Archive for August, 2021

Live or Die (Ezekiel 18-19)

August 31, 2021

30 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Ezekiel 18:30

Imagine standing in front of your captors and facing a choice. Your choice will determine if you live our die. The choice is simple: Recant your faith and follow false gods or stick with your faith and die with Jesus. This choice seems easy for we who live without persecution, but for those in persecution, the choice is really life or death.

As I consider the illustration, my mind turns to Ezekiel who was placing before his own people life or death. The people had chosen to follow a sinful path that would lead to certain earthly and eternal death. But it did not have to be this way.

Now, it seems that some were blaming God for their circumstance. In their view, their parents raised them to be sinners and they were just following in their parents footsteps. But God said, you will not be judged by what your parents did. Here is a summary of Ezekiel 18:

  • The soul that sins shall die (18:4).
  • The soul that turns to God shall live (18:20).

Brothers and sisters, God was not happy with their choice to live in death. God was not content to let the world die in sin. God had zero pleasure in the death of the wicked. God desired and still desires that each person would turn from their sin and embrace the way of life.

31 Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.”

God so wanted this that He made the supreme sacrifice of sending His Own Son (John 3:16). All who come to Him are made new, forgiven, given a new heart and a new life.

Today, every person can choose life. Paul writing to Titus gave this wonderful news:

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14

Through grace sinners are brought to life.

In grace sinners turn from the old life.

In power sinners live a new life.

2 questions:

  1. What type of life will you live today?
  2. Who will you rescue from death today?

Comparing Yourself to Others (Ezekiel 16-17)

August 30, 2021

 51 Samaria has not committed half your sins. You have committed more abominations than they, and have made your sisters appear righteous by all the abominations that you have committed, Ezekiel 16:51

A pastor found himself in a most difficult position. A rich man had died in his community and he was asked to conduct the memorial service. The pastor knew the wife to be a godly woman and he knew that her husband was the most wicked man in their city. Despite all of his efforts he could not find anything good to say about the man. He even tried to compare him to wicked people in history and no one came close to his wickedness.

I wonder, if you were to compare yourself to someone, who would it be?

I ask this question because of what God said to Judah through the prophet. God said, Judah you are so wicked that you even make other people’s sins seem small in comparison to yours. Now, I do not know about you, but this stings deeply in my soul. One of the things that I try to do is to first seek God’s Word to me before I write about God’s Word for you.

Here is what I realize about me:

  1. I am wicked beyond repair. No one I know is worse than I as a sinner (Rom. 3:20-23).
  2. I am not alone. Everyone is born as a sinner in rebellion against God (Rom. 3:10-17).
  3. I have only one hope and that hope is Jesus (Rom. 3:24-27).
  4. I must boast in Jesus because He has done for me what no one else could do. He cleansed me from who I am.

Paul’s writing’s are so precious here:

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Gal. 6:14

Brothers and sisters, we are not called to boast in who we have become (Rom. 3:27) or to position ourselves with worse sinners to look better. On no! We are to boast in what Christ has done in us.

“Thank you Jesus for saving this wicked sinner. I could never praise you enough for what you did and what you are doing in my life every day. I love you Jesus!!!”

2 questions:

  1. Who are you comparing yourself?
  2. How is Jesus changing your life?

I Will Cut You Down (Ezekiel 5-8)

August 27, 2021

11 Therefore, as I live, declares the Lord God, surely, because you have defiled my sanctuary with all your detestable things and with all your abominations, therefore I will withdraw.[c] My eye will not spare, and I will have no pity.  Ezekiel 5:11

As you read the above Scripture, you notice I underlined the words, “I will withdraw.” These words were communicated from God to Ezekiel to share with a people who had turned away from God. The footnote in my Bible reads:

“Some Hebrew manuscripts, “I will cut you down.”

In his last album, before his death, Johnny Cash recorded a song with this question in one of the songs, “What are you going to do when God comes to cut you down?”

Brothers and sisters, is our God heartless and harsh? Does He inflict wrath for no reason?

Consider Ezekiel 8. God outlines his reasons for cutting Israel down:

  1. She, in her sin, had driven God from His own house of worship.
  2. She, in her sin, was secretly worshipping false Gods.
  3. She, in her sin, had openly turned her back on God.

