Monday, August 29, 2011

Do no wrong.....Jeremiah 22

I would not have wanted God to call me to do the work that he called Jeremiah to do.  It must have been an extraordinarily difficult life.  God gave Jeremiah a word to say to the rulers of his nation in his day and that word was that God was going to punish them, that their nation would be subjugated, that the people would suffer great defeat, great devastation and that many would be carried away from their homes and exiled to a foreign land.  Imagine what that would be like in America.  You start talking like that in public you are quickly known as a quack, a nutcase, someone who has gone off the deep end.  It is all right to express that you are a spiritual person, that you pray and go to church, but begin to say that God has given you a message and that message is that he is about to rain hard times on you because of your sinful ways and folks move away from you pretty quickly.

Could this happen to us today?  Could God remove his hand from us?  Do we believe God to be omnipotent?  Omnipresent?  Omniscient?  Do we believe that he is active in the affairs of man?  Do we believe that his commandments are true?  Not just on a personal level, but in national affairs as well?  If your answer is yes and it surely is if you consider yourself to be Christian then what are we to make of the current state of the world?  Is God pleased with what we have done?  With how we have responded to the poor and the powerless?  Who will he hold responsible for the genocides that have occurred in our lifetime?  Who will answer for Darfur?

Are the words of Jeremiah true for us in 2011 as they were for the Kings of Judah in his day?  "This is what the Lord says:  Do what is just and right.  Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed.  Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place."  I suspect that God is still watching.  I suspect that those things that God condemned in that day are true as well for us.

How can we, as the Body of Christ, make our place of birth a place that cares for the least and the lost?  Or do we wait to see what God thinks about it on the day when we stand assembled with the sheep and the goats to see which way we counts us? 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Why me Lord?....Jeremiah 16

Jeremiah continues to rail against Judah and its leadership.  He tells them of unspeakable horror that will be theirs.  Babylonia will descend upon them out of the north and devastate their land.  There will be famine and pestilence such that even those who are living will wish to die.  It is a scenario that sounds like a Stephen King horror novel and this one will come true.  Jeremiah's prophesies come true within just a few years. 

God tells Jeremiah that as these things begin to happen the people will ask, "why has the Lord decreed such a great disaster against us?"  Have you ever heard someone say something similar?  How could a good God allow such evil to happen?  Sometimes evil sweeps up the good and the bad, but remember that our good is only relative to the good of some other mortal.  When our good is compared to the standard of God's good it is as filthy rags.  And it is true as the Bible as state often, the sins of the father is often visited upon subsequent generations.  A corrupt leader will take a state to a place where even the inhabitants of the state will suffer for the evil of the leader.  Legalizing gambling, juice bars, nude dancing, legalizing the use of drugs may decriminalize, but God will still call sin a sin and the wages of sin, no matter what human society calls it, is still death.

Judah has been on a slippery slope for generations.  the people have allowed corrupt leaders to lead them in false directions.  The church is prophesying falsely and failing to speak against injustice and violence.  The failure of these systems desensitize the populace to to God's calling for righteousness.  The end comes and the cry goes up, "why me?"  The why is found in the corruption of the nation and we suffer societally for the failure.

But even in pronouncing the sentence, God offers grace.  (16:14-15) "However, the days are coming declares the Lord, when men will not longer say, As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt, but they will say, As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.  For I will restore them to the land I gave their forefathers."

As vile as Judah has become, God will not withhold his grace forever.  He tells Jeremiah that the exile will not be forever and in fact in 60 or so years Judah will return from exile and be lead by Ezra in the restoration of the temple. 

We must be the yeast of righteousness in our culture.  We must overcome evil with our love.  We must be the light that pushes the darkness away.  We must be the church that holds the gates of hell at bay.  We can, with the grace of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit.  But we cannot know the way without consulting with the one who is the way, the truth and the life.  We must acknowledge our sin, accept God's ways as our ways and work unceasingly to encourage our families, communities and nations to do the right, work against injustice, tear down the idols that keep us from worshipping in Spirit and in Truth.

