Sunday, September 30, 2012

Religion and Christianity

Religion and Christianity


“Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” – John 8:11

She had no friends with her on that day, only enemies.  Even the man she thought loved her was not even willing to stand with her in the presence of these religious people who wanted nothing more than to see her die. Dragged out of  bed and into the presence of Jesus and those listening to His message, she was no doubt barely clothed, disheveled, and shamed.  
The story of the woman brought to Jesus when found committing adultery is one I dearly love, and maybe not for the reasons you may think.  It’s a story of two sides – Jesus, and religion.  And it’s a story of condemnation being met with compassion.

Religion referred to Jesus not as Master, not as Lord, but solely as “Teacher”.  This is still how we can seperate those that are followers from those that are only willing to learn religion.  It all about who YOU say Jesus is to you, not in your words, but in your deeds.  It’s not lip service God wants, but your heart.  If your heart doesn’t follow Him, neither will your actions and neither do you.
Religion went on to say that she was “caught in adultery, in the very act” and that under the law of Moses, she should be stoned.  Religion didn’t care who she was, only wanting to point to her sin, and seek her punishment.  Religion showed no mercy, no compassion, but wanted her death. 

Religion also wanted to see Jesus fail by breaking the laws of Moses.  Aren’t there religious people still among us today that want to see Jesus fail?  They love and even seek to find the compassion of Christ and His mercy fall short, and for people to “get what’s coming to them”.  They use the word “Karma” without knowing its idolatrous roots.   
But Jesus, the Son of God, sought to redeem her from her sin.  But not only her, but those that brought her to Him. 

Many wonder what it was that Jesus wrote in the sand that day, sitting in silence.  I’ve often wondered if He scribbled down a passage from one of the Psalms about God’s mercy.  Or maybe He wrote down the sins of each man standing there in front of Him judging this woman.  And maybe He just took the time to scribble nothing at all while listening intently to the voice of His Father God, and receiving instruction on how to handle this situation. 
Speaking only to the men who brought her to Him, He says “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”, and He went back to scribbling in the sand.  Jesus could have pointed out to them each and every one their very sins, but He remained quiet.  Their own consciences convicted them and one by one, they dropped their stones and left.

Jesus looked up from His scribbling at the woman who was left alone, and still standing there in front of Him.  He said “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” and she answered “No one, Lord”. 
“Lord”, she said.  She knew Jesus even more than those who claimed to be holy and religious.  She understood who He was.  Maybe this wasn’t her first time in seeing Jesus.  She could have been in the group that had been following Him.  But maybe it was just the fact that He showed her the love of God – unconditional love. 

Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” He was the only one present without sin that could cast the first stone, and He never even picked one up.  It never crossed His mind to stone her.  The law of Jesus is not an eye for an eye, or we’d all be blind!  His way is compassion, and forgiveness.
So then how should we respond to one brought before us living with sin?  Should we ignore them when they come to church?  Should we look down our noses at them as if they were dirty?  Should we discuss their sins behind their backs?  Should we exclude them from our churches and make them outcasts of society?  I guess that depends on whether you’re religious, or whether you seek to be a true Christian, and follow Christ.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

At the End of God's Rope

At the End of God’s Rope

Yet you have forsaken Me and served other gods. Therefore I will deliver you no more.” – Judges 10:13
Have you ever gotten to the “end of your rope”?  It’s an old southern idiom that comes from having a horse tied by a rope to a post.  The horse can graze around the post, but only as far as the rope will reach.  When the horse has eaten all around the post, and stretched as far as it will go to graze, then the horse is at the end of its rope.  There are no resources available to the horse when it gets to the end of the rope.  There’s nothing left for the horse.

I know I’ve gotten to the end of my rope several times over the years, and there was a time when I’m sure I got to the end of God’s rope as well.  There’s only so much He’s willing to take without sending punishment to us, or leaving us to our own resources.  The people of Israel reached the end of His rope in Judges 10.
Gideon has fought and won against their oppressors, the Midianites.  But immediately the Israelites went back to serving idols.  They worshipped the ephod that Gideon had made from the plundered gold of the Midianites.  And when Gideon died, sixty-nine of his seventy sons were killed by Abimelech, his son by his maidservant.  Abimelech set up temples to Baal and other gods, and the entire nation of Israel was once again seeped in idolatry. 

They forgot what God had done for them, and turned their backs on Him.  The one son that remained, Joash, shouted a curse upon Abimelech and the evil men of Sechem that joined him.  It’s a poetic curse regarding trees and briars found in Judges 9, but he sought justice for the death of his sixty-nine brothers.  God heard the curse and granted it by allowing them all, including Abimelech, to be killed. 
They still did not turn back to God.  But sixty-three years later, after God had turned them over again to the oppression of the Philistines, they finally cried out to God from the end of their ropes.  In Judges 10:10 they said “We have sinned against You, because we have both forsaken our God and served the Baals!”  But what they found was that God was at the end of His rope too.  God is both merciful and just.  But God had gotten tired of Israel’s repeated sin.

