When Obvious Isn’t Obvious

Guard your steps as you go to the house of God and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil. Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few. — Ecclesiastes 5:1-2

Have you ever watched a small dog when they think they are about to get a treat? The energy build up in them looks like a rocket firing its thrusters, ready to launch into space. Their tail wagging so fast seems to match the speed of a hummingbird’s wings. Then there is the uncontrollable shaking, enough to match the effects of an earthquake on a bowl of jello. Next comes the little whines and moans that sound like a race car engine running at maximum RPM’s. Without a hesitant thought, they explode at the speed of light to whatever it is they desire, knocking caution aside! Impetuous little creatures! Yes, aren’t we all though?

I remember long ago hearing a sermon that mentioned several times how impetuous the Apostle Peter was. He was always the first to jump in with a word or action. He jumped out of a boat in the midst of a storm because he wanted to walk on water like his Master Jesus. He tried to correct the Lord on occasions when he didn’t like what Jesus had just said. He even got excited as that little dog when he saw the glory of the Lord at the transfiguration. He would just react in whatever fashion struck him in an instant!

Six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and brought them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His garments became radiant and exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them. Elijah appeared to them along with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”For he did not know what to answer; for they became terrified. Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!” All at once they looked around and saw no one with them anymore, except Jesus alone. As they were coming down from the mountain, He gave them orders not to relate to anyone what they had seen, until the Son of Man rose from the dead. (Mark 9:2-9)

We all can have a tendency to react impulsively from time to time. Peter, James, and John (as well as the other apostles) had been sorrowful when Jesus said He would be turned over to the authorities to be killed. Jesus took the three up to the mountain to experience the transfiguration and show them His glory now, and yet to come. But, even after the crucifixion, even after seeing the future glory of their Master, they still had doubts of uncertainty. It was almost like they hadn’t listened and learned from their mountaintop experience. Later, James would write in his epistle that “everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19.) He seemed to be sharing a retrospectively learned lesson he gleaned watching Peter back on the mountain. 

Do we have knee-jerk reactions to things we encounter daily? Are we quick with a reactive word of retaliation or disagreement when faced with something that goes against our thinking or beliefs? Do we get down or angered when life isn’t going the way we think it should be going? If you answered no to any of those questions, I applaud you for being the most controlled, even-keeled, and level-headed human being on the planet! Because I, for one, have only one answer to those questions…an emphatic YES! Many times we react without having full knowledge of the facts. We jump to conclusions that could be wrong because we didn’t know the whole story or see the big picture. We take a little bit of information and “run with it”, as they say. More times than not, though, this can lead us down the wrong path or worse. We may end up anguishing over things that we don’t really have the proper information regarding. When we know the full story, have all the facts, see the big picture, then when things happen we are better equipped to handle in proper fashion. 

From birth to the grave, all our life experiences should be growing our understanding of how to handle things that might come our way. The more of life we experience, the wiser we can become at facing situations. Yet, it is important to also understand that what we come across in this world is not new. The Preacher of Ecclesiastes informed us that everything that happens in this world is not a new thing. He says; “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us. There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9-11) The old saying that if we don’t learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it! But, all has happened before and will happen again.

So the questions arise: are we learning from these truths? Do we tend to (symbolically) keep putting our hand on the hot stove when we know that it will hurt us when we touch it? The chaos and evil we are seeing in the world today shouldn’t come as a surprise, so why do we continue to react in shock and anger when we see evil flaunting itself? (I personally claim my excuse as being short-term memory problems.) I think that many of us have that very problem more often than we want to acknowledge. But why? Why don’t we remember the learned experiences God gives us from the mountaintops?

When God illuminates us to a Biblical truth, we have a tendency to act impulsively or even shocked as we look around and see rampant sin in the world. Or, when we peer out through the lens of Scripture at this fallen world, which includes those establishments that claim themselves as “churches” that, yet, are readily embracing sin and rejecting God, we get frazzled and upset that there are people who act like…well, fallen people. We need to remember that even ideologies like hedonism, which was once thought of as evil extremism, is not considered by the world as extreme anymore. It has almost become normalized in this fallen world. Again, this shouldn’t surprise us anymore. As the darkness descends faster and faster, people have given up on eternal hope and now embrace temporal pleasures at all cost. This is nothing new under the sun and it has all been clearly pointed out before through the Scriptures. A friend once said to me that “this world is at its ugliest. I don’t even hear the birds sing as I used to.” Sad. But, again, since this is not something new, why are we reacting like we do? We end up getting worked up over things (and people) when we should already know that this is the life around us as shown in the Bible. We would all know this already if we had we paid better attention to God and His Word.

Part of the issue lies with the church and where the attendee’s have been placing their focus. I can say with near certainty that the majority of their attention is not on God and His glory. It is more often than not on themselves. Like the pagan worshippers of yesteryear, “churches” today are filled with consumer Christians. They have the “what can I get from God” and “God plus something” mentality, among other issues that are running rampant within their walls. I think that some of us are aghast by what we are seeing around us these days because God is awakening some who are taking time to listen to His Word. But for others, they focus their time, effort, and energy injecting themselves into everything other than God and His truth. They press hard to have their say in all matters, push their agendas into programs, keep everyone busy with busy things. Many tend to ask “why God” when looking for answers about the fallen world’s conditions, but don’t stop once to listen and learn from the One who sustains all things in existence. Even in prayer, their voice is loudest with requests, and even demands, to God without a praise or worship for all He has done. Essentially, this is called self-exultation.

How so many tend to forget the lessons from the past like Mary and Martha. There can certainly be a balance between being fed and serving. But for many, it is often too much of one thing and not enough of the other. Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” –Luke 10:38-42

Matthew Henry put it best when he wrote that “religious exercises are not vain things, but, if we mismanage them, they become vain to us.” There is nothing wrong with having a zeal to doing things, but we must remember that zeal and passion by itself will go terribly amiss. People are shocked at the condition of the world because they spend their time talking over God and not stopping to listen, reflect, and grow. When we focus our attention on God and His Word first and foremost, we then tend to have a deeper desire to know Him, love Him, and trust Him more in this fallen world. We learn that He does have all things under His providence and will, and as such…we take comfort and strength in facing the daily matters around us. We are not shocked or surprised when evil rears its ugly head, because we know that in the end of all things…God! As such, we need to use our knowledge and experiences along with our zeal and passion to strive for a corrective balance in our day to day life! We can worship and glorify God most by focusing on His Word and truth, placing them in our hearts. But, also still serve His Church by sharing His truth and tending to His flock. It is just a matter of where lies our priorities in the things we say and do!

Our flesh keeps getting in the way of our spiritual understanding and retention. I tend to trip over my own flesh as easy as tripping over shoe laces. We learn, yet so quickly forget. Peter, John, and James were exposed to a truth that should have solidified their faith and trust in their Messiah. From what they experienced, there should have never been a worry about the coming cross, knowing that on the other side was the redemption that all mankind desperately needed to have peace with God. Yet, impetuousness and worldly distractions caused them to miss key elements in their walk with Christ. Peter had zeal, but he lost focus with Jesus while worrying more on humanly matters. Even the vast majority of todays church have their priorities skewed from the proper goal. When we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, we know that all things are taken care of by His hand. The storms around us are of no worry. We know they are coming, that they are here, but we rest in our Savior’s hands…He has overcome the world!

I personally need to remember that there will be mountain top experiences from God that should teach, encourage, and comfort me. But when I return back to the sorrows of this world, I need to remember His glory and be able rest in the truths I’ve learned. If I don’t, then I have to ask myself “what did I forget on that mountain?” The three Apostles saw the glory, yet when the sorrow storms hit they quickly forgot. Jesus kept saying that on the 3rd day He will rise, be raised up! We get a proper perspective of the lowlands from a higher point of view. Jesus gave them that. God gives us His Word to help us remember what our perspective can, and should, be. When we reign in our hastiness and our impulsive mannerisms and speech, we tend to hear His Word more clearly, know His will more clearly, and can glorify and worship Him more sincerely. God provides His Light and Truth to us on the mountaintops so we can survive the valleys. We just need to put aside our distractions, laying aside every weight and the sin that entangles us, and listen…to Him. 

God tells us in His Word in Isaiah 46:8-10 to “Remember this, and be assured; Recall it to mind, you transgressors. Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’”. 

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 summarizes our duties proper saying “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” 

Amen

Pray More, Worry Less

We measure the passing of life using various instruments such as clocks and calendars that are based on the rotations of our planet earth while on its’ travels around the sun. When we approach the end of the calendar year cycle on December 31st, humanity celebrates the closing of the past and the beginning of a new future. We look to the new year as a time for refreshing, renewal, and even rebirth. Resolutions are made to place goals in front of us, intent on keeping us motivated to accomplish bigger and better things in the year to come. For many Bible-believers, the three best resolutions (in my humble opinion) are to pray more, read the Bible more, and trust God more. I’d like to believe that these three should normally be an everyday passion and desire in our lives and that we shouldn’t need to have specific time and date marks to set these as goals. But for me, that can sometimes be a struggle.

I have written and spoke in the past about the importance of reading, studying, knowing, and living the Bible in our daily walk through this fallen world, and as such, I will not repeat here what I feel is an obvious and purposeful act every person calling themselves a Christian should be doing wholeheartedly. Likewise, as God has pressed on my heart and soul immensely these last handful of years about learning to trust Him more and more, this too should be our daily duty…to be keenly focused on Him as we face the daily challenges that can create turmoil in the heart of a believer. After all, since God is, so should we trust and obey! But what about praying more?

Recently, I’ve been introduced to a catch-phrase that got me reflecting on a weak area of my life, one that I believe God has been telling me I need to pay heed too because of the importance of it in our lives; Praying! And the phrase that has been popping up simply says “pray more, worry less.” Pray more, worry less! Such a great reminder to us all! And something that I need to be preaching to myself about daily!

You see, I am habitually out of the habit of praying regularly. Sure there’s the routine of praying before dinner or saying a little night time prayer before bed, but is there regular prayer in my every day walk? Sadly, no.

Prayer is more than just a conversation with God. Prayer is more than reciting some rote words of petition. Prayer is our spiritual link between the Sovereign God and ourselves! Just as devices need to be plugged in to an outlet for power to operate, so are we needing to be plugged into God through prayer for power to operate. So the questions arise…why do we not pray as we should? Is prayer so difficult a task?

A prayer can be as simple as a quick plea to God for help or strength to face a battle, or it can be as long and intense as a deep and emotional cry for salvation. Prayer can be a little “thank you” to God for His providence, or can be a long conversation to discuss the worldly matters all around us. Prayer is not restricted within a box. There are no set parameters that must be met in order for God to hear our prayers. We see throughout the Bible a myriad of prayers uttered under a wide variety of circumstances. From kings to commoners, anyone who knows the God of the Bible can, and should, call on the name of the Lord!

Before getting into the Scriptures regarding prayer, there is one other facet of the phrase above I want to point out: worry less. The implication of the phrase is that if we pray more, we worry less. And I think that we could easily accept that at face value. The more we trust and rest in the arms of God, the less the world’s weight rests on us! Simple! Of course there is more to it, but it’s important at the beginning to understand that the two parts do have a cause-and-effect relationship. As we look at the importance of prayer, we can keep in mind what the effects of prayer has on our lives.