Have a great Sabbath!!

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Lord is the true God....Jeremiah 10

There is war and rumor of war.  An earthquake in Colorado, another on the east coast cracking the Washington Monument.  Today another in the middle east.  Hurricane Irene heads toward the Carolinas and points north.  None can stop the destruction that nature can cause. 

We build giant skyscrapers.  We fell the ancient forests.  We mine the oceans floor and remove the minerals from the earth.  We think we are conquerors and perhaps the might of men may inflict damage upon the flora and fauna.  weaker nations may cower before stronger ones.  But history tells us that nations rise and fall and given enough time, nature will heal herself (unless we discover some way to destroy all of humanity).  Only God is eternal.  Only God exists beyond the limits of time.

Jeremiah 10:10-13, "But the Lord is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King.  When he is angry, the earth trembles; the nations cannot endure his wrath.  Tell them this:  These gods, who did not make the heavens and the earth, will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.  But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.  When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar; he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth.  He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses.

Men may conquer for the moment, but God reigns forever.  Jeremiah warns the rulers of his time of the coming judgment that God is bringing to bear on Judah.  He warns us as well that we should not but our trust in the things that mortals make, but lean on the strong arm of God; trust in his mercy and seek his favor.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

as it was so it is....Jeremiah 8

If you don't learn from history, you are likely to repeat it.  So said some of my early instructors in history as they implored their students to learn their lessons well.  Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, speaks to the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem and reminds them that what has befallen there brothers and sisters in the Northern Kingdom of Israel will soon be their fate as well as well.  Death, destruction, exile, humiliation and loss of sovereignty are just around the corner.  God will not allow sin to go unpunished forever.  Though his nature is mercy and love, still justice will be done.  We ignore the lessons of Jeremiah at our own risk and peril.  What are the lessons?

"From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain." (8:15b)  Doesn't that remind you of the world around us?  We worry about the stock market, the Dow Jones averages, what is happening to our 401k.  Have we amassed enough, wouldn't a little more be better?  One multi-millionare was asked by another, "how much is enough?" and the response was "always one dollar more."  there is no satisfying the lust for wealth when we measure our status by wealth.  Greed and avarice are fueled by covetousness and that my friend is sin.  How can we repent of such a sin when we refuse to acknowledge it as sin.  When is enough enough?  If we cannot find the answer, God will.

8:12 "Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct?  No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush."  Don't you see that in our own society as we continue to push the boundaries of decency?  Our language grows more coarse, our dress becomes more transparent, our music, movies and other publications grows more adult (?) in its content.  Last night I watched on the 10 o'clock news a story about a group of psychologists who were calling for the destigmatization of sexual relations between adults and children.  Will there be no end to the perversion of humanity???  Jeremiah says to Judah and to us in 2011, there will be an end to perversion.  God will not avert his face forever.  One day judgment will come.  Who will we save from that judgment?  How will you love the fallen back from the precipice that awaits those who cannot or will not acknowledge God as God?

Those who do not learn the lessons of history are destined to repeat them.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Jeremiah, the weeping prophet

How do we measure success?  Is it measured by personal wealth, the size of your house, the number of automobiles?  Perhaps early retirement or a fat bank account or a big pleasure boat are measures of success.  success might be measured by the accomplishment of life goals or by achieving some measure of fame or fortune.  None of these measure the success of Jeremiah.  He spent 40 years trying to convince the kings of Judah to be obedient to God, but none of them were.  He told them that death, destruction, exile and hardship would come if they failed to hear and obey; but they didn't.  It seemed that no one listened to him and certainly, it seemed that no one changed their behaviors because of his preaching; but he preached on anyway.  He was threatened, bullied, imprisoned, cursed and criticized; but he preached on. 