God was not harsh nor was He heartless. For generations, He endured the above sins. For generations, He called the people back, but they would not repent. Now, this was God’s last call. He was going to cut the people down.

Question: Have you ever considered what this means? Let me explain what this means in two aspects:

The aspect of now:

The people would experience famine and would even resort to eating their own children. The people would be destroyed by disease, disaster, and war. The children would be enslaved by Israel’s enemies. When God cuts a person down he or she loses the favor of God.

Now, I know there are those who say, I have plenty of riches. I don’t need God. But wait, Ezekiel wrote, “Silver and God will not be able to deliver you from the day of wrath.” (7:19).

The now of God’s cutting is worse than we have ever experienced in America.

The aspect of forever:

When God cuts a person down, he or she will die in their sins and then in eternity they will experience the wrath of God forever and forever (Rev. 14:11-12). In the place called Hell, there is continual suffering and pain. In Hell there is no regret, no remorse, only hatred for God. It is an eternal miserable place of judgment that will never end.

As I consider all of this, I am so thankful that God opened my eyes before the day of wrath. I am so thankful Jesus was cut down in my place (Isaiah 53). I am so thankful He is my deliver.

As I consider all of this, I lean into asking God for a different heart:

  • I want a heart that is broken for a lost and dying world. I know of no-one that I want God to cut down.
  • I want a pleading heart that engages people where they are, sharing with them the glorious news of Jesus saves.
  • I want a Spirit-filled heart that is bold in sharing the gospel with impact.

Yes, I want people to be delivered from the wrath to come. I know this is your desire as well.

2 Questions:

  1. How has todays subject spoken to your heart?
  2. How will you make adjustments to your weekend based on what you have read today?

What Will You Say? (Ezekiel 1-4)

August 26, 2021

11 And go to the exiles, to your people, and speak to them and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ whether they hear or refuse to hear.” Ezekiel 3:11

Each person, no matter where they are from, possesses unique sayings that come from their culture. I know that I have phrases that just seem to pop up in my mind because they were said almost daily in my formative years. When those sayings pop up, I must decide if those sayings are helpful for the people I am with. I cannot speak to your sayings, but I can speak to mine:

  • Sometimes those sayings are appropriate in lifting the spirits in a room.
  • Sometimes those sayings are not appropriate because they could fuel a firestorm in a room.
  • Sometimes those says have no power in the room.

Brothers and sisters, I am convinced that only a Word from God can change the course of people’s lives. The Apostle Peter, early on in his walk with Jesus said, “Jesus alone has the words of life,” John 6:68.

The prophet Ezekiel heard from the Lord in his day (1:1). The Lord spoke to him (2:1). The Lord said, “I am sending you to your own people (2:3, 3:4-6). The Lord said, your people are rebellious and stubborn (2:2-8). But do not let this stop you, go and speak the word I give you (2:8).

Brothers and sisters, Ezekiel had to make a choice. Either he would speak the Words of God or he would speak other words. Oh how I pray that we would make the choice Ezekiel made. When we make the correct choice the following happens:

  1. We receive the Word of the Lord.
  2. We pay close attention to every detail.
  3. We go to those the Word of the Lord is intended for.

This is how God spoke this to Ezekiel:

 10 Moreover, he said to me, “Son of man, all my words that I shall speak to you receive in your heart, and hear with your ears. 11 And go to the exiles

Ezekiel went and he got up-close and personal with the people. For 7 days he sat astonished at what he saw. It would do you and I well to ask God to let us feel the weight of a lost world. It would due us well to wait for God’s answers to the darkness in our world. It would do us well to go, filled with the Spirit, carrying God’s Word to the world.

Please listen, God has something to say. Please listen, God has something He wants you to say!

I love Johns words from I John 3:18 “Let us not love in word (our words) and talk, but in deed and truth (speaking God’s Word).”

2 questions:

  1. What are you speaking to others?
  2. How can you gather a crowd to hear from Heaven?

What Shall We do? (Lamentations 3:37-5:22)

August 25, 2021

you have wrapped yourself with a cloud
    so that no prayer can pass through Lamentations 3:44

Brothers and sisters, the lessons we learn from the past position us to be successful in the present. However, the lessons we overlook or fail to personalize will haunt us in the future.

