Translate

Only One risen Saviuor

Only One risen Saviuor
There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved - Jesus

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Isaiah Days 161 to 170



Isaiah Day 161 - The Rock and the Pit

51:1  “Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness,
You who seek the Lord:
Look to the rock from which you were hewn,
And to the hole of the pit from which you were dug.
2 Look to Abraham your father,
And to Sarah who bore you;
For I called him alone,
And blessed him and increased him.”

3 For the Lord will comfort Zion,
He will comfort all her waste places;
He will make her wilderness like Eden,
And her desert like the garden of the Lord;
Joy and gladness will be found in it,
Thanksgiving and the voice of melody.

Dark times in Judah and for the foreseeable future it will only get worse. To be faithful in the midst of faithlessness is a double burden. The lawless despise you and the consequences of their evil is felt and suffered by everyone. It is to these faithful ones that God is now speaking. He asks them to do two specific things. First look to the rock from which they were hewn or cut. This can be a reference to no one but God Himself. He is our Creator and we were made in His image.

Then He asks them to look into the hole of the pit from which they were dug. That's quite a contrast. As if anticipating some confusion He specifies that they should look to Abraham and Sarah. We were created as a "chip off the old Block" but then we fell into a pit, a deep pit.

Abraham was born to a pagan, idol worshipping father. Hardly the image of the Rock from which humanity was cut. Instead it was a deep pit. From that deep pit God called to Abraham. His life journey from that point forward is a picture of what it looks like to climb from the pit of sin. He was a liar and manipulator. He was self-obsessed and like Sinatra his life song was "I did it my way". In spite of all that God kept calling, kept shaping, kept working.

We are to look to the Rock from which we were cut. This reveals our true heritage, our true identity. We are also to look into and remember the pit from which we were dug. Both serve an important purpose. If we lose sight of the Rock we have no idea where we are headed back to. If we forget the pit God rescued us and others from we may do one of two things. One is fall into despair that God can't bring us back to Himself. As my favourite author wrote, "...we have no need to fear the future unless we forget His leading in our past history..." This includes not only our personal history but the histories of others who have gone before us like Abraham. The second danger if we lose sight of the pit from which we were dug is that we may return to it like a dog returns to it's vomit.

We who are seeking after God must ever keep those two pictures in view, especially when times are dark and difficult. God is faithful but it doesn't always feel like He is. 25 years Abraham and Sarah lived in a childless darkness after God promised them a child. Decades Joseph spent ripped from his family and enslaved in Egypt.

Only their offspring would live to see the deliverance from Babylon that God promised through Isaiah to these faithful ones in dark Judah.

Two thousand years we have lived in darkness since Jesus declared "Let not your heart be troubled... I will come again and receive you to Myself..."

The Rock and the Pit. Thanks to God I'm not the mess I was and thanks to God I won't stay the mess I am. He who promised is faithful...


Isaiah Day 162 - Is the Future Bright or Dark?

51:3 For the Lord will comfort Zion,
He will comfort all her waste places;
He will make her wilderness like Eden,
And her desert like the garden of the Lord;
Joy and gladness will be found in it,
Thanksgiving and the voice of melody.

4 “Listen to Me, My people;
And give ear to Me, O My nation:
For law will proceed from Me,
And I will make My justice rest
As a light of the peoples.
5 My righteousness is near,
My salvation has gone forth,
And My arms will judge the peoples;
The coastlands will wait upon Me,
And on My arm they will trust.
6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
And look on the earth beneath.
For the heavens will vanish away like smoke,
The earth will grow old like a garment,
And those who dwell in it will die in like manner;
But My salvation will be forever,
And My righteousness will not be abolished.

God is planning a bright future. That's the good news. He prepared the foundation with His own Son. The invitation into this bright future is extremely inclusive "Whosoever will let him come..." "Whoever comes to Me I will never cast out..." "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life."

Yet in the midst of this bright chapter of encouragement and promises there is a dark blot. "The earth will grow old like a good garment and those who dwell in it will die in like manner..." What is that about?

In Genesis 19 there is a story of a rescue mission orchestrated by God that went far beyond even Abraham's hopes. Two angels went into dark Sodom to rescue the willing. They started at the home of Lot, the most faithful man there, but it turned out only he, his wife, and two of their children were willing to leave. They were given only one directive: "Don't look back..." Lot's wife did look back and she died; she turned into a pillar of salt.

Have you ever wondered why a pillar of salt? She could have just dropped dead. She could have spontaneously combusted. She could have been struck by an errant fireball from the doomed city. The possibilities are endless really so again, why a pillar of salt? Sodom was located on the edge of the Dead Sea, the lowest point of dry land on planet Earth, well below sea level. The sea is well known for it's high salt content, so salty that nothing can live in it.