I first think of the Apostle Peter in Matthew 14 who exited a boat at the behest of Jesus and started walking on the water to Him. He was doing what is normally considered impossible, all because he kept his eyes on Jesus. But when Peter took his eyes off of Christ and started looking at the waves around him, he began to sink. Why? He lost his focus and connection with God who has the power over all things. He unplugged from the Creator and started dealing with the created on his own. We, too, have these very same issues today. We know that God is with us, but we need to cling to Him, always staying connected to Him, and hold on to His hand through all of life’s ups and downs.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4

We know from Scripture that God is with us! When sheep follow the shepherd, they keep their eyes on him at all times. When sheep lose sight of their leader, they tend to stray. We can walk through the fields of this world with little worries by keeping our eyes firmly fixed on our Savior, who alone is our proper guide and guardian. By staying in constant touch with Him we always have His direction, comfort, and assurance that we are in His fold as we should be. It’s when we stop talking with Him, stop listening to Him, that we find our souls in distress during life’s storms because our eyes are not where they should be…on our good shepherd, Jesus, who laid down His life for His own!

As mentioned before, the Bible is replete with prayers from every walk of life…all directed to the one true God. We also have the most perfect of prayer that is illustrated by the Son of God Himself, Jesus, revealed in both Matthew and Luke. The key elements we must note in the the Lord’s Prayer is that the first petitions are addressed and acknowledging God. This is important because so many people will start talking to God by asking (or demanding) that God do something for them. Obviously by doing this their focus is on themselves first and foremost. And we know from the Bible that selfishness goes against the very relationship between God and man. When we address God, we need to be mindful that our position is one of subjection to a Righteous God. He is the creator, we are the created. “Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker—An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’ Or the thing you are making say, ‘He has no hands’? (Isaiah 45:9) Even Jesus was compliant with God’s plans when he stated while praying in the garden “yet not My will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)

Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God, prayed often to His Father. Why would Jesus, who is fully God, yet fully man, have to pray to God? Because of the importance to purposefully talk with, and listen to, God. Jesus was not only having important conversations with His Father, but He was also showing us how it should be done. If you note Jesus’ most intimate times in prayer with the Father, you will see that He went off to be alone. Christ walked away from the distractions of life to spend quality time with God. This is an important aspect we need to emulate when we have time with our Heavenly Father. In Matthew 6, right before our Savior taught the Lord’s Prayer, he gave instructions about our time with God. He said “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. (Matthew 6:5-8)

Spending our time focused in prayer with God is time worth spending to 1) acknowledge the God of the universe and how important He is in our life; 2) worship and praise Him for the merciful grace and blessings He has given us; 3) stand before Him in confession of our sins and to seek His forgiveness and cleansing; and 4) ask Him for the things we need, by His grace. Even though He knows what we need before we ask, we can be sure that God does hear us. He loves and cares for us and wants us to prosper and grow. He will not only supply the things we need, but will also give us the comfort and peace we need as well. Jesus said “are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. (Luke 12:6-7)

We face many trials and tribulations, tests and turmoils in this journey through life here and we need God’s Spirit and His Word to bring us through. Even in times of prosperity and joy, we want to take time to thank and praise Him who gives abundantly all things as well! We can talk to Him any time, anywhere, under any condition, but it is very important to spend quality alone time before our Lord often! Always remember that the most important way we have been given to communicate our worship, as well as our worries, is in prayer. Paul exhorts us to “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) We shouldalso remember what the very last verse of the Psalm 150 says to us; to let everything that has breath praise the Lord! (Psalm 150:6).

Let us rejoice that we can come before His throne of grace to worship and praise Him. That we can always cast our worries and woes before Him. That we can take comfort in knowing that Jesus is ever making intercession for us, even when we don’t know how to pray or what to pray about. That God hears us always and wants us to come to Him in all things at all times. That we just need to pray more and worry less!

Amen

A True Christmas Carol

“That is no light part of my penance,” pursued Jacob Marley. “I am here tonight to warn you, that you have yet a chance and hope of escaping my fate. A chance and hope of my procuring, Ebenezer.” -A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

“A Christmas Carol” is probably one of the most popular Christmas works of fiction that was written by Charles Dickens. It was meant to urge us to honor the “Christmas spirit” in our hearts and keep it all year round. A written way of encouragement to draw families close and promote the gift of giving to others. And, as much as I loved the story with its warmth of having second chances, I have to confess that, for me, this time of the season is actually the most annoying. I’m not trying to be a Scrooge in the sense of having disdain for others who are striving for joy and happiness, pursuing peace on earth, goodwill toward men, but that I am just plain sick of the commercialized facades pushed down our throats and the people who run around “celebrating” something they don’t even truly understand. They go through this “holly jolly” malarkey for several weeks, but by December 31st, they’ve packed up their holiday cheer and spirits and revert back into their normal day-to-day way of life.

Please note that my position for this message today isn’t to be captain negative. In fact, I had made a promise to share a positive message, and that’s what I want to do. You see, over the years I’ve grown to understand what this time of the year is really supposed to be about. That it is not just some cute baby story filled with animals and wise men or shining stars on a silent night. Because, you see, that part of the Bible story being told in the Gospels is not really the beginning of the story, nor is the story complete after the manger narrative. Yet, sadly, so many miss the beginning of the full story, the story that begins at Genesis 1:1 and finishes at Revelation 22:21. 

  • In the beginning, God….
  • The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all. Amen.

It’s important to understand the baby Jesus’ full beginning. It’s important to understand why he came. And it’s important to understand what his ultimate goal was in coming. 

The Bible says that “all things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:3)  Which brings us back to Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God…”

And from the end of the last book in the Bible, Revelation, we see the prayer for the “grace” of the Lord Jesus to be with us all. It is only by his grace poured out for us that we can even look to the heavens and worship the creator! 

So we see the beginning of the baby in the manger, the one who was from the beginning of time, that through whom all things were created! We see that baby next coming to earth in human form, yet also fully God. We know him as the one the prophet Isaiah said in 7:14 would be born of a virgin and his name would be Immanuel, which means “God with us”. The creator of all things coming to earth to walk among his people, to ultimately save and deliver them from the sting of death. And we also see Jesus as judge over all the earth at the end times. 2 Corinthians 5:10 says “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” 

We’ve been separated from God because of our sins. God is a righteous and holy God, perfect and pure, unable to allow sin. And our sin separates us from fellowship with God. And because we cannot remedy that problem ourselves since the only payment for sin is a perfect and unblemished sacrifice offering, God sent his son Jesus to die in our place and take the full punishment that we deserve. Jesus is pure and sinless, without blemish, thus fulfilling the requirements. And because Jesus did that, we now have a way back to God through the shed blood of his son, who paid the price, paved the way, and now intercedes before the Father for us. Essentially, before Christ was in our lives, if indeed we have received him a Lord and Savior, God saw us as filthy rags, unable to ever approach his throne. But if we have believed and received Christ as our Lord, God now can look on us through his son Jesus and we are declared right (righteous) before him! And that is the basics of the Gospel, the good news message! That is why that baby in the manger was so important. That was when God gave us the grace and mercy of his love. So, how did all this get lost in translation to get to our modern Christmas story?  

I am not going to get into historical narratives that have involved a multitude of transitions by various cultures that blended various rituals over the the centuries. Others have already researched and written multiple tomes about that very subject. I will state that the events of the birth of the Messiah though was something that Satan himself did not want to occur! And if the he couldn’t stop the plans of God, he would do what he could to remove, or at the very least water down, the significant truths of the birth of Yeshua, Jesus. That old serpent, the devil himself, easily affected the world’s view of the arrival of Jesus in the town of Bethlehem by detracting the truth of Jesus and getting the focus put on superfluous holiday things instead of who the baby in the manger really is.

In Matthew’s account, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph informing him that the baby Mary was carrying was conceived by the Holy Spirit of God and that “she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (cited from Isaiah 7:14 and 8:8,10).

Jesus (Jeshua or Yeshua) means the Lord is Salvation. Immanuel is Hebrew meaning God with us. So we have God who is not only coming to us, but also saving us through this very baby that was born in the manger. That, in and of itself, is worthy of more than a few carols and gatherings and gift exchanges! That is an event that we should all be in reverential awe of God’s grace and love to a fallen world! That is the cause for us to worship God with our complete heart!

While folks are decking the halls and dashing through the snow, there is a missed understanding of that baby and why he came. As yuletide greetings are exchanged as fast as children opening presents, there is a Savior being pushed into the background. And though people will busy themselves to attend their annual church commitment and sing Christmas carols to fill their moods with holiday cheer, few will remember the sermon soon after. 

But it is imperative that we push aside the world’s version of the holiday season and place before us the Biblical version of the season. You see, we humans like to commemorate various events in history as a reminder of the significant impact the event had on the world. We celebrate our birthdays or anniversaries. We note historical events and reflect annually of the impact they had. The Old Testament Israelites would observe various feasts and celebrations as a remembrance of God’s grace and mercy. The early church would observe annual events in the calendar that would mark the potential dates of historical events. We reflect on all these things with regularity but then move right along afterward to the next big thing. 

But with Christ Jesus coming to His creation to save us from our sins that separated us from eternal glory and to give us a “second chance” with God, we cannot simply look upon the manger scene as a blip in the historical timeline. Like Marley to Ebenezer, we too have been warned how to escape the fate of condemnation from our old nature. We have the opportunity to glimpse into the past, present, and future through the eyes of the creator Himself, Jesus Christ, through His Word, the Bible. Because God writes the whole story, we need to read it and know it and live it everyday…not just once or twice a year. This is a story that cannot be taken lightly. It is not one that can simply be brought out and decorated for a little while and then packed up and put away until next year…because tomorrow is never promised.

Having a second chance in life isn’t necessarily guaranteed, but if you’re reading this, you have the opportunity at this very moment to look at the child in the manger in a new light. That innocent baby we celebrate during this time of the year is actually the very God of the universe, creator of all things, and he will be the judge of all creation at the end times. His Christmas story is told in the very pages of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Jesus said “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Jesus is from the beginning and Jesus is forever!

The true reason for the season is all we need in this life and for the life to come. We are to worship him not only once or twice a year on select holidays, but worship him every day of our lives! Even the angels of heaven declare “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” And they also say “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

What child is this? Yeshua Hamashiach, Jesus the Messiah! Receive him today as Lord and Savior and celebrate daily your newness in life through Christ Jesus! He alone can repair your past, he alone can give you a new heart in the present, and he alone can glorify you in the future kingdom of heaven! 

Amen

For prayer requests, or you just have questions and want to talk about this topic or other posts, please feel free to reach out to us at cannonforhire01@gmail.com. As we learn and grow in grace by God’s hand in our lives, we hope to share and encourage others to stay firm in the Bible and His truth!

