Truth or Consequences

As I was reading Jeremiah 26-29, I read that the prophet Jeremiah had a message from the Lord for the people of Israel. And this message was that if they repent and return to God’s ways, he will revoke the punishments he has planned for them. And when Jeremiah shared that message with those in charge, they didn’t like the message. Jeremiah confronted the evil of the day, and they wanted to kill him. He had to defend himself against an angry mob. Some of the leaders agreed that he shouldn’t be killed. Then when someone else prophesied the same message, he was killed. But a courageous man named Ahikam stood up for Jeremiah, and Jeremiah’s life was spared.

Nevertheless, Ahikam son of Shaphan stood up for Jeremiah and persuaded the court not to turn him over to the mob to be killed. Jeremiah 26:24

Now there was another prophet named Hananiah who also shared a message he said was from God. Only the message was a bit different. This message said that once the Israelites were exiled to Babylon, they and all of the items removed from the temple would be returned to Jerusalem in two years. And that was in stark contrast to God’s message to Jeremiah that they would be held captive by the Babylonians for 70 years. And yet Hananiah said it would only be two years. Of course, the people wanted to believe Hananiah because a two year exile was much different from 70 years.

Jeremiah continued to tell the Israelites of God’s warnings and plans to punish them for ignoring him and turning their backs on his commands on how they were to live their lives. They disobeyed God and bowed down to idols. They worshipped the creation instead of the Creator. When Hananiah had given his message that their punishment would only be two years, Jeremiah told him that he had shared a great message. I hope you’re right. Jeremiah said. But the only way we know that if the message is from God is if it comes true, because all of God’s promises and prophecies come true.

This story reminds me of a story in the New Testament. A man named Stephen was sharing the gospel, the good news that Jesus Christ was the actual promised Messiah, the Son of God. Many people didn’t believe it and were hunting anyone who shared or believed this type of message. They would hunt them down, imprison or kill them. And when Stephen had the courage to speak up and share his testimony, the crowd went crazy. They grabbed him and took him outside the city gates. There they stoned him to death. As they were stoning him, a man standing by the wayside was holding the coats of the people throwing stones. He stood by silently watching these people kill Stephen. And as Stephen knelt on the ground being pummeled by stones, he looked up into heaven and said, Father forgive them. Don’t hold them guilty for this. He begged. Even in his final moments of life, he was still asking God to forgive these people of the damage they were doing by killing Christians. He didn’t want them held responsible.

And this man holding the coats of those who were stoning Stephen was just as guilty as any one of the stone throwers. He could have stopped them. He could have stopped the people from throwing stones. He could have stopped this death penalty verdict that was handed out so easily. He could have spoken up. But he didn’t speak a word. He agreed that Stephen should be killed.

People didn’t like what Stephen was saying. They totally disagreed with him, because he was preaching a new way. He was preaching that the Promised Messiah had come to earth already. And these other Jews did not believe it. So they were hunting him and others who believed that same message. They were hunting them down and Saul stood there in silence, approving this act of violence against an innocent man. And that day Stephen faced his eternity and found himself in heaven with Jesus Christ. His suffering was no more.

We know that Saul approved of the killing of Stephen. Saul was trained in the Jewish tradition by a sought after rabbi named Gamaliel. Saul observed the Jewish traditions. He could quote the Torah. But he hadn’t accepted the message that Jesus was the promised Messiah. He fought the truth when the truth was staring him in the face.

Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen. A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria. Acts of the Apostles 8:1

Now in the Old Testament, Ahikam stopped the killing of Jeremiah the prophet. Ahikam, the protector of the prophet, came from a strong family line. His father was a prominent scribe, who also led the restoration of the temple. This family was well respected in their time. So it was right that this son stood up for the prophet, Jeremiah. And when he spoke, the people listened. Jeremiah’s life was saved.

We read in the New Testament of what happened to Saul when he approved the killing of an innocent man. We also know that Jesus spoke to him and called him to preach that Jesus was the Son of God. And Saul’s life was changed. He recognized that he was chasing innocent people. He was going after the wrong crowd, imprisoning them. He had a change of heart. He became one of the hunted instead of the hunter, because his message of forgiveness and redemption was powerful. He had first-hand experience of what a changed life was like when Jesus saves you from your sins. He lived forgiven and he shared the message that forgiveness and salvation were available for everyone. Saul realized that he had been wrong. He had been standing for the wrong message.


Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14


Who do you identify with?

So today, we also have a choice. Are we going to be like Stephen and Jeremiah who speak the truth? Are we going to stand up for biblical truth, for justice, and for right. When those who disagree with us want to cause physical harm, financial ruin, or job loss, are we still willing to stand? Or will we silently stand to the side?

Are we willing to stand as Jeremiah and Stephen did, or will we take the easy way out? Will we go with the crowd and stand by silently approving the harm of innocent people. People who are determined to be courageous in a fight for truth. We need to seriously consider how we’re going how we live our lives. What we’re standing for and what we’re standing against.

Truth seems to be a rare commodity these days. Something else that’s hard to find is those who will support truth tellers. Why is it so hard to stand for truth these days? Oh. We’ve never faced persecution and threats for speaking the truth, but the tide has turned. We may become the hunted. Are we prepared?

