Jun 19

Even If

Mike Tyson has a good quote, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” He said that when asked about an upcoming opponent he was to fight many years ago, when the reporter told him that his opponent said he had a plan on how to beat Tyson. While the overwhelming majority of us will never enter a boxing ring, life sometimes feels like a heavyweight fight doesn’t it? We often make plans, which isn’t a bad thing, but what happens when those plans don’t happen. Our love and devotion to God is the most tested when life is the most difficult. In today’s text we are going to see an example of this in the life of three Hebrew boys.

Nebuchadnezzar had a dream in chapter two of Daniel, in which God gave Daniel the interpretation. Daniel told the king that the golden head of the statue he saw in his dream represented Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian empire. This is most likely why Nebuchadnezzar had a giant golden statue made. Nebuchadnezzar ordered that when the people heard the music playing, they were to bow down to the statue and worship it. However, Shadrach, Mishach, and Abed-nego refused to do so. After being told on, they found themselves in a face to face meeting with the king. After refusing the direct order from the king, they still refused to bow to the statue. This infuriated the king, so he ordered the furnace to be turned up as hot as it would go. He wanted them afraid, and he wanted them to suffer. He even told them that no one could save them from this, not even their God. To this the boys replied, “If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from our hand, o king. But if not, let it be known to you, o king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”

You should read that again. They said, God can save us if He wants to, but even if He doesn’t, we still won’t compromise our faith in Him. It’s easy to have a mountaintop faith. However, the true test of our faith comes when life doesn’t go the way we expect it to. If I only love God when my life is going well, then I don’t love God for who He is; instead, I love God for what He will do for me. In this case, I have reduced God down to merely a genie in a bottle. A true love for God isn’t dependent upon me getting my way, but rather a gratefulness and a trust in who God is. As I have written and taught many times, adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals our character. Our love and trust of God must extend past our circumstances. Our love for God is evidenced in our belief that God’s plan, while it may not be our plan, His plan is always the best plan and the right plan. Sometimes, our greatest disappointments lead to our biggest blessings. As I heard a pastor say one time, “even Garth Brooks knew to thank God for unanswered prayers.”

Sometimes life isn’t going to go the way we want it to. Life can be messy and it can be painful. Is your faith in God strong enough to say, even if it all goes wrong, I will love God and trust Him to make it all right in His time?

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Jun 18

Not About Me

One of my favorite pastors and authors is Robby Gallaty of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, TN. He has said a lot of things in books I have read or on his podcast, Making Disciples, but there is one thing that I hear him say over and over that sticks with me the most. He said, “The Gospel came to you on its way to someone else.” We need to be honest with ourselves about something, a lot of times what we do is about us. Sadly, we even approach our Bible reading and corporate worship with this mentality a lot of times. However, we see over and over in Scripture how what God was doing in someone’s life wasn’t primarily about them. All of the Bible is about Jesus. Many times, what God is doing in our life isn’t about us, but it is about someone else. God gives us a testimony so that we can tell others about Him. This is certainly the case in today’s text in Daniel.

Daniel and his three friends have been taken captive by the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. They resolve not to defile themselves during the three year testing period concerning what enters their mouth. As a result of their faithfulness, God uses them to speak truth into the life of Nebuchadnezzar after he had a dream that bothered him. When Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar that he can tell him the dream and its interpretation, Nebuchadnezzar begins heaping praise on Daniel. Instead of taking the credit for himself, Daniel shows his integrity in Daniel 2:30, “But as for me (Daniel), this secret has not been revealed to me because I have more wisdom, but for our sakes who make known the interpretation to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your heart.” All of Nebuchadnezzar’s wise men had let him down. He was so furious, he ordered that they all be killed. Yet, after Daniel prayed to God, God gave Daniel the answer. The result not only spared Daniel and his friends’ lives, but also it revealed who the true God was to Nebuchadnezzar, though he didn’t fully understand it yet. In this text, I see some important lessons for us as Christians.