Jeremiah was successful as a faithful follower of God and is often spoken of by those who understand that faith has rewards that may not be easily recognized by human eyes and ears.  Jeremiah was faithful and courageous in proclaiming God's word.  He was faithful to the call that God had put on his be a prophet.  Jeremiah calls a sinful people to repentance.  When they refuse to hear and obey he tells them that the wages of sin will be high.  He predicts the destruction of Jerusalem.  How do we know if a prophet speaks the truth?  If that which he prophesies comes true.  And Jerusalem falls.

Jeremiah weeps over the coming judgement and so should we.  The knowledge that we have that one day God will separate the sheep from the goats should drive us relentlessly to the same kind of faithful action.  We should speak the truth in love.  Shape in ways that will be an encouragement, but speak it.  Jesus is coming again and our time is limited.  Will you hear?  Will you obey?  Will some be saved because of your faithfulness?

Jeremiah served faithfully when it seemed that all the world was in decay.  Does that remind you a little of the world that we are in today?  I do not pretend to be a prophet.  I do not know the day or hour in which Jesus will return to claim his bride, but I know that he is coming and for some it could be this very hour.  Will we be found speaking the good news when he comes for us?

Jeremiah is a great story of faithfulness in the midst of difficulty.  I hope that you find it to be an encouragement to you to live faithfully.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A new heaven.....Isaiah 65

I know that you are half way through Jeremiah, but I can't leave Isaiah without speaking to one of my very favorite passages ( I know I have said this dozens of times before and will undoubtedly say it dozens more times as we read on).

Our time away was filled with blessing.  The wedding that we were a part of was delightful and filled with the joy that should accompany such an occasion.  It was good to see our old friends Sam and Barb Packham and to share in their joy. 

As you know on our out to Billings Montana, we spent a couple of days in Yellowstone National Park and on our way home we spent a little time in the Badlands of South Dakota.  Both experiences revealed pieces of this great land that were almost other worldly to us.  The geography, topography, geology was so unique and nothing like we had ever seen before.  We read of volcanic eruptions, geothermal plates, ancient oceans and all of the forces that had a hand in creating this unique places.  Patty and I thought how wonderfully marvelous that God had revealed himself in this mysterious places in such a plethora of fantastic views and geologically fascinating ways.

Neither Patty or I could be described as "well-traveled" folks.  We are simple country kids who have been blessed in recent years to have opportunities to see things that we had only dreamed of.  God has been good to us and he has been revealed to us in many wonderful ways.  this trip has revealed new facets of God to us, but they have also reminded us of the wonderful promises that he made to us in Isaiah 65, "behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth.  the former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.  But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create." 

Is that a wonderful promise or what!!!  I have only seen a little of the marvel of God's creation, but it has been enough for me to be convinced of God's great love for us.  I have seen enough to know that we are less than a gnat in the great ecological expanse of the creation, a milli-second in the great expanse of time and yet God felt we were so important that he came to earth in the form of a person to give us an example of righteousness and to make a way for us to experience much, much more than this world can reveal to us or provide to us.

As wonderful as Yellowstone is, as beautiful as the Black Hills, as awesome as the Tetons appear; greater is he who created, who spoke this great earth into being.  Not only that, this earth will pale in comparison with the new creation that he has in store for us when he comes again. 

Isaiah is about reminding us of our failings.  But it is even more about reminding us that God will not leave us to our own evil ways.  There will be a time when we are reclaimed to the image of our creator, a time when we will be restored to that which he intended us to be, a time when we will be more than conquerors.  Keep the faith, walk in confidence.  Our God reigns eternally and he cares for you.  Be renewed in his promises.  Love wins!  Give yourself over to the gentle power of the one who will spare not even his own Son to claim you for himself!

"I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weepng and of crying will be heard in it no more."

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Beauty for Ashes...Isaiah 61

Doing a wedding in Billings Montana today.  Ashley Packham, daughter of good friends Sam and Barbara Packham.  This sacred occasion has given Patty and I a great opportunity to see some of this great land that God has blessed and called us to practice Christian dominion in.  Part of our trip has allowed us to learn more about the Native American Indian and the American West.  Some parts of that story has not been pretty.  That is the story of humanity as well.  We have sinned and fallen short of the Glory that God has intended.  Even when we set out to do and be good our sin nature gets in the way.  We take great blessing and selfishly defile the beauty, the innocence, the gift that God has offered.  As the Apostle Paul said, "the good that I would do, I do not.  The evil that I would not, I do.  Who can save me from myself?"  The answer, of course, is that God has provided a Savior!