May God richly bless you by His Spirit! -the team at Harbor Lights Ministries

Covenant Broken

We are a people obsessed with diets. There is an ever-chasing drive for lite versions of every type of this or that. We hope that the after-affect of consuming lite things will keep us slim and trim, healthier and happier. We tend to think that we can have all the pleasures but with half the guilt. Lite.

Sadly, this same mentality exists in the realm of Christianity today. Churches have shed off a multitude of portions of the sustaining, healthy, solid Biblical food over the centuries. Christianity lite has become the primary source of their religion today. It now contains half the calories of truth, half of the meat of the Gospel, barely any portions of accountability, and almost no salt content to the world. The good rib-sticking meat has been replaced with sweetenings of sugar and fluff. Empty calories that produce empty lives. And when the truth of the Bible is actually being proclaimed, the world denounces it as unnecessary excess because the world only wants to accept the diet version of Christianity. The “no guilt” version!

A watered-down Gospel will certainly never quench a hungry soul. Without the whole portion being consumed, you always walk away unfulfilled, like tasting off of a sampler platter…small morsels that don’t give you the sustenance needed daily to survive. Many know the feeling of hunger pains when being on a diet. Your body reacts in rebellion to having less than what it wants. There’s no doubt that denying our bodies harmful or unhealthy things is good for getting to a healthier condition. And, likewise, we do need to take in the good things for our growth, healing, and general overall health. We still need proper nourishment! So, consuming good things and avoiding bad things…it’s all very simple! 

So why does the modern Christian cut out so much of the Biblical truth? Why do we deny ourselves the good truths that our soul needs? Because man has a problem with being held accountable. Because conviction of sin, which are the violations we commit against God’s law, is a guilt that he doesn’t want to face. Because mankind has a problem with keeping his end of a covenant and thinks that he can hide from the repercussions. You see, God has made covenants with man and man keeps breaking them. God says “I will (fill in the blank), and you will (fill in the blank).”  Man eagerly agrees because he sees the good that he will get, but after getting his “wants” filled, he will usually (within a short period of time) end up failing his end of the covenant with God. So God’s Word continually stands as a reminder of man’s guilt and man doesn’t want to hear it!

I’ve had times over the years when I’ve broken a rule or agreement and had felt the guilt wash over me because of my failings. My mind panics as I run scenarios of how I can either cover up the offense or perhaps find a way out or, just avoid it all together. I want to avoid facing the backlash and suffering the penalties of the breech. But we all know that at some point we have to face the consequences of our infractions. Just like in the television cop shows, we all need to just “‘fess up” to our crime and face the music! God wants us to do the same.

A covenant is simply an agreement between two or more parties. Unlike a contract agreement though, covenants are usually established for the benefit of the “other party”, whereas contracts are ultimately set up for a personal gain. In many cases the covenant is upheld under a set jurisprudence. In the Bible, God establishes His covenants to help further His plans and benefit those who He enters into covenant with. There are a number of covenants referenced with God. Covenants were made with Noah, Abraham, Moses, the priests of the Temple, King David and his lineage (which flows to the Messiah and essentially led into the New Covenant instituted by Jesus at the Last Supper). The most important element with all of these covenants has been that God has fulfilled his promises completely! 

Marriages are often entered into as a form of agreement between two people. The difference between a contract marriage and a covenant marriage can have very diverse results between success and failure. Unfortunately in today’s society, marriage is usually entered into solely as contractual. If party A doesn’t fulfill party B’s criteria, then party B can negate the agreement for breach of contract, thus leading to divorce. Sadly, it may have started with a covenant intent to “love you forever”, but when needs and expectations are not being met, it seems to revert to contract only. Marriages entered into a contractual union are almost always motivated by the desire to get something in return. When a marriage is entered into as a covenant union, both parties are driven by a deep desire to benefit the other person they are marrying. The marriage vows are often characterized by unconditional promises that have love as their foundation. 

When governments have their fingers into the marriage institution, it can sometimes create an atmosphere of contractual thinking. But when a marriage union is entered into before God and His Word…you have a covenant union that grows and holds together, as intended by God, and “till death do us part” is seen through to the end. 

If covenants are driven to benefit the other, why do we fail on our part to fulfill our commitment to God in His covenants with us? Since we have obligations to God, why does the majority of self-proclaimed “believers” regard Him with a discontented faith or feigned worship? The truth is because man has a sin nature and is naturally driven by selfishness. He often views the covenant as a contract-type of agreement that demands God to give unconditionally and if we don’t get what we think we want, we can just walk away. We tend to look at God and think “what do I get out of this” without a thought of “what can I give to God”? We treat the promises of God as nothing more than a one-sided “get out of hell” pass, yet think we can just continue to live life our own way and by our own standards. Despite our irreverence though, God is still faithful with His benefits upon us. ‘He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.’ Matthew 5:45. As our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, it is by God that we are even given the opportunity to lift our holy praises to Him in the first place! He has provided the very conditions we need in order to glorify Him! And yet we don’t.

Through Noah, he gave His creation a new start after the fall to praise Him. Through the covenant with Abraham he unfurled His plan of a great nation that would mediate the blessings of the true God to all people on the earth. Through Moses, God showed us His high and holy requirements by revealing the very law that would show us how we have all fallen short of His glory, yet would also point us to our need for a Savior. Through David, God shows us the promise of a royal lineage that would come from his offspring; fulfilling His plans that were revealed by the prophetic messages to all the people, and give us the Messiah!

Which leads us to the New Covenant. In Matthew chapter 26, we read of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, one of the blessed sacraments commanded by our Lord Jesus. In representation of what was to come, Jesus broke bread and said that this is His body broken for us. He next took a cup and gave it to them, saying, “drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the (new) covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” The new covenant is the bridging between man and God by the death and resurrection of our Savior. God gave us the final answer to what man needed to restore a right relationship to Himself; His Son Jesus, as the perfect sacrifice offered for the sins of the world! All we have to do is receive the free gift, believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord, and follow Him! God gave fully through the covenant for the benefit of man! Yet man has requirements to complete as well.

But as we look around the world, we can easily see that we are far short from following God through Jesus Christ. Romans 8:7-8 explains our problem: For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. We are surrounded on all sides by the works of the flesh. Even our very nature is always working against us when we try to walk in the Holiness that God demands. As mentioned before, part of our sin nature is pride, a selfishness that we all have within us. It took root in the Garden of Eden and has since spread throughout mankind to our very generation. Not only do we have this innate problem that goes against the very character and commandments of God, but people actually celebrate and strive for more ways to flaunt it today. 

Humanity’s arrogance in light of the knowledge of God (see Romans chapter 1) speaks volumes. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (Verses 21-23) Clearly this is shown throughout the world. Even within the very walls of religious institutions claiming to worship the God of the Bible, we see irreverence and indignation toward following His Word. But why?

We see throughout the Bible that people who were chosen by God had a habit of turning a deaf ear. After all the miracles and signs given, after all the saving grace that is poured out, after all the mercy God has clearly shown, the people still did not follow and worship God. God exclaimed in Psalm 81:11, ”But my people did not listen to my voice”. Why? Because they “would not submit to me”. We resist God and His decrees and follow after our own selfish desires. Christ said in Matthew 15:8-9 that “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Citing from Isaiah 29:13 and Ezekiel 33:31). We have the very Words of God, yet we still chose to ignore them and do our own thing. We are to submit to God, yet we treat Him as a footnote in our lives. 

Our egos, our selfish pride, take on an almost viral infection within us as we plot and plan how we think everything should work and operate in our lives. We believe that we are in control and therefore we think we don’t need God. We will ignore God, but then entreat Him as a cosmic vending machine by saying little prayers on occasion to ask for special blessings or healings when we feel short changed by life. We give a complimentary ‘high five’ to the ‘big man upstairs’ when something seems to go in our direction, but quickly resort back to our inward focus. We enter into a facade of piety by attending “church” for the sake of showing others that we stand on a higher moral ground in our daily lives, yet don’t even know who it is we are supposed to be worshipping. This all may sound harsh, but our irreverent approach to God is actually an insult to the One who created the heavens and the earth! We need to understand who we are in comparison to the glory and righteousness of God!

The very God who breathed into existence everything is the very God who reached down from heaven and became mortal man for the sake of saving those whom He calls. That covenant was given to us for our benefit because our sin nullifies us to remedy our separation from God.  And, as I mentioned before, covenants work two ways between the parties involved, and we have an obligation on our part. We are to give to God our devoted worship and praise. We don’t get into heaven by being good, moral people. We don’t get into heaven by attending a church or paying tithes. We don’t get into heaven by mouthing a little prayer. We get into heaven by repenting of our sins, submitting to the lordship of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, and walking in His ways. And we get help with all of that through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, the Bible. 

A marriage is solely sustained through the giving by both parties to each other. We freely receive from people, but do we freely give? I like how Easton’s Bible Dictionary explains that the “marriage relation is used to represent the union between God and his people (Isa. 54:5; Jer. 3:1-14; Hos. 2:9, 20). In the New Testament the same figure is employed in representing the love of Christ to his saints (Eph. 5:25-27). The Church of the redeemed is the “Bride, the Lamb’s wife” (Rev. 19:7-9).”  But the failing of most covenants occurs when one party doesn’t honor their part. As husbands and wives are to submit to one another for the marriage to succeed, we also have to submit to Jesus as well in order to be received in His covenant with us. We already know that God has given everything when He sacrificed His Son for our sins. He provided the payment that we should have paid as a penalty because of our breaking His laws. But since we were not able to meet that high price, God gave us another way. And so now our part is to worship and serve God and enjoy Him forever!

We know that we are called into a covenant relationship with God through His Son Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. We know that within this covenant, that God has given abundantly to us, that we are also called to give to Him. Psalm 116 says What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people. We know that we are called to this union to be devoted and committed to God, not to the wicked ways of this world. Though we are in the world, we are not to walk like the world. 

2 Corinthians 6 says: 

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
Therefore go out from their midst,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
then I will welcome you,
and I will be a father to you,
and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.”

The world is constantly being told by the influencers of this present darkness that we are our own gods. That we can do anything that we want to do. That we shouldn’t be chained to any one ideology and must accept everyone’s views. That we can rise above humanities restrictions. That all modern religions should state that there are many ways to heaven and we are to accept every one, no matter what. That there are no absolutes and that truth is subjective to each individual. 

And yet, God’s Word tells us that there is only one true God, YHWH, and He alone is to be worshipped. That we are to follow His commandments and walk in His ways, not the ways of the pagans. That there are no other gods beside Him. The Bible says that there is only one way to God, through His Son Jesus, who says “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” That the only way to heaven is to enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. God is absolute. Jesus is the truth! 

When the Holy Spirit quickens us out of our slumber, shines light within the dark recesses of our fallen souls, we begin to see clearly that there are two paths in this life. Despite the constant barrage of the world’s endless push to worship the flesh, God is calling us to worship in spirit the truth of Jesus Christ. Despite the deconstruction of the Word of God by pagan temples that call themselves Christian churches today, we are to feed our souls continually with His complete Word, the Scriptures. God’s Word casts light in the darkness and shows truth when others twist or water it down. Hebrews 4:12-13 says “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” We must arm ourselves with the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, to slay the evil that permeates this world and disguises itself as being a god. We are called to commitment, not compromise! There is no middle ground in our covenant with God. Jesus said “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.’”