God answered them saying in verses 11-14:
Did I not deliver you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites and from the people of Ammon and from the Philistines? Also the Sidonians and Amalekites and Maonites oppressed you; and you cried out to Me, and I delivered you from their hand. Yet you have forsaken Me and served other gods. Therefore I will deliver you no more. “Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in your time of distress.”

It must have put a knot of fear in their throats to hear Almighty God say “I will deliver you no more.”  He was at the end of His rope.  Time and time again He had come to their rescue just to see them squander His grace on sin once again. 
God reaches the end of His rope several times in the Bible.  In the days of Noah, God destroyed the entire earth, except for Noah, and his family.  The town of Nineveh received a warning from God delivered by Jonah that Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for their wickedness.  But even in current day we see God get to the end of His rope.  Our own New Orleans has been destroyed twice during the week they host the gay festival known as Southern Decadence.  Haiti, a nation filled with Voodoo and idols, was destroyed by an earthquake at the hand of God in 2010. 

Oh, now I know some of you don’t want to believe that Katrina or Haiti were the result of God.  But if not God, then who?  Do you really believe that in the days of Jesus even the wind and the waves obeyed Him (Luke 8:25) but in our day they don’t?  God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  We are the people who Simon Peter spoke of in 2 Peter 3:5-7 when he says, For this they WILLFULLY FORGET: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed PERISHED, BEING FLOODED WITH WATER. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are RESERVED FOR FIRE until the day of judgment and PERDITION OF UNGODLY MEN.

We live in a nation filled with sin.  We’ve allowed our unborn to be killed, we teach our children murder through role playing video games, we put the gangsters of the street on stages, and allow them to make millions selling records.  We idolize the sins of Hollywood, turn our backs on the gay and lesbian sins of our own towns, and simply turn the channel when we have it pushed on us by the very television we are paying to watch.  Rock stars, actors and actresses, government officials, leaders in our own communities go about worshipping other gods through Scientology, Astrology, Buddhism, Hinduism, and beliefs so numerous you can’t name them all.  And yet, they gain fame and fortune at our own hands.  We turn our backs as our own children turn to sex and drugs, and dismiss it as “sewing their wild oats” or “working on their testimony”.  Surely God will reach the end of His rope with America before we do!  Where are God’s people hiding?  Christians have become a silent force in this nation, much like the believers of Israel during its various seasons of idolatry.
But God is not without mercy even when at the end of His rope.  Even in the day of Judges 10 when He proclaimed “I will deliver you no more”, they found mercy in His heart when they repented.  They cried out to God and said “We have sinned! Do to us whatever seems best to You, only deliver us this day, we pray.” They turned from their idols and worshipped Him.  And then the most beautiful statement about God is found in Judges 10:16, when it says “His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel. His soul, His very soul, couldn’t be angry anymore!  He could not stand to see His children suffer.  Oh, the love of God is so deep!

We can still find the love of God today as deep as it was then.  Simon Peter goes on to say in 2 Peter 3:8-9, But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. He is longsuffering, or we would live in a land that had already been overcome by the nations that are more powerful.  He is longsuffering on an individual basis, or many of us would have already met death.  And all He seeks in us when He is at the end of His rope is our repentance, a true turning of our hearts over to Him.    

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Trap of Things

The Trap of Things


“Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”  - Luke 12:15

Let’s be real.  We all like nice things.  Sometimes they’re not even expensive things, but just things that we feel we must have.  My weakness is sea shells, and I’ve literally got boxes and tall vases of them stored away.  Another one for me has been a set of cobalt glassware made by Anchor Hocking decades ago that has sailboats on it.  I don’t know why, but once I had just one piece, I felt like I had to have the whole set! 
For some of us, it’s shoes.  They come in so many styles and colors we just feel we need one pair to match everything in our closet.  And then, there are the clothes in the closet too.  We need something new for every occasion.  And don’t forget the jewelry!  Earrings, necklaces, purses, scarfs, and on and on until the closet looks like a fashion runway was deconstructed in the corner of the room!

But having things isn’t the problem.  It’s the root of the issue that is the problem.  Luke 12:15 says “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”  Luke isn’t saying “be on your guard against spending too much money on things”.  He says to be on your guard against covetousness. 
Covetousness is a sin of the heart where we let things become so important that we chase after them.  We allow them to occupy our focus in our free time, and consume us.  Some think this word only means looking at what others have and wanting it, and yes, that is coveting as well.  But stores having what we want, or beaches being filled with what we want, is coveting as well.  The things are not the sin – the position we give them in our heart is the sin.

