Archive for August, 2016

Turn Here (Ezekiel 18-19)

August 31, 2016

32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.” Ezekiel 18:32

A few days ago our youngest son turned 15.  In the state of Georgia you can get your leaners permit to drive at this age.  So very early on his birthday we got up and traveled to the D.M.V. to take his test.  John passed the test!!!  This is where the turn began.  Since then, everywhere we have traveled we have a new driver.  It has been fund to sit back and let someone else do the driving.

Question:  “Who is doing the driving in your life?”

In Ezekiel 18 the issue before us is the issue of God’s judgment and man’s responsibility. The proverb of the day was this, “It’s not my fault.”  Israel was facing God’s judgment and she was trying to shift responsibility to her forefathers.

Here is what we know:

  • The Lord is completely sovereign in the lives of all men. 18:4
  • The Lord gives all men clear standards to live by. 18:5-20
    • If a man is righteous, he or she will be given life.
    • If a man is unrighteous, he or she will be judged.

Each person is responsible for their own actions.  Paul wrote the following in Romans 2:9-10

There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.

  • The Lord is completely sinless in judging the lives of all men. 18:30-32

Here is what we need to know:

God desires for all men to turn from their sin (headed to the grave and hell).  God desires for all men to turn to Jesus (receive the grace of God), Ephesians 2:8-9.

Israel refused to turn and drove themselves into the grave of destruction and it was their own decision.  This is why Ezekiel laments in chapter 19.  But they could have turned to the Lord.

It is just like Sherry and I giving the keys to John to drive.  We now are being directed instead of directing.  Oh that men would ride with King Jesus.

I challenge each reader to ride with Jesus at the wheel today!!!

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You wanted to (Ezekiel 16-17)

August 30, 2016

34 So you were different from other women in your whorings. No one solicited you to play the whore, and you gave payment, while no payment was given to you; therefore you were different. Ezekiel 16:34

Have you ever openly spoke critically of something you internally wished you could do?  This may seem like a strange question, but it is the question that God placed before me as I thought about Israel’s sin against God.

The truth is, “Our sinful old nature would love to dive into the whoredom of the world.”

In Luke 15, the older son looked and spoke with a critical heart toward his younger brother. I believe he really wanted to do the same things his brother did, but outwardly tried to cover up his wicked heart.

In Ezekiel 16, the wicked hearts of Israel are laid bare.  The chapter is filled with shocking, scandalise, and searing facts:

  • It is shocking to see the great love of God in taking the unwanted (Israel) and making out of her a beautiful bride, Vs: 1-14.
  • It is scandalise to see how the people turned to unbelievable whoredome, Vs: 15-23.
  • It is searing to my heart to realize how this all came about because Israel wanted to sin, Vs: 34-39.

    This is beyond my ability to comprehend!!!  God said, You are being judged because you wanted to do these things, Vs: 40.

    This is more than we want to see!!!  When I sin, it is because I want to

    Lord show us truth this day!!!

    This day we need to remember how God saved us and how He has blessed us with the splendor of heavenly riches.  We need to remember how our old nature used to control us and how our old nature wants to always control us.  Apart from God’s love and power, we would still be where we used to be.

    Israel was beyond hope in herself.  However there was a promise of help to come.  Ezekiel 17: 22

    22 Thus says the Lord God: “I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and will set it out. I will break off from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one, and I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. 

This help is the coming of Jesus who is the Righteous branch.  Question, “Have you received this help?”  If so, stand in Him as your face the slow tug of the old nature.  Here are amazing words from Paul in I Corinthians 15:58

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

 

Useless (Ezekeil 13-15)

August 29, 2016

Behold, it is given to the fire for fuel. When the fire has consumed both ends of it, and the middle of it is charred, is it useful for anything? Ezekiel 15:4

Question:  “How would you feel, if someone said: You are useless.”  The people of Israel were in a place where they were no longer of any use to the work of the Lord.  They were no longer serving the Lord in any capacity.  In God’s eyes they had become useless.  Question: “When something becomes useless at your home, what do you do with it?”  In our house it is placed in the garbage!!!

