Foreign Gods

The people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines. And they forsook the LORD and did not serve him.

Judges 10:6

As I read through Joshua and now Judges, I can’t ignore the similarities between ancient Israel and the Christian church of today. Despite repeated promises and emotional swearing of fealty prompted by displays of glory or power, the Nation also repeatedly forgot the Lord.

In Numbers and Deuteronomy, God commanded Israel to drive out all the people in the Land He would give them. However, He also let them know they would fail to do it and that the gods of those nations would become a snare to them.

Then in Joshua, we read here and there of groups of people Israel didn’t quite dislodge. The idea behind today’s verse from Judges 10 is repeated multiple times throughout this book. Basically, the people turned from serving the Lord to serving the gods of the people they had failed to drive out of their land.

Of course, we don’t serve those gods today. We’re far more advanced.

Today, we serve the gods of career and of Netflix, the gods of entertainment and of comfort, and the gods of the people around us – the gods of culturally-defined morality and worldly sexual ethics which have nothing to do with the Lord. Today, we serve the bloated and demanding god of self most of all.

Even the church, though she bears the name of Christ in her Christianity, serves these gods. As Christians, we fail to drive the world out of our sacred places and so we let the world’s gods take over.

We’re afraid to stand out, so we don’t. We don’t really believe that a focus on Scripture alone is enough, so we add entertainment. I have to wonder if those ancient Caananite gods were more entertaining than the scrolls of Moses…

Israel was proud of being a free people, set free from bondage to Egypt. Yet they quickly bound themselves up in sin, ignoring the One who set them free for the pop-culture statues and rituals around them.

We say we believe in Jesus and are thankful for what He did for us, dying to save us from sin. Yet we do not behave like thankful people who have been set free. We continue to act like slaves to sin; saying one thing but doing another.

Oh people, we are no different than our ancient fathers.

Lord, forgive us! Lord save us from our weak wills and from our compromises with sin! Turn our hearts fully to You today. May we be repulsed by the very sins we now embrace, ashamed of the things we once did as we choose to obey, to read Your Word and know You more. Help us to walk in Your ways and enjoy the joy of Your presence now and forevermore, amen.

Wisdom Seeker: Day 14

Proverbs 14

In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.

Proverbs 14:23

As usual, plenty of good stuff in the proverbs reading today, but of course time constraints mean I have to be prayerfully selective. Today, as I prayed through the reading, this is the one which grabbed me.

It may be a bit of a no-brainer when it comes to working for a living. After all, it takes work to make a profit. No one gets paid to watch Netflix all day.

But… until God brought my eyes again and again to this verse, even as I tried to skip over it, I’d never considered it in a spiritual sense.

Today it occurred to me that we have a bad habit in the church in America of doing lots and lots and lots of talking. We talk about the Word, we talk about the teachers we love, we talk about being a light and all of that.

But what do we do about it?

Are we good about confessing our sin and exhibiting genuine repentance? Do we really “put our money where our mouth is” and demonstrate our love of Christ by our lifestyles and choices? Is our entertainment glorifying to Him?

Do we behave with Christlike love and patience when someone wrongs us? Are we open and honest when we wrong someone else?

I know we say we truly love the Lord, but do we live as though we truly love Him? Do we live as though eternity is real and that our time with God in listening, serving, and obeying Him is the most important thing we do each day?

Some food for thought. Let’s live in such a way as to profit the Kingdom by our work. Our labor of love for Christ. Even our sacrificial toil in humility and in doing justice and loving kindness as we walk before Him each day.

Father, show us where we need to make our walk line up with our talk, then don’t let us feel comfortable until we are doing it. Teach us to be consistent in word and in deed, and incline our hearts to loving obedience of Your commands in all things, amen.

Tuesday Prayer: Conquered

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Romans 8:31, 37

Lord of Hosts, Your might is greater than anything in the heavens above or on earth beneath. You are truly Almighty – powerful beyond measure, capable of all things, able to overcome. There is no person or situation too far for Your reach or too broken for You to use. Praise be to You, our Conqueror and King!

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

1 John 4:4

Thank You, Lord, that by Your grace, we share in the victory won by Your Son on the cross! In Him, bought by His blood, we are more than conquerors, no longer held captive by sin nor defeated by any evil from without or temptation within.

Our enemy, however, would like us to believe otherwise. He calls our attention to the broken chains lying at our feet, reminding us of how they bit into our flesh when we were in bondage to sin. He exploits those tender spots and whispers to us that we will never be free.

…He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

John 8:44b

But he is a liar; the accuser of both God and man and the father of lies.

