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

 

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The Heart of Man (Mark 7)

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Today’s chapter holds three of Jesus’ teachings. First, he talks about worrying more about tradition than the commandments of God. He uses the fact that the Pharisees allow people to give everything to God, and that releases them from needing to help their parents. This is obviously a clear violation of the the commandment to honor our parents, yet people were allowed to do this by the Pharisees.

The second teaching, however, is where I want to spend my time. Jesus tells the Pharisees, “there is noting outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man” (7:15 NASB). Jesus’ statement is speaking towards the heart of man. He says in verses 21-23, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”

This teaching spans all the way back to Genesis 3. When we were created, we were not created with the heart that Jesus is talking about, rather we were made with one of servitude and worship. It was when Adam and Eve first sinned, our hearts changed and became full of the things listed above.

So what do we do? It seems that our hearts are full of things that God tells us to stray away from and that we should not be. However we have a way to be rid of those things. In Christ, we are a new creation. While we are still human we have to fight these things, yet we have the ability to overcome these temptations through Christ.

So ask God for forgiveness. Spend time with the Lord, and read the Scriptures. This is how we overcome the evil that is inside of all of us. So take up the habit if you haven’t already. This body is not who we were created to be, so let’s seek the heart of God so we can become all that we were meant to be.

Forgiveness of Sins (Mark 2)

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Today’s chapter is Mark chapter 2. Jesus has already began his public ministry. He has called 4 of his disciples and already began to heal people. Based on the same account in Luke, Jesus is most likely at Simon’s (Peter’s) house. A crowd had formed an no one else could get in to see Jesus. Four men decided to climb up on top of the house and lower their friend, who had been paralyzed, to see Jesus and be healed. The words that Jesus decides to use to announce this man’s healing were unexpected at the time, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (2:5 NASB) The people around him began to freak out! They said “Why does this man speak that way? His blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” (2:7 NASB) Jesus ultimately responds with “… so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” (2:10 NASB)

This fits pretty nicely with my previous post, Repent and Believe. The progression is here that you have admitted your sin, and now Christ has the power to forgive you. Up to this point in the story, you sins could only be forgiven if you took and offering to the temple, and the priest performed the sacrifice on your behalf. However, Jesus teaches that we may go directly to Him. If you read the book of Hebrews, Jesus is constantly attributed the title of the High Priest.

This is why we pray, “in Jesus name”. This phrase puts our prayer and faith into context for us. Simply praying, we may come to think that we are mighty, but remembering that it is because of Christ’s death we have this ability to commune directly with God, we keep ourselves humble.

My prayer for you today is that you continue on with the idea from yesterday. Confess your sins, but also ask for forgiveness. Jesus says in Matthew “Ask, and it will be given to you;” (7:7 NASB). So ask your Father today to forgive you of your sins and continue on the path of repentance and work to rid yourself of your sinful ways. You will fail, but just as easy as it is to ask, its easy to ask again!

Repent and Believe (Mark 1)

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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!