Will we stand with Ahikam for those who speak biblical truth or will we remain silent as Saul and overlook the persecution of believers? We have a choice. Will we find our voice before it’s too late?

Just so you know, Satan wants to bring God’s followers down. We too could be hunted and threatened. Are we willing to accept that? Oh, we say it’s not happening to us because we live in America. That doesn’t mean it won’t ever happen. It is happening in America today to people who stand against biblical truths. They are sued and repeatedly taken to court for daring to stand for their beliefs. Their faith has not wavered. Is my faith that strong? Am I that courageous? We need to stand true and strong to our beliefs. God help us.

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:10-12

Persecuting Jesus

Saul and his crew were on their way to Damascus. After all, he had received written permission from the high priest authorizing him to hunt and arrest anyone who believed the message of Jesus Christ. As he traveled down the road in midday, a light brighter than the sun shone all around him. He was instantly blinded. Suddenly, he heard a voice from heaven. Jesus, the Son of God, asked Saul why he was persecuting him.

Saul was not searching for Jesus when Jesus called his name. He was searching for those who believed in Jesus. Oh. Saul knew what he was doing. He was persecuting those who believed that Jesus, the promised Messiah had come to earth to deliver his people from their sins. And Saul didn’t believe that. He was stuck in the traditional Jewish beliefs and traditions. He didn’t believe the prophecy about God’s Son had actually been fulfilled. So when Jesus called his name, Saul asked who was calling. And he then realized this Jesus was the one he had been denying.

Saul, Saul.  Why do you persecute me? 

Every believer that Saul persecuted was taking the place of Jesus Christ.  For all intents and purposes, Saul was persecuting Jesus Christ everywhere he went.  When he arrested and imprisoned those who accepted the Good News of Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection, he was arresting and imprisoning Jesus himself. With every capture and arrest Saul made, he thought he was honoring God. He thought he was following God’s will. But instead, he was persecuting God’s son. He was fighting God, not obeying him. How could he have gotten it so wrong? 

What Saul didn’t realize was that he couldn’t hold back the Son of God from doing the work he was commissioned to do. Sure. The Son of God had returned to heaven, but his followers on earth were now doing his work. And nothing Saul could do could stop what God had started.

I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene. Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus. I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities. Acts 26:9-11

Saul was a learned man of his times. He had studied under the well respected Jewish scholar, Gamaliel. Saul knew the Scriptures. He was determined to punish anyone who dared to believe differently from the traditions. And yet, God had to bring him to his knees and blind him before he was willing to admit the truth that Jesus was the Son of God, born and died for every last one of Saul’s many sins.

To read the full story of Saul’s conversion, read Acts 9 and Acts 26.


Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Colossians 3:16


Soul, soul.  Why do you persecute me? 

What if my name was in front of that sentence.  Why do I persecute God?  Why do I challenge him and run from his ways?  Why don’t I automatically fall on my knees and worship him in adoration?  Why don’t I automatically choose to obey God? I who know the Scripture and have been taught from an early age to love and honor God. Why am I so careless with my faith?

Do we not do the same as Saul did?  Every time we act selfishly and sinfully, we are acting against God. When we reject Christ and his will for our lives, we’re persecuting him. Do we even realize what we’re doing? Do we take God’s knock on the door of our hearts seriously and open up to him?

What will God have to resort to to bring us to our knees in humble acknowledgment and repentance? Why do we run from him?  Why do we think our ways are higher than his ways? We who’ve been taught the Bible know the truth, yet we deny what we’ve been taught. We ignore the Scripture teaching us how to live an authentic Christian life. We do our own thing. We don’t look for God’s guidance. We become complacent. It’s all about us, we think. Not about God.

I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! Revelation 3:15-16

Anytime we sin, we’re nailing Jesus to the cross all over again. Our decision to deny Jesus and please ourselves puts him right back on that cross. Each time we disobey, the weight of our sins becomes heavier for Jesus to bear as he hung on that cross, causing him more pain and suffering. If we continue to run from God and disobey him when he’s calling our name, we’re persecuting him. Is that what we want?

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Romans 3:23

If we are the body of Christ, let’s wear the name in humility. We must consciously hear and obey God’s words. Let’s act on the promptings of the Holy Spirit and live in obedience. let’s listen well and listen thoroughly when God calls our name. Let’s not be surprised when God calls our name to follow and obey him. Let’s follow willingly.

Hearing Impairment

My ears have been clogged for six weeks. My hearing has been greatly diminished. We’ve activated the closed caption setting on our tv. The volume on the radio and phone are set at full blast. When I talk on the phone, I set it to speaker and then hold it close to my ear and still have trouble hearing. The problem is simple. I just can’t hear. And it’s all due to a virus that has run rampant across the globe for the past two and a half years. I wonder if this is permanent or a temporary setback.

I called the doctor and was told there was a few weeks’ wait to to see him. So I waited. Wondering the whole time if this wait would cause permanent damage. I wasn’t sure what to expect at the visit. Was it a simple procedure to restore my hearing? Or would permanent devices need to be ordered and attached to my ears? One never knows. Especially as the aging process seems to be advancing at breakneck speed.

