Monthly Archives: May 2018

Isaiah 44-49; A Matter of Life and Death

I don’t know what you think about God, or religion. I don’t know your world view, or your level of spirituality. But I challenge you to read these chapters with an open mind. Hear what God says about Himself. Pay attention to the proof He gives that what He says is true. It is a matter of life and death.

You’ll hear God repeat the statement that “I am God. There is no one like me.” You’ll hear Him point to evidence of His reality in creation, the proof in nature. He’ll ask you to use common sense. And He will tell the future of the Israelites in such detail that, if you study their history, you’ll find it will happen just like God said it did, down to the pagan king named Cyrus who is said to have a nose like an eagle’s beak.

But I don’t want you to stop there. Once you realize God is exactly who He says He is, I want you to go to the New Testament and hear what the One and Only God says about Jesus. Read the Gospels and hear what the angel said to Mary about the birth of her Son, to Joseph about his future step son.

Hear what the One and Only God said to anyone within earshot when Jesus was baptized. “This is my Son…” He’ll say it again in Matthew 17. Then hear God’s Son Jesus say in no uncertain terms that He is the Messiah. (John 4:25-26)

Then I challenge you to turn to John 14:6, and understand it means exactly what it says.

I don’t know what you think about God, or religion. But I know that unless you believe God is who He says He is, and that His Son Jesus in the only way to know Him, you are wrong.

Do you know Him? Have you received what Jesus died to give you, the forgiveness of sins, and eternal life? Like I said, it’s a matter of life and death.

I’m praying for you.

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Isaiah 40-43; Hold On To Your Hats

Do you not know? Have you not heard?

Reading these chapters today has me praising God, not only for what He does for His children (which is nothing short of amazing), but in the reality of who He is. I hope you’ll read these chapters today for yourself. Be ready to have your socks knocked off!

It starts off with God wanting to comfort us, to assure us His Word will stand forever. It was true back then, it’s true today, and it will be true a thousand years from now. There is something very reassuring about that fact. I don’t have to wonder, or stress, or hope what I believe is right. If it’s in there… it’s true!

Isaiah tells us God is exactly who He says He is. He’s the God above all gods, the Creator, and the Savior. There is no one like Him. Lift up your eyes and look to the Creator who gives strength to us who hope in the Lord. He gives us everything we need to face our day, and in every situation. He upholds his children (me and you) in His right hand. Doesn’t that give you confidence and peace?

I love 41:17-20. We are thirsty, but God doesn’t just give us a drink. He turns our desert into pools of water, flowing rivers, and bubbling springs. And He doesn’t even stop there. He grows shade trees, fragrant trees, and food-producing trees to sustain us.

I think that’s what Paul meant when he honored God as the one “who is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:20) We ask for a sip of water, God opens the flood gates!

Isaiah points us to Jesus who opens blind eyes, and sets captives free. He is God! He loves us, redeems us, forgives our sins and promises to never remember them ever again, and He takes us by the hand to guide us.

Isaiah 43:2 is a treasure you can take to the bank.

Oh dear one, take time to read these words God inspired Isaiah to write. But hold on to your hat. You’re going to be blown away. Then join me in praising God, the One who deserves our praise.

Isaiah 36-39; Counting The Days, or Days That Count?

Maybe it’s my age, but there are three people close to me who are battling cancer right now. One dear lady, after months of body-ravaging chemo, has decided to stop the treatment because it isn’t working. The doctors tell her there’s nothing more they can do, so she has gone into hospice care. Unless God intervenes (and that’s what I’m praying) she is at the end of her young life.

Another friend, who lost her mother to breast cancer just one year ago, has begun radiation therapy after surgery to remove a cancerous tumor on her own breast.

The other friend, is a man who beat cancer four years ago, but after a routine checkup was told cancer has attacked his other lung. He wonders if he has it in him to fight that battle yet again.

Hezekiah was facing death. He was sick, and it seemed nothing more could be done for him. But he prayed, and God spared his life, promising him fifteen more years on this earth. There are a lot of important lessons here, and I hope you’ll read these chapters and let God teach you what He wants you to know. Here’s what spoke to me:

God answers prayer.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Not all prayers are answered the way Hezekiah’s was. My friend, the mother of two teenagers, the wife of a man who loves her, a church secretary whose ministry touched so many lives, finds herself where Hezekiah was, “there’s nothing more we can do.”

But because God has not given her the same outcome as He gave Hezekiah, do we think her prayers are going unanswered? I love what Matthew Henry  says on page 880 of his Commentary in One Volume (Zondervan 1961):

“When we pray in our sickness, though God send not to us such an answer, as he here sent to Hezekiah, yet if by his Spirit he bids us be of good cheer, assures us that our sins are forgiven us, that his grace shall be sufficient for us, and that, whether we live or die, we shall be hiswe have no reason to say that we pray in vain. (emphasis mine)

My friend has something so much more important than physical health. If you knew her, you’d know that is true.