Gideon, the great warrior of Israel, created one of these traps that all of Israel fell into.  After winning the war against the Midianites all of Israel wanted him to be their leader, and he refused and stated that the Lord God would be their leader instead.  But strangely enough, Gideon then requested that all the golden earrings that had been plundered from the Midianites be brought to him.  There must have been thousands because Gideon used it to make an ephod, which was a vest with precious stones that was worn by a priest over his robe.  That doesn’t sound like a bad thing until you go back in history and see what happened every single time these people melted down gold.  From each time they did it, an idol was formed.  And even this time, when it was a symbol of worship, Judges 8:27 says that Israel played the harlot with it there. It became a snare to Gideon and to his house.
It’s a sad story, don’t you think?  This mighty warrior of God used the victories of the battle God allowed him to win to create a trap that entangled all his people.  As Israel worshipped this ephod they forgot all about Gideon and how the Lord delivered them.  Judges 8:34-35 says they “did not remember the Lord their God, who had delivered them from the hands of all their enemies on every side; nor did they show kindness to the house of Jerubbaal (Gideon) in accordance with the good he had done for Israel”. 

This is the trapping of things.  We each have a throne in our hearts.  It’s that spot we hold sacred, reserved for what we love most.  When what we love becomes things, God is kicked off the throne, and we stop focusing on His will for our lives and His goals for us, and we start chasing after the things.  In Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus gives us the warning “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Treasure here for a moment, or eternal treasure.  That’s the choice we have to make.
In a world that is completely materialistic, so many will judge you by the car you drive, the house you live in, the shoes you wear, and so forth.  But if you allow their judgments over you to determine how you live, they become your master, and you become their slave.  Be careful of the trap of things and don’t allow them to become your god.  Only God Almighty should be allowed in your heart’s throne room.



Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Economy of God

The Economy of God


And the Lord said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’  Now therefore, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him turn and depart at once from Mount Gilead.’” – Judges 7:2-3

The economy of God in solving our problems isn’t like what we would choose at all.  Gideon found this out when gathering his army to fight the evil Midianites that were oppressing Israel. 
Gideon started out with 32,000 able bodied men ready to go to battle.  Even as large a number as that is, it seems small compared to the Midianites who Judges 7:12 says were in the valley as numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the seashore in multitude.But God didn’t want that many fighting because Israel would not see His strength to save them, but their own.  God always seeks to get glory for the work He does so that we can see that we can depend on Him to fight our battles for us.

So God had Gideon send home 22,000 men who were afraid right off the top.  Perhaps God choose not to use those who were fearful because fear is rooted in a lack of faith.  But left with 10,000 men, God still wanted less against the Midianites.  He had Gideon take the remaining men to the water, and watch how they drank.  Of the remaining men, 9,700 got down on their knees by the water, and put their face in the water to drink.  But a small 300 scooped the water in their hands and lapped it up. God choose the 300 to fight, and the others to go home.  So an army originating at 32,000 was dwindled to less than 1%. 
It’s a good thing Gideon was close to God!  Sending 300 men to fight against a proverbial nation of warriors would definitely be a situation where he needed God by his side.  But this is how God chooses to accomplish His work.  All things He does are so that we can draw closer to Him, learn to trust Him, and give Him glory. 

In 1 Corinthians 1:27-28 Paul is writing to the Church Of Corinth about giving God glory and how God operates.  He says that God has “chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty, and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are”. 
God’s resources are endless.  He could have given Gideon victory with the 32,000 men, but then they might brag upon themselves.  He could easily have called Einstein or other scientific geniuses to proclaim the truth of creation, but then we may have honored the discoverer instead of the creator.  He could have allowed Neil Armstrong to glimpse heaven and return to earth with news that would create millions of believers, but we might have sung the praises of man’s wisdom to create a rocket rather than that of God to provide an eternal home. 

God chooses to work through the simple things around us, such as the mouths of humble men called to preach.  He chooses to operate with the weaker elements available to Him to confound us, and give us nothing to brag about in our own human race.  Why?  Because He wants to be the one we brag about.  That’s what giving God glory is all about. He does all things for us so that we can bring Him thanksgiving and praise (2 Corinthians 4:15). 
Gideon’s war against the Midianites was a prime example of God working with weaker elements.  Not only did he have a very few men to fight, but they had no real weapons.  They went to battle with water pitchers, trumpets, and torches.  That’s all!  No swords, no fighting artillery at all.  They surrounded the Midianites, blew the trumpets, broke the pitchers, and shouted “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” to inflict fear in the Midianites. The Midian camp then became chaotic and they used their own swords against each other.  And when the war was over, Gideon took not 100, not 200, but all 300 of his men home.