I’m working harder to listen, but I still can’t hear. I want to know what someone is saying to me. I want to hear the music or the news. I want to carry on conversations and not only hear a few words. I want to hear. Because I want to know what’s happening around me. I want to be prepared for what life brings. But I can’t be prepared if I can’t hear. When I’m alone in the house, I want to know if a door opens. I want to know if someone enters my home. I don’t want to live in confusion or fear. So I find I must listen well. I must intentionally and actively listen to every word that’s being said.

The day arrived for my doctor’s appointment. It seems the global virus caused fluid buildup in my ears, which shifted the wax. This caused my hearing to be diminished. Once the wax was removed, my hearing was restored in one ear. We’re working to reduce the fluid in the other ear.

I feel like a new woman. I can hear. I had to turn the volume down on every device I own. The phone. The laptop. The tv. I turned off the closed captions. I’m grateful for a simple solution to a deafening problem. Now I’m beginning to wonder why everything sounds so loud.

During these few weeks without full hearing, I learned to appreciate the sound of barking dogs. Lawn mowers. Door bells. Soft voices. Loud voices. Automobiles. I didn’t realize how much I took for granted the simple yet complex act of hearing.


Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. Matthew 7:24


The Israelites were God’s chosen people. He had told them that for many, many years. So they knew that God’s favor was a very real thing, because they had experienced it over and over again. And then they got cocky. They became more sure of themselves than they were of God. They become successful and wealthy. They became strong and fearless. They had everything they needed, so why did they need God? They began worshipping false gods. Offering sacrifices to idols. They began disobeying God’s commands. They were living their lives on their own terms.

Oh sure. God was patient. Very patient. We all know how it is when a parent patiently watches their child make bad decisions with the hopes that they will learn a lesson and turn their lives around. So God waited. And waited. And then when he saw that their stubborn hearts were so turned against him, he turned against them. It was time for Israel to pay the piper.

Israel was no longer listening to God. They weren’t following his commands. They had blocked out the voice of God. But God wasn’t finished. He allowed difficult times to fall on his chosen people, with the hopes that they would turn back to him. But they didn’t. They continued to follow their own path.

“Go ahead and offer sacrifices to the idols at Bethel. Keep on disobeying at Gilgal. Offer sacrifices each morning, and bring your tithes every three days. Present your bread made with yeast as an offering of thanksgiving. Then give your extra voluntary offerings so you can brag about it everywhere! This is the kind of thing you Israelites love to do,” says the Sovereign Lord . “I brought hunger to every city and famine to every town. But still you would not return to me,” says the Lord . “I kept the rain from falling when your crops needed it the most. I sent rain on one town but withheld it from another. Rain fell on one field, while another field withered away. People staggered from town to town looking for water, but there was never enough. But still you would not return to me,” says the Lord . “I struck your farms and vineyards with blight and mildew. Locusts devoured all your fig and olive trees. But still you would not return to me,” says the Lord . “I sent plagues on you like the plagues I sent on Egypt long ago. I killed your young men in war and led all your horses away. The stench of death filled the air! But still you would not return to me,” says the Lord . “I destroyed some of your cities, as I destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Those of you who survived were like charred sticks pulled from a fire. But still you would not return to me,” says the Lord . Amos 4:4-11

“The time is surely coming,” says the Sovereign Lord , “when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread or water but of hearing the words of the Lord . Amos 8:11

Have we, like Israel, moved into a famine of hearing the words of the Lord? Has our hearing been diminished by the loud noise of distractions and sin? Have we forgotten how to listen to God? Has God stopped speaking to us because we’ve stopped listening? Has our hearing hardened to the voice of God?

I would dare to say that now is not the time to harden our hearts to God’s message of truth. It’s time to obey him and strengthen our relationship with him. We must act now to please God in all we do and say. Because judgment day is coming. We just don’t know the day or the hour. We must be ready. We can regain our hearing. We can once again tune into the voice of God. While there is still time, we must turn to God and obey him with all our hearts.

The doctor gave me one small piece of advice. Don’t use q-tips. They will push the wax down deep into the ear. And over time, we will experience diminished hearing. We need similar advice today when we can no longer hear God’s voice. Are we allowing other things in our lives to deafen us to hearing God? Are we intentionally or unintentionally harming our ability to know when God is speaking to us? It’s time to remove the wax from our ears so our famine of hearing the words of the Lord will be restored.

Under the Radar

He was the commander of the king’s army. The king had great admiration for him. He was, after all, the king’s right hand man. He had the king’s ear. And his trust. He had secured great victories against their enemies. But this man suffered from leprosy.

One of this man’s conquests was raiding the land of Israel with his army. And with this mighty victory, they brought home prisoners of war. This great leader placed a young girl in his home who served his wife. She was a servant. A slave. One of the spoils of war. But what he didn’t know was that she had great faith in the God of her ancestors. And when she saw him suffering from this incurable disease, she told his wife that he could be made whole if only he paid a visit to the prophet Elisha in Israel.

So Namaan took a trip to Israel to find out about the healing that was spoken of by this lowly foreign slave. He eventually made his way to the home of the prophet where he was told to go dip himself in the muddy Jordan River seven times. He was insulted and said no. But the army officers with him convinced him that if he was told to do something great he would. So why not try it. And when he came out of the water on that seventh dip, his skin was cleansed of the deadly disease. Namaan had been healed.