When that old snake sends cold coils of dread around our hearts, tempting us to despair of escaping some besetting sin or to doubt Your goodness, Lord, remind us of our victory in Jesus. Remind us of Your favor, of the Throne of Grace where we may find help, and of Your armor by which we can stand firm and resist the devil’s schemes.

Then, Lord, strengthen our faith. Help us to stand when we feel weakened and frail. Give us the heart to continue in battle, not growing weary but believing that You are able to keep us in the right way. Remind us to be diligent in Your Word, steadfast in prayer, humble in heart, and walking in trusting obedience to You in all things.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

Ephesians 6:10-11

And when our circumstances seem dismal or we are in fear for the souls of some lost loved one, remind us that You truly do work all things for the good of those who love you. May our obedience, joy, and trust be a light that guides others to share in the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ, amen.

Tuesday Prayer: Follow

A quick note to my blog friends: I apologize for not being very active or reading your blogs lately. I am in the middle of teenage chaos and adjusting to a new job. It is all I can do to post once or twice a week right now, so know I miss you and hope to be back to reading and commenting soon – though realistically, it may be months! ❤

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

John 12:25-26

Lord our God, the Almighty, we praise Your name today, for You are good! By Your power, You defeated death once for all, raising Jesus from death to life so that we who follow Him may also be dead to sin and alive to You in Jesus. Hallelujah, for He is risen!

O God, let our rejoicing not be limited to Easter Sunday but continue throughout the year. Truly, our Savior lives and is alive and active every single day. Likewise, we have joy in Him daily even when our choice to follow Him leads us into places we would rather not go. But Lord, often You call us to follow You into the difficult and uncomfortable places, for there is where You do Your greatest work. 

Today, we pray that the Spirit will increase our zeal for God and for Your Kingdom. Train our hearts to let go of our lives in this world, considering them disposable for the honor of following the King of Glory wherever He may call us. Teach us to go wherever You lead us,  Lord – even if You lead us so far out of our comfort zones that we have nothing to cling to but You. Maybe especially then.

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.

Philippians 3:8

And when we feel weak and inadequate because of the depths of the waters where You have brought us, remind us that Your power is perfected in our weakness. Your glory shines through most of all when it is clear that You were the one working all along. Teach us to trust You enough to lean on Your power and not on our own capabilities; to trust You enough to step out even onto the waves when You call us there.

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.

Matthew 14:28-29

This week, Lord, we ask for You to give us the courage to put obedience to You above our comforts, to put Your will for us above our own will and desires, and to increase our trust in You. We do believe; help our unbelief! May our actions reflect our faith as You call us into a more intimate walk with You, setting us apart to display Your splendor here on earth.

As we step out in faith and follow You, may our trust in You grow with each new stride and may our addiction to security fade as we learn to exult more fully in You, amen. 

And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Matthew 10:38-39

Watch Out!

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.

Ezekiel 3:17

After last night’s introduction to Biblical prophecy class, I started reading in Ezekiel to prepare for next week. Already this morning, many things were on my mind, not the least of which was Psalm 5:3 and praying expectantly.  

I’m participating in a forty day prayer challenge with some friends, and I have two main prayer focuses during the forty days. One involves people very close to me whom I long to see both in right relation to the Lord and in Godly Christian fellowship complete with accountability. The other concerns where God wants me after this school year ends, work-wise.

Also on my mind (with no little shame) was the temper tantrum I had with God yesterday morning and how He lost no time in correcting me through His word. Blessed be He who has me tutoring so that I had two distinct times in His Word yesterday and so received the rebuke!

At any rate, once I’d repented, He reminded me that one of the two big prayers I am focusing on is already on its way to being answered. Then to remind me that He isn’t bound to my time expectations concerning the other, He nudged me to pick up a collection of D. L. Moody when the book I’d planned for bedtime reading turned out to be one I’d already read.

Concerning Moody, his first Sabbath-school teacher, Mr. Kimball, wrote:

I can truly say … that I have seen few persons whose minds were spiritually darker when he came into my Sabbath-school class, or one who seemed more unlikely ever to become a Christian of clear, decided views of gospel truth, still less to fill any sphere of extended public usefulness.”

from The D. L. Moody Collection, edited by James S. Bell, Jr.

God can and will get hold of these loved ones. But in His time, not mine.

This morning, as I read about Ezekiel being appointed as a watchman, I couldn’t help but think that now in this present age, we are all watchmen of sorts. The Old Testament prophets served to bring the Word of God to the people. Often, as the next few verses of Ezekiel 3 state, that word was a word of warning, meant to bring the people to repentance.