I love the book of Isaiah because God reveals that Savior to us in such marvelous and poetic ways.  Part of that revelation is found in the 61st chapter as God reveals what a portion of that blessing of Jesus will be.  He will, "bestow a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair."  How cool is that!  Haven't you felt pretty ugly before, pretty unworthy, pretty defiled?  God says that those who are found in Christ will be beautiful!!!  There will be no sadness, no sorrow, no spirit of defeat.  We will be clothed in a spirit of praise and that praise will be aimed at the source of our joy, Jehovah Jireh and Jesus who is the Christ!

Isaiah prophesies that we (God's people) will "recieve a double portion."  How sweet is that!  We will be treated like the first born of God.  We will recieve a double share of the inheritance.  and what is the inheritance?  It is life eternal.  Blessing and goodness, joy and good health, peace and happiness, purposefulness and contentment and much, much more.  All of God's goodness will rain eternally on us, the children of God.  How good is that?  It is very, very good.  Thank you Jesus!

Have a great Sabbath.  See you soon.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Darkness will come. Are your ready? Isaiah 59

We left Yellowstone and drove over the most beautiful mountains on our way to Billings Montana.   It was a beautiful drive.  We saw several herds of bison probably numbering more than 1,000 in total number.  The mountain scenery was awesome.  We believed that we would arrive in Billings and make an early evening of it.  What a surprise when we stopped at a Hampton Inn and heard that there wouldn't be a room to be found within 50 miles of Billings!  Seems the Montana State Fair and the clean up of an oil spill on the Yellowstone River had every room filled, perhaps for weeks to come.  Good for innkeepers but bad for us.  We went back up the road about 15 miles and stopped at a Best Western to  check on the veracity of the first message.  We were again greeted with the bad news, but this time we spoke to a "can do" clerk who was determined to find us a "room for the night".  She did, 60 miles down the road, but we were grateful for her very generous help.  Today we discovered that we were within 15 minutes of the Little Big Horn National Park and spent a great morning learning more about the Battle of the Little Big Horn.  Wasn't that clever how God used our inconvenience to land us another blessing?  And what a lovely person we meet who went out of her way to help us when we were far from home.  there is a sermon there about caring for the alien, the stranger in a foreign land, but that will  be for another day.

We could have avoided our difficulty if we had spent a little more time planning where we would be on that evening, but we trusted in blind luck.....big mistake.  We were like the sinner that Isaiah speaks of in Chapter 59: "we look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows.  Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes.  At midday we stumble as if it were twilight."  Many folks are going through life without thinking about where they are going to be at the end of the day and we all should know that the end of the day is coming.  We may not know how many hours, days and years we have before night comes, but night is coming.  Choosing to ignore the reality of the coming night will not save us from the darkness that is on the way.  Where will we lay our heads at that moment?  God says that he has a wonderful place prepared for us.  A place that knows no darkness.  A place where joy is boundless.  All that it takes to enjoy that place is a little pre-planning, a little preparation; all the worry is gone replaced by the knowledge that the great innkeeper has reserved a spectacular 5 star place for us when the time to rest has come.

Hope you have made your reservation.  If not, I'd be glad to help you with the toll free number that will give you a direct connection to the Master scheduler.

We will be away for a few more days.  Hope to see the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse and maybe a little more of God's wonderful creation.  We will be in church Sunday morning enjoying worship and a word from the Lord, hope you will be too.  See you soon!  God bless you!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Go Out in Joy.....Isaiah 55

We have had a couple of very great days in Yellowstone.  It is utterly amazing what God did with this part of his creation.  In many ways, it is unlike anything that we have ever seen.  Some parts of it are even other worldly.  And the animals.....elk, moose, deer and buffalo.....100's and 100's of buffalo (maybe they are bison to the purist).  In fact, we were awakened this morning by 6-8 Bison wandering by the window of our cabin....where else could that happen?  God is awesome in power and his creative talents are without equal.