And just as we humans would do, the Israelites wanted to grant Gideon the praise and glory and asked him to rule over them.  If you wonder why God chooses one man over another to do His great work, look at the response Gideon gave the Israelites in Judges 8:23 when he said “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the Lord shall rule over you.” Gideon gave all glory right back to God, and would not accept the praise from his people.
There is power in giving praise and glory to God.  It is the single reason he does all things for us, and not because God is some power hungry, prideful, gloating God.  By gaining glory from us, we show that we understand that He is our source for all things.  That understanding is the root of faith.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012




Then the Lord said to him, “Peace be with you; do not fear, you shall not die.”  So Gideon built an altar there to the Lord, and called it The-Lord-Is-Peace. To this day it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.” – Judges 6:23-24

Gideon lived in fear.  In fact, all of Israel was living in fear in the land of Midian.  God had placed them there for seven years because of their evil ways.  And while there, the people of Midian ruled over them with violence.  When the people of Israel grew livestock, the Midianites would steal it.  When they grew crops and brought it to harvest, the Midianites would come and steal the grain.  The people had nothing because of the theft of the Midianites. When Judges 6 first opens, Gideon is using a winepress to thresh wheat so that the Midianites would not see what he had.  He was living in fear.
The Midianite were a large group of people.  When they came into the Israelites they were like swarms of locust on camels!  They would overtake them.  But the people of Israel prayed.  They cried out to God and He sent them a prophet to explain to them why this was happening.  In Judges 6:8-10, he said “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I brought you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of bondage; and I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out before you and gave you their land.  Also I said to you, “I am the Lord your God; do not fear the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.” But you have not obeyed My voice.’”

Fear was a sin because God had told them not to do it.  Fear comes from a lack of trust, and a lack of trust comes from a lack of faith.  Without faith in God, you cannot please God. (Hebrews 11:6)
When we first meet Gideon at his winepress, an angel was sitting watching Gideon under a tree.  The Angel speaks to Gideon and says The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!” And Gideon does not understand.  If God is with them, why are they being oppressed?  But the angel tells him God has given him instruction to “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?”

Gideon’s humility showed when he says he is the weakest in his tribe, Manesseh.  But God tells him that He will be with him, and he will defeat the Midianites.  So Gideon, from his desire to serve God and not the idols of his father and the Midianites, asked the Angel to stay until he could give an offering.  And when he prepared the offering and brought it to the Angel, the Angel touched it with a stick and it was consumed by fired and the Angel left. 
Then Gideon proclaims his faith, and prays to God and says “Alas, O Lord God! For I have seen the Angel of the Lord face to face.”  Can you imagine how you would leap for Joy at the knowledge that God found you – and you alone – important enough to cause a messenger from Heaven to descend and deliver a message face-to-face?  And God does answer back when Gideon prays!  He said “Peace be with you; do not fear, you shall not die.” 

Notice that God speaks not to the physical circumstances of Gideon, which was the lack of grain and livestock to eat and their poverty.  He speaks to the circumstance of his heart, when he says “do not fear – you shall not die.”  God knew Gideon, this great man of bravery, was fearful.  But to get him to understand and use his gift of bravery, God had to remove that fear. 
Gideon was so overcome by the word of God that he built an altar there and called it Jehovah-Shalom, which means, The Lord is our Peace.  Gideon alone gave God this name.  It’s not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible.

That very night God instructed Gideon to do the most dangerous thing.  In a land of people who worshipped Baal, he asked him to tear down the altars of Baal and build an altar to Him where it stood.  And that night, Gideon gathered his first army of ten men and did exactly that.
The next morning when the people woke and saw there was no altar of Baal, even Gideon’s own father was outraged.  When the men of the city wanted to kill Gideon, his father said to leave that work to Baal, and called his son Jerrubbaal meaning “Let Baal plead against him, because he has torn down his altar.”  His own father had given him a new name to dishonor him.  Did Gideon grow discouraged and quit?  Did he go into hiding from the people of Midian?  No.  In fact, after gaining confirmation from God through a damp sheep skin, he went to battle as the leader of a large army against the Midianites, Amalekites, and other tribes. 

When God gives you peace, it’s not like the world gives.  The peace of the world is here today – gone tomorrow.  It resides on circumstances.  If things are good in life, your needs are being met, there’s harmony in your family, your circle of friends is unbroken, then you have the worlds peace.
But the peace of God is the kind that you can hold on to when your family is sick, when your finances don’t finance anything anymore, when your marriage is falling apart, your kids are in chaos, and when you don’t have happiness to hold your head up.  This peace is of God.  It’s an anchor in the storm.  It’s assurance of an unfailing friendship, an eternal loving friend, and the provisions of Almighty God. 