Two New Testament Scriptures come to mind:

Matthew 5:13

13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

Our lives as followers of Christ are to be useful for the work of the Lord.  Anything less places us in a useless state.

John 15:4-7

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Our lives only find value and worth as we live our lives in the newness of Christ.

This morning I watched others as I sat in a motel lobby reading the Word of God.  I wondered, “How many are useful for the God who created them?”  I leave you with two reminders:

  • The Lord can use anyone who surrenders their lives to Him.
  • The Lord will use you and I as we walk in His Spirit.

Oh to be useful for the master.

Let’s eat before we go (Ezekiel 1-4)

August 26, 2016

And he said to me, “Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat. And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey.

And he said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with my words to them. Ezekiel 3:1-4

Imagine beginning a long journey without food or water.  To make it worse, imagine nowhere to get food along the way.  This would be truly a suicide mission!  What would be even worse would be if the place where you were going was inhabited by people who were counting on you to bring them food and water.  Truly this would be a bad scene.

Before us this day is a new book of the Old Testament.  Ezekiel is a book that tells us the story of Israel during their days of captivity.  Ezekiel is one of the brightest and best men who have been carried away captive to Babylon.  As the book open he has just turned 30 years old.

His assignment is life was to be a priest, but now his call is to the ministry of a Prophet.  The book of Ezekiel can be broken into 3 sections:

  • Chapters 1-24 tell us of God’s judgment on Israel.
  • Chapters 25-32 tell us of God’s judgment on the nations of the world.
  • Chapters 33-45 tell us of the promise of hope and mercy.

This day we read chapters 1-4 which set the scope of the long journey for Ezekiel.  He is truly called to take spiritual food, i.e. “Word of God,” to be without food or water.

Here are the highlights of the first 4 chapters:

  • In chapter one Ezekiel encounters the Glory of God.
  • In chapter two Ezekiel encounters the call of God.
  • In chapter three Ezekiel engages in the work of God.
  • In chapter four Ezekiel faces his first mission.

For our moments I want to focus on Ezekiel engaging in the Work of God.  The work is not easy.  Ezekiel is called to speak to his own people, 3:4-6.  His own people do not want to listen.  He is called to be strong even though the people will push back. 3:7-10.  We see his brokenness over his work, 3:15.  He is called to strong accountability in 3:16-27.

Question:  “How could he serve up spiritual food apart from taking in spiritual food.”  This is why he is told to eat before he goes.  Brothers and sisters, if we hope to reach our home, neighborhood, nation, and nations, we must eat before we go.

This is truly the point given to us by Jesus in John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

As we encounter the glory of God, take in the Word of God, be filled with the Spirit of God, we eat before we go and we feed those who inhabit the places where we go.  So, let’s get to eating!!!

 

Watching for what never came (Lamentations 4-5)

August 25, 2016

Our eyes failed, ever watching
    vainly for help;
in our watching we watched
    for a nation which could not save. Lamentations 4:17

I once read the story of a young man who sat all afternoon waiting for his Father to come and pick him up for an evening together.  But the father never came.  It seemed that the Father had to work late and forgot to call his son.

Some of you who just read the above paragraph felt the weight of the illustration because you have lived out that illustration.  Question:  “Was this the case for Israel?”  Did God fail to come and help a people who were waiting for Him?

I remind you of Jeremiah’s five poems of Lament.  These poems reveal to us the devastating hurt experienced by Jeremiah and the people of Israel as they face the wrath of God.  Possibly chapter 5 is the worst revelation of hurt?  The people are living in disgrace, Vs: 5.  Three movements catch my eye in chapter 5:

  • Jeremiah asks:  “Are we paying for the sins of our fathers?” Vs: 7

Allow this to sink in.  Jeremiah wonders and he asks, “Is it our fault or the fault of our fathers that we are paying for sin?”  Footnote: “You and I pay only for the sins we commit,” Jeremiah 31:39.