He now believed in the God of his stolen slave girl. He now believed that the foreign gods he had been bowing to were worthless. He must now only bow to the God who created the universe.

So he made a trip back to pay respects to Elisha. He wanted to honor his new found faith and offer gifts to the one who had a hand in his healing. He felt indebted to the giver of new life. But there was a problem.

Namaan worked for the government. He spent time with the king on a daily basis. There was no way he could escape his responsibilities as he served the king. And the king bowed down every day to a false god. Namaan was expected to do the same. And now that his allegiance had turned from a false god to the One True God, he knew that in his heart he couldn’t bow to the king’s idol. He must only bow to his Creator. But how could he do that when he was expected to honor the king’s wishes? How was he to show that his faith was now in his Heavenly Father while bowing to a manmade object? How is it possible to do both? And he knew that would be a problem.

He had to keep his faith a secret in order to keep his job. Could he do it? By keeping quiet about his faith, would he lose his faith? Speaking openly about his newfound trust in God Almighty could prove the downfall of his career. Was he willing to risk it all for his faith? Could he be a light in the darkness that surrounded him?

Then Naaman said, “All right, but please allow me to load two of my mules with earth from this place, and I will take it back home with me. From now on I will never again offer burnt offerings or sacrifices to any other god except the Lord . However, may the Lord pardon me in this one thing: When my master the king goes into the temple of the god Rimmon to worship there and leans on my arm, may the Lord pardon me when I bow, too.” “Go in peace,” Elisha said. So Naaman started home again. 2 Kings 5:17-19

Read 2 Kings 5:1-27 to read Namaan’s story.


I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. John 17:14-15


Christians today are having to make a choice of whether to speak up at their workplace about the cultural lies being forced on them. They don’t know if it could cost them their job or not. Some choose to fly under the radar and not make waves. Because really. If they aren’t being forced to state their pronouns or wave a pride flag, why speak up. I don’t know the right or wrong choice. I’ve not be placed in that situation. I haven’t been mandated to do anything. But what I believe is that this issue must be between each person and God. With much prayer and even fasting, God will make it clear to each of us how we should live and work in a world surrounded by those who are against God. And therefore, they are against us.

We must be concerned about what God thinks of our presence in a world full of sin. Oh. We can’t escape this world and remain alive. So while we’re still breathing and moving about on this planet, our desires must be centered on pleasing God while surrounded by the enemy. No. It’s not an easy task. No one said it would be. We can read of many examples in the Bible of great people who failed miserably. Some of them got up and dusted themselves off pledging their faithfulness to God Almighty. Others wallowed in their sins and never repented. I pray that we will be like the former and not the latter.

We know that we must live in this world as it is today. It’s our responsibility as believers to be in the world but not of the world. We must live in a way that honors God and his message of truth, hope and salvation. We must live for the eternity that awaits us in light of the forgiveness of our sins and our commitment to serving God and only God.

Consider those who live in distant lands where living their faith openly is in defiance of their government. They go about their work and live quiet lives. Yet they meet in secret with fellow believers and they hide their Bibles in out of the way places. Oh. They know full well what they’re facing if discovered. And yet they’re willing to practice their faith in private. They perform their work, even if it is back breaking and hard labor. They don’t give up their faith because their lives are hard. Their faith thrives in spite of their very difficult circumstances. In spite of being quiet in their workplace, their faith is firm. Can we do the same?

Sacrifice of Thanks

The Israelites lived a life of rituals. It was their lot in life. Mainly because God had commanded a life of physical and spiritual purity. There were many laws and customs that the Israelites were required to follow. Some were for keeping physically clean, most likely for health reasons. Other laws were for spiritual purposes. After all, the Promised Messiah had not been delivered to the earth, so they had no Savior. Their sins were forgiven by offering animal sacrifices.

And sometimes, it was easy to sin and just offer a sacrifice without being truly sorry for the wrong that was committed. Just kill a cow and your sin will be forgiven. That was the thought in some people’s minds. But God saw their hearts. He knew they weren’t truly sorry. And he called them out on it.

He reminded them that he owns all the cattle on a thousand hills. He owns every bird on the mountains. So he doesn’t really need their sacrifices. He doesn’t let them know when he’s hungry, because he’s not human. He doesn’t need food to sustain himself. He needs their obedience and allegiance. He wants their sacrifice to be thankfulness. Their thankfulness emphasizes what God has done for them, not what they’ve done for God.

I have no complaint about your sacrifices or the burnt offerings you constantly offer. But I do not need the bulls from your barns or the goats from your pens. For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird on the mountains, and all the animals of the field are mine. Do I eat the meat of bulls? Do I drink the blood of goats? If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for all the world is mine and everything in it. Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High. Psalms 50:8-14


And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:1-2


Oh. How that still stings today. God sees our hearts. He knows our bent toward sinning. He sees the rituals that we cling to so we can call ourselves Christian. Sure. We go to church. We give our tithe. We volunteer to serve in church ministries.

