Friday, September 30, 2011

Lamentations 3:1-40 - Does God Allow His People to Suffer?

 God’s nature and character, as presented in the Bible, are very different from what most people imagine, and very different from what even many professing Christians believe.  And the content of Lamentations 3 is perfect example of one of the areas where people often have a false view of how God chooses to work.   A common reason given by people to choose to turn away from God is bad circumstances in their lives.  I have heard many people say “A good God would not allow (insert circumstance of choice here) to exist, so He’s not real.”  When God has become little more than a cosmic Santa Claus, who exists for no other reason than to solve all their problems and give them the things they want, it’s easy to see why people who fall on tough circumstance would see those circumstance as a reason to deny Him.

But when we look at this passage, and many other passages, we see a God who often allows people, including His chosen people, to suffer and struggle, and sometimes even causes that suffering.  Obvious examples are Job, the Apostles in the book of Acts, and of course the nation of Israel through most of its history.  Some of those struggles were in response to their own sins, and some were not.  But all were used by God to strengthen them and draw them closer to Him.  Why should it surprise us that God would choose to continue that same pattern today, with us?

Our reading today will focus around this fact.  An important aspect we need to understand as Christians, and emphasize when we share our faith, is that God is in control.  Nothing that happens is a surprise to Him, and His actions are not arbitrary.  If something happens, it happens for our good and for His glory, even if it is difficult for us to see the details while those circumstances are occurring (and it often is).  But we can trust in Him, because He has proven Himself to be trustworthy, time and time again. 

I pray this reading will be a blessing



In the beginning of this passage the writer is lamenting of God’s treatment of him

He has clearly been through a great deal of suffering.

He also clearly recognizes that God has chosen to allow these painful circumstances, if He hasn’t actually caused them directly.

He talks of bitterness, affliction, and tribulation.  He says he has been made to dwell in darkness like the dead.  He even says God “has turned His hand against me.”

He believed God had allowed, or even caused, his suffering.  Do you believe God would do that?

Does the God you believe in allow His children to suffer?  Would a loving God really do such a thing?

Lamentations 3 makes a very strong statement regarding God’s sovereignty, His lordship and control over this world.

It says “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?  Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?  Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins?”

God does allow, and even cause suffering.  And He does so for our good

Sometimes pain and suffering are exactly what we need, because they can cause us to depend more completely on Him.

Sometimes God will bring us to the end of ourselves so that we have to look to Him.  He did so to the nation of Israel many times.

God’s greatest desire is not our happiness, but our holiness.

His word tells us that there is a holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14)

God is perfect and holy and pure, and He will not allow evil in His presence.

His word says He will bring every deed into judgment, and that He will punish all evil doers. 

Does that describe you?  Have you done evil in God’s sight?

Romans tells us all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  Ephesians tells us that we are dead in our trespasses and sins, and are by nature children of wrath.

Look at God’s holy law and you will see this to be true.  God gave us His commandments to act as a mirror, so we can see how we prepare with His perfect, holy standard.  If you look with an open mind and a tender conscience, you will see what you really are in God’s sight.


But this is only half of the story.  The writer then remembers who God is, and what His character is, and it gives him hope.

He says that the Lord is his portion, therefore he will hope in Him

God is a good, and loving God.  This chapter tells us that His steadfast love never ceases.

We are by nature children of wrath, but through Jesus we can be delivered from the wrath to come.

2000 years ago Jesus Christ took the wrath we deserved on a Roman cross.  All God’s anger and hatred toward sin was poured out on Him, so it didn’t have to be poured out on us. 

God is a just judge, and He will see that justice is satisfied.  But because of His mercy, He satisfied justice for those who trust in Him through the death of His own Son

Ephesians 2 says God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, made us alive together with Christ, and by grace we are saved.

Only though the grace of God can we be saved.  And we receive that grace through repentance and faith.

To repent is to turn.  Turn from sin, turn from wickedness, turn from pride, and come to God in humility. 

Then put your trust wholly in Christ to save you.

Only Christ is God in human flesh.  Only He shed His blood to pay for your sins, your moral crimes against God’s holiness, and rose, defeating death, to be our advocate, so only through Him can you be saved.

So consider this.  If your pain and struggle and suffering draw you closer to Jesus Christ so that you trust in Him, the ONLY one who can save you, is that not a great blessing?

So do not curse God for suffering.  Anything that happens that can draw you closer to Him is a blessing, and you should be thankful.