Breaking a covenant is something that the god of this world has done, will do, and will always push for you to do as well. The devil wants you to maintain your selfish ambitions and desires and for you to have the thinking that you deserve whatever you want and that you are owed “blessings”. Well, God doesn’t owe us anything. What He does give, He gives out of the mercy and grace of His love toward us undeserving people. And His love is everything that we need, not only here in this life, but in the life to come! While we are here we have His love sustaining us, comforting us, protecting us, and giving us His peace. All of these things are more than what the world could ever give us. What the world brings is temporary fulfillment of the flesh that will eventually lead to eternal death. What God gives is a fulfillment that lasts eternally. 

As I mentioned before, we have two paths to choose from: the narrow path of God’s covenant or the wide path that rejects God’s covenant. One leads to love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The other leads to what Galatians 5:19-21 says will disqualify you from the kingdom of heaven: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Embracing the covenant offered through Christ gives us a hope that surpasses understanding. Realizing His sacrificial gift should cause us such gratitude that we willingly desire to worship Him! Knowing how immeasurable the gifts that God gives us should destroy our passions and selfish desires to walk in the ways of this world and cause us to turn and run with excitement toward our Heavenly Father with outstretched arms! He gives to us, so we give back to him our praises and adoration, now and forever more! “We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

Amen

Is It Wrong To Be Wronged?

“I have been wronged!”

So many of us have said those words at some point in our lives. Perhaps it is happening right now to you? Maybe a situation came up that placed us in a position where we have been accused of something we didn’t do. Or perhaps there is an unfair claim against us that we cannot fight against. You’ve all heard the saying “you can’t fight city hall.”  When those forces beyond our reach have come up against us, it leaves us feeling helpless, without recourse, without hope of exoneration. 

In light of the last couple of years, so many of us have gone through very unique and tremendous battles as the world has struggled against an invisible enemy. The impact that each person has felt might vary, but the end result has been the same; uncertainty at every turn. Hopelessness has become prevalent. We have seen people turn on people, institutions falter, governments overreach their powers, families have been torn apart, and immeasurable losses have been felt. So many have had to face choices that were put before them that we never thought we would have to make.

Some have given up. Some have blamed God. Some have found God.

When we examine this current world of chaos in light of God’s Word, the Bible, we certainly see similar situations that folks of the Bible went through, almost paralleling the issues today. Some know the plight of being in want. Some see the struggles of class or race. Some undergo neglect from trusted family or friends. Some see abandonment from civic leaders. Some experience the hypocrisy of religious leaders. And some feel the pangs of standing alone, facing insurmountable odds of a world against them. All these things happened to so many of the people mentioned in the Bible! And we, like them, experience similar struggles even in our modern day. Sure, the times and cultures may have changed, but the core matter is the same; we feel wronged!

One thing that we do have to our advantage today that many didn’t in Bible times was the whole of written Scripture. When you examine the earliest times from Genesis onward, many of the saints of yesteryear had only the verbal Words of God. Many of the Bible’s heroes of faith didn’t have the written Psalms to comfort them in their times of distress. They didn’t have a chapter and verse account at their finger tips of the struggles that men like Noah, Abraham, David, Job, and the prophets went through to be an inspiration in their times of trial. The people of the Bible got through their situations relying solely on God and His promises through sheer faith. They kept their focus in those dark moments, holding onto the little they knew of God at that time. 

We all know the story of Joseph and his brothers selling him into slavery. Joseph had no idea what was to come, but he trusted God even when depression and uncertainty crept in. And he didn’t have a nice devotional of Scripture verses to turn to like we do today. Or how about when Job sat in sack cloth, lamenting the loss of his family? He continued to trust God before, during and after the testing. He didn’t have a pastor giving him a pep talk of how God was going to bless him if he did certain things. Then there is David who ran for his life from people trying to kill him for being anointed king by God. He also kept his trust in God and His promises. In his darkest storms, all he could do was journal his feelings of fear, loss, sadness, and worry. And though he didn’t know what the outcome would be, he did know that God was in control.

You can’t trust in feelings, but you can trust in the truth of the knowledge of God!

There was a man named Jephthah who was the son of Gilead. Jephthah was ostracized by his brothers, and essentially his entire tribe, because he was the result of his father being with a prostitute. He was sent away because his brothers didn’t want him getting any inheritance from their father. And even though he was a mighty warrior by their standards, he was unjustly cast out from his people because of someone else’s sin. This man, by today’s standards, had every right to whine and complain “unfair”! Had he experienced this injustice in our modern times, he would have been encouraged to file a lawsuit for defamation and damages. His initial years being cast out from family and friends must have been filled with such sadness, anger, confusion, hurt, and so much more! 

But Jephthah went out, started a family, and lived life without a murmur. How many times have we either shut down, fought back, or even sought revenge when life slapped us in the face?Jephthah suffered another insult from his own tribe when the elders later came and asked him to be their leader because the tribesmen were being threatened by the Ammonites next door. That’s quite the nerve they had to ask this guy to come back to the fold and lead the people into battle, especially when they were the very ones who kicked him out! As we look at this scenario, let’s face it…you and I might have had quite a different response than the one Jephthah gave! 

In our times of being wronged, we might often lash out in anger and frustration. Though the Words of God in Romans 12 might ring in our ears saying; “repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all”, we may still feel that urge to right the wrongs ourselves. We might wish to make the instigators pay for their misdeeds to us as we push back at the very truth of God’s promise that “vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” We forget for a moment that “their foot shall slip in due time; for the day of calamity is at hand, and the things to come hastens upon them” as God says in Deuteronomy 32. We feel the unrighteousness against us, but we forget the Righteousness of God!

There are two ways to look at things that we count unfair against us. The first would be the matter that we have been wronged by others on a personal, “human”, level. Examples could be; not getting that promotion we should have received or being blamed for something we didn’t do, or maybe being hurt by someone’s words. And there are so many other situations that we can mention showing how we have defined “being wronged” by others. The second of unfair scenarios we might suffer is in experiencing wrongs against us because of our faith in Jesus Christ. Things like being excluded from family and friends because they view our faith as snobbery, or being scoffed at for believing in an unseen “God” and told that we are following “fairytales”, or we might get pushback from people when we are defending our faith and holding on to the honor of God. But the question that arises is this: is the wrong we are feeling a matter of personal pride or is it a matter of violation of righteousness?

“The present age is so flippant that if a man loves the Savior he is a fanatic, and if he hates the powers of evil he is a bigot.” – Charles Spurgeon

The most important way to address anything that we count as a wrong is to start with the Word of God. How does God look at things we count as “wrongs”? Because what we may count as a wrong, might be something that is being used by God for our growth and our edification. We may see the situation as a violation against us, but God is seeing it as trial by fire. We may think this is a negative thing we are suffering, but God is using it for a positive outcome in our sanctification. Believe me when I say that God does know all about wrongs. After all…we all have wronged Him by our sin nature!

For a simple understanding of that statement, we need only look back at the Creation and onward in Genesis. God made all things good, including man and woman, and it was pleasing to Him. But it only took a matter of time before the humans “wronged” God by violating His righteous decrees. And the wrongs kept growing and amplifying against God. It got so bad that by chapter 6 of Genesis, God was fed up with the sins (wrongs) of man against the Holiness of God! Not only did God shorten man’s days on earth (age), but he wiped out every living thing, save for 6 people and two of each creature created! And it wasn’t long after that great flood that man (chapter 11!), once again, increased in their wrongs against God. Man became so brazen that they thought that they could reach up to God in Babel, become like God all over again. And this continual wronging against God still plagues the planet today. Mankind is so narcissistic that they invent ways in their thinking to become gods through their actions and ways. Whether sciences and inventions or religions and cults; man is continually striving to either push God aside or attempt to thwart His will and ways. Looking at this in our human viewpoint, God is being wronged by the very things He created!

Yet, despite this continual display of wrongs by His creation, God still loves us! Despite the hard-headedness of man, God still reached out to us through His Son Jesus! Despite the flagrant failings by those whom He has called into faith by the power of the Holy Spirit, God still forgives! You see…despite ourselves, we can still have hope! 

We might not see clear the future promises of God’s plans for our lives, but like the saints of yesteryear, we need to keep faith in His promises, despite the circumstances we may find ourselves facing. We can always rest in the words of the Apostle Paul who wrote to the believers in Philippi “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” We can trust that God will, when others won’t. When we feel hurt or wronged by others, we are leaning on our feelings. Jesus exclaimed that “in the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Yes, these times and trials do hurt. There is no doubt about that. But this is where we can feed our faith in the Word of God! We have the Scriptures to guide us, comfort us, strengthen us, and cast the light we need to bring us through the storms we face!

God’s ways are right. And if we are in Christ Jesus, our Savior, we share in His righteousness. No matter what the world does, we can stand on this truth. No matter how much we are wronged, we can take comfort knowing that God has already dealt with these things. God reminds us in Hebrews 4: Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

When we pass through the waters, suffer at the hands of the world, feel the pains of being wronged, we can trust and know that our Lord is fully aware of our situation. In Psalm 34:15 He tells us that the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears toward their cry. It is so easy to get swallowed up by the results of people’s actions against us. When we get hurt or scared, we feel like we are separated from our comforts. We wonder if we are standing alone, without support, just like Jephthah must have felt when he was forced away from his own people. Even if should we receive recompense after our being wronged, there could still be repercussions that we may deem “unfair”. In the case of Jephthah, he made a promise to the Lord that if God gave the battle victory to the Gileadites that Jephthah would offer up a special sacrifice. And God did give them the victory. If you stopped right there, you would think he was exonerated and all’s well that ends well. But the promise from Jephthah was a sacrifice of whatever or whomever came out first to meet him when he got home from the battle. Many would think the dog or something of that sort, but, sadly, it was his only child…his daughter. 

Yes, we might get some retribution for our being wronged, but that doesn’t mean the end of the struggles. Our expectation of what the storybook endings should be are not necessarily in God’s plans. Yet, despite the sad ending to that part of the story, Jephthah remained faithful to the Lord and his calling. And we need to remember that no matter the outcome of our trials and tribulations, we are also to remain faithful and trusting in God’s providence! Jephthah’s faith, despite the wrongs against him, despite the losses he suffered through, is a powerful testimony to us today. He is even mentioned in the great Saints Hall of Faith that is listed in Hebrews chapter 11!

And then we have Jesus the Messiah. Before He was here, He was with God and is God. And through the great love of God for us, Jesus was sent to earth as mortal man, yet fully God. He who knew no sin was exposed to the very sin that decimates this place and is an abomination to God. Though He came in peace, he was at war with His own creation. He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, raised the dead, loved with an unconditional love…even those who despised Him, and set the example of what God wants for us and from us. And after all that, He was wrongfully accused, beaten, scoffed, and eventually murdered in a most horrific manner: the cross. Though our human thinking would point out the unfairness of this treatment of Jesus, yet in God’s plan it was all necessary to save us from the sin that condemns us all to eternal damnation. Without the wrongs done by our standards, the right of God’s standards would never have been met.

