Category Archives: righteousness

God is a Promise Keeper; are You?

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Deut 7-8 Isaiah wrote that God is a promise keeper. He opens the eyes of the blind and frees prisoners. That could mean literally or spiritually and perhaps both. Our arch adversary seeks to keep God’s children both blind and imprisoned. But, when God delivers us, we should remember Jesus’ words: do not return to the adversary lest something worse happen. We must destroy the works of the enemy because if we do not, he and his demons will turn away our children from the faith to serve other gods. That was the warning Moses gave the children of Israel.

Secondly, God wants us to remember that he did not set his love upon us or choose us because of anything within us, but only because He loves us. It is because of his love that he promised to keep his oath and redeemed us from the prison of sin. We also need this reminder that within us lies no good thing yet because of His faithfulness He chose us from eternity past for His purpose. “The promise that I make does not return to me, having accomplished nothing. No, it is realized as I desire and is fulfilled as I intend” [Is 55]

So why do we not experience full pardon and freedom to see all that God has for us? It is because we simply do not want to destroy that which binds us utterly. We are comfortable in our sins. Until we come to the place that we desire God more than our sin that we will be free.

So where are you?

Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

Decision Time

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Numbers 22  Many preachers and SS teachers use the story of Balaam and the speaking donkey to enthrall audiences, but there is more to this story than just the donkey. God used Balaam in an unlikely manner to reveal his heart and the way Satan uses unbelievers in our lives.

God questioned Balaam about his visitors. “Who are these men? Balaam kept up a dialog with God about them, and on the surface, it seems that he was obeying. However, step by step, Balaam fell headlong into the temptation of earthly riches, which was stronger than obeying God. Like many today, Balaam tried to appear righteous by his answer that he could not curse Israel, but his actions prove the opposite. Balaam sought ways to obey God and yet get the riches the King offered. The last test came when God explicitly tested Balaam when he said: “if” these men have come to call you, get up and go with them. But, Balaam didn’t wait for the “if” clause and instead got up and went.

There are several lessons for us to glean. One is that if you say you must ask God for his wise counsel, you must take a stand and stand firm. A second lesson is God gives us tests to discern if we will obey His voice or our own.

 

Guilty or Forgiven?

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Zechariah 3 “How Do You Stand; Guilty as Charged or Forgiven?”

Picture a courtroom scene with the accuser and the defender and you in the middle. You stand before the righteous judge who listens to both sides of the argument. One says you are guilty and provides the evidence. Heads turn and you as the criminal listen and wonder.  Will I be convicted? Is there hope?  Yet, you also know that your very presence in prison garb hardly is a testimony of any innocence but in fact your guilt. As the accuser cries out your crimes we hear from the bench: May the Lord rebuke you –not once but twice. And at that moment you see the accuser and the courtroom silenced. 

How strategically God has placed this vision before Zechariah as a picture of us in all of our iniquities and prison clothing. We stand guilty but the Lord of Heaven’s Armies cries out: I was in the fire with him, but I snatched him out. Instantly, t the smoke and smell of fire were extinguished and you hear: remove his filthy clothes! What the accuser meant evil; God meant for good that His plan of redemption could be seen by all.

Gently and with love you hear; Follow my ways, keep my requirements and you will come and go with others. You will be a picture of my love, my forgiveness, and my blessing.

You have been forgiven and given a robe of righteousness. Go forth as God’s forgiven child.

God’s Post-it-notes

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Joel 1-3  If you just read the first chapter of the Prophet Joel’s message you would just groan and say no more, no more! Like the nation to whom Joel is writing you too may be facing a time of crisis. Yet, Joel starts by listing all of God’s post-it-notes, the first of which is:  “He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness, relenting of evil.”   Be convinced that He Is the Lord your God! He is the Lord who dwells in Zion. Joel reminds the people that God will have compassion on His people and then asks, did you forget? He promised long ago to restore your grain as well as fresh wine and olive oil and you will be fully satisfied! Those words remind us of one of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” [Matt 5]

So after all of the locusts who devour and the priests who are in mourning and the farmers who are wailing, God reminds them that they are to proclaim a holy and sacred assembly and call out for help from the Lord.