Isaiah says He will refine you in the fire of affliction, so that you will be pure before Him.  (Isaiah 48:10)  Though affliction is painful, sometimes it may be the greatest gift we can receive, for through suffering, we can come to know God

So as Lamentations says, let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord!

Trust in Him.  Put your hope in Jesus Christ, and in Him alone.

He has not promised all joy and pleasure in this life, but He has promised an eternity in heaven for those who follow Him

So turn to Christ today, and be saved!

Monday, September 26, 2011


180, the new documentary from Living Waters, is now available online for free.  This is truly one of the most powerful films I have ever seen.  If you have not seen it yet, please watch it today.  Then, share it with anyone you can.  This film has the possibility of not only changing minds, but saving lives.  Please help us get the word out.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Nehemiah 9 – We Are Faithless, But God is Faithful

Hello Project Ezra!  This week we will be reading from Nehemiah 9.  We looked at this chapter a little over a year ago, and I would like to dig into it a little deeper this time, and take a slightly different angle.

I recently had a talk with a friend about a witnessing encounter he had.  The individual he talked to is of the type I would generally refer to as an “angry atheist,” the type that seems to be looking for any excuse to deny God.  Of course, I don’t know the man, wasn’t part of the conversation, and can’t judge his motives.  However, based on my friend’s account, I have had similar conversations, and many of them.  And the problem is generally not the individual arguments offered by the atheist or our responses to them.  Some atheist questions can be tough, and there is nothing wrong with answering sincere questions.  We should be prepared to do so.  But at base the problem is generally not intellectual, but moral.  Men are in rebellion against God.

The flow of Nehemiah is a perfect representation of this.  When it comes to lack of belief in the Biblical God, men are without excuse, and this was certainly the case for the nation of Israel.  They saw God move in power directly time and time again, yet even after the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, and being led to safety by pillars of fire and smoke, in a matter of a few weeks the children of Israel were casting their own idols.  They wanted what they wanted when they wanted it, and were not above idolatry to justify getting it.  That is also true of most people today, and I would argue it is true of all militant atheists. 

As a response, I think it is vitally important not just, or even primarily, to preach against falsehood, but to lift high the truth.  We need to talk about God and who He is, as it is demonstrated repeatedly in Nehemiah 9, and many other places in scripture.  We need to follow this example, and call people to account for the truth they all know.  They suppress the truth in unrighteousness, but God’s word will not return void, and the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.  So don’t be afraid to address tough questions, and don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t have all the answers.  Humility is a good thing.  But keep the focus on God and who He is, and seek to bring glory to His name first and foremost.

Thanks for being part of Project Ezra.  I pray this outline is a blessing.

All for His glory,


The prophet Isaiah said, in Isaiah 29:16 - You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, "He did not make me"; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, "He has no understanding"?

The nation of Israel, God’s chosen people, did this time after time, and it is likely that many of you have done the same.  They forgot who’s world they were living in.  Have you forgotten?

One thing has not changed over the thousands of years.  Mankind is faithless and disobedient, but God remains faithful in all things.

In Nehemiah 9, we hear that God’s nature, and His works, were made obvious to the children of Israel.  And in the same way, they have been made obvious to us as well.

The nation of Israel saw God act very directly.  Though we not think we have seen that direct acting of God, yet still His works are obvious, both in the revelation of His word, and in the way He has acted in  our individual lives.

God and His word have remained true, while our word and motives have remained false.

You may have chosen to deny God’s existence, claiming a lack of evidence as your excuse.

But do you truly have a lack of evidence for God, or do you have a lack of desire for God?

Could it be you can not find God for the same reason a criminal can not find a police station?

You may have claimed that God has never done anything for you, or that He has been unfair in His treatment of you.

But has He really been unfair, or do you have a false view of what you deserve from God’s hand?

He’s let you continue to walk His earth, breath His air, eat His food, and has not given you the punishment you deserve for your open rebellion against Him.

God is patient.  We deserve wrath, but receive His good gifts every day.

You may have acted contrary to God’s word, ignoring His law and using the excuse that it is either unclear, outdated, or not relevant to modern culture or your situation.

But is His law truly not relevant, or are we just willfully disobedient?

God is and always will be faithful in His justice, and if we have broken His law, we deserve to feel the sting of His punishment.

Do you doubt that you are deserving of His wrath?  Look at His law!  Have you broken God’s law?