Consider with me the lessons we learn from the days of Jeremiah. Now I know there are so many. But lets consider just one from our core text for todays reading:

The nation of Judah lost her place of worship and her place in the world because she rejected God.

Here is what the prophet wrote:

42 “We have transgressed and rebelled,
    and you have not forgiven. 3:42

Did you get the lesson? I realize some of us might immediately miss the lesson and go directly to a pity party. The pity party is in saying, but God you did not forgive. Here is another lesson: God cannot forgive when forgiveness is not sought. The people wanted blessings of material things. They were not interested in the blessings of a walk with God.

When the people offered their prayers Jeremiah said, “God had wrapped Himself with a cloud so that no prayer could pass through, 3:44. So great was God’s judgment that all “joy of heart ceased and all their dancing turned into mourning,” 5:25.

Brothers and sisters, let us learn the lesson well. True joy and happiness only happens when people are in fellowship with God.

This morning my heart is filled with thanksgiving for His truth residing in my life. Because of the blessing of learning this lesson I have been led to do the following:

  1. Daily I test my ways before Him to see if I am obeying Him, (3:40).
  2. Moment by moment I am seeking to trust His ways (3:57).
  3. Each hour I am pleading for His Spiritual Awakening in the world (5:21)

Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored!
    Renew our days as of old, 5:21

2 questions:

  1. Do you take time each day to contemplate what has happened in your day?
  2. How can today’s lessons position you to better accomplish His purposes in your life?

Why Would You Do This? (Lamentations 1:1-3:36)

August 24, 2021

my soul is bereft of peace;
    I have forgotten what happiness is; Lamentations 3:17

A mother decided to check on her child who had been up in her room for a long time. When she opened the door of the room, she was shocked to see a room that had been trashed. She saw toys everywhere, pictures off the wall, and even the mattress lying in the floor. As she composed herself, she noticed over in one corner was her child ripping paper out of a notebook. The mother asked, why would you do this?

Sit the illustration aside for a few moments and travel back with me to the days of Jeremiah. The prophet of God is describing the devastation in the city of Jerusalem in chapter 1. It would see at first glance that the prophet was blaming God for the devastation. But it does not take long (a look at chapter 2) to realize that this was not what the prophet was saying.

God was not to blame for the mess in Jeremiah’s day and neither is he to blame for the mess in the world today. Just like the mother who knew that her child had trashed her room in rebellion, so to do we know that the mess in the world is our own making.

Here is what Jeremiah wrote in Lamentations 2:17

The Lord has done what he purposed;
    he has carried out his word,
which he commanded long ago;
    he has thrown down without pity;
he has made the enemy rejoice over you
    and exalted the might of your foes.

If you noticed, I underlined a portion of the verse. Jeremiah reminds us that God was keeping His word. When the nation was in her formative years, God placed before Israel two paths: The path of blessing and the path of judgment. We see this in Deuteronomy 28:1-66.

The path of blessing was as follows:

  • Faithfully obeying the voice of God.
  • Being careful to do all His commandments.
  • Walking in His ways.
  • Resisting the ways of the world.

These simply tasks were all that God required. However, the people chose to do just the opposite. This is why their city and their lives were devastated. They trashed it themselves.

This very day I am praying for our leaders in America for we are trashing our land spiritually every day. I am praying for the churches in America for we are asleep when we should be cleaning up the trash from our own lives.

The prophet Jeremiah offers hope to all who desire to walk in the way of blessing. Here is how we get back on the blessed path:

2My soul continually remembers it
    and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:

2The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;[b]
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.” 3:20-24

Two closing questions:

  1. Does your life model the life of blessing or the life of judgment?
  2. Are there any areas of your life that need cleansing?

The Year of Punishment (Jeremiah 46-51)

August 23, 2021

He who flees from the terror
    shall fall into the pit,
and he who climbs out of the pit
    shall be caught in the snare.
For I will bring these things upon Moab,
    the year of their punishment,
declares the Lord, Jeremiah 48:44

Beginning in Jeremiah 46:1 and following, we see God’s wrath being poured out against the nations that existed in the days of Jeremiah. It was the year of punishment. It was our loving and long-suffering God who carried out this judgment. As I sit here at my desk, I can seen in my minds eye the destruction of entire nations by war, famine, pestilence, and disease. I see the leaders blaming everyone but themselves.

