No Longer Need To Wait (Isaiah 9-10)

Book of Isaiah

In today’s reading, Isaiah gives the people of Judah hope in the coming Messiah. He describes, not only the current time, but a dark time to come. “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” (9:2, NLT). He tells them that the times may get hard, and God will be angry against those that have left Him, but here is still hope in the coming Messiah. Isaiah’s message then turns towards Assyria. God announces His anger with the king. He tells them that they have become too proud because He has used them as a punishing rod. The Assyrian king now thinks that he is greater than God. God offers hope to His people, showing that He will overcome Assyria. “But look! The Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, will chop down the mighty tree of Assyria with great power! He will cut down the proud. That lofty tree will be brought down.” (10:34, NLT).

What I love about these couple chapters is that it shows us how God offers us hope, even in the darkest of times. The people of Judah had strayed so far from God. The people of Assyria were a constant threat to them. No matter how they looked at it, they lived in a dark time that did see and end. God knew their fears and offered them hope.

He still does that for us today. We live in a world where sin runs wild (not that this is any different from any other time). But God wants to help. He promised the people of Judah a Messiah, today we can receive that Messiah. God said through Isaiah in the first chapter “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be white as snow;” (1:18, NASB). He made this happen through Jesus Christ. John writes about him, “the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:8, NASB). We no longer have to wait on a Messiah, he’s already here. We simply need to trust him, and to be his followers.

Also in this series

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A Call to Be Different (Isaiah 5-8)

Book of Isaiah

As we start today’s readings, we finish the description of fallen Judah. God gives His reason for their punishment through a song about His beloved vineyard. He tells of a vineyard that only produces bitter grapes, rather than sweet ones. In order to solve this problem, He says to them, “Now let me tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will tear down its hedges and let it be destroyed. I will break down its walls and let the animals trample it. I will make it a wild place where the vines are not pruned and the ground is not hoed, a place overgrown with briers and thorns. I will command the clouds to drop no rain on it.” (5:5-6, NLT). God is telling His people that they must change and come back to Him; they are not the people He sent them out to be. These first few chapters (1-5) were set up to address Judah as it currently was.

Then Isaiah returns to the beginning of his ministry. He recounts God’s calling upon him to be a messenger to the people. We receive many accounts about the glory and majesty of God. Aside from Revelation, Isaiah 6 might just be my favorite. “He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings … Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke.” (6:1-2, 4, NLT). After having his sins forgiven, Isaiah volunteers to be a messenger for God.

The first message Isaiah is sent to give is for King Ahaz. Ahaz was facing both the armies of Israel and Syria. God told him not to fear and to trust in Him, because He would not allow the opposing armies to win. God then offered to give Ahaz a sign for the promise He made to him. Ahaz refused to “test” God, so He chose a sign for him. “Look! the virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel” (7:14, NLT). Isaiah then receives a call to act differently from other people.

This final call of Isaiah’s still rings true for us today. We are called to still live a different life from unbelievers. Let’s take a look at some of these points:

Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. (8:13, NLT)

Preserve the teaching of God; (8:16)

But shouldn’t people ask God for guidance? (8:19)

People who contradict his word are completely in the dark. (8:20)

It doesn’t sound completely unlike the things we are told today. It just goes to show me that the things God wants from/for us never really changes. Unbelievers do not do any of these things, especially realize they are in the dark. God calls us to live a certain type of life, and to do certain things. This isn’t because God just decided this was the way to be. It is the best way to be. That’s what God wants for us, the best. There is another passage of scripture where we are called to be different.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all me will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35, NASB). Christ even acknowledged that we are to be different.  On the night of his betrayal, he gave a prayer to God saying, “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” (John 17:15-16, NASB).

We are called to be separate from the world. It should be obvious. People should know from the way that we are that we believe in the one true God, and that we believe in His Son and Holy Spirit. Our faith changes us. It’s not merely something we say, “Yeah, I’m a Christian” without even breaking a smile! God changed you through faith! You are not the same person you were before, but you now stand new. You cannot be a follower of Christ and expect things to remain the same. Christ was a game-changer. He changes our lives. We are called to be different, and that’s what we must be. Sure, you’ll be ridiculed. But what’s more important? Your friends not picking on you, or your Savior knowing you by your faith and love?

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 99-100

 

Also in this Series

The Call to Come Back (Isaiah 1-4)

Book of Isaiah

I had a request for a Bible study to do in May, but I think I will go ahead and start it today. We will be starting the book of Isaiah. However, this will be a little different from the ones we have done in the past. Since Isaiah is 66 chapters long, we cannot take it one chapter at a time. We will be doing at least 2-3 chapters per post, in hopes we can get it done in May. So let’s pray that God opens our hearts to hear the words He has for us through this book.