And again, it is rooted in faith.  Jesus described the peace He would send through the Holy Spirit in John 14:27 when He said, Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  Neither let it be afraid…because where there is fear, there is no trust, and where there is no trust, there is no faith. 
If you want more peace, grow your trust in God.  If you want to trust God more, grow your faith.  Jehovah-Shalom will certainly draw near to you when you draw near to Him.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

God's Movie Theater

God’s Movie Theater


Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.” – 1 Corinthians 4:5

I was raised to fear God.  I learned at an early age that God wasn’t amused by our sins, but does in fact seek our complete obedience to the depths of correction and punishment.  But one of the earliest sermons I remember about this has to do with secrets.
We all have them, and keep them.  They’re those things we think and dare not say.  They’re the “little” sins that we keep hidden from everyone else.  They’re the feelings we have that we don’t talk about.  These secrets will one day be revealed to all.  My pastor as a child gave the example of God having His own movie theater, and displaying our most secret sins on a big movie screen for all to see.  Oh, I’ll never forget how it felt to hear that!

1 Corinthians 4:5 says that he will “bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsel of the hearts”. Much the same, Mark 4:22 says “For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light.  The almost same words are used in Luke 12:2, and verse 3 is added saying, “Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.
Wow. Considering how we seem to love to see each other’s dirty laundry aired, that’ll be a block buster hit! 

One of the most common sins we have is that of simply being fake.  It’s a lie just like any other because it is rooted in deceit.  We’re asked “Hi, How are you?”, and we say “Fine” when we’re not.  It’s accepted not because it’s not a lie, but because we’ve become numb to the fact that it’s sin. 
If there’s ever a place where this should not be done, would it not be church?  Why do we feel the need to go to church with a smile on that would hide the argument we just had in the car or the frustrations of getting up and getting a family dressed to leave the house?  Yet, Sunday after Sunday, we sit on the pews waiting anxiously for God’s word to calm the inner man that is in turmoil.  Instead of taking it to the altar and leaving it there, we will take it right back home because we don’t want anyone to know the problems we have.  Many times this hidden frustration and anger will choke the love right out of our marriages and our homes.  Yet we just keep it there, hidden in the darkness of our hearts.

And what about those things that happen in our homes?  What about the real you that does come out?  The language, the animosity towards your neighbor or family, the lack of respect for your husband or love for your wife, the things you watch on TV but won’t let your kids watch?
Oh that we would just reveal our genuine self to those around us here!  Then that movie on God’s big screen would only be a re-run.

Judgment may seem like an event so far into the future that our calendar can’t reach it, but Jesus Himself said, “I come quickly” (Revelations 22:20).  We don’t know when our movie of secrets will open. 
In 1 Peter 1:13-19 Christians are told to “gird up the loins of our mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear, knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
Christ is looking for His bride, the church, the body of Christ, as He returns.  Is He not worthy of a bride without spot or blemish?  Having the righteousness of Christ given to us freely is no small thing.  But many of us treat it as nothing more than a “get out of hell free” card.  The command to “be holy, for I am holy” is God telling us to get rid of these secret sins, as well as the open ones, and live in obedience.  Living in fear of God means to live in respect of His ways and what He says is right.  He is the God that sees all things done in secret.  Therefore, those little sins we keep hidden, we have put aside for God to preview as the sole person in the audience.


Monday, September 24, 2012




Take heed to yourselves, lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God which He made with you, and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of anything which the Lord your God has forbidden you. For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” – Deuteronomy 4:23-24

We’re raised to believe that jealousy is a bad thing, as when a brother or sister gets something that we don’t and we get all puffed up about it.  But not all jealousy is the same.  Our perfect God is also jealous, and that is the meaning of one of His names, Qanna.
Qanna is Strongs Hebrew 7607.  It’s used four times in the Bible (Exodus 20:5, Exodus 34:14, Deuteronomy 4:24, Deuteronomy 5:9, Deuteronomy 6:15) and all four times refer to idolatry.  Two of those times refer to when God gave Moses the second commandment, which is not to have idols.  In these two verses, God refers to himself as Qanna, saying “for I the Lord thy God am a Jealous God”. 

But this kind of Jealousy is a good jealousy.  It’s not rooted in greed, but in love, as that of a husband toward his wife.  God is jealous for us.  He loves us so much that He wants to continually be the one we place on the throne of our own heart.  He wants to be the first one we turn to when we need help, the first one we think of when we wake, and the one we praise. 
We live in a time when we don’t consider idols as being idols.  This can be a dangerous spot for the child of God.  The world offers up idols in so many ways.  But what makes anything idolatrous is putting it before God on that throne of your heart.  It’s those things you just don’t want to let go of, those things that you can’t turn over to God when asked.

