Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Why Does God Punish?

I've read and heard many people say they could not worship a God who killed all those people in the Old Testament. They think God is cruel. I thought I'd start out with some verses where God speaks about how he feels.

For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!

Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?

All these verses come from Ezekiel chapter 18.
“If a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die. None of the offenses they have committed will be remembered against them. Because of the righteous things they have done, they will live. Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?"

“But if a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked person does, will they live? None of the righteous things that person has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness they are guilty of and because of the sins they have committed, they will die."

“Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear, you Israelites: Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust?"

“Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!"

What sins were these people committing?

God told Ezekiel, “The sin of the people of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great; the land is full of bloodshed and the city is full of injustice."

Murder, theft and injustice in the courts was widespread. God said, "Must they also fill the land with violence and continually arouse my anger?"

The worst sin was sacrificing their own babies and children to idols. They burned them alive.

 “ ‘And you took your sons and daughters whom you bore to me and sacrificed them as food to the idols. Was your prostitution not enough? You slaughtered my children and sacrificed them to the idols."   Chapter 16

Jeremiah, who lived at the same time spoke of this, 
"For they have forsaken me and made this a place of foreign gods; they have burned incense in it to gods that neither they nor their ancestors nor the kings of Judah ever knew, and they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent. They have built the high places of Baal to burn their children in the fire as offerings to Baal—something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind."  Chapter 19

The punishment for these people was God allowing the King of Babylon to come and take captives and then destroy their country. Those who were captive or those who defected to the King of Babylon were allowed to live. God told them that many times. He warned them over and over.

The result of this punishment was that Israel as a people never worshiped idols again. God returned them to their land and to their city of Jerusalem. God said many, many times in both Jeremiah and Ezekiel that this punishment would result in Israel knowing God as their God. He said that after their captivity in Babylon, "Then shall they know that I am the LORD." 

So, why does God punish people? I think many reasons. He wants them to wake up and realize what they are doing is wrong. They are hurting people. He wants them to live forever with him in heaven, but he cannot take them if they love doing evil. They would still want to do evil in heaven. He must sometimes rid the world of people who love violence. He does this to protect the other people of the world who love peace.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Calling of Jeremiah.

Have you noticed how God usually chooses the young, uneducated and inexperienced to be his prophets? Most of Jesus' disciples were of this type.
Have you ever wished you were one of the disciples or a prophet? It is an amazing privilege and awesome responsibility - and if I can dare say it, no fun. 
A lot of people will want to kill you.

The Call of Jeremiah
The word of the Lord came to me, saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”

But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”

After calling Jeremiah to be a prophet, God gave him a vision.

The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you see, Jeremiah?”
“I see the branch of an almond tree,” I replied.
The Lord said to me, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.”

The word of the Lord came to me again: “What do you see?”
“I see a pot that is boiling,” I answered. “It is tilting toward us from the north.”

God explains the vision.

The Lord said to me, “From the north disaster will be poured out on all who live in the land. I am about to summon all the peoples of the northern kingdoms,” declares the Lord.
“Their kings will come and set up their thrones
in the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem;
they will come against all her surrounding walls
and against all the towns of Judah.
I will pronounce my judgments on my people
because of their wickedness in forsaking me,
in burning incense to other gods
and in worshiping what their hands have made.

God gives Jeremiah his orders and promises to be with him.
“Get yourself ready! 

Stand up and say to them whatever I command you.

Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. 

Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. 

They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

Well, all this would make me want to hide under my bed; but Jeremiah was made of sterner stuff. I love the book he wrote because it shows the love God has for people and how he pleads over and over for them to come to him.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Way We See Things.

My husband works hard but because I stayed home to raise our children we never had much money. When my oldest daughter was married I wore one of her church dresses. When my second daughter was getting married, I had $40 to get a dress! I went to Sears, which was one of the few stores in our city at the time, and miraculously found a dress that would do. Or, so I thought.

On the day of the wedding, I heard a friend of the groom's mother say, "She should have worn a dress that was age-appropriate." I felt pretty small and embarrassed. I didn't think I looked that bad. But the groom's mother was wearing the most beautiful cream-colored suit. It was more appropriate for a mother of the bride or groom than my dress.

