Are You Too Small?

“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Juday,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity.”
–Micah 5:2, NASB

Have you ever thought that you were too small, or too unimportant, for God to care about? This is a thought that has often plagued my own mind. “God, I’m a nobody. What can you do with me?” Yet still, He gives me more to do.

I believe that God often looks for the ones who are overlooked, in order for His glory to shine the most. Jesus spoke on the mountain, “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, … God blesses those who are humble” (Matthew 5: 3 & 5, NLT).  It’s the people that the world looks down upon, that God’s power shines through the most.

“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.”
–Matthew 5:3, NLT

If you are doubting your worth, or do not understand how God can use you, remember this: God created you. “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139: 13, NASB). He cares deeply for you and created you with a purpose. I do not know what that purpose is. I even have a hard time knowing my own purpose. Yet I still trust that God will continue to show me why He put me on this earth. During this Advent season, let us pray for God to help us learn the reason why we are here.

Become More Like Christ for Advent

“Then a shot will spring from the stem of Jesse,
Anad 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.
And He will delight in the fear of the Lord,
And He will not judge by what His eyes see,
Nor make a decision by what His ears hear;
But with righteouness He will judge the poor,
And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth;
And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.
Also righteouness will be the belt about His loins,
And faithfulness the belt about His waist.”
–Isaiah 11:1-5, NASB

This is a really big post for this site. This will be the 200th post and the first one I’ve made in over 21 months! As we head into the Advent season this year, I thought it would be a good time to begin using this tool again. I won’t be posting daily like I used to, but I do aim for weekly posts.

This week’s Scripture comes out of Isaiah. Isaiah is writing about a person who will be a descendant of Jesse. This person will be filled with the Spirit, wise, and knowledgeable. Israel rightly believed that this is a list of attributes for the Messiah. We know, today, that Jesus fulfills each of these attributes. What can this mean for us today during this season?

As we walk out our faith, there is one thing we should always be doing; we should be becoming more like Christ. That means we should be working to be full of the Spirit, wise, and knowledgeable.

When we accept Christ into our lives there is something amazing that happens to us. Paul writes, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NASB) Part of this change is that you receive the Holy Spirit live inside of you. Many people to tend to ignore this or just brush it off, but think about it for a moment. Our understanding of God is found in the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This means for us, there is a piece of the Almighty that lives within you! That’s how Paul can write later in his ministry, “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31b, NASB) The Creator lives inside of each and every one of His believers, so there should be no reason that the Church should be afraid.

How can we become wise? This seems like an odd question. Wisdom feels like a thing you are either born with or not. The early church leader, James, writes “But if any of you lacks in wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5, NASB) We simply have to ask God for more wisdom and He gives it. It’s what we do with that wisdom that really matters. I believe that wisdom is a gift from God to help lead His people. It isn’t for our own benefit, but God’s.

Becoming more knowledgeable seems to have an easy answer, just read/study your Bible more. While this is true, it truly is only part of the entire picture. In order for us to become more knowledgeable, we must filter our entire lives through the lens of Christ. This helps us see how God is moving through the world’s events and through the events/people of our lives.

We should also be reading. Reading what, though? Read your Bible. Read the newspaper. Read blogs. Read books. Read teachings from good teachers. While there are many good reasons to read, Reading gives you new knowledge and exposure to new ideas. You simply cannot grow in knowledge without reading something.

As we begin this Advent season let’s think about how we can become more like Christ, accept the Holy Spirit, gain wisdom, and learn about God.

Don’t be Scared of People

proverbs29251

Alright, let’s all take a second and freak out. Yes! I am posting again.

I came to realize I started this blog, I should probably get back to it. I don’t know if anyone is reading it, but it certainly helps me on my walk with the Lord. The Heart Man has a simple purpose, just look at the tagline, “Discovering how to be a man after God’s own heart.” My life has changed quite a bit over the past year, but one thing has honestly stayed the same, I’m still seeking to be a man after God’s own heart.