  1. Begin with Prayer. Daniel’s first step was to talk to God about men. What we see earlier in Daniel 2 is Daniel and his friends going to God in prayer. Before Daniel ever went before the king, he asked for time to go seek God for an answer. If we are serious about reaching the lost with the Gospel, we need to seek the God of the Gospel and His power
  2. Be bold and give God the glory. After talking to God about men, Daniel then went to talk to men about God. We see on multiple occasions in the text how Daniel deflected Nebuchadnezzar’s praise and instead gave the glory to God. Daniel boldly stepped up and spoke to Nebuchadnezzar. May we have the boldness and courage to give God the glory, and to tell others who God is, what He has done, and how He has blessed us.
  3. Be faithful in trials. We see the character of Daniel in chapter 1, when he refused to eat the king’s food or drink the king’s wine. Given the fact that the food was most likely part of sacrifices to pagan idols, Daniel knew it would defile him to partake of it. I would submit to you that it is because Daniel proved himself faithful in a small trial, that God used him for a bigger purpose. Jesus certainly teaches us this as well in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25.
  4. Remember your calling. We were created by God and for God Colossians 1 tells us. The life God has given us isn’t about us, it is about Him. A verse I come back to over and over again 2 Timothy 2:1-2, “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful me who will be able to teach others also.” As Pastor Gallaty says, “The Gospel came to you on its way to someone else.” What God is doing in your life, don’t keep it to yourself; instead, use it as a way to share of the glory and grace of God with those around you. After all, what you are going through right now, isn’t just for you. God can use it for the good of someone else down the road.

I want to end this post in a different way than usual. I want to challenge those who have read to the end to do something. I want to challenge you to comment on one thing that God has done in your life. How has He proven Himself faithful? How has He blessed you? Think specifically about the past few months as you have gone through the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ll start it off. God has been so faithful to me and my family by keeping us healthy. He has also seen fit to open up the operating rooms here in Virginia so that Diana, my wife, can get a surgery that she needs. In fact, as you are reading this, she is in the operating room, and I am trusting that God is going to bring her through it. God has helped me learn some new technology on the fly. Before COVID-19, we didn’t use YouTube or Facebook live. I am a lot of things, creative isn’t really one of them. Yet, God showed me how we could do it, and He has given me a faithful church who showed up faithfully, and shared God’s message regularly. He has used our church to reach out to people who are not connected to WBC, and be a blessing to them during this time of struggle. Finally, after a long time (and I mean a long time), the courts in Virginia have re-opened to a degree and we are just a few weeks away from being able to finalize the adoption of our precious little girl. What about you? I can’t wait to read these stories of God’s faithfulness. May He use them not to shine a light on us, but rather as a demonstration of His glory and His grace.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

Posted in Through The Bible in 2020 | 4 Comments
Jun 17

Can’t Do It Alone

From the time we are toddlers until the end of our life one thing is often drilled into our heads, “I can do it myself.” Have you ever noticed that you never have to teach a toddler how to be selfish? Instead, we have to teach them how to share? Selfishness comes as factory standard equipment ever since the fall in Genesis 3. As bad as the lone ranger mentality is in the world, it becomes a major hindrance to God’s work in God’s children. We have to learn that we are dependent upon God for everything, or we will accomplish nothing of eternal value. In a passage pointing us to the new covenant, God tells Ezekiel how we can honor Him and obey Him like we want to. Ezekiel 36:27 says, “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”

I don’t know about you, but I will speak for myself in saying, sometimes I get really frustrated because as soon as I think I have gotten victory over a particular sin, it shows its ugly head again. I often feel defeated and discouraged because I feel like I should be further along in spiritual maturity than I am. As painful as it is to say this, it’s not God’s fault. He desires to work in me and through me. He wants to grow me. That means that the blame is squarely on me. The thing about it is that it’s not as though I want to intentionally sabotage my spiritual growth and my relationship with God. The problem is this, I try to do it myself. I try to help it along, instead of trusting God to do it in His time and in His way. I wonder if I am alone in this? One of our problems is that we often do things in our own strength, but we attach God’s name to it. However, we often get frustrated when it isn’t going the way that we think it should. Then we want to blame God or we want to blame others. However, it is our fault because we never relied on God to do it. Sadly, many times we didn’t even seek God’s wisdom before we started doing something. We saw an opportunity, it looked good, and so we went for it. Our text shows us that if we are going to do the things of God, we must have His Spirit in us giving us His power to obey Him.

