Tag Archives: forgiveness

Isaiah 20-23; Polar Opposites

Scripture constantly reminds us that God’s ways are polar opposite of what the world thinks and does. There are so many examples in these chapters in Isaiah of this truth.

It seemed logical to the king to join forces with his neighbors against their mutual enemy. But those neighbors were idolators, unbelievers. The unequal yoking between God’s people and the ungodly neighbors resulted in more problems for Israel than just an invading army.

Shebna is an example of material wealth, political power, and pride that was lauded by the world. He had everything… except God. And his life of “self” ended badly for him. His riches and power, even those people who idolized him, could not stop God’s judgment on him.

Look at what Isaiah had to say about Tyre’s wealth, the intellect of its people, the glory of that city among nations. The city here is reduced to rubble because of their sin.

But Tyre gets a second chance. And so do we.

We’ve all sinned. None of us measure up to God’s standard. I love what Matthew Henry says:

“We must first give up ourselves to be the holiness to the Lord before what we do, or have, or get, can be so.” (p 859; Commentary in One Volume; Zondervan; 1961) (emphasis mine)

In other words, who we are before our Holy God is the catalyst for what we do, not the other way around. We must first give up our “selves,” recognize sin and accept the Savior Jesus as our own. Not a popular concept according to the world.

We can only become the holiness of God if we are wearing Jesus’ holiness, through the blood He shed on the cross. No amount of good works, sacrificial giving, compassion for the poor, even church-going can render us holy.

That’s not how the world looks at it. We hear them say (even from the pulpit of a royal wedding) that all we need is love. All we need is activism on behalf of the needy. All we need is ourselves, our determination to love one another. But is that God’s way?

Please don’t forget that Jesus went to the cross because of love. Jesus’ love dealt with your sin, not your love. The world would have us concentrate on love, and ignore sin because, of course we shouldn’t judge, right?

Dear one, your love is meaningless without the cross. Your love is a filthy rag in God’s sight unless you have first confessed your sin and accepted God’s grace.

Like I said, God’s ways are polar opposite of the ways of the world.

 

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Isaiah 5-7; My Vineyard

Did you read these chapters and see what God has to say to you today about your walk with Him? I did. When I read chapters 5-7 I realized I am the vineyard Isaiah is talking about. As a Jesus follower, God established me on rich, fertile ground. He did all the work to clear that land when Jesus died on the cross.

What He offers me is pure, perfect, and prepared in advance for me to produce good fruit. (Ephesians 2:10) He gifted me with abilities to serve Him. He built a hedge of protection around me to guard my heart. He is the watchman who protects me from Satan’s arrows. He gave me everything I need to live a godly life. (2 Peter 1:3)

Then God turns over the vineyard to me, and waits for me to start producing good fruit. After all, He did all the hard work to get it ready for me so that I can go and make disciples, so that I can be a light to the world, so that I can share the Good News of Jesus with lost souls. The potential is endless!

But it didn’t take long for me to feel the sting of conviction today. Verse 2b: but it (me) yielded only bad fruit.

Then God asks, What more could I have done? The answer sadly is, Nothing.

Verses 4-7 are sobering when you consider yourself as the vineyard who isn’t producing fruit. God won’t stay where He’s not wanted.

I hope you read the “Woe to’s” in chapter 5 and let God speak to you about choices you make, attitudes you have, whether you tolerate sin in yourself and ignore it in others, whether or not you think you have all the answers apart from God.

When Isaiah came face to face with Jesus he cried, “Woe to me! I am ruined for I am a man of unclean lips…”

Now I don’t know what kinds of problems Isaiah had with what came out of his mouth, but this is what spoke to me this morning. Look at 8:6-7. When Isaiah confessed his sin of speech, God sent an angel to touch Isaiah’s lips! God met Isaiah at the point of his need. Isaiah confessed a sin. God forgave that sin.

