctant to let go of their own idolatry. What we do know is, King Hezekiah was not fooling around. And he did not let the priests off the hook. They eventually went through the consecration requirements so the Passover could be held.

It makes me wonder if, on occasion, our church leaders might not be dragging their feet, too. Even pastors and elders get comfortable. Even pastors and elders can have sin in their lives they aren’t confessing. Could this be one of the reason so many churches in our country are closing their doors?

Now before we start pointing fingers and laying blame, the other thing I noticed is that when the invitation to come to celebrate the first Passover observed in years, some people blew it off and even made fun of the ones who brought the good news. Maybe they thought observing Passover was “old school”, or maybe someone used the word “tradition”, so they turned up their noses.

Once again it would seem the people had become comfortable in their sin, and weren’t about to change. Well, some of them felt that way.

But a large crowd did gather in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Sacrifices for sin were offered, and God was worshiped like He demands. Thousands of animals were slain, and the feast was extended an additional week. The peoples’ hearts were turned to God, and God blessed them for it.

I can’t help but think of the ones who refused the invitation. Did they care that they were missing God’s blessings? Did it occur to them that they were disobeying God? They received the same invitation everyone else received. They just didn’t accept.

I come away from reading these chapters today with a realization that I have the responsibility and the privilege to extend God’s invitation to the people in my world to come and worship Him. I must first ready myself for the work of the Lord. I need to address sin in my own life, I must allow God to clothe me with Jesus’ righteousness. And I must yield myself to His will, trusting that He will be my strength in the mission.

Then I need to get out there and deliver the invitation, regardless what people might think of me. Yes, I believe Jesus is God in human form, that God has established only one way in which we may come to Him, that Jesus died to pay what my sins demand, and that I am saved completely and eternally through the precious blood of Jesus. It is a gift of God, it’s grace, and it’s mine from a repentant heart.

You might think that’s old school, that you are enlightened so therefore have a more inclusive approach to God. You might snicker and roll your eyes when I tell you you are a sinner in need of a Savior, that your eternal soul will experience the worst possible pain beyond imagine if you refuse the invitation God is extending to you. You might even write me off as a lunatic when I tell you your decision concerning Christ is the single most important thing in your life now and forever.

But I’ll extend the invitation anyway. I pray you’ll join us in worshiping God as His child, saved by grace.

2 Kings 14-16; In Deference

As I continue to read through the history of kings, I notice some repeating themes. Like I said the other day, most of the kings follow in their fathers’ footsteps. Good kings influenced good kings, bad kings influenced bad kings.

It seems those who took on the position of a Jewish king may have had a death wish. Whether they reigned two weeks or twenty years, someone was always plotting to kill them and steal the throne.

Good kings followed God in varying degrees. Bad kings didn’t follow Him at all.

We get to King Ahaz in these chapters today. He was not a good king, even though his father Jotham had been. Scripture tells us Ahaz made a treaty with the Assyrians, sworn enemies of God’s people. We read that Ahaz remodeled the Temple, removed the basins, the canopy, and the royal entryway, he moved the walls and the Sea, “in deference to the king of Assyria.”

“When you show deference to someone, you make a gesture of respect. The noun deference goes with the verb defer, which means ‘to yield to someone’s opinions or wishes out of respect for that person.'” (Vocabulary.com)

Has the Church made a treaty with the enemy? Look at what has been removed from our places of worship: altars, pulpits, Bible reading, hymns, organs, steeples, pews, the list goes on. We’ve remodeled our sanctuaries much like Ahaz remodeled his.

I read this invitation this morning: “If you are looking for a spiritual home that is full of love, acceptance of all, and truly tolerant of all beliefs, ask me about…”

I think too many churches have removed sin from their vocabulary, they don’t talk about God’s holiness and His righteous judgment. They’ve removed so much of what makes the Church God’s house, in deference to whom? Non-christians? Christians who want to feel good about going to a Sunday service without the responsibility of living a separate life during the week? Satan?

