Tag Archives: obedience

Isaiah 36-39; Counting The Days, or Days That Count?

Maybe it’s my age, but there are three people close to me who are battling cancer right now. One dear lady, after months of body-ravaging chemo, has decided to stop the treatment because it isn’t working. The doctors tell her there’s nothing more they can do, so she has gone into hospice care. Unless God intervenes (and that’s what I’m praying) she is at the end of her young life.

Another friend, who lost her mother to breast cancer just one year ago, has begun radiation therapy after surgery to remove a cancerous tumor on her own breast.

The other friend, is a man who beat cancer four years ago, but after a routine checkup was told cancer has attacked his other lung. He wonders if he has it in him to fight that battle yet again.

Hezekiah was facing death. He was sick, and it seemed nothing more could be done for him. But he prayed, and God spared his life, promising him fifteen more years on this earth. There are a lot of important lessons here, and I hope you’ll read these chapters and let God teach you what He wants you to know. Here’s what spoke to me:

God answers prayer.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Not all prayers are answered the way Hezekiah’s was. My friend, the mother of two teenagers, the wife of a man who loves her, a church secretary whose ministry touched so many lives, finds herself where Hezekiah was, “there’s nothing more we can do.”

But because God has not given her the same outcome as He gave Hezekiah, do we think her prayers are going unanswered? I love what Matthew Henry  says on page 880 of his Commentary in One Volume (Zondervan 1961):

“When we pray in our sickness, though God send not to us such an answer, as he here sent to Hezekiah, yet if by his Spirit he bids us be of good cheer, assures us that our sins are forgiven us, that his grace shall be sufficient for us, and that, whether we live or die, we shall be hiswe have no reason to say that we pray in vain. (emphasis mine)

My friend has something so much more important than physical health. If you knew her, you’d know that is true.

Interestingly enough, I was talking to my sister about this topic this morning even before I started studying these chapters in Isaiah. She said we (people) cling so hard to this life, when what’s ahead for believers is so much better than we can even imagine. We’ll get to heaven and say, “What was I thinking?”

Hezekiah did live fifteen more years, but the choices he made during those additional years had devastating consequences for the entire nation. He lived those additional years, but then he died anyway.

Now I’m not advocating we boycott physicians, nurses, hospitals, and medications. I do not believe we should adopt the mistaken philosophy that “God’s will be done” means I do nothing. God told those ministering to Hezekiah’s physical needs to put a poultice of figs over the boil and he’d recover. They did. And he did.

Oh, by the way. I think I know where the whole “God helps those who help themselves” thing started. Matthew Henry, whose insight into God’s Word I usually appreciate, said this about Hezekiah’s recovery: “help thyself and God will help thee.” (page 882 of Commentary in One Volume.)

Busted.

Seriously, Matt, do you have any idea the can of worms you opened up here? Some people actually believe those words are in the Bible. When the truth of the matter is, the Bible never says God helps those who help themselves. It clearly, repeatedly says God helps those who obey Him.

Read that part of chapter 38 again. God told them what to do, and they obeyed, THEN Hezekiah recovered.

So here’s what I get out of this today: my life is in God’s hands, and I’m ok with that. I want my days to be bathed in prayer, I want my mind steadfastly focused on God, I want to be sensitive to His leading, and I want to obey.

I’ll let Him count the days. I just want the days to count for eternity, for Jesus’ sake.

Advertisements

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!

Ecclesiastes 10-12; A Message For The Young

Solomon had the time and resources to test a lot of different philosophies concerning the meaning of life. His conclusion? Life is a gift from God with the possibility of great joy and fulfillment, or great sorrow and emptiness. The choice is ours.

I’d like to talk to you young people who read this blog. Solomon has quite a lot to say about youth, and I pray you will allow God to speak to you through the king’s words.

The imagery Solomon uses in chapter 12 to describe old age is kind of funny. Without saying the words, he draws a picture of, well… me. I’m not exactly there yet, really. But I see the signs!

Trembling arms and hands, stooped shoulders, false teeth, dimming vision, shaking voices, grey hair, and a fear of falling. Read the words Solomon uses and see if you can see these things there. And here’s what Solomon tells us: That’s exactly what every one of you can expect in the future. It’s life. We all start out young… and end up old if God gives us enough years. So, he says, remember your Creator before your youth is gone.

I spent a lot of time with young people in my 37 years as an educator, as a Junior High Sunday School teacher, a Bible quiz coach. And I’ve heard more than one child say that they planned to “live” while they were young; that they’d do the Christian thing when they were a bit older. What they were looking for was permission to sin.

But is that what Solomon advises? Warren Wiersbe, in his Bible study book on Ecclesiastes (Be Satisfied, SP Publications, 1990) says this on page 130:

“The best way to have a happy adult life and a contented old age is to get a good start early in life and avoid things that will bring trouble later on.”