Do you see it now? God turned her into a representation of the very place she couldn't bear to leave. He gave her her wish, respected her choice and let her remain where her heart was.

So it will be when Jesus makes good on His promise and returns to take us home. He will only come for the willing. It will be an epic rescue mission but no one will be forced. The waiting will leave with Him and the rest will remain to "go down with the ship". Where our treasure is, there will our hearts be also.

The key to the dark prophecy is the phrase "those who dwell in it". We never say people live in earth. We say they live on it. Isaiah is pointing to those who have become one with this kingdom that Satan started in Eden. They don't want to leave. They want to continue to live the value system of Satan, every person for themselves, survival of the fittest, follow your desires wherever they take you etc... with no consideration for the impact on others. They want Sodom and they will get what they want because God is love and the most basic ingredient in love is freedom.

So will the day Jesus keeps His promise be a bright day or a dark one? Both. It just depends what each person chose during this gift of time we call life.


Isaiah Day 163 - Faith or Fear?

51:7 “Listen to Me, you who know righteousness,
You people in whose heart is My law:
Do not fear the reproach of men,
Nor be afraid of their insults.
8 For the moth will eat them up like a garment,
And the worm will eat them like wool;
But My righteousness will be forever,
And My salvation from generation to generation.”

9 Awake, awake, put on strength,
O arm of the Lord!
Awake as in the ancient days,
In the generations of old.
Are You not the arm that cut Rahab apart,
And wounded the serpent?

10 Are You not the One who dried up the sea,
The waters of the great deep;
That made the depths of the sea a road
For the redeemed to cross over?
11 So the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
And come to Zion with singing,
With everlasting joy on their heads.
They shall obtain joy and gladness;
Sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

12 “I, even I, am He who comforts you.
Who are you that you should be afraid
Of a man who will die,
And of the son of a man who will be made like grass?
13 And you forget the Lord your Maker,
Who stretched out the heavens
And laid the foundations of the earth;
You have feared continually every day
Because of the fury of the oppressor,
When he has prepared to destroy.
And where is the fury of the oppressor?
14 The captive exile hastens, that he may be loosed,
That he should not die in the pit,
And that his bread should not fail.
15 But I am the Lord your God,
Who divided the sea whose waves roared—
The Lord of hosts is His name.
16 And I have put My words in your mouth;
I have covered you with the shadow of My hand,
That I may plant the heavens,
Lay the foundations of the earth,
And say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’”


Wow I must admit I spent a lot of time on a rabbit trail that didn't lead anywhere conclusive this morning but was enlightening to a degree. It did underscore the problem with translations. Before I get into that let's focus on the meat of our passage today and if you are a nerd like me you can continue on at the end to see what my rabbit trail was all about.

Today's message is for the faithful. It is to those who still believe against all odds in times of gathering and almost choking darkness. Judah was in that place but in spite of the tidal wave of evil there were some who still believed. The great prophet Jeremiah was yet to come and live through the invasion of Babylon. He would be hated by his own but unwaveringly faithful. The evil of the time did not harden him either for he was known as the weeping prophet and a hard heart can't weep. We also know of the faithfulness of Daniel, Hannaniah, Mishael, and Azariah (more commonly known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego - the Babylonian names Nebuchadnezzar gave them).

Our passage today is a warning and encouragement to the faithful. It is a kind of recalibration if you will, an admonition to check their perspective.

Here is the reality - the greatest threat to faith is fear. Over the years I have had church members, beautiful, loving, God serving people who have asked me not to talk about prophecy. The reason? Too scary.

While it is true that there can be (and often has been in some circles) an unhealthy fixation on the "end times", we must not turn from God's Word on these matters out of fear. If God is telling us, there is a reason and we can be certain that reason is deeply rooted in His love for us.

Evil men have always used fear to manipulate people. It is still happening and it always will. I once read that what evil men can't obtain by persuasion they will obtain by force. When Jesus was here the religious leaders tried to protect their turf and their interests by threats and fear. Anyone who was found out to be a follower of the crazy Galilean would be kicked from their synagogue and refused access to the temple (John 9). These tactics are all fear based. Go through history and you will find fear tactics in every dark time employed to manipulate and control the masses. Often it is said that these dark times were religious movements and if we could get rid of religion we would be fine. This ignores the regimes that were not religious but intensely evil. Evil men use religion because it is effective. Evil men use religion because it instills a deeper fear than anything else. Some historians claim that the church ran the kings of Europe for so long because the kings could only end this life, but the church controlled eternity.