It’s time to break our treaty with the enemy, and defer to God instead. God who is Holy, Fierce, Unchanging, who went to the cross because of sin; God who accepts those who accept Jesus, and rejects those who reject Him.

Holy God, I thank you for pastors and churches who are standing on the Truth of Scripture. I thank you for congregations of people who are not afraid to resist trends and political correctness. Bless their fellowships in a mighty way. I pray for those who are caught up in the treaty between your people and the enemy. Convict hearts, Lord. Drive us to our knees. And may Your people worship You in spirit and in Truth, according to Your Word. Then, Father, enable us to get out there and do what You intend the Church to do, introduce lost souls to their Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

2 Kings 6-8; The “Eyes” Have It

Roman philosopher Cicero said, “The face is a picture of the mind, as the eyes are its interpreter.” The French have a saying, “The eyes are the mirror of the soul.” We’ve all heard it said, “The eye is a window to the soul.” Even Jesus spoke to this in Matthew 6:22&23 when he said, “The light of the body is the eye…”

My dad was a great story teller. But the older I got, and the more I heard his tales, the more I was able to recognize the truth or fiction in what he was saying by the twinkle in his eyes.

Have you ever run into someone and asked the question everyone asks, “How are you,” hear them say “Fine,” like everyone always says, but can see in their eyes they are anything but fine? There really is something about the eyes, isn’t there?

God uses “eyes” several times in the chapters I read today. The first is found in 6:16-17. The king of Aram is out to get Elisha. The prophet and his servant, fearful for their lives, are hiding out in Dotham. When the servant steps out the door, he panics when he sees they are surrounded by the Aramean army. Elisha tells the servant not to be afraid. Then he prays that God would open this man’s eyes. What the servant saw then was God’s own army, horses and chariots of fire, enveloping Elisha, ready to defeat Elisha’s enemy.

Are you facing a battle that threatens to defeat you? Are you panicked at the impossibility of victory when you look at the hopelessness of your situation? Ask God to open your eyes, that you might see glimpses of truth He has for you. He might reveal His Power and Presence in any number of ways. But if you are His child, and if you ask Him, I believe He will give you the assurance you need. He did for Elisha’s servant.

The second time “eyes” are mentioned is in the very next verse. The Aramean army is at the door, unaware that God’s army is also there. Elisha didn’t pray that God would destroy them. He prayed that God would blind them. And He did. As a result, the army was rendered useless for battle.

Then, and I love this, Elisha led them to their salvation. The man they would have killed, took them out of danger (away from the army of God set to do battle – and we know who would have won that one), and led them to dinner before releasing them.

No one died that day.

Friend, non believers ARE blind. Many hate us because of our love of God, and devotion to Jesus. And some would rather see us dead than hear what we have to say.

First of all, I think God would have us know His army is surrounding us, ready to fight our enemy, to give us victory over those who would do us harm. But I also think He wants to remind us that He wants to save them, too, that Jesus died for them as much as He did for us, and that anyone who believes in Him will be saved. God wants us to lead them to the cross.

If Elisha had fought that day, people would have died with no hope. But because Elisha asked God to blind them, he was able to lead them to the place where their lives were spared. Remember Jesus told us to pray for our enemies, turn the other cheek, do good to those who mistreat us, and make disciples (you do know He didn’t tell us to go into the world and pick out just nice people to make disciples of, don’t you?)

Another reference to “eyes” is found in 7:21. This time it’s a sad message. The army officer questioned God’s power. Oh, he eventually witnessed that power up close and personal. But he wasn’t allowed to share in the blessing.

I am reminded that at the Name of Jesus, EVERY knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. For some it will be too late to receive the blessings of heaven. That truth breaks my heart. I can imagine how it effect’s God’s.