Interestingly enough, I was talking to my sister about this topic this morning even before I started studying these chapters in Isaiah. She said we (people) cling so hard to this life, when what’s ahead for believers is so much better than we can even imagine. We’ll get to heaven and say, “What was I thinking?”

Hezekiah did live fifteen more years, but the choices he made during those additional years had devastating consequences for the entire nation. He lived those additional years, but then he died anyway.

Now I’m not advocating we boycott physicians, nurses, hospitals, and medications. I do not believe we should adopt the mistaken philosophy that “God’s will be done” means I do nothing. God told those ministering to Hezekiah’s physical needs to put a poultice of figs over the boil and he’d recover. They did. And he did.

Oh, by the way. I think I know where the whole “God helps those who help themselves” thing started. Matthew Henry, whose insight into God’s Word I usually appreciate, said this about Hezekiah’s recovery: “help thyself and God will help thee.” (page 882 of Commentary in One Volume.)

Busted.

Seriously, Matt, do you have any idea the can of worms you opened up here? Some people actually believe those words are in the Bible. When the truth of the matter is, the Bible never says God helps those who help themselves. It clearly, repeatedly says God helps those who obey Him.

Read that part of chapter 38 again. God told them what to do, and they obeyed, THEN Hezekiah recovered.

So here’s what I get out of this today: my life is in God’s hands, and I’m ok with that. I want my days to be bathed in prayer, I want my mind steadfastly focused on God, I want to be sensitive to His leading, and I want to obey.

I’ll let Him count the days. I just want the days to count for eternity, for Jesus’ sake.

Isaiah 31-35; Isaiah and Jesus

Jesus is everywhere in these chapters. The Gospel, the Church are depicted in glorious reality. I am reminded that the people to whom these words were initially written were looking forward to the Messiah. And God, through Isaiah, draws a parallel between their lives as Jews B.C. with Jesus and His Kingdom A.D. It’s so beautiful!

Matthew Henry calls the brick and mortar city of Zion, “a type and picture of God in the world.” (Commentary in One Volume; 1961; Zondervan Publishing House; page 877) Jerusalem, he says, is the tabernacle which will not be taken down. God is the protector of Himself, of His Presence in the world, and of we who are the temple of God today: “for in every age Christ will have a seed to serve Him,” from verse 33:20. (Commentary in One Volume; page 876)

Think about what we know of Jesus’ ministry on earth. Think about the amount of blood that was shed by the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament, and the fact that Jesus died once and for all. He caused blind people to see, deaf people to hear, tongues were loosed, the dead were raised. The people who were privileged to meet Jesus in the flesh, saw “the glory of the Lord.”

Then think about what we know about the beginning of the Church. People saw “the glory of the Lord” when the Holy Spirit was poured out from on high on Jews and Gentiles alike. Tongues of fire, a mighty wind, blind people saw (both physically and spiritually), deaf people heard (physically and spiritually)…

Think about what we know about the Gospel. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 4:6) Jesus also said:

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)

Isaiah spoke about the same thing in chapter 35.

I hope you’ll read these chapters and let God speak to you about Himself, about Jesus, about the Church, and the Gospel. It’s all in there. And it is amazingly accurate considering it was written hundreds of years before Jesus was born, thousands of years before we were born.

Be encouraged. We worship the same God who promised Isaiah that He would protect His children. Be strengthened in your determination to stand faithful to the Truth. The battle is the Lord’s. With Him there is no shadow of turning.

God’s Word is alive! Don’t you just love spending time in it?

 

Isaiah 28-30; Obstinate

Obstinate: Stubbornly adhering to an opinion, purpose, or course in spite of reason, argument, or persuasion. (Mirriam-Webster)

Someone close to me began accepting the so-called “progressive” view of religion. When I tried to engage in conversation about spiritual truth I was told, in effect, that they would not talk to me about that because, “You are not going to  change my mind.” (those words haunt me yet today)

God, through Isaiah, says:

Woe to the obstinate children… to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin. (30:1)

As I read Isaiah I pray that God will speak to me about my own walk with him here in 2018. When Isaiah speaks about enemies, I am reminded Satan is mine. When Isaiah says, “Woe to…” I want to be sure that if he’s putting a finger on sin in my life, I’m quick to repent.

Today I’m asking myself if there are things I’m stubbornly holding on to that God is asking me to change. Are there things He wants to teach me, ways in which He wants to grow me, but I’m being obstinate while holding on to what I’ve always done or thought?

In verse 10, when talking about children unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction, Isaiah says:

They say to seers, “See no more visions!” and to the prophets, “Give us no more visions of what is right!” Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions.”