Have you forgotten the message of Joel? God is speaking directly, personally and urgently to you to call unto Him and seek His face.

Being a Disciple in an Angry World

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Jeremiah 5  Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet and as you wander through his diary you can see the tears on every page. Being sold out for God means you weep with those who weep and smile with those who smile. It is a mixed bag. It isn’t easy being God’s disciple in an angry world. God calls him because He knows Jeremiah will be faithful to the end. Are we?

As he walks the city streets of Jerusalem God is saying, I need you to be My eyes. What do you see?  You live there. Is there even a single person who is dealing honestly? Is there even a single person who is trying to be truthful? If the answer is yes I will refrain from punishing.

Remember Abraham with God overlooking Sodom? Instead of God asking, it was Abraham. He asks God will you really sweep away the godly along with the wicked. What if there are 50 godly people and so on the argument went. In the end, Abraham’s pleading saved Lot because as Peter notes that he was righteous and in anguish over the debauched life of Sodom.

It isn’t easy being a disciple in an angry world. Does God count us faithful to be His eyes and ears? Are we willing to plead for God to spare the righteous?

 

Innocent

There are many TV shows that trace a fledgling law firm which seeks to help those who are less fortunate navigate the judicial system. Some come out with what seems perfect justice but sometimes the evidence seems rather sketchy and even a stretch. Only God knows the truth and only an individual who will stand before God knows his heart.

Psalm 16-18 Innocent: When you see this word what comes to mind? The Hebrew defines that word as what is right, rightness, justness. Hmm, seems kind of a muddy definition and especially so when we look at David’s life and see his sin of adultery, his faithlessness in disciplining his son for rape. We cry foul! God cries innocent! Does that seem rather contradictory? It is then that we must stop pointing fingers and look at what David and we know if we are believers.

Truth: God looks not at outward appearances but at the heart. We judge by what we see, God judges by what we do not see.

Outwardly we see a failing individual but inwardly God sees a man fully consecrated to Him. Outwardly we see a man who seems to be faltering but God sees a man who chooses to reject worthless idols because of faith. Outwardly we see a man who pours out his heart to the living God but God sees a man who chooses to trust Him. We see a man who reveals his heart but God sees a man who allows Him to examine him during the night hours while the world swirled around him.

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No matter how the world sees you, (or you see yourself), know this, the Everlasting God sees you and your heart.  Our question then is when He looks into our heart what does He see?

 

 

Seeing Beyond

Facing Death in the face is hard for the person facing it and the person beholding it. No matter what, it is harder than hard. We do not want to lose our loved ones or our most precious friends but the author of Hebrews reminds us, death is certain. In those difficult moments, we want to be sensitive, not harsh. Unfortunately, there are the Bildads and Zophars who think they know what we should do to prepare. Ever met them or experienced them? Or worse—-are you one of them? 

Bildad offers his take on wickedness in hopes that Job will see himself in that light. He seems to know that the “king of terrors,” a.k.a. Satan is behind all of this and if Job doesn’t change he will go the way of all wicked men. All of his descriptions are true and graphic. We should stop and wonder why Bildad is so sure that Job fits this category?  How often do we act like Bildad when we can’t get our friend to face “facts?”

Job responds that yes he understands the ways of the wicked and yes he understands that the Almighty weighs in and yes that is the way all of this happens…BUT… you fear the sword—I do not. I know this that even in my deepest moment of crisis, God is my Redeemer and I will see Him face to face one day.

You remain in your fear; I will trust Him who holds my destiny in His hand.

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When a dear friend is suffering and they are asking “why,” and you think that death is imminent employ love, not fear.  Don’t assume you know the plan God has for them. Instead, help them cross the great divide by having them look to the Redeemer not the “king of terrors.”  If you aren’t sure of how to do this, take the letter from the Redeemer himself and read it:

He is life, He knows the beginning from the end. He is the resurrection and the life. He has crossed the great divide and He has the answers.

Even in this darkest of times, Job sees the light; he is sure of his vindication but not the when or how.