My mom told me she used to walk behind old people at the mall and wonder why they walked so slow. She said she would think, "For Pete's sake, pick up the pace a little." As she got older herself, she said she understood why they couldn't walk fast.

I have heard older people criticize teens who cover themselves in studs and piercings. But one time I got to know a young man who didn't only pierce himself all over, he also wore spikes around his neck and wrists. I found out his father was a Hell's Angel and he had been beaten all his childhood. No wonder he wore spikes. He wanted to keep people away. But he had a kind and loving soul. He actually turned out okay last time I heard. He is a disc jockey for big events. He finally got away from his father.

When I saw women with grey hair, I used to think, "Why don't they dye their hair. They would look so much younger and prettier." Then I became allergic to my hair dyes and had to let my hair go grey. So now there is someone thinking the same thing about me!

I recently told someone in my family I thought what they were doing was wrong. Then they gave me the reasons why they were doing it. I now saw something I thought anyone could see was wrong was not as black and white as I thought. And rightly, they pointed out to me the verse,

  "Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind."

It is hard to know if you should warn someone if you think they are doing wrong. Of course, people don't listen to you anyway! The Bible says we should warn people, but how far does that go? I really don't know. So, I'm still trying to learn not to judge people. It is a life-long lesson that I may never get exactly right, but that's okay. I'll keep trying and learning and hope never to hurt anyone along the way.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Mysticism or the Bible.

Photo by:

I've heard there is talk of mysticism in the churches today; some kind of physical experience with God. People are wanting perhaps more than what God has promised to us. He hasn't promised us a physical experience where we move up to some higher plane to see and hear things from Him. 

If we ignore the way in which God has chosen to speak to his followers, we can lose our way and head towards something that feels good but is not good.

Yes, God can give people visions and dreams. There are times he will do this. But not from us seeking these things. He gives these things when they are necessary, either for us or for his kingdom.

I have heard of people in Christian circles say, "Only speak of Jesus. Don't talk about the end of the world, or what kind of people they should be. Only Jesus."

Well, what did Jesus himself say? He taught the people about how they should live and he talked about the end of the world! So, these people contradict themselves. They say, "Don't talk about the commandments."  What did Jesus say about the commandments? A lot.

"You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother."  Mark 10:19

"And Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”  Matt. 22:37-40

It is vital for a Christian to read the Bible. The Bible is called the word of God; Jesus is also called the Word. If we do not know what the Bible says then we have no defense against the lies of man or Satan. We can be deceived; that is the reason God gave us his word from heaven.

"I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you." Psalm 119:11

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."  Psalm 119:105

"Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true."  Acts 17:11

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law."  Deuteronomy 29:29

"So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ."  Romans 10:17

In a prayer for his disciples, Jesus said, "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth." John 17:17

"And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers."  1 Thess. 2:13

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Suffering Man.

Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

Isaiah 53

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Jesus' Courage.

Photo by: Stanislav Traykov

"I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting."

"Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame."    Isaiah 50:6,7

This is a prophecy of what Jesus would go through for us. The preceding verses explain how Jesus remained calm during this treatment.

The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue,
to know the word that sustains the weary.
He wakens me morning by morning,
wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.
The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears;
I have not been rebellious,
I have not turned away.

His Father lived in him. As Jesus said to his disciples, "I and the Father are one."

"Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him, and said, "Prophesy to us, You Christ; who is the one who hit You?"    Matthew 26:67

"Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged." John 19:1

"The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, 'Hail, king of the Jews!' And they slapped him in the face."   John 19:2

But what does God say to this in verses 8 & 9?

He who vindicates me is near.
Who then will bring charges against me?
Let us face each other!
Who is my accuser?
Let him confront me!
It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me.
Who will condemn me?
They will all wear out like a garment;
the moths will eat them up.

What does God tell us to do?

7“Hear me, you who know what is right,
you people who have taken my instruction to heart:
Do not fear the reproach of mere mortals
or be terrified by their insults.
For the moth will eat them up like a garment;
the worm will devour them like wool.
But my righteousness will last forever,
my salvation through all generations.”
Isaiah 51:7,8

Jesus said, "I have set my face like a flint."