Among many though, there is a desire for righteousness to prevail in the world. The great Puritan preacher Jeremiah Burroughs once wrote that “the people of God are grieved to see unrighteous dealings, because the honor of God is eclipsed. Unrighteousness is unsuitable to their spirits, since the Lord has put righteousness in their hearts.” It is a human desire for fairness and for right to reign supreme over the lands. Yet with the prevalence of sin in this fallen world, we know that there will always be wrongs, there will always be unfairness, there will always be evil…until the end of times. Burroughs continues with a prayer of many saints today by asking ‘why, Lord, does the kingdom of Satan prevail in the world? O Lord, when shall the righteous scepter of Jesus Christ have sway among the children of men?’ What a heartfelt plea to the God of the universe! To have His right prevail and His will be done! 

We may not be able to stop the evil that men do to others, or ourselves, but we know that in due time they will have to give an account to the Lord. We may feel wronged at the moment by the actions of others, but we must remember that we do walk within a fallen world, and that God is, in His providence, in complete control! This is where faith and trust comes in. Yes, we have a righteous heart that hungers for righteousness…whether it be for ourselves or others…but knowing that God understands, cares, loves, and is there for us in those times should give us comfort beyond imagination! Keep all these things in perspective. It is a balm for the soul!

We are to stand firm in our faith, despite the storms of this world. Not to give up hope! As it says in Hebrews chapter 3: Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”  (Emphasis mine)

We can easily grow faint and wearied by the bombardment of the world’s evil. When we see those who wrong others and don’t seem to have to account for their actions, we wonder where is the justice, where is God? We have that desire for righteousness to prevail, but don’t necessarily see it. Don’t let that harden your hearts! Take comfort knowing that in this time of testing that our Lord and Savior is there beside us! And His wrath to come will set all things right, all things under His judgment, all things for His glory! We just need to persevere. 

I’ll close with a great exhortation from Hebrews chapter 10 that reminds us to stand firm:

Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For,
“Yet a little while,
and the coming one will come and will not delay;
but my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.”
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

Amen

Past, Present, Future

My podcast is aptly called “Things I Preach To Myself About”. Why is it called that? Even though I am often pointing a finger at the world, at the modern devolving churches, and at the rising evil from the devil himself, there are also fingers that point to myself. The issues that I try to bring out in each episode, in light of God’s Word, the Bible, also have their share of footings in my life as well. We all need to have the Word of God preached to us…constantly! 

Any conversation or sermon that points out our sins is never a feel-good moment. When we are looking for rainbows but all we are getting is dark clouds, we tend to avoid those things. But sin is a reality that we cannot (and should not) avoid! We just need to remember that there is light at the end of that tunnel we are traveling through! I usually label most of the sin problems discussed under 3 headings: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. All three of those categories can easily be a general heading for the different sins that we commit; past, present, and future. And in light of God’s laws, the ten commandments, we can see our shortcomings in meeting the high and holy standards of God.

Very depressing, indeed! 

The great Puritan writers and preachers are often accused of being a gloomy bunch! People say that they were all filled with nothing but fire and brimstone in their theology. They are accused of targeting their listeners with a constant barrage of how sinful we all are! It has even been said that sin was the only topic of every sermon or book. Of course we know that is not true! Though I confess that I have been close to that format many times in my writings and podcasts. But, in full defense, I have to make clear that from every published word from those great Christian men and women, they always ended on the positive note…namely, the Gospel! Something that I prayerfully hope that I have done as well!

You see, if we don’t know where we came from, we can’t accept and appreciate the amazing gift we’ve been offered! When a sinner, broken and separated from the Holy God above, can be cleansed and renewed and restored into a right relationship with the Creator that is the Gospel, the Good News! Yet, we need to understand the length and breadth and width of God’s love, as to stoop down from heaven in the form of man to rescue us from ourselves! Our sins, even ones that we would consider minor, or “no big deal”, are an abomination to His Righteousness. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” So for God to love us so much that he gave His only Son, Jesus, to take our punishment that we deserved, should give us a clear and reverential understanding of God in relation to who we are. 

So, I find it important to always remember who I was in relationship to God, who I am in this relationship with God, and who He wants me to be in relationship to my future with God! And this is what the Puritan writers and preachers would do. Not only pointing out our failings before God, but also pointing out God’s sovereign love for us, despite our iniquities! And in every way, pointing us to keep our eyes on “Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” That through all this, we can have peace in our future by His grace!

When we understand the attributes of God; His Holiness, His Righteousness, and His immeasurable love for us…that should deepen our love and commitment to His Holy commands, so as to serve Him and honor Him and glorify Him in all that we say and do! The root of so many great preachers of yesteryear was to reveal the truth and nature of God and His Son Jesus to grow and strengthen us. As Peter says in 2 Peter 3:17-18 “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

The deeper our understanding of who God is in relation to man, the deeper our resolve should be too stand firm in the faith. The fire and brimstone preachers and teachers were passionate to warn…striving to keep us from falling back into that which we have been rescued from. Pointing us to our past shows us how far we’ve been led by God! Sin should be an abhorrence to us, just as it is with God! We learn from the Saints of yesteryear how to grow in faith. We learn from their mistakes as well as ours. We should be encouraged, even when we stumble, to look at the past so as to see the future more clearly! Thus, our hope! 

Hebrews 12 says “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”

So you see, pointing out the sins that filled our past, that permeate this fallen world, is not meant to be gloom and doom. It is meant to point us to the cross. It is meant to point us to the salvation gift from God. It is meant to encourage us to flee from sin. Paul exhorted us in 1 Timothy 6 by saying “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

The great statement we need to always remember is that if we don’t learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to go back to where I came from. Remember the line in Proverbs 26? “As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool returns to his folly.” We need constant encouragement to not stray from the narrow path that God has graciously put us on!

When the great Puritan Jonathan Edwards preached his famous sermon “Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God”, he was preaching in the church. It obviously had a great affect on the parishioners because he was interrupted many times during the sermon by people crying out, “What shall I do to be saved?” We cannot just assume that all is well in our souls because we attend a church, own a Bible, do good things, and have clean thoughts. We must be reminded daily of who we are in Christ, where we are in Christ, and what path with Christ we are taking.

Christian, the main character in the Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan was set on the path to the Celestial City. But as he journeyed forward, he often times found himself off of the path he was supposed to be on. We, too, have that problem. We are easily bumped off the path by the strong storms of this world. We are swayed away from yesterday’s commitments to the Lord by temptations that constantly bombard us today. We even falter on our own by the inner workings of sin that plagues us still. Thus, the very need to be preaching to ourselves daily! We need to hear the cause and effect sermons that remind us of where we’ve been, where we are, and where we should be going!

Winston Churchill said it best when he exclaimed boldly “we will NEVER surrender”! And we must not! Edwards final appeal in his sermon was “Therefore let everyone that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come.” But to all that are in Christ, we are to stand firm in the faith and submit to God, resisting the devil! We are to be putting on the full armor of God daily so we can withstand the enemy’s attacks. Even in these tumultuous times, we can rest on the words of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in John 16 who says to us; “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Amen!

To Contend

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Jude 3-4

Change. That one thing that is constant. Look around and you see change in everything under the sun. Even now, nature turns it gaze from growth and green to death and cold. The time for change can be good, as in the trees and grass slumbering for a time before a rebirth comes at spring time. Change also has its follies and failures. Taking truths and changing them has consequences. From the magnificent changes such as seasons and times to minuscule changes that can mean either little or a lot, change must be always be attended too. 

There is a problem of great proportions in the world today. It is one that sweeps across invisible lines, affecting young and old, rich and poor, male and female. It permeates society and, yet, is perhaps one of the most over used, misunderstood, and often flippant expressions said by people today. That is the word Blessed!

I cannot express how sick I am of hearing people constantly using that word, thinking that anytime they get or have something they “want”, they are blessed. Or they’re so blessed because they have family or friends in their lives. No matter the declaration of why they are saying that they are “blessed”, it is used beyond excess. In other words, it really annoys me! 

But why? Why would people saying they are “blessed” be such an annoyance? To start with, most people don’t have a clue as to what the word even means. When you look up the definition, there are several adjective uses for it. And since the foundational beginnings of the word relate to sacred or religious meaning, the word nowadays is demoted to a platitude expression. I guess I could go on the record as saying that it’s use today borders on sacrilege. This is a change unacceptable! Unfortunately the so-called “church” of today, specially in America, has run the sacrilege flag up the proverbial pole to declare that God does nothing else other than bless. 

In Biblical perspective, since the first appearance of the word in Genesis 1:28, where God blessed Adam and Eve, the word has been solely pinned to a level of religious honor from either God to man, man to God, or man to man. But unfortunately, due to time changes, it has devolved into something that the vast majority of people today use it as a catch-all phrase that something good has happened to them. This once beautiful word has subsequently become something for self-serving, “look-at-me” people to spout off with. 

The word bless shows up in the Bible 133 times. Blessed is used 311 times. There are 81 uses of the world blessing, and an additional 27 times that blessing has an “s” on the end. 15 times the adjective blesses is used and blessedness makes a pair of appearances. In most cases, the words are invoking a request to consecrate, to make holy…passing on divine favor. So, to use the word in a callous, worldly way really strips the specialness of the gesture. 

Essentially, the true meaning of blessed has become secularized to the point that people don’t even have a clue what it truly means in a Godly context. In fact, the whole exercise of being holy, set apart…consecrated…has become muddied and diluted so much that the world sees true Christianity as nothing less than an archaic religion, devoid of truth and reality. And the saddest part of all is that the church has let it all happen by blending and melding with the world themselves!

These are the type of changes that have caused damage. When truths are distorted and not corrected, then those truths tend to be relabeled. They are deemed outdated. Relics. Ancient. Irrelevant. All words that many ascribe to Biblical Christianity now days. They now use terms like fairytales. Fiction. Myths. Fables. These are the current views that many have regarding the Bible. And again, this is often the view of those who claim themselves inside the church body. 

Most of this has evolved through changes in truth. Over time, the distortions have become accepted and the truth has faded into memory. Even though the absolute words are clearly together, unison in thought, written down for all to see, people have slowly, and diabolically redefined the Bible and its truth, piece by piece, concept by concept, until most believe the new view as right. And, again, this includes those who claim themselves a Christian church.

Jude had a bit of change in his epistle. He started out writing to discuss common salvation that was amongst the brethren, but was compelled by the Holy Spirit to address a more pressing matter. It seems that even back then, they were facing issues of people changing truth already! So Jude starts off by telling the folks to “contend for the faith” that was once for all delivered to the saints. The word contend is such a powerful word. It speaks of struggling against, or wrestling for something specific. As an example, since my memory isn’t the greatest, I have to contend with my memory in order to remember Scripture verses. In other words, this is an action that takes effort and time and strength to accomplish. Jude wants his readers to contend with their faith. Why?

