Sighing and Groaning?

In my reading through the Scriptures in a year, today I read Ezekiel 5-9. I realize that Ezekiel was written by the prophet Ezekiel to the people of Judah and Israel. Yet, my mind struggled with what was prophesied would happen to Jerusalem.

V. 3 tells us the glory of God had departed! This is itself is tragic, but read on.

Vv. 4-6 give a solemn declaration of judgment pronounced against those who were God’s chosen people. These verses read like this in the ESV,

4 And the LORD said to him, “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.” 5 And to the others he said in my hearing, “Pass through the city after him, and strike. Your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity. 6 Kill old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one on whom is the mark. And begin at my sanctuary.” So they began with the elders who were before the house. — (Emphasis added)

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Dear brothers and sisters, how often do we read through the pages of Scripture and fail to understand what is happening?

We can often overlook the principles found in the Scriptures and do not comprehend how it can apply to our own lives over 2 1/2 millennium after Ezekiel wrote these words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Under the judgment of God, the ONLY people who would be protected from the wrath of the Almighty were those who sighed and groaned over all the abominations.

There would be no pity shown, and nobody was exempt. Sadly, the nation had become so corrupt that the messengers who would be placing the mark upon the foreheads were told to start with the elders.  These were the men charged with the religious and governmental affairs of the nation.

In other words, there were people from the top of the religious and social stratum who were NOT sighing and groaning over the abominations. These abominations were so vulgar and grotesque that Ezekiel only alludes to some of what these might have been.

The scenario we find in the 21st century is much different. The world faces even greater abominations. Abortion is now acceptable. The family is being destroyed. LGBTQ issues cloud every aspect of culture and society. What transpires behind closed doors is now openly flaunted and accepted.

In fact, our own governments willingly and deliberately strip financial aid from countries that refuse to allow for abortion at will and who refuse to legitimize ALL aspects of the LGBTQ movement.

What is NOT different is that many “elders” who are to stand in the gap and proclaim thus saith the Lord refuse to stand anymore. Even evangelical churches are becoming more open and accepting of contemporary issues of the day.

Instead of being like Martin Luther and stating, “Here I stand, I can do no other”, elders and churches are allowing for more and more abominations to come into the places where God’s people are to worship. Entertainment drives the masses and the goats feel happy while the sheep starve for lack of the bread of life from pulpits.

In this life, we are not worried about the enemy brazenly storming across our land. We do not go to sleep worrying whether our women will be violated, our children openly sold as slaves, and whether we will even have enough to eat for tomorrow.

Sadly — nay, tragically, the abominations that surround us are compounded by the reality that very few sigh and groan. Instead, we laugh when it flickers across our screens. At times, we can become so hardened in our hearts that there is only a twinge of guilt that we have mocked the God we claim as our Father.

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My challenge to you — go and read Ezekiel 9. See the state of Israel and Judah. Ask yourself whether you are laughing and enjoying the fruit of the world and its abomination.

If we truly desire revival, we need to begin learning once again how to sigh and groan over the abominations. We need to seek forgiveness for our own areas where we fail to meet the perfect, holy standard that is Jesus Christ. We must hold ourselves accountable and strive to become more like the Master.

May you and I who truly know Jesus Christ as our Savior remember that like Israel of old, we are called to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:5). Unlike the abominable offerings that God refused to accept from Israel, we MUST offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Take the world, BUT GIVE ME JESUS!

Consistent Inconsistency – Part 3 – Divorce

This next problem is one where way too many churches are consistently inconsistent, and I believe it is a shame for several reasons.

  1. This should NOT be a problem within the body of Christ, but it is.
  2. This should NOT be divisive between brothers and sisters, but it is.
  3. This should NOT be what defines congregations, but it is.

The problem I am speaking of is the matter of divorce.

It is imperative that we define marriage and what God commands regarding marriage. Biblical marriage can ONLY be defined as: One man and one woman united together before God in the bonds of matrimony for the rest of their natural lives. As God is the One Who created marriage, it is He and He alone who defines the rules for what makes a marriage. Government has NO RIGHT to try and define what they think marriage is or what it should be.

Stated otherwise, this means: Continue reading

Bless Them Which Persecute You

Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.  ~Romans 12:14

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.  ~Matthew 5:5-12

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.  ~Matthew 6:14-15

These are some of the verses I’ve been quoting to myself recently. It is not easy to do the right thing when others seem to hate you and want to make your life miserable and yet, in order to truly have peace and joy, one must obey these commands that Christ laid out for us.