This is a call to prayer for God’s children. We must reject the surface-level, grocery list style of prayer that we are used to. We must instead learn to pray as Jesus prayed, and as He has instructed us to pray. We must learn to pray for the things that are near to God’s heart, and that will accomplish His will, and not necessarily give us the things that we want or what we think would be best. This requires us to daily surrender our will to God, and to die to ourselves daily (Luke 9:23). As contrary as it might sound, the key to accomplishing more isn’t working harder, it is praying more. I wish I could give you a simple formula for how to have Spirit-empowered, God-honoring prayers. However, being completely honest, I have never learned how to and so I’m struggling to learn it myself. It is something that God is really speaking to me about, and convicting me about it. It is something I am committing myself to study Scripture and pray more about. I will say that one resource that has been very helpful to me is a ministry called Strategic Renewal. It is run by Daniel Henderson. From studying the Bible and reading things that they have published, it has helped me learn to be fervent and God-focused in my prayer life. But it all starts with this, you must admit that not only can you not do it on your own, but that you don’t want to even try to. It is admitting our desperate dependence upon God. Then, get into His Word. If you want to learn how to pray like Jesus, then study Jesus’ prayers. Next, get around people who pray the way the Bible commands us to. Finally, just do it. I have come to a sad conclusion, we talk more about prayer than we spend time praying. We need to be intentional about getting alone with God and praying, but we also need to be intentional about praying as a church. While many people say that Jesus never prayed publicly, I think they are missing some key texts in the Gospels. The biggest proof that Jesus did pray in public with people around is in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. There, Jesus gave the disciples a model prayer. Notice in Matthew 6:9-13 the plural nouns. Prayer is meant to be both private and public. Let’s pray that God would teach us to pray better, and that we would trust Him to work in His time, for His glory, and for our good.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Jun 16

Leadership Is Presence During Crisis

Very few things can rally a group of people to a cause like seeing a leader right there in the fight with them. Conversely, very few things can lower the morale of a group like seeing their leader be removed from the situation that they are facing. Leadership is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. However, there are certain aspects of leadership that easier, and I would argue more necessary than other aspects. The one aspect of leadership, at least in my opinion, that is the most vital is this, the people must know that the leader cares for them and is with them no matter what. What we will see in today’s text is the opposite. Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, had been seizing the city of Jerusalem. The Babylonians were starving the people of Jerusalem, and then they decided it was time to attack. When this occurred, Zedekiah, the king of Judah, thought it was time to run away as we see in Jeremiah 52. Jeremiah 52:7-8 says, “Then the city wall was broken through, and all the men of war fled and went out of the city at night by way of the gate between the two walls, which was by the king’s garden, even though the Chaldeans were near the city all around. And they went by way of the plan. But the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king, and they overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho. All his army was scattered from him.”

I will not dispute that conditions in Jerusalem were bad and they were getting worse. The biblical account makes this abundantly clear. However, when the people needed a leader the most, the king was nowhere to be found. To be fair, I think anyone who has ever served in a leadership position has had the temptation at one time or another to run away. However, it is the true calling on their life to serve, and their love for their people that keep them from doing that. This story reminds me of what Jesus taught in John 10. He contrasted Himself with the religious leaders of His day. He said that the religious leaders were hired hands, and that they didn’t really love the people. Jesus said that at the sight of the wolf, they would run away. However, as the Good Shepherd, Jesus said He would lay down His life for the sheep. When the hired hands would run away from danger, Jesus said He would step in front of His people, and be between His people and the wolf. Praise God for the Good Shepherd! Because of His love for His people, God has promised that there will never be a time in which we are alone. No matter what we face, God is with us. He will fight for us, and He will bring us through the danger.