8:11 refers to “eyes” again. This time it was a gaze that bore right into Hazael’s soul, and caused him to be embarrassed. Elisha looked deep into Hazael’s eyes and saw the evil there, and Hazael knew Elisha wasn’t fooled by his outward behavior.

I think some people don’t want to get too close to God for that very reason. They’d much rather live their lives concealing the truth within their evil hearts, than looking into God’s eyes and know He sees that truth. They go through life avoiding eye contact with God, as though if they ignore Him, He won’t see what they are hiding. They can fool people into believing they’re ok, but try looking into God’s eyes. That’s a different story.

People who study human behavior say that, generally speaking, you can tell if people are lying by watching their eyes, you can recognize fear, love, anger, joy by the brightness and shape of their eyes. Eyes just might actually be a window into our souls.

So, what are your eyes saying about you today? Have you allowed God to reveal His Presence in your life? Can you see His hand at work, are you praying and seeing answers to your prayers? Are you assured that He is right beside you, ready to help you defeat Satan?

Or are you walking around blind, hoping someone will lead you to salvation? Do you question, or are you rejecting God’s Truth? Understand that rejection, that unbelief may be leading you to an eternity without hope.

Are you avoiding God because you know His gaze will make you face your sinfulness? Dear one, that same gaze will assure you of His love and forgiveness if you ask Him.

This is my prayer for you; that you will look forward to the day when you look into the eyes of Jesus Himself, and see His love and acceptance because you accepted Him as your Savior while you were on this earth.

Those are the eyes I am anxious to see!

2 Kings 2; The Road To Faith

Elisha saw God’s chariot accompany Elijah into heaven in a whirlwind. Elijah skipped the dying and went straight to God’s Presence in a dramatic display. Everyone knew that God was coming to get Elijah. Elijah told Elisha if he was privileged to witness the getting, God would bless him. Elisha saw. And he was blessed.

But not everyone saw what Elisha saw. The men waiting for Elisha to return hadn’t seen the chariot or the whirlwind, and they found it hard to believe. So because of their persistent pleas, Elisha let them search for Elijah, knowing full well they were not going to find him. Elisha let them search because he realized they needed to know for themselves that Elijah was gone.

Reminds me of Jesus’ “doubting” disciple. The other disciples had seen the risen Lord. Thomas hadn’t been there when Jesus appeared to them. So, even though I’m sure he remembered Jesus saying He would rise again, Thomas had trouble believing He’d really risen in the flesh. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Later, Jesus did appear to Thomas. The disciple saw for himself Jesus was alive. And he believed.

I love the way God allows us all to be individuals. He meets each of us where we are. I had a pastor once who became a Christian after reading the book of Revelation in the Bible. It scared the faith into him.

I know others who came to the Lord after a tragedy, some after hearing a sermon, some were drawn to Jesus by love. Some people need to see God’s hand, witness a miracle before they’ll believe. Others believe as soon as they hear what Jesus did two thousand years ago.

After Thomas saw Jesus and believed, Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

I don’t think Jesus was scolding Thomas with these words. And I don’t think Elisha was upset with the men who felt they needed to go looking for Elijah before they’d believe God took him.

Not everyone takes the same road toward faith. It’s personal. It’s intimate. And it’s God-lead. I guess I’m saying if you’re the type of person who needs to see before you believe, God knows you are. Ask Him to show you. Beware that He might show you through hardship, but if you need tangible proof, He can do that. Then believe, and be blessed.

If you’re the type of person who doesn’t need to be shown anything, but can believe in Jesus by trusting in His Word, God knows that, too. Believe, and be blessed.

Because God wants you to know Him. He is personally, intimately interested in your eternal soul, and He longs to fellowship with you. Seek Him. You’ll find Him on the road you are traveling.

2 Kings 1; Who’s To Blame?

I’ve heard it said a lot lately, that this world is corrupt, and it’s only going to get worse, that evil people will continue to gain momentum. I’m telling you it doesn’t have to be that way.