So what is God's message to the faithful who are in danger of giving in to fear? Remember history. Remember that God is far greater than the power of any evil monarch, dictator, or villain of any kind. He made the earth. He made a highway through the sea for the Israelites. Pharoahs who instilled fear are all long gone but He remains. From the very beginning He promised the time and influence of the dragon(serpent) was limited.

Why do we focus so much on the passing power for the evil ones and so little on the eternal greatness of our God. He was there before evil began and He will still be Good when evil is no more. We really have nothing to fear but fear itself and remember that faith and fear can't occupy the same space at the same time. When fear attempts to grip you, remember who our God is, rehearse what He has done, and go forward into the future confident that Light and Love will prevail over the darkness - Love Wins.

Now if you want to know about the nerdy rabbit trail I went down this morning, message me and I'll tell you. :)


Isaiah Day 164 - He Is, He Was, He Is to Come

51:11 So the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
And come to Zion with singing,
With everlasting joy on their heads.
They shall obtain joy and gladness;
Sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

12 “I, even I, am He who comforts you.
Who are you that you should be afraid
Of a man who will die,
And of the son of a man who will be made like grass?
13 And you forget the Lord your Maker,
Who stretched out the heavens
And laid the foundations of the earth;
You have feared continually every day
Because of the fury of the oppressor,
When he has prepared to destroy.
And where is the fury of the oppressor?
14 The captive exile hastens, that he may be loosed,
That he should not die in the pit,
And that his bread should not fail.
15 But I am the Lord your God,
Who divided the sea whose waves roared—
The Lord of hosts is His name.
16 And I have put My words in your mouth;
I have covered you with the shadow of My hand,
That I may plant the heavens,
Lay the foundations of the earth,
And say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’”

Fear and faith can't occupy the same space and according to our God we spend far too much time being fearful. To cure this condition that should not be, He points both backwards, and forwards, and at the present moment. Seems fitting since He declares many times that He is the One who Is (present), who Was (past), and who Is to Come (future). Looking back He declares "I made the heavens and the earth." Looking at the present He asks "Where is your oppressor?"

Then in response to our obsession with running around trying to save ourselves from danger, from hunger, from captivity, and from death, He points backwards again and says "I'm the One who made a highway through the sea when both captivity and perhaps death were imminent.

Then He comes back to the present and says "I have put my Word in your mouth. I have covered you with the shadow of My hand..."

And now He launches into the future: "...so that I may plant the heavens and lay the foundations of the earth and declare "You are My people".

Wait... Didn't He already create the heavens and the earth? Yes He did and we handed them over to Satan. He deceived us and the earth and the heavens became polluted and began to die. Stephen Hawking says this physical earth we live on is unsustainable. In this he agrees with the God he denies. Hawking says our only hope is to find a new home. In this he agrees with the God he denies. The only problem Hawking doesn't acknowledge or deal with is that this earth is dying because of us and moving us in our condition to a new planet will only buy some time and the pattern of destruction would begin again. We are the sickness.

God has a better plan. He will take those who believe Him, even the fearful ones. Did you catch that? God sees past our fear. Man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart. He sees people who although at times terrified have set their feet towards the Promised Land. They may be trembling at the edge of the water but they are there nonetheless. They may lack faith within themselves but they have the faith of Jesus. Shaky step after shaky step they are marching away from the rebellion toward a new kingdom where justice and mercy dwell. God sees them. He speaks His words of promise and hope into them. He covers them with the shadow of His hand. This company of believing ones are the foundation of new heavens and a new earth. The old will pass away and He will create new ones. Better than Hawking's plan, these heavens and new earth will never hear the cry of oppression for the oppressors will never enter them. No captors will ever reach this new home. Injustice will never rise up again for no heart seeks a higher place or sees himself as better than anyone else.

He will do this even for the fearful ones, because He sees their desire to trust and obey the one great law that governs this Kingdom - Love.

Love Wins.


Isaiah Day 165 - God's Cup of Fury

51:17  Awake, awake!
Stand up, O Jerusalem,
You who have drunk at the hand of the Lord
The cup of His fury;
You have drunk the dregs of the cup of trembling,
And drained it out.
18 There is no one to guide her
Among all the sons she has brought forth;
Nor is there any who takes her by the hand
Among all the sons she has brought up.
19 These two things have come to you;
Who will be sorry for you?—
Desolation and destruction, famine and sword—
By whom will I comfort you?
20 Your sons have fainted,
They lie at the head of all the streets,
Like an antelope in a net;
They are full of the fury of theLord,
The rebuke of your God.