One of the top things we see as an idol these days is money.  If you don’t believe that, look at those who are unwilling to give it to God.  Tithing is a part of being a steward of God’s work here on earth.  Church buildings and programs don’t fund themselves.  God intends for us to fund His work.  The most common excuse is “I just don’t have enough to spare”.  For some reason we can trust God with our health, our salvation, and our family, but we can’t trust Him with our money?  Malachi 3:10 says “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.”  Did you get that?  God just challenged you!  God Himself says “try me”!  Any other time we hear these words, it would be equivalent to a double-dog dare and we would not back down!  But money we hold dear, even sitting it on that throne of the heart.  And that, my friends, is when it becomes an idol.  If you can’t trust God with your finances, you don’t fully trust God.
Another way we have idols here is through horoscopes (“Oh, no, she didn’t really stomp on that one!” YES, SHE DID!).  It grieves my heart to no end to see my Christian brothers and sisters reading horoscopes and talking about their zodiac sign.  Don’t tell me you don’t believe what they say and it’s just for fun when you do it every day!  Do you trust God with your future or not?  In Deuteronomy 4:19 we are told to “take heed, lest you lift your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, you feel driven to worship them and serve them”.  We are called to abstain from anything that even looks like evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22).  Horoscopes are rooted in Astrology, and Astrology is likened to sorcery and witchcraft (Isaiah 47).  Christians have no need of a horoscope if they are trusting God with their future.  Don’t taint what He is giving you day by day with these false prophets’ words. 

And don’t even ask me about those little stones to carry in your pocket that give you “energy” or “strength” or “peace” or “healing”.  OH PLEASE! It’s a rock already!  Give it to God – He created it.

Another way we make God jealous is by not giving Him our praise.  Praise for what?  What does He not deserve praise for?  Praise for everything!  If you ask for prayers for healing, and then God heals you, don’t give the doctor or the pills you took the praise!  Give that to God who made the doctor and the pills.  If you have asked for a job and God provides one, don’t give the employer the praise.  Give it to God who provides for you.  Praying for something and then giving the praise to someone else is like a child opening a gift at Christmas and then thanking the wrong relative for it.  God is a jealous God, and He wants our praise.

The bottom line is this.  Anything you hold in your heart so dear that you can’t give it back to God when asked is an idol.  We wouldn’t go around making our spouses’ jealous just for fun, would we?  That’s not love.  If you love God, you won’t do things to make Him jealous either.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

True Worship

True Worship


But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.  God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” – John 4:23-24

For over 25 years of my life as a Christian I attended church on Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday nights.  The rest of the time I “wandered in the wilderness.”  What do I mean by that?  Well, just as the Israelites had to wander around in the wilderness for 40 years to work out the kinks in being obedient to what God wanted, tearing down their idols, stopping their complaining, and becoming true worshippers, I went through the same thing.  I can remember as a young adult a woman who I consider very strong in the faith telling me that I was “wandering in the wilderness” and at that time I didn’t even know my Bible well enough to know what she meant!  For Pete’s sake!  Nearly the entire book of Exodus is about it, and I hadn’t taken the time to read it to even understand.
Thousands of people will go to church today and be completely bored, fall asleep in the pews or chew gum and eat peppermints to stay awake.  Even more will just stay home because there’s no desire in them to go to church.  Yet God has said that church attendance is important (Hebrews 10:25).  It’s important not only for you to be a part of a group of Christians, but it’s important for them to have you there as well. 

There are tons of reasons people give for not going.  The scariest is “I don’t have time”.  Be careful, friend, how you tell the One who holds time in His hand that you don’t have time for Him. 
Then there are those that say “I feel like an outsider there.”  In the few times I’ve gone to a gym, I can tell you that at first I felt VERY uncomfortable.  It was different, I didn’t know how things worked there, what the routines were and I felt like an outsider.  But the more you go the more you enjoy it, and soon you desire going! 

Another reason I hear is “Church is boring”.  Well, maybe that’s because you’re doing it wrong!  Checking in and checking out just for the sake of going isn’t what God is after.  If you live this type of church life, brace yourself, God isn’t pleased.  You don’t get a gold star on your attendance sheet from God.  You don’t win the one year of perfect attendance award from Him.  And maybe you do go at Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day. Well, bless your heart! But God didn’t ask for that at all!  What God is looking for is people who will WORSHIP Him – not those who will show up.
John 4 tells the story of Jesus meeting the woman at the well.  She was a Samaritan woman, and Jesus being a Jew would normally have never spoken to her.  The Samaritans were a mixed breed, and the Jews looked down on them.  Of course, Jesus isn’t racist, and he talked to her.  He told her things no one else could have known but the Messiah.  And when she asked Him where she should worship, Jesus gave her instructions on not where– but HOW to worship.  I do believe that’s because He found true worship to be more important than where you worship. 

