Category Archives: The Gospel

I Samuel 18; Expect To Feel Miserable

Wow. I just had a wrestling match with Scripture. Have you ever questioned something you read in God’s Word that you could not get past? I had that experience in verse 10 of this chapter:

The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully upon Saul.

I don’t know about you, but major questions come to mind when the Bible tells me anything evil came from God. Verses like I John 1:5, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all,” and James 1:13, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone,” come to mind. But here it is in black and white. An evil, or distressing spirit FROM GOD was thrown at Saul.

I went to commentaries on my shelf and on the internet to try to makes sense of this. And  I’m glad I did.

Why would the Spirit of God come upon Saul in a distressing way? I was reminded that Saul had chosen sin over disobedience. He chose his own desires over repentance. And in doing so, the Spirit of God had left Him. (16:14)

Here is what I think God would have us consider today: When we disobey, when we choose sin over purity, and then when God removes Himself and His blessings from us, we should expect to feel crummy about it. We should never imagine that God is going to watch us walk away from Him and not convict us.

Saul was under major conviction. His soul was at war within him. Of course Saul was distressed.

Friend, God does not cause anyone to sin. He is Holy. But He is not going to sit back and watch you throw your life away. Expect conviction. Expect distress. Expect to feel uncomfortable, depressed, anxious, if you are harboring sin in your life.

Saul’s response to this great conviction from God was to pick up a spear and throw it at David. Saul held on to his jealousy and anger instead of repenting. As we read on, we’re going to find out this is not the last time God will send His convicting Spirit to Saul. God is never one and done. (I praise Him for being the God of second and third… chances)

God is working in the hearts of every person on this planet. Don’t think that doesn’t mean you. God loves you enough to make you feel miserable when you sin.

Expect it. Then repent and experience the joy that will follow, the sweet fellowship with the God of the Universe who loves you to death.

I Samuel 4-6; Faced With The Truth

I’m not sure why we are not reading about a massive turning to God among the Philistines here in these chapters. When the ark was there, when God’s Presence was among them, they witnessed His Power first hand. They saw their pretend god, Dagon, toppled twice by God. God’s hand was heavy on them, and many people developed tumors, many died.

The Philistines knew the stories of Israel’s exodus from Egypt. They’d heard about the plagues. They’d listened to the many miracles Israel’s God had performed for them in the desert, how many armies God had defeated to bring the Jews to Canaan. Now, they saw the power of Israel’s God up close and personal.

The Philistines acknowledged that God was responsible for the things going on among them. But instead of bowing down before Him, their response was to send Him away. They chose to hang on to a worthless idol, an idol they had to admit was inferior to God. They chose to get rid of the God who had power over their own bodies, and continue on in their devotion to a god that never was a god.

Why?

I wonder the same thing about people who hear the Gospel, yet choose to hang on to some worthless belief instead of running into the arms of the One who loves them beyond understanding, who longs to fellowship with them, and who went to the cross to make that possible.

When faced with the Truth, why cling to a lie?

Father, I pray for all those who will hear the Truth about You today. I pray for pastors of churches where Jesus will be preached as Your Son, the Savior of the world. I pray that hearts will break because of sin when they find themselves face to face with You. Defeat Satan today in a mighty way. And may no one hearing Your Truth choose to hold on to any lie, any false god. But may they fall before You, accept Your grace, and worship You in spirit and in truth.

Joshua 22-24; Choose

I wonder how many times Scripture tells us to “choose.” I wonder how often Scripture either explains in words or in examples the blessings associated with choosing God, and the severe consequences for choosing anything else. Never underestimate the importance of your choices.

God’s made His choice. He chose you. He went to the cross for you. He bought your salvation and is willing to shower you with grace.

When the jailer asked Paul what he needed to do to be saved, Paul said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 16) In Joshua 24, the Jewish leader told the Jews to “choose today” who they would serve. Would they choose God, or the idols of their neighbors?

Choose Jesus today, my friend. Admit you are a sinner, and receive the forgiveness He died to give you. But let me remind you, if you say you aren’t quite ready to give your life to the Lord today, you’ve made your choice to reject Him today. Don’t do it.

Accept Jesus. Choose to obey Him. Choose today who you will serve.

Joshua 8-10; Wax or Clay?