The God of the Bible is the one true God, the creator and sustainer of all.  If we have worshiped any other God, made or worshipped any false image of Him, whether with our hands or with our minds, than we have been unfaithful to Him

Have you lied?  God is truth, so if we have lied, we have been unfaithful to Him.

Have you coveted or stolen?  God has given you every good thing you have, and every good thing you need.  If you are burning from desire for something that is not yours, you are not trusting in God’s provision, and you are being unfaithful to Him.

Have you blasphemed God’s name?  If you have taken God’s holy name, the name of He who created you, and sustains you, and brought it down to the level of a filthy word to express disgust, then you have been unfaithful to Him.

As Israel deserved to be, and was, punished, so we deserve to be punished.  And our ultimate punishment, if we choose ongoing rebellion against God, is an eternity in hell.

Hell is not a place of freedom from moral boundaries, where you will spend your time enjoying the pleasures of sin with Satan and your friends.  It is a place of fire and torment and darkness, where there will never be any rest or reprieve, and where you will never again get a taste of God’s goodness.

In hell justice will be served.  Every sin will be punished to the fullest extent.  In hell, we will truly get what we deserve, because God is faithful in His justice.

But God is not only faithful in justice.  He is faithful in his mercy, and love, and long-suffering. 

God is faithful in His love, and He demonstrated His love it that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

He is rich in mercy, and that mercy was demonstrated on the cross.  Sin was not passed over, but paid for in full.  What we could not do, God did for us.

Jesus Christ, God in human flesh, humbled Himself, came to earth, and lived an absolutely perfect life.

Then Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, died a perfect sacrificial death.  By His blood our debt of sin is satisfied.

We deserve judgment, but because of God’s faithful love and grace, through Jesus Christ we can receive mercy. 

Now the Bible commands all me everywhere to repent.  Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.

Don’t just believe that He exists.  Even the demons believe that, and tremble.

But turn from your sins, and trust in the sacrifice He made on the cross for you.  And through faith we can be justified, and have peace with God through Christ.

I pray that today, you will learn from the actions of Israel.  I pray you to will turn from your sin, and throw yourself on God’s mercy.

God has graciously given you time, though you don’t deserve it.  Turn to him today and be saved.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Proverbs 15 – The Wisdom of Reproof

A common theme, not only in this chapter but throughout the book of Proverbs, is that of a fool who refuses to take correction, and to seek wisdom.  Proverbs 15 speaks of the wisdom of heeding reproof, and the wisdom of learning from others.  We see this kind of foolishness around us all the time.  Many people who profess to be wise act foolishly and ignore the obvious proof of God and His goodness that is all around us.  As the Bible says, men who reject God are truly without excuse.

Sadly, not only are there many who ignore wisdom and refuse correction, but there are many churches that assist them in doing so.  Despite God’s word telling us that is a means to be used to rebuke and correct, many pastors would never consider doing such a thing.  Their messages are focused on self esteem, self empowerment, and self realization.  The Bible’s focus, in contrast, is on submission to God and giving glory to Him.  Church members are not disciplined for sin out of fear of losing or offending that member, with cowardice preventing them from standing up for God’s word.  This cowardice leaves sheep among the goats, and many church attendees never hear a clear, concise, uncompromising proclamation of the gospel.  As a result, many church attendees are never saved.

But please remember there is one major difference between us and those who choose to reject God.  That difference is God’s grace.  It can be very easy to come across as arrogant or inappropriately judgmental when we see those who don’t know God foolishly ignoring, or even mocking these truths.  But please, make sure that whenever you share the gospel you do so in humility.  We are no better than those we preach to.  We all deserve hell, and God’s grace is a gift none of us deserve.  So please make sure you are gracious when sharing that gift.

All for His glory,


God’s word tells us in this chapter, among other things, that there is wisdom in accepting reproof, or correction

It also gives us a picture of those who refuse to accept correction.

Pride has been from the beginning, and continues to be, the enemy of those who reject God.  And we all suffer from it.

It is our enemy because it leads us away from the truth and into deception, convincing us we can be self-sufficient, and choose what is right on our own.

But I have heard it said that your best friend is the one who tells you the most truth.

So I ask you to please put your pride aside, and listen as I share the truth of the word of God. 

I am here not out of my own pride, to prove I am right, but to tell you the truth, and to be your friend.  I care about what happens to your soul.

Please weigh carefully the truth of the gospel message, and let it bring correction.  Your life depends on your wise response to this.