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The other night when I was lying in bed upset about the way a person was treating my family, I began to think about the Father and how He must feel by all the people that mock Him, take His name in vain, and do everything imaginable to grieve Him. All of a sudden, my focus changed, as it put things in a new light.

I don’t think there is anything we can go through on earth that Jesus didn’t experience in some form or fashion and yet He prayed for those who crucified Him. He mourned for Jerusalem and the way they would treat His people. He died for a world that He knew would hate Him. That is the posture He wants us to have. We must rid ourselves of all pride, the “need” to be right, even the desire to justify our actions at times, and humbly go to God in the midst of difficult situations. And somehow we must find a way to pray for those who persecute us. I think, many times, they really don’t know what they’re doing. And, even if they do and their goal is to hurt you in every way they can, only God can change a heart. Retaliation will only make it worse.

As I write this, a part of me wonders if anyone else can relate to this or if I should just be writing in my journal. I’ve learned, however, that most of the time, God allows me to go through things because someone else is going through a similar situation and needs to know they’re not alone. They need encouraged to draw near to the Lord and reminded of how they need to walk in various situations. That is my prayer. No matter who is being mean to you right now, God sees and He will take care of it in His time. This is simply a time to keep growing in walking in His ways. Hold tightly to His hand and don’t deal with it in your flesh. Ask God to give you His heart for this person and to give you wisdom in dealing with the situation. I’ve no doubt that He will.

Thoughts on Fear

I’ve been pondering lately what makes people afraid. To fear is to not trust God but the average person would not give that as a reason for their fears. I know, in my life, my biggest fears have been due to thinking God would not intervene in a bad situation. The bottom line was that I wanted what I wanted and I did not want to accept the fact that God may not give me what I wanted. (How selfish is that!)

In talking with a friend recently, I realized that fear in some people may have to do with knowing that one is not right with God. Maybe they fear God will do bad things to them because of how they are living, or maybe they’re afraid of dying because they know that they are not ready to meet Him.

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If this is the root of your fear, it is not too late to repent of your sins and ask God’s forgiveness. God did not give you that spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7). He desires for you to walk in faith and victory, completely trusting Him in everything! This is not impossible.

When one knows that there is nothing hidden in their life that is displeasing to the Lord, he or she can lay down that fear and walk in complete trust, knowing that God will take care of them. Sure, disappointments will still come. We will still face financial stress, sickness, death, and a myriad of other things but we will also be able to say with Job, “Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him” (Job 13:15).

I am praying for strength to trust Him more than ever this year. This past few years, I’ve dealt with more fears than I remember dealing with previously, but I know in reality that nothing can happen to me that my God doesn’t allow. I am continuing to learn to rest in that. I pray that you are too.

Love Mercy

He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8).

But if you had known what this means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the guiltless (Matthew 12:7).

A while back, I came to the conclusion that I would rather err on the side of mercy when relating to others. I’m not talking about being soft on sin. But I am talking about walking graciously toward others who may not be at the same place in their walk with the Lord as you or I may be. And, if a brother or sister is caught in sin, learning how to “restore such a one in the spirit of meekness” (Gal. 6:1).

When I look at others who are covered with the scars of bad decisions they have made, I do not lose sight of the fact that there but for the grace of God go I. God has spared me from a lot in life but that is a testimony to His goodness, not mine.

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Luke 6:36 tells us:

Be you therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

Matthew 5:7 says:

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

I have received so much mercy in my life. How could I be so heartless as to not show mercy in return?

Dictionary.com defines “mercy” as:

1. compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one’s power; compassion, pity, or benevolence:
2. the disposition to be compassionate or forbearing:
3. the discretionary power of a judge to pardon someone or to mitigate punishment, especially to send to prison rather than invoke the death penalty:
4. an act of kindness, compassion, or favor:
5. something that gives evidence of divine favor; blessing.
I want to be that person that doesn’t hesitate to put an arm around a struggling sinner who is broken instead of the one who says (even in the heart), “If you just hadn’t done that stupid thing, you wouldn’t be in this predicament.”
 
There are times when pious, religious people may need a firm rebuke but only if it can be done in humility with the purpose of the sinner coming to repentance and being restored. But there are other times that we must help to lift up the broken so they can find that hope that will lift them out of the pit they find themselves in.
Several times in the Gospels, we read that “Jesus had compassion.” We need to follow His example. Won’t you show mercy to someone today?

Dump Them Both

I have lived almost half a century. Being both a US citizen and a British subject, I can say that I have seen my share of politics. I have seen the games, heard the lies, and watched the vitriol fly. This current election in the USA must be the worse I have ever seen. We are a laughingstock among the nations of the world, many of whom have no fear of us as a nation. More importantly, they have no respect for us because our leaders (and potential wanna-be leaders) have no respect for the laws of this land.