When you stop and consider all that surrounds us, his creation is utterly amazing in all part of the earth and each piece and parcel is unique and without equal and nothing is as other worldly as that which we await when Jesus comes to usher in a new time and a new place and there is a new heaven and a new Jerusalem and time will have no meaning.  Thinking about it reminds me of one of my favorite Isaiah verses (55:12) "You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands."

I have enjoyed everyplace that I have been fortunate to live and to visit.  Yellowstone was fantastic, but I am looking forward to being home and enjoying the work that God has called me to.  It is a one of a kind place filled with God's good people.  Just thinking about the goodness that I have enjoyed in the company of the people of Faith makes my heart sing.  See you soon.  I know that you will enjoy the word that Ken Howard has for you in my absence.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Isaiah 41-43.....a new thing!

I know that reading the prophets can get weary with all of the doom and gloom, but Isaiah is filled also with such joy, such hope, such remarkable promises for Israel and for us.

Chapter 41 speaks again of impending doom with the forces from the north (Assyria) coming to do the work of God as he punishes and corrects his children (Israel) who have refused his love, his mercy and his grace.  The illustrations reveal great pain and anguish that will fill the land until God returns them from their self-chosen exile.  And then comes the wonder, the marvel, the exhilaration of Chapter 42.

"Here is my servant" declares the Lord.  "My spirit is within him."  he is wise and tender-hearted, so tender that he would not break a "bruised reed".  This is the promised one....this is the Savior.....this is Jesus that Isaiah speaks of.  Look at the world around us and how discouraged we can sometimes become because it seems that right is losing and wrong has the upper hand, but look at the promise: "he will not be discouraged, he will not falter."  That is the kind of Savior we need, one who will not hear our discouragement but who will continue the good work that God has begun in us.  He will not falter until Justice is established.   My Lord, come quickly.  If ever we needed to cry out for justice for the poor, the oppressed, the widow, the orphan, the starving is that day.

Need encouragement?  Got hard times?  Finances a problem?  Familial difficulties?  Hear the promise of God in Isaiah 32:  "the Lord will take your hand!"  I always felt safer when my little hand was in the big strong hand of my Daddy and here is God promising to hold my hand....and your hand!  Don't your feel safer already?

God promises to make us a covenant people, to open the eyes of the blind and to set the captive free!  There ought to be an Alleluia welling up in your heart about now, but there is more.....Chapter 43 promises that we can walk through fire and not be burned, that we can walk through the water and not be overwhelmed.  God is our protection and there are no other Gods but God.

And then he says, "you are my witness".  Shades of New Testament and Jesus saying to the Disciples, "you are my witnesses from Jerusalem, to Judea, to the ends of the world.  Proclaim God's goodness even in this difficulty.....our Savior has been and is and will be.  We need not be afraid.  Difficulty may come, but we will overcome, by the power of the risen one.....the one that we witness to.....the one we call Jesus!!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Isaiah 33, Be Gracious unto us

It is a beautiful August 11 and Patty and I are taking our grand daughters to the zoo.  In the last several years we have celebrated the 1st day of school with the girls with some special activity, but this year we will be away in Montana attending a wedding and will not be able to continue our tradition.  The zoo will have to do.  It is a beautiful day for the zoo.

The world is a crazy, mixed up, broken place.  There are so many things wrong that it would drive you nuts to think about them.  The words of Isaiah 33 are helpful, even encouraging. "O Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you.  Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress."

When things go wrong as they often do, isn't it a wonderful thing to ponder the graciousness, the grace of God?  He is our strength in times of our own personal weakness.  I am so grateful that I do not have to be responsible for fixing all that is wrong around me; I only need to follow God's leading and be available for the little bit that he calls me to.  Even in that, I do not necessarily be smart or strong or super spiritual; God will supply all of that, all I need do is be available.