 

Isaiah’s ministry lasted through four different kings of Judah: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. He spent his time teaching Judah the need to repent and turn back to God. He spoke about their faithlessness, and the coming judgment upon Judah. However, he also taught about a coming Messiah to save God’s people. So his messages of pain and destruction were also coupled with hope and salvation.

Isaiah opens his book by describing the rebellious nature of the people of Judah and Jerusalem. God says to these people, “Even an ox knows its owner, and a donkey recognizes its master’s care — but Israel doesn’t know its master. My people don’t recognize my care for them.” (1:3, NLT) He is letting the people know how far they have turned. They have even gone so far that their worship has become a ritual by rote, rather than a meaningful expression to God. But God still offers the people of Judah hope, “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. If you will only obey me, you will have plenty to eat.” (1:18-19, NLT). Isaiah then begins to bring on the terror to come on the day of judgment, to those who do not come back to God. Isaiah writes “When the Lord rises to shake the earth, his enemies will crawl into holes in the ground. They will hide in caves in the rocks from the terror of the Lord and the glory of his majesty. On that day of judgment they will abandon the gold and silver idols they made for themselves to worship. They will leave their gods to the rodents and bats,” (2:19-20, NLT). The Lord than promises to make the people humble and realize their need for Him by saying, “[I] will take away from Jerusalem and Judah everything they depend on: every bit of bread and every drop of water,” (3:1-2, NLT). But God does promise a restoration for the people who survive. He promises to bring Israel back as a great people, with Him as their comfort and shelter (Isaiah 4).

I think if we all set and think about it, the warnings found in these opening chapters not only apply to the world we live in now, but to some degree every society since Creation. We have all felt that the world is “going to hell in a hand basket” at one point or another. I say this because I don’t want anyone thinking, “Oh no! Our time sounds exactly like this!!!!!” While the promise and threat are very real, we live in a time where God has already given us our salvation. We simply need to accept it as our own. There will always be unbelievers driving the world in a direction contrary to the way Christ teaches us to be. They are even some believers that get it wrong (including me, I definitely am not the fore-most expert on the Will of God). But so long as we are not reading Scripture and praying, we are not following either. We know a few lines, and we think that is all we need. Honestly, that’s how we have some really bad teaching out there.

To turn this and make it more personal, have you had a time when you have not sought God’s will for your life. Let’s be honest, I don’t think many of us are in that practice. I think most people (who are in the practice of prayer) are more of the mind “I’ll make the decision then ask God to bless it later.” The truth is that it works the opposite way of that. If we want to do our best, and make sure our life is in line with God’s will, we consult Him first then make the decision. Often times, I’ve found, He takes forever to get back with me. But I think it is to help us realize what we are about to do. In these open chapters of Isaiah, the people of Judah stopped consulting God. They did whatever they pleased. That can become us when we have the “do now, bless later” approach to running our lives. God promises us, “For I know the plans I have for you. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT). I’d much rather choose a path that I can trust, and leads to good, than to forge my own path and lead myself into destruction.

So we lift up our eyes to Heaven and says these words that the psalmist wrote, “I lift up my eyes to the hills — where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2, NIV).

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 97-98

Repent and Believe (Mark 1): From the Archive (7/22/2013)

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So we finished a study over the life of David last week. King David was the original “Heart Man” since he was described by God as a man after His own heart. I took the weekend to think about where to go from there. I landed on the gospel of Mark. I figured the only logical place to go and learn about the heart of God is to go and learn the heart of Jesus Christ, who is God on earth. So I am going to start a series where I look at a teaching of Jesus’. I’m going to do my best to pick out one sentence from each chapter of Mark, and really try to hone in as best as I can. So here we go……………..

I love the way our Bible is set up. Within it we have 4 different tellings of the life of the most important man to have ever lived, his name is Jesus of Nazareth. I like to think of them this way: Mark is the abridged version, Matthew teaches us about Jesus in his Jewish world, Luke speaks to the whole world, and John is telling about the divinity of Christ. All four gospels are important to our understanding of Jesus.

Mark’s gospel begins at the most logical place, the beginning of Christ’s ministry. The first words we hear from Jesus in this gospel are “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (1:15 NASB). What exactly does this mean? In order to understand we must look at Jesus’ command in two parts.