Send me a note if you don’t know who the Redeemer is; let’s talk. 

Who is God to you?

When was the last time you just sat and pondered God and His character? What thoughts went through your mind?  Read Neh 9; Ask yourself: “Who is God?”

 

The wall of Jerusalem is completed, the enemies were unsuccessful, the gates are in place and it is time to “party!” Well, no not exactly; it is time to stop and thank God! It is time to listen to His Word! neh 9 17 god isa In fact, as the people listened to Ezra read the word there was no party mentality.  They began to mourn and weep because they realized how they had failed God in the past. Ezekiel reminded his listeners that would be exactly what their future family members would do when they returned to Jerusalem! Ezekiel wrote: “you will remember, be ashamed, and remain silent because of your disgrace when I make atonement for all you have done, declares the Sovereign Lord.” And today as we read in chapter 9 of Nehemiah we see that many, many years later that they knew this truth: “You are righteous with regard to all that has happened to us, for you have acted faithfully. It is we who have been in the wrong!”

We quickly forget how gracious God is and sometimes it takes a rude awakening to help us see that truth! Who is He? The people said: “you are a God of forgiveness, merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and unfailing in your loyal love.”

That is the God I serve, obey and love…at least that is what I hope is true in your life today.

Add a comment below to answer that question.

 

How do stories like God killing someone make you feel? Queezy? Sad? God has a lesson for us in how we are to treat him.

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1Chron 10-13  These chapters begin and end in the same way: The Lord killed.

The scripture is plain and clear; death is the enemy we all face once and after that the judgment. Thus the sadness of that statement is overwhelming because of the stench of death is what we avoid. We euphemisms like one has passed, gone to a better place and others, but God simply says He killed.  Do you have trouble wrapping your mind around that statement? Like the world, we fail to realize that God is holy and He is the author of life and death.

Why does God kill someone? 

God killed Saul for his unfaithfulness and God killed Uzzah for the same reason. God is jealous and He is holy and we are to treat him as such. Both Saul and Uzzah treated God carelessly. Because Saul failed to listen to the prophet Samuel and failed to listen to God, God eventually quit listening to Saul. In the end, God finally killed him because Saul’s attitude was irreverent.  Because Uzzah had perhaps come too comfortable with the Ark in his home, he failed to remember that the Ark was the very presence of God. When he reached up to touch the Ark, his irreverence was revealed and God killed him.

Do these two stories cause you to be uncomfortable?

Perhaps it is because we, like Uzzah or Saul, have become too comfortable with God.

What do you think of sin?

Do you casually dismiss what God says about sin? Learn from this sad interlude in the life of Joshua.

Joshua 7  Joshua 7 john-mark-smith-2aJoshua may have been the ‘never.look.back’ man, but even he faced trials and like us, he too sometimes fell flat on his face seeking answers. Take the case of the sin of Achan. The victory at Jericho spurred Israel on and after scouting out the territory of the next city, felt a small force could take it. How wrong they were; 36 men died in that battle and the residents of Ai had a victory party.

Joshua fell on his face before God and his prayer is an echo of what the Israelites had said to Moses over a 40 yr period as they wailed and complained to God. But God was less than happy with his chosen leader and responded “Get up! Why are you lying there face down?” Sometimes God has to do that with us as well. It isn’t God’s fault that we are in this pickle, but our own sin. Unbeknown to Joshua, there was sin in the camp. God challenged Joshua to take steps to eradicate the sin and the sinner and we must do likewise. Even though the Israelites had heard of God’s directive of the ban on all things in Jericho, Achan had casually dismissed it. How like us. We know what God desires but we fail to think ahead to the consequences of disobedience. Do you dismiss sin? Do you think “God will understand.”  Unlike us, God does not dismiss sin but demands purity and righteousness. We foolishly think our sin only affects us. Be forewarned; “be sure your sin will find you out.” [Num 32:23]

Learn from this sad interlude. Allow the Holy Spirit to prick your heart of any sin that lurks there so that God can bless us.

Photo courtesy of: John-Mark Smith/Unsplash + caption