But the question is. Are we offering our “rituals” with a pure heart? When we walk through the church doors on Sunday, are we there out of love and thankfulness? Are we there to worship God and stand in His presence? Are we there to fellowship with other believers? Or is it just a habit that we haven’t yet broken? Is it only a social gathering? When we tithe, is it because the bill is set to autopay without a second thought? Or do we give sacrificially because of our desire to help spread the gospel? Are we giving a gift of thanksgiving for God’s provision? When was the last time we asked ourselves if we were giving cheerfully or just out of duty? When we accept the cup and bread of communion, is it an act of reverence and honoring of Jesus’ broken body? Or is it a ritual we’ve come to expect on Sunday? Is it an impersonal act we perform without considering the sacrifice of God’s only Son on the cross for our sins? Do we perjure ourselves by presenting our unclean selves as holy before a God who knows our hearts?

If we’ve lost the joy of being a Christian, how can we turn our hearts around? How can we fall in love with giving our tithe and not feel like it’s a drain on our finances? How can we reclaim the deep burning desire to be in church worshipping with fellow believers every Sunday? What will it take to get excited about serving God in the church again? How do we reclaim the joy and thankfulness we experienced as new believers?

Perhaps it time to stop and renew our relationship with God. Perhaps our fire has burned out, because we’re not putting God first. If God cares so much about the animals, he cares much more about we who are made in his image. God does not need anything from us. He accepts our offerings. And our service. And our worship. He commands we honor him. But rituals won’t satisfy him. He wants our hearts. He wants our confession. He wants our obedience. Our allegiance. Our trust. He wants our full surrender to his will. He wants our sacrifice of thanksgiving.

Does he have it?

Therefore, change your hearts and stop being stubborn. Deuteronomy 10:16

All or Nothing

It was his first year on the job as king of Israel, and it was unremarkable. Oh. It wasn’t a job he asked for. It was one his fellow countrymen had been asking for. They wanted a king. So God gave them a king. And when Samuel warned them that their desire for a king was sinful, they said they didn’t care. They wanted to be like every other nation around them.

This king, Saul, was chosen by God. And Saul failed early on in his reign. He failed because he was not a man after God’s own heart. He was after his own selfish ways. Never mind God. Saul would do what Saul wanted. And pay the consequences later, if need be.

And during his second year in power, he received a horrible performance review. Samuel told him that because of his disobedience to God, he would lose the kingdom. Saul’s early sin of offering a sacrifice that only the priest should make cost him his kingship. Oh. He remained in power, but none of his sons would inherit the throne. It would go to another.

And so the downhill decline started. So early in his reign, Saul saw his kingdom and legacy faltering. He was not a man of God. It didn’t have to be this way. But Saul made poor decisions early on in his reign that began a downward slide of continued disobedience to God’s commands. Saul led the nation of Israel poorly, and it showed. His monarchy would come to a screeching halt after his lifetime. It would not be carried down to the next generation. And he knew it.

I wonder how often Saul relived that day Samuel anointed him in private to be king of Israel. Didn’t he walk away a new man? God had given him a new heart. Once afraid, he was filled with boldness and bravery. He was now a statesman appointed to lead a nation. Oh. Saul did some good things. He won some battles. He rescued people from their enemies. He even prophesied. He was humble as he began his reign. But oh. How the tide turned.

Over the course of his reign, Saul’s sins were many. He was impatient, foolish and jealous. He attempted murder. He was vengeful. He consulted with a witch and disobediently offered sacrifices. When Samuel helped him guide the nation, things went well. Once Samuel stepped aside to let Saul lead the country on his own, Saul appeared to be awkward and weak. When left to his own devices, he made poor decisions.

Saul had a bent for disobeying the God who had chosen him as the first king of Israel. God rejected Saul, because he saw that Saul’s heart was set against him. Saul was self-centered and proud. He told himself he was being self sufficient when he took matters into his own hands, instead of waiting for Samuel to arrive and perform his priestly duties. Saul acted as his own priest. Because. Why not? He was king. He could do everything the priest could do. But that act of rebellion didn’t go down well with Samuel or with God. Saul thought he didn’t need God to instruct him. If only he obeyed God, his reign would have been a powerful statement of God’s grace. Instead, it was a powerful statement of how powerful men can be broken by sin and disobedience.


The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? Jeremiah 17:9


I wonder if King Saul ever stopped to examine his life and his decisions. Did he ever feel guilty about turning his back on God? Was he ever regretful for the many attempts to kill David? Did he realize he didn’t have to lose the kingdom to David? If only he had obeyed God, his family would have remained in power. But Saul was bent on having his way in his own way.

We never know how our lives will be impacted by responding wrongly to God’s will in our lives. Do we stop to think about how one decision can turn our lives in a totally different path with our disobedience? Or do we just go merrily about our business without a care? Disobedience doesn’t come out of nowhere. It starts in the heart. A turning of desires from pleasing God to pleasing self. It may start small. With just a glance. Or a thought. And it builds from there. Until one day, the desire to please God is a far distant thought.

Disobedience becomes easier the more often it happens. The conscience eases. The guilty twinges subside. Until disobedience becomes a lifestyle of comfort and selfishness. Our self sufficient attitude becomes an act of defiance to an all-sovereign God of the universe. And not a thought is given to pleasing God. Disobedience grieves the heart of God. Nothing about it pleases him.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We know that. Hearts can change. Hearts can be turned back toward God. Hearts can still be convicted if they are open to hearing God’s truth. Repentance can happen. Forgiveness is open to everyone who calls on the name of the Lord. Those who seek forgiveness will be saved. God is working in hearts and lives today. But we must seek him while he may still be found.

