Tag Archives: forgiveness

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.

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.

Numbers 19-20; No One Gets A Free Pass

Not even Moses. You remember Moses, the one God used to deliver an entire nation from slavery, the one who performed miracles, the one with whom God entrusted His Law, the man who could be in God’s Holy Presence and live. Who in all of history has done more, seen more, had conversations with God more than Moses?

Yet when God told Moses to speak to the rock and water would come rushing out of it, then Moses tapped the rock instead, God didn’t look at all the good Moses had done and balance that against his sin and say, “The scale tips toward good so you get a free pass.” Even Moses had to suffer the consequences for his sin.

Even Moses.

The Bible is clear that every sin comes with a death sentence. (Romans 3:23; 6:23) Every sin.

I hope you are busy doing good things in our world. I hope you are honest and kind, that you are involved in a Bible believing church, that you volunteer at the homeless shelter, recycle, and support a child in Africa.

But don’t think that any of that can substitute for accepting Jesus as your Savior, for admitting and repenting of every sin God reveals in your life. The sin you commit will be repaid with death. That’s why Jesus died.

Because no one gets a free pass.

Numbers 5&6; Do You Trust Me?

As a woman, I had a hard time reading God’s instructions for a jealous husband. If a man thought his wife had been unfaithful, he could drag her to the priest who would make her drink dirty water that, if she was guilty, would render her infertile painfully and publicly. If she was innocent, the dirty water would do no harm.

The husband needed no proof of infidelity. He just had to be jealous. Doesn’t seem fair. What if a woman was truly innocent and her body reacted to the poison anyway?

And here’s the kicker: Regardless of the outcome for this woman, “the husband will be innocent of any wrongdoing…” (5:31) Plus, no mention is made of the guy this woman was supposed to have had an affair with. Let’s organize a march on Washington or block traffic or something.

But God doesn’t let me go off on tangents very long before He sits me down and reminds me of the Truth. Today I felt Him ask, “Do you trust Me?” If He gave the order, He’s not about to fail to make it work. So I am absolutely 100% sure that not one innocent woman – not one innocent woman – ever reacted to the dirty water.

And I am reminded that just because the male offender isn’t mentioned here, doesn’t mean God doesn’t address adultery elsewhere. God is very specific about sexual sins in both the Old Testament and the New.

So why institute this public judgment on adultery?

  1. It reminds us God takes marriage seriously. Marriage is a picture of His relationship with His church. And He will not tolerate unfaithfulness.
  2. Private sins have far reaching consequences. How many people do you know who are living with disease, abortion, raising children alone, or even poverty, as the result of sins they thought were private?

Then God reminded me that He is able and eager to forgive. We might bear consequences in the flesh, but God can make us pure in His eyes and able to bear fruit for His kingdom. Yes, He is serious about sin. Yes, the guilty will not go unpunished.

But thank God, through His Son Jesus, we can know the forgiveness of any and every sin we’ve ever committed, no matter how bad we think that sin is.

 

The lesson for me today wasn’t so much about the way guilty adulteresses were revealed, although at first I thought it was. The bigger question for me was, do I trust God to do all things well?

The answer is yes, I do.

Numbers 1-3; Family

We celebrated my niece’s wedding this past weekend with a reception at the local arts’ center. It was so beautiful and so fun to honor the love of her and my newest nephew. To add to the occasion, our family from Texas traveled the thousand mile journey to join us. I got to see my Texas niece’s daughter for the first time, and hug on my sister’s new husband and his daughter. 35 of our immediate family gathered together for brunch on Saturday, then had an Easter Egg hunt for the eight little ones in our lives.

The five “Zehner girls” were all together for the first time in five years. We followed each other around like sappy puppies. No one wanted to miss a moment of our time together. And having almost all their children and grandchildren with us was nothing short of amazing.

Maybe that’s why this morning, as I read these first chapters in the book of Numbers, I was impressed with the fact that God told the Israelites to camp, and travel with their families. Yes, they were all God’s children. But they were divided into family groups, numbered as family groups, went to war as family groups.

I’m thankful for my family group. I won’t pretend that everything has always been as it was this past weekend. There has been hurt, and anger, and separation. There have been times when there was little or no communication with some of us. But as I sat together with my sisters, laughing and remembering the good times, as I watched our children enjoying each other, someone said, “Thank you, Bob and Ginny.” Our parents gave us quite a gift in our forever friends.

Some of you may be experiencing brokenness in your family group. I don’t know your situation. But I would encourage you to do what you can to fix it. Reach out to that one with whom you are estranged. Confess. Forgive. Encourage. Family units seem to be important to God.

If you are a parent I would suggest that you would raise your children to be friends. Model the behavior with your own siblings that you want to see in your kids. People don’t believe that a house full of five girls could exist without fights. But we didn’t get away with fighting. We weren’t allowed to be mean to each other,  and our parents never thought it was funny if one of us would strike another or take another’s toy.

I, being the oldest, was never given authority over my younger sisters. I can’t remember ever being “in charge” when our parents weren’t home. (Oh, I might have thought I was in charge, but I don’t think that position was ever really given to me). We weren’t all forced to fit into a single mold. I never heard, “Why aren’t you more like your sister?”

Parenting is hard. But how you raise your children will have a lot to do with the relationships you have with them when they are adults. I’m loving the adult relationships I have with my nieces and nephews, and their spouses. And I love that the second generation of Zehners are friends with each other, too.

 

Jesus’ friends were concerned for His family, His mother, brothers, and sisters. Jesus told them that we who do God’s will are his family. Yet, when He was on the cross, He looked at Mary, His mother, and told John to take care of her. There was still that family connection.

So I believe the Bible teaches that families are important. They can be those people who love you best, hold you accountable, encourage, and challenge you.