...therefore have I set my face like a flint: or like "steel" (a); or as an adamant stone, as some (b) render it; hardened against all opposition; resolute and undaunted; constant and unmoved by the words and blows of men; not to be browbeaten, or put out of countenance, by anything they can say or do. He was not dismayed at his enemies who came to apprehend him, though they came to him as a thief, with swords and staves; nor in the high priest's palace, nor in Pilate's hall, in both which places he was roughly used; nor at Satan, and his principalities and powers; nor at death itself, with all its terrors. 

All that Jesus did, we can do through his strength and power for he said, "I in them and you in me--so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."  John 17:23

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

From Birth to Death.

Photo by: Vitold Muratov

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; Even to your old age I will be the same, And even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; And I will bear you and I will deliver you.  Isaiah 46:3,4

I read this verse this morning and I was struck by actions of God towards us. What he speaks to Israel of old applies to us in 2015.

He has borne us before our birth. Amazing thought that God knew us before we were born. He cared about us even then.

He has carried us from the womb. From the day we were born, God has been with each of us.

He will bear us and carry us until we are old and grey. Every day of our lives we are in his thoughts.

God ends with the word "deliver."  He will deliver us from sin, from the grave and finally from this world.

In chapter 45, God says that one day we will all say, "Surely in the Lord I have righteousness and strength."

As Jesus said, "Without me you can do nothing." John 15:5  Only with the Lord in our life do we have any good thoughts or actions or any strength to do his will. I like that. It explains why I am so weak and why after I pray, I feel strong. 

Some of us were born into tragedy. Some of us were born into an abusive or unloving family. What can we think of God about that? I can only share what I know. We live in a world of sin and God cannot protect us from all of sin. Adam and Eve chose to follow Satan and he partly rules this world. Satan says he can run the universe better than God - so the universe must see if he will do that. Of course, it is now obvious he cannot. He brings death and pain everywhere he rules. As Jesus said, "He was a murderer from the beginning." John 8:44

Jesus also said, "In this world, you will have many trials and sorrows; but be of good cheer, I have conquered the world." John 16:33 One day, in heaven, we will experience God's rule and kingdom. A kingdom full of love.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

What Do You Need From God?

I read a little saying, "God doesn't give you what you want; he gives you what you need."

I've found this to be true in my life and in the lives of my family. Sometimes what we think we need is only a want. This is where God's wisdom comes in.


I wanted a romantic husband. I thought marriage would be like the TV series and movies. Everyone is happy and the kids are wonderful.

God gave me a husband who has not a romantic bone in his body. He feels uncomfortable sharing his feelings. He is not a soft-spoken guy who whispers sweet words into my ears.

We are now in our sixties and I know why God gave me my husband. He is strong in many ways; in the ways I am not strong, strong in faith and character. He helps me be strong when I need to be. He understands my mental illness and reminds me how I can feel better. I see problems as disasters; he sees problems as something that can be solved or not solved. If you can't solve them, just pray and give it all to God. He is just who I need at this stage of my life. Thank you God.

My sister used to have a great job, own a house, new car and a motorcycle. Then she got sick with arthritis, chronic fatigue and terrible allergies. She finally had to quit working and sell everything. She then moved to Nevada. She thought she could get disability from social security but they turned her down. She went to a government work program and they got her a job with heavy lifting. They told her to get a paper route. She couldn't do any of that. Eventually, she was homeless.

My sister lived with us for two years but kept getting sicker and sicker until she could not leave the bed. We studied her allergies and mine and found out we both had terrible reactions to histamines, not only in pollen but in foods. We went on an anti-histamine diet and both got a bit better. But she was still much more ill than me.

She decided she had to get away from the tons of allergens in our part of the country and moved to Washington State in her van. It is the best state to live in for allergies. She slowly got her strength back and is able to go shopping and to appointments. She is still very weak, but at least she can get out of bed for part of the day.

Now the big lesson is this: She had been very angry at God for letting her get sick and lose everything she owned but her van. She couldn't understand why he would let it happen. But, since moving to Washington, she has made good friends with other homeless people. She has given Bibles away and had Bible studies with some of them. She has found she loves living in her van in state parks. The family sends her money, but we can't send enough to pay rent and utilities for her. The strange thing is that she said, "This is the happiest I've been in my life."

She thought she needed money, a job and a home; God saw she could work for him with the homeless and be terrifically happy! Who knew? Certainly not her, not me and not my mother!

So, whatever your situation, trust in God because he does know what you need.