The Israelites had a reputation in Canaan. Or rather, the God of Israel had a reputation. The people inhabiting the Promised Land had heard the stories. Plagues in Egypt. Impressive victories in war. The Jordan River crossing. City walls collapsing.

Not only that, but the Canaanites knew the amazing God of the Jews had promised His children their land. If that happened, the Canaanites knew they would lose everything, including their freedom, maybe their lives. What to do?

The Gibeonites decided to go to the Jews and form a treaty. Five other kings decided to join forces to fight the Jews. One king heard the truth and chose surrender. Five kings heard the truth and chose to defy God.

Matthew Henry reminds us the same sun melts wax, and hardens clay.

It’s the same with truth today. I don’t need to give examples. You see it every day on a work-wide level, in our nation, our schools, in some churches, and in hearts of people close to us. We saw it when they hung Jesus on the cross.

Truth: There is ONE GOD, the creator and supreme ruler over all creation. Jesus is GOD’S SON, eternal God in human form. God is HOLY. He demands holiness of anyone who will come to Him. But we have sinned against Him. ALL OF US have sinned against Him. So in and of ourselves, there is NO HOPE, because the penalty for every sin is DEATH, eternal separation from God. But Jesus went to the cross to die, to pay the debt of our sin, of my sin, of your’s. And whether you want to believe it or not, Jesus is THE ONLY WAY to God.

Does that truth melt your heart, or make you angry? Do you want to surrender to God, or deny Him? Do you want to accept the truth, or fight against it?

I hope you’ll read these chapters in Joshua today. Find out for yourself what happens when people surrender, then enjoy God’s protection from the enemy. And find out what happens when people refuse to surrender, when they take up arms against God. They didn’t stand a chance.

Holy God, I surrender. I am a sinner who deserves your wrath. I deserve to die for the sins I’ve committed. But I’ve heard about You, how powerful and awesome You are. And when I hear You say there is only one hope of salvation, I believe it. So, God, I accept Jesus. I repent of sin, I turn my life over to You. Because the truth is, when I stand before You on that day, I don’t want You looking at me, seeing my sin. I want You to look at me and see Jesus. He is my Savior. And He is the Savior of anyone who surrenders to the truth.

Joshua 3-5; 1,000 Yards Away

The Jews reached the Jordan River, but Canaan was on the other side. Plus, the river was at flood stage so that took wading across out of the mix. They could see the Promised Land. But there was a watery barrier between them and the blessing.

Then Joshua told them God’s plan: Have the Levites pick up the ark, and step into the Jordan. That in itself was an act of faith. And their obedience always speaks to me every time I read this Scripture. But something else jumped out at me today.

We know the Ark of The Covenant wasn’t just a fancy trunk containing valuable Jewish memorabilia. It was the place God sat on earth. It not only represented His Presence. It was His Presence. And no one could touch the ark and live.

The Levites took the ark into the river, the river stopped flowing, the Levites walked on dry ground and stood in the middle of the Jordan. The people were told to follow the ark, and they did.

Now here’s what I’ve been overlooking all these years: Joshua told the Israelites to stay 1,000 yards away from the ark. That’s ten football fields, over a half mile.

We’ve all seen the pictures in our Bibles, or on the walls of our Sunday School rooms. A wall of water looming over them on one side, dry ground on the other, priests standing there holding the ark, and Jews scurrying along to get to the other side. That’s not how it happened.

The ark stood there, all alone with only the Levites holding on to the poles. The wall of water was more than a half mile away, and the dry ground reached all the way to the sea.

The commentaries I read this morning pointed out some interesting thoughts about this. One, it tells us God stands alone. He doesn’t need our protection. Two, everyone could see it, and be assured by its presence. If they had crowded around it, only those closest to the ark would be able to see it. Standing back gave everyone the same opportunity to look and be encouraged. Three, no one would be in danger of accidentally bumping into it, which would have meant death to that person. And four, it demonstrates that a Holy God is untouchable.

So I sit here today and wonder what any of that has to do with us in 2017. The ark was meant to be followed. The Presence of the ark parted the waters when the Levites obeyed. But no one could get within a half mile of God. Is that the lesson today? Are we to take this to mean God is far off, working in our lives, but untouchable?

Yes.