Because in verse 4 he points out that certain people are infiltrating the church body and spewing lies and deceptions. They were teachers who twist truth, changing the Gospel, and leading weak believers astray. They perverted the truth! And sadly, this is still going on today! When you look at the vast majority of “churches” today, they all show signs and symptoms that they have changed the meaning of God’s own Words! They’ve replaced truth to become more “seeker-friendly” and essentially do what the people, the worldly people, want. And, we know from Scripture that people don’t want to follow God and His decrees!

Jesus said that if we abide in His word, we are truly His disciples and we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free! Obviously, there are many who have created their own truths by redefining or rewriting the reality of God and His Word to fit their narrative. They think that they can mold God into their narrative by altering or deleting the Scriptures. But the reality is that God doesn’t change. His word abides forever! You can say what you will about the Bible, but that will NOT alter His will and ways! 

The world thinks that it has out-smarted God by quenching His truth. Yes, many have been deceived by the devil’s works, but we don’t have to be in that count. The folks blinded by the world don’t see their way as folly. In Proverbs chapter 9 we read about the woman Folly and how she easily sways people who are “simple”, who don’t want to know and seek the truth.

The woman Folly is loud;
she is seductive and knows nothing.
She sits at the door of her house;
she takes a seat on the highest places of the town,
calling to those who pass by,
who are going straight on their way,
“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
And to him who lacks sense she says,
“Stolen water is sweet,
and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”
But he does not know that the dead are there,
that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.

Her followers are told exactly where they end up. Hell.

This doesn’t just apply to unbelievers alone, but also to many belonging to today’s apostate church. And this is really an act of God. God did say in Romans chapter 1 that He would give them over to the lusts in their bodies, letting them continue to “live their best life now!” You see, the cleansing that is going on is actually a separating of wheat and chaff. We know that there will be many who will fall away. But their falling may not be into a realm of atheism or agnosticism, but simply belonging to a self-titled “church” that doesn’t teach the truth of God. It could be that church that espouses nothing but feel-good teachings, just like New Age shamans and pagans. The places that say “if it makes you happy, it must be good”! The groups that push out the negative of Scripture and only focuses on peace, joy, love. 

But we know from the complete Word of God that “the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.” And as the world continues to redefine what is and isn’t truth based on their standards, they will turn an accusatory eye upon believers who still hold fast to the faith that they were taught from the Bible. The time for persecution continues to grow. And God is going to allow this to happen in the Church. 1 Peter chapter 4 says “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

But before that 17th verse I just mentioned, Peter says of this coming suffering “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.”

With the downfall of true Biblical teachings, with the decline in faithfulness to God’s Word, and the willing acceptance of lies from the devil himself, we need, more than any other time in history, to stand fast, hold firm, contend, and be vigilant in our faith. We need to truly know what we believe and why. We need to put on the full armor of God to stand against the enemy of God. Knowing the truth, and knowing that the truth will set us free, is so key right now! 

We have been set free, no longer captives to the sin that plagues this world. Jesus gave us that freedom by His work on the cross and his overcoming the grave! His resurrection to the right hand of God the Father is our hope and strength for us to press on to the goal that is set before us! He gave us this gift of salvation, not to squander by conforming to the patterns of this fallen world, but to encourage us to contend to the very end!

I close with Peter’s great exhortation to the saints: 

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Clear instructions. May we  stand firm, contending for the faith in our day to day battles! 

Amen.

Don’t Be A Grape (Of Wrath)

Mine eyes have seen the glory
Of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage
Where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning
Of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.

Chorus
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

The great Battle Hymn Of The Republic! Words penned by Julia Ward Howe in 1861 to rally up the troops at the early stages of the Civil War in America. The beginning stanza instantly creates images of the Lord’s return, as shared through the Holy Spirit to John in the book of Revelation. In chapter 14, we see the angels of the Lord harvesting the “grapes” for the wrath of the Lord.

[18] And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” [19] So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. [20] And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia.

God’s wrath. 

Something that is often times avoided in conversations is the reality of God’s wrath.  Sadly, it is seldom spoken of in today’s pulpits. I have to believe that it is because church leaders don’t want to scare people away from attending church. The people of today have turned from accepting harsh and demanding teachings to making  their own demands for soft and easy-to-digest therapy sessions. Yes, historically there have been extreme levels that the church took, when everything they presented was all hell, fire, and brimstone…a repetitive damning message that threatened everyone’s souls every day. But I have to agree with R C Sproul when he said that “people aren’t afraid of the wrath of God anymore, because preachers are out there telling people that God loves them unconditionally.” 

Most of todays’ teachings within the walls of modern churches are clearly unbiblical. The wide scope of Biblical topics within the covers of Scripture have been extremely diluted, or even removed, so much that His Word has become a flower garden of sunshine, rainbows, and soft, fuzzy kittens. The modern teachers will completely avoid anything in text that shows God executing His full wrath! And yet the Bible clearly has plenty to say about His wrath and judgements onto the earth…specially in the last days!

Christ’s return to earth is to be the complete and final judgement, a time to separate true believers and non-believers. Further on in Revelation we read in chapter 19, verse 15, that Christ will strike down the nations. He will “tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.” God’s wrath has been, and will be, a reality that should strike a fear within the hearts of people. 

There are two ways to define fearing God: fear of His anger and wrath (like a frightened child facing an angry parent), and fearing God with reverence and awe. Proverbs 1:7 and 9:10 both declare that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Psalm 111:10 says The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His precepts gain rich understanding. His praise endures forever! 

We can both fear God and fear God! But to those who have salvation through Jesus Christ, we can stand in peace from the fear of God’s wrath because we won’t be classified as a “grape” that will be tread upon in the winepress! But no matter if you are a Christian or not, all the people should be praising God right now for His patience with this world. 

We see in the Old Testament the level of God’s patience when dealing with Israel. We also learn from the historical records that His patience has limits. When even a chosen people of God, blessed above all nations, had to be judged and punished for their complacency and sins, that should be a warning to us Gentile believers as well that no one is exempt!

In Genesis 18, we read the account of God’s patience with the most wicked of cities at that time; Sodom and Gomorrah. God’s decree was to destroy those evil places by fire from heaven. But Abraham’s pleading with God to forgo His wrath for a time, so as to rescue the (the few) righteous people that are within the cities, delayed that destruction. God had even dispatched two angels to get Abraham’s nephew, Lot and his family, out of the city! But, this delay was for just a short time. God is patient, merciful, and yet, just. With this patience we do not want to make a mistake of thinking that God will not judge just because something doesn’t happen instantly!

In 2 Peter 3:9 we see that “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” Meaning we need to recognize that the time of His wrath could come at any moment. In the very next verse we are warned that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved”. There is a clear and definite absolute that the God of heaven is going to exact His wrath upon the earth and those who have thumbed their nose at Jesus and the gift of salvation will face an eternal judgement of damnation. 

Hell 

That destination for those that reject the mercy and grace of God through Jesus Christ will not be a beach paradise and eternal party that so many of this world seem to believe. What is worse is that there are many people who sit in today’s churches that are on the list of rejection by the Savior. Jesus said “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ The churches have grown exceedingly weak in their preaching and teaching of the Bible, thus allowing many to have a dangerous complacency and casualness in light of sin’s consequences. They are the people who look to have their feelings satisfied instead of satisfying the demands of God laws.

Without getting into a legalistic path, we do have obligations on our part to obey God and His Word. God has set forth His commandments within the Scriptures. Our duty is to obey them. Jesus even summed up the whole of God’s requirements in Matthew 22 by stating that “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the Prophets.” But if we examine our hearts and minds in the light of the Scriptures, we know that we fall short of following the commandments of God. After all…it says in the Bible that “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)

So, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. What shall we say then? We are sinners. And sinners don’t get into heaven. In fact, God has a winepress of wrath readied! And His justice will be meted out when He comes on the Day of the Lord. Pretty scary stuff when you think that there are eternal consequences for our actions in the here and now. But thankfully, there is a way; a hope, that reaches down through eternity and gives us hope and peace from that wrath! But it is not something to be taken lightly!

You see, when people say a prayer to accept Jesus as their Savior, they need to realize that these are not just some magic words to bail you out of lake of fire. Nor is having a membership to a church or being baptized your get-out-of-hell-free card Being saved from the coming judgement will not be avoided by having several Bibles in your home or by doing lots of good things for others. All of those things are important, but they are not your salvation from the wrath of God. So many people can say a prayer, go to church, do good things, and yet still miss out on God’s call. People want all the gifts and blessings from God, but all without following God’s requirements. God doesn’t give His Word as recommendations. They are commandments! And it is a daily struggle, battle, and conscientious decision every moment of every day to chose this day who you will serve!

Salvation: A gift from God

Salvation from the wrath to come is one side of a two-sided coin. Salvation is a gift from God to redeem us from the punishment of our sins. But, there is responsibility on our part as well as we journey the new path. We have to strive daily. In Hebrews 3:6 it says “but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope (firm to the end).

If indeed we hold fast in our hope firmly to the end. We cannot just make some gestures one day and then coast the rest of the way. We have actions do daily. We have battles to fight daily. We have changes to implement daily. We have to start and end each day with a checklist of commitment to God and His Word. 

Lip service versus actions. 

1 John 1:5-10 says:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

We must take action, every day. We have to walk the walk. We confess daily our sins to God. The word confess is translated from the Greek word homologeo which actually means of one mind. It means to speak the same language, agree with, acknowledge. When we confess, we are agreeing with the God of the universe who already knows our hearts and minds, who already knows our sins. We are telling Him that through the Holy Spirit illuminating us within, we recognize our trespasses against His laws. We plead through our advocate, Jesus Christ, who has already paid the penalty for the sins. And we repent of the actions by turning away from the sins. 

A daily battle, a daily conscience effort! And God gives us the strength to win by the power of the Holy Spirit! God promised that we who believe, when tempted, will be given a way out! We need to daily meditate on the Word, keep in prayer, trust Jesus through faith, and run the race with endurance!

There are only two paths in this life. Not three. The middle ground is also called “lukewarm” and is not a path to eternal salvation. The lukewarm folks are what populate most churches today. Unfortunately they will end up being added into the path inhabited by those who reject Jesus Christ. And all on that path are heading straight to the winepress. They will fall under the wrath of God and be cast into the lake of fire. It is very clear in the Bible. Despite what people might imagine how their god should act like, the God of the Bible will punish those who have violated His Commandments.

For those who enter in through the narrow gate, stay firm on the narrow path, and walk in the Light of God’s Word every day, there will be eternal reward in Heaven for their faith and steadfastness. Those who walk this path will be tempted, stumble, and encounter many pitfalls and snares from the enemy. But Christ has overcome the world! He is our guide, our strength, and our Savior! So be encouraged and trust daily! Never taking our eyes off the prize! Always doing the will of the Father!

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:15-17

Beliefs?

It is without apology that I take to writing my beliefs in what the Word of God, the Bible, says about various subjects that seem to be dividing those who claim to believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. These beliefs are not what I “feel” it says. Nor are they what I just blindly accept because others follow this or that particular viewpoint. These are actually what I know based on my own reading, research, and study within the covers of the Bible alone. 