First, repent. What does it mean to repent? The definition I found in the dictionary I like says “to turn from sin out of penitence for past wrongdoings, abandon sinful or unworthy purposes and values, and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life”. The way I understand this means that repentance requires acknowledgment and change. First you must realize that you have done wrong and sinned, then turn away from it and vow not to return.

Secondly, believe. Believe what? We find in the gospel of Luke that Jesus began his public ministry by reading a passage from Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, Because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord…,” (Isaiah 61:1-2 NASB), then proclaimed the prophecy to be fulfilled. So the belief that we must have, is that Jesus is hear to heal and free those who have been trapped by sin.

So how does this help us to know the heart of God? The answer, to me, is quite simple. God wants us to acknowledge and repent from our sin. Then He wants us to help others to do the same. So shine God’s light to the world today, and help others see it. We are called to make disciples, and the first step is to repent and believe!

 

More From This Study

Harmony Not Discord

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There are days that go by that I feel the Church likes to bicker about what is right and what is wrong. We should worship in this way. We shouldn’t be accepting of this or that. We cannot participate in certain activities. While I can agree that this conversation is important, I think far too often it becomes the focal point. In all things the Church has one major function, to glorify God here on earth. So how can we learn to put our differences aside in order to help people see God?

If we go back to Paul’s letter to the Roman’s we read these words, “For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.” (Romans 14:17-19, NLT). This is found in a section where Paul is talking specifically about food, but I think there is a deeper point to be made here. We all have a difference of opinion. We cannot help it. No two people can agree on anything, and Paul knew this. He is saying here that it is more important for us to be cooperative than counter-operative. We should recognize where we have disagreement and seek to make a compromise as quickly as possible. As long as we fight, we become less effective at reaching people for Jesus Christ.

In another letter, Paul speaks about prophesying in the Church. He says that it is important for each member to get a turn to speak and finishes by saying, “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace, as in all the meetings of God’s holy people.” (1 Corinthians 14:33, NLT). Our God doesn’t like chaos, he wants us to be peaceful with each other.

I realize that theological disputes will always happen. But we cannot reach a point where unbelievers see us as a group of people that can’t agree on what we believe. Rather, they should be seeing God in us. God knows what is right, and what is true. If we keep our eyes focused on Him, the better we can be at showing him to others. When we keep our focus on what we think is right or best, we don’t focus on what God says is best. Trust in Him is the most important thing. I think many of the problems the Church faces today could be solved with a little more faith and trust in God.

You Can’t Earn It!

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I read an article on the Breathe Cast today. It was talking about a comment that was made in an interview done for the New York Times with former Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City. The interview was all about the work Mr Bloomberg is doing to advance gun control regulation. However at the end of the interview a statement was made, “I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.” I’m not sure he truly understood the problem with such a comment.

If we turn to Paul’s letter to the Romans, you could easily find out what Paul’s response to this would have been. I think a good sub-title for this letter might be, The Epistle Against Earning Salvation. He consistently speaks out against our ability to save ourselves, and puts that power in Christ’s hands alone. Here are just a few of these verses found in Romans:

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.” (3:23-24, NLT)

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (6:23)

“But the people of Israel, who tried so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded. Why Not? Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the Law instead of trusting him.” (9:31-32)

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (10:9)

These are just a few of the verses in this letter. Our salvation is a “free” gift, that we cannot pay for. All we can do is trust that God is sufficient, and believe it with our whole hearts. There is no way that salvation can be earned. My pastor likes to say, “You can’t bake enough pies to get into heaven.”

I’m not saying that God doesn’t cause us to change or do radical thing for Him. My point is that we cannot go out with the mindset, “I’m going to do this so I can get into heaven.” Finding salvation is easy. There’s no need to earn it. You simply need faith. Paul again keeps this in perspective for us, “For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” (Romans 14:7-8, NLT)

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 94-96

Holy Week Day 5

footwashing

Maundy Thursday

Today is Maundy Thursday. Today we see Jesus realizing that the end of his earthly life is near. He institutes Holy Communion, while celebrating the Passover early with his disciples. Jesus took elements from the Passover meal, which has significance to the Jewish people, and re-purposed them for the use of his followers. The first was the bread, which he made his body. The second was the cup of wine, which became his blood.

The meaning of the term “Maundy” comes up from John 13:34. The term comes from the Latin word “mandatum”, which means commandment. “Maundy” is an English version of this word, and applied to today because Jesus instituted a new commandment on this Thursday. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:24, NASB). The heart of this day rests in loving each other and serving one another, as Jesus did for us. He showed us what love is on the Cross. “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 3:16, NLT). Today begins a series of events where God showed us what love is ultimately about.