21 Therefore please hear this, you afflicted,
And drunk but not with wine.
22 Thus says your Lord,
The Lord and your God,
Who pleads the cause of His people:
“See, I have taken out of your hand
The cup of trembling,
The dregs of the cup of My fury;
You shall no longer drink it.
23 But I will put it into the hand of those who afflict you,
Who have said to you,
‘Lie down, that we may walk over you.’
And you have laid your body like the ground,
And as the street, for those who walk over.”

Yesterday I was standing in a barn that open to the west wind. The main corridor of the barn ran east/west and the wind was blowing straight through because both ends of the corridor were open. It was literally a wind tunnel. With significant struggle working against the wind that was pressing the door hard against the end wall of the barn I was able to slide it shut. Suddenly the wind tunnel was a shelter. The wind had no access to us no matter how hard or cold it blew.

The Bible speaks about the cup of God's fury/wrath/anger. Sometimes it sounds like God has a bad temper and when we push Him far enough He blows His top and beats us around for a while until His anger is spent and then He stops. We think this way because it's how we are. We may even have suffered under a parent or spouse or boss who behaves in this Jekyll and Hyde manner. We live it and we project these experiences on to God and assume He behaves like we do.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Remember the story in Luke that we call the story of the prodigal son? Dad has two boys. The older one is loyal and responsible but the younger wants out. He asks his father for his inheritance early, in cash, and takes off for greener pastures. The fun doesn't last and he ends up humiliated, hungry, and broke in a pig pen wishing he was as well fed as they are. Snap that picture. Keep it in your mind - a Jewish boy jealous of pigs. That is the cup of God's fury/wrath/anger. "But wait!" you say, "God didn't do anything!"

You are exactly right. The cup of God's fury is when He does nothing to shelter us from the consequences of our stubbornly rebellious choices. The winds of consequence howl and God doesn't slide the barn door shut to protect us from the biting winds we brought on ourselves. He isn't angry like we get angry. He isn't irrational and flailing. He simply turns away in sadness because we didn't want Him any more.

Love respects and He won't return until we return. "Return to Me and I will return to you" says the Lord.

God is our strong tower but we aren't locked in. We can leave the safety of His arms and the protective shadow of His hand whenever we choose. Choose wisely. Love wins but it never forces.


Isaiah Day 166 - Be Glad God Isn't Santa Claus

51:22 Thus says your Lord,
The Lord and your God,
Who pleads the cause of His people:
“See, I have taken out of your hand
The cup of trembling,
The dregs of the cup of My fury;
You shall no longer drink it.
23 But I will put it into the hand of those who afflict you,
Who have said to you,
‘Lie down, that we may walk over you.’
And you have laid your body like the ground,
And as the street, for those who walk over.”

Did you know the word 'satan' means 'accuser'? Did you know that in the book of Revelation the devil is fully exposed, referenced by all the various names and symbols that refer to him? Did you know that one of those names is "the accuser of the brethren" and that he makes accusations against us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?

Did you know that Santa Claus, obviously a fictional character, is portrayed as one who has a list and is checking it twice, to find out who is naughty and who is nice? Did you know parents fall into the trap of using that to try and control their children's behaviour through fear in the weeks leading up to Christmas? Do you realize that this picture/scenario is far more reflective of Satan's government than it is of God's government?

First of all there is no naughty and nice list because heaven is a perfect place untouched by pride, greed, lust, hatred, etc... That being the case we are all on the "naughty" list. Satan makes it his business to point that out in every possible way he can find. When we point out the faults of others, implying by so doing that we are perfect or at least better, we are a tool in the hand of the accuser of the brethren.

Now let's get to the good news. Did you notice in our two verses above that Jesus plays a very different role than the accuser of the brethren does? Did you see that He too is pleading our case but in a very different way? God has one objective and one objective only, and that is to get us Home. He is not the least bit interested in what Satan is saying. He well knows we are in a mess but that does not concern Him. What concerns Him is how to get us out of the mess.

Remember yesterday we referenced the story in Luke 15 of the prodigal son? A father had two sons and the younger wanted a different life. He wanted freedom. He wanted his inheritance early so he could choose his own destiny. His father could have refused the request. After all an inheritance is usually not given until the death of the one who holds the wealth, and besides, the father could have chosen to cut him out of the will entirely and given him no money to waste, then or ever.

However, the father (who represents God in the story) gives him his full inheritance and sets him free. Why? Because the Father's only objective is to have his boy Home, not just physically but in every sense, not as a resentful, unwilling "prisoner", but as a willing son who desires to be nowhere else. The Father knows the only chance for that to happen is to let him go and so as painful as it was, he did it.

