sin

God's mercy doesn't always change hearts.

God's mercy doesn't always change hearts.

2 Kings 6

During all the years of the American-led war on terror, there have often been debates about how best to bring change to the Middle East—particularly about how to change the hearts and minds of those who seem intent on destroying Western culture and peoples. Many think it is wrong for us to use military force to accomplish these goals, and they offer other solutions instead, ranging from outright ignoring the problem to pacifism or targeted kindness.

Blood and Water {ex7:20}

exodus-struggle-blood-and-water-poem.png

I love this river
I have stood on its banks
frolicked in its swell
almost been swept away by its current

But
I won't soon forget
the moment I met You
and I realized
that the mouthful of
—what I thought was—
clear, cold, refreshing water
was nothing more than
coppery, hot, metallic blood

I'd like to say
that since that moment
I've never cupped my hands again
to draw this putrid liquid
up to my mouth
but You know
that personal Niles are hard to abandon

I've been kneeling
at this river
my whole life
and You know just how
deep a canyon
it has carved in my heart

Still You couldn't bear
to leave me here
fervid and thirsty
never having tasted
Water from the Fountain
that will never
run dry

 

God deals with us according to our righteousness.

2 SAMUEL 22

In this song of praise from David, there was an interesting little line that jumped out at me: "The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me." (vs 21) Doesn’t this seem totally contrary to what we always profess? We normally say that God doesn’t treat us according to our unrighteousness. That’s what we understand grace to be.

And, of course, there is truth in that. But I also think David is speaking something true about God, here. In a very important way, God does deal with us according to our righteousness. What I believe this means is that God will deal with us in the way He knows is absolutely appropriate to help us along in our journey of healing. If we are extremely unrighteous, then God will (out of necessity) do things differently with us than He will with—say—one of His creatures who has never rebelled.

Photo © Unsplash/Guilherme Stecanella

Photo © Unsplash/Guilherme Stecanella

Even when Jesus was here, He dealt with people differently, according to their righteousness. The thing was, the people who had "more" righteousness weren’t necessarily the people you might have thought. For instance, Jesus didn’t have many hard words for the prostitutes, outcasts, or "sinners" who flocked around Him. But He said shocking things to the Pharisees, to those who claimed to be the most righteous of all.

The good news, here, is that we don’t have to worry about our sin problems. We don’t have to try to diagnose our sin or figure out a plan of healing. God knows what we need, and He will deal with us according to our level of righteousness. If we don’t have any (which is the category I often think I fall into), that’s okay. He’s got a plan for that! Trust Him!

Photo © Unsplash/ahmed zid

Photo © Unsplash/ahmed zid

God loves those who hate Him.

God loves those who hate Him.

You love those who hate you! This was the accusation Joab leveled at David after the big battle where David’s son Absalom was killed. David was absolutely devastated by Absalom’s death, so instead of celebrating the victory of his "enemy," David returned home, weeping over the loss of his child. Apparently, Joab didn’t like that:

God is always trying to get through to us.

God is always trying to get through to us.

1 SAMUEL 22

It is really disheartening to see just how sick and twisted Saul became. How irrational. How unreasonable. And since Ahimelek, the high priest, had helped David (even unwittingly), "the king said, 'You will surely die, Ahimelek, you and your whole family.'" (vs 16) Wow. This is a far cry from the king who refused to hurt those who spoke against him. This a complete 180—the willingness to destroy not only an innocent man, but his entire family as well.

God is on the move.

God is on the move.

1 SAMUEL 16

I just love it when the Bible hauls off and slaps me upside the head. This was one of those chapters. I read the whole thing, of course, recognizing the most famous verse along the way—"People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."(vs 7) But, mentally, I never really got past verse one. It hit me right between the eyes the second I read it:

God dissolves sin.

God dissolves sin.

1 SAMUEL 12

Out of this whole chapter, there was one verse that jumped out at me. As Samuel was giving his farewell address to the Israelites, they began to lament over the new evil they had done—asking for a king. In response to their distress, "Samuel answered, 'Don’t be afraid. It’s true that you have sinned, but don’t turn away from the Lord. Serve the Lord with all your heart.'" (vs 20)

God does not overpower us.

God does not overpower us.

JUDGES 18

Judges 18 begins with a mantra that will repeat through the last several chapters of the book: "In those days Israel had no king." As you will discover (if you don’t already know what’s ahead in the next few chapters), this isn’t a good declaration. This isn’t a statement of freedom. Rather, it’s a statement of spiritual slavery. Israel had no king, no spiritual leadership, no direction, no moral compass. Everybody just did whatever they saw fit... and that always makes for a very scary scene.

God lets us get burned.

God lets us get burned.