I encourage you as we celebrate today to especially read John 17. These verses are the final prayer that Jesus prays before being arrested. He would have prayed these words either really late tonight or really early in the morning. I just think this is a good prayer to pay attention to during this time of celebration and remembrance.

Today’s readings: Matthew 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-26; Luke 22:7-23; John 13-17

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 93

Holy Week Day 4

PrayingHands2a

Wednesday

Today can be taken in a couple different ways. First is that Jesus continued to do teaching like he had done all of his ministry. The other way, and the one I kind of like, is that he took today as a day of rest. The Sabbath is to be a day of rest. It’s the day that no one, in all of Israel, is supposed to do any work. It’s set up that way, because God rested on the seventh day of Creation. I find a great reminder to take some time to rest in this. During the two most significant acts God ever did for us, Creation and Redemption, He made the point to take a day of rest.

I know that holidays and times of celebration can become quite busy, between family and church events. I want to encourage all of you to make a point to find time to rest. Especially to take some time to spend in prayer and in the Word. If Jesus can take the time to rest while he was finishing his ministry and saving your soul, we can take the time to rest and reflect on him.

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 92

Holy Week Day 3

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Tuesday

Today was a day filled with teaching and questioning for Jesus. He spent most of his day teaching in the Temple. However both the Pharisees and the Sadducees were watching him, waiting for him to make a mistake. They even asked him question in order to trip him up. They ranged from “Is it right for us to pay taxes?” to “Is there marriage in the Resurrection?” With each question, Jesus had an answer that not only put them in their place, but also was good for teaching the people about the Kingdom of God. Then in Matthew 24, Jesus takes his disciples out to the Mount of Olives and teaches them about his return. It was on this day the High Priests decided they had had enough of Jesus and decided to capture him in secret and kill him (Matthew 26:4). It is possible that this is the day Judas met with the priests to offer them Jesus Christ.

The teaching of Jesus that I love on this day comes from Luke 21: 1-4. Jesus reminds the people hat we must give our lives to God, not just what we can do without. They saw rich men putting their gifts in the offering plate. They were clearly giving only what they were obligated to give and not anything more. Then there was a poor woman who gave only 2 pennies. Jesus tells the crowd, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.” (Luke 21:3-4, NASB). Her act was essentially placing her life in God’s hands. She had no idea when the next time was that she would have money, but she knew she had to give something. So she chose to give it all.

What could you give? Could you give it all and trust it all to Jesus? Let’s think about this today on this third day of this Holy Week.

Today’s Readings: Matthew 21:23-25:46; Mark 11:27-13-37; Luke 20:1-21:26)

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 91

Holy Week Days 1&2

Well everyone, I’m back and both baby and my wife are doing excellent!


 

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I thought that for this week we would look through the final events of Jesus’ life as we observe Holy Week. However, I am starting this a day late so we will be taking a look at the events of both Palm Sunday and Monday.

Palm Sunday

The events that happened on Palm Sunday can be seen in all four of the gospels. Jesus left Jericho early in the morning with his disciples. They traveled towards Jerusalem. When they reached Bethany, Jesus sent two of his disciples to get a donkey for him to ride into the city. They met on the Mount of Olives, and Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey. The people shouted at him, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel” (John 12:13), “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38), “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9-10),  and “Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9, NASB); all of which echo the words found in Psalm 118:25-26. All of these things were done to fulfill a prophecy found in the writing of the prophet Zechariah:

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you:
He is just and endowed with salvation,
Humble, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
–Zechariah 9:9, NASB

After these events, Jesus went into the temple in order to have a look at the environment. However he soon left to go back to Bethany, which was were he and the disciples stayed during this final week of Jesus’ life.

Monday

After 3 years of ministry, today is the day that Jesus makes his final push for the people to come to realize the truth about God and His Kingdom. When he entered the temple, undoubtedly to teach, he saw a sight that he absolutely despised. He saw people, inside the temple, selling animals and other sorts of merchandise, and people who were taking peoples money either with taxes or exchanging currency. Jesus tells the people, quoting Jeremiah, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a robber’s den.” (Matthew 21:13, NASB). He then drove them out with a whip of chords he made, and by turning over their tables.

Both of these days were also filled with teaching and healing. I think it’s nice to see the events of Jesus’ life as his time on earth came to an end. Join me tomorrow as we continue onwards.

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 90