We know how it ends. The son regrets his choices and the mess he has made and longs for home. So bad is his situation that now he would be happy to just be a servant in his father's house. He heads back with a speech all rehearsed. "Father I am not worthy to be your son..." Whose voice is that in our head? Who tells us we can't go back? Who uses our mistakes and bad choices as fuel to fire the idea we are hopeless?

That's right, the accuser of the brethren. Who then speaks hope into that darkness in our minds? Who says "It doesn't have to stay this way. You can go back. You can go home!"?

Jesus does. He pleads our case. He isn't trying to convince God to take us back for they are One. In fact they are both pleading. Isaiah says the LORD God is pleading. He pleads the cause of His people. He is pleading with us. We are the ones who need to be convinced that Love can win. That boy sat among the pigs destitute and then it says he came to his senses, he had the first true, rational, straight, correct thought he had had in a long time and with that flash of clarity the first thought that came was "My Father..."

When he got to his Dad, his Dad who cane running to embrace him, he began his rehearsed speech but he never finished it. Dad wasn't concerned with where he had been, he was concerned with where he was headed and they were headed Home.

Whether or not you and I go Home has zero to do with our past. The list Santa keeps is irrelevant to God. The accusations Satan makes are of no consequence to Him. His only question is "Do you want to come Home? I want you here desperately but not if you don't want to be. If you want to stay in the street and let Satan run you over again and again I won't stop you, but if you want to come Home no power in earth or hell can stop us from being together forever. I only let you drink the cup of your choosing in the hope that you would realize the original cup I had for you was the best there is. That's all I want for you, the very best."

"Put the family ring back on his hand. Put new sandals on his worn aching feet. Prepare the biggest party we have ever had. My son has returned Home with his whole heart and nothing else matters."


Isaiah Day 167 - Be Glad God Isn't Santa Claus Part 2

51:22
Thus says your Lord,
The Lord and your God,
Who pleads the cause of His people:
“See, I have taken out of your hand
The cup of trembling,
The dregs of the cup of My fury;
You shall no longer drink it.
23 But I will put it into the hand of those who afflict you,
Who have said to you, (literally to your soul)
‘Lie down, that we may walk over you.’
And you have laid your body like the ground,
And as the street, for those who walk over.”

I'm really thankful I have had the opportunity to learn some Greek and some Hebrew but if you have a Bible with original language helps, it can really add to your reading of the Bible. There is a note on verse 23 in my Bible that points out the fact that the word 'you' at the end of the second line, where I included it in brackets, actually says 'your soul' in the original Hebrew.

Why is that significant? Because as we touched on yesterday, the battle is for your soul, and the accusing Satan does and the pleading God does is both for you and in you. Satan wants you to believe you are hopeless. He wants you to lay down in defeat so he can figuratively walk all over you. He uses the list of good and bad, of naughty and nice to crush your spirit by reading the naughty things to you over and over.

As a pastor I get to hear the heart of people more often than most. There was once that I was called to the bedside of a dying man I had never met. He was (I was told) pretty much unresponsive but before that happened he had been asking for a pastor. When I came into the room his wife spoke to him to let him know I was there. He didn't speak but he did stir and reached out his hand. I took it in mine and the moment he felt my hand touch his he grabbed it in a vice like grip and would not let go. His wife couldn't believe it. Without words I got the message. He was looking for hope. Later I discovered he had done some things that had given the devil lots of ammo with which to accuse him; lots of things on the naughty list to crush his soul.

Another time I was called to visit a woman in a nursing home I had never met. They told me that until recently she was perfectly fine but had become frantic and incoherent and when she was making any sense she kept asking for an Adventist pastor. When I arrived she was as they said, frantic, fitful, and mumbling. It was like she was drowning or being crushed by something in her mind. The nurse got right in her face and told her the Adventist pastor was here to see her and he couldn't help her unless she calmed down. That settled her somewhat and the nurse left us alone. I pulled in close to her and I could see the fear in her eyes. I prayed and asked God to be with us as we visited and when I opened my eyes she was a little more relaxed but far from ok. I asked her what was troubling her so much and the garbage in her soul began to pour out.

She was a widow. She had been married for many years and had children. To the outside world all was well. However decades earlier unknown to her husband she had had an affair with a woman. Now she was 95 years old and the accuser brought her sin and guilt back on her like a flood and she was literally being run over and crushed from the inside out.

I opened my Bible and began to read, telling her gently that she could never change her past but this was the truth about her situation. "If she confessed her sin He is faithful and just to forgive her sin and to cleanse her from all unrighteousness. All is all" I told her gently. "Come let us reason together" says the Lord. "Let's talk it over, even though your sins are like scarlet they will be white like snow" says the Lord. "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God but the gift of God is eternal life."