There is no doubt that this nation is in the midst of a tumultuous time. This is why it is so vital that the church, especially pastors, step forward and step up. Sometimes the greatest ministry you can have is a ministry of presence. When people are in the midst of a crisis, they aren’t necessarily looking for you to fix it, or to tell them how to get out of the current situation. They just want to know that they are not alone, that someone genuinely cares for them. This is where you can step in, even if you aren’t in an official leadership capacity. You know those around you who are hurting, reach out to them. You can text them, call them, email them, or go visit them; just make contact with them and let them know you are there for them. America needs leaders right now, and we as Christians have the greatest leader ever, the Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s follow His example, and let’s see if some of the hurt, anger, and violence doesn’t subside. Instead of trying to fix it, let’s start by listening and loving.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

Posted in Through The Bible in 2020 | 1 Comment
Jun 15

Unbreakable Promise

If you live long enough chances are two things will happen in your life. First, someone will break a promise to you. Plenty of children know this all too well, because mom or dad promises to do something with them “later”, but later never comes. Second, you will break a promise to someone. We will always defend ourselves by saying, “but I didn’t mean to.” However, that won’t change the fact that we did break a promise. These two truths make it all the more obvious of how God is different than us. What God decrees, God does! God has never and will never break a promise. This is what God was reassuring Jeremiah of as He was speaking with him. Jeremiah 31:36 says, “If those ordinances depart from before Me, says the Lord, then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever.”

God is speaking to Jeremiah, and assuring Jeremiah that everything He has said will happen is going to happen. That was good news and bad news. It was bad news, because God had said that the Babylonians were going to take Judah captive for 70 years. It was good news, because God promised that He would restore the nation of Israel, and that they would return to their land. To let Jeremiah know of how certain these things were to happen, God goes all the way back to creation, when He created the sun, the moon, and the stars. He created the sun to rule over the day, and the moon and the stars to rule over the night. God says in our text, if that ever stops, then you don’t have to believe anything else I say, because it is obvious that I’m not powerful enough to do it. This was meant to encourage Jeremiah, because for the approximate 3,500 years before Jeremiah came on the scene, God created everything and it was still functioning. It’s one thing to do something once or twice. But when you have done something everyday for the past 3,000+ years, I’m pretty sure you can bet on it happening again the next day, and the day after, and the day after, and so on. The eternal God who created everything, and sustains it, is the same God who makes unbreakable promises. Let that encourage you today. What God decrees, God does! But also let it serve as a warning for those who are still rejecting the Gospel. Just as God has promised and will bring to pass the good He has promised to His children; He will also bring the judgment to pass on those who reject Him. The good news is, God is giving you time right now, to turn from your sin and turn in faith to Him. While we may not be able to keep every promise we make, God has and God will. Praise Him for His faithfulness and His precious promises to His children.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Jun 12

Are You Listening?

I’ve seen the meme several times on Facebook, but it cracks me up every time I see it. It says, “My wife asked me, are you listening to me?” and I thought, “That’s a strange way to start a conversation.” Let’s be honest guys, sometimes it is true of us, we aren’t the best listeners in the world. But this is more than just a problem with husbands not listening to their wives. It is the problem of humanity not listening to God. This isn’t new as we will see in Jeremiah today. Jeremiah 25:4 says, “And the Lord has sent to you all His servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, but you have not listened nor inclined your ear to hear.”

