August 5, 2017

August 5, 2017

ISAIAH 36-41

Focus Verse: Surely it was for my benefit
that I suffered such anguish.
In your love you kept me
from the pit of destruction;
you have put all my sins
behind your back.
Isaiah 38:17

 

What if we viewed our suffering like this? What if, instead of looking for a way out of our trials, we looked first for what God was trying to teach us through our trials? Our God is good. Our God is strong. Our God loves you more than you can even imagine. Do you believe that? Then trust Him through your trials.

 

In His great love for you and me, He has nailed all of our sins to the cross and we bear them no more. He has paid the ultimate price to keep us out of the ultimate pit of destruction, hell. No matter what you’re going through on this earth, nothing can take that away.

 

In no way, shape or form am I trying to make light or pretend I understand what you’re going through, but there is a perspective that we need to maintain while suffering. This world is not the last chapter. It’s a boring introduction. This life is the ‘Acknowledgements’ section of the most amazing book you’ll ever read. You might read it, but no one ever remembers what’s in it.

 

We can get so hung up on the trials of this life that we forget to look to fact that this isn’t even the main event. That everything we are going through now is just the preparation to get us ready for eternity with our Lord and Savior. Look at your suffering with fresh eyes today. Ask God to help you. Say the words of Hezekiah found in this verse out loud if you have to, “Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish.” And then believe it!

August 4, 2017

August 4, 2017

ISAIAH 31-35

Focus Verse: “Who among us can live with the consuming fire?
Who among us can live with continual burning?”
He who walks righteously and speaks with sincerity,
He who rejects unjust gain
And shakes his hands so that they hold no bribe;
He who stops his ears from hearing about bloodshed
And shuts his eyes from looking upon evil;
He will dwell on the heights,
His refuge will be the impregnable rock;
His bread will be given him,
His water will be sure.
Isaiah 33:14-16

 

Who can live with the Consuming Fire (that’s God)? None of us. There is no one on this earth who can live up to these standards. I recently heard a pastor use this example: Let’s forget about how the Bible tells us to live for just a second (please hold off on throwing your stones until after the analogy). Instead, let’s go off of the moral standard of advice that you give to other people or morals by which you expect others to treat you. You teach your children that it’s wrong to talk bad about other people. So let’s compile that list, and then tally up every time you haven’t listened to your own ‘moral code’. Would you stand uncondemned? I know I wouldn’t!

 

The point is this: no one is righteous; not one (Romans 3:10). Even if you want to chuck the Bible as your moral standard, I would be willing to wager a healthy chunk of change that you can’t even live up to the moral standard by which you judge other people (since judge is such a hard word, if you’re offended by that you can soften it to ‘the moral standard of advice you offer to others’)

 

So here it comes…you all saw it coming, didn’t you?

 

You can’t. But Jesus did! And He will through the Holy Spirit in you!

 

Jesus is the only one who lived up to these standards. He lived up to God’s standards and through His death, resurrection, and ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, offers to live up to those standards FOR US if we will just surrender our will and submit to His. You won’t find a better deal than that on this side of eternity!

August 3, 2017

August 3, 2017

ISAIAH 28-30

Focus Verse: For thus the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said,

 

“In repentance and rest you will be saved,
In quietness and trust is your strength.”
But you were not willing,
Isaiah 30:15

 

We are so proud of our works. We really don’t like being told that we’re wrong; what’s even worse is admitting to ourselves that we are wrong and need to change. But this is the only way to come before God; in repentance, quietness, rest and trust. I know I talk about this just about every day, but if you want a Bible verse that sums up “I can’t but Jesus did and will through the Holy Spirit in me”, here it is.

 

It is in repenting of your sins and then resting in the work that Jesus Christ has already done that you will be saved. Even back in the Old Testament this was the formula for salvation. Repent of your sins, or you could rephrase this as ‘surrender your will’, and then rest in the future work of the promised Messiah. We have hind sight and know that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah, those in the Old Testament had to have the faith that God would remain true to His word and deliver on all of His promises.

 

Our strength comes in quietness and trust in the Lord. Are you picking up on all of this? There is not one mention of any kind of works that YOU can do to earn this stuff!

