Archive for November, 2006
There’s a lot of hurting going on in the world today – even in your country, your own city – your own neighborhood. Through today’s chapter, God has reminded me that He has called me (and you) to proclaim this message to our neighbors (and fellow church members):
3 To all who mourn in Israel, he will give beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise instead of despair. For the LORD has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory.
If you’re a little short on joy this holiday season, try giving some away. The gift of Jesus Christ is one gift that only grows stronger the more you give away.
You don’t often hear it in today’s churches, and that leaves many new Christians (and not so new) wondering what they’re supposed to be doing. “Okay, I’m saved…now what?” I attribute much of the overwhelming success of books like Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven Life” to this fact.
Well, as I read today’s chapter, it just hit me how spelled out it really is for us. Look at the first few verses of Isaiah 61:
1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, because the LORD has appointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to announce that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. 2 He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the LORD’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. 3 To all who mourn in Israel, he will give beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise instead of despair. For the LORD has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory.
Okay, let’s break it down even further:
- bring good news to the poor
- comfort the broken hearted
- announce that the captives will be released and prisoners set free
- tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come
Is this all there is to the Christian life? No. But what a great place to start. This is Isaiah’s message to the children of Israel – way back before we were born. But, to apply this scripture to our lives, we – the church – are God’s chosen people today. This message is for us. And, through Jesus Christ, all these things are true – and we need to tell people. This is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ – and the way we live our lives either communicates these truths or leaves people wondering what’s the big deal with being a Christian.
Be an Isaiah today. Tell someone the good news. Comfort someone in need. Pray for the poor and captive and for those that mourn.
We’re going through John Bevere’s book “Driven by Eternity” in my men’s group. The premise of the book is about how many Christians go around today without eternity in mind. In other words, they live out their lives according to their own wants and needs, only stopping to hear from God on Sunday mornings or when things get a little rough. John’s big question is how many people will be surprised to hear on the day of judgement that God never knew them. That really got me thinking…
There has been some discussion about salvation and judgement within the group and it’s really making us think and talk out our faith. I think that’s good – I think that’s one of the things Bevere hoped to accomplish with this book. One of the discussions we’ve had has to do with how God will never leave or forsake us (that’s a Biblical promise) but He never said we couldn’t walk away from Him. I couldn’t help thinking about this as I read today’s chapter. Take a look:
1 Listen! The LORD is not too weak to save you, and he is not becoming deaf. He can hear you when you call. 2 But there is a problem – your sins have cut you off from God. Because of your sin, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.
“Your sins have cut you off from God” echos in my mind. Cut off from God? That’s a hell I do not want. Can our sins cause God to turn away? Can something we do effect whether or not our prayers are heard? Can we walk away from God (salvation)?
Well, this age old debate has been argued by men much wiser and studied than me (but I have the Holy Spirit inside me, too). And, I know that people on both sides of this debate use Scripture to back them up. There are those in the Once Saved Always Saved (OSAS) camp, those who believe you can loose your salvation by sinning, and those who believe you can walk away from God (sometimes called “free-will damnation). However, Scripture would never contradict itself – so we must read the Scripture for all it’s worth (to borrow a phrase from Hank Hannagraff).
I’ve really had to seek answers on this question over the last few weeks and meditate and pray. What I’m becoming comfortable with (based on my discussions with trusted God-followers, conversations with God about it and my study) is that:
- God does not want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9) – Hell was not created for man, but for Satan and his angels
- God is holy and sin must be punished – and we all sin (Rom 3:23) and the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23)
- God sent Christ to be the payment for our sins (redemption) – this was a gift to us, not something we can earn (Ephesians 2:8-9)
- We need only believe in Him (John 3:16, 11:25-26) and accept the gift of salvation – and repent from our ways (Acts 2:36-38) and follow Him
I guess it all kind of all boils down to your definition of “believer.” There are true-believers, non-believers and those who only claim they believe. I’ve always thought it was kind of a cop-out say of someone who apparently “turned their backs on God” that they were never a true-believer at all. But it’s the only thing that makes sense to me.