I don't know what today will bring; stock market crash, spiraling oil prices, unnecessary deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq, children starving, weather disruption....O Lord, be gracious unto us.  God is good, he has a plan......can we be obedient to him today and allow his strength to minister to our weakness?  It can make all the difference.

Praying that your day is filled with blessing, so much that it spills into the lives of others.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

blinded eyes, Isaiah 29

I know that I can't catch up on my reading by going a chapter at a time, but there was something in Isaiah 29 that I thought I should point out to you.  Isaiah is warning Israel of impending doom, but at the same time he is saying that the eyes of those who could make a difference have been blinded to the truth.  I thought that might also be said of our modern day society.  In the name of political correctness and pluralism we are choosing to allow many of the same elements in our society that brought the end to Israel and Judah.  Worship at false altars, accepting sin as normal, debating issues with incredible spiritual implications as though there wasn't a right and a wrong.  Do we not suffer a numbing effect when we allow pornography, sexualization, graft, greed, avarice, love of material things to occupy our airwaves and media?  Do our children see these things as natural and normal?  Do we lower the standard for morality and create a mindset where most anything goes?

Isaiah speaks of a people who worship but whose worship is unacceptable.  They go through the motions of religion.  John Wesley worried about a time when this thing that we call Methodism would be all form and no fire.  That was part of the fall of Jerusalem.  Will that be part of the fall of our nation as well?  Eyes to see, but we do not see.  Ears to hear, but we are deaf to the voice of God.

On day, all that is unrepentant will be swept away.  One day only that which has been dedicated to God in Christ will remain.  The sheep and the goats will be separated.  Some will cry out, "when did we see you hungry or thirsty or naked?"  "The ruthless will vanish, the mockers will disappear, and all who have an eye for evil will be cut down." 

Isaiah calls us to return to the temple.  Examine ourselves in the light of God's instruction.  Repent of our sinful ways and be restored through Christ Jesus to the Father.  Rise in the power of God's spirit and begin to reclaim Israel, Grain Valley, Oak Grove and Blue Springs.  Isaiah's words were true in the days in which he spoke and they are true as well today.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Isaiah 28, the cornerstone

I know that I have fallen behind in my reading and my posting again and must confess that I am unlikely to catch up until sometime after our trip to Montana to be a part of the Packham wedding.  In the meantime, thank you to all of you who are continuing in this faithful journey through the scriptures in 2011.  We will spend a couple of month in the prophets, both major and minor.  The serious student needs to be able to overlay the prophets with their historical context linking them to the period of time that the served in the history of Israel and Judah.  We read of each of them momentarily in the reading from the Kings and Chronicles.  They are God's instrument as he tries to keep Israel from splintering into the North and South kingdoms and as they begin a slippery slide into idol worship and walking in ways that will lead to their eventual destruction.  Watch in the reading of the prophets for those rays of hope that they offer for the redemption of Israel and for the coming of the one who will offer salvation to all the world.  Their messages are sometimes cryptic and hard to understand.  There is much symbolic language.  Be patient as you read.  Try to find something each day that adds to your knowledge of God's purpose in the scriptures.  I know that God is blessing your faithfulness.

There are a couple of really interesting points in Chapter 18.  Ephraim represents the northern kingdom that split after the death of Solomon.  They established a new capital city and a new temple at Shechem.  They also set up idols for the people to worship rather than go to Jerusalem.  Isaiah has fortold the fall of Ephraim and is also trying to encourage Judah not to follow in Ephraim's ways and to one day endure the same fate.  The people of Israel (verse 9-14) speak derisively of Isaiah's instruction saying, "who does he think he is?  Who does he think he is talking to?  Aren't we adults capable of making up our own minds?"  Isn't this much like modern day America?  Of course we are capable of choosing our own way, but anyway that does not lead you to God Almighty is still the wrong way.  We are a nation of free thinkers and some of those thoughts will lead to judgment just as it did for Ephraim and later for Judah.  Guard your hearts, dwell upon God's word, plant it deeply in your own heart and teach it diligently to your children and your children's children.  There are many ways in the world, but there is only one way that leads to eternal life and that is in the one who came to save us....Christ Jesus is his name.