I know that many things are considered subjective. One might believe one particular way about a topic, when someone else may perceive it quite differently. When you look at the history of theology (the study of God and His Word), it is very clear that there has been, and still are, divisive understandings about what is actually being conveyed to the listener/reader. Since the Bible came together, some of the greatest minds have perused through every jot and tittle looking for the truest and deepest meanings that God in His providence is telling the people. 

On certain points, most scholars and students of Scripture have a common understanding. Most will certainly state that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, sent to be the sacrificial lamb to atone for the sins of the world. Most will claim that Jesus came in human form, born of a virgin, taught His message through His disciples, and that after His death on the cross rose from the dead 3 days later…appearing to multitudes…and then rising to the heavens, is seated on the right hand of God’s throne. Many still agree that there will be a return of Jesus to claim His own (believers) who will go to heaven with Him forever. But, it is when we get to the periphery things of theology that lines blur, ideas differ, and dissension erupts.

Some of the points of contention that are often debated are things like; how are we saved, when are we saved, did God elect some and not others, when is Christ returning, will He come a brief second time for saints but then return for the end battle, is the coming pre/mid/post tribulation, is there a literal or figurative millennial period, and do we reside on the new earth or in heaven or both? 

I have written in the past of my understanding on a few of these questions. A few points I admittedly can say that I do waffle between views because I can understand both (or multiple) explanations making sense from what others claim it says in the Bible. Since I am no formally trained scholar, theologian, seminary graduate, or am extra-versed in the Bible, I will say that all of my approaches come from trying to see what the Bible says about a certain subject without adding in too many outside views or slants.

Which leads me to labelling. One of the greatest wars that has raged since the early 1600’s has been what our level of involvement with the salvation process really is. Between the defined views of Jacobus Arminius (Arminianism) and John Calvin (Calvinism) came a rift that deepened as the reformation was steaming through Protestantism around the world. I do not want to delve into the specifics of all that historically was going on, other than to say that a multitude of factions were created and followers of particular ideologies labelled themselves according to their defined group. What I will say is that, though I may lean particular to certain teachings or understandings of interpretations from the leaders long ago, I do not commit to any one as definitive.

Examples are that some say I am a Calvinist. Some say I am a Puritan. Some label me based on my eschatology (end times) views. Some label me purely a heretic because I don’t read their version of the Bible. Some say I am simply ignorant and should not espouse an opinion. 

Whatever the view of me, I will say in my defense: you don’t know me.

But, to satisfy those who want to pigeonhole me, label me a particular sway, I will put out what I see as Biblical truth. Be warned though, as some views of mine have changed over the years…because experience, learning, and understandings have grown and shaped my belief system. I will also warn that if you really believe that your view, way, ideology, and stance is the only and right way…then you are either the first person in the history of theology to fully nail the exact truth that God is teaching us, or, you are a self-centered narcissist who stopped up your eyes and ears, set your feet in concrete, and yell foul at everyone else who may differ from you. In the Bible, many of those folks had their own labels: Pharisees and Scribes. Self-righteous people who thought they knew everything, but in reality missed out on the Savior that they “thought” they would find. Nowadays, I call them “arm-chair theologians”. People who, with or without formal education, have settled in their minds and hearts that they are right and that everyone else is wrong…unless they agree with them.

If the greatest and most learned men in history have had differing views of particular areas of study, (such as has been listed above), what makes you think that you have the absolute and accurate understanding? 

I will say this about those topics. People need to understand that there are aspects discussed in the Bible that do NOT change the salvation of a person. Salvation is a gift from God and we have no power to change God! Certain aspects of Scripture are pure black-and-white…no grey, debatable areas. But most of the topics that are (still) hotly contested really don’t change our standing before the Holy God! Believing that the rapture comes before the tribulation or after does in NO WAY change whether you get to heaven or not! Standing on all 5 points of Calvinism versus agreeing with only 4 of them does NOT change your status if you are a saved believer or not! 

The fact that people get so heated over periphery matters really baffles me! If you are a true believer in Jesus Christ as your savior, then Hallelujah! But to get violently angry with each other over whether or not the book of Enoch should be studied within the Scriptures is utter nonsense! And speaking of books…this ridiculous mentality people have that if you don’t read the King James Version of the Bible then you are wrong, that you are studying the devil’s words, and that you are now going to hell! This has become the most ludicrous debate I have ever heard. If you read the KJV only…great! It is a great translation from the original languages! Yet, it always amazes me that people really think that anything outside of the (rehashed from the Geneva Bible) 1611 translation, God can’t communicate with you. That if you’re reading any translation OTHER THAN the KJV, you are getting the wrong Word. What that really tells me is that; a) the KJV-only crowd has never studied or understood how translations come about and from where; b) that they forget that God is bigger than your translations; and c) that God has brought countless numbers to salvation through a multitude of versions outside of KJV!

Anyway, I digress. Back to what I believe.

I believe that the KJV, NKJV, NASB, and ESV are great translations of the original texts. But, I also believe that God uses many forms and translations to communicate His Truths to people, through various languages, reaching to their understanding level in ways that they need at the right time…by the power of the Holy Spirit. I will NEVER discount God’s ability to use even the most mundane manner or translation to get His Word to those who need to hear it. His Word NEVER returns void. Look at the underground church in China. How many of them that will study even the most partial of pages of Scripture to be fed His Word! They memorize even small sections so they can commit it to heart! They may never have a chance to see the full body of text, but there is no doubt that God uses that to edify those believers who will be exalted in heaven for their devotion and faithfulness!

As for eschatology, I had started off in the pre-tribulation rapture belief, primarily because that is what everyone around me was believing. I have changed my views on that stance over the last couple of years for a few reasons. I am not here to try to sway or alter your belief in any way…primarily because you believe what you believe and that is between you and God. I will say that through my own personal studies in Scripture that I just don’t see pre-trib. That being said, I will contend that I strongly believe that we should be walking today as if we were going to be raptured midway or at the end of the tribulation period, but always living in hope that the rapture is before the tribulation! Also in these camps are the big words of preterism, historicism, futurism, idealism and many others. Again, I will say with complete confidence that no matter what view you hold to, it does NOT alter your salvation. Debate it all you want, but if you are dispensationalist or a covenant theologist, in the big picture of God’s plan, there is no reason to get argumentative and split communion with other believers over these differences as they don’t affect the final outcome of salvation.

In regards to denominations, I will say strongly this; there are many denominations that have come along under the guise of being true to the Word of God, yet have either come as wolves in sheep’s clothing or have started out with right intentions only to be swallowed and changed by the world. General titles such as Methodist, Wesleyan, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Presbyterian,   and the like have even fractured into various groups because of indwelling disagreements. Most of the issues have arose because of the affect of worldliness. Most of the groups have decided to conform more to the world than they have the Word. I’ve written about this particular issue before and won’t labor it too much, other than to say that finding a true Bible-believing church that preaches the Gospel, reveres God in worship, and studies to conform to our Lord Jesus’ teachings is the ONLY place you want to be. Anything less is a compromise to God’s Holy standards and the end result is not fitting for heaven.

Which brings me to a most contentious point: Salvation. This hotly debated study is one that has split churches, destroyed fellowship, and even created violent reactions. The debate contains within itself these particulars: 1) does God pre-elect certain people to salvation; 2) is this conditional; 3) can we lose salvation; 4) what role do we have (if any) in accepting or rejecting.

Obviously, I cannot spend time explaining/defining every aspect of each of these topics as they are so deep, divisive, and contested, that it would take volumes of books. And even with all the books, there are so many viewpoints that are addressed that we really never get a set, definitive absolute answer. Consider the history of the greatest theologians that have gone before us that have written extensively on these particular topics! As I mentioned before, this understanding of salvation became a hotbed back in the early 1600’s within Protestantism with theologians debating some of these very unclear matters. Arminius held to the 5 solas of the Reformation, but had differing teachings on some aspects from the teachings of Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and others. As with so many other periods in history, sides were taken, debates occurred, factions split, and denominations struggled. Unfortunately, the division between the two schools of thought have driven wedges deeper within the body of believers and have caused unbelievers to avoid church because they see the dissensions and hypocrisy within the church body.

As for me, after careful study of Scripture and the history of the debate (the Synod of Dort and the five articles of remonstrance), I have come to the conclusion that these “labels” are fine for historical teachings, but have no bearing on my personal salvation or walk with God. To label me one or the other is really a moot point. Specially since both “sides” agreed on the really key issues! We are depraved. Atonement is for all. Jesus’s death satisfies God’s justice. When it comes to whether grace is resistible or not, or if election is conditional or not, I know that I have to trust in the Scriptures, seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. I know that whatever the Bible says, that’s what I need to focus on in my walk. If I take my eyes off of the prize to worry about matters of whether God predestines or not, I have taken my focus on the more important part: God’s will in my life. 

We fret and worry so much about small, minute details more than we do about the big picture. If I am driving a car down the road and keep my focus only on a pothole in the other lane, I miss out on all the other things going on around me. If Satan can drive your focus off the whole of Scripture to a small, debatable matter that causes you to stumble, then he has succeeded. The devil constantly challenges people to question God’s Word. His goal is to cause to you to doubt. I’ve done a lot of doubting, questioning, worrying, debating and struggled with many of these issues in the past to the point where I threw up my hands in frustration and walked away. Isn’t that the demon’s goal? To create division, strangle the truth, alter our beliefs, and get people to give up? Christ said that a house divided does not stand. That house can be a multitude of believers or can simply mean each of us individually. 

Bottom line is that I believe what I believe because I see it in the Word of God. Not because I need a label. Not because this preacher or that teacher says it is so. Not because my brothers and sisters all believe a particular theological ideology. But because I have read it in the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit has illuminated that particular area of understanding to me, and that I cannot see it differently. Does it make me right? NO! What it does do is open me up to understanding the Word so that when I do hear a teaching related to it, I can go back and learn and discern if what I heard is true. More times than not I find myself learning and growing in my faith and knowledge of the Bible. Many times I hear or read something and quickly can see that the thoughts being conveyed contradict the Word. 

But, I also believe that there is absolutely NO reasons for self-proclaiming followers of Christ to be so arrogant, so pompous, so narcissistic as to be judgmental and condemning to others because they don’t agree with you. I see it time and time again on social media and other platforms. It is utterly abhorrent and contradictory to the teaching of Jesus! There is a time to call out heretical false teaching and there is a time discuss differences in theology. Someone teaching that works saves and gets you into heaven should be gently shown God’s Word that explains otherwise. But if someone thinks that you reading anything other than the KJV is heresy and that you are not reading God’s Word, well, therein lies a difference that has absolutely NO bearing on whether or not someone is saved by God! 