  • Jeremiah admits: “For we have sinned.” Vs: 16

The price they are paying is more than they can bear, Vs: 3-15.  Their joy is turned to mourning.

  • Jeremiah affirms: “But God reigns forever and ever.” Vs: 19.

Jeremiah knows of the justice of God, but he also knows of the mercy of God in restoring those who ask, Vs: 21.

This truth grips me.  Unlike the earthly father who failed to come for the son who was watching, the heavenly Father always comes to those who are Biblically watching!!!  Those who Biblically watch turn from their sin, II Chronicles 7:14, and they wait in active lives of holiness, I Thessalonians 1:10.

Jeremiah was watching as he should.  But the nation was vainly watching without repentance.  So the devastation continued.

All of this leads me to one final question:  “How low does a person have to sink before they will turn?” Consider the following:

  • The rich man sunk into hell and did not turn, Luke 16:19-32.
  • The prosperous farmer faced a certain death and did not turn, Luke 12:15-20.
  • 3000 people in Acts 2:38 did turn.

The difference was in hearing of the Word of God and the conviction of the Spirit of God!!!  This day I want to watch, pray, and share in the Biblical waiting outlined by God.  Oh my friend, the Father is coming. Keep watching!!!

 

The Great Consequence (Lamentations 1-3

August 24, 2016

Her uncleanness was in her skirts;
    she took no thought of her future;[a]
therefore her fall is terrible;
    she has no comforter.
“O Lord, behold my affliction,
    for the enemy has triumphed!” Lamentations 1:9

When a child looks at a situation he or she usually never things about the consequences of what they do.  They simply just do it.  I can remember looking at an electrical wall socket as a 5-year-old.  I wondered, “what is inside the 3 slits?”  I wondered, “What will happen if I place a screwdriver in one of the slits?”  I never thought anything about the consequences.  What happened next was a “shock.”

I truly believe the Scriptures are clear, “We reap what we sow,” Galatians 6:7.  We see the great consequences of Israel’s sin in the first three chapters of the book of Lamentations.  Here the prophet Jeremiah laments (pours out his heart) in the writing style of poems.

  • In chapter one we read of the devastation of the city. We read of the depths of their hopelessness.  We read of God’s righteous reason for judging Israel.  We end the chapter knowing Israel is reaping the consequences of their sin.

 

  • In chapter two we read of the continual brokenness of the prophet over the destruction of the city.  The prophet calls the people to repentance in Vs: 18-19

18 Their heart cried to the Lord.
    O wall of the daughter of Zion,
let tears stream down like a torrent
    day and night!
Give yourself no rest,
    your eyes no respite!

19 “Arise, cry out in the night,
    at the beginning of the night watches!
Pour out your heart like water
    before the presence of the Lord!
Lift your hands to him
    for the lives of your children,
who faint for hunger
    at the head of every street.”

  • In chapter three we see how dark it is for Jeremiah.  He writes, “I have forgotten what happiness is,” Vs: 17.

Such is the consequences of living life in rebellion against God. But greater still, I think of the consequences of what Jesus faced so that we could go free without consequence, II Corinthians 5:21.  We serve an awesome God who has taken our consequences for us.

 

Jeremiah describes this as, “The Lord has taken up my cause.”  3:58-59.

Question:  “Have you placed your consequences before the Lord?”  This day God has a clear path to go free from your consequences:

  1. Consider what you have done, 3:28.
  2. Accept the consequences, 3:29-30.
  3. Seek the forgiveness and restoration of God, 3:31-32.

This is the path that will lead to the reality of John 8:36

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

When hammer falls (Jeremiah 51-52)

August 23, 2016

20 “You are my hammer and weapon of war:
with you I break nations in pieces;
    with you I destroy kingdoms, Jeremiah 51:20

Yesterday morning the headlines read as follows: “Words of war, North Korea threatens nuclear strike against South Korea and the U.S.”