The Christian message, commonly called the gospel, tells us that we, and every other human being, are by nature in rebellion against God, and His word.

Romans 3 says:
None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands; no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good, not even one."

Genesis 8 says the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth

Everyone is by nature a sinner, and a rebel against God, but few understand how seriously God takes sin.

Many of you may have attended churches run by weak-willed teachers and pastors who never give correction for fear of damaging your self-esteem.

There are many false teachers today who will tickle your ears, saying what you want to hear, and never talking about sin.

Ephesians 2 says we are dead in our trespasses and sins, and are by nature children of wrath.  Hebrews 10 tells us that vengeance is the Lord’s, and that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

So God gave us His law to show us what sin is, and to instruct us in righteousness.  The law is mean to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith

Proverbs 15 tells us a fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent.

Prov. 16 says All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit.

So weigh your spirit by God’s law, and listen to your Father’s instruction, to see how your  life compares with His standard of goodness.


A scoffer does not like to be reproved, and will not go to the wise.  But I pray that you will not scoff at God’s law, but will consider carefully your condition before the perfect, holy, and just creator.

Proverbs 15 says that there will be severe discipline for he who forsakes the way, and whoever hates reproof will die.  We don’t want that for you.

The death of those who hate God’s reproof and His word is a place called hell.

Hell is more than just being separated from God.  It is separation from all His goodness, and every good thing He created.  It is also punishment and pain beyond description.  It is described as eternal fire, eternal torment, and outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

But God provided an escape.  He provided a way for His justice to be satisfied and for our sin debt to be paid so that we could be made right with Him,

Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, came to earth 2000 years ago to provide a payment for sin.

Jesus lived the perfect life, and then willing went to a Roman cross to be the perfect sacrifice for our sin.

When Jesus was on the cross, God’s anger and wrath toward sin was poured out on Him, so it wouldn’t have to be poured out on us.

Then three days later He rose again from the dead, as He had prophesied that He would, and He now sits at the Father’s right hand as our advocate, our lawyer for the Day of Judgment.

So now, if you do as the Bible commands, if you repent, or turn from your sins, and put your trust in Jesus Christ alone to save you, then when you stand before God in judgment you will be seen as righteous, as morally good and pure.  But that righteousness will not be your own, but the righteousness of Jesus Christ, laid to your account.

This may sound like foolishness to you.  But we warned.  God’s word says the message of the cross is folly to those who are perishing.  If this seems like nothing but foolishness, it is evidence that you are outside of God’s will, and need correction

Proverbs says the fool doesn’t like correction, but the wise man knows its value

Some will go to hell rather than accept correction from or submit to anyone.

So today, be wise, and accept God’s correction.  Come to Him in humility, turning from your sins and trusting in Him alone, and He will wash you clean.

You may think it is pride and arrogance to stand here, and tell you that I know God’s will, and how to get right with Him.  You may think it’s arrogant for anyone to think they know God’s will.

If I have come across as arrogant or prideful, please forgive me.  But please, do not reject this message due to my failures.

God is real, His word is true, and it is only through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross that you can be made right with Him.  So put aside my arrogance, put aside your own pride, and come before God in humility.  Cry out to Him while He has given you time, and be saved!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Psalm 104 - The Greatness of God

 Greetings Project Ezra!  This week’s suggested reading is Psalm 104.  This Psalm starts with a declaration of the power and majesty of God, and then goes on to examine that power and majesty as it is demonstrated in His creation.  Indeed, it is impossible to have your eyes opened to the wonders of God’s creation and not stand in awe.  But it’s easy for us to take it for granted, so it’s a good thing to just stop and think about.  As I write this I’m sitting in my study right now, typing on an amazing piece of machinery, surrounded by many hundreds of books containing more information than I could every adequately process.  But the houseplant on the windowsill has more order, complexity, and beauty then them all.  It simply boggles the mind.

So the focus of the outline this week, like the focus of the chapter, is greatness of God in His creation.  If we can take creation for granted, the unbeliever does so even more, so we want to bring it to their attention through our preaching.  We will also be contrasting the foundations God has laid and the boundaries He has set for the rest of creation, with the moral foundations He has laid for us and the boundaries He has set for mankind, which they frequently ignore.  I pray it will be an effective transition to the gospel.