Another thing I see is, that cleansing hurt. Most of the time, it takes a broken heart to repent, turning from sin is not always easy. Sometimes it really does hurt to admit you’ve sinned, to humble yourself, to accept grace. And sometimes separating yourself from that sin means giving up some things and people you really like. Ouch.

I think God wants us to know that as we read His Word, asking Him to speak to us about our walk with Him, He’ll point out sin. He’ll reveal things to us about our hearts’ condition before Him. He’ll talk to us about our vineyard.

Don’t forget this: If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness! (I John 1:9)

Every. Time.

So, read God Word and allow Him to put a finger on the problem. Confess. Repent. Allow Him to cleanse you. Then go back to the vineyard and get to work. Turn that precious property into something beautiful, and useful in God’s kingdom.

Isn’t God’s Word amazingly personal and relevant? I love it!

Psalms 32-39; Crush Me, Lord

In the psalms I read today I noticed a recurring theme. David, a man after God’s own heart, didn’t get away with sin. God didn’t turn a blind eye toward any sin this godly man committed. And God dealt with David’s sin harshly.

David, under the heavy hand of God’s conviction, said:

When I kept silent (rather than confessing sin), my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. (32:3-4(comment mine from vv 1-2)

Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; my bones have no soundness because of my sin. My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear. (38:3-4) (emphasis mine)

He uses phrases like these: (38:5-14)

My wounds fester and are loathsome

My back is filled with searing pain…

I am feeble and utterly crushed…

I groan in anguish of heart.

My strength fails me…

The light has gone from my eyes…

Don’t ignore the fact that David makes a direct correlation between what he is experiencing, and sin. (38:3) He continues with expressing his pain, his grief, the weight of guilt over sin. God is not going to let him get away with it. He’s not going to let us get away with it, either.

And I am talking to we who have accepted Jesus as our Savior. Conviction is a good thing. And if dealt with early on results in blessing. But if left unchecked, it can lead to some pretty painful times, emotionally, physically, relationally.

The more we ignore the conviction over sin in our lives, the further we get from God. Don’t expect Him to be ok with that. He is going to try to get our attention one way or another, to restore the sweet fellowship He longs to have with us.

Some of the other psalms I read today speak of the blessing of walking with God, of being righteous, forgiven, restored. I hope you’ll read these psalms today and let God speak to you about sin, and about what He longs to do when you repent of them.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (34:18)

I don’t want any sin standing in the way of my relationship with my Savior. I want to be sensitive to the convicting Spirit, then confess my sin and repent. Whatever it takes, I want my walk with the Lord to be as close as He deserves.

Crush me, Lord.

 

 

 

 

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!

1 Kings 1-2; You Can Fool Some Of The People…

I’m always impressed when I read how David handled the bully Shimei as recorded in 2 Samuel 16. He ignored the mean things Shimei did and said. Then, in chapter 19 we see Shimei coming back to the king, asking him not to hold that whole bullying thing against him. David promised he wouldn’t kill him. And the bullying seems to have stopped.

But now David is at the end of his life. Solomon is king. And we read in 1 Kings 2 the advice David gives his son. I have to say I was a bit surprised that David included Shimei in his list of people for Solomon to beware of. He even told Solomon not to consider Shimei innocent, and suggested Solomon “bring his gray head down to the grave in blood.” That’s harsh.

What is it about Shimei that I’m not seeing? He said he was sorry, didn’t he? I went back to read 2 Samuel 19:16-20. What I notice is an admission of guilt, and a request that David let bygones be bygones. “Just forget it,” Shimei seems to say.

I think I’m seeing a “Sorry” on the level of a child being forced to apologize for hitting his sister, followed by an unspoken, “Not.” The words are there. But was Shimei’s heart in it? Evidently David didn’t think so.

God does let us into Shimei’s real character as we read in 1 Kings 2:36ff. Shimei agreed to terms set forth by King Solomon. But as soon as it suited him, Shimei reneged. Rules just don’t apply to you, do they, Shimei? Solomon ended up teaching Shimei the ultimate lesson.