 

Now our problem with this is that we’ve seen this radical grace abused. Even from people who may not use it as a license to sin uncontrollably, they will use verses like this to just sit on their dumpers and never lift a finger for the kingdom of God. If we’re saved anyway, what’s the point in working so hard for something that isn’t going to matter? If we’re saved anyway, what’s the point in abstaining from sin? Jesus is just going to forgive us anyway.

 

But we’re looking at this through the wrong motivation. If our motivation is to do works or to abstain from sin so that we can earn something, we haven’t been reading the Bible correctly; we’ve missed the main point of the entire Word of God. Our motivation is to please God. That’s it. He is our reason and purpose. So we don’t work for our salvation, we work to please Him. We work because we love Him. We love Him because He first loved us.

 

What a Savior! What a God!

August 2, 2017

August 2, 2017

ISAIAH 23-27

Focus Verse: O Lord, Your hand is lifted up yet they do not see it.
They see Your zeal for the people and are put to shame;
Indeed, fire will devour Your enemies.
Isaiah 26:11

 

Yesterday I talked about having a heart that is broken for the things that break God’s heart. Today, we see the quickest way to get that. “They see Your zeal for the people and are put to shame” The only way to know what breaks God’s heart is to witness what breaks God’s heart. But we can’t witness what breaks God’s heart if we don’t know Him or watch Him. How do we know God’s heart?

 

First, we read His Word. Over and over again in scripture we see God’s interaction with people. Who does God defend? Those who deserve it, right? Nope. Those who can’t defend themselves! Over and over again we see His charge to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves, to defend those who can’t defend themselves, to care for the oppressed, the needy, the orphans and the widows and these commands are NOT dependent on whether they deserve help or not. God doesn’t even address that question because we aren’t even to ask it. What breaks God’s heart? Lost people. People who don’t know Him. Injustice. Oppression. And that’s just scratching the surface. To learn what breaks God’s heart, and what should break ours, we need to witness through scripture who and how God interacted with humanity and nature. What did Jesus do? Who did Jesus feel drawn toward? Who did He heal? Who did He chastise? Who did He forgive? How did He do it? How did He heal? How did He chastise? How did He forgive?

 

The second way we see God’s zeal for the people is through a relationship with the Holy Spirit. This is actually the first step, but the Holy Spirit is so good at His job that many of us don’t even realize we are interacting with Him. Paul talks, in 1 Corinthians 2:14 about how we can’t even understand the things of God without the Holy Spirit. So if we are even to dive into scripture to try to see God, we are dependent on the Holy Spirit to open our minds to see Him and what His interaction with people says about Him. The Spirit will even open our eyes to God’s interactions with people today. He will tell us whom we should be praying for in our spheres of influence. He will give us words of knowledge, words of encouragement, all sorts of other gifts of the Spirit to show them God’s zeal for them. And in doing so, it will also show us His zeal for people.

 

When we see how God feels about people – ALL people, regardless of ethnicity, race, gender and culture – there will be a pang of shame. It’s the same pain that we feel when we are pricked by the Gospel message of how wicked and awful we are without a Savior to redeem us. But that pain isn’t a bad thing if you harness it the right way. It could lead to condemnation and push you away from God, or it could convict you and draw you closer to Him.

 

The quickest way to God is to reach the end of your self.

 

When that shame comes and makes you realize that YOU CAN’T match God’s zeal for people, BUT THAT JESUS DID, and that He WILL THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT IN YOU, your life will never be the same.

August 1, 2017

August 1, 2017

ISAIAH 18-22

Focus Verse: Therefore in that day the Lord God of hosts called you to weeping, to wailing,
To shaving the head and to wearing sackcloth.
Instead, there is gaiety and gladness,
Killing of cattle and slaughtering of sheep,
Eating of meat and drinking of wine:
“Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we may die.”
Isaiah 22:12-13

 

We are called to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15), but I think a lot of us miss that this charge includes God. Now this passage is specifically talking about being in unity with those around us, so I don’t want to read into Romans 12 what isn’t there, but all through the Old Testament, God calls the Israelites to have broken hearts for the things that break the heart of God.

