Thursday, September 3, 2015

A DESIRE TO SAVE



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In Christ, Mark
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

“Jerusalem, wash the evil from your heart and be saved. How long will you harbor wicked thoughts?”

Jeremiah 4:14

This ends today’s reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

There’s a danger that comes in the study of the Old Testament and the lives of the Israelites.

What is that danger?

It’s simple. For if we’re not careful, we can come away with the impression that God is a God of judgment who will fiercely punish His people when they choose sin and the ways of the world over His ways and righteousness.

Yes, there are accounts that show that God is a God of redemption, rescue, and provision for His people but the greater narrative, and most of the Old Testament’s best known stories, all contain elements of His severe judgment.

Go back to the great flood that filled the earth and wiped out everyone except a remnant of civilization that was on Noah’s ark. It’s a scene of great judgment.

Move ahead a little further in the Book of Genesis to the annihilation of Sodom and Gomorrah when God sent burning sulfur raining down on the two cities from the heavens. Another scene of great judgment.

Go into the early part of the Book of Exodus and see what happened to the Egyptians as a result of Pharaoh’s stubborn refusal to let God’s people go. A series of severe plagues was brought on Egypt, culminating in the once divided great sea crashing down on Pharaoh and his army as they chased after the fleeing Israelites who had crossed over to safety on dry land. Again, a scene of great judgment.

Fast forward from this to the Israelites refusal to cross over the Jordan into the land God had promised them, a decision that cost them 40 more years of wondering in the wilderness, one year for each day it took for them to get to Canaan in the first place. Once more, great judgment from God.

And then there were the great attacks on the Northern and Southern Kingdoms of the divided Israel by the Assyrians and Babylonians respectively. There was no dedicated account of the Israelites of the Northern Kingdom ever returning unlike the Southern Kingdom Jews who were allowed to return to Judah and Jerusalem to rebuild after 70 years of captivity. Destruction and desolation on one hand (the north), prolonged exile on the other (the people of the south). In both cases, great judgment imparted by God.

Can you see where people could start to see God as only a God of judgment?

That’s why today’s scripture verse is so critical. It’s less than 20 words but it speaks volumes to us about the true desire of God for all His people and that desire is not to punish. Rather, God’s greatest desire is for His people to be saved. Look at this verse again here:

“Jerusalem, wash the evil from your heart and be saved. How long will you harbor wicked thoughts?”  Jeremiah 4:14
  
God could have just gone about correcting His people and doling out consequences for their failures and failings. But He wanted the best for them. He longed for them to turn away from sin and the evil it manifested in their hearts. He yearned for their thoughts to be freed from wickedness, returning to the purity He would bring if they would just place their full trust in Him. He did not wish for any of His people to perish.

Instead, He wanted all His people to be saved.

How do we know this was a greater desire for Him than judgment?

We only need to look to the coming of His only Son, Jesus.

For if God longed for all His people to die from their transgressions, punished to the death by Him for their wrongs, then He would never have offered up His Son to die and pay the penalty for sin in our place. So deep was His love and longing to live with His people forever that He allowed Jesus to die in our place and make the way so we might be saved and have the chance to live with Him forever.

Friends, God is a God of judgment and punishment. There’s no arguing this point. But equally unarguable is the fact that God greatest desire for all His people is for them to accept Jesus as Savior and be saved as a result.

Have you accepted this opportunity for eternal life that God, your heavenly Father, has given you through Jesus?

If so, then revel in the joy of knowing your path to eternity has been set and will never be closed off.

If not, then please change the outcome for yourself today and accept Jesus as your personal Savior, acknowledging your sins and knowing you are incapable of saving yourself. By doing so, you will make God smile because once again, His greatest desire, the desire that all His people be saved, will have been fulfilled.

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

DECEIVERS AMONG US



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In Christ, Mark
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
** Like posts and send friend requests to the author of The Christian Walk, Mark Cummings on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mark.cummings.733?ref=tn_tnmn
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

Then I said, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! How completely you have deceived this people and Jerusalem by saying, ‘You will have peace,’ when the sword is at our throats!”

Jeremiah 4:10

This ends today’s reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

You know, we’re a people who typically only listen to what we really want to hear.

It’s true, isn’t it?

I think it starts when we are very young and in our teenage years, you know, those years when we loved to rebel against authority.

Our parents would tell us not to do something and, of course, that’s not what we really wanted to hear because we so wanted to do the opposite of what they were telling us. After all, we had friends who we believed were better advisors anyways because they would always counter what our parents said and that meant telling us exactly what we wanted to hear.

Too bad we chose to listen to deceivers who were among us, people who really didn’t know what was in our best interest, people who enabled us to travel the path of sinful disobedience instead of listening to the wise counsel of our parents.