Have you read the parable of the wheat & tares in Matthew 23? It tells a story of tares (weeds that look like wheat that have no grain in them) that grow up right next to the wheat – eating the same nutrients, looking quite the same on the outside. At harvest time, they are bundled up and thrown into the fire. This talks about people in the church who grow up hearing the same messages, looking just like Christians on the outside, but there’s no Christ within.
These are the same people we see in Matthew 7:21-23 that God will tell He never knew them, in spite of the fact they called him Lord, Lord and prophesied in His name. Or the people in Matthew 25 that are the goats instead of the sheep. Like John Bevere’s character, Deceived, I believe many will be surprised on that day when they find out that all the good they were hoping would outweigh the bad they did really had nothing to do with it.
There are just too many scriptures that indicate that there’s nothing we can do to loose our salvation:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, He who hears My Word and believes on Him who sent Me has everlasting life and shall not come into condemnation, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24)
“All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will in no way cast out.” (John 6:37)
“And this is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all which He has given Me I should lose nothing but should raise it up again at the last day.” (John 6:39)
“No one can come to Me unless the Father who has sent Me draw him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:44)
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give to them eternal life, and they shall never ever perish, and not anyone shall pluck them out of My hand. My Father who gave them to me is greater than all, and no one is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29)
” For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
Okay – bottom line: If we believe in Jesus Christ, accept His free gift of salvation, repent and follow Him, and our lives are bearing fruit for God’s kingdom – then everything else becomes a moot point. If Christ is in us, the Holy Spirit will convict us to get rid of difficult sins, we won’t return to them. We won’t be able to walk away from God because there’s no way we’d want to. Once you’ve tasted His life, His love, you won’t ever leave.
I question if those who seem to “walk away from God” ever really knew Him – or He them.
I’m stepping down now.
1 “Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Tell my people Israel of their sins! 2 Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to hear my laws. You would almost think this was a righteous nation that would never abandon its God. They love to make a show of coming to me and asking me to take action on their behalf.
“They love to make a show of coming to me and asking me to take action on their behalf.” Wow, those words really sting. Yet when it comes to prayer & fasting, today’s church looks a lot like the recipents of Isaiah’s message from God. We’ve become pretty comfortable with “the show” of prayer and asking God for things, but when it comes to taking action, I’m afraid God may be a little disappointed sometimes.
I don’t know about you, but I read this and really felt convicted about the way I constantly ask for things from God and then wonder why my prayers do not get answered. This chapter gives a little insight into the dilema by providing things from God’s heart that He wants to see us doing:
- Stop oppressing your workers (verse 3 & 6)
- Stop fighting and quarrleing (verse 4)
- Stop fasting for your own glory (verse 5)
- Fast for those wrongly imprisoned (verse 6)
- Share your food with the hungry (verse 7 & 10)
- Welcome the homeless into your homes (verse 7)
- Give clothes to those who need them (verse 7)
- Do not avoid your family who need your help (verse 7)
- Stop making false accusations and spreading rumors (verse 9)
- Help those in trouble (verse 10)
- Keep the Sabath Day holy (verse 13)
I tend to ask God for alot. My prayers tend to be very self focused. Today’s reading has really hit hard and I intend to reconsider the way I fast and pray, and the things I do to help people in need – because those things also have an effect on my prayers.
The encouragement today is to look at the big picture. It’s not about fasting and praying, it’s about helping others. We need to fast and pray, but if that’s all we do – and not get in the trenches and help the poor and homeless – then why bother?
Here’s the reward for doing these things, as indicated by God through Isaiah in this chapter:
8 “If you do these things, your salvation will come like the dawn. Yes, your healing will come quickly. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind. 9 Then when you call, the LORD will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.”
Thank You again, Lord, for your Word and how it really gets to the heart of the matter. Help me to be Christ’s hands on this earth to those who I come in contact with. Use me, Lord. Help me to have the right motivation – not to impress people, but to really help them.
I’m so thankful to all my dBraggers out there. Thanks for reading my blog and for the many emails. I don’t know where I’d be without your encouragement to be in God’s word every day. It, more than anything else, is transforming me into what He wants me to be.
I pray that you and your family have a great Thanksgiving holiday full of blessings and memories.
