“God’s Storms and Men’s Hearts”

God uses storms

Acts 28 John Jacob Astor believed that the Titanic was unsinkable, yet he and his wealth are at the bottom of the ocean because of his stubborn pride and lack of foresight—the Titanic only carried enough lifeboats for half of the passengers—Astor was not saved. We hear the words of Paul “men, you should have listened to me.” [Acts 27:21]

On the Adriatic Sea God sent another storm tossing the ship Paul was on. Just like the Titanic, the ship’s captain did not heed the words of Paul to stay on the island of Crete. Yet, God can overrule men’s decisions so that they may come face to face with the God of the storms. In this case, He chose to preserve Roman soldiers, centurions, rowers, the captain and prisoners so they might hear Paul teach and preach the resurrection of Christ.  Did they respond because of the storm? Only in eternity will we know. Yet this is true:  “Consequently faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the preached word of Christ.” [Rom 10:17]

God does the same for us today; He uses ordinary people like you and me to carry out His divine appointed plans. We never know when we may experience a storm so men may hear the story of the resurrected Christ.

What storm are you facing?

Will you let God use you to share the resurrected Christ to others?

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False or True Repentance

Is your repentance true or false

Nahum 1-3  Nahum, the Elkoshite, prophesied to the wicked Assyrians about their short-lived repentance. One hundred years earlier, when Jonah spoke the entire city, both man and beast put on sackcloth and ashes in repentance. But, now, they had returned to their cruel ways. Some today may make a faith profession, but later it is as if they had never heard. Just like the Ninevites, they had short memories. The “message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.[Heb 4:2]  Although Jeremiah wrote that God’s mercies are new every morning, He will call all accounts due sooner or later.

‘Listen Assyria; God is slow to anger not willing any should perish, but all come to repentance, yet He is also zealous and will avenge His people.  Whereas your king of old repented and you were spared, your new king is indolent and degenerate. You are ripe for enemy nations.’

Just because you think it won’t happen doesn’t mean it won’t. Assyria was destroyed, and their idols burned. Scoffers say to us: “where is the promise of his coming? It is as it always has been.” [2Pet 3:4]  Amazingly, in 1845, an archaeologist stumbled upon Nineveh’s site and found an extensive library proving Nahum’s words were true and accurate.

Beloved, God is merciful, but He will be patient just so long. If Jesus were to return today, would you be ready?

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“Street Theater News”

Ezekiel's street theater

Ezekiel 4-6 In Babylon, the captives had no newspapers or town criers, only miles and miles of desert sand. As the days passed, they wanted answers, but their priests were of no help. They knew God had called Ezekiel to be a prophet, so they came to ask him: Why are we here? What is happening in Jerusalem? When will we go home? Instead of a steady sermonette, God had Ezekiel pantomime the Jerusalem news for 430 days! The message was clear: Where are your idols now? Did they save you? 

God is patient, and He had not forgotten them, but they were in sin. Just like a parent, God disciplines those He loves. Before all of this, He had sent them prophets to warn them: do not trust in these idols, they will fail you—but the words fell on deaf ears. Now in the plains outside Babylon, they could see that the idols were gone, rusted, or decayed. Ezekiel’s drama told this one truth:

God loved you yesterday as He does today and will tomorrow, but He also will judge sin. He will use whatever means He considers best so that people might repent. 

The question remains: Have you heard God’s message over and over, but you refuse to repent? Do you believe God loves you even as He waits for you to repent?  

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The Hardened Heart

the heart

Jeremiah 47-49 The soft earth nourishes seeds, yet some seeds fail to germinate even when given all the right conditions. Judas had walked, talked, ate, and enjoyed the fellowship of Jesus and the other eleven disciples, but his seed failed to germinate. Like Judas, the nations of Philistia, Moab, Ammon, Edom, Damascus, and Elam saw God prosper Judah, but their seeds remained hardened. In the end, God dug them up, exposed them to the ravages of King Nebuchadnezzar, and they are no longer.

But wait!! There were some seeds/hearts deep within these kingdoms, seeds, and hearts of potential and restoration.  God promised Moab and Ammon would see their fortunes reversed. The question is, why? What did God see that men cannot? It is the same principle Jesus said: “Blessed are those who have not seen me and yet believe.” (Jn 20:29) So it will be with these nations. We saw them as lost forever, but God sees the heart, and His love will continue to penetrate that hard shell in hopes it will germinate and not continue in the spirit of Judas.  God is not willing any to perish, but all come to repentance. He will continue to send the rains to unlock that hardened heart and soften it.

Our part is not to give up praying for the lost.  Do you know someone that seems to have that Judas’ spirit? Continue to pray for their salvation.

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Ezra: A man with a missionary’s heart.

God requires a broken heart for repentance

In Babylon, Ezra spent his time memorizing scripture, praying, and seeking help from the king. He prepared to leave Babylon and return to Jerusalem – the city he probably never had seen, yet it was in his heart to go there and teach the people about God. [Ezra 7:10] Ezra trusted God to provide all he needed and set the example of how to lead both practically and spiritually. Committed, like Moses and Joshua, he prepared the people to follow him. 

We are experiencing social distancing, but the Babylonian kings had it down to a science. All Jews were isolated from the Babylonians. God isolated them so He could raise a holy people to return to Israel; but not so in Jerusalem. There the influences of the wicked culture had impacted the people’s resolve to be pure before God.

The leaders in Jerusalem decided to wait until Ezra had shared the treasures of the king—then they shared about the unholy alliances they had made. The news brought Ezra to his knees; he tore his hair and his robes and sat down devastated. Chapter 9 is the example of a missionary’s repentant prayer that brought the people to their knees. What about us when we see the sin of our nation? Do we drop to our knees and spread our hands to the Lord God?