Unfortunately, we never outgrow this tendency to be deceived by the words of others and continue to fail and fall in this way as we become adults. This world surrounds us with enticements and temptations, so many that we lose sight of the ways the God want us to walk. Instead of remaining loyal to His word and way, we give into our desires and the advice of others to give into our impulses and live life to the fullest. Deceivers today implore us to live for today and with abandon because we only live once. We’re encouraged to do whatever feels good, to do our own thing without worry of consequence. There’s nothing to worry about, especially since God isn’t real.

And so we do what we want, no better than the people of Israel in Old Testament days as we’re told in the very last verse of the Book of Judges that the people were doing whatever they saw fit. There was no limit to behavior, no matter how deplorable it was. No one was interested in listening to God anymore for those speaking deceitfully were was more desirable to lend an ear to.

This is the consequence that arises from turning away from God’s word and direction and listening to people of the world. We end up falling prey to the deceivers among us and as we see in our scripture verse from Jeremiah 4, the Israelites were about to experience the penalty that comes when we choose to ignore God and invest our trust in false counsel from the world. Look again at these words:

Then I said, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! How completely you have deceived this people and Jerusalem by saying, ‘You will have peace,’ when the sword is at our throats!”  Jeremiah 4:10

At first glance, this verse seems hard to understand but note that God can and will test us at any time, sending false messengers among us to see whether or not we will remain faithful and obedient to Him. This was the case in the verse for today because although the people were openly living in sin, knowing their behavior would only bring God’s judgment, instead they believed the deceivers who were promising them peace. It was easier to accept that than to think that God’s anger and wrath would be coming upon them. That is, until the first the Assyrians and then the Babylonians came to attack and wipe out the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. The people of God would wake up soon enough when knives were at their throats from their assailants that the promise of peace was nothing more than a lie, a kind of lie that happened even before that time in Israel’s history.

For if you go back to the very start of creation, when there was only one man and one woman, you may recall an encounter the first couple had with a deceiver who was among them, a serpent who convinced them that it was fine to disobey a direct command from God.

You remember the story, right?

In Genesis 2, God had this to say to Adam:

“You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:16-17

Ok, that sounded simple enough. Eat the fruit on that tree and you will die. That should have been enough for Adam to eat from any other tree in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. After all, there were plenty of other trees to partake from in the garden. But note the words of the deceiving serpent in the opening verses of Genesis 3:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.  Genesis 3:1-6

Just a little nudge was all it took for Adam and Eve to commit the first sin ever and, in doing so, afflict all of mankind from that point forth. That’s what was at stake when they refused to listen to God and follow His commands.

Friends, it’s time for us to wake up because every single moment in this world today, someone is choosing to listen to a deceiver instead of God with often devastating results. It’s time to get back to basics and get our mindsets recalibrated to where they need to be and that means we live every single minute God grants us with this attitude:

“I’m only going to follow what God tells me to do and I can do that by living completely like Jesus did.”

That’s it. It’s so simple and yet we are so reluctant and resistant to just let go and let God have His way in every facet of our lives, surrendering fully to His will and way and word while listening only to His voice. If we don’t, then we will find out what Adam and Eve and the Old Testament Israelites found out. For in every instance we decide to tune ourselves into a deceiver’s promise, we will find out that God and God alone dictates the ways of life and His will is always what will happen, that will coming in the form of judgment on anyone who rejected Him to follow the wicked ways of the world.

Why repeat the mistakes of the past?

Rebuff the deceivers around you and turn fully to God for all things. You’ll never stray off what is true if you do it.

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

PS: Please share this with anyone you feel might be blessed by it.

Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

THE NORTH



Can I pray for you in any way? Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com.

In Christ, Mark
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
** Like posts and send friend requests to the author of The Christian Walk, Mark Cummings on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mark.cummings.733?ref=tn_tnmn
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

“Announce in Judah and proclaim in Jerusalem and say:

‘Sound the trumpet throughout the land!’ Cry aloud and say: ‘Gather together! Let us flee to the fortified cities!’ Raise the signal to go to Zion! Flee for safety without delay!”

“For I am bringing disaster from the north, even terrible destruction. A lion has come out of his lair; a destroyer of nations has set out. He has left his place to lay waste your land. Your towns will lie in ruins without inhabitant. So put on sackcloth, lament and wail, for the fierce anger of the Lord has not turned away from us.”

“In that day,” declares the Lord, “the king and the officials will lose heart, the priests will be horrified, and the prophets will be appalled. At that time this people and Jerusalem will be told, ‘A scorching wind from the barren heights in the desert blows toward my people, but not to winnow or cleanse; a wind too strong for that comes from me. Now I pronounce my judgments against them.’”

“Look! He advances like the clouds, his chariots come like a whirlwind, his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe to us! We are ruined!”