This is a great chapter of encouragement. God is telling His people through the prophet Isaiah that the time of punishment is over. No longer is God angry because of their rebellion and sin. God is promising to rebuild and restore them. Here are a few of my favorite verses:
2 “Enlarge your house; build an addition; spread out your home! 3 For you will soon be bursting at the seams. Your descendants will take over other nations and live in their cities.
The number of children was a sign of prosperity. The Lord is promising they will prosper from now on.
7 “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great compassion I will take you back. 8 In a moment of anger I turned my face away for a little while. But with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD, your Redeemer.
Because of their sins and turning away from God, He turned away from them. He abandoned them, but promises to never do that again. Look in the next verse:
9 “Just as I swore in the time of Noah that I would never again let a flood cover the earth and destroy its life, so now I swear that I will never again pour out my anger on you. 10 For the mountains may depart and the hills disappear, but even then I will remain loyal to you. My covenant of blessing will never be broken,” says the LORD, who has mercy on you.
But, probably my favorite verse of this chapter, a well-known passage, really gives me encouragement today:
17 But in that coming day, no weapon turned against you will succeed. And everyone who tells lies in court will be brought to justice. These benefits are enjoyed by the servants of the LORD; their vindication will come from me. I, the LORD, have spoken!
Remember, we are His people – the church, the chosen generation. This promise is for us. We don’t have to live in fear of those with weapons, or those who tell lies in court. Our vindication will be from the Lord!
People all across the nation lined up days before with high hopes of obtaining a brand new Playstation 3 video gaming system. A famous politician reportedly recruited homeless people to stand in line to get one (or two, or three) for his offspring. Two armed thugs tried to rob a line of people waiting for it to go on sale and shot one man who refused to give up his money.
Once the doors opened that Friday, people were trampled and injured from the crush of people racing to get one. One successful patron who waited for days survived the weather and the madness only to be beaten and robbed of his coveted PS3 once outside in the parking lot. What a disappointment!
Many of those lucky (and patient) enough to get one ended up selling the $600 video gaming system for upwards of $10,000 and more on eBay! That’s a hefty markup, wouldn’t you say?
Onlookers like myself are left scratching their heads wondering why people can’t just wait a few days (or weeks) for the supply to pick up. Doesn’t everyone know that after the dust settles that it’s just a video gaming system? How many video gaming systems do you have to purchase before you realize that the newness quickly wears off and the shiny video game system you couldn’t wait to get your hands on becomes another box dusty with neglect.
Or worse, kids across the nation will acually use them too much, furthering their intellectual and experiential neglect. I’m prone to waste time on video games myself so I know from first-hand experience how the hours fly by when you’re engaged in saving the universe or racing a little Italian guy across strange mushroom filled fantasy lands. Ever pull an all-nighter?
Okay, so what’s all this about? Why am I writing about a silly Playstation 3 video gaming system in my daily Bible blog?
Well, I got to thinking about how much people were pursuing this electronic “holy grail” that will soon be as old and passe as Pong and Dragon’s Lair of the 80s. Look how much sacrifice was made to get one. Look how much money was put down. Look what people were willing to do – all for what?
As Americans, we have no idea what it’s like to hold church in secret – fearing that at any moment the government could storm in and arrest, or even kill all of us. We have no idea what it means to have to hide a Bible in a flea-infested barracks so the guards wouldn’t take it away on some surprise inspection, like Corrie Ten Boom did. We can go to any bookstore or major department store and pick up a Bible in any number of sizes, translations and form factors.
Yet, like the PS3, the Bible sometimes tends to sit on the shelf collecting dust. Occasionally, guilt sets in and we reach for it and dive in for a few weeks (or days), then back to the shelf it goes.
What do you treasure? What’s the one thing you’d take with you if you knew someone was going to take you away from all your “stuff” for the rest of your life? Would it be a Bible? These are the things I’m thinking about today.
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
– Hebrews 4:12 (NAS)
Isn’t is amazing how God can confirm a message to you over and over, through something you hear on the radio, during Sunday worship, in coversations, etc.? Well, today I heard it again, the message, “Wake Up.”