Today I was reading my devotion; the passage was on Proverbs 29:25. It reads, “The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in God protects you from that” (MSG). This means to us that when we fear what other people’s opinion of us is more than God’s, we are often kept from either doing the right thing or keeping in step with God. How many times do we see someone, whether it’s a complete stranger or someone you know well, and they are struggling with something. We know what their help can be. We know who can best help them, no matter the situation. But how many times do we actually speak with them about Jesus? Instead, we often tell ourselves that they would not be interested in the Gospel or they are already against it so why bother. I think this shows us more of an issue with ourselves than with the person we are not talking to. When we don’t share the gospel, we are either showing we don’t love Jesus as much as others opinions of us, or we don’t love the person as much as we think we do. If God’s opinion of us is what matters most, this entire problem is done away with. You want want to disappoint your God, so you will actively tell people about their Savior.

My hope for you today is that you can turn away from the fear of man. It keeps us from doing the very work that God put us on this earth to do. Instead turn your eyes to the one who loves you most. This will give you the strength to not only do your daily tasks, but you will also be able to win hearts and souls for Christ.

“The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in God protects you from that” — Proverbs 29:25, MSG

“My Religion is Kindness”

my-religion-is-very-simple-my-religion-is-kindness-35

A few weeks ago I had come across a picture on my News Feed on Facebook. I wish I had saved it because now I can only vaguely remember it. What I do remember was that it held commentary about how the Church treats people. Specifically around the subject of homosexuality. Largely it had the notion attached that the Church is an organization that hates people and seeks to turn them all rich WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants). All people have to look the same way, behave the same way, and have things that look a certain way. The post then followed up with this quote from the Dali Lama, “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” Which I must admit is a great sentiment, but it still got me upset!

So I went to the dictionary. Merriam-Websters dictionary defines kindness as “the quality or state of being kind: a kind act”. Thanks Websters, that helped a lot.  So I looked up “kind” which is defined as “having or showing a gentle nature and a desire to help others : wanting and liking to do good things and to bring happiness to others”. The way that it would seem is that kindness (when it is the motivation) is a self motivation to do good for others for their sake and, whether intentional or not, to make us look good.

We are called to be kind to one another, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32, NIV). “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23, NASB). “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;” (Colossians 3:12, NASB). Clearly we should be kind to each other, and those that we come into contact with. But why, if there are so many commands about kindness, can the Church be seen as an unkind institution.

The answer my friends is love. This is the principle that the Church has been founded on. God loved us, so He sent His Son. Jesus loved us, so he died on a Cross. He commands us to love everyone, including our enemies. The Bible even tells us that God is love! (1 John 4:8). So why is the principle of love taken to be an unkind act?

Again, I went to Webster. Love, once you get away from romance and sex, is defined as “unselfish, loyal, and benevolent concern for the good of another”. When you look out for the welfare of others, things can be taken poorly. Now lesson has taught me this greater than being a father. When your child wants to chew on electrical cords, or climb on something unstable, or even play in the street, you know that the situation is dangerous and something will happen to your child if you don’t fix it. So what happens when you take away the cord, pull them off the structure, or pull them out of the road? They cry. They whine. They yell. They get upset. So no wonder the Church seems unkind. We tell people their wrong, so they cry. They whine. They yell. They get upset. Why? Because we told them that what they are doing is unwise.

If you want to build you beliefs around kindness, go ahead. My God is love and He cares deeply for me. He came and took a terrible punishment so I don’t have to. I’ll take a god who loves me over a god who does kind acts for me any day. Yes, love can be kind. It’s important for love to perform acts of kindness. But kindness cannot be the center of our beliefs. Kindness alone is selfish, while love is selfless.

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, endures all things.” –1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NASB

The Promise of a New Creation (Isaiah 63-66)

Book of Isaiah

Sorry it’s been so long and unpredictable when I’m going to blog. I’ve been going through a pretty rough time in my life. Today I finally feel renewed and feel that it’s time for me to get back into this blog. So hold on tight. We are going to finish the Book of Isaiah today! Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but if we’re all here there will be another post!