He told her “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”  Notice the word “spirit” in that verse is not capitalized.  If it were capitalized, it would be talking about the Holy Spirit.  Instead, with a lower case ‘s’, it is talking about our spirit, our inner being.
Worshipping God is not about lip service.  It’s not stand, sing three songs, say a prayer, sit, listen, stand, sing an invitation, say a prayer, go home.  That’s religion.  Jesus says in Matthew 15:8-9, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in VAIN they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”  Religion is in vain.  If this is your Sunday worship, you’re robbing God of the worship He deserves.

True worship must come from the heart.  True worship moves your spirit.  It may cause you to cry.  It may cause you to pray when no one else is praying.  It may lead you to the altar, or lead you directly to your knees.  It may even make you laugh, or shout!  True worship causes humbleness in the sight of God, and brings a joy that is simply not matched by anything else.
I go to a church where praise and worship is sung, and to me personally, singing these love songs to my Savior and my God are what moves me into worship.  You may be moved the same by Gospel Hymns, or Spirituals.  But who can sing “I’ll never know how much it cost, to see my sins upon that cross”, and not get a knot in their throat?  Who can sing “Jesus, lover of my soul, Jesus, you never let me go”, and not feel love to the Savior?  Who can sing “Worthy is the - lamb who was slain - Holy Holy is He” and not feel gratitude?  Who can sing “my chains are gone, I’ve been set free, My God My Savior has rescued me” and not be overcome with the joy of salvation bubbling up? 

But it’s not the song that is worship - it’s the spirit in you.  The song is just a way to get to that spot in your heart where you can worship Him.  If you’re going to church and not being moved – you’re not worshipping in the way God has asked you to.  Worship “in spirit and truth” and you won’t find church boring at all!
Today I hope you find yourself in true worship of the Almighty God, The Savior, and the Holy Spirit.  There is a sweet intimacy there that cannot be found through religion or anything else this world offers.  If you need to feel His love – worship.  Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

People Pleaser!

People Pleaser!


Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?” – Isaiah 2:22
I met a very dear Spirit-filled friend last night at the football game.  She’s the kind of woman that anyone would be honored to know.  She knows the Bible from cover to cover, walks close to God, raises her family in respect and fear of God, and has planned her entire life around Him.  She even does all her cooking for the week on Saturday so that she can spend two hours each night with her husband and children in family prayer time.  Is she a powerful woman of faith?  You bet!
Last night we had the pleasure of sitting at the game and just talking about the various things we had been going through with God, scriptures, His love, and so forth.  It was a conversation like two friends speaking of a mutual friend.  So when she asked me to pray with her before she left, I was more than willing!  We were like two teens talking together on the phone and deciding to add a third friend to the line.

I walked her out to meet her husband for a ride home, and there in the entrance of the football field with no one around we held hands to pray.  But I’d forgotten how she prays!  She prays boldly, loudly, and she prays until the Spirit in her says she’s done.  Nothing interrupts the conversation with God that she has, and rightly so!  There holding hands, heads bowed, eyes closed, praying together was sweet…until people started passing by.  That’s when a spirit of fear can against me, and I stopped praying and the little voice in my head took over. 
“I hear people passing by.  Do they know me?  What will these people think?  They all know me.  They’ll think we’re crazed lunatics standing here praying loud, and heads bowed.  By now some of them have passed by twice!  I’m going to be the rumor of the town!  Say Amen! Say Amen!!!  Is that the band passing by?  OH MY GOODNESS! The entire band is passing by! SAY AMEN!!!”  After about 15 minutes or so, she did say Amen, and I felt such relief.  And immediately God spoke to my heart about how I felt and I had no answers except “I’m sorry God”.

As much as I enjoyed praying with her, I let the fear of what others think enter in.  I became a people pleaser, wondering what they all were thinking, wishing I could please them, and to make it even worse – it was while I was praying to My God!  I have to admit, I was pretty ticked off at myself for falling into that trap!  Especially after what I’d taught the youth of our church Wednesday night.
This past Wednesday night we talked about having courage.  I gave two examples, Group “P” and Group “G”.  Group “P” is the group you are a part of when you want to please people.  But the problem with that is the people come and go, and the things it takes to please each one change from day to day.  And some of them simply will never be pleased in you.  But Group “G” is for those that desire to please God.  He is a single audience, always there and never changing.  And He has given us His unchanging word to instruct us in how to please Him.  It is simply easier to please God than try to be a people pleaser. 

So there you have it, my humbling before God on a platter!  And God even warned me that this trial was coming and yet, I didn’t take the warning personally.  Yesterday my husband Don brought me a verse to read on his phone.  That verse was Isaiah 2:22 Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?”   Thank you Lord, for correction when I need it, because I know you reserve that for your children whom you love.

