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Desire. We all have it at different levels. It’s desire that drives us to work every day. It’s desire that fuels our relationships. It is desire that drives us to fulfill, or attempt to fulfill our dreams.

Desire in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. It’s an emotion God has created and placed within each of us. Desire can be destroyed by constant criticism. Desire can be wounded by our tendency to focus on failure and our past. Desire can be crippled by outside forces beyond our control or choices in our past that disqualify us.

On the other hand, the psalmist frequently tells of his desire for a closer relationship with his God. The Apostles tell us in the New Testament writings to ‘earnestly desire’ the things of heaven.

Society tells us to desire those things our eyes can see, our hands can touch, our pride can rest in. If you gain all those things, we are told, you will find fulfillment, contentment and happiness.

But those things will never give us the peace and satisfaction we seek because they are temporal. The secret to contentment is a close walk with Jesus Christ Don’t be sucked in by the things of the world, bask in the fulfillment of eternal things: love, grace, mercy, goodness, kindness, gentleness, peace, joy. These things can’t be bought or stolen, and they last for eternity.



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

Maybe it’s a guy thing, but I tend to try to do everything on my own. For example, when the instructions say, “Use two people for the next step in assembling your new back-hoe.” Not a chance. I’ll break my back before I’ll ask for help.

Why, you ask? I could give you a variety of reasons. Some of them may even be half-way intelligent. But the reality is, I’m full of pride. Pride comes in various shapes and sizes. Sometimes it comes disguised as “There’s no one to help me.” Other times it comes deceives me by saying, “this isn’t big enough to ask for help on”, or “I’m big enough to handle this, I don’t need anyone.”

wake up callManasseh was a King in Israel in need of a big attitude adjustment. He ignored the lessons learned from those who went before him and followed other gods. He rejected the teachings of the most high because he was sure he knew better…until the Assyrian Arm
y came and led him away in shackles with a ring in his nose. The, all of the sudden, he remembered what he never should have forgotten. He remembered that the God of heaven warned him about rebellion.

Rebellion against God is really saying “I know more than you, I know better than you, my way is better than yours.” God is a patient, loving, understanding father. Because of this he is more than willing to let us try our own way in an effort to prove ourselves. But also, like any good father, he has his limits. There will come times when he’ll finally pull the plug and let our actions fall victim to the natural consequences of our rebellion. When that happens we become like Manasseh. We see the error of our ways and how much better it was to follow God’s way.

“I did it my way” may have been a great song, but it’s not the way God intends of us to live. Before you blame or question why, reflect on where you have been, what you have done, how you have treated people, what you have taken for granted. Your Father in Heaven may not be ignoring you, he may just be calling you back to himself.

PRAYER: Father I confess to you that many of the sleepless nights I endure are the result of worry caused by the consequences of my actions. Forgive me for those times and allow me the privilege of sensing your presence once again. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.


Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression. Psalm 19:13 (NIV)

Tucked away in the book of Daniel is a little phrase that to this day haunts me. Daniel is interpreting the handwriting on the wall to King Beltashazzar (Daniel 5). He reminds the King of the lessons his father, Nebuchadnezzar, learned about acknowledging God as being the one true God. He reminded him of the lesson his father learned about worshipping the God of Heaven and not the god of silver and gold. Then comes the statement in Daniel 5:22 (my paraphrase): “But you knew better.”

The lesson? Nebuchadnezzar worshipped false gods because of ignorance. Beltashazzar worshipped false gods because he wanted to. He chose what to worship in full knowledge of the lessons his father learned.

The passage would imply that God’s judgment is harsher on those who sin willfully than it is on those who go astray on their own volition. Nebuchadnezzar was removed temporarily from this throne for his ignorance. Beltashazzar was killed for his rebellion.

Choosing to sin when we know better is nothing new of course. Eve knew better, as did Abraham, Moses, David and, well, those of us who call ourselves Christ followers. We all can identify with the Apostle Paul in Romans 7. The good things we long to do, we fail to do. The bad things we hate doing, we keep doing over and over again. There is small relief for us when the writer that says (1 Corinthians 10:13) there is no temptation that attacks us that we can’t overcome is the same person who writes of his struggle to overcome temptation. But the question is, why? What is it within our human nature that keeps us from doing right?

Willful sin attacks us for several reasons. I list a few here. You may be able to think of others. We sin willfully:

  • Because it is fun! We may not want to admit that on the surface, but the reality is we choose intentionally to do things we know we shouldn’t because we’d rather trade momentary pleasure for eternal peace.
  • For self-preservation. When our identity is attacked or we perceive it is, we react to protect it. Why do we react to being cut off on the interstate or when someone attacks us verbally or gives us bad service at the coffee shop? Because their actions tell us we aren’t important and we react accordingly.
  • Pride: Pride could actually be the summary of all these reasons, but the pride I’m talking about here is the pride that tells us, “I deserve this little ‘vice’ because I work hard; I’m a good parent; I do so many good things for God; etc, etc. So we visit the websites we know we shouldn’t; we tell our friends one little piece of gossip; we allow ourselves the indulgences we know hurt our relationship with Christ because all of us deserve an occasional lapse in judgment.
  • Ignorance: When we follow Christ, we acknowledge that he died on the cross for the penalty of my sin; that he rose from the dead to conquer death and that he went back to heaven to intercede for us, prepare a place for us and so he could send his Holy Spirit to guide us. However, on occasion we choose our own way because we forget or fail to realize the pain Christ suffered for us and how our rebellion, small as it may seem, hurts the relationship with Christ.
  • Apathy: This one is a tough one, but if we think back to those times we’ve chosen to go our way, we’ve done so because we really just didn’t care. We know we’ll be forgiven. We know we’ll go to heaven. We don’t take time to think of consequences.