As I read each verse she sat straighter and straighter. When I had come in she was all stooped over and in a mess. When I left she was a completely different person. I have never experienced anything like it before or since. A week later I called the home to see how she was doing. The woman said "Pastor I don't know what you did or said but thank you, she is her happy old self again."

All I did was answer the accuser with the Truth of the good news. Sinful we are and the past can't be relived. There is no fixing it. However God sent His Son, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the whole world. If we choose not to trust Him, He will let us have our sins back and face the naughty list on our own, or we can walk into the future and return Home as if we never ever made one mistake. The choice is ours. Will we lay down in defeat and let the accuser walk all over us as he spews the venom of our sins at our soul, or will we walk in the truth that God loves us and has washed us and that we are as white as the freshly fallen snow? God is pleading for you to trust Him. He has taken care of everything. There is nothing to fear.


Isaiah Day 167 - Be Glad God Isn't Santa Claus Part 2

51:22
Thus says your Lord,
The Lord and your God,
Who pleads the cause of His people:
“See, I have taken out of your hand
The cup of trembling,
The dregs of the cup of My fury;
You shall no longer drink it.
23 But I will put it into the hand of those who afflict you,
Who have said to you, (literally to your soul)
‘Lie down, that we may walk over you.’
And you have laid your body like the ground,
And as the street, for those who walk over.”

I'm really thankful I have had the opportunity to learn some Greek and some Hebrew but if you have a Bible with original language helps, it can really add to your reading of the Bible. There is a note on verse 23 in my Bible that points out the fact that the word 'you' at the end of the second line, where I included it in brackets, actually says 'your soul' in the original Hebrew.

Why is that significant? Because as we touched on yesterday, the battle is for your soul, and the accusing Satan does and the pleading God does is both for you and in you. Satan wants you to believe you are hopeless. He wants you to lay down in defeat so he can figuratively walk all over you. He uses the list of good and bad, of naughty and nice to crush your spirit by reading the naughty things to you over and over.

As a pastor I get to hear the heart of people more often than most. There was once that I was called to the bedside of a dying man I had never met. He was (I was told) pretty much unresponsive but before that happened he had been asking for a pastor. When I came into the room his wife spoke to him to let him know I was there. He didn't speak but he did stir and reached out his hand. I took it in mine and the moment he felt my hand touch his he grabbed it in a vice like grip and would not let go. His wife couldn't believe it. Without words I got the message. He was looking for hope. Later I discovered he had done some things that had given the devil lots of ammo with which to accuse him; lots of things on the naughty list to crush his soul.

Another time I was called to visit a woman in a nursing home I had never met. They told me that until recently she was perfectly fine but had become frantic and incoherent and when she was making any sense she kept asking for an Adventist pastor. When I arrived she was as they said, frantic, fitful, and mumbling. It was like she was drowning or being crushed by something in her mind. The nurse got right in her face and told her the Adventist pastor was here to see her and he couldn't help her unless she calmed down. That settled her somewhat and the nurse left us alone. I pulled in close to her and I could see the fear in her eyes. I prayed and asked God to be with us as we visited and when I opened my eyes she was a little more relaxed but far from ok. I asked her what was troubling her so much and the garbage in her soul began to pour out.

She was a widow. She had been married for many years and had children. To the outside world all was well. However decades earlier unknown to her husband she had had an affair with a woman. Now she was 95 years old and the accuser brought her sin and guilt back on her like a flood and she was literally being run over and crushed from the inside out.

I opened my Bible and began to read, telling her gently that she could never change her past but this was the truth about her situation. "If she confessed her sin He is faithful and just to forgive her sin and to cleanse her from all unrighteousness. All is all" I told her gently. "Come let us reason together" says the Lord. "Let's talk it over, even though your sins are like scarlet they will be white like snow" says the Lord. "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God but the gift of God is eternal life."

As I read each verse she sat straighter and straighter. When I had come in she was all stooped over and in a mess. When I left she was a completely different person. I have never experienced anything like it before or since. A week later I called the home to see how she was doing. The woman said "Pastor I don't know what you did or said but thank you, she is her happy old self again."

All I did was answer the accuser with the Truth of the good news. Sinful we are and the past can't be relived. There is no fixing it. However God sent His Son, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the whole world. If we choose not to trust Him, He will let us have our sins back and face the naughty list on our own, or we can walk into the future and return Home as if we never ever made one mistake. The choice is ours. Will we lay down in defeat and let the accuser walk all over us as he spews the venom of our sins at our soul, or will we walk in the truth that God loves us and has washed us and that we are as white as the freshly fallen snow? God is pleading for you to trust Him. He has taken care of everything. There is nothing to fear.