As we finish the book of Isaiah, we start with a depiction of God coming in wrath among the nations of the world. He is covered in a red garment. He is asked why, and God explains that it is the blood of those who do not follow Him. Calling forward to the future crucifixion, God is pictured in blood, suffering in order to save His people, and dying for people of all nations. “In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them, …” (63:9, NASB). In verse 16 we see a glimpse at the future struggle of Gentile Christians. “For You are our Father, though Abraham does not know us and Israel does not recognize us. You, O Lord, are our Father, Our Redeemer from of old is Your name.” (63:16, NASB).

God’s people, Jews and Gentiles, offer up a prayer of mercy and help. They recognize that God is angry because of their sin. They have all chosen to go against God. Now, they have realized the error in their ways, and are asking Him to give them mercy. “You meet him who rejoices in doing righteousness, who remembers You in Your ways. Behold, You were angry, for we sinned, we continued in them a log time; and shall we be saved? (64:5, NASB). They now submit themselves for God to make them as He thinks is right “we are the clay, and You our potter;” (64:8, NASB). They recognize that they need His mercy in order to become the people that He wants them to be. Their heart’s cry is to simply be made new. For God to destroy their old selves, and make them new.

The nation of Israel had long been a people who knew about God. God calls the a rebellious people. They constantly turn away from Him, and do the things He has asked them not to. So God tells His people that He has chosen a new people that will obey Him. He says, “I permitted Myself to be sought by those who did not ask for Me; I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek Me. I said ‘Here am I, here am I,’ to a nation which did not call on My name. I will bring forth offspring from Jacob, and an heir of My mountains from Judah; even My chosen ones shall inherit it, and my servants will dwell there.” (65:1 & 9, NASB). “Behold, My servants will eat, but you will be hungry. Behold, My servants will drink, but you will be thirsty…” (65:13, NSAB). God is telling the people of Israel that because they are unfaithful, He will take care of those who obey Him before them. They will find themselves in need, and God won’t help them until they seek Him. Then God promises a new creation. He will remake Jerusalem, and the earth, into a place that knows and follows God through the people who obey Him today.

God does make one final warning to His people before the new Creation. It is not simply good enough to say and do the correct things. They have to actually do them and follow God, because they know it is right in their hearts. Hypocrisy has no place in God’s new Creation. God’s new Creation will see an end to all evil, and people who actively work against Him. “Then they will go forth and look on the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched; and they will be an abhorrence to all mankind” (66:24, NASB).

We live in some crazy times. We hear people all the time denouncing God. There are Muslim extremist groups who’s sole purpose is to destroy either the US or Israel. This something easy for us to remember as our nation remembers the events of 13 years ago today. We see and hear about despicable acts towards women and children, simply because its a lucrative business and makes someone lots of money. We live in a world full of evil, but there is hope. We have hope because of Christ. We find our salvation in him, so our souls are good. But what about this world that we all must live in until it is time for us to go home?

God promises a new creation for the people who follow Him. All evil will be eradicated from this world, and God will set a new world with Himself and Christ at the center.  If you’d like to read more about that I’d suggest reading the event in the Book of Revelation.

For us today though, as we live our day in/day out lives, God’s promise is still there for us. God will never leave or forsake you, so long as you believe in His Son. Jesus is the way that we can have hope in a world full of evil. Christ came, and died for our sins so that we can have God’s promises. We just have to make a stand and follow Christ, no matter what the world tells us.

I’ll end here with a verse that has been my prayer today, and I hope it becomes yours.

“Establish my footsteps in Your word, and do not let any iniquity have dominion over me.” –Psalm 119:133, NASB

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 119

Also in this Series

God’s Blessings Restored (Isaiah 60-62)

Book of Isaiah

With the desolation of Jerusalem, the city was now longer a symbol of glory for the people of Israel. However, God wants to see it restored. He shares a vision with Isaiah showing that not only is Jerusalem restored, but people from all nations come to worship God. First the people of Israel will be brought back to their home land, after the Exile. With their help, “Foreigners will come to rebuild your towns, and their kings will serve you.” (60:10, NLT). All nations are bound to serve the people of Israel; they will be glorified above all others because of God and they will praise God. “salvation will surround you like city walls, and praise will be on the lips of all who enter.” (60:18, NLT).

