Tag Archives: sin

Isaiah 60-64; God Made Me Do It, Or Not

If you’ve ever been a school teacher, I imagine your grading system has come into question at least once. You’ve probably heard the accusation from a student or parent, (hopefully not from an administrator) “Why did you give so-and-so that grade?”

I started my career working with elementary students, but somewhere along the line I found myself in the Middle School. It was an adjustment, and I learned a lot from my fellow-teachers.

One man in particular, an 8th grade math teacher with the reputation of being a tough grader, said something in a mid-term parent/teacher conference that came to mind today as I read Isaiah 63. We were sitting in a circle getting ready to talk to the parents of a very intelligent boy, a straight A student from elementary school. But on this occasion, these parents were obviously angry.

We hadn’t even finished introducing ourselves when the dad pointed a finger at the math teacher and demanded, “Why did you give my son a C?” I’ll never forget the teacher’s reaction. He calmly opened his grade book and said, “I was feeling generous.”

The teacher then proceeded to show the parents their son’s missed assignments and low test scores. He also pulled out a piece of paper, a letter he had written to the parents two weeks earlier expressing his concern over their son’s lack of progress. There was a signature at the bottom of the letter. But the dad had to admit it was not his handwriting. (This was way before email, cellphones, and texting)

This example came to mind when I heard Isaiah say:

Why, O Lord, do you make us wander from your ways and harden our hearts so we do not revere you? (63:17) (emphasis mine)

I know some people can read this as an example to support their interpretation of God’s “sovereignty,” that He causes everything to happen. I’ve heard someone say that God planted a cancer cell inside them, or that God caused an accident on the highway to bring about His purpose. But is that what this verse supports?

If you read on you’ll hear Isaiah tell us he’s addressing a sin problem.

But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How can we be saved? All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags, we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and made us waste away because of our sins. (Is 64:5b-7)

I read Isaiah’s question in 63:17 like the question the dad asked of the math teacher in that conference. And I hear God say: If you don’t do your assignments and do poorly on your exams, this is what happens.

I know that God’s will is that we enjoy a relationship with Him based on the blood of Jesus, that we walk in His ways, that our hearts are tender and sensitive to His ways. I know God’s will is that we allow Him to work in and through us to reach others for the Savior.

And I know that if we allow sin to exist in our lives, there are consequences to pay. It’s not that God presses some “harden that heart” button.” This is a warning that sin causes hardened hearts. Sin causes us to wander from God’s way. That’s how He made us. That’s what He wants us to know through the words He inspired Isaiah to write.

Another thing I know is that God does not make any of us sin. Going our own way is a sin. A hardened heart is a sin. And God wants us to know that unless we confess our sin, unless we repent, we will end up out of His will, and committing the sin of a hardened heart. He is very clear that He will not bless that, so don’t expect Him to.

But there is good news. God does bless His people. Listen to what else Isaiah penned:

Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides You, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him. You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember Your ways. (Is 64:4-5a)

That’s God’s will. That’s what He wants to do in our lives. May we be people who wait for Him, who gladly do what is right, who remember His ways, and obey Him from tender, pliable hearts that seek only to please Him.

Then brace yourself as you see God act on your behalf, as He gives you the help you need, as He blesses you beyond your wildest imagination. He won’t make you love Him. He won’t make you obey Him. But He will bless You when you choose to. Count on it.

 

 

 

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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.

 

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!

Isaiah 1-4; It’s Personal

Honestly, I think it’s a bit unfortunate when people read books like Isaiah’s as merely an historical account, or a glimpse into the future, Yes, there was sin in Israel. Yes, they were captured by the Babylonians. Yes, Jesus is coming again. But I don’t want to miss what God wants to say to me in these pages about my walk with Him in 2018.

When I read this, I hear hear Him ask me why I am sometimes miserable, why I can feel defeated. He tells me it’s because I persist in rebellion, I’ve let foreigners (sin) in, and sin is stripping me of the blessings He would love to shower on me.

I hear Him tell me He’s sick of me going through the motions of serving Him when my heart isn’t in it. The He says in 1:18-20:

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.

In other words, “Come on, Connie. Use your head. Your sins will be forgiven, you will be washed clean…

If.

I must be willing and obedient. I must stop resisting and rebelling. Then He can bless me. There is order to His plan.

As I continue to read these chapters and make the “you” personal, I understand that God means what He says. Look at 2:5:

Come, O house of Jacob, (of which I am a part through the blood of Jesus) let us walk in the light of the Lord.

That’s God’s will for my life. To walk in His light, not the opinions of men, not in theologies or philosophies. God wants me to walk with HIM!

Isaiah points out that the world seems to have it all, but there will come a time when every man and woman who has ever lived on this planet will be required to face God. Judgment will come to those who reject Him.

I know that in a general way. But God can convict all of us of the personal struggles we have with sin as we read this book. He can convict of us embracing pagans, or considering views other than those in Scripture, or aligning ourselves with ungodly people. He can convict us of tolerating idols, or making idols out of our families or careers or ourselves. He can convict us of arrogance and pride as we read what Isaiah penned so long ago.

I challenge you to read the book of Isaiah with me, and make it personal. What is God saying to you about your walk with Him? Let’s not miss 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.

Proverbs 5-9; The Dead Are There

Oh, that all of us would read these chapters and really hear what God would have us know. Solomon, in chapter 4 verse 23 tells us to guard our hearts. In the chapters I read today he tells us how and why. It’s really important information.

Solomon calls sin an adulteress, a prostitute. He warns us to stay as far away from her as possible. As far from sin as possible.

Sin, and the champion of sin, Satan, doesn’t care about you. Sin has one goal. To destroy you. Why dabble in sin? Why take a chance with sin, Solomon seems to be asking. It will only lead to ruin.