America used to be a very great nation. We are the nation that was silent for the first 3 years of The Great War, also known as World War I. Finally joining in, the men of this nation answered the call to arms and routed the enemies of freedom. That was ALL that was fought for.

The same thing occurred in World War II when the greatest generation of Americans who have ever lived rose up and resoundingly thrashed the enemies of freedom on two fronts (Europe and Asia). We asked for nothing, but gave much. After all was said and done, we sent more of men and women to former war fronts and America rebuilt those nations one brick at a time. We even paid for it with grants, many of which have still not been repaid.

The men and women who gave their lives in the theaters of war followed their orders so that we might have the freedoms we enjoy today.

Sadly, I never thought, and I am sure our Founding Fathers, nor those veterans of war from World War II on, could have thought or imagined that our nation would be allowed to flounder like a fish out of water. To think that the choices for President and Commander-in-Chief is down to the vulgar, trash-talking, debauched candidate on one side and a feminist, God-hating, traitor on the other side is just enough to make anybody with half an ounce of common sense want to vomit – violently!

However, there is something even worse than what we are seeing today. Our nation has become a nation that panders to evil. It calls good to be evil, and evil to be good. Our nation has become a culture that thinks it is entitled. It thinks it is entitled to disrespect the American flag while being paid millions of dollars. Sadly, most of the people who complain about this are the same ones who will still pay hundreds of dollars at sporting events every single week and thus support and endorse what is taking place.

Our society believes that is must speak from the pocketbook because after all, “it’s about the economy, stupid!” When will we ever learn? Obviously, it is true that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. This once great nation is repeating history. History shows that Rome was NOT destroyed by her enemies. She was destroyed from within. Rome thought she was entitled to what she had. Ultimately, she was destroyed because she forgot the reason she existed was because of God and God alone.

Not only is our society at large a problem, but even the evangelical church is a problem. We have people fighting back and forth across the aisles of Facebook, Twitter, and even church itself trying to decide why and which of the lesser of two great, monstrous evils to vote for!

Seriously?? Let’s put this into perspective.

Let’s assume in a few years that the choice is down to a president who promises that he or she will only kill 10 Christians per day versus a president who promises that he or she will only kill just one (1) Christian per day. Are our only choices really to vote for the lesser of these two evils? The cries are growing louder and I can hear some saying, “Oh, that would never happen!”

May I remind you that we can easily substitute the word “Christian” in the above sentence and replace it with “baby” or “infant.” We end up with the same solution. We soothe our conscience by declaring that we are only voting for the president who “promises to only kill just one (1) baby a day” on his watch instead of standing for what is right.

You can argue all you want while using the illustrations of Joseph being second in command in Egypt, and Daniel being third in command in all of Babylon. Those two men were NOT voted in to their office. They were placed strategically, specifically, and sovereignly in those places of power by none other than God for a specific purpose.

The Christians of Rome had no option to “vote” for the lesser of two evil Caesars. They would NEVER have been told by the apostles to “vote your conscience” or “vote for the lesser of two evils and hope for the best.” Utter ridiculousness! They were commanded to obey the laws of the land, to remember who was in control, to pray for the leaders of the land, to watch for the Lord’s return, and to pray without ceasing.

Today, we have many who are not only self-acclaimed evangelicals, but even claim that they believe in the sovereign hand of God. They then turn around and think that the entire picture puzzle rests upon their feeble shoulders of clay. They declare that God is in control, but refuse to believe Psalm 2 that reminds us that God sits in the heavens and LAUGHS at the wicked. The wicked say, “Let us break their bands asunder” but God holds them in derision.

Today, our churches rarely pray and are certainly not watching and hoping for the return of the Lord. Our churches are more concerned about keeping the peace between rival factions in the congregation instead of saying, “Thus says the Lord…the wicked shall not prosper!”

In the meantime, having cast aside the belief in the sovereignty of God, we have become more and more pragmatic in our belief system. We justify the killing of only one baby a day because “maybe God will take this candidate out of the picture after he becomes president so that we can be blessed with the second person in charge” and America will truly become a Christian nation again. Our pastors and churches have accepted the handouts of the government and thus have been lulled into silence for the sake of a few dollars saved on church supplies at the local office supply store.