Isaiah Day 168 – Knowing Our Place

52 Awake, awake!
Put on your strength, O Zion;
Put on your beautiful garments,
O Jerusalem, the holy city!
For the uncircumcised and the unclean
Shall no longer come to you.
2 Shake yourself from the dust, arise;
Sit down, O Jerusalem!
Loose yourself from the bonds of your neck,
O captive daughter of Zion!

3 For thus says the Lord:

“You have sold yourselves for nothing,
And you shall be redeemed without money.”

4 For thus says the Lord God:

“My people went down at first
Into Egypt to dwell there;
Then the Assyrian oppressed them without cause.
5 Now therefore, what have I here,” says the Lord,
“That My people are taken away for nothing?
Those who rule over them
Make them wail,” says the Lord,
“And My name is blasphemed continually every day.
6 Therefore My people shall know My name;
Therefore they shall know in that day
That I am He who speaks:
‘Behold, it is I.’”

If God told you to put on your strength and get dressed in your best what would you do? It's an ironic thing for God to say considering He already told Judah that all her righteousness was like filthy rags. If our best is that bad what could He possibly be expecting here?

He is expecting a dilemma. He is creating an impossible scenario so that Judah can come to a profound realization. She has no strength. Assyria owns her, Babylon is coming soon to destroy her. What strength does she have to put on? Assyria charges them excessive tribute for "protection" so how Judah make herself beautiful? They have almost nothing left. The gold is gone. The silver too. With what will she make herself presentable?

She can't and that is precisely the point God is teaching them. He points back to Egypt when the fledgling nation was hopelessly enslaved. They had no strength to gain freedom. They had no money to buy freedom. They had no resources with which to make themselves beautiful. From that destitute position God delivered them. Not only did He physically free them but He made them rich in the process.

It required nothing from them but the faith to follow. God did it. He did it all.

Perhaps sometimes you get the false idea in your head that being a Christian is about being strong, getting your act together, and making yourself beautiful. It is not. You are the clay, not the Potter. He is the Restorer, not you. He will make you beautiful again. He will give you more strength than you ever had on your best day before you knew Him. He will do it in His time, in His way. He asks only that you follow Him. It's in the following that we will become the men and women He designed for us to be before we let Satan take over this planet.

When we give ourselves and our filthy rags to Him and see what He does with them and with us, we will know without a doubt that He is God.


Isaiah Day 169 - ***Good News!

52:7 How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who proclaims peace,
Who brings glad tidings of good things,
Who proclaims salvation,
Who says to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”
8 Your watchmen shall lift up their voices,
With their voices they shall sing together;
For they shall see eye to eye
When the Lord brings back Zion.
9 Break forth into joy, sing together,
You waste places of Jerusalem!
For the Lord has comforted His people,
He has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The Lord has made bare His holy arm
In the eyes of all the nations;
And all the ends of the earth shall see
The salvation of our God.

Have you picked up on anything unusual through Isaiah so far? Let me ask you a question that may help my question be a lot less vague: Is the book of Isaiah a bad news book or a good news book?

It opens with God exposing the true identity of Judah - selfish, oppressive, unjust, exploiters of the poor etc... and soon headed for trouble, big trouble. Clearly it is a bad news book. But have you noticed that the tide of the book has turned? Have you noticed that there has been far more promises than warnings and far more good news beyond the bad news than there was ever bad news in the first place?

Think about it. This chapter is specifically addressed to those who still believe God, trust Him, and desire His ways. For those people it is all good news even in the midst of darkness and foreboding.

That being the case why is the church so fearful? Why has so much ink been spilled about the ominous "time of trouble" and "the last days"? Why have so many preachers made a name for themselves or tried to peddling doom and gloom? Isaiah is a genuine prophet. He is the real deal. His messages are straight from God's heart, to his pen, to us. So what are we afraid of? Why do we fixate on the bad and pass by the good as if it isn't even there?

Yes a time of trouble is coming but we have the narrative all mixed up. A time of trouble came to the pre flood world but where we're His people? Safe and dry. A time of trouble came to Egypt but where were His people? Protected. Safe. Ultimately delivered. Did they suffer some? Yes at the beginning. Will we pass through the time of trouble completely unscathed? Probably not. Will we ultimately be protected, safe, and in the end delivered? Absolutely.

What about the ominous seven last plagues in the book of Revelation? They don't touch His people. Not at all. Not one bit.

