The Love of God (Ephesians 3)

The-book-of-Ephesians

Paul spends most of this chapter reaching out to the Gentiles. His mission that was given to him, by both God and the apostles in Jerusalem, was to minister to the Gentiles. Before Christ, the Gentiles were widely regarded as outsiders by the Jews. Their belief was set around their status as the “chosen people”. This led them to believing that the Gentiles would not be a part of whatever salvation the Messiah would bring. However, Jesus and Paul thought differently. The basis of salvation is not by who you were born to, but is rather based on faith. Paul writes, “to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (3:6, NASB). This is Paul telling the Gentile and Jewish Christians, that the Gentiles are just as much a part of God’s Kingdom as the Jews.

It would seem that the Ephesians church is having a problem that was very common during Paul’s ministry. This problem was that Jewish Christians would come in and tell the Gentile Christian that they were somehow  of less significance or would have to conform to a Jewish lifestyle before they could be saved. We know this is wrong today, but it was something that many people believed then. Paul’s answer to this is the knowledge of God’s love. He tells them that he is praying for them; specifically he is praying that they learn about God’s love, “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” (3:17-19, NASB). The love of Christ is so all-consuming, that there would be no way for the Church to focus on things like Jews over Gentiles. Instead their focus would be to love each other, and spread the love to everyone else.

This is a message that I believe still rings true for us today. We can get all caught up in living in a way that honors God that we forget why we do it. Yes, we should live a life that reflects Scripture. We should stand up for our faith, and oppose the things that God opposes. But I feel that there are people, especially some in the media and politics, that portray our faith as a list of rules that if we don’t make everyone follow they will all go to hell. Well I have news for those people; if they don’t believe in Christ, they’re going to hell anyway. No amount of forcing anything is going to help their salvation. As a matter of fact, it will more than likely push them away. Is that really the life that Christ showed us to live? Is that really living a Christian life?

Christ said to the people, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28, NASB). People can become weary when they are being told they are wrong all the time, or that their life should actually look like “this”. Jesus wants those people, and so should we. We should not be the cause of their stress. We should take them in and show them the love of Christ. We should take in the teenage mother, and tell her that Jesus loves her. We should hug the homosexual and tell them that God’s loves them. We should spend time with the felon, and share the love that God has given us. The point, I guess, is that God has given us so much love, we cannot contain it; we have to spread it.

Love does not come from following rules, following rules comes from love. If we love God, we will follow the rules. But we cannot force people to follow the rules and say that it is love. Love comes from personal experience. We cannot lead people to that experience if we are constantly pushing them away. So, my brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s give “Bible-thumping” a rest. It isn’t helping our cause any. God is love, and we should be wanting to share that with everyone. Only God can “fix” people, so let’s trust Him to do that. We can just share Him with every single person we come into contact with.

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 139-142

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Life in Christ (Ephesians 2)

The-book-of-Ephesians

For a long time, I had a belief that I feel most people have; my sin makes me a bad person. Why wouldn’t I believe that? I had people all over Christiandom telling me that. When I came to Christ, I still felt the same way. If sin was something that is bad, how can my sin not make me a bad person. Over the last year or two, I have heard a new take on what sin does. The crazy thing is that it falls more inline with Scripture than the previous belief, sin makes you dead. Paul writes at the beginning of this chapter, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,” (2:1, NASB). He’s saying that because of our sins we are actually dead. This has no moral standing like good or bad, it is simply your state. However we do not want to be dead, so we must seek out how to fix it. This is what the rest of the chapter is about. We can be made alive in Christ!

This belief is not meant strictly for the Church. We as believers are not the only ones that have the ability to be made alive in Christ, just the only ones who have accepted it. In truth, Christ died for all. That’s every single person, EVER. You know that bum that lives down the street? He is included. You know that couple you see holding hands at the park that look a little different than you? They are included. You know the politician on TV that you just can’t seem to understand? He/She is included right along with the rest of us. Christ died in order to bring everyone closer to himself. “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (2:13, NASB). Since Christ brings us close, we cannot push people away because they do not conform.

The truth is that sin is everywhere and does not look the same on everyone. As the people of God, who have been made alive, it is our duty to help bring others to life as well. Think about it. When someone is lying unresponsive, who’s going to help them, a living person or a corpse? Our life in Christ gives us the power to make a real difference in the world. We cannot sit high and mighty and dictate how everyone is doing wrong. Jesus did not do that. Instead we should be speaking in love and guiding people to a right relationship with God. Sometimes that does lead to a confrontation, but it should not be how it starts. Let God work on their heart. He can fix their problems, you cannot.

To those who might just now be starting along this path, I want to offer some encouragement. God has rules and they seem pretty intimidating. We all live with sin in our lives, but through Christ we are working to get over that sin. It will never totally be gone, but it gets better. So you maybe sitting there thinking, “It’s too hard, I can’t do it. I can’t get that close to God. I’m unworthy…” I’m here to tell you that there was a day that I felt that same way. There are days now that I feel that way. But God offers us hope and peace in His Word. “And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household,” (2:17-19, NASB).