God isn’t done with His people. He knows them, and remembers His promises made to them. Blessing will come upon them because of their oppression . “Instead of shame and dishonor, you will enjoy a double share of honor. You will possess a double portion of prosperity in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.” (61:7, NLT). The people have had to suffer because of their sin. But now that the punishment is over, they will enjoy great blessing from God.

When Jerusalem is restored, the people of Israel shall be restored as well. They will become something desirable, a shining light to all the nations. Where they were once thought of as a nation of undesirables, all people will come to see there glory and God’s glory. “They will be called ‘the Holy People’ and ‘The People Redeemed by the Lord’. And Jerusalem will be known as ‘The Desirable Place’ and ‘The City No Longer Forsaken’.” (62:12, NLT).

In this reading I realized something about myself, I take my salvation for granted. The truth is that salvation does for us the same thing God is describing in these passages from Isaiah. We were all once disgraceful because of our sin. There was no need for anyone (even God) to give me a second thought. Yet still, he did think about me. He thought about me while hanging on a cross. And because of that, I now have glory in God.

I had always known what happened, and just took for “I’m a Christian and that what God does for me.” The honest truth is that God does this for everyone. Not just me and other Christians, but even people who don’t believe in a Him. But the thing that really gets me (God has been working on this in me recently), is that he does this for his enemies and people who actively work against Him. The people who fight against God can still be saved by His redeeming grace if they simply put their faith in Him.

God is calling us back to a place of glory. He wants to bestow great blessings upon us and make us a shining light for all people. But he can’t do this until we choose to come back to Him. The people of Israel were taken away from their homes for 40 years in order to teach them this lesson. God teaches us this same lesson today. When we fall away from Him, life gets much more difficult and dark. But when we come back, He pours out the blessings!

So if this is you today, I pray that you recognize what is going on and make the changes you need in order to come back to Him. He desires to be close to you. So come back to Him.

 

Also in this Series

Love Came Down (Isaiah 57-59)

Book of Isaiah

Sorry about my infrequency of blogging. I have had a pretty stressful last few weeks that ended with my worship ministry being shut down. It has been a hard process to go through, but it has made me realize my need to lean on God. If I had not had Him, things would be much worse for me today. My hope is to finally finish up this study we started in April!

Adultery is a strong word. I’m sure there are some that are shock that adultery was the (real) first word in this post. But God uses this word to describe what the people of Israel have done. They committed to being His people, and He would be there God. However, time-and-time again, these people follow there own wants and desires and often leave behind God altogether. God says to His people, “You have put pagan symbols on you doorposts and behind your doors. You have left me and climbed into bed with these detestable gods. You have committed yourselves to them. You love to look at their naked bodies.” (57:8, NLT). He goes on to push them to realize that their new idols are worthless in comparison of Him. Yet still God offers one thing that can save His people for His wrath. If they are truly repentant, He will spare them from such pain. “I will comfort those who mourn, bringing words of praise to their lips. May they have abundant peace, both near and far” (57:18-19, NLT).

When we follow our own paths, one thing will always remain in our relationship with God: false worship. False worship could possibly be one of the worst things we can get into as worshipers, because mostly likely we don’t recognize that it has happened. God tells them, “You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do You really think this will please the Lord?” (58:5, NLT). The reason we are doing anything matters more than the act of worship we are participating in. If you do it, so you can get something out of it, it’s not true worship. You give everything to God expecting nothing in return. That’s how you please God the most. He goes on to say, “this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do no hide from relatives who need your help.” (58:6-7, NLT). God calls the Israelites to come back to Him, and cease their false worship. This comes with the promise that they will be able to come back to Him, and receive the inheritance they were promised.