I would be a fool to encourage our readers to follow their heart. Your heart and mine cannot be trusted. Jeremiah 17:9 makes this very clear, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

Both candidates are simply two sides of the same coin. They both endorse the murder of helpless babies and support the abomination of the homosexual movement. Evil is still evil and will always be evil. Please spare me the details of how “a vote thrown away is a vote for ______” or “if you don’t vote, you are not obeying your civic duty and thus in sin!”

No, no, no, and NO!!!!!!

I want to hear more pastors, Bible teachers, and evangelists crying out to God like Nehemiah to forgive their sins, the sins of their homes, and the sins of this nation. I want to hear more who will be willing, even as a top official, to pray for what is right and true, even if it means that you get thrown to the lions. I want to hear more cry for mercy for the tragedy that has befallen this nation, and plead to God asking, “How long, O Lord, will the wicked prosper?”

The truth is that if those who claimed the name of Christ were willing to cease being pragmatic in their approach to life and realize that the Scriptures are good for all that pertains to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), then we would become a voice crying in the wilderness, “Make straight your paths for the King is coming.”

With all the arguments that have been bandied about as to who we should or should not vote for, I am truly appalled at the lack of integrity that is seen in every quarter. I am appalled at the emotions that are in play instead of the Scriptures. I am appalled at the reality that many who say they love the Lord and believe He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords live as though the rise and fall of America depends on them casting a vote for the lesser of two evils!

I have no right to tell you to vote for either candidate. Americans, by the law of the land, have been given the liberty and the choice to make as to what they will do in this election and every election after this.

Those who claim the name of Christ though have a much higher calling. We are not called to obey our emotions. We are not called to vote with our pocketbooks. We are called to be ambassadors of the King of Kings, and I have to wonder how many in the world look on us with disdain because we have fallen hard and fast away from the truths we claim to hold dear.

As a true believer in the sovereignty of God and the dictates of Scripture, I personally cannot and will not vote for either candidate. I will not violate my conscience in order to pacify my emotions. Finally, I choose not to vote ultimately because to do so means that I must practice situational ethics in order to justify either choice.

Like Joshua of old said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!” We will wake up on November 6th giving thanks that we are one day closer to the return of the Lord. We will be able to sleep well at night knowing that we did not approve of one single candidate who stands daily to mock the Most High God. We will wake up knowing that no matter who will be the next president that our God still reigns and He ALONE puts up one and puts down another.

He alone can make our next Nebuchadnezzar to eat grass like a cow until he lifts up his eyes and praises the Most High God, and He alone can choose to feed the next Herod literally to the worms!

In conclusion, our readers have choices to make as well. My prayer is that each of you will pray about how you can make the right decisions that are in line with the Word of God. There should be and can be no other rule by which you decide your paths. Ultimately, we will each give account before God for the decision we choose to make, but we will not have the liberty to say that we loved what God hates because it was the better of all the other options.

Bridle Your Tongue

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6).

Gracious speech is something that many struggle with and something that I strive to attain. It is true that you cannot take words back after you’ve said them. How many words are said in anger and then regretted for the rest of one’s life?

“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26).

This verse tells just how important controlling the tongue really is. It’s easy to think we are right with God but, if we don’t control our tongue, James tells us our religion is worthless. This can be shown by temper, cussing, anything that is the opposite of self-control.

“If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body (James 3:2).

We all know that there is no such thing as a perfect person and yet Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:48, “Be ye, therefore, perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” If we are to strive for perfection, we must strive to control our tongue.

“And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:6-10).

Wow. There is a lot in these verses. I encourage you to meditate on these but don’t come away with the conclusion that, “See? It’s hopeless.” The call goes out to challenge you to control your tongue so that God is honored in everything you do.

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When I was in school, I learned how two-faced people can be, especially girls. They would tell you they like you one minute and then turn on you the next. I expect some of that came from insecurity but it was deceit, and I hated it.

Unfortunately, I sometimes see this in adults too. Instead of using words to build up others, we may be nice to a person’s face but then we stab them in the back, killing them with our words. They may or may not ever find out but the damage is done just the same.

What are the primary things that come out of your mouth? Gossip? Slander? Profanity? Curses? Tearing down others?

Or are you speaking words of life, blessing, encouragement, and joy to everyone you encounter? You are the only one who can control your tongue. Or maybe I should say the Holy Spirit in you is able to control your tongue, but you have to let Him. Sometimes you may have to literally bite your tongue to keep from reacting the way you usually would but do that if it helps.

Today can be a new day. When you find yourself going back into old habits, get on your knees, ask God’s forgiveness, and start anew. Do that 50 times a day if you have to. But don’t give up. God can give you a new, uplifting vocabulary if you want it. Won’t you start incorporating that today?