Young people, dark days are coming. Solomon would advise you to start building a good foundation today, while you are still young, while you still have the energy and ability, so that when trouble comes you will be able to stand firm. You don’t build a foundation after the house is built.

You see, Scripture tells us to be holy as God is holy. It doesn’t say start being holy on your thirtieth birthday. It tells us to resist the devil, come out from among them and be separate. It doesn’t say run with the devil and blend in with the world until you get it out of your system. Obedience is demanded for all of God’s children.

That means you.

I don’t envy you. It was hard for me to be holy and resist the devil while I was growing up in the sixties and seventies. And I know it’s hard for you today because you are being bombarded with lies that people accept as truth. Do you even know what truth is any more? I pray you do.

I will tell you that I wasn’t always successful being holy as a youth. There were temptations I fell for. But I want you to know that decades later, I am still carrying some of the consequences of those sins. Memories haunt. Regrets are real.

There are people I know who are suffering from diseases that are results of choices they made in their youth, some who are battling addictions that began while they were in school, some who are in toxic relationships, some who were never able to realize their dreams because of those momentary “pleasures.”

God doesn’t want that for you. He wants to give you a life that has meaning, and joy, and fulfillment, free of the baggage that comes from a misspent youth. And trust me. Some of that baggage can be really heavy. So don’t pack it with garbage.

Solomon’s final conclusion, after all of his searching for meaning is this:

Fear God and keep His commandments for this is the whole duty of man.

Do you have a healthy fear of God, understanding that He is Holy, and demands holiness of you? Do you revere Him, honor Him, obey Him knowing He could crush you at any moment? Or do you think of Him as your buddy, your pal, your kindly grandpa whose bark is worse than His bite?

Fearing God causes us to obey Him, to take Him seriously when He says He hates sin and punishes every single sin with death. Not just the sins of old people. Your sin comes with a death sentence, too.

The crazy thing about that kind of fear is that it brings joy, peace, purpose. Wiersbe quotes Oswald Chambers on page 135 of Be Satisfied:

“The remarkable thing about fearing God is that, when you fear God, you fear nothing else; whereas, if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.”

Oh dear young person. Think ahead. As Solomon was concluding his book he tells us six times to enjoy life while we can. He never tells us to enjoy sin. There is a difference.

You are in the prime of life. You can do almost anything you set your mind to do, you have opportunities surrounding you that I couldn’t have imagined when I was your age. And God wants you to enjoy every minute, go through every door He opens for you.

Take Him with you. You might not be the most popular kid on the soccer team if you don’t join in on the trash talk, or risky behavior (sin). But then again, those kids aren’t building your foundation. You are. One choice at a time.

I’m praying for you.

Psalms 90-95; The Chutney Chicks

I like to golf. Before I moved to Georgia I would get together with some women from work and golf fairly regularly. I love these women. We are not great golfers, but we’re pretty good at laughing at ourselves. Golfing with them is fun and relaxing.

These women know I go to church. They observe that my lifestyle is different from their’s. So when we golf, they tend to clean up their vocabulary out of respect for me. I appreciate it, but I tell them I want them to just be themselves around me.

Anyway, one afternoon one of the ladies missed what should have been an easy putt. She began to use the “S” word, but stopped herself, looked at me, and said, “Chutney.” As I’m sitting here writing this I am laughing out loud, just remembering the sheepish look on her face. I laughed that day, too. So did all of us. And from then on, whenever one of the girls felt a vulgar word coming out of her mouth, we’d hear, ‘Chutney!”

In fact, when our school district did a team-building activity, we were Team Chutney Chicks. As I recall we didn’t do well in that completion, either. I digress.

This came to mind today as I read these psalms. Listen to 90:8:

You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.

Then the psalmist goes on to say in verse 11:

Who knows the power of your anger? For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.

It’s not my wrath anyone should fear. Not my ears people should have respect for. It’s God’s. He sees it all, and hears it all anyway. We can’t dress up our secret sins in a harmless word, or action, and think we got away with something. God is not a fool.

If you act one way around Christians, and another around non-believers you have a problem. Why do you care what Christians think about you? We’re not your judge. But there is One who is, and He’s watching and listening. He is the One of whom your actions should reflect your respect.

For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. (Psalm 95:3-5)

Yep. That God. He is the One who deserves… no, demands… our consideration, our respect, our fear, and our devotion.

Job 22-24; Eliphaz, Final Thoughts

Something Eliphaz said right off the bat here in his last effort to “fix” Job has me thinking. Here’s what he said in 22:2-3:

Can a man be of benefit to God? Can even a wise man benefit Him? What pleasure would it give the Almighty if you were righteous? What would He gain if your ways were blameless?

Can I be of benefit to God? Can I cause Him to feel pleasure? Some people think because God is Sovereign that means He is self-sufficient and does not need anything whatsoever. I am one of those people because I know that at any time God has the ability to do anything and everything He wants. He is able.