Today as I read Isaiah 52, I see it again:
1 Wake up, wake up, O Zion! Clothe yourselves with strength. Put on your beautiful clothes, O holy city of Jerusalem, for unclean and godless people will no longer enter your gates. 2 Rise from the dust, O Jerusalem. Remove the slave bands from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.
I’m quite confident the message is for me. In addition, it comes up in conversations with church leaders and spiritual leaders in the community. I’m getting the overwhelming feeling that God is up to something substantial, and it’s up to His church to do something about it.
Just like the children of Israel coming out of Babylonian captivity, God seems to be saying to the church today, “Get Ready!”
For what? How do I get ready? Let’s look more at Isaiah’s message in this chapter:
10 The LORD will demonstrate his holy power before the eyes of all the nations. The ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God. 11 Go now, leave your bonds and slavery. Put Babylon behind you, with everything it represents, for it is unclean to you. You are the LORD’s holy people. Purify yourselves, you who carry home the vessels of the LORD.
Leave your bonds and slavery. Consider that for a moment. What are those things you hold on to that keep you from experiencing God to the fullest? Are there sin patterns? Is there fear of the unknown? Is it laziness?
I can only tell you what it means to me. I’ve had to do absolutely everything I could do to take a step toward God. It reminds me of one of my favorite verses in James 4 (verse 8):
- 8 Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, you hypocrites.
I have come to understand that it’s all about God, and all I can do is worthless. However, I need to initiate my help. In other words, the moment I realize my sin or my need for God’s rescue, I’m the one who has to cry out to God. Once I take that step, then He rushes in, breaks down the wall and rescues me (to borrow a phrase from one of my favorite Chris Rice tunes).
I Need A Hero
Was I the only one to notice
That human nature doesn’t work that way
They tell me if I look deep inside me
That I can find my own way
I only find a rebel and a fool there
Who won’t admit that he’s afraid
I thought I was holdin’ on to freedom
But locked my soul up in chains
I need a hero
Who’ll dare to find me
Fly to my rescue
And crash through the wall
Announce my freedom
Bring me to my senses
Gather me into his strong arms
And carry me off. . . to safety
What is this talk about a Savior
Well does he listen, is he even there?
And should I be asking him directly?
But why should he consider my prayer?
Well, I don’t quite know how to do this
But Jesus, I can’t save myself
So here I go calling out for mercy
And crying out for your help
(So if you hear me. . .)
I need a hero
Please dare to find me
Fly to my rescue
And crash through the wall
Announce my freedom
Bring me to my senses
Gather me into your strong arms
And carry me off
Clumsy Fly Music (ASCAP)
Is God calling you to wake up? Wash your hands. Purify your heart. Cry out to God to rescue you. He will do it, you’ll see…
One of my favorite songs to start out a worship set is “Ain’t No Rock.” Initially, I reserved it for youth gatherings as there were silly hand motions that went along with it. But, one time the Lord strongly prompted me to use it for an adult worship set. I questioned it but the urging was very strong, so I obeyed. It really broke the ice and got people engaged, opening up their hearts for the remaining tunes.
Aside from the catchy melody and silly hand motions, I love the lyrics:
AIN’T NO ROCK
Ain’t no rock gonna shout in my place,
as long as I’m alive I’ll glorify His holy name
Praise His holy name
as long as I’m alive I’ll glorify His holy name
Ain’t no bird gonna sing in my place
I’ll lift my voice and glorify His holy name
Ain’t no tree gonna lift it’s branches
I’ll lift my hands and glorify His holy name
©1987 Integrity’s Praise! Music
Words and Music by LaMarquis Jefferson
The song references the passage in Luke 19 when Jesus made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The disciples were so excited, jumping around, making lots of noise about Jesus’ return and blessing the King. The religious leaders came to Jesus and told Him to make the disciples stop. Jesus’ reply has become a familiar encouragement to worship: “If they stop, the rocks will cry out.”
1 “Listen to me, all who hope for deliverance – all who seek the LORD! Consider the quarry from which you were mined, the rock from which you were cut!
So, you see, we are actually rocks, cut from the quarrys of the Lord! Haha! So if you, my fellow rockhead, fail to worship, one of us is going to have to take up the slack!
There is such good news in this chapter. There is hope and deliverance for us all.