Sin is very problematic. There is no way to truly convey what it is that sin does to us. I’ve become quite fond of a phrase I’ve heard, “sin doesn’t make you bad, it makes you dead”. God have a very honest message for His people during this section of reading. “It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore. Your hand are the hands of murderers and your fingers are filthy with sin. Your lips are full of lies, and your mouth spews corruption.” (59:2-3, NLT).  That’s what sin has done, and the Israelites were feeling exactly that through the Exile. They were cut off from God geographically, and spiritually because of the choices they made. But all the people that were repentant still haven’t seen much salvation, but God promises to come to earth and rescue all that are repentant. “The Lord looked and was displeased to find there was no justice. He was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed. So he himself stepped in to save them with his strong arm, and his justice sustained him.” (59:15-16, NLT).

Friends, we have all had problems following God, “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). Sin causes us to do some crazy things. We could leave behind a God who has done far more than we deserve, when all He asks is that we seek Him. We can suddenly decide to hate Him, or His people. We could chose to leave Him altogether and change religions, or decide there is no God at all. We could decide that our faith in Him is based on a certain act, like saving a loved one from a sickness. We say things like, “God, if you could bring my wife out of this, I promise I will go to church every week and spend time in the Word everyday.” We could decide that we know better what makes a sin, so I will decide what is right. But is this really glorifying to God?

Time after time God offers salvation to the repentant, the truly repentant. All we have to do is recognize our sin, and that we cannot overcome it. God is the only one that can save us from the path we have set for ourselves, all we have to do is ask. I have heard countless people make the claim that they are too forgone for God to do anything with them. “Listen! The Lord’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call.” (59:1, NLT). This means you could have run as far away as you can. You can be as dirty as you can get. But God will still come to you, if you are truly repentant. Sin doesn’t have to keep you dead, you can come to life through Jesus Christ.

 

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 115-118

 

Also in this Series

Is Anyone Thirsty? (Isaiah 54-56)

Book of Isaiah

 

In their sin and disobedience, Jerusalem became shameful because it was not bearing fruit for God. They openly rejected His ways and teachings. So God, in His righteous anger, decided to punish His people for disobeying. However, in today’s reading, God promises that when they return to Him, He will gladly take them back. He will bless them with abundance they have never known. They will no longer have to suffer through the shame and disgrace brought on by their disobedience. “Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you. You will no longer remember the shame of your youth and the sorrows of widowhood.” (54:4, NLT). He makes a promise to them that will last forever, just like He made with Noah. “Just as I swore in the time of Noah that I would never again let a flood cover the earth, so now I  swear that I will never again be angry and punish you. For the mountains may move and the hills disappear, but even then my faithful love for you will remain. My covenant of blessing will never be broken.” (54:9-10, NLT). No enemy will ever overcome them, so long as they remain faithful to God’s way of life.

“Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink — even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or mink — it’s all free!”  (55:1, NLT). God offered the Israelites a gift that they would not have to pay for, they simply needed obedience. He tells them to feed off of Him. Physical food would only feed their bodies, but they need more that simply eating bread and meat. They need God’s word to live off of as well. He knows that unless they seek after Him, just like they will seek after food everyday, the Israelites will have problems keeping their end of the covenant God wishes to renew with them. He tells them that His word produces fruit, and it will prosper where ever He sends it. He wishes to give it to the Israelites so they can become fruitful again. He reminds them that they cannot understand His mind. “For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (55:9, NLT). Men cannot understand all that God knows and thinks. Our minds are small and feeble in comparison to His. There are times where God calls His people to do things they don’t understand. He reminds them that the  proper way to behave is in obedience to Him.

God shows His people how obedience to Him gives greater glory and blessing than following the will of man ever will. God picks two classes of people in Israel to speak directly about, eunuchs and Gentiles. He says that so long as they obey God, He will give them blessings beyond anything they could receive by man. “Don’t let the foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will never let me be part of his people.’ And don’t let the eunuchs say, ‘I’m a dried-up tree with no children and no future.'” (56:3, NLT). God is not going to allow people who truly seek after Him live with the shame that these people groups have to live with. “I will bless those eunuchs who keep my Sabbath days holy and who choose to do what pleases me and commit their lives to me.” (56:4, NLT), “I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord, who serve him and love his name, who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest, and who hold fast to my covenant.” (56:6, NLT).  “For the Sovereign Lord, who brings back the outcasts of Israel, says: I will bring others, too, besides my people of Israel (56:8, NLT).