The truth was, the nations had walked in their own ways and had rejected the Lord. This was not a momentary sting that would be like how one feels for a second when a parent swats them on the backside. No, this was eternal stinging in every soul that perished without Jesus (46:10

Brothers and sisters, as I grieve for the nations of the world, I realize how shallow I have been in focusing only on my immediate circle in these days. Oh that the church in America would take the wisdom of God from the past and apply it to the now.

The world is quickly coming apart at the seams. Could this be God’s hand of judgment? Could it be that God is removing His restraining of evil from the world? (Rom. 1:25-27)

As I look back to Jeremiah’s day I also realize how the year of punishment came to God’s people as well. Here is what Jeremiah wrote:

Fear not, O Jacob my servant,
declares the Lord,

    for I am with you.
I will make a full end of all the nations
    to which I have driven you,
    but of you I will not make a full end.
I will discipline you in just measure,
    and I will by no means leave you unpunished.”
26:28

Let us not think that this turmoil will not touch us. We in the church are being disciplined because of lack of action in our generation. It is time, in the midst of the year of punishment for the world and discipline for the church, to get back on course with God.

I leave you with two things to chew on:

  1. What is happening, in our world, is not an accident. It’s high time we wake up.
  2. The church has only a small window of opportunity. It is now or never.

Two questions:

  1. What is happening in your life?
  2. What will you learn from what is happening in your life?

Listening to the Wrong People (Jeremiah 41-45)

August 20, 2021

So Johanan the son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces and all the people did not obey the voice of the Lord, to remain in the land of Judah, Jeremiah 43:4

The heartbreak of the events in Afghanistan are still occupying my heart and mind this morning. As I have prayed and listened to so many people, I find that most people are pointing the finger of blame either to our current president or to our previous president. The one question on most Americans minds is this, who are our leaders listening?

In the days after the fall of Judah, the few people who remained in Judah faced horrific events. The newly appointed king of Judah (Jeremiah 41) was murdered along with his cabinet. Many of the remaining leaders were taken captive. Thankfully they were rescued by other people (41:11-18).

As we read their story, beginning in Jeremiah 42, it seemed as if things were going to turn for the better. The people gathered and summoned Jeremiah. The people asked him to seek the wisdom of God:

 and said to Jeremiah the prophet, “Let our plea for mercy come before you, and pray to the Lord your God for us, for all this remnant—because we are left with but a few, as your eyes see us— that the Lord your God may show us the way we should go, and the thing that we should do.” 

Oh, how we want to rejoice, because these people were positioning themselves to listen to God. God’s promised to do the following if they would listen:

  • He would build them up.
  • He would plant them in the land.
  • He would be with them.
  • He would deliver them from trials.
  • He would be the mercy they needed.

Wow, who would ever want more than this? But wait, the people decided that they did not want to listen to God. How could this be? According to Jeremiah, the people had the following problems:

  • They were blind to the truth.
  • They thought they knew a better way.
  • They thought serving in Egypt made sense.

Brothers and sisters, none of this makes sense to me. But when we realize they were following dead gods propped up by Satan (44:5), we start to realize they were listening to the wrong god. This people had zero respect and zero love for God (44:10). They would not listen to Him (44:16).

Let me bring you back to our day (2021). Three things need saying:

  1. We need to ask God, why are you so long-suffering with us. I know God wants people to be saved. But there is a point of no-return (44:21).
  2. We need to plead for mercy every hour of every day.
  3. We need to plead for spiritual awakening in the body of Christ.

It will only be when the people of God clearly listen and clearly speak the Word of God that America will finally hear something worth listening too. Now is our time church. We must rise up to pray.