 

This is one of those passages, and we still see evidence of this kind of attitude in certain circles of society today. All of these disasters have fallen on Jerusalem, they are being conquered by other nations, having all of their wealth stripped from them and are a mere shell of the powerful nation they used to be. Yet among all of this disaster, among all of the sin that God is trying to turn them from, they are throwing parties and celebrating. “If this is all we have, we might as well have fun before we die.”

 

Today that attitude is summed up quite nicely in the acronym Y.O.L.O., or You Only Live Once. “Let’s party hard, live life to the fullest and act like there are no consequences for our actions. We only get one life to do this, so don’t hold back.” Now let’s not jump on the highway to hell bandwagon here; this isn’t a new attitude by any means. In fact, in 300 B.C., the Greek Epicureans built an entire religion (loosely, it was more of a philosophy…though you could argue that the two are basically the same thing) on this sort of lifestyle. They just didn’t have a cool acronym, but they did get a spot in Webster’s Dictionary as an epicurean is now defined as someone with fine or luxurious tastes, especially when it comes to food and drink.

 

If this life is all we have, this philosophy makes the most sense of any other religion or worldview. In fact, if this life is all we have, then we should violently strive to get as much pleasure now as we can. Throw morals completely out this window and get as much enjoyment as we can now. Stick up for yourself at all costs, because, let’s face it, if there is nothing after this life, then morals are pointless. What’s the point in helping someone else advance? They’re just slowing you down.

 

But this world isn’t all that we have. I think deep down, even the biggest skeptic can feel this. That’s why there are so few people who subscribe completely to an entirely selfish worldview. Even people who want to throw off all moral restraints try to bring it back to some sort of balance. “Well helping others brings me enjoyment. That’s why I do it. It’s NOT because I have to.” To which I call BOLONEY! They’ve actually done social experiments on this kind of stuff where they’ve removed all consequences for certain actions and it is EXTREMELY rare that someone chooses to help another person instead of advancing themselves.

 

As Christ followers, we know that this world isn’t all that there is. That’s what was so maddening about the Israelites acting this way. They knew better! And we do too. As long as we have this attitude, there can be no repentance and without repentance there can be no forgiveness of sins. The verse immediately after this passage, verse 14 says, “The Lord of Heaven’s Armies has revealed this to me: ‘Till the day you die, you will never be forgiven for this sin.’ That is the judgment of the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies” (New Living Translation). It’s not that God’s forgiveness has run out or that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ doesn’t apply to these people, it’s that they won’t repent.

 

The things that break God’s heart makes them laugh. Their sins are funny to them. Other people’s suffering has become a joke. It’s their fault that they’re in that position anyway. There are no tears shed. No broken hearts.

 

It’s easy to point fingers. Those stupid Israelites, they just never seem to get it right, do they? But are we really leaps and bounds ahead of them? We are so wrapped up in our particular political agenda that we refuse to mourn with those who mourn on the other side of the fence. I cringe as I scroll through Facebook the day after some awful tragedy. One side is using the pain of these people to advocate for this political issue while the other is villianizing the victims for not adhering to their side of the argument. This cannot make God happy.

 

Church, we must stop looking at issues and start looking at people. Does this mean your political agenda is wrong? Not necessarily, but it has to be people focused. Does this mean that it’s wrong to enjoy life? Absolutely not! In fact, I don’t think you can fully enjoy life until you’re enjoying life IN Christ. The Christ follower should have a more joy-filled life than anyone else on the planet. But this has to happen with balance. And that balance comes from being sensitive to God’s heart in all situations. You can’t do it on your own. But Jesus did and will through the Holy Spirit in us.