God in His love and grace had sent many prophets before Jeremiah to warn both the northern kingdom, Israel; as well as, the southern kingdom of Judah. However, the warnings fell on deaf ears. The people only listened to those who told them what they wanted to hear, and now they were paying a price for it. This is something that we are seeing in our nation and in our world today as well. God in His love and grace has given us His word to read that we might know Him, and know His heart. However, we have turned from it in so many ways. I wish this was just a lost person’s problem, because then it would at least make sense. But this is true for many in the church as well. We have as Paul said in his letter to Timothy, “heaped up for ourselves teachers who tickle our ears.” We have turned from sound doctrine, and instead followed the wisdom of man. And now look at where we are. Many have wondered, is this what it is going to take to get our attention and turn our hearts back to God? I wish it would, but if I’m being honest, I don’t have much hope that it will. Why plea to my brothers and sisters in Christ is this, open your Bible, get alone with God, and allow Him to speak into our lives. Let Him define truth, and give us wisdom on where we should go and the things we should do. Will it be easy? Absolutely not, but it is necessary. My plea to my fellow pastors, don’t get pulled into the latest political debates or simply feeding the sheep warm and fuzzy messages. God has called us to be heralds of His word to His people. Yes, they need encouragement because the Christian life is difficult to live. But they also need exhortations to turn from sin, and avoid the dangers of sinful living in this world. We will not be popular when we preach counter-culturally, but I believe we are reaching an important crossroads. We will either preach to please the people, or we will preach to please the One who sought us, bought us, and called us. One decision will lead us closer to God and bring His blessings into our lives. The other will cause God to remove His hand from our preaching and ministries, and lead our people further from the gates of the kingdom of God and closer to the gates of hell. Let’s choose wisely!

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Jun 11

Can Your Cup Hold Water?

There are a lot of things that are worse certainly, but a frustration is when you get a cup that has a hole in it. A cup has one job, to hold your water so that when you need a drink, you can have one. However, if there is a hole in the cup, it can’t do its job. God used this metaphor to describe Judah’s sin against Him. Jeremiah 2:13 says, “For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns–broken cisterns that can hold no water.” Instead of trusting in the Lord to fill them up all day, every day; Judah chased after mirages. God is charging Judah with idolatry. They thought that the false gods they were chasing after could give them what only the true God could give them. What about you and I? Who are we chasing after? Some of the broken cisterns that we chase are people’s approval, money, possessions, and any number of other things. We think, if I can just get _________, then I will have what I need. However, the only thing that can fill us each and every day is God.

We must keep our heart diligently, to seek after God, and not the many idols calling out to us. We must remember that only God can give us what we need, and in His love for us, He has promised to provide for it. Why chase after something that was created, when you can pursue and find the Creator? You were created by God, for God; not the things of this world. If you are thirsty for purpose, love, and acceptance; look not further than God. Only He can give you those things that you deeply long for.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Jun 10

One Generation Away

Growing up, my grandparents used to go down to the Outer Banks twice a year. I can remember visiting the lighthouses down there, spending most of the day on the beach fishing, and then at night spending time together in the house watching tv, talking, or the adults playing cards. I remember when the news broke that they were going to have to move one of the lighthouses or it was going to fall into the Atlantic Ocean. I can remember thinking, why did they build it so close to the shore in the first place? It was then that I started learning about erosion, and how the waves beating on the shoreline day after day, pulled the shoreline out to sea little by little. They didn’t intentionally build the lighthouse too close to the shore. But year after year, a little more of the shoreline disappeared until it became necessary to move the lighthouse.

I think the story of why the lighthouse had to be moved is a great picture of how America got to be the way it is today. It is undeniable that our nation has changed, and in all honesty, the majority of changes have not been for the better. The truth is, it didn’t happen overnight. It has been building for years, decades even, and we are just now starting to see the results of decisions made in the past. My concern is, if we don’t remedy these decisions, we aren’t going to have a country left, because God’s judgment will come down on us. There is actually a story in the Old Testament found in 2 Kings 22 that mirrors this. It takes place when Judah’s youngest ruler, Josiah, ascended to the throne. He wanted some repairs done to the Temple, because it had been neglected and abused in years past. As the work was being done, the Book of the Law was discovered. Scholars debate on why it had been hidden, and exactly when had it been hidden. But the results were clear, God’s people had not been acting like God’s people. Even though Josiah enacted many reforms after the discovery of the Book of the Law, Judah had gone too far. God’s judgment was coming and there was nothing they could do about it except to accept it, and learn from it.

