Tag Archives: sin

Hosea 1-5; The Allure

We know God disciplines His children. You probably know that all sin comes with consequences. But Hosea reminded me something today about God I’d like to pass on to you.

You remember, Hosea, don’t you? He’s the prophet God told to marry a prostitute as an example of God’s relationship with His people. I kind of feel bad for Hosea, because I think he might have loved the unfaithful woman. Then I remember – I am that unfaithful woman, and God is the One who loves me still.

Make no mistake about it: God hates sin. He never condones sin or ignores it. Every sin comes with a death penalty. God is a just, and harsh judge. But there is a side to God we might sometimes either overlook or misinterpret. That is His mercy.

God, through Hosea,  calls out His children, exposes our nakedness, our depravity, and God tells it like it is – we have turned our backs on Him. We deserve it if He turns His back on us.

But I want you to notice 2:14. After exposing Israel’s sin, God says this:

Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. (emphasis mine)

I love that so much. I would expect God to say, after expressing how He looks at our sin… “Therefore I’m done with you!” Instead, God in His mercy says, “You’ve done awful things, You have sinned, turned Your back on me, defied Me. So I’m going to court you, and woo you back to me.”

“Here I  am,” He says. “Love Me. I love you.”

That allure can occur as you read His Word, or in answered prayer, in the changed life of a believer, in a hint of joy in sorrow, in unexpected blessings, or any number of reminders of God’s love in your life. Those sweet whispers from God are personal and intimate. Don’t miss God’s repeated attempts to woo you, to entice you to come to Him.

Because God doesn’t want you to live – or die – without Him. Just don’t mistake God’s tenderness for acceptance. His mercy has conditions.

Please know, if you accept Him on His terms, His mercy and grace are yours! Jesus paid the penalty for your sin and for mine. And God only wants you to accept it.

I want to share what Matthew Henry had to say about this:

“Those who will not deliver themselves into the hand of God’s mercy cannot be delivered out of the hand of his justice.” (Commentary in One Volume, Zondervan Publishing, 1961; page 1107)

Pay attention to God’s attempts to allure you, whether it’s to find Him for the first time, or to draw you closer to Him as His child. There is no one He loves more than you.

Ezekiel 45-48; Sweet and Salty

My favorite dessert.

But I’m not going to talk about the gigantic piece of chocolate cake with thick fudge frosting, drizzled with hot fudge, a scoop of ice-cream, and peanuts that my friends and I shared last night at dinner. Give me a second…

Ok. I’m back. 🙂

I live on an island in the Atlantic, surrounded by beautiful, mysterious marshland. There are several rivers near me that flow through the marshes and into the ocean. You can take your boat from the salty waters of the Atlantic, right into fresh flowing water that comes from the mainland. And vise versa.

Sometimes those rivers overflow their banks and pour their sweet water into the marshes before rushing into the ocean. That is quite a sight to see. Really, the marshland scenery changes all the time. I love it.

The water from these rivers never stops flowing. Every minute of every day, thousands and thousands of gallons of fresh water pour into the ocean Yet with all that fresh water, the ocean is still salty. That’s a fact.

So when I read chapter 47 I was a bit confused. Water from a river making salty water fresh? That’s not the way it works.

So as I sat here considering how this passage could be true, God reminded me that this is a vision, Connie. Not a science lesson.

Oh right. A vision!

So – what does the fresh water represent?

Jesus! The Gospel!

What is described in Ezekiel’s vision is so true in the life a believer. This water we know as Jesus Himself, changes our saltiness, uselessness, our guilt, into something refreshing, and fruit-bearing. Sin cannot do what Jesus can do. The Gospel is life-giving! It’s a miracle.

Then I thought back to chapter 46 where God tells Ezekiel that people must come into the temple by one gate, walk straight through, and exit through the opposite gate. No turning back. It speaks about we who come to know the Lord, and leave our past behind to follow Him. That’s what God demands:

“Don’t look back, Lot’s wife. Don’t look back. Keep going.” (Oh, she turned to salt when she disobeyed, didn’t she? She didn’t accept the fresh water of salvation that was hers for the taking. And she died in her sin.)

Keep moving, Christian. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Keep sharing the Gospel and allow God to do the impossible – changing salt water into fresh, changing sinners into saints through the blood of Jesus as people confess their sins and repent.

Now that’s sweet.

Ezekiel 31-36; It’s Not Funny

One of Satan’s tactics against God’s people is seen most clearly in the media, and the entertainment business. When was the last time you saw a Christian favorably portrayed in a show? Not too long ago, a popular talk show host said our Vice President was mentally ill because he’d said he listened to God’s voice. People who hear voices in their heads are insane, she proclaimed. She got a big laugh out of that statement.

Maybe you’ve been the butt of someone’s joke because of your stand for the Truth of Scripture. Satan delights in making us look like fools.

Satan also uses his own hatred of us against us. People have heard so often that Christians are bigoted, intolerant, hate-mongers that they believe it. Satan’s hate produces hate.