According to 1 Samuel 12:14-15, blessings await those who obey the commands of the Lord, while troubles are in store for those who disobey. Choose you this day whom you will serve.

Be Blameless

I think of the times when I’ve started a new job. I don’t know whether the experience will be good or bad. I don’t know if I’ll be successful or a complete failure. I have no idea if my boss will be considerate or a control freak. Will I make friends? Will I like the job, or will I live to regret my decision? Will I stand up for my faith, or will I be silent? Only time will tell.

As I walked in the door on the first day of my new job, I wondered what my new co-workers would be like. Would we get along? Would I build strong relationships with them? What would we talk about? What would they teach me? Would they learn anything from me? Would this be a good experience? Only time will tell.

We all have times when we get a fresh start. We start a new job. We move across the country or to a new neighborhood. We go away to college. We begin a new relationship. And with each new start, we will have new experiences. New conversations. New opportunities. New learnings. New blessings. New temptations. New memories. And we must make a decision about how we will approach each new situation. Will we live in obedience to God? Or will we choose to disobey?

The people of Israel were getting ready to move into the land that had been promised to them forty years earlier. Oh. It was promised to their parents, but they didn’t live to see it after they had disobeyed God. Their punishment was that they would die before reaching the promised land. Now it was to be awarded to their children. And it was time to move in.

Moses gave the Israelites a long list of instructions to live by once they were in their new land. He warned them of the trouble they would face if these new laws were broken. He also spoke of the benefits they would experience if they obeyed the laws. God would bless them and multiply their nation if they were faithful to him.

But in his message, Moses warned the people that they would disobey God. He told them that they would turn their backs on God and follow their own ways. He warned of the trouble they would face when this happened. God had also commanded them to destroy all the towns and all the people in them. This was because the people they were displacing were evil. And God didn’t want his people to be tempted to turn from him by living with people who dishonored God.


You must be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy. Leviticus 19:2


God was commanding the people of Israel to live holy lives. They must be blameless, because the people they’re about to displace are not holy people. They must be prepared for that. And they were to avoid all the pagan practices that they were going to encounter. They were not to imitate the detestable customs of the people living in those places.

As followers of Christ living in a post-Christian culture today, we must be blameless. We must avoid the pagan practices of those we encounter each day. We are not to imitate evil customs. We are to avoid anything that God hates. God calls us to be in the world but not of it. We must live above the evils that surround us. We must stand for truth and not tolerate the lies that are being told. We must not bow down to any other gods.

When we’re starting fresh, we will come face to face with many new situations. Some will be great opportunities, and others will be temptations to disobey God. We always have a choice. In the middle of the warning to the Israelites, Moses commanded the people to be blameless before the Lord. Just as the Israelites were to be blameless, we too are called to be blameless.

When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, be very careful not to imitate the detestable customs of the nations living there. For example, never sacrifice your son or daughter as a burnt offering. And do not let your people practice fortune-telling, or use sorcery, or interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft, or cast spells, or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth the spirits of the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord . It is because the other nations have done these detestable things that the Lord your God will drive them out ahead of you. But you must be blameless before the Lord your God. The nations you are about to displace consult sorcerers and fortune-tellers, but the Lord your God forbids you to do such things. Deuteronomy 18:9-14

Put to the Test

He had waited years for an heir. God had told him multiple times that he would be the father of many nations. And at age one hundred, the promise was fulfilled. His son was born. Isaac. Born of Sarah, who was ninety. This son held great promise for the future. There was hope, because the family name would be carried on. Oh. How proud Abraham must have been.

And several years later, God put Abraham’s faith to the test. He instructed Abraham to sacrifice this son as a burnt offering. What?! And Abraham did exactly as he was told.

You can read the full story about Abraham’s obedience in Genesis 22.

It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead. Hebrews 11:17-19

How many of us have seen the fulfillment of God’s long-awaited promise? Regardless of what was promised, the wait was excruciating. We thought the wait would never end. But we knew we had a clear promise from God. He led us down this path. Now he would fulfill his promise. Wouldn’t he? Wouldn’t he?

And then one day the promised event actually came to pass. Our hearts were filled with happiness and wonder. Relief. Confirmed trust in our Maker. We got the job. A baby was born. The lab results were negative. The debt was fully paid. The bank account was overflowing. Life was good.

And then another day came. And God asked for that promised thing or that promised person to be laid on the altar. He asked us to give the promised gift back to him. For his use. He asked us to sacrifice the gift that was so long awaited. And now we’re being asked to return it? What? To hand it over, as if it’s no longer ours?

But that gift was an answer to a long-prayed prayer.

God asks for our simple obedience. All the time. In every situation. Sometimes, obedience may feel complex rather than simple. But it’s either a Yes or No that God is looking for. That’s the simple part. It gets all complex and uncomfortable when we have to put that Yes into motion. Because that takes the control out of our hands. And we don’t know what God has in store for us when we give Him control.