Verse 16 tells us that God is going to lay a cornerstone in Judah.  A cornerstone is true, it is stable, it is trustworthy.  You can build your home based upon the cornerstone.  Your can build a family, make a life, base your career on a cornerstone that is true.  Isaiah is speaking of the one who is yet to come, but for us as we look back, we know that the cornerstone has come.  He was born in Bethlehem of Judea, grew to be a man, performed miracles and died to save us from our sin.  He is truth and light and life and we can trust that he is the way, the truth and the life eternal.  He is the way and should be our basis for all decision making.  Any other way can only lead us to untruths, falsehoods and heartache. 

Thanks be to God for the good news of Jesus and for all those who have spoke his good words to us.
Praying that your week is a most blessed time.  Find a way to praise God in your work and your play this week.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Isaiah 24-27....the coming apocalypse

These chapters are sometimes called Isaiah's apocalypse.  Isaiah has railed against Israel and Judah and their leaders for failing to be obedient to God and for failing to trust him in times of difficulty.  Instead these nations established by God have resorted to entangling alliances with pagan kings and pagan countries.  God is growing weary of their two faced allegiance.  Isaiah speaks of a day of destruction.

Certainly destruction and devastation came to these countries as God used Assyria and Babylonia to destroy Israel and to carry them off into exile, but these passages also serve as a warning to 21st century Christians and to countries who consider themselves to be Christian.  In an age of pluralism and multi-culturalism and political correctness we run the risk of failing to acknowledge God, his edicts and his commands and in so doing accepting sin as normal in and around us.  God speaks emphatically about caring for the widows, the children, the poor and the sick.  How are we doing with that as millions across the globe are dying in refugee camps.  How are we doing in caring for the weak and disenfranchised when women and children are being sold into slavery in nearly every country in the world including America?  How are we doing in protecting those without voice when multinational companies become wealthier and more powerful while unemployment and the related socio-economic ills grow in epidemic proportions?

Isaiah speaks of a coming day of judgement when not just the sinner will know the power of God and his desire for righteousness, but even the earth will waste because of humanity's sinful nature.  Perhaps some of that wasting is already apparent as we have days when our air is unhealthy to breath, when we pollute our oceans and streams and the earth suffers from erosion as we clear cut our forests.  Where are those great forests of Lebanon that the Bible speaks of? 

There is a price to pay when we fail to have Christian dominion over the earth that the Lord has trusted to us.  There is a price to pay when we ignore God's principles for righteous living.  Will the apocalypse be a time when all of the errors of mankind reach some sort of tipping point and the earth simple implodes because of the gravity of our abuse toward each other and toward this great gift of creation?

Isaiah calls Israel and Judah and us back to the temple.  He asks us to repent of our sin.  He tells us of God's great mercy and grace.  Will we acknowledge him?  Will we receive his gift of love?  Will we become followers of his call to righteousness?  Will we be instruments of redemption as we offer his better way to the world around us?

Today we are receiving showers of rain that are renewing the earth.  I know that the earth and we are blessed by the rainfall.  So, too, would God bless us if we would turn our faces to him, invest ourselves in his plan of redemption and walk in his will and his way.  Come Lord Jesus and show us your better way.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Isaiah 13-23, An Oracle Concerning:

These chapters reveal God's warnings against most of the Middle Eastern Countries that surround Israel including Babylon, Assyria, the Philistines, Moab, Damascus, Cush, Egypt and Tyre.  Other warnings are pronounced to Israel, Judah and Jerusalem.  God speaks against the alliances that Israel and Judah are entering into.  God's complaint: these are his people and their covenant since the days of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are that he shall be their God and they shall be his people.  He has delivered them time and time again and to trust in foreign alliances now is to walk away from their eternal protector.  Of course they have been walking away for generations as they have married foreign women who have introduced foreign gods.  Israel has forsaken the ways of the patriarchs and allowed the pagan ways of those who surround them to have greater and greater influence among God's people.  God has sent prophet after prophet to warn his people; to call them back to the shelter and protections that are afforded to a covenant people, but the leaders of Israel and Judah continue the downward spiral of morality that is always accompanied when sin is living unrestrained in the nation.