God is so holy that no one ought to ever think about approaching Him closer than from 1,000 yards away. He is that holy.

But Jesus!

Makes me love Him all the more. When I take a look at God’s holiness as shown in Old Testament Scripture, I am humbled to know I have access to Him every moment of every day, up close and personal, because Jesus lets me wear His holiness! I deserve to be made to stand back from God. Way back from God.

But Jesus bids me, “Come.” Wow.

God has not changed. He is as holy as we see Him here in Joshua’s book.

But Jesus!

Holy God, I pray that we will never overlook the fact that You are Holy, Holy, Holy. I don’t think we really grasp that reality very well here in 2017. Thank You for sending Jesus to purchase holiness for me, so that I can come to You boldly, without fear of the death I deserve. It’s true that Jesus is the only access to the Father. I pray that everyone reading this blog post will receive Him and allow Him to be that bridge between us and You. You are holy. We are not. But because Jesus died on the cross, we don’t have stand 1,000 yards away from You. We can crawl up into Your lap, whisper in Your ear, and know You welcome us with open arms. I love You.

Deuteronomy 30-34; The Law and Grace

What is your definition of grace? When you think of God’s grace, what comes to mind? Jesus? The cross? Forgiveness? Eternal life? What about, the Law?

I’ve heard religion criticized for being a list of rules, of “don’ts.” And actually, Moses reminds us it is. The Law is a very big part of this thing we call Christianity. Even though we know the Law is powerless to forgive sin.

The Law reveals sin, though. And in doing so, it points us to our Savior.

I guess God could have left us to our own devices, not defined sin for us, then sat back and watched us unknowingly crash and burn. Like a cop who knows the speed limit sign is missing, then pulls over unsuspecting drivers and tickets them for driving too fast.  Sorry, boys, not knowing the speed limit doesn’t change the speed limit.

Not knowing what sin is doesn’t change what sin is.

But God is full of grace. In Romans 7:7, Paul tells us he would not have known what sin even was if it had not been for the Law. I wouldn’t know what light was except for the darkness, what health was if it weren’t for sickness, what joy was but for sorrow. I wouldn’t know what forgiveness was if I didn’t know I needed to be forgiven.

Deuteronomy 33:3 tells us God loved the people, He held them in His hand, they worshiped Him, and God gave them the Law as a possession, an inheritance. God gave them the Law as something precious, not because they deserved it, but because He graciously wanted them to know their boundaries so they wouldn’t cross over them. Then He could bless them, like He longed to do.

The Law is still in effect today. Those boundaries are still in place. Idol worship is still a sin. Adultery, lying, dishonoring parents are still sins. And because the wages of every sin is death, God wanted to spell it all out so we would not be caught unawares.

He wanted to give us life instead of death. A life, as sinners, we don’t deserve. That’s grace. And in a very real way, the Law plays a big role in God’s grace.

Grace greater than all our sin.

God, thank you for letting me see your Law as an act of grace. You want us to know what sin is so that we are quick to repent of it, to accept what Jesus did on our behalf, and to enjoy unbroken fellowship with you. That’s grace. Thank you for grace that is even greater than my sin.

Deuteronomy 12-15; Life Is In The Blood

When Moses was teaching the Jews what animals were ok to eat and which ones to avoid, he kept repeating: “you must not eat the blood.” In 12:23 he tells them why:

because the blood is the life, and you must not eat the life with the meat.

I know of people who will not eat a rare steak because of this directive. Is that what we’re to take from this passage?

For thousands of years, Jews refused to drink blood, while other nations did that as part of their worship of pretend gods. And for thousands of years the Jews taught their children, the life is in the blood.

The life is in the blood.

Then one day, Jesus sat with His disciples at dinner and said, “Take, eat. Take, drink.” The body (meat) and the blood, together. Why?

Because Life is in the blood.

I believe the disciples eventually understood exactly what Jesus was saying, because of the way they were raised. Jesus had told them He IS the Life. And Life is in the blood.

What we read in Deuteronomy isn’t just about dietary restrictions. It’s a picture of Jesus. It points to Calvary, where blood was shed so we can have life.

Life is in HIS blood.

Jesus did what the blood of millions of bulls could not do. He willingly shed His precious blood so that we can have life, abundant life, eternal life.