And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. 2 John 1:6


Oh. God wasn’t planning to kill Isaac. He wanted to make sure Abraham was not making an idol out of Isaac, this long-awaited son. God tested Abraham’s faith. God may ask the impossible of us. What will we say? Will we surrender our most prized possession? Will we turn our long-awaited treasure back to God to use as he sees fit?

Or do we take that treasure and hide it? Do we hoard our treasured gift?

There are those who run from hard times. They take the easy road. Or they just ignore the request to make a sacrifice. But Abraham walked right into the face of obedience. Perhaps it was the hardest thing he had ever done. He loved his son. But he never looked back.

He took his son on a journey to worship God. A sacrifice was required. And his son knew it. But no lamb was taken on the trip for the offering. Isaac asked about it. Abraham replied that God would provide. And later when Abraham tied his son with rope and laid him on the altar, I wonder what Isaac was thinking.

I wonder the thoughts swirling through Abraham’s mind as he drew the knife to slay his son. Oh. He was willing to offer his promised heir if that’s what God required of him. But God stepped in and told Abraham not to harm his son. God saw that Abraham was willing to give up his beloved son, if that was what God asked. And in the distance, Abraham saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. The sacrifice was provided by God. Isaac, the long awaited son, was saved.

Abraham responded to God in faith. Not knowing the outcome, he moved in step with God’s heartbeat. He was ready to sacrifice what was dearest to him in a courageous show of loyalty to God. I have to ask. Would I be willing to do the same? Would I be willing to hand over the thing or the person most dearest to me in an act of selfless love for my Savior?

We don’t know what we may be called to sacrifice. It may be financial security. Or a close relationship. It may be a fulfilling career. Or our dream home. A prized possession. Our freedom. Our health. Are we willing to sacrifice for obedience to God? Because if God isn’t first in our lives, is he in our lives?

Don’t Play God

Life isn’t fair. It rarely is. And when it isn’t fair, we tend to complain. Or we take matters into our own hands. And that’s exactly what she did.

She was barren. And as all men in those days, her husband wanted and needed an heir. Because, you see, they were very wealthy. And if she didn’t produce a son, her husband’s servant would inherit all their wealth upon her husband’s death. That’s how unfair life was in those days. Because she certainly wasn’t in line to inherit her husband’s wealth. She was a woman.

So she did the unthinkable. She offered her servant girl to her husband with the hope that a baby boy would be birthed from that union. And so it happened. The servant became pregnant. And the wife became jealous. What did she think would happen? When a woman offers her husband to bed another woman and he accepts, does she think it will be all sunshine and roses? Did she think she could claim the child as her own? Did she imagine warm and fuzzy conversations about choosing the name with her servant? No. The women turned against each other. Obviously.

Oh. God had promised her husband that he would have as many descendants as the number of stars in the sky. But God’s timing is his own. To him, a day is a thousand years and a thousand years is a day. When he made the promise, Abraham was at least seventy-five years old.

Sarah took matters into her own hands. She decided that she would play God and make sure her husband had an heir. And the whole affair blew up in her face. I wonder how long it took her to regret her actions. This boy child born to her husband was not the child God had promised. This child was an act of Sarah, Abraham and Hagar. Not an act of God. Abraham was eighty-six years old when this child was born.

If we choose to play God and move his agenda forward when he isn’t in control, chaos ensues. This one act created a nation of people who have tried to rule the world in an evil way. And it’s all because one woman made one wrong decision. And that decision has impacted the world for all times.

But we know that God is in control.

When Abraham was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him. He again told Abraham that he would be the father of a multitude of nations. Then God told Abraham that Sarah would have a son at the same time the following year. When Sarah heard the news, she laughed silently to herself. But God heard her laugh and called her out on it. She was afraid and denied her laughter.

A year later, when Sarah was ninety years old , she gave birth to their son, Isaac. Abraham was one hundred years old.


What is impossible for people is possible with God. Luke 18:27


It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise. And so a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead—a nation with so many people that, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them. Hebrews 11:11-12

At times, someone will promise us something and it doesn’t happen. And we know they’ve broken their word. We lose trust in them. We learn to doubt anything they say. We have selective hearing when they’re making a new promise. We know we can’t trust what them. Because they have failed us.

So when God dressed as a man paid a visit to Abraham and Sarah, he brought along two angels also dressed as men. And they sat outside the tent with Abraham. Sarah had no clue that the men who sat with her husband were of the heavenly sort. And when one of them said that she would have a child, she laughed to herself. She was almost 90 years old. Well. You can imagine what went through her mind. And God heard her laugh.

Sarah laughed because she was skeptical of God’s promise. Her laughter wasn’t filled with hope and expectation. Oh. She had already tried to fulfill the promise and made a sorry mess of the situation. Then God dressed as a man asked a question. Is anything too hard for the Lord? And his words stopped her in her tracks. He had heard her laughter, and he knew her barren anguish. He saw her heart, and he knew she believed. Perhaps a babe would spring from her worn body. Even at such an old age. Hope was rekindled.