As I sit here and think about old Shimei, I asked God what He would say to us through him today. I thought about the number of times I’ve gone to God and asked forgiveness for a sin I knew I’d commit again. I thought about apologies I’ve made to get myself out of trouble, not necessarily because I was truly sorry for what I’d done. The words were there. But my heart wasn’t in it.

David wasn’t fooled by Shimei’s confession. And God is never fooled by mine.

When I was a child there was a kids’ show on TV. The host ended every program with the words: You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time. But you can’t fool Mom.

Well, moms, you know that probably isn’t always true. But, dear one, rest assured we might fool each other with right words, but God sees our heart.

And He is never fooled.

_______________________

We are still waiting for Hurricane Irma to do its worse on the coast of Georgia. Do you want to hear the good news first, or the bad? Good news is that the eye of the storm looks like it will stay far enough to the west that our part of the world will be spared the brunt of the storm. Still expecting heavy rain and wind, with some flooding. Some trees are already down according to reports. Thats the good news. The bad news? I decided to evacuate to a small town just east of Atlanta, directly in the projected path of Irma. I think she’s following me.

In reality, this storm is nothing to joke about. There are millions of people who are being impacted by this deadly force. Please continue to pray. May God have mercy.

I Samuel 15-16; The Problem With Interior Decorating

Saul was King of Israel. Remember the handsome, tall young man who looked exactly how everyone thought a king should look? The Bible says no one was his equal. (9:2)

Even though this same hunk hid from Samuel because he was afraid. He still looked the part.

But when Saul had an encounter with God,  God changed Saul’s heart. No longer cowardly, Saul prophesied when the Spirit of God came upon him in power. (10:10) Saul became a fearless warrior, a formidable leader of the Jews.

Several times in Scripture we see where the Spirit of God came upon him, and Saul obeyed. But we also see evidence that the change in Saul didn’t go very deep. It didn’t overcome the temptation to feel self-sufficient, and we see Saul’s gradual decline from being God’s anointed king, to being a man who God will reject.

In chapter 15 we read where Saul is given the opportunity to repent of sin. Samuel confronts Saul with the evidence of his sin, but Saul only gives Samuel the lame excuse, “they made me do it.” Then Saul makes matters worse when he says, “I kind of disobeyed, but my intentions were good. I was going to give the best of the spoils to God.”

Neither excuse could balance the guilt of his sin. So Saul, knowing he’d blown it before God, says, “I have sinned. But please, Samuel, honor me in front of the people.”

Oh Saul. That was bad enough. But did you have to go on and say, “so that I may worship the Lord YOUR God”? Wasn’t He your God, too?

I’m going to try not to judge Saul’s heart except through the evidence we see in Scripture. Saul’s heart had been changed, even to the point where the Bible says he was changed into a different person. (10:6) God was with him in a very visible way. But by the end of chapter 13, God had rejected him, the kingdom taken away from Saul because of disobedience.

I like watching renovation shows on TV. Sometimes the changes in the remodeled homes is amazing. Run-down houses get a makeover that transforms them into modern, beautiful homes.

But as I watch these shows I realize that there is a difference between cosmetic and structural changes. You can put paint on rotting wood. It will make it look nicer. But it won’t fix the problem, and the rotting will continue beneath the paint.

Fixing the problem often means tearing down walls and rebuilding from the ground up.

If I can use this analogy in Saul’s life, it would appear that Saul allowed God to do a cosmetic change in his life. The change was real. It just didn’t go very deep. In the end, God turned His back on His anointed one. The Spirit of God left him. (16:14)

I pray that you have had an encounter with God that has changed your life. But I would ask you to consider how that change has effected you. Have you allowed God to get in there and tear down walls, to eliminate the rot, to fix the problem of sin in your life?

Or have you only submitted just enough to God so that you look better to other people?

I pray that all of us will turn ourselves over to God 100%. Because how we look on the outside is meaningless unless we have been changed from the inside. I don’t want God just to be my Interior Designer. I want a total rehab, overhauled, made brand new through the blood of His precious Son, Jesus Christ.

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.