Now I know this is a problem in our society, rampant in many churches, and it would be easy to shake my head and lament over the state of things in our world. But God isn’t interested in talking to me about the world. God’s not asking me to change the world. He’s demanding to change me.

So I ask myself, when I open His Word, am I sincere about being taught? When I go to church do I want to be uplifted or broken? Do I want to hear the truth, or am I looking to hear only pleasant things? Because often the truth hurts. Growth hurts. Conviction is never pleasant.

Now there is one thing I will adamantly adhere to: that is the Truth of Scripture. The Bible is like no other book. It is God breathed, and therefore 100% trustworthy. It’s not my opinion. The Bible proves itself over and over.

Last night in Prayer Meeting, the pastor shared that recently he was sharing the Gospel with someone who wanted to know what the pastor thought about abortion and homosexuality. The pastor was quick to tell this person, “My opinions are only opinions. Let’s look at what the Bible says.”

Can you say the same? Or are you obstinately holding on to your opinions as some kind of truth, with the attitude, “You’re not going to change my mind.”

I’m not just talking about conversations with loved ones. I’m talking about your quiet time, every time you open the precious pages of God’s Word. Are you teachable? Are you pliable? Moldable?

Or obstinate?

Isaiah 24-27; Perfect Peace

On a scale of 1-10, where would you put the level of your peace of mind? How would you rate the peace you have deep in your soul, even if life is challenging right now? Listen to what Isaiah tells us in 26:3:

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. (emphasis mine)

Do you wonder what perfect peace really is? Oh, you might have peace about your eternity as a born-again child of God. You might even have a general sense of peace knowing God is in control, and that He does all things well.

But what about that broken relationship? Or the sin you know you should repent of? Or that heavy decision you have looming over your head? Do you have compartmentalized peace, or perfect peace?

Isaiah says perfect peace comes from a steadfast mind. To me that means focus, intentionality, not getting side-tracked by people, or doubts, or fear. I think a steadfast mind is a choice involving Bible study and prayer, resisting temptation, seeking first the kingdom of God.

If I lose my focus on God, and begin to look at circumstances, or people, or sin I’m like Peter who walked on the water until he took his eyes off Jesus, and noticed the water. (Matthew 14)

Isaiah doesn’t just tell us where perfect peace comes from, he tells us how it can be ours. “…because he trusts in you.” Do you trust God? Really?

Peter didn’t just trust God from the boat. He got out of the boat, walked toward Jesus, with his focus on Jesus. That’s the picture I get from this verse in Isaiah.

Perfect peace comes from the Prince of Peace. It’s a gift for those who trust God, and whose minds are steadfastly focused on the Savior. Perfect peace is supernatural, not attached to circumstances, health, wealth, lack of war. Perfect peace is God Himself.

And it’s perfect!

Isaiah 20-23; Polar Opposites

Scripture constantly reminds us that God’s ways are polar opposite of what the world thinks and does. There are so many examples in these chapters in Isaiah of this truth.

It seemed logical to the king to join forces with his neighbors against their mutual enemy. But those neighbors were idolators, unbelievers. The unequal yoking between God’s people and the ungodly neighbors resulted in more problems for Israel than just an invading army.

Shebna is an example of material wealth, political power, and pride that was lauded by the world. He had everything… except God. And his life of “self” ended badly for him. His riches and power, even those people who idolized him, could not stop God’s judgment on him.

Look at what Isaiah had to say about Tyre’s wealth, the intellect of its people, the glory of that city among nations. The city here is reduced to rubble because of their sin.

But Tyre gets a second chance. And so do we.

We’ve all sinned. None of us measure up to God’s standard. I love what Matthew Henry says:

“We must first give up ourselves to be the holiness to the Lord before what we do, or have, or get, can be so.” (p 859; Commentary in One Volume; Zondervan; 1961) (emphasis mine)

In other words, who we are before our Holy God is the catalyst for what we do, not the other way around. We must first give up our “selves,” recognize sin and accept the Savior Jesus as our own. Not a popular concept according to the world.

We can only become the holiness of God if we are wearing Jesus’ holiness, through the blood He shed on the cross. No amount of good works, sacrificial giving, compassion for the poor, even church-going can render us holy.

That’s not how the world looks at it. We hear them say (even from the pulpit of a royal wedding) that all we need is love. All we need is activism on behalf of the needy. All we need is ourselves, our determination to love one another. But is that God’s way?

Please don’t forget that Jesus went to the cross because of love. Jesus’ love dealt with your sin, not your love. The world would have us concentrate on love, and ignore sin because, of course we shouldn’t judge, right?

Dear one, your love is meaningless without the cross. Your love is a filthy rag in God’s sight unless you have first confessed your sin and accepted God’s grace.

Like I said, God’s ways are polar opposite of the ways of the world.