If we look at the timeline from when God first promised to make nations come from Abraham, it took twenty-four years for the promised babe to arrive. Who of us wants to wait twenty-four years for someone to make good on their promise? We are slow to believe. Perhaps lengthy delays weaken our faith. Things thought impossible are achievable only through an act of God. And he proved his love for Abraham and Sarah by giving them a son to carry on their line. Isaac was the long-awaited son for this aged couple.

We can’t rush God. We just can’t. His timing is his own, and if he makes a promise he will keep it. God doesn’t lie. But he also doesn’t give in to our whining and whims in order to please us. In order to meet our self-imposed timeline. Eternity is at stake. And even though we can’t see the big picture, God is still working. Even when it takes years to see his promise fulfilled. Even if we don’t see his promise fulfilled in our lifetime. God will keep his word.

Ark of Faith

He was commanded to do the impossible. Literally. God told Noah that he was going to destroy all living creatures and people on the earth, because of all the corruption in the world. God couldn’t find any righteous people on the earth. Except for Noah. God told Noah he was going to flood the entire earth. And he gave Noah specific instructions on how to build a boat that would house two of every living creature and all of Noah’s family. So Noah started building the boat. Without question. He just started gathering lumber and laying out the dimensions.

Oh. It took him approximately fifty to seventy-five years to finish the construction of this boat. And oh yes. He was laughed at. He was ridiculed. He was humiliated. In our day and age, he would have been canceled. No doubt. But Noah kept plodding along. Never looking back. Never stopping. He worked until the boat was finished. And it was a show stopper. Everyone could see it. It was huge.

It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith.

Hebrews 11:7

Noah’s faith condemned the unbelief of his neighbors. His obedience to God condemned their contempt and rebellion against God’s commands.

I have to ask myself. If I were in Noah’s situation, would I have stepped forward in faith? Doing what God asked me to do? Would I have built that ark in front of my neighbors? In front of my community? And have them ridicule and laugh at me? Would I have done that?

Would I have been willing to put myself out there? Based on God’s command, would I have obeyed?


Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this? 2 Corinthians 2:15-16


And I think of that today. Am I willing to obey God and put myself out there in front of my neighbors and community and boldly obey God even when it seems like it’s a joke? Even when others may ridicule and mock me and say I’m crazy. Am I willing to obey God’s still small voice? Even when that task will prove to be unpopular in the eyes of those around me? And I’m the only one being asked to do a certain task?

Who am I trying to please, anyway? God or man?

What would have happened if Noah hadn’t obeyed? What would have happened if God found no one else who was righteous? There was no one else for God to choose. Did Noah know that? Would God have just destroyed the entire earth if Noah had refused?

But Noah said yes. And it took him years to build that boat. And during the time he built that boat, he had sons and they grew up and began to help him. He didn’t give up on obeying God, no matter how long it took him to finish the task. He continued. He pushed forward regardless of what his neighbors said. Regardless of the names his neighbors called him behind his back. He was the laughingstock. The butt of the joke.

Am I willing to put myself in a similar position if God requires it of me?

What if I’m the only righteous person God finds for the task? I find that highly unlikely. But perhaps Noah felt the same. Perhaps he felt unworthy of the task set before him. But he did it anyway. Can I?

What did the neighbors think when the animals started coming two by two to the ark? What did the neighbors think when the rain started falling? God hadn’t called them to build an ark. He hadn’t chosen them as righteous people. God knew they were wicked. And he left them out of the ark. They all perished in the flood.

How many of us will be called faithful today? How many of us would God reach down and say, I’m choosing you? Because you are righteous, and you obey. How many of us would not be chosen? How many would be left out of the ark today? It’s not mine to answer.

We all have a choice. We can stand faithful to God and obey him regardless of what anyone says about us. Regardless of how long it takes us to fulfill that obedient call. Are we ready? And are we prepared to answer? Am I prepared to let others know that God has set me apart to do a specific thing that only I can do? If God chooses me to do this task or to run this ministry or speak certain words, whatever it is, God is asking. Am I ready, willing and prepared to say yes at all costs? Am I willing to stand for God’s Word and truth regardless of what the world says?

So when I think about Noah’s neighbors, and all the people on the earth at that time, I wonder. Did they think they were living in obedience to God? Did they think their lives were a pleasing aroma to God? Or were they willfully disobedient? Were they willfully living in opposition to God’s will? Did they flaunt evil in the face of God? And when they saw Noah begin building the ark, I’ve got to assume that they laughed at him. Did it bother them that Noah never gave up? Did their taunts grow louder the longer Noah worked on the ark?

Noah never gave up building the ark. He never stopped working on it. And all those years, Noah was faithful to the call of God. He didn’t give up when times got hard. He didn’t wait until his boys were old enough to start helping him. He dug in and began building the ark when his boys were young. So he answered the call of God immediately. And he remained faithful for many, many years.

Who of us would do that? Who of us today would God use? Who of us living today would remain faithful for so many years? When all we had was the voice of God saying, “Do this for me.” And there was no other evidence that God had spoken, but just his nudge. His quiet voice to you. A whisper in your ear. Here is the path I want you to take. Who of us would have remained faithful for so many years?

Noah was faithful. He stood strong. He withstood the test of time. When all the other people on the earth could not stand the test of faithfulness to God, Noah did. And they died because of their lack of faith. Because of their lack of obedience. Who of us on this earth today would pass that test?

Think about it.