Just like in the days of Isaiah’s writing, God cares for His people today. He wants to bless us, and see us prosper. He doesn’t want to see us harmed, or have to suffer. Yet we constantly choose to disobey Him and have to live with the consequences of that decision. In order for us to have better in our lives, we have to seek God first. Whether that means for you, the first thing you do in the morning is study the Bible, or you have to go find one of those WWJD bracelets for a constant reminder. The point is that God has to be our first priority. While Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness after his baptism, he became hungry. The devil tried to convince him to turn a rock into bread so that way he could eat and be filled. But Jesus knew better. He turned and quoted Deuteronomy to the devil, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4, Deuteronomy 8:3, NASB). We have to realize that we need God more and more. It is not enough to make sure our physical needs get met, and only give God whatever prayer we say before dinner time. We live because God allows it. His word sustains us. We can only grow and hunt whatever food we eat, because God allows that to live. We should seek after Him first. This is the way we align ourselves in a right manner. We cannot be distracted by other directions, because God is our primary objective. Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33, NASB). We won’t have anything to worry about or anything else to need, if the very first thing we look for in our lives is God.

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 112-114

 

Also in this Series

The Suffering Servant (Isaiah 52-53)

Book of Isaiah

After His call for Israel to put their trust in God, He moves to promise their salvation. The Israelite nation has been taken into exile, and now is held in “enemy” territory. God recounts the days that Israel was in slavery to Egypt. “Long ago my people chose to live in Egypt. Now they are oppressed by Assyria. What is this? Why are my people enslaved again?” (52:4-5, NLT). In the land they were being kept, God’s name was constantly being blasphemed and ridiculed. It would have been enough to cause the Israelites to question if their God was even real. But He responds to them, “But I will reveal my name to my people and they will come to know its power. Than at last they will recognize that I am the one who speaks to them.” (52:6, NLT). God offers them a vision of a restored Jerusalem, where there is much celebration at the people’s return. They will be allowed to leave their places of captivity and travel back to their land. Bu they will not do this alone. God promises to go with them, “For the Lord will go before you, and they God of Israel will be your rear guard.” (52:12, NASB). God then switches focus away from the people of Israel towards God’s servant, better known to us as Messiah. God begins to talk of an exalted servant, who has been “marred” (52:14, NASB) or “disfigured” (NLT). This servant will bring untold knowledge even to the kings of other nations.

Isaiah opens up to a vision that we know today as the Passion story found in all 4 of the gospels. He describes all the events that Jesus was put through at the end of his life (keep in mind this was written 500-600 years before he was born). “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening of our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed … He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; … His grave was assigned with wicked me, Yet he was with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth.” (53:5, 7, 9, NASB). Yet through all of his suffering, God was pleased. He wasn’t pleased that the servant had to suffer. God was pleased because of the end result. “As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities.” (53:11, NASB).

Where does this leave us today? I find myself thinking about Jesus’ crucifixion. I am so thankful for what God has done for me. I know that I am a sinful person. Even after coming to Jesus, there are still sins that I fight with everyday! If it weren’t for the suffering of Jesus, I would have no hope of salvation today. I know that when it comes time for me to be judged, my sins have been paid for by Jesus’ blood. My only hope is that I live a life where I know Jesus, and he knows me. Jesus told his disciples, “Many will say to Me on that day ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And they I will declare to them ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'” (Matthew 7:22-23, NASB). We can all be sure that we live lives that line up with God. The process is simple, but it is a difficult life. We must spend time in prayer, reading Scripture, and discerning what God’s will is for our lives. It’s hard, and there are many who say they do these things, but few who do. I pray that we can all be better at coming to Christ. Not just when we need him, but for every single day. Leaning on him in distress, thanking him for blessings. We need him for everything!