It’s a serious thing to speak against, or lie about God’s people. Read in chapter 35 what God said to Israel’s cousins, the Edomites. They had encouraged Israel’s enemies, wanted the Jews to suffer, and were very vocal against God’s people. Hear what God said about that:

You boasted against me and spoke against me without restraint, and I heard it. (35:13)

I HEARD IT.

We Christians are God’s people. He is our Father, our Shepherd, our Champion. He’s the mama bear protecting her cubs, a dad protecting his family against invaders. You don’t want to mess with Him.

But people still mess with God’s children. Listen to how God said He was going to deal with the Edomites who were messing with the Jews:

“While the whole earth rejoices, I will make you desolate. Because you rejoiced when the inheritance of the house of Israel became desolate, that is how I will treat you. You will be desolate, O Mount Seir, you and all Edom. Then they will know that I am the Lord.” (35:14b-15)

Here’s what God impressed on me this morning: Before I get too smug thinking people who are mean to me will get what they deserve, I need to ask myself if I’m giving them reason to hate me, or criticize me.

If they say I’m a bigot, do I talk like one? If they call me a hypocrite, am I hypocritical? If they want to see me suffer, is it because I’m not expressing the love of God toward them?

The Bible tells us very clearly how we should live, how we should treat people, what our attitudes should be. It tells us we can stand firmly on the Truth and still love our neighbor, do good to those who abuse us.

Understanding how seriously God views attacks against His children, and how devastating the consequences, I don’t want to provoke an attack by my poor choices. If they make fun of me or attack me because of sin in my life, I need to look at my sin and repent. But if those jokes or attacks are directed at me because I am living my life like Jesus lived His, then their behavior is on them.

People hated Jesus without cause. If people hate me, may they also have no cause. And may I warn them how fiercely God protects His children.

It’s not funny to our Father.

Ezekiel 26-30; Take That, Satan

Ezekiel shares that God likened the king of Tyre to Satan. A model of perfection, adorned with beauty, guardian of cherubs, blameless until the day he chose wickedness. His heart became proud, corrupt, and dishonest, so God threw him out of His Presence. And Satan landed on earth.

Who of us has not been prideful, corrupt, or dishonest ourselves at one time or another? A flash from my past came to mind as I sat here thinking about this. Forty-some years ago, when ATM’s first came on the scene, I pulled up to the ATM of a bank near the grocery where I was heading. I put my card in, punched in $40.00 from checking, then took the money from the machine. It was like magic!

I immediately realized it had given me one too many $20’s. I remember sitting there for a second, before driving away.

I stole that $20.

I even remember rationalizing my sin by telling myself God must have wanted me to have it, seeing that I was living paycheck to paycheck with a few unpaid bills sitting on my desk at home.

Wow. Hadn’t thought about that in years. But I realize how much Satan’s influence is here on earth. He whispered the same lie in my ear that he whispered in Eve’s. “You deserve this.” And I fell for it just like Eve did.

I’m not the same person I was in my twenties, thankfully. Not too long ago I was putting groceries in my car when I realized a jar of onion powder was not in a bag. I checked the receipt and realized the cashier had not charged me for it. I found myself beginning to rationalize not paying for the onion powered. “It wasn’t my fault she didn’t see it.” “I want to get home to put the frozen stuff in the freezer,” “I don’t want to walk all that way back into the store for a measly buck and a half.” But I shut out those thoughts, and I took the jar back into the store to pay for it.

Now, I’m not saying that so you’ll think I’m some kind of saint. I’m not. But I share that to make the point that, even though Satan’s influence is as strong today, God is still stronger.  God gives His children every weapon we need to resist the devil. And God wins every time we allow Him to fight the battle.

Satan won’t stop shooting arrows, but we can put on the armor of God and not allow those arrows to penetrate. When Jesus places His righteousness on us when we repent of sin, His righteousness lives in and through us. We  begin to think, and act, like Jesus. And Satan has no power against Jesus! That’s great news!

And there’s more! Ezekiel reminds us that Satan is already defeated. God speaks outside of time, telling us:

… So I made a fire come out from you, and it consumed you, and I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching. All the nations who knew you are appalled at you; you have come to a horrible end and will be no more. (28:18b-19)

Take that, Satan. You are already toast. God wins. You lose. And those of us on God’s side win with Him.

Who’s side are you on?

 

Ezekiel 21-25; What We Deserve

One thing about God is, as patient and loving as He is, there is a limit to what He will take from us. Sin in our world, in our country, our homes, our churches, our hearts will not go unpunished. And God, through Ezekiel’s example, tells us to quit whining about it.

God is a righteous Judge. And we’re only getting what we deserve:

“I the Lord have spoken. The time has come for me to act. I will not hold back; I will not have pity nor will I relent. You will be judged according to your conduct, and your actions,” declares the Sovereign Lord. (Ezekiel 24:14)

Yes, I know this was written to the flesh and blood nation of Israel during Ezekiel’s lifetime. But what makes us think God has changed His position concerning sin in 2018?