Jeremiah 4:5-9, 11-13

This ends today’s reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

Here’s a truth that no one can deny unless they are completely divorced from the word of God:

Disrespect and disregard God, choosing to openly sin against Him, and you will face His judgment.

It’s a harrowing fact that we find in today’s scripture passage from Jeremiah 4 and it’s a fact that we face today as well. More on the present and future later but for now, look at the plight of the Old Testament Israelites first:

“Announce in Judah and proclaim in Jerusalem and say:

‘Sound the trumpet throughout the land!’ Cry aloud and say: ‘Gather together! Let us flee to the fortified cities!’ Raise the signal to go to Zion! Flee for safety without delay!”

“For I am bringing disaster from the north, even terrible destruction. A lion has come out of his lair; a destroyer of nations has set out. He has left his place to lay waste your land. Your towns will lie in ruins without inhabitant. So put on sackcloth, lament and wail, for the fierce anger of the Lord has not turned away from us.”

“In that day,” declares the Lord, “the king and the officials will lose heart, the priests will be horrified, and the prophets will be appalled. At that time this people and Jerusalem will be told, ‘A scorching wind from the barren heights in the desert blows toward my people, but not to winnow or cleanse; a wind too strong for that comes from me. Now I pronounce my judgments against them.’”

“Look! He advances like the clouds, his chariots come like a whirlwind, his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe to us! We are ruined!”  Jeremiah 4:5-9, 11-13

God’s people had pushed Him too far. They knew they were to give Him their full devotion and were not to worship false gods and idols and yet they did so anyways. Perhaps they thought they would get away with it. Maybe they thought that God was so merciful that He wouldn’t dare punish them for their blatant sinfulness. If that’s what they thought, they were very wrong on both counts.

We know this because of what God promised would come and indeed what did come.

Note here that the disaster that would represent God’s penalty and befall His people would come from the north. The ferocity of the forces coming on the Israelites was so great that would be fleeing for safety against the coming attack and the destruction that would accompany it, seeking out fortified cities in which to find refuge. The fear that would grip the people in the wake of the onslaught they faced would leave the kings and officials disheartened, the priests horrified, and the prophets appalled. Their future held woe and ruin as their land would be ransacked and the people hauled away from their homeland.

This was what God promised and it’s exactly what went down. The northern kingdom of Israel would be attacked by the Assyrians who would come from the north and overrun them before heading south and terrorizing the southern kingdom of Judah. That would be where it would end for the Assyrians but the Babylonians would take their place as the antagonists, destroying Judah and Jerusalem before taking the Israelites captive for seventy years of exile.

The people of Israel had challenged God and it was their worst idea ever.

But what about us? Are we facing judgment from the north as well?

The answer is yes but the north the Bible talks about is directly above us in the heavens. It’s there that we see this scene play out as Jesus, the slain Lamb of God, begins to open the seven seals on the scroll that God gives Him:

I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.

When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword.

When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “Two pounds of wheat for a day’s wages, and six pounds of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!”

When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.

I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Revelation 6:1-14

The imagery here is amazing and frightening at the same time. One thing is certain, when Jesus begins to open each of the seven seals on the scroll, an event will occur that will demand everyone’s attention and the magnitude of these events will drive people into hiding, afraid of the judgment that is befalling them.

How do we know this?

Look at the reaction after the sixth seal is opened:

The kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of Their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”  Revelation 6:15-17

Wow! Did you catch that? The level of alarm and trepidation will be so deep that people will wish that stones would fall upon them to spare them from the punishment God was bringing on His people, judgment coming from the skies above, dire consequences imposed from the north.

Friends, there is no doubt that God will not allow blatant, unashamed sinfulness to go unchecked. There is a day coming when His final judgment will befall us all and the only thing that will save anyone is the same Jesus who broke the seals to send judgment in the first place, exercising the authority that His Father had given Him over heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18).

If you are in Christ, and only if you are in Christ, you will be spared judgment, justified before God by the shed blood of Jesus who washes your sins away and leaves you white as snow before your heavenly Father. You will head north when this world ends to live with God and Jesus forever in the new heaven and earth they will create as the heaven and earth we know now is destroyed along with all those who failed to place their hope, faith, and belief in Jesus as Savior.

What will it be for you?

Will you face destruction from the north, a victim of God’s judgment against your unpardoned sins?

Or will you head north when this world is destroyed, redeemed and alive forever, freed from all the things that afflict us in this present worldly existence through your trust in Jesus, the only One through which you can be saved (John 14:6)?

Do yourself a favor. Accept Jesus today and guarantee you’ll head north because trust me when I say, you don’t want to head south (Revelation 20:11-15).

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

PS: Please share this with anyone you feel might be blessed by it.

Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com