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 111

 

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Trust is the Most Important (Isaiah 49-51)

Book of Isaiah

After telling the Israelites that they will be set free from captivity in Babylon, He reclaims them to be His servant nation. He starts with how intimately He knows them, “The Lord called me before my birth; from within the womb he called me by name.” (49:1, NLT). The Lord tells the people that He has given them the strength to do whatever it is required of them, to be His servants. Then, just as He had before, He begins to give His people promises for their redemption. He knows that they will have pain and He will remember it. “See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands. Always in my mind is a picture of Jerusalem’s walls.” (49:16, NLT). He will bring them back to their former glory, but not for them. They shall become a beacon to the nations that point back to God, “I will make you a light to the Gentiles,” (49:6, NLT). It will be His power that accomplishes this restoration, not the work of man. God asks of His people, “Who can snatch the plunder of war from the hands of a warrior? Who can demand that a tyrant let his captives go?” The answer is a resounding nobody. Yet God reveals, “The captives of warriors will be real eased, and the plunder of tyrants will be retrieved. For I will fight those who fight you, and I will save your children. I will feed your enemies with their own flesh. They will be drunk with rivers of their own blood. All the wold will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel.” (49:24-26, NLT). None can claim this same power that He wields, therefore, if it happens than it can only be God who has done it. God continues to describe His awesome power. “Why was no one there when I cakes? Why didn’t anyone answer when I called? Is it because I have no power to rescue? No, that is not the reason! For I can speak to the sea and make it dry up! I can turn rivers into deserts covered with dying fish.” (50:2, NLT).

Isaiah seems to take a break from speaking the words of God for a few verses and starts talking about being God’s servant in His own life. He states how morning after morning He is woken up and given new understanding for God’s will. He has to carry it out no matter what. This has lead him to being persecuted, beaten, and mocked for simply following the Lord’s instructions. Yet he has one bit of encouragement for his fellow Israelite, “See, the Sovereign Lord is on my side! Who will declare me guilty? All my enemies will be destroyed like old clothes that have been eaten by moths!” (50:9, NLT). He knows though, that men become proud and begin to claim that they are doing things by their own power, not God’s. But God has words for these people as well. “But watch out, you who live in your own light and warm yourselves by your own fires. This is the reward you will receive from [God]: You will soon fall down in great torment.” (50:11, NLT).

God brings forth a call for the people of Israel to trust in Him. Humanity has always had a problem with being able to trust the Lord, so He shows them ways that He has been faithful to them. He speaks of Abraham, who was old with no children and now exists as a once great nation (since they are now in Exile). He then looks to Moses, where He brought His people out of the land of Egypt. Yet the problem with trust seems to be what others think. God says, “I, yes I, am the one who comforts you. So why are you afraid of mere humans, who wither like the grass and disappear? … Will you remain in constant dread of human oppressors? Will you continue to fear the anger of your enemies? Where is their fury and ager now? It is gone!” (51:12-13, NLT). Yet his people know they have suffered His wrath before. God tells them, “See, I have taken the terrible cup from your hands. You will drink no more of my fury. Instead, I will hand that cup to your tormentors, those who said, ‘We will trample you into the dust and walk on your backs.'” (51:22-23, NLT).

We live in a world that stands against God. We cannot argue this fact. We constantly see laws being made that make being a Christian harder, we see laws being made and court cases being won against allowing the presence of God into our public lives. I know that the topic of homosexuality is very controversial, but it is a perfect example of this. The Bible teaches one thing, and the  world says something different. The beginning of Creation is another perfect example; the Bible says one thing, the world another. The list could go on and on. But God consistently offers us salvation for those who trust in Him. Paul writes to us in his letter to the Romans, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is agains us? … But in all these things [tribulations, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or sword (8:35)] we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:31 & 37, NASB).

This is not a call to blind faith that simply pulls things from Scripture and trusts others to know what is right. We are called to question everything, and discern what God’s will for us is (Philippians 1:9). Yet there are things that God is clear about and that the Bible teaches. If we are to believe that the Scriptures are God-breathed and infallible, this leads us to some pretty uncomfortable conclusions, especially if we have listened to the world too much. God said to His people, “Why are you afraid of mere humans?” Maybe this call is to stand up for what is true. Take a stand against the world. We may lose friends and make enemies. But people can only attack our bodies, God deals with our eternal souls. Who should you be more scared of, man or God who spoke you into being?

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 109-110

 

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