Am I saying there is far more good news than bad? I'm not saying anything. I'm only pointing out what God has already revealed. What has been will be again. The past is the future. Never in the past has God abandoned His people. There have been dark times and there will be one more before we go Home but He will be there. "Yes though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil because You are with me. Your staff and Your rod, they comfort me. You prepare a table for me in the midst of my enemies... my cup runs over..." (Psalm 23)

Well fed and never thirsty in the midst of trouble, in the darkness of death valley.

"Your bread and water shall be sure..." (Isaiah 33:16)

God is an ever present help in trouble.

We are going Home. Jesus is coming. He will never leave us nor forsake us. Trust Him. Always.


Isaiah Day 170 - Come Out of Her My People

52:9 Break forth into joy, sing together,
You waste places of Jerusalem!
For the Lord has comforted His people,
He has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The Lord has made bare His holy arm
In the eyes of all the nations;
And all the ends of the earth shall see
The salvation of our God.

11 Depart! Depart! Go out from there,
Touch no unclean thing;
Go out from the midst of her,
Be clean,
You who bear the vessels of the Lord.
12 For you shall not go out with haste,
Nor go by flight;
For the Lord will go before you,
And the God of Israel will be your rear guard.



Several of you have been asking me for a long while to work through the book of Revelation. That day will come but we need to prepare for it. Stepping into that most timely book without understanding the rest of Scripture is irresponsible at best. For those of you looking forward to that journey, Isaiah is giving us a taste. He is looking way down the corridor of time to events yet future.

Did God redeem(restore) Jerusalem after Babylon destroyed it? Yes and no. What do I mean by that? They were able to return home to the "Promised Land". They did rebuild. Do you know what happened when they consecrated the rebuilt temple? The people wept because it was so inferior to the temple of Solomon that it was replacing. So yes they did return and there was a measure of restoration but never again would they recover the glory of the past. The glory Isaiah is referring to here, a glory and restoration that would be seen by the whole earth is yet future. It's bigger than literal Jerusalem. It's bigger than rebuilding a temple. It's bigger than rebuilding a nation. What Isaiah is referring to here is the ultimate restoration of all of God's people and that stretches far beyond literal Israel. Adam was not an Israelite. Neither was Noah. Not even Abraham nor Isaac was an Israelite. Israel was the new name God gave to Jacob and the Israelites were his descendants. Will God only restore the offspring of Jacob?

When God refers here and in so many other places to "His people" it is not a reference to the descendants of Jacob. It is not a reference to one blood line or even one group of people. God created us all. He has no favourites. He is no respecter of persons.

About 6 years ago we decided to get a puppy. Our dog had been hit by a car and after going a long time without one we started looking for a chocolate lab that wasn't purebred because mixed breeds tend to be healthier. It wasn't long before we found a litter that was exactly what we were looking for. The puppies were 3/4 lab and a quarter beagle and looked like chocolate labs. How would we decide from a litter which puppy to bring home? Which puppy was "our puppy"? Before we got there we devised a plan. We would not choose a puppy. We would let a puppy choose us. The one that seemed most drawn to us was the one we would take.

When we got in the home where they were it was amazing. One little brown fur ball went straight to Tracey immediately while the others all held back. We had our puppy. She chose us.

God is in love with every one of you on a level we can't even comprehend. Our love and concept of it is so twisted but His love is pure and deep. He made us. He knew us before we were even born. He made us but He made us free. Free to choose to be His or to choose our own way. They prodigal son we have been talking about was first his father's by birth but in the end was his father's son by choice. These are the ones God refers to as "His people". These are the ones who will receive the promises because they chose to. God is waiting for us to come to Him just like that little puppy choose Tracey and is now as much a part of our family as the humans are. Now she has a name. Now she benefits from all the provision of the household. The storms may howl outside but she is safe and warm not by any effort on her part but simply because she chose us and all we have is hers to enjoy.

We aren't dogs. We are children. We are sons and daughters of the Creator of the universe. Our dad is the King if we choose to have Him as our Father.

In Revelation 18 there is a call from heaven "Babylon is fallen...Come out of her My people..."

It's the same call found here in verse 11 - "Depart, depart! Go out from there and touch no unclean thing..."

When the prodigal son came to his senses and remembered his Father he went home. He left the pigs and the pigpen behind. The far country that he dreamed of when he felt trapped at home was left in his rearview mirror. It was a place for those who rejected the Father but he wanted his father back. He fell in love with his dad. He came to appreciate how truly good He was. He came to the realization that everything he had been longing for in the far country was nothing compared to what he left behind when he left his Dad.

Where are we in this scenario? Are we with the Father? Are we running from Him? Are we starting to realize it's time to turn back and head for Home?

He's waiting for us to decide if we are His or not...

No comments:

Post a Comment