Did you read about how Elijah spoke to the men King Ahaziah sent to get him? A captain and fifty armed soldiers told Elijah, “The king says, come.” Seems harmless enough. But remember who Ahaziah’s parents were. Ahaziah knew exactly who this man of God was: the prophet responsible for the death of his parents, Ahab and Jezebel. I doubt their offspring wanted to invite Elijah to tea.

Elijah would have nothing to do with Ahaziah or his men. In fact, to demonstrate that Elijah was a man of God, he said fire would come down from heaven and consume them. Fire from heaven came down and consumed them.

Ahaziah sent another fifty soldiers to go get Elijah. They died, too. It wasn’t until the third captain humbled himself before Elijah, and in turn before God, that God told Elijah to go with them. Then, standing before the king, Elijah did not back down. He stayed true to God’s Word. No compromise here!

Thirty or so years ago, there was a trend for churches to hire outsiders to come into their fellowship, survey members, talk to people in the neighborhoods, learn the “demographics,” then recommend changes the churches needed to make to grow their attendance. As a result we’ve got “contemporary” worship styles, the removal of pulpits, altars, hymns, and organs. We’ve come up with clever little names for our fellowships because being identified with a denomination “turned people off.” We’ve adopted a casual approach to worship so everyone feels comfortable, a laid back atmosphere so people don’t feel threatened, entertaining worship services so people go away feeling good, and Starbucks in the foyer.

We’ve also seen the word, “sin” replaced with “lifestyle” or “tolerance,” “acceptance,” and of course, “God’s love.”

Many churches did see a marked growth, more bodies in the chairs each Sunday, or Saturday night if that’s more “convenient.” The mega-church was born. We may have compromised a bit. But numbers don’t lie.

Or do they?

Let me ask you this: Is our world better than it was thirty years ago? Is there less crime, less evil, a mega turning to God since the church implemented these changes? I’m not asking if there are people coming to your church. I’m asking what impact your church has had on our world. Are drug dealers, thieves, child molesters, drunks, soccer moms, and CEO’s coming to the Savior because your church is out there actively winning souls?

I would say, after reading the news, I doubt it. Now, if you are involved in a church that IS making a difference and seeing people repent of sin and come to the Lord, understand I know I’m preaching to the choir. But, from what I see in our country and the world, the Church is failing in our mission to go and make disciples.

Here’s why my thoughts went here today. Read what J Vernon McGee had to say about 2 Kings 1, and Elijah’s firm stand:

There is much talk today about the fact that we should learn to communicate and learn to get along with everybody. May I say to you that this is not God’s method. The compromise of the church and its leaders has not caused the world to listen to the church. As a matter of fact, the world is not listening at all. They pass the church right by. Why? The world will not listen until the church declares the Word of God. If the church preached God’s Word, there would be communication. (p 157, Through the Bible commentary, I & II Kings)

Dr. McGee wrote those words in the middle of the trend I spoke about earlier. His words were prophetic. If the world didn’t listen to the Church back then, it laughs at the Church today.

Do you know why I believe what Dr. McGee said is true? God has said that His Word would not return void. (Isaiah 55:11) Our world is not in the shape it’s in because Satan is so strong. It’s because the church is so weak. We refashioned ourselves to look like the world, to the point they don’t see their need to change. We have neglected God’s Word, and in turn, have harnessed His power to save souls. And we read about the result of this in the news every day.

And don’t even tell me it’s God’s will. Jesus didn’t tell us to go into the world and preach the gospel until things got tough, then sit back and let evil take over because He’ll rapture the church before things get really bad. We’ll dodge that bullet, too bad for everybody else. If that theology makes me mad, I can imagine God’s opinion of it.

Our world is in bad shape. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. I pray that the Holy Spirit will revive the Church, that Christians will see sinners through Jesus’ eyes, that we will stand firm on the Truth of Scripture, and proclaim it from the mountaintops, in our churches, and in our neighborhoods. I also pray that Christians will live lives that attract people to their Savior.