 

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The Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1)

The-book-of-Ephesians

I know that we just came off of a super long Bible Study, which is mostly due to my lack of blogging. But it’s pretty much my policy that if God doesn’t give me something personal to share, than I turn the the Word. So we’ve selected a new passage of Scripture to start.

Paul starts writing this letter from within a prison cell. He has been imprisoned because of his beliefs and for professing them. Yet Paul does not begin his letter by stating “Woe is me. I have been held captive. I cannot believe they arrested me.” Instead He starts his letter the opposite way a lot of people would when they have been arrested for their beliefs, he praises God. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,” (Ephesians 1:3, NASB). This alone should be proof enough that we should be praising God no matter are circumstances, but Paul does it all over Scripture (Acts 16:25-30, Galatians 1:4-5, Philippians 1:11, Colossians 1:3-8, etc.)

But I found myself drawn to certain portion of this chapter, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation — having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:12-14, NASB). What I really noticed was the comment “you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit”.

I feel like most people tend to forget about the Holy Spirit. Everyone speaks about the Father and the Son, but usually never mentions the third part of the Trinity. I have to admit, the Holy Spirit is a really complicated character. With the Father, we know that He is the one who created us and sits enthroned on high over all of Creation. The Son is also a pretty easy thing to grasp, He was the one that came to earth and sacrificed Himself so that you and me can have our salvation. But what about the Holy Spirit?

Paul is saying in this section that the Holy Spirit is the God that marks us for salvation. Now He also does many other things (ie. spiritual gifts, power to the apostles, etc), but in this section Paul teaches us that God marks us with Himself by the Holy Spirit. The only way that we can receive that “mark” is by receiving God’s gift to us, the blood of Jesus. Paul says that the Holy Spirit is God’s pledge to keep the promises He made for salvation.

We cannot count out the Holy Spirit. More people need to talk about Him as well. Without Him, there would be no salvation, no way to show honor to God, and there would certainly be no Church today. The Spirit is just as important as the rest of the Godhead. It is the work of the enemy to make you believe that any one part of God is less important then the others. The Holy Spirit was present in the beginning, along with Father and Son. We cannot separate the Holy Spirit for the rest of God. To do so, would be to allow the enemy to win a part of our hearts.

How can we maintain the Spirit’s standing as a part of the Godhead? I would suggest, by way of Francis Chan, that we no longer call Him “it”. “It” implies that He is something different and unknown. But God has chosen to reveal Himself as triune and with the male gender. So from now on when we refer to the Holy Spirit, no longer is He “it”. He shall always be “He”.

Then we must learn to understand Him better. Ask your pastor, ask a Biblical scholar you trust, and (most importantly) ask God. Pray and ask God to show Him where His Spirit is present in your life and how to better understand Him. When we forget about a part of God, we choose not to glorify God in the way that He has revealed Himself. Instead, we form our own idols of who think God is. Remember, God is Father, Son, and Spirit.

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 133-136

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

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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.

 

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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 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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God is Our Savior (Isaiah 40-44)

Book of Isaiah

**Personal note** Sorry for my lack of posting. Life got super hectic for awhile (ie. moving, business, still trying to figure out having a new baby, etc.). However, recently my problem has become that my usual time for blogging has gotten super busy now that I am working on a job change. Anyways, I am going to be trying out some new times for blogging. I will get this blog back on track and finish us the Book of Isaiah so we can talk about something new! Thank you for all your understanding.

 

Isaiah opens this section by addressing all of God’s people (Northern and Southern kingdoms), in order to give them comfort during a long hardship (probably the Exile). The call is for people to return to God because He remembers them and is there to take care of them. Before we get to that point, God reminds them that even though people change, He doesn’t. “Shout that people are like the grass. Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field. The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the Lord. And so it is with people. The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.” (40:6-8, NLT). He knows that they have had problems, and He knows that more are to come. Yet He reminds them to stay faithful because He does not change. Isaiah then switches gears somewhat to tell us about the greatness of God. God says “To whom will you compare me? Who is my equal?” (40:25, NLT). Through the preceding verse we know that none can compare to our God. Isaiah mentions that God has held the oceans in His hand, measure the entire heavens with His finger, knows the weight of the world and all its mountains and hills. None can advise God, and He doesn’t need advise. Isaiah even states, “He picks up the whole earth as though it were a grain of sand” (40:15, NLT). But then Isaiah brings it all back around for the ultimate comfort. “The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depth of his understanding. He give power to the weak and straight to the powerless … But those shoe trust int the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” (40:28-29, 31, NLT).

The Lord then turns to the idols of the nations and asks them to make a case for themselves. The nations become prideful when they are successful in conquering, or outlasting other nations, yet none of them realize where that power comes from. They attribute it to their made up gods and say that they are greater than the God of Israel. God tells His people, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discourage, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” (41:10, NLT). He provides for them a miracle to prove to the other nations that He is God. “I will open up rivers for them on the high plateaus. I will give them fountains of water in the valleys. I will fill the desert with pools of water. Rivers fed by springs will flow across the parched ground.” (41:18, NLT). God shows the other nations that He provides for His people. He asks the idols to perform something, do a good deed, tell of the past, or tell of the future, and none of them respond. None of the idols can stand in comparison to the God of the Isrealites. He says to them, “See, they are all foolish, worthless things. All your idols are as empty as the wind.” (41:29, NLT).