July 31, 2017

July 31, 2017

ISAIAH 13-17

Focus Verse: “How you have fallen from heaven,
O star of the morning, son of the dawn!
You have been cut down to the earth,
You who have weakened the nations!
“But you said in your heart,
‘I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God,
And I will sit on the mount of assembly
In the recesses of the north.
‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.’
“Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol,
To the recesses of the pit.
“Those who see you will gaze at you,
They will ponder over you, saying,
‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble,
Who shook kingdoms,
Who made the world like a wilderness
And overthrew its cities,
Who did not allow his prisoners to go home?’
“All the kings of the nations lie in glory,
Each in his own tomb.
“But you have been cast out of your tomb
Like a rejected branch,
Clothed with the slain who are pierced with a sword,
Who go down to the stones of the pit
Like a trampled corpse.
Isaiah 14:12-19

 

I’ve used this analogy from Martin Luther before, so let’s try it again: there are two sides of the horse of scriptural prophecy that we can fall off of. Just like most things in the Christian faith, the enemy doesn’t really care which side you fall off, just that you don’t stay in the saddle. The one side is that all prophecy in scripture should be interpreted as end times events and we forget to look for the exegetical meaning (what it meant to the intended audience in the time it was written). The other error is to only apply it to the audience back then and refuse to give it any weight in the events taking place today or in the future. In order to appropriately read and apply these passages, we need to be able to do both.

 

Today’s passage (sorry, it was a little lengthy) is one of those passages. Isaiah is writing the prophecy to be filled immediately (I use this term fairly loosely since it will still be awhile before Babylon falls). Babylon has put all its hope in itself. Its rulers, its people, its army, its city, and have completely rejected God and trampled upon the justice that God requires of us. So God plans to cast them out from His presence, similar to what He did with Sodom and Gomorrah.

 

The passage is also prophetic to the fall of Satan (this is kind of backwards prophetic in that Isaiah is speaking of something that he never witnessed, but it actually happened before any of us were around). If I may put my English teacher hat back on for a second, in literature we call this a type. A type is someone or something that stands as a symbol for something else. We see this quite frequently in Biblical prophecy, and here, Babylon stands as a symbol or type of Satan.

 

That took a little bit to get into, but it’s so worth it when we get to verses 16-17. This is our assurance. You want to talk about spiritual warfare – here it is. When we see Satan for who he really is, when Jesus returns and we watch him cower in fear before our Lord and Savior, we will say these exact words found in verses 16-17, “Those who see you will gaze at you, They will ponder over you, saying, ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, Who shook kingdoms, Who made the world like a wilderness And overthrew its cities, Who did not allow his prisoners to go home?”

 

We are going to stand in disbelief that we ever gave him a second thought while here on this earth. Our biggest problem in spiritual warfare is that we forget how big our God is. The Bible is super clear about this; Jesus isn’t going to have to lift a finger to destroy Satan and all of his armies in the final battle. Our God speaks and it’s all over. The same happens in all of your spiritual battles. God speaks, and it’s all over. As long as you’re listening to what the enemy is speaking or your situation, you’re defeated, but as soon as you turn your ear to hear what your Savior is speaking – as soon as your hear Jesus Christ say, “It is finished”, the battle is won.

 

So take a look at your accuser in this light today. Look at the enemy through the lens of your great God and say, “Is this who made me tremble?” He’s got nothing on your God!

July 30, 2017

July 30, 2017

ISAIAH 9-12

Focus Verse: Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse,
And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him,
The spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The spirit of counsel and strength,
The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
Isaiah 11:1-2

 

Jesus Christ was our perfect example to follow. He showed us how to perfectly walk in the Spirit. He showed us how to obey His Father perfectly. He showed us what a true fear of the Lord looks like. He set an example for us to walk in. So what are you waiting for? Go do it!

 

Just kidding! Because, once again, we get back to that old crux. You might be able to do it for a day (for me that day would require living in isolation from society and doing nothing but read my Bible all day), but eventually you will fail at living up to His example. Because OF YOUR OWN POWER you can’t do it. Is this sounding familiar yet?

 

You can’t.

But He did.

And now, through the Holy Spirit, He will do it through you.

 

If Jesus were just a good, moral example for us to follow, He would be no different than any other founder of the major world religions. But Jesus goes so much further than that. He shows us what to do and then, through His resurrection and ascension, gives us the POWER to do it.

 

What an amazing plan by our Father! What an incredible promise of freedom! What an amazing love the Father has lavished on us!

 

Go live in the power of the Holy Spirit today and everyday! Surrender yourself completely to Him and see the places He will take you and the mountains He will move.