Where Is The Lord?

Jeremiah 1-4, Psalm 130, 2 Corinthians 9

They did not say, Where is the Lord?  Jeremiah 2:6 (ESV)

It is easy in our grief, challenges, and wantonness to ask, ‘where is the Lord?’  These are opportunities to cry out, chances to seek a power greater than what we can attain on our own in this world.  The question comes in the most dire of circumstances.  Sometimes.  But what if it doesn’t come?

It happens more than you think.  We grumble and complain about our lives but do not ask, ‘Where is the Lord.’  We wander in the mire of broken relationships and ruined circumstances but refuse to inquire ‘where is the Lord?’

Perhaps your life is different.  Maybe you have riches and influence.  You live in the land of fruitfulness and bounty, but you still do not ask, ‘where is the Lord?’  You choose, instead, to ignore Him and waste your time on worthless idols.

Today, whethere in want, or in plenty, there is one thing that can satisfy our deepest longing and our greatest need.  That is to know right here, right now, in these circumstances, ‘where is the lord?’

1,000 Generations

2 Kings 21, 2 Chronicles 33, Psalm 71, 2 Corinthians 3

There is something odd about reading 2 Kings vs 2 Chronicles today.  Both are an account of King Manasseh, but they are different.  In reading 2 Kings, you would believe that all hope is lost.  Manasseh was full of evil.  The account in 2 Kings mentions mass murder, then his death.  You would think that this is the story of another hopeless king.  But that is not true, 2 Chronicles tells the rest of the story.

As we see in 2 Chronicles, Manasseh’s evil has consequences.  The Lord allowed him to be captured, bound with chains and taken to Babylon. This should have been the end for him, but it wasn’t.  Instead, Manasseh does a curious thing.  He repents.

But while in deep distress, Manasseh sought the Lord his God and sincerely humbled himself before the God of his ancestors.  2 Chronicles 33:12 (NLT)

The best part of the story comes next.  How exactly would you expect God to handle an evil, mass-murdering leader?

And when he prayed, the Lord listened to him and was moved by his request. So the Lord brought Manasseh back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh finally realized that the Lord alone is God!  2 Chronicles 33:13 (NLT)

That’s one powerful prayer! We don’t learn much about it from 2 Chronicles, except that Manasseh turned to God, humbly.  I imagine that much of his prayer mirrored that of David’s from Psalm 71.  Consider the first five verses:

O Lord, I have come to you for protection;

don’t let me be disgraced.

Save me and rescue me,

for you do what is right.

Turn your ear to listen to me,

and set me free.

Be my rock of safety

where I can always hide.

Give the order to save me,

for you are my rock and my fortress.

My God, rescue me from the power of the wicked,

from the clutches of cruel oppressors.

O Lord, you alone are my hope.

My cynical heart wonders what Manasseh’s response had been if God had chosen not to return him to Jerusalem.  Would he have remained faithful?  That thinking is a dark path that fails to trust in who God is.

 Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.  Deuteronomy 7:9 (NLT)

1,000 generations.  Chat GPT estimates that at 20,000 years.  Jesus promises that it is much longer.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38-39 (ESV)

In Vain

Isaiah 53-55, Psalm 128, 1 Corinthians 15

My wife suggested that if I lose a little weight, I would snore less.  So I exercised.  I kept eating ice cream and cookies.  My exercise was in vain.

I wanted to be a millionaire, so I set out to make a lot of money.  Then I bought cars and houses and boats and stuff.  My work was in vain.

I wanted a college education, so I went to college.  I partied and played.  I got my degree, but the education was in vain.

I heard the Good News.  I stand in it.  Through it, I am saved.  Unless, I believed in vain (1 Cor 15:1-2).

If I believed in vain, then Jesus gave me great grace in vain (1 cor 15:10).

Psychological Warfare

King Hesekiah was backed into a corner.  185,000 Assyrian warriors gathered around his city, Jerusalem.  They had a nasty reputation for being merciless, cold-blooded killers.  The people were scared.  Rather than a quick invasion, the Assyrians would first launch an emotional attack.  One that would challenge their values and beliefs.  It will become a test of faith.