When I was a child, a headline like the above would have caused great fear to many people.  But sadly, this has become the norm in a world filled with lawlessness and wrath.

I wonder, did the people in Jeremiah’s day become complacent with the many words of His prophetic declaration of the end of his nation?  I wonder, did the people really take seriously what was being predicted?

One this is for sure.  They did once it happened.  Here before us in chapters 51 and 52 we read about the fulfillment of what Jeremiah predicted.  As I read these chapters an old phrase came to mind, “The hammer falls.”

Maybe you have heard this phrase before.  Read below the definition of this phrase:

“The hammer falls” means “this is at an end”. The “hammer” falling is that of an auctioneer at the end of an auction or a judge at the end of a trial. The phrase should be used to deliver a dramatic, emphatic finality to the issue at hand. Cited from the Urban Dictionary

This phrase helps us to understand the following:

  • The wrath of God.

Babylon was used as God’s hammer to judge Israel for her rebellion, 51: 1-3.  We have seen this over and over in Jeremiah’s predictions.  This same Babylon would experience God’s hammer upon her for her rebellion against God.  51:24

24 “I will repay Babylon and all the inhabitants of Chaldea before your very eyes for all the evil that they have done in Zion, declares the Lord.

This reality points us to another day when God’s hammer will fall against Babylon one more time in Revelation 17-18.  Keep in mind, the Babylon in Revelation represents the world system that stands against God.

  • The grace of God.

Chapter 52 in the book of Jeremiah ends with the King of Judah being given grace in a foreign land.

Question:  “Did Jeremiah 51 and 52 stir you to fear or to faith?”

Two concluding thoughts:

  1. The same hammer of Babylon will be released once again to crush this world, Revelation 15-16.
  2. The same hammer of God will be released to bring the world to its knees, Revelation 17-19.

Which team are you on?  Revelation 22:11-12

11 Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.”

12 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.

What If? (Jeremiah 49-50)

August 22, 2016

45 Therefore hear the plan that the Lord has made against Babylon, and the purposes that he has formed against the land of the Chaldeans: Surely the little ones of their flock shall be dragged away; surely their fold shall be appalled at their fate. 46 At the sound of the capture of Babylon the earth shall tremble, and her cry shall be heard among the nations.” Jeremiah 50:45-46

One of the most agitating questions for me has always been, “What If?”  When I was a young pastor, I always disliked this question because I deemed it a lack of faith question.  Now that I have hopefully matured, I realize the value of this question in some circumstances.

This was the question that came to mind as I continued with you reading the section of Jeremiah (46:1-51:64) in which Jeremiah predicts God’s coming judgment upon the world in his day.  As I finished chapter 49. I turned the page in my Bible.  I read verses 1-2 of chapter 50.  Suddenly the question came: “What if the Lord decided to judge our world in the way He judged Babylon in Jesus day?”

Immediately this question triggered three more questions:

  • Why did God judge Babylon?

We see three reasons listed in chapter 50: 1. Because she worshipped false Gods, Vs: 2.  The Bible says, “She was mad over idols,” Vs: 38.  2. Because she oppressed the weak, Vs: 18.  3. Because she stored up all of the wealth for herself, Vs: 36.

  • When would this judgment take place?

In Vs: 13 we see the “vengeance of the Lord.” In Vs: 18, “We see the Lord who is bringing punishment.”  In Vs: 25 we see “the Lord who has work to do.”

The fact is God’s vengeance was inflicted on Babylon as His punishment.  The work God did was the complete destruction of the nation by the powers of Persia.  We see the last night of their existence in Daniel 5.

  • Could this happen again?

Someone said: “If it does not happen again, God will have to resurrect all He has judged an issue an apology.”  We understand Babylon is a title given to the nations of the world who are in rebellion against God.  We see in Revelation 17-18 the destruction of the world in which it will never be again!!