But I also see in Scripture His self-imposed need of us. He created us with the ability to choose because He knows choosing to love someone is sweeter than being forced to love. (which, as I think about it, isn’t really love at all) God needs us to choose Him in order for Him to feel the joy that comes with that decision.

We tend to shy away from saying God “needs” anything because that implies imperfection. But if the “need” is self-imposed and can be overridden at any time, there is no weakness or imperfection. God chose to limit Himself when He chose to create people with the ability to choose Him or reject Him.

There’s a flip side to this coin. My choices can and do grieve Him when I choose to disobey, or when I participate in ungodly behavior. I cause God to feel pain when I turn my back on Him.

Our character, our choices, our love of God is important to Him. I think He cares about what we are wearing today. Every word that comes out of our mouths, every action, every step we take is important to God. Why? Because we are important to God. Because He cares about each of us, personally, intimately, lovingly.

God delights in fellowshipping with you when you choose Him. It’s a benefit to Him, and the reason you were created in the first place.

God delights in our obedience. When we choose to walk with the Lord, the benefit to God isn’t only personal. When we obey Him He can use us to reach out to lost people who come our way. We can be beneficial to God in the work of sharing the Gospel, and seeing souls won for eternity. That would give Him pleasure upon pleasure! What would He gain if we are blameless, Eliphaz asks? So much!

So much of what I have been taught centers around the benefits for me when I follow the Lord. And there are many! He gives me forgiveness, He directs my path, He loves me, He provides for all I need, and on and on and on…

Today I am considering what I bring Him, when I love Him like He deserves.

I am humbled to think that God might have need of me. Because it goes without say, I need Him more. I want to bring God pleasure today by the choices I make, by my thoughts and actions. I want to benefit Him in His work, and not be a hinderance. I want to bring Him joy, because He has filled my life with so much joy.

Dearest Heavenly Father, I am blown away at the thought that there is something you need me to do today. You need me to choose You, to represent You, to talk about You, to show unsaved people what being forgiven by You looks like. God, more than anything today I want to bring you pleasure, I want to benefit Your work in the lives of people around me. Thank you for the privilege. May my life be a pleasure to You.

 

Nehemiah 10-13; Worship and Obedience

Well, that’s a downer. The wall had been built agains all odds. There was a revival among the Jews, hearts once again turned toward God. People were determined to obey the Word of the Lord. And a joyful ceremony was held to dedicate the completed wall that so many had worked so hard on.

The enemy defeated! The wall restored! Sins forgiven! Choirs singing! People worshiping God together. Now that’s a happy ending.

Then there is chapter 13. Things aren’t always as they appear to be. The emotional worship experience didn’t translate into real life obedience.

The Bible demonstrates that our emotions are engaged in worship. We see accounts of people dancing in the streets, shouting praise, singing songs. We also see people grieved over sin, tearing their clothes, falling on their faces, and wailing as they worship.

We don’t turn off our emotions when we worship. But if experiencing worship is your goal, if going to church to get your weekly shot in the arm is your motivation, stay home.

First of all, worship is about God. It’s not about you. But secondly, we need to be reminded that those worship services end, and the daily grind begins. That worship service is meant for us to stop, focus on God, set aside self and care and heartache, and give what is due our Holy God. Then we continue our worship as we obey Him in the day to day.

It’s Christmas morning. I pray you and your family will be blessed as you celebrate Jesus’ birth. And I hope you’ll take time to set aside the busy-ness of the day, the laughter, and presents, and worship that baby who grew to be the man who died for you.

And may your worship translate into obedience for Jesus’ sake and for His glory.

Nehemiah 4-6; Fighting the Good Fight

The Jews worked fervently to get the wall built. But they never took their eyes off the enemy, and were always armed for battle. They recognized the enemy’s cunning attempts to thwart God’s work. But the wall was built in 52 days, in spite of the enemy’s best effort to stop it.

I think Christians working in churches are doing a pretty good job of getting things done. Outreach programs, inviting atmospheres, Bible studies, and child-care. I’m not so sure we’re doing a great job at arming ourselves against the enemy.

Read these chapters in Nehemiah and you will see Satan’s tactics; the offer of friendship, deception, fear, lies, etc. The enemy even “got in” to the inner circle by marrying the daughter of a prominent Jew. The Jew’s enemy was relentless.

And so is ours. God seems to be asking me to check my own battle stance. Am I busy doing things for the Lord, with one eye on my enemy? Or am I assuming that the enemy can’t touch me as long as I’m working for God? Have I put on the armor of God, do I wield the Sword of the Spirit? Am I studying God’s Word so that I understand Satan’s battle plan, can recognize his tactics, and fight when his arrows are pointed at me?

I must remember that Satan’s goal is to destroy the Church one soul at a time. May I fight the good fight as I do the things God asks of me. May you do the same.