2 Kings 18:29 (ESV) ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you out of my hand.

2 Kings 18:30 (ESV) 30 Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord by saying, The Lord will surely deliver us, and this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’

2 Kings 18:31 (ESV) 31 Do not listen to Hezekiah, for thus says the king of Assyria: ‘Make your peace with me and come out to me. Then each one of you will eat of his own vine, and each one of his own fig tree, and each one of you will drink the water of his own cistern,

2 Kings 18:32 (ESV) until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey, that you may live, and not die. And do not listen to Hezekiah when he misleads you by saying, “The Lord will deliver us.”

2 Kings 18:33 (ESV) Has any of the gods of the nations ever delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?

2 Kings 18:35 (ESV) Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?’”

This method was as effective then as it is today.  If the people turn on their king, they would win handily.  Furthermore, if the king’s confidence in God is rattled, they win everything.

It is far easier to believe the seeds of doubt sown by our enemies than the infinite power of God.  Especially when our circumstances are grim.  This is where our faith and actions collide.  How did Hezekiah respond?  First with frustration and anguish.  He “tore his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth.”  But, more importantly, he “went into the house of the Lord” (2 Kings 19:1).

King Hezekiah did not give in to the lies of the enemy.  He would not surrender his belief.  Instead, he returned to what he knew to be true.  He went to God, his protector and redeemer.  With that one act of faith Hezekiah received the precious words that we all need. “Do not be afraid, for I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David” (2 Kings 19:6&34).

These words strengthen me today.  There is an enemy that is sowing seeds of doubt in me, challenging what I believe and  enticing me to surrender the victory I have been promised.  There is only one true response; enter the house of the Lord, and pray.  Here is the prayer of Hezekiah:

“O Lord, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth. 16 Bend down, O Lord, and listen! Open your eyes, O Lord, and see! Listen to Sennacherib’s words of defiance against the living God.
17 “It is true, Lord, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed all these nations. 18 And they have thrown the gods of these nations into the fire and burned them. But of course the Assyrians could destroy them! They were not gods at all—only idols of wood and stone shaped by human hands. 19 Now, O Lord our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, O Lord, are God.”  2 Kings 19:15-19 (NLT)

Running Ahead of God

Isaiah 30-32, 1 Corinthians 5

I get tired of waiting.  To be honest I don’t even know what I am waiting for.  I mean, God promises this big life, “to the full” as he says.  I am not feeling it.  Even worse, I see trouble ahead.  The economy is questionable, health issues arise, relationships are strained, and I can’t sleep anymore. What do I do?  I run ahead of God, just like the Israelites.

The Israelites struggled.  They were under constant threat of invasion.  As a small country, they were vulnerable.  They could easily be overpowered by neighboring armies.  Tired of living in fear, they found a new solution, Egypt.  Egypt was big.  They had a huge army and Pharaoh was powerful.  So what did Israel do?  They sought to create an alliance.

An alliance, they thought, would protect them.  Once they eliminate the threat of neighboring countries, they could live free.  Even better, they would grow and prosper.  Any good alliance, after all, provides new opportunity.  Unfortunately, it is not true.  The Israelites had forgotten what happened before.  The last time, it did not end in protection and provision.  No, their alliance resulted in oppression and slavery.  This is the warning from the prophet Isaiah.  If this alliance is carried out, he warns, the Israelites will face shame and humiliation (Isaiah 30:3).

Thankfully, Isaiah does not leave Israel wanting for a solution.  Instead, he reminds them of the grace awaiting them.  The grace that is freely given and generously provided by God.  This grace, he maintains, is greater than anything they can imagine.  God’s grace eliminates darkness, binds brokenness, and heals wounds (Isaiah 30:260).  Not only that, Isaiah continues, establishes gladness in our hearts and strikes terror in our enemies (Isaiah 30:29-31).

The words of Isaiah are relevant today.  We see all kinds of alliances and solutions that will quickly solve our problems.  Money and medicine come to mind.  There are certainly more, but none of them work.  It is only through the love and grace of Jesus Christ that we will find it if we will only remember these precious words of Isaiah:

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you,
and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for him.  (Isaiah 30:18)

Flip Flop

Isaiah 11-13, Psalm 118, Matt 27

when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind ~Matthew 27:3

Today, in Matthew 27, we read about Judas’ victory. Or, at least, what Judas thought was going to be his victory.  He finally achieved what he set out to do. There are two reasons, I surmise, for Judas’ choices.  One is money and the other is acceptance.