Brothers and sisters, The what if question is really a when question!!!

Our genuine hope is in one person:  “Our Redeemer Jesus Christ.” Luke 21:28

28 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Brothers and sisters, we should rejoice because of our “When.”  Brothers and sisters, we should cancel all vacations and with urgency fill the land with the message of “When.”

Sitting this one out (Habakkuk 1-3)

August 19, 2016

You who are of purer eyes than to see evil
    and cannot look at wrong,
why do you idly look at traitors
    and remain silent when the wicked swallows up
    the man more righteous than he? Habakkuk 1:13

It was all I could do to finish the game.  The others on each side seemed to have all kinds of energy, but for me, 20 years older than each of these guys, one game was enough.  So when they said, “Lets play another game.”  I responded, “I am going to sit this one out.”

My reason for sitting out, “I was out of both energy as well as willpower.”  All I wanted to do was to be left alone o rest.

Question:  “Do you ever think God just kind of sits out moments of your life or moments in the chaos of the world?”

This was exactly what the Prophet Habakkuk was considering as he writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Keep in mind, these are the days of Jeremiah (our readings for the past week).  These are the days when there is extreme evil taking place with God’s people.  Habakkuk cannot reconcile the sin of the people and what he considers to be the silence of God (1:2-4).

The Lord’s response is both deep (1:5) and devastating (1:6-11).  God was doing anything but sitting this one out.  He was moving the Chaldeans to be His instrument of judgment upon Israel.

Habakkuk cannot understand why God would use such wicked people (1:12-17).  He places his questions before God and he waits for an answer (2:1).  God’s answer is His answer for our day:

               I am coming to judge the wicked and to reward the just.2:2-3:15

Question:  “Does this sound like a God who is sitting out?”

The truth is, you and I sometimes are the ones who sit out when God intends for us to be in the trenches of life.  We are His hands and feet.  We are the ones who are called to work for His pleasure, Philippians 2:12-14.

Habakkuk takes his stand in the last part of chapter 3.

17 Though the fig tree should not blossom,
    nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
    and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
    and there be no herd in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
    I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
19 God, the Lord, is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the deer’s;
    he makes me tread on my high places.

Here is how he stood and how we must stand:

  1.  He engaged the world knowing God would judge all men.
  2. He trusted in God knowing He would provide for him in a world gone crazy.

Oh that you and I would trust in His power, His perspective, and His provision in these wicked days!!!

 

 

Never say never (II Kings 24-25; II Chronicles 36)

August 18, 2016

22 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: 23 “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him. Let him go up.’” II Chronicles 36:22-23

Question:  “Do you know someone who is facing a situation that seems hopeless?”

I know someone.  Actually I know a whole nation of people who were in a hopeless situation.  Who were these people?  They were the nation of Israel during the days of the Kings of Israel.  This morning you read of their final days as Nebuchadnezzar came to destroy their nation.  We know from previous readings that the destruction was God’s wrath being delivered to a people who continually rebelled against Him.  Here is how the Bible describes their rebellion:

15 The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. 16 But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against his people, until there was no remedy.

In this moment, it seems as if there is never going to be any more hope for these people.  The words of Scripture flood my heart at this moment, “But God..” Ephesians 2:4.  When our backs are against the wall, there is God.

Jeremiah had prophesied , 25:12, 13; 29:10; 33:10 that God would bring out the people from bondage.  And in God’s fulness of time, He did so.

This Scripture reminds us to never say never!!!  With God there is always a day beyond the darkness of never.  God had promised a day beyond the darkness way back in Deuteronomy 30:6 and it would come to be when Jesus came.  This is our great hope.  II Corinthians 3:16.

Let me challenge you to insert “But God” into your darkness of never.  Let me challenge you to insert “But God” into the darkness of a never filled world.  Jesus is the answer for the darkness:  John 8:12

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”