 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  I Timothy 2:1-2

2 questions:

  1. What do you have to say to this world?
  2. What is God saying to you in private?

Attempting to make sense of it all (Habakkuk 1-3)

August 19, 2021

O Lord, I have heard the report of you,
    and your work, O Lord, do I fear.
In the midst of the years revive it;
    in the midst of the years make it known;
    in wrath remember mercy. Habakkuk 3:2

Truly it is hard to make sense of all that is happening around the world. In all honestly, I spent all yesterday in a deep spirit of sorrow. Many times on yesterday I found myself fighting back the tears. At the end of the afternoon, I called a missionary serving in the Middle East. As I listened to his reports from the Middle East I could not hold back the tears. Brothers and sisters, what is happening?

As I prayed with my brother, I felt the sweet voice of God speaking peace over our troubled souls. In that moment I did what the prophet Habakkuk did, I rejoiced in the Lord. I took joy in the God of my salvation (3:18).

Every true child of God has questions. Every true child of God tries to make sense out of each season of life. The prophet was no different. Habakkuk served during the same time as did Jeremiah. He saw what the enemy was doing and he knew what to do:

He took his questions and placed them before the Lord. He wanted to know why God seemed to be silent in the face of unrighteousness (1:2). Maybe this is where you are today. Go to God with your questions.

He next positioned himself to wait for God’s answers. God did speak (2:1-4). God said, position yourself to wait and then to run to tell others once you have received the answer. Friend, God’s answers are coming. Let us walk by faith.

He also pleaded for mercy. When the prophet knew what was coming, he pleaded for God to give mercy (3:1-2). Oh how we need the mercy of God in our world.

Finally the prophet lifted his voice in praise (3:18-19).

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.

Even though the earth may quake and nations rise and fall, the prophet knew that God was his firm foundation. Dear friend, Jesus is the firm foundation in my life. In Him I stand and in Him you can stand. Ours (as Christ-followers) is the task of positioning ourselves to present to others the true hope which is Jesus (Matt. 24:14).

Truly, I do not know if this is the end times. But what I do know is this, “Salvation is nearer than when we first believed,” Rom. 13:11. I also know, “I will not sit in the darkness and fear the end. I will walk in the light of Jesus knowing that in Him there is hope for the world,” Rom. 13:12.

Questions:

  1. What is God speaking to you about today?
  2. How can this passage position you to carry out God’s mission?

Until There is No Remedy (II Kings 24-25; II Chronicles 36)

August 18, 2021

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. II Chronicles 36:16

I cannot imagine the horror’s that are taking place in Afghanistan today. After 20 years of protection given by the American Army, it is now over. It seems as if there is no remedy for the problem. Last evening our family watched a CNN interview with a former military officer who served in Afghanistan. The officer made the following observation: “I knew we could not win the war because the enemy was willing to wait until we lost our interest in the war.”

For some reason this man’s observation stuck in my mind and heart. This morning I am still focusing on what God wants me to learn from what I have heard. Brothers and sisters, is it possible that our common enemy (Satan) is willing to wait until we lose interest in the battles we face?

For a few moments let us turn our focus to Jeremiah’s day. Did his nation end up in captivity because they lost interest in their fight with Satan? According to Scripture I believe the answer is yes.

According to Scripture, God in His love was persistently sending messengers (prophets) to tell the people to turn back to God. But the people were not interested in the fight for their souls. They were more interested in their indulgence in sin. With each new prophet the people resisted and rebelled against God even more. Judah did this until their was no longer a remedy for their sin.

Could it be so that our nation no longer has a remedy for our sin? Oh the horror of even thinking about this. With all my heart I am praying that it is not true. However, I know without spiritual awakening in the church, we will arrive at the place of no remedy.

The question I place before you is this: What can the church do?

Allow me to place 6 things in response before you:

  1. We must get our spiritual houses in order. Its time to clean up spiritually, I Peter 4:7.
  2. We must return to our first love, which is Jesus Christ, Rev. 2:4-5.
  3. We must regain our heart for the Body of Christ, I Peter 4:8-11.
  4. We must return to our only mission as a church, Acts 1:8.
  5. We must regain our hearts for the souls of all people, I Peter 4:12-17.
  6. We must again live each day as if the Lord Jesus will return today, I Thess. 1:9-10.

 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. I Thess. 1:9-10

Two questions:

  1. Have you lost interest in the war? If so, discover why.
  2. Where do you need to start in order to regain interest in the war? Check out the list above.