Consider first that Judas was the keeper of the purse for the apostles.  Not because he was specially gifted with finances, but because was concerned with the amount of money in the purse.  Not for the benefit of Jesus, or humanity, but for his own gain.  John 12:1-8 tells us that  Judas was greedy for monetary gain.  His relationship with Jesus was nothing more than a vehicle to gain wealth.  Is that why he gave up Jesus’ location for 30 pieces of silver?   Maybe, but 30 pieces of silver is only about $600, in todays dollars.  There must be another motivation for his choices.

Perhaps Judas was also looking for the respect of men.  Looking back to Matthew 26:14-16, Judas was hanging out with men opposed to Jesus.  Given his position, I imagine that they did not fully trust him.  Maybe they made fun of him for being with Jesus.  Maybe Judas wanted to be liked by them.  We all do stupid things when we are seeking the approval of men.  I imagine Judas puffing himself up with stories about Jesus and the Apostles.  To build creditability, he chooses to make a grand gesture.  In this case, it was about selling Jesus’ location. 

Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.  Matthew 26:14-16

Once Jesus was condemned, however, Judas rethought his choices.  Realizing his fault, Judas “changed his mind.” Matthew 27:3.  I can only guess why.  Honestly, its like most things of this world.  We make choices to satisfy our desires and build our own influence, often at the cost of God’s Kingdom.  Seriously, think about a time when you were tempted to compromise your values for something that you would gain.  Maybe its an oversight on your taxes, or taking credit for someone else’s work so that your boss will see you in a better light.  Maybe, like Judas, we are ok with your choices. Truth is, we are ok with our choices until there are consequences.  That’s what happened to Judas.

When Judas saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind.  Matthew 27:3

Perhaps we have all experienced what Judas felt in Matthew 27, realizing that our gain is actually a huge loss.  When that happens, don’t we do exactly what Judas did in verse 3?  We change our minds!  Sadly, for Judas, it was too late.  He could not see past his betrayal.  The only restitution he could think of was death.

We do have an option.  Today, and everyday, we can choose life.  Simply put our faith in Him and His goodness.  Nothing else.  Before, it’s too late.

Religious or Saved?

Isaiah 4-6, Matthew 23

Sometimes, Jesus is inconvenient.  Lots of times, Jesus behaves differently than we want him to.  Maybe we got overlooked for that promotion, or our health is failing.  There is no end to the troubles in this world.  Would you like to make it easier?

Good, so would I.  Now, all we have to do is control God.  I bet that if we do certain things, everything will go our way.  We can start by going to church on Sunday.  Not just this Sunday but EVERY Sunday.  Then, we can give a little more.  In fact, we can celebrate how much we give.  Heck, they might even name the next building after me!  Don’t forget about sharing.  We must tell everyone we know how great Jesus is and how great he has made our lives.  If we do all of those things, and maybe a few others along the way, God will take good care of us, right?

Wrong.  It doesn’t work that way.  That is what Jesus is trying to tell us today in Matthew 23.  The Pharisees had been trying it for years.  Follow the rules, spread the word, and give lots of money.  Jesus wasn’t having it.  “Woe to you!” he warned.  None of these things return righteousness.  None of these bring life.  None of these make you worthy.

What, then, God?  What will make us worthy?  Albert Tate heard these words from the Holy Spirit when asking similar questions.  They are true for us too.

Albert, when you studied all week, you still weren’t worthy. When you prayed all night, you still weren’t worthy. Your worthiness to stand and declare the truths of My gospel isn’t based on your preparation. It’s not based on your prayer life or the work that you’ve put in. Yes, it’s important that you do that work, but don’t you associate that work with your worth. Your worth was never your work. Your worth was always, always based on my work. All the work I’ve done in your life, it was always about My grace. It was about My grace on your worst day, and on your most prepared day. Either day, you’re still unworthy. But what makes you worthy is My grace alone.

His grace and our willingness to embrace it is the difference between being religious and being saved.

Tate, Albert. Disobedient God (p. 95). FaithWords. Kindle Edition.

Limiting Faith

I once answered an interview question that asked, “How long would you fail at a task before you quit?”  Now remember, this was an interview.  My foolish answer was, “I’m not a quitter.”    I say that because I am, and you probably are too.

Don’t worry; we are in good company.  The disciples quit too.  Look at the story starting at Matthew 17:14.  A man brought to them a demon-possessed boy for healing.  They tried everything they knew, but it didn’t work.  So, what did they do?  They quit.