Oh, dear Christian. Don’t sit back and blame Satan, or the media, or a president for the state of things in our world. We have the God of the Universe ready and eager to step in. We have no one to blame but ourselves.

 

I Kings 20-22; What We Deserve

Israel’s King Ahab was evil. His wife, Jezebel wasn’t much better. “There was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife.” (21:25) That’s quite the legacy.

They put a hit out on a guy so they could steal his vineyard. They blatantly worshiped idols. They were evil, and they encouraged evil in Israel. Doesn’t it seem fitting that these two receive their just desserts? Like leprosy or something?

However, God sent a prophet to Israel’s king and told him God was going to help Israel defeat their enemy. Wait. What? God was going to make this evil king successful?

Like it or not, that’s exactly what happened. Israel went to war with the Arameans and soundly beat them. Twice! Why would God give this rotten guy these victories? That’s just not how it’s supposed to happen. It’s just not right when evil people succeed.

Later on, after Naboth is murdered by order of Jezebel, God prompted Elijah to go to King Ahab and tell him he was going to die. His whole family was going to die for Ahab’s sin. From what I know of Elijah, that is probably one message he was more than happy to pass on to King Ahab. And it’s probably a message all of us think was long over due.

How did Ahab receive this message? He tore his clothes, he fasted, he put on sackcloth. And God noticed. 21:28 tells us God saw that Ahab humbled himself before Him. And for the next three years, Israel was free from war with the Arameans. Neither Ahab nor Jezebel died. Once again, this evil king seems to have gotten away with something. Ugh.

Well, old Ahab seemed to have gotten pretty comfortable in those three years of peace. Eventually he defied God again, and this time it cost him, and Jezebel, their lives.

Sometimes it’s hard to figure God out, isn’t it? It just seems obvious that good people should have good things happen to them and bad people should suffer. But if you’ve lived more than ten minutes on this planet, you know that just isn’t how things go.

In 20:13, before Ahab fought any battle with the Arameans, God explained Himself. It’s something I think all of us need to take notice of.

I will give it (the battle)  into your hand today, and then you will know I AM the Lord.

I am reminded that God is not willing that anyone die without him. That includes the terrorist, the child molester, or the neighbor who dumps their yard waste into your yard. (Ok. That last one was a personal note to self)

Your idea of justice isn’t the same as God’s. Your idea of justice is immediate, sometimes emotional, and certainly limited to this lifetime. God’s idea of justice is patient, loving, and eternal. Everything good that happens to a bad person happens to reveal God to them, just like the good things Ahab experienced revealed God to him.

And here’s something we don’t like to think about. Anything good that happens to you… anything good… is God’s grace. I don’t care how good you think you are, you don’t deserve one moment of the blessings that are yours every day. You are a sinner. You deserve God’s wrath as much as that drug dealer or rapist you read about on the news. If you got what you deserved, well, let’s just say I’m glad none of us get what we deserve in this lifetime.

God is full of grace. Every moment of every day He is working in my life and yours to reveal Himself. Sometimes He does it with victories in battle. Sometimes He does it with hardship and pain. But in and through everything that happens, there is one underlying reason: God.

God wants us to know Him. God wants us to love Him, to worship Him, to rest in Him.

The next time you secretly hope someone gets what you think they deserve, pray instead that they receive what Jesus died to give them. Not because they deserve it. But because God does.

Righteous Judge, I have to confess that sometimes I am frustrated that sinners seem to prosper and Christians don’t. I seem to have my own sense of fairness, and wonder why You don’t share my insight. I’m sorry about that. When you told us not to judge, lest we be judged, I think you were talking along these lines. I don’t want to judge You for working in ways I don’t understand. Help me to deal with the sin of my own life, as you reveal it to me, and allow You deal with the sin in others’ lives as You see fit. And, Lord, let me never forget how blessed I am that You don’t give me what I deserve.