 

The Psalmist isn’t as concerned about the sins he commits in ignorance as he is the sins he commits out of choice. May each of us who bear the name of Jesus echo his prayer.

PRAYER: Father God, I echo the prayer of Psalm 19:13. Much as I love you I confess that many times I choose to go against you out of willful desire. Forgive me for those sins that easily beset me, the sins I know are wrong but I do them anyway. Thank you for Jesus. May I live worthy of the calling that is within me. Thank you for your grace. Amen.


The Lord hates what evil people do, but he loves those who do what is right. Proverbs 15:9 (NCV)

It’s time to set the record straight. God hates what evil people do. Simply said? No news here you say? But look again at what the words say, or better yet what they don’t say.

GOD DOES NOT HATE EVIL PEOPLE. Religionists, even some that call themselves christian (small ‘c’ intentional) will tell you differently. Maybe not in words, but in actions; by the way they make you feel; or by the heartless advice they give you. Ever noticed how you have a tendency to want to duck when someone says “I’m telling you this in love”?

Let me repeat. God does not hate you if you are living in sin. God does not hate you if you are a felon, an abuser, an atheist. But also, let me emphasize that God hates the evil actions of people. Why? Because evil actions hurt people. Evil actions hurt the victims and the abuser.

If you are struggling with sin right now, it’s important to know that God hates your actions, but he doesn’t hate you. If you are a victim of ‘evil actions of others’ know this. God hates the evil as much as you do. Every blow you receive, be it emotional or physical, hurts him as well. Why? Because even though God hates evil actions, he loves people.

Tucked away in the second part of this proverb is another truth each of us can lean on. The English translation doesn’t quite do it justice. The phrase ‘but he loves those who do what is right’ could be better paraphrased as ‘God takes joy in those who strive to do what is right.’

Fact of the matter is, all of us are evil. Some are evil in their actions. Others are evil in their refusal to work towards forgiveness. Some are evil in direct rebellion to God, others are evil because their actions, while well-meaning, are contrary to the love and acceptance of God.

If you are in an abusive situation today; if you are struggling with addiction; if you are living a secret life that terrifies you, know this. God hates your actions, he doesn’t hate you. He is passionately, madly in love with you. You are worth the fight he’s making to bring you to himself.

It may surprise you but here is another truth. God doesn’t expect you to be perfect, he knows your humanity will keep you from that. He does, however desire to help you live as holy as you can through his Son, Jesus Christ.

PRAYER: Father God, thank you for your promise to love me no matter what. I’m tired of hearing people put me down because I struggle with things I know you hate. Help me to live in holiness and to forgive those who have hurt me because I know this is the ‘right thing to do’. Amen.


Don’t rip your clothes to show your sorrow. Instead, turn back to me with broken hearts. I am merciful, kind, and caring. I don’t easily lose my temper, and I don’t like to punish. Joel 2:13 (CEV)

When I was in about sixth grade a couple of friends of mine decided to have an overnight campout in one of the guys backyard. The tent was only big enough for two guys but they said I could hang out with them if I wanted to sleep under the stars. I went home and asked permission from my mom. Problem was, she said no. I could go back to play, but had to be home by dark.

I never went home that night. I lied to my friends about the pseudo permission I received and had an absolutely miserable time. They didn’t know it of course. I kept it well hidden as we played cards, sat around the campfire and told stories.

I slept under the stars that night with nothing but my light jacket. I assured my friends it was by my choice to sleep that way. I was cold. I was scared. Every little sound awakened me from a fitful slumber.

The odd part was, I was within eyesight of home. Just a short walk to a warm bed. In spite of that I was determined to do things my way. Even when I saw my dad drive by at about dusk I ignored the guilt and pain associated with knowing I was wrong! I took the long way home late the next morning. I was hungry, cold, tired and guilty. When I got home the next morning I was grounded for my actions. Both of my parents reminded me of the rules and assured me of their love, but that didn’t change the consequences.

You may be living the same way today. You are determined to live life your way. You know what God requires. You know the path you should take. You know that what you are doing is displeasing to God. You may even do as I did that night and try to convince yourself that everything is fine and life is good.

When you do things your way and leave God out there is an emptiness that nothing can fill. Relationships won’t fill it. Religion won’t fill it. Money, toys and social status won’t fill it. The only thing that will fill that emptiness is living for Jesus.

The prophet Joel wrote to a stubborn, rebellious people. People who’d seen God work many times but refused to follow him. Through the prophet God sends the people ofIsraelthe same lesson he sends us. ‘Come home. Get serious about life and living. I don’t want your rituals. I want your heart. I don’t want words. I want a passionate relationship with you. I’m patient. I understand your plight. I won’t lose my temper with you.’

PRAYER: Father God I have tried so many things to fill this void in my life. I confess that I am afraid to come home to you. I’m so used to people responding to my failures with anger and hostility I expect the same from you. Thank you for your patience, love, mercy and grace. Forgive me for being stubborn. Empower me to live for you. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

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