I am genuinely afraid that my children, and if Diana and I have any grandchildren, will grow up in a nation very different than the America that she and I grew up in. We are going further and further away from God seemingly with each passing year. However, it’s not like a switch was flipped and everything just changed. It has been gradual, but now the changes are very visible. This is one of the ways that Satan operates. It’s why he is called the most subtle of all creatures in Genesis 3. He doesn’t come and act like we often think he would. Instead, he gets us to make small compromises today that will have lasting damages tomorrow. And while it is popular for Christians to bash non-Christians and blame them for where we are as a nation; I think we as Christians need to take a long, hard look in the mirror. Unsaved people are simply living and doing what comes natural to them (see 1 Cor. 2:14). You can’t expect the lost to act like they are saved, especially when we who have been saved by God’s grace don’t like we are saved. We are the ones who have compromised, and allowed this nation to sink further and further into sin. And I believe I know why and where it happened, and in the arena of politics isn’t where it started. It started in the home, with mom and dad. We lost the family altars. We stopped having family worship. We stopped prioritizing corporate worship attendance, and serving in the local church. When children see their parents act one way during the week, and then another way on Sunday, do we really expect them not to be confused? Do we really think that will make them want to share in our faith? Or what about when corporate worship is no longer a priority? Can we be shocked when our children don’t want to go to church, when we as their parents didn’t prioritize it? I’m not trying to bang on parents and heap guilt on you. Satan does that plenty. Rather, I believe we need a wake up call. We are one generation away from raising a truly godless generation, and it is coming faster than any of us saw it coming. We need to get back to dinner around the family table in which we not only eat meals together, but we also have a time of reading God’s Word and praying. We are getting close to Father’s Day, and so I believe it is important for us to realize the vital role a dad plays in the life of his children, especially when it comes to following Jesus Christ. This is not disrespecting moms at all, God bless the godly women who are loving and trying to show their husband the right way, and show their children how to follow God. We need both mom and dad living by example. It is time for Christians to come back to the table, and prioritize family worship. Then, maybe we will see our kids get excited when they go to church, because it will be a bigger version of what they have been doing with their family all week. If we won’t teach our children about Jesus, how to love Him, and how to obey Him in our daily life, I promise the world will teach them how not to do those things, and we simply can’t afford that spiritually or as a nation.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Jun 09

Take It To The Lord

Have you ever had an enemy or someone who taunted you? One thing that is prevalent in our school systems today is bullying. However, bullying isn’t reserved for the schoolyard or the playground. Sadly, it is something that some adults engage in as well. When someone comes against us to provoke us or unfairly accuse us, how are to respond? One of Judah’s greatest kings, Hezekiah, gives us the example that we need to learn to follow.

The kings of Assyria had been threatening Judah for some years. They had already taken the northern kingdom of Israel captive. The king of Assyria sent a letter to Hezekiah. Essentially the letter said, don’t think this is over, and don’t think your God will protect you. No other god has protected the other nations we have destroyed. Instead of being scared or retaliating, look at what Hezekiah did. It is found in 2 Kings 19:14, “And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord.” Hezekiah went and prayed to the Lord about the letter and about the situation. In so doing, Hezekiah has given us a good example of how to handle it when someone comes against us or unfairly accuses us.

  1. Pray about it. In a day and age of instant reaction on social media, pause a moment, and pray about it. I have learned through my years on this earth, that my first reaction and emotion is seldom the right reaction of emotion. Take a moment, take a breath, get silent, and pray.
  2. Don’t attend every fight you are invited to. Again, I think many in our nation could stand to learn this lesson. Just because someone says something about you or against you, doesn’t mean you have to respond. Bullies rule by fear and intimidation. They want to create emotions in you, and cause you to react. As long as you react, they win. However, when you choose not to respond and instead commit yourself to the Lord, you take away any supposed power they think they have over you. It reminds me of what Paul wrote in Romans. He was talking about this same issue, and he says that when we choose not to retaliate, and instead choose to speak and act the way that honors God, we heap burning coals on their head.
  3. Trust in the Lord. I know it is hard not to say anything, and to not defend yourself when you are attacked, especially when it is unfair and lies being said about you. We feel that we need to respond, to set the record straight. However, I have learned that you won’t change people’s perceptions about you by responding or defending yourself. If anything, you will only further ingrain their perception about you. Instead of trying to take things into your own hands, trust in the Lord to protect you and to defend you.