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The Price of Sin

The price of sin

1 Chronicles 21 King David decides he wants to know how big his army was, but we aren’t told why. The backdrop note is that God allowed the adversary to slip in unnoticed.  To alert David to the sin he was about to commit, God sent wise a counselor through Joab, His General. Joab pleaded with David to not do a census, but his words fell on deaf ears. David insists, and so finally, Joab follows through. God, in His patience, allowed this sin to fester for over a year and a half. Not always does God allow us to see the fruit of our sin.

We all need a Joab in our life to challenge us as to our motives in decision making. God uses them to discern where our hearts lay. For David, his heart was in his pride of the army he had amassed. What he had not counted on was the price that would he would have to pay for his sin. David was “like someone who gazes at his face in a mirror. For he gazes at himself and then goes out and immediately forgets what sort of person he was.” [James 1] It is because of his filtered view that God sent Joab into his life. 

David didn’t back down, but somewhere along the path of foolish decisions; the Spirit came to him to prick his heart. Although God forgave David, the price for his sin was grievous. The same goes for us when we sin. There is always a price to be paid. God set the price for our sin with the body and blood of His Son.

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‘Sad Tales are Teachable Moments’

2Samuel 13 a sordid tale

2Samuel 13

Some stories in God’s word are so painful to read that we want to skip them, but God has left them in there as a teaching tool for each of us. This chapter falls into the x-rated material, but we want to focus on what we can learn from the sordid tale of the rape of Tamar. One is that as much as Tamar loved her brothers, she was not discerning. Truth point: often, when we love someone strongly, we are blind to their faults. Secondly, when someone says no, they mean no. A third lesson is what Dr. Constable noted: 

“More Christians have probably memorized 1 John 1:9, which says: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” than Romans 6:12-13. “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

 First John 1:9 deals with how to handle sin after we have committed it; it is corrective theology. Romans 6:12-13 deals with how to handle sin before we commit it; it is preventive theology. We need to pay more attention to Romans 6:12-13. 

One of the purposes of 2 Samuel 13 is to help the reader prevent this type of sin rather than help us recover from it having fallen. It is a strong warning against letting our passions lead us because of the consequences that will follow.”

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Psychological Warfare

1Samuel 17 Satan is a master at word games as he seeks to destroy us. When he can’t get at us using physical means, he comes at us emotionally. “From their vantage point, the Philistines and their champion, Goliath, engaged in a bit of psychological warfare, taunting Israel and boasting of their military superiority.” [Ligonier Ministries]

It is into this scene that David, the anointed, but not yet king, of Israel arrives to hear the defiant words of Goliath. Although Saul is head and shoulders above the men of Israel, he cringes at the terms of Goliath.  David stood up to face this giant even though His brothers sought to shame him for coming to the battlefield. David asked:  “What have I done now? Can’t I say anything?”

David squares off with Goliath, and in the end, he is victorious, and Goliath is dead. What was David’s success? It was that David did not allow the word games of Goliath to destroy his confidence. David proved that some trust in horses and chariots, but he trusted in the Lord his God. He told Goliath that when this happens, the “assembly will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves! For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will deliver you into our hand.”

Where are you facing a Goliath? Remember that the Lord is for you, and He will fight this battle.

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No Excuses!

1Samuel 15 How often do we begin our explanation for doing wrong with the word “but” just like King Saul? We try to save face by not admitting wrong. “BUT I have obeyed the Lord”! I went on the campaign the Lord sent me on.” But when pressed by Samuel, he admits, “I have sinned, for I have disobeyed what the Lord commanded and what you said as well.” 

Saul would have been wiser to stop there, but instead, he compounds his sin with a second excuse. I was fearful of the army. To be fearful of man, more than God is anathema! Pro 29:25 The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe. 

Saul, like many of us, just want our sins to be covered and forgiven. “Now, please forgive my sin and go back with me so I can worship the Lord.” Saul was essentially saying; just forgive me and let’s get on with our life. We do not want to lose face. Listen to Saul: “I have sinned, BUT please honor me before the elders of my people and Israel”. It was all outward repentance but not inward repentance. Psa 51:17 The sacrifices God desires are a humble spirit —O God, a humble and repentant heart you will not reject. 

Fear and Pride moved Saul to disobey. What is your reason for disobedience? How can you conquer these two foes spiritually and practically?

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The Sex Trafficker of Judges 19-21

This week we honor women across our globe for their accomplishments and their witness. Yet, today in the last part of Judges, God has us meet someone who is voiceless but pays the price of the sins of humanity. The author of judges walks us through the life of a Levite who is deceitful, selfish, and a liar. God wants us to see the depravity and reality of Romans 1:18-31. It is hard to read these chapters.

This Levite has failed to follow Levirate law by acquiring a concubine. He has a temper. He lacks the basics of caring for another human individual. He is the sex-trafficker personified. God’s mirror reveals the sin nature of mankind minus His righteousness. Today we see it front and center in our world, and we, like the Levite, are failing in our protection for the most vulnerable.

God reveals the concubine as a woman who has no voice in this sex-trafficking scenario. The Levite has lost all decency when he lies and then dismembers her to make us aware of the reality of the horror of our sinful nature.  He sleeps through the night, but the concubine is left alone to face the rape and torture of her person. We see his uncaring attitude as he dismembers her and sends her body parts around the nation.

There are some questions we need to be asking. Where is the honor for the one whose voice is never heard? Where is our outrage? Where is our compassion for those caught up in this wicked cycle? Take time today to ask God’s forgiveness.

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