It is so interesting to look back on these stories and say in our own hearts how foolish these people were.......why can they not see the error of their ways?  How is it that they so easily forget the lessons of the past and the great displays of God's power that are part of their history?  Why is it so difficult to trust in a God who has proved himself to be omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent?  Perhaps we should as that question of ourselves as well.

Do we not do the same thing as the Israelites when we rely on our government to protect and establish a system of morality when we already have God's law to guide us?

Do we not do the same thing when we look to scientific predictions and analysis before we trust in the truth of the holy scriptures?

Do we not look to modern medicine and science as a way to insure our life and health rather than practice the mandates of scripture regarding living life victorious and abundant?

Do we not place our faith in the financial institutions, Wall Street, retirement accounts, etc. for our "security" rather than trusting God for all the days of our lives?

Do we act as though continuing education, college and university and advanced professional degrees will guarantee our future and our success without considering that God has a plan for our life, a plan to prosper and give us a hope and a future.

Are we not as guilty as the Israelites in trusting entities other than our Creator and God?  Should we not repent of our sin and turn to God for forgiveness, becoming again an obedient people who fully rely on God and his wisdom and will for our lives. 

The testimony of the scriptures seems always to say that those who fully rely on God are blessed indeed.  May we become a part of that blessing.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Stand Firm, Isaiah 7

Ahaz is the king of Judah, the southern kingdom with its capital city of Jerusalem.  Pekah is king of Israel, the northern kingdom.    Isaiah is a very famous prophet in the southern kingdom.  Pekah and Israel makes an alliance with the country of Aram to attack, destroy and divide Judah.  Remember that Judah and Israel were once the same country, they had a shared history and a shared heritage, they were of the same faith, they counted Abraham, Isaac, Jacob in their lineage.  Moses led them both from the bondage of Egypt.  To attack each other; to align themselves in an unholy alliance with a pagan country would be anathema to God.  Isaiah tells Ahaz to "stand firm in your faith".  God will intervene.  Israel will be destroyed because of their moral failure within 65 years.  Ahaz is not a good king, but God is better and he is true to his word.  Isaiah's prophecy is true and Israel will be conquered and carried into exile.  But I thought Isaiah 7: 9b was worthy of pointing our particularly to you.

"If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all."

One of the things that I like about Bible reading and study is how we find things that sound very familiar to us.  This is one of them.  If you are a country western music lover you might remember Aaron Tippin's song that was a tribute to his Daddy, "You've got to stand for something or you'll fall for anything."  It has its roots right here in the book of Isaiah.

What is it that you believe in unquestionably?  What is it that you would stake your life on?  Who is it that you ultimately trust?  Isaiah says to Ahaz, "trust in God" and so do I.  To trust anything other than God is to make an idol of something or someone that should not be idolized.  Well, I guess that I should coach my words, certainly I trust my lovely bride, my Daddy, my children, my church; but only so far as they operate in the principles and mandates of scripture.  Those biblical mandates and promises are eternal.  They are trustworthy because they are of God and God never lies.  When we trust in God, we are trusting in the real thing.....the only thing that really matters.

How is your Faith?  Is it firmly planted in the principles of God?  Do you know enough to be able to make decisions that are biblically based?  Do you know those things that are absolute?  When you are deciding the really important things of life, it is best to know that one who wrote the rule book.  It is best to play the game on the side of the one who invented the game.

"stand firm in your faith."  If you don't know what you should believe....continue to read through the scriptures with us.  Post your questions, pray for guidance and for answers, develop a discerning heart.  God is good......all the that I have faith.