Friday, September 21, 2012




I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.” – Luke 15:7

God as our shepherd is one of the Bibles most often used analogies.  He feeds us, he protects us, he leads us, and in many other ways He is our shepherd.  In fact, that is the meaning of one of the names of God, Jehovah-Raah.  “Raah” comes from the Hebrew Rô'eh which means shepherd.  Ah, but it really means even more!
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is in Luke 15.  The religious people have gathered together and are ridiculing Jesus for eating with tax collectors and sinners.  Then Jesus, overhearing what they had said, doesn’t turn to fight for His honor, but tells the story of the shepherd of one hundred sheep.

One hundred sheep are in the care of the shepherd. He is leading them, feeding them, fighting off wild animals to protect them.  But then he turns to find out that one sheep is no longer following.  The ninety-nine are still there being obedient to the shepherd, but one is gone astray.  The shepherd risks all ninety-nine, and leaves them to go after the one who has turned the wrong direction and is lost.  And when he finds the one sheep, he puts him around his neck to carry him, and brings him back to the fold to safety.  And then he calls his friends and neighbors together and tells them to rejoice and be happy with him because he has found the lost sheep.
There are many times I’ve prayed that God would leave the ninety-nine and go after the one that has gone astray.  And many times He has proven faithful to bring that one back.  I have no doubt that sometimes that prayer has been prayed over me, and I’ve returned as well.  God’s love is deep pit reaching, in the mire seeking, and never leaving! 

He loves the ninety-nine that are faithful, but His heart is made glad when the one that has gone the wrong way turns back to Him for shelter.  He holds no grudges.  He forgets our sins.  He brings us back to the fold.
The chief meaning of the word “Jehovah” comes from the Hebrew word Havah meaning "to be" or "to exist" or "to become known".  This denotes a God who reveals Himself unceasingly. Rô'eh from which Raah comes, means "shepherd" in Hebrew.  But an extend translation of this word is rea', which means "friend" or "companion." This indicates the intimacy God desires between Himself and His people.  When the two words are combined - Jehovah-Raah - it can be translated as "The Lord my Friend."

A friend will reach out to the one who has left the fold.  And when he returns, they will hold no grudge.  They will forget the sin.  They will accept that one back with rejoicing and a glad heart. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Jehovah Nissi

Jehovah Nissi


And Moses built an altar and called its name, The-Lord-Is-My-Banner; for he said, “Because the Lord has sworn: the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” – Exodus 17:15-16

There are many beautiful names of God in Hebrew, but perhaps one of the most beautiful is Jehovah Nissi.  It was given to Him by Moses after the war with Amalek in Exodus 17, but to understand it’s full meaning we have to know what a the purpose of a banner was.
When the tribes of Israel were assembled in the wilderness, they built the tabernacle as a dwelling place for God, and a place for sacrifices.  They were given specific details from God about where to setup camp around the tabernacle by tribe.  In Numbers 2 God details where each tribe should setup camp, and that they should have a standard or banner to fly for each tribe.  Think of it as a national flag, or a family coat of arms.  It was used to identify the camp and the people that lived there.  (There are lots of good resources about this online, but this is one of my favorites:  Each tribe had its own banner.

In Exodus 17 the Israelites are in the wilderness and the Amelekites have risen up against them.  Moses has Joshua assemble an army, and they went to war with the Amelekites. Moses talked with God about this war, and God told him to go to the top of the hill and take the rod with him that he used to hit the rock and bring water from it, which was known as “The Rod of God”.  When Moses held up the Rod, Joshua prevailed over the Amelekites.  But when he got weak and lowered his arm, the Amelekites began to win. 
Seeing their leader needing help, Aaron and Hur went to Moses rescue and put a stone under him for him to sit on.  Yet his arm was still weak.  So Aaron and Hur stayed with Moses and lifted his hands for him, one on each side so that he was able to hold his hands up until the sun went down.  They remained with him the entire day, strengthening him, so he could do as God commanded, and Joshua won the battle.

To celebrate the victory Moses built an altar to God and called it Jehovah Nissi, “The Lord is my Banner”.  Moses was celebrating that the tribes had won the battle, but also noting that they had come together into one family under God.  Moses and Aaron were of the tribe of Levi.  Joshua was of the tribe of Ephraim. Hur was of the tribe of Judah.  By helping Moses, Moses was able to serve God. 
Jehovah Nissi is a beautiful name because it clears away our family ties and unites us into a new family.  He is our banner – our identity.  This is a foretelling of the coming of Christ, who has united us as one family, the Body of Christ, Children of God.  We fight together, we support each other, and we find victory in Him. 

Isaiah 11:10 says:
And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse,
Who shall stand as a banner to the people;
For the Gentiles shall seek Him,
And His resting place shall be glorious.”

Truly, His resting place is glorious!  His love for us gives rest from the long battle.