It may not be easy to stay silent when you want to speak up. It certainly isn’t fun to be falsely accused of things. But when you trust the Lord to defend you, and to work the situation out; you end up having a lot less to go back and confess and seek forgiveness for. So, stay silent in front of people, but pour your heart out before the Lord, and trust Him to work for His glory and your good.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Jun 08

A Good Thing Turned Idol

How many of us have idols in our lives? That’s a crazy question isn’t it? After all, we know that idolatry is wrong. Therefore, if we knowingly had an idol, we would confess it, and turn from it, wouldn’t we? There is where the deception comes in. I’m not 100% sure which pastor I heard say it, I believe it was J.D. Greear, but he defined idolatry in this way, “An idol is a good thing from God which we have made a god-thing, which makes it a bad thing.” I love that definition, because it reveals how easy it is to take something that is good from God, and turn it into an idol. There are so many things that can fall into this description of an idol. It could be work, marriage, family, money, possessions, church attendance, Bible reading, Scripture memorization, and the list goes on and on. The deceptiveness of idolatry is that we never set out to make things and idol, they simply become an idol over time because we give them too high of a place and priority in our life.

In today’s text, there is a new king in the southern kingdom of Judah. His name is Hezekiah. He is going to enact some reforms in Judah, and God is going to bless Hezekiah and the nation for it. In Hezekiah’s opinion, the reforms had to begin with Judah’s religious system. Hezekiah knew that Judah’s sins were a matter of their hearts. 2 Kings 18:4 says, “He (Hezekiah) removed the high places and broke the sacred pillars, cut down the wooden image and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it, and called it Nehushtan.” Besides the obvious idols of the high places used for sacrifices to the false gods, and the sacred pillars, and the wooden image; there was an idol in Judah that has a tie back to their history under Moses. The bronze serpent of Moses came into being in Numbers 21, when Israel complained against God and His leaders. God sent poisonous snakes to Israel to bite them, and many Israelites were dying from the bites. Then, they begged Moses to go ask the Lord to remove the snakes. They promised they learned their lesson and wouldn’t do it again. By the way, they did it again and again and again, but that is another story for another day. God told Moses to make a bronze serpent wrapped around a pole, and put it high in the camp of Israel. Then, when a person was bit by a snake, they could look at that pole, and they would be healed. The amazing thing about that story in Numbers 21, is how it pointed Israel to their coming Messiah, Jesus. Jesus actually references the story, and says that it was pointing people to Him in John 3. However, over time the people had started to worship the bronze serpent instead of the One who gave them the remedy for the death bite of the snake.

This is where we must understand the danger and deception of idols. God had given Israel a good thing in the bronze serpent. When they looked to it, they were demonstrating faith that they would be healed. It wasn’t the bronze serpent that healed the people, it was God who healed them as they demonstrated faith by obeying what God told them to do. However, they thought the power was in the serpent itself. You and I must guard our hearts, and to help us keep our eyes on Him. The good things that He gives us, such as money, clothes, cars, food, housing, etc., are to remind us of how good of a God He is. They are to remind us that God is faithful to keep His promises to provide for His children. All the things we have are meant to draw us closer to God, and for us to bow down in worship Him. But, when we start putting our trust in those things, we have perverted a good thing and made it into a god-thing, an idol. Idols aren’t just about the things that we have, they can also be the things that we do. This is why we must ask God not only to examine our actions, but also to examine our motives. Am I doing things as a way to get something, or because I want to demonstrate my love and gratitude for what God has done for me, and how He has blessed me? It is the age-old debate, why are good works important in the life of a believer? We do good works not so that God will love us and save us; instead, we do good works because God loves us and has saved us.

So, let me end where I began this post, are there any idols in your life? Is there anything that is meant to draw you closer to God that you are treating like a god? If so, take time right now to confess them to the Lord. If you aren’t sure, spend time in prayer asking God to reveal if there are any idols in your life. God is good, He loves you, and He wants to give you good things. But when those things draw us away from Him, He has the right to remove them.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

Posted in Through The Bible in 2020 | Leave a comment