In addition, project found Tony Miano has suggested Luke 13 as an alternate or additional reading.  Since this Sunday is the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 here in the States, I believe Jesus statement at the beginning of that chapter is particularly profound.  Many have tried to make the argument that the events of 9/11 are God’s punishment against the United States, and that our sin caused the World Trade Center to fall.  Could God use an event such as this as a wake-up call to the United States?  He certainly could.  But whether or not He did, our response and the ultimate solution is the same.  It is the gospel.  Only through the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, and hearts changed by Him can there be true transformation, in our hearts, our country and the world. 

I pray this outline is a blessing

All for His glory,


Today I want to proclaim to you the greatness of God as it is expressed in His word

In Psalm 104 it declares that God is the creator of all, and that He is clothed in splendor and majesty.

In His power he laid the foundations of the earth, making them immovable, and stretched out the heavens.

He comes in power, and the clouds are His chariot

It tells us that during the flood He covered the world with the deep as with a garment, and the waters stood above the mountains

Then at His cry they fled away, and He set boundaries for them that they could not cross.

All creation is sustained and held together by Him, and by Him alone   

He declared the times and the seasons

He causes every plant, and every tree to grow

He provides for every creature, every beast, every bird, and every creature of the sea, and they look to Him for their daily food

He also provides good food and drink to men to strengthen them and to make their hearts glad

Everything we have, we have from God, and from Him alone.

If God created us, we are His.  You may not believe in Him, or trust Him to save you, but He is still your Lord, God and king, whether you accept it or not.

And just as He laid the foundations of the world and set the boundaries for creation, He laid our moral foundations and set boundaries for us
His word said he set boundaries that creation may not pass, and His creation obeys.  He set boundary for us as well.  Have you obeyed as the rest of creation does?

One of the boundaries God set for mankind is His moral foundation, His moral law.

If we examine His law, as we would a mirror, we see how we compare with and reflect His perfect holiness

God is holy, holy, holy.  He is perfect, He is pure, and He is set high above His creation, although He is not separated or distant from His creation.

God’s holiness and purity demands our holiness and purity.  He can not and will not allow evil in His presence, and every wicked act will receive perfect justice.

Some may balk at the concept of hell, the idea that God would punish finite sin eternally

But because of God’s perfection and holiness, even the smallest sin is infinitely sinful against an infinitely holy God.  And every one of us has committed more sins than we could possibly count.

We have lied, when God is a God of truth, and His word says all liars will have their part in the lake of fire

We have stolen something, whether it is possessions from others, or honor, glory and worship belonging to God, and to Him alone.  God hates theft, and no thief will enter His kingdom.

We have committed adultery, either by giving our mind over to inappropriate sexual thoughts, or giving our bodies away to those to whom they don’t belong.  In fact, when Israel, God’s chosen people, turned away from worshipping Him, He declared that to be spiritual adultery as well.

More than anything we have failed to give God the worship He is due.  We have either ignored Him, or created an image that makes us more comfortable, one that looks like Santa Clause as gives us what we want, rather than the true God of the Bible.

Because of our sin, and our willful rebellion, God will, and must, by His own nature and character, punish our sin.  He is a God of justice, and His justice must and will be satisfied.

He has told us that His enemies will be bound and thrown into outer darkness, where there will be weeping, and gnashing of teeth.  This outer darkness, this place of fire and pain and torment, is what the Bible calls Hell, and punishment there will last for eternity.

You may ask “What about God’s love?”

Truly, God’s love is beyond comprehension, and His patience is beyond measure

But God did not show His love by ignoring sin, or He would also be ignoring His justice

God demonstrated His love by the death of His Son, Jesus Christ, as the payment for sin

2000 years ago Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, came to earth and lived the perfect life you and I could never live.

Then He went to a Roman cross, and while He was on that cross God’s wrath was poured out on Him, so it didn’t have to be poured out on us.

Romans 3:23-25 says - for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation (or a satisfaction of our debt) by his blood, to be received by faith.

Now, God commands all men everywhere to repent, to turn to His Son and be saved.  That is our call to you today.

Acts 3:19 says - Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord

Let God change you, transform you, and refresh you.  Only through Him, through the power of His Spirit, can you be saved, made right before Him.

So come to God today.  Humble yourself before Him, throw yourself on His mercy, at the foot of His cross.  Repent of your sin, and put your trust in Christ alone.

If God changes your heart and you are born again, then you too will be able to sing His praises, as we do.
God, may your glory endure forever, and may I sing to you as long as I live!