I’m praying for yours.

Leviticus 17-20; Opinion or Fact?

I have been sharing my opinions on Scripture with you for several years now. I know I am not an authority. I know there are those who have studied and researched God’s Word much more than I. I understand that what I share is often personal. But I pray every day that what I share doesn’t deviate from the Truth God inspired men to write to us here in 2017.

The past couple of days I have been researching, reading various opinions, looking at opposing positions trying to get a handle on a very explosive subject. When I tell you I did not go into this looking merely for people who agree with my position, that would be true. In fact, I read more from people with different views.

But, with all the opinions out there. I will let the Bible be the final authority. I will be careful not to change the wording to fit my point of view. I will not tell you what it means contrary to what it says. I know it was written thousands of years ago. I know we don’t live in the same culture as then. I know the Greek and Hebrew words can be difficult to put into English. However, my final take on this subject will be what the Bible I have in front of me says. Not what I want it to say. Maybe not what you want it to say.

The hot topic is homosexuality. I wanted to look at this from as many angles as I could because some people I love have accepted the “Progressive” or “Reformed” view and believe committed homosexuals can be Jesus followers. Is there something to their opinion? I set out to see for myself.

The verses that address this in these chapters in Leviticus are 18:22, (reinforced in 29) and 20:13. In both cases it uses the words “lie with a man,” and “detestable.” Both are part of a long list of sexual behaviors God is speaking against, including incest and sex with animals.

I find it interesting that many of the opinions I read wanted to talk about things like Paul’s direction to the church that women should be silent, and that men should have short hair, and no tattoos. I’d like to stick with what the Bible says about homosexuality. I’d rather not chase a rabbit trail.

I could find no provision for a homosexual relationship, committed or casual, in the Bible. I can’t even find implied consent. The verses I could find in the Old Testament use the words “detestable” or “perverted” in relationship to homosexuality. Some would rather believe that Sodom wasn’t destroyed because homosexuality was practiced openly in that city. I can find verses that make a direct link between homosexuality and the fire that fell on them. I cannot find a verse that says otherwise. If you know of one, I hope you’ll share.

Not implied. A specific verse that contradicts the ones that say homosexuality was a cause of the city’s punishment.

And I would also like to find a verse that says homosexuality is NOT detestable to God. If you know of one that specifically says it, please share that one, too. I can find several that call homosexuality detestable, even a perversion. I can’t put a finger on one that contradicts that.

Some of the resources I looked at said that Jesus came to fulfill the law, so that these specific commandments look different after the cross. They say that because Jesus didn’t address the issue specifically, it implies that He didn’t consider it a big deal after all.

Perhaps. Or maybe it implies He thought we’d know better. Like we know that incest, and having sex with animals are sins, too. He didn’t speak directly about those, either.

Paul had some things to say about homosexuality. For instance, in Romans he called it “unnatural.” In I Timothy he said it was “contrary to sound doctrine.” These verses are specifically speaking about homosexuality as plain as anything.

From what I can see, the Bible is consistent in calling homosexuality a sin. The next question is, can a person knowingly living in sin be a Jesus follower? I can find a lot of verses that talk about dealing with sin, avoiding sin, repenting of sin. I can’t find one that addresses condoning or allowing sin to exist in our lives.

Again, help me out if you know of a verse that speaks about God overlooking sin, or turning a blind eye to sin, or changing His mind about sin.

It’s hard to let the Bible be the final authority when there are so many opinions out there. I have come to the conclusion, however, that as politically incorrect as it is, homosexuality is not acceptable behavior according to Scripture. It is a sin. But it is a sin Jesus died to forgive.

I Corinthians 6:9-11 gives us hope. In these verses, Paul listed people caught up in sin.  Idol worshipers, thieves, drunks, homosexual offenders. Then he said that is what some of them WERE. “But you have been washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Sin is forgivable. All sin is forgivable, except the sin of refusing forgiveness. I am not a homophobe, or a hater of homosexuals. In fact, I love them enough to be truthful in the face of all the lies out there. Believe it or not, approve of it or not, homosexuality is a sin. You cannot follow Jesus if you harbor sin in your life. You just can’t. Not the sin of lying, or gossip, or adultery, or homosexuality.

The Bible teaches that when we sin we can confess that sin, and God is faithful to forgive and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I love Him for that!

So here is yet another post of my opinions on a matter. I have tried to base my opinion on the facts presented in Scripture. I pray that you will recognize that I want the Bible to be the final authority. If what I have shared is contrary to God’s Word, please forgive me. Please correct me. I want only to know God and be true to His precious Word.

Because my opinions are worthless if they are not based on the Truth that God has revealed in the pages of the Bible.

 

 

 

Leviticus 13-14; Free To Fly

You don’t have to dig very deep in order to see Jesus through the laws God gave Moses for the children of Israel. He’s in there!

One of my favorite pictures of Christ within the Old Testament Law is found in Leviticus 14:1-7. It’s actually about how a person healed from a disease is able to be pronounced clean. If you read this you’ll find water and blood, wood, hyssop and scarlet yarn, life and death… and life.

It’s about two birds. One bird is killed and its blood dripped into fresh water. The other bird is kept alive, tied to cedar wood with hyssop and red thread, then dipped seven times into the mixture of water and blood.

Then (and this should make your heart soar) the bird still dripping with the bloody water, is released, free to fly the heavens once again.

We know Jesus died on a wooden cross, His blood shed, water poured out of His side. We know He took our sins on Himself, the perfect sacrifice… and then He flew! With Him He took my sin away as far as the east is from the west, never to be remembered ever again.

It’s a picture of me: dead in sin, alive in Christ, free from the chains of sin, free to fly.