What does that mean?  It means that they gave up hope and bailed.  Can you imagine looking at the man and the boy in their desperate situation and saying, “Sorry, we can’t do it, see you later.  Have a nice life.”

The truth is that we do it all the time.  That’s right; we give up.  Most times, we don’t even try.  Remember that homeless man you passed on the street corner?  He was asking for help too.  But I didn’t stop.  Why not?  Because, like the disciples, I don’t believe I can make a difference.

Jesus’ response was appropriate.  “Faithless generation,” he calls them.  “how long do I have to put up with you?” He asks with disgust.  Thankfully, this is not the story’s end for the boy or the disciples.  The boy gets the healing he needs and the disciples learn some valuable lessons.

For instance, the disciples could have approached Jesus humbly and honestly, seeking his guidance rather than running.  They could have provoked God’s intercession through prayer and they could have simply trusted that God will do what he say’s he will do.  In short, they proved their lack of faith by accepting their human limitations and not turning to God.

At the time, the disciples didn’t think they were quitting. Instead, they accepted the task as impossible.  But Jesus said otherwise, “Nothing will be impossible for you.”  Now, they know better.  They know their failure is directly linked to their lack of faith.  Now, we know better too.

Parables, Fables and Legends

Amos 1-3, Matthew 13

In today’s reading of Matthew 13, we encounter Jesus talking in more parables.  What are parables, exactly?  Parables are short, simple stories that convey a moral or spiritual lesson.  There are several reasons that Jesus chose to communicate with parables.

Accessibility: Jesus used parables to make complex spiritual and moral lessons accessible to diverse audiences. By using familiar scenarios and everyday situations, he could connect with people from different backgrounds and walks of life.

Engagement: Parables are inherently engaging and thought-provoking. They capture the audience’s attention and encourage them to think deeply about the underlying message. Parables allowed Jesus to convey profound truths in a way that held people’s interest.

Memorability: The storytelling nature of parables made them easier to remember.  When people remember it, they will share it.

Protection: In some instances, Jesus used parables to convey sensitive or controversial teachings without attracting unnecessary opposition or persecution. The symbolic language of parables allowed him to deliver challenging messages while providing a degree of protection from immediate backlash.

Spiritual Revelation: Parables often contain hidden meanings and profound spiritual truths. Jesus explained the meanings of some parables to his disciples privately, giving them insights into the mysteries of the kingdom of God.

Self-Reflection: Parables required active participation from the audience. Listeners had to ponder the stories and discern the moral or spiritual implications, which encouraged self-reflection and personal growth.

These reasons are fine, but there is a catch to parables.   You must be willing to hear (Matthew 13:43).   Author John Macarthur puts it this way, “If a person rejects the propositional truth being illustrated by a parable, of course, it remains an open riddle.”

MacArthur, John F.. Parables: The Mysteries of God’s Kingdom Revealed Through the Stories Jesus Told (p. xviii). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Pilgrim’s Progress

2 Kings 9-10, Psalm 49, Matthew 7

Matthew 7:14 (ESV) For the gate is narrow, and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

One story captures this idea of a narrow gate and a difficult path better than any.  It is Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan.  The story is about a journey of a man named, Christian.  Throughout the story, Christian faces various challenges and meets characters like Evangelist, Faithful, and Hopeful, who aid him in staying on the narrow path. He endures the Slough of Despond, the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and battles with Apollyon and the temptations of Vanity Fair. These trials test his commitment to righteousness and deepen his reliance on God’s grace.

All too often, however, we fail to stay on the path.  Perhaps it happens most when we encounter difficulty.  Bunyan describes it excellently.

As Christian proceeds on the narrow path, he comes to a foot of a hill called “difficulty.”  “There were also in the same place two other paths besides that which came straight from the gate; one turned to the left and the other to the right at the bottom of the hill, but the narrow path went right up the hill, and it was called Difficulty. Christian now went to the spring and drank to refresh himself and then began to go up the hill, saying:

The hill, though high, I covet to ascend,

The difficulty will not me offend;

For I perceive the way to life lies here.

Come, pluck up heart, let’s neither faint nor fear;

Better, though difficult, the right way to go,

Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe.”


Bunyan, John. The New Pilgrim’s Progress . Discovery House. Kindle Edition.