I find we love to judge. To compare everyone else to ourselves. Yet, it is obviously clear that everyone is different. Not only are my neighbors around me different than me, but a Christian brother halfway around the world is also different than me. Our circumstances and histories are different. God, in His providence and wisdom, reaches down from Heaven to each of us…meeting us exactly where we are! He teaches us exactly what we need, when we need it. At just the right moment, He illuminates our hearts and minds to His Truths. He feeds us understanding when we are ready to receive it. Had I known long ago what I know now, I might have rejected things because they were too weighty for my mindset then. God knows what I need and when. He knows that we all need the core, the Gospel, which is clear and concise…fitting for everyone! He wants us to share it with others, not wondering whether someone is “elect” or not. It is a command from our savior Jesus, to preach the Gospel. How will they know if they don’t hear it? Even if predestined, who are we to decide? Maybe God is using YOU to call that one person! 

His ways are not our ways. So, I will just have to believe, trust, and obey to the best of my ability. 

Amen

Idol Gomer

I have moments where I will smile, shake my head, even roll my eyes with a chuckle, as I reflect on my old life, when I was living without a thought of God in it. Not surprisingly, and due to my ignorance and rebellion back in the day, there were many situations that, had it not been for the hand of God interceding, I would probably be dead. I was always slow to learn and even slower to recognize that God was, and still is, in control, despite my dangerous decisions and activities. And because He has plans for me, there was nothing I could have done that would ever thwart His plans! I’ve come to accept that I didn’t have a lot of wisdom flowing through my brain cells, nor was sound discernment involved in many of my decisions. I chased after my own gods, idols, desires; to do what I wanted in life. I thought I was a god.

Whoever is wise, let him understand these things;
whoever is discerning, let him know them;
for the ways of the LORD are right,
and the upright walk in them,
but transgressors stumble in them.

This Scripture verse is the last in the book of Hosea, chapter 14 verse 9. I start here because it speaks of two paths we all have the choice to venture down: God’s way or our way. Unfortunately, most people who read the book of Hosea never get past the storyline regarding his marriage to his God-given, yet wayward, wife. Beyond the marriage issues lie the important message that is in the heart of this great book of warning. And because some people will assume it to be directed only to a certain people of a certain time, the bulk of the chapters (4-14) often get overlooked. But the message has great application to the church today. And since our Savior Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, it is imperative that we understand how the warnings should impact our lives in this day and age. 

Hosea is filled with warnings to the Israelites (using his own marriage as an example) that they have committed spiritual adultery against the Lord God. They have chased after other gods and have become idolaters instead of worshipping the one true God. The prophet spent about 45 years preaching this message to a stiff-necked peoples who wanted to live life their way. (Sound familiar?) If it wasn’t for the amazing love and mercy of God, they would have been vanquished from His sight forever. Yet, despite their unfaithfulness, God is always faithful. Despite their lack of love towards God, God still loves them. 

To understand the reasons of God’s anger because of their violations, we need to review the first three Commandments, or Laws, that God has given to mankind. Exodus chapter 20 covers them:

1- “You shall have no other gods before me.”
2- “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
3- “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”

In respect to the beginning storyline of Hosea and his “extracurricular” wife (chapter 1:1-9, chapter 3:1-5), I will throw in the seventh Commandment from God: “You shall not commit adultery.-Exodus 20:14

Without overstating the obvious, we can clearly see that our God is a jealous God. “You shall have NO other gods.” In clarifying terms; any religious activity focused on someone or something outside of the God of the Bible is clearly a violation of His Commandments. There is not a lawyer or judge that could double-speak any other interpretation based on God’s decrees. So, with that said, it is clear why God is justified in His anger. Whether you call it spiritual adultery, spiritual idolatry, or spiritual apostasy, it is a sin against the Holy God. But this is not just an issue that Hosea was facing during the Old Testament writing, it is also an issue of today’s church. We are living and acting no different today than the Israelites were back then!

The book of Hosea’s warnings are applicable to the people of God as a collective, yet also have deep relevance to individuals as well. If you and I were to stop for a moment, to truly and honestly reflect on our life; all our thoughts, our lifestyles, our focus, our priorities, our inner desires, our goals…we would see that we have been living a spiritually adulterous life. We fill time, effort, and energy on temporal things far more than we do spiritual. Jesus warned us that we are to store up our treasures in heaven, not on earth. He also said that “where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.” (Matthew 6:19-21) If our heart’s desire is on the things of this world more than God, then perhaps our passions are skewed.

The number of idols, or gods, that people worship in their daily life are far more than we might think.  For some, it could be the drive for great success at work. Some might put emphasis on chasing after money and prosperity. Some might place their highest importance on appearances. Some might seek fleshly pleasures, while yet others may be seeking to fulfill inward emotional needs. Some seek praise and popularity. Some cherish other people more than they do God. And some will chase dreams of fame. But regardless of where they are focusing their heart’s desires, they all want it according to their will, their way, their timing, their effort. And all the while they are placing God on the back burner of their lives. What is most sad about these people, those who are busy in their daily idol worship, is that they are usually the people who claim to be church-attending, Bible-believing, Christians. And while there is nothing wrong with working hard, making an income, taking care of others, and having a respectable image, what matters is their source: God or self.

If we truly understand God, how He explicitly time and time again warns people through His Word to stay clear of idols, that we are to be on our guard against them, and to not even mention the name of other gods (Exodus 23:13), we would be more conscientious regarding the things we place as important. Even within the walls of the church throughout history, priority has been misplaced on things like status, buildings, mannerisms, and even material objects…so much more than the truth of God. And despite what you would think about the church today, idolatry is still a very prevalent problem. When non-believers struggle to see the difference between the world and the church, you have rampant idolatry happening. 

Psalm 106:35-36 points out the issue; how the church has diminished their worship of God, “but mingled themselves with the nations, and learned their works, and served their idols, which became a snare unto them.” And in 1 Corinthians 10:21-22, Paul warns that “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?”

So how do we respond to this? Have you chosen this day whom you will serve? Do you cherish with lust the material things of this world or do you place importance on fulfilling the desires of God? Do you focus on pleasing others by your outward appearance or focus on how to present yourself before the living God? Do the things of this world take precedence before your walk with God? Has television, media, social media, computers, phones, tablets, games, become gods to you? Even many of the spiritual leaders (false teachers) of today have become so engrossed with garnering worldly idols that they even invent ways to obtain more through their misguided followers. The multitude of idols are there, all aiming to fulfill you with immediate gratification. And all of these idols are what people use to replace God and His Word as the sole want and desire in life.

Gomer was given to Hosea by God to be his wife. Yet, she wanted something else. Her selfishness was a higher priority over God’s ways. And when she went out to fulfill that desire, it fueled her pride and made chasing after her lusts irresistible. Don’t we all have that at times? Where we crave something that might be outside of God’s will? Something that we might place as high priority, even though we know it goes against God and our duties to Him? And though we might have a momentary bit of success that gives us a boost in our ego and we feel accomplished, the insatiable desire never subsides. We just want more. Thus, our downward spiral to idolatry.

As I mentioned before, God’s plans for our lives will never be altered; even by our waywardness and sinful passions. Yet, when we chase after our own wants and needs, we are literally committing spiritual adultery. We are prostituting ourselves out to the highest bidder, as it were, so that we can get what we want, when we want it. Our pride then closes our ears to the Word of God and fills us up like poison…leading us slowly away from the true joy and peace that only God through Christ Jesus can provide. 

I like to compare this overriding pride to driving a car in traffic. When I drive, I do it in a certain manner on the various roadways. Yet when others around me don’t drive at the speed or fashion I want, I find my impatience growing and my attitude toward them becoming hostile. I flair up with frustration that they are impeding my way! I plan on driving at such-and-such speed, yet the person in front of me is going slower than what I want. What’s really happening is my personal pride and demand for things my way are being challenged. We have this very same attitude with God and His Word! His ways are not our ways, yet we want things our way! And with that, we become hostile toward God, ignoring His Word, and ending up being a prodigal chasing after our own gods.

Can you imagine the heart of God as He watches the people that He not only created, but also loves with an everlasting love; continually turning their backs on Him and chasing after statues and false gods and lusts of the flesh? And though His love transcends the understanding of man, He still wants our complete and full love and adoration and obedience. We are created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. His love is unfailing. Yet, we fail Him by turning our devotion to things created instead of the Creator. In Romans chapter one, it says that “…they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” That is what the fallen do. That is what the unbelievers do. But, sadly, that is also what many professing believers do…worship any and every thing other than our Lord God.

God shows us by examples throughout the Old Testament that He is the only true God, a patient God, and yet a jealous God. God’s love and patience is beyond understanding, yet it also has limits. There has been in the past, and will occur in the future, God unleashing His wrath on the wicked and unrepentant. The Israelites learned this time and time again. Look at how many times they were punished and lost favor with God for their sinful rebellions and idol worshipping! How many of God’s people were destroyed eternally because of their impenitent hearts? But for the people who repent of their pride, their waywardness, their selfish desires, He welcomes them back! Those who turned away from idols and ceased worshipping other gods were granted forgiveness! 

And we also see this very love from God in the New Testament. That God manifested Himself in His Son Jesus to come and bring His elect a way of salvation from the coming wrath, by paying the penalty for our sins on the cross, so that whosoever believes in Him and repents of their sins (turning away from them), and puts their faith in Him, will be forgiven! When Christ rose from the grave, he defeated the last enemy, death, so that we, who have received His mercy of forgiveness, will have eternal life with Him! We worship God alone through Christ Jesus alone by the power of the Holy Spirit. We shall have NO other gods before Him. 

God is mercy and His grace is given to those who put away their idols and follow Him. It says in the Scriptures that He calls you back if you will “Only acknowledge your guilt, that you rebelled against the LORD your God and scattered your favors among foreigners under every green tree, and that you have not obeyed my voice, declares the LORD. Return, O faithless children, declares the LORD; for I am your master; I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion.” -Jeremiah 3:13-14

I can attest that I have had my attention distracted by wants and desires very easily at times. I end up taking my focus off of the prize, the goal set before me (Philippians 3:14). It’s a daily struggle. I doubt anyone can say that they don’t encounter this in their lives from time to time. But it’s when we find or create idols that consume our priorities, when we put our hope, trust, and faith in them, it’s then that we lose out on precious fellowship with the Lord. It’s worshiping these other gods that create an emptiness in our spirit and causes God to become angry. A. W. Pink said “So long as we are occupied with any other object than God Himself, there will be neither rest for the heart nor peace for the mind.” This is a war that we must fight to win, because our souls, and perhaps the souls of others, depend on it! 

Our only solution is keeping God as our only God (first Commandment) and by keeping the Word of God in our hearts and minds by daily meditating on it (Psalm 119:9-11, 2 Timothy 3:16-17), and continually asking God’s Spirit for leading (1 Thessalonians 5:17), so that we can overcome this world and be ready for the glory of the next! 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” -Hebrews 12:1-2

If we are wise and discerning, we know that the Lord’s ways are perfect when compared to our ways. Because his plans will not be ruined, we should walk in His ways, upright, not stumbling about as the lost are in this lost world. Hosea paid the full price to restore his bride back to himself. God paid the full price for the penalty of our sins through Jesus to restore us to Himself. 

Our sign of true faith is our obedience, keeping His Word, and worshipping the one true God. We shall have no other gods or idols. Instead of worshipping ourselves, submit to God and “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” -Romans 12:1

By this, we shall revere and honor and obey the True and Living God! 

Amen