Today, we have the written Word of God and the Spirit of God to be our guide and illuminate the Word to us. We still have prophets, but as last night’s teacher pointed out, we are warned to “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1) and not to “despise the prophecies but test everything…” (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21). We need to be watchmen, but watching that a prophecy is in line with Scripture and points to Yeshua Messiah; Jesus the Christ.

But another thing got me as I read this passage for the second time. Let’s back up two verses and read:

And I came to the exiles at Tel-abib, who were dwelling by the Chebar canal, and I sat where they were dwelling. And I sat there overwhelmed among them seven days. And at the end of seven days, the word of the LORD came to me:

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.

Ezekiel 3:15-17

In the Complete Jewish Study Bible, the commentary here reads, “Rashi* states that God is asking why Yechezk’el [Ezekiel] is keeping silent.”

Besides being a watchman in order to warn others of danger, besides being a watchman in expectant prayer, what if I were to be a watchman who didn’t need to be reminded of God’s commands? A watchman who not only watched, but obeyed?

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to warnings and obedience, this watchman is going to be keeping a closer eye on herself…

And yes, I know a watchman can’t be a herself and I’m a girl and all that, but let’s call it the literary masculine and move on, m’kay?

*Rashi was an 11th century rabbi whose work is still widely respected. 

Tuesday Prayer: Fruit

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23

Great Vinedresser, we know that You are the one who does the needed work of pruning in our lives so we can bear much fruit for You. We cannot bear fruit on our own but must remain connected to the Vine – to Jesus, the living Word of God who is Himself the embodiment of the truth of Scripture. He is our Savior who is also the Way, the Truth, the Life, the living Water, and the Bread of Life. In all ways, Jesus is our sustenance and our strength. 

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

John 15:1-2

Because of this, we give thanks for Jesus and for Your Holy Spirit who causes His fruit to grow in us. Thank You for pruning our hearts no matter how painful it may be at the time, so that we can bear more fruit. Thank You, too, for the solemn warning that any branch which fails to bear fruit will be taken away. You are good and wise, and we trust You even when a time of pruning doesn’t make sense to us. 

We also pray to You, Father, and ask that You will make us to bear much fruit. Since attributes such as love, joy, peace, and so on are the fruit of the Spirit, we recognize that we cannot manufacture them on our own but must ask for the Spirit to make them grow in us. Yet we cannot only pray for it then sit back with folded hands as if our duty is done. Time and time and time again, we also need to obey for it. 

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.

Acts 7:51

So it is that we ask You to open our eyes to see each opportunity You provide and open our ears to hear Your voice as we respond to each divine appointment. Guide us in being mindful of the gentle nudges of Your Spirit so we become more and more attuned to sensing His leading. Help us not to tune Him out but teach us to listen intently and diligently in all our days.

Please, Lord, let this year be one in which Your fruit grows so plentifully in our lives that we are radically and permanently changed. Make us to truly be plantings for the display of Your splendor and teach us to give You glory as it happens, amen. 

Just a Prayer

 For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah.
(Psalms 62:5-8)

Gracious Redeemer, You are the only One who can restore the wreckage of humanity caused by sin. You, Lord, restore our brokenness when we humbly seek and submit to Your ways. Thank You for coming into our terrible mess and bringing hope and for setting us free from slavery to sin. Thank You for providing in Your Son an example to emulate and a goal to strive for and for Your Spirit who provides guidance for the willing heart.

Lord, break our hearts afresh today for our sin and restore in us a proper awe and reverence for You! Restore to us the joy of our salvation this day and continue to do so in the days to come – a great flood of joy in You which will spill out on everyone in our path..

This day, we also ask for Your help in bringing our hearts to obedience. We confess that we are stubborn and often rebel against Your grace. We put higher priorities on the things of this world – things that will soon pass away – than we do on You and on Your Kingdom.

Forgive us, Lord. Help us to overcome our unbelief. Increase our love for You so that obedience to You is of utmost importance in our everyday lives and is evidenced by the way we live each day. Guide our priorities and show us the way they should be ordered, and teach our hearts obedience to Your ordained order.

Please also help our families. Heal broken hearts and restore damaged relationships and shattered trust. Crush our hearts for our sin towards our husbands, wives, parents, children, siblings, or anyone else and prod us to confess with humility and seek forgiveness.

Where we have been hurt, remind us of how we have grieved You, the God who is Love, and help us to extend to others the forgiveness You have already shown to us. Redeem our relationships in all aspects, Lord, and mold us into a people for Your pleasure and purposes, amen.