JUDGES 3

What would happen if you went in your kitchen right now, turned on the stovetop, and put your hand on the burner? You’d burn your hand, of course. And how do you know you’d burn your hand if you touched a hot stove? Probably because you or someone you know has had just such an unpleasant experience in the past. And that’s how we learn that touching a hot stove is dangerous and can harm us.

God helps us fight.

God helps us fight.

JUDGES 1

The first chapter of the book of Judges chronicles more of the war conquests of Israel. And as I read the various accounts, I thought about how God helps us fight. Of course, these were accounts of actual fighting, and we may not find ourselves out on the battlefield, but God helps us fight in other areas of our lives. When we need spiritual help, God fights for us. When we need emotional help, God fights for us. And whenever we align ourselves with God’s will, He helps us fight... and we always win.

God travels the middle of the road.

God travels the middle of the road.

JOSHUA 23

I just love how, sometimes, the tiniest things jump out at me. Here’s one for today: "Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left." (vs 6)  Here’s something that’s hard for us to remember sometimes: Every road has two ditches—one on the left and one on the right. God doesn’t want us to end up in either of them. He wants us to travel the middle of the road, where He is.

when What If comes too late {gn34}

Photo © Unsplash/Claudia Soraya

Photo © Unsplash/Claudia Soraya

"An eye for an eye" doesn't normally smack of grace,
but it would have been exceedingly merciful
compared to the revenge exacted by Dinah's brothers:
an entire community destroyed
because one person was brutally assaulted.

Some wonder
why they didn't choose
a different response—
something non-violent,
something conciliatory.
I wonder why they had to choose at all.

What was Jacob doing in Shechem?

He promised Esau a rendezvous in Seir;
instead, he traveled in the opposite direction.
He promised God an altar and a tithe at Bethel;
instead, he built that altar in a heathen place.

It's so easy to only ask
What If
when the Big Tragedy hits.

But
What if Jacob had kept his word?
What if he'd taken his family in the opposite direction?
What if he hadn't built his house in a dangerous and foreign land?

What if Genesis 34 tragedies
are always preceded by
Genesis 33 choices?

It's easy to say
Dinah shouldn't have been raped
or
Dinah's brothers shouldn't have retaliated
but I say
Dinah shouldn't have been there in the first place.

 

God wants every part of us.

God wants every part of us.

JOSHUA 7

There is a term in this chapter of Joshua that keeps popping up in the Old Testament—something that I have a lot of questions about. It is the Hebrew word charam. In many Bible versions, when a text includes this word, there will be a footnote at the bottom to explain that "The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them." In the Hebrew lexicon, the word can mean to consecrate, to devote, to forfeit, to utterly destroy.

God does not remember our sins.

God does not remember our sins.

DEUTERONOMY 33

I know. No big “earth-shattering” revelation today. We all know that God doesn’t remember our sins, but it’s awfully nice to see it in action. This promise of God’s isn’t just a claim; it’s a reality. In Deuteronomy 33, Moses pronounces a blessing on the people of Israel as they are getting ready to enter the Promised Land. As I read through the list of blessings, I couldn’t help once again noticing the names behind the tribes of Israel: Dan, Asher, Gad, Levi, Judah...

God loves His rebellious children.

God loves His rebellious children.

DEUTERONOMY 31

I would like to marry two concepts I find in this chapter. First, that God’s love is active. It is a verb, not a noun. And second, that God loves us even while knowing exactly who and what we are. His intimate knowledge of our wickedness does not change His love for us. In fact, if anything, I think it fires Him up to love us (that is, to fiercely act for our best good) even more.

God reveres honesty.

God reveres honesty.

DEUTERONOMY 25

God is a master of relationships, and the first key to any relationship is honesty. When you think about it, the whole world — even the universe — is in the mess it’s in because one of God’s creatures decided to be dishonest instead of honest. Up in heaven, Lucifer began spreading lies about God, and when Adam and Eve bought into his lies in the Garden of Eden, our planet began to descend into chaos.

God has a favorite number.

God has a favorite number.

DEUTERONOMY 15

"At the end of every seven years, you must cancel debts." (vs 1) I have always been intrigued by the number seven and the way it is used in the Bible. I think it must be God’s favorite number. It seems to carry the idea of perfection, wholeness, completeness. There are lots of significant things that happened in the Bible regarding the number seven: Noah took seven of the clean animals into the ark, Jacob worked seven years each for Leah and Rachel, Egypt had seven years of plenty and seven years of famine, and Jesus cast out seven demons from Mary Magdalene. Even the multiples of seven have some significance in the Bible. For instance, many great Bible men came from generations that were a multiple of seven: Enoch (7), Abraham (21), David (35), and Jesus (77). Wow, double seven!

God reveals the heart.

God reveals the heart.

DEUTERONOMY 8

I was intrigued by this verse today: "Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands." (vs 2)  As I read, I thought, didn’t God already know what was in the hearts of the Israelites? Of course He did. God knows us intimately and reads our hearts.