Another thing about God is, as right as He is to pass judgment, as justified as He is to punish us, He is still willing to forgive. Not just willing, but longing to forgive. And He Himself took on His own severe punishment so we wouldn’t have to.

If we repent.

Repentance isn’t just a quick, “I’m sorry,” to hear, “Oh, that’s okay.” It’s not an apology with no intention of changing. Repentance involves drastic change.

It’s not just putting idols in a closet, but destroying them never to bring them out ever again. It’s denying sin in any form, resisting the devil, fleeing youthful lusts. It’s living without even the appearance of evil. It’s a choice every day to die to self and live for God.

Doesn’t it feel as though our world is on the brink of a great disaster? The examples in the Bible tell me that’s not what God wants, but what our sin demands.

So, dear one – QUIT SINNING! Quit condoning sin, or ignoring it. Quit giving lip-service to worship and start obeying God with every step you take.

If we don’t, and judgment comes, we’d best not cry about how hard life has become. It’s only what we deserve.

Ezekiel 1-5; Not A Suggestion

Ezekiel’s encounter with the Living God changed him. We find him sitting by a river with the rest of the exiles when “the Lord came expressly” to him. Awesome.

I will say Ezekiel’s encounter with God, with the vision of four creatures, and God Himself, was a bit more dramatic than my encounter with God. That’s why I’m glad God inspired Ezekiel to write it down for me to read. Because that same God who revealed Himself to Ezekiel in a fantastic, over-the-top vision, revealed Himself to me in the fantastic, over-the-top person of His Son Jesus Christ.

No, I haven’t seen His face yet, or heard what His voice sounds like. But that doesn’t mean He’s any less real to me than God was to Ezekiel after his vision.

But what stood out to me today wasn’t in the details of the vision. I understand the vision was to show Ezekiel (and me) that God is real, and we should hear Him. What stood out to me was God’s demand to be obeyed.

Here is the Truth, Ezekiel. Go and tell my people.

That’s what God is still telling us today.

3:17-21 is sobering. We who know the Truth do not have the option of keeping it to ourselves. God tells Ezekiel (and me) to tell the wicked they are wicked and need to turn from their wickedness. Sinners need to repent or die.

Don’t we know that already? If you’ve been a follower of Jesus for more than a minute, you probably know He commanded us to go and preach the Gospel. It wasn’t a suggestion. Here in Ezekiel we hear Him say if we don’t, and wicked people die in their wickedness, we’re to blame. God sounds pretty serious about us sharing the truth with lost souls.

But God pointed a verse out to me today that I wish he hadn’t. 3:20 tells me I have a responsibility to tell a righteous man who turns away from his righteousness to stop sinning, too. If I don’t, and this person dies in his sin, his blood will be on me every bit as much as the blood of the outright wicked man who I neglected to tell.

I think sometimes we think a brother or sister  in the Lord knows they are sinning and what to do about it, so I don’t need to say anything. They’ll figure it out, because you can’t lose your salvation, and if they don’t they were never saved in the first place.

3:20 has me questioning that. It makes me realize I shouldn’t assume anything.  Because if I don’t share what I know to be true with a non-believer OR a believer I will be held responsible if they die without confessing their sin. 

The point God is trying to get me to see is that I have a serious responsibility to share the Gospel with sinners. Sinners in the street and in the pews. We’ve begun to believe that people are entitled to believe what they want to believe and live like they want to live.

God seems to have a different view of that. And He tells us to do something about it.

It’s not a suggestion.

Jeremiah 32-34; Freedom, Part 2

A couple thousand people gathered at the pier last night to watch the colorful – and loud – fireworks display over the Atlantic Ocean, celebrating our nation’s freedom. Live music, glow sticks, bubbles, laughter, and the aroma of hamburgers on the grill made it a fun evening. We do have a lot to celebrate in this country.

Yesterday as I read God’s Word, I was reminded of the freedom we Christians have in Christ. We are no longer slaves to sin! We have reason to celebrate!

But today as I continued to read in Jeremiah, I am reminded of another freedom that gives us reason to grieve. 34: 17 says:

…So I now proclaim ‘freedom’ for you, declares the Lord – ‘freedom’ to fall by the sword, plague and famine…

That freedom doesn’t sound very fun. And God wants us to know it really isn’t. God goes on to tell Jeremiah that there are severe consequences to we who have the freedom to choose God, but ignore or disobey Him. He gave us the freedom to choose. He did not give us the freedom to decide on the outcome of our choices.

It’s like, as an adult I have the freedom to smoke if I want to. I do not have the freedom to decide whether or not I get lung cancer. I have the freedom to carry a gun. But if I use it to rob a bank, I don’t have the freedom to decide whether or not I go to jail.

There is always a flip side to freedom. Maybe we are seeing that played out in 2018 America. Freedom without responsibility seems to be destroying us.

Our God-given ability to choose is a precious thing. He wants us to choose Him. But He won’t take away our freedom to make that choice for ourselves. That’s up to us. But know, without a doubt, that choosing to follow God comes with blessing. Choosing to follow anything else comes with devastating consequences God would rather you didn’t experience.

You’re free to do what you want. So is God.