And don’t think saying, “I’ll just try this once,” doesn’t come with serious consequences:

Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? (6:27-28)

You get burned the FIRST time. EVERY sin comes with a consequence.

Solomon tells a story of a young man who lacked judgment. (What young man, or woman, doesn’t?) In Solomon’s story the young man heard a prostitute (sin) calling and went with her “like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose…” (7:22)

Dear one, it DOES matter what kind of music you listen to, the TV shows you watch, the books you read, the internet sites you visit when you think no one is looking. It DOES matter if you begin to tolerate sin in yourselves and others. You’re a fool to think none of it effects you.

Solomon talks about wisdom in chapters 8&9. If you read them, and I hope you do, I think you’ll see that is a much better way to live. “…wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.” Nothing you desire can compare. Nothing.

9:13-18 ends this section of Scripture with a solemn truth. Please listen to what God would say to us. Folly (foolishness) is loud, undisciplined, and looking for company. In other words, sin is looking for you.

I can’t help but think of our entertainment business. Blatant sin is lauded, and applauded, isn’t it? Here’s what Solomon says to us who watch and laugh at Modern Family and shows like it, who spend hours playing video games with graphic violence and sex, who listen to music that raps about rape and murder as though it was normal, or sings about the pleasures of adultery and drunkenness. This is what Solomon would say to anyone who thinks that sin looks fun:

(Folly) sits at the door of her house, calling out to those who pass by. She says to those who lack judgment: “Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!” But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of the grave.”

Please guard your heart. Please take this seriously. Satan is seriously calling out to you because he hates you, and wants to destroy you. And he’s not stupid enough to be honest. He can make sin look and sound really good. But it’s still sin.

God is calling out to you, too. Listen to His voice. Because He loves you, He died to forgive your sins, He wants to give you life.

He’s asking you not to play around with sin. Pay attention to Him. That is wisdom.

Psalm 50; Get Real

Well, I didn’t come close to reaching my goal of studying five psalms a day today. I couldn’t get passed Psalm 50. While I was reading it, God seemed to be emphasizing some verses, so I read it again. And I read it a third time. God seemed to be asking me to think on these things. So I did.

Here are my thoughts. I pray they are His.

God summons all of us from sunrise to sunset. Every minute of every day all of creation is proclaiming that God Is. And God tells us He will not stop revealing Himself to the entire world as long as the world exists. It reminds me that His will is that no one perish without Him. His will is that anyone who calls on the name of Jesus will be saved.

God summons all of us to be judged by Him, our Holy God, our Righteous Judge, the only one who can judge fairly. Asaph addresses two groups of people being judged by God here in this psalm.

The first group is made up of His children, those who have recognized that He is who He says He is, and have accepted His forgiveness through the blood of His Son Jesus.

Now back in Old Testament times, before Jesus shed His blood, they were required to offer sacrifices often. In fact, so often that the ritual became a no-brainer. The sacrifice itself became the goal. Listen to what God says about that:

“Are you kidding me? Do you think I need your goats? Do you think I eat steak from your sacrificed bulls for dinner each night? Those sacrifices are meaningless unless your heart is broken by the sin in your life. Those sacrifices are merely an outward expression of what needs to be going on in your heart.” (obviously a paraphrase)

Makes me think about religious people; people who go through the motions of worship every Sunday, maybe come away feeling good about their worship experience. Worship becomes the goal instead of the One who demands our worship. Maybe they teach Sunday School, refrain from vulgar language, have a fish attached to the back of their cars. But their hearts are not moved, their sins are not confessed.

God is saying:

“Are you kidding me? Do you think I need you to attend church? Do you think I give out attaboys for good behavior, put a star in some crown when you get your perfect attendance pin? Your service is meaningless unless your heart is broken by the presence of sin in your life. Not just broken once the day you confessed your sin and accepted the gift of salvation bought at the price of My Son Jesus. But broken over what you did or did not do yesterday, over the impure thoughts you think, or the unforgiveness you harbor toward someone. Unless your service in My Name is a result of your broken heart and the confession of sin, it’s meaningless.” (again, paraphrased)

Then God turns His attention toward those Asaph calls “wicked.” Those who can quote the Bible, who claim to be believers, yet align themselves with thieves, who gossip and slander those closest to them.

I think of so many people, whole denominations, who take God’s Word and twist it to make them feel religious without having to deal with sin. Those who deny Jesus’ godship, or who tolerate or condone sin that grieves our Holy God.

The thing is, according to verse 21, God doesn’t zap people who claim to be believers but aren’t. God doesn’t burn down churches where heresy is taught. And because God seems to be silent, they think He’s just like them. They mistake His silence for approval.

But be warned. God will accuse you to your face. He will tear you to pieces with none to rescue. (vs 22) God seems to have complete disdain for those kinds of hypocrites.

If you aren’t following God according to the Bible plus nothing, if your heart is not His through the blood of Jesus when you repented of sin, stop calling yourself a Christian. The consequences for using Jesus’ name in vain are serious, eternally serious.

The thank offering in verse 23 speaks to me of an intentional attitude of humility, recognizing that all I have and am are unmerited gifts from a Holy God. It’s the giving of myself, all of me, to the One who loved me and gave Himself for me. It’s recognizing sin in my life, and repenting, asking Jesus to forgive me. And it’s serving Him out of a grateful heart for the privilege of knowing Him. Listen to God’s Words about those who come to Him with thankful hearts:

He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God. (vs 23)

I am reminded that God is not fooled by religious behavior. Saying you’re a Christian doesn’t make you one. And God knows the difference, and will judge us accordingly.

But to those who are real, those who come to Him on His terms, those who honor Him, He guides, directs, protects, all the way home.