God sets His sights again on the future. He begins to talk about a servant that He has chosen to serve Him. God says, “I, the Lord, have called you to demonstrate my righteousness. I will take you by the hand and guard you, and I will give you to my people, Israel, as a symbol of my covenant with them. And you will be a light to guide the nations. You will open the eyes of the blind. You will free the captives from prison, releasing those who sit in dark dungeons.” (42:6-7, NLT). “I will lead blind Israel down a new path, guiding them along an unfamiliar way.” (42:16, NLT). God is seeking to correct His people. He goes on to discuss how they have become blind to His ways and are no longer keeping them. This is the reason for His servant to come. He will send His servant to correct Israel’s mistakes and bring them down a new path that will be unfamiliar to them, but is they one they should have been on all along.

God moves beyond a servant, and begins promising a savior. “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up: the flames will not consume you.” (43:2, NLT). He speaks of bringing the people back to Israel, and tells them that they are to be His witnesses before all other nations. They are to proclaim, “There is no other God — there never has been, and there never will be.” (43;10, NLT). He promises to bring them victory over their sins. He goes on to talk about how they stopped presenting Him with offerings, but instead burdened Him with their sin. So He says to them, “I — yes, I alone — will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again.” (43:25, NLT). God then returns to the topic of the foolishness of idol worship. speaking to the people about how useless it is. “The person who made the idol never stops to reflect, ‘Why, it’s just a block of wood! I bunted half of it for heat and used it to bake my bread and roast my meat. Ho can the rest of it be a god? Should I bow down to worship a piece of wood?'” (44:19, NLT). The answer is, of course, NO! God says to His people, “I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered you offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free.” (44:22, NLT).

There is certainly a lot in these chapters of Isaiah. I feel as though each one deserves a post on their own. But there is a central theme here, God is always there for us. God was looking into the future and knew what was soon to happen to His people. They were going to continue to rebel, and not listen to the Prophets. This behavior ultimately lead them to be exiled into the land of Babylon. Yet, He wanted to give His people every opportunity to turn around and come back to Him. He promises them a Savior to come and pay the price of their sin. We live in a world where that price has been paid. When Jesus was hung on the cross, it was not simply for all the sins of the world that had happened up to that point. It wasn’t for all the sins of the people alive and around at that point. It was for every single person who ever lived, and will ever live. I love that tradition shows us that Christ was crucified on top of a hill. Not just any hill, but a hill that overlooks Jerusalem, and Israel for that matter. I love the imagery, because it says to me that Jesus had the perfect view to see through time and see me. He could see me and he knew that he was paying the price of my sins.

The same can be said of you. Christ saw you and knew that he was paying the price for you to be free. Paul writes, “and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News.” (Colossians 1:20-23, NLT). Christ saw you on that day and is calling out to you. Will you respond to him, and say “Forgive me of my sins, Lord”, or are you able to come up with something on your own to justify yourself to God? I promise you nothing will succeed.

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 107

 

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Salvation Comes From the Lord (Isaiah 24-27)

Book of Isaiah

Isaiah delivers a prophecy describing the destruction of the whole Earth. This is fitting since it comes after God’s messages of destruction to many nations in the world. The main theme in this vision is that man’s pride will be destroyed. “In that day the Lord will punish the gods in the heavens and the proud rulers of the nations on the earth.” (24:21, NLT). Isaiah then sees a vision of the coming salvation. People will return back to God, and recognize His ability to provide. “But you are a tower of refuge to the poor, O Lord, a tower of refuge to the needy in distress. You are a refuge from the storm and a shelter from the heat.” (25:4, NLT). This salvation, however, will not be for the people of Israel alone. It is meant for “all the people of the world” (25:6, NLT). After the message of salvation, we find a psalm praising God. It encourages us to keep our trust in God. “Lord in our distress we searched for you. We prayed beneath the burden of your discipline.” (26:16, NLT). It won’t always be easy, but we are reminded to keep our trust in God no matter what. God then offers a vision of the restored Israel. God will defeat all who stand against Him, and He will save those that remain faithful to him. After the defeat of evil, God will call His people back to Jerusalem and they will worship Him.

We’ve all done wrong. It’s that simple. Paul even wrote, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NASB). Since this is true, we must all realize a common thread for every man, woman and child on earth. We need salvation from our sins. God recognized this as soon as we first sinned, and began a plan to bring redemption to mankind. There are times all throughout Scripture, where the people of God sin and fall away from God. Why? Because we cannot be saved on our own. Our salvation depends on one act, and that is our trust and belief in God. Isaiah continued to preach this to the people of Judah, even though they were heading towards disaster. We can’t do it, that’s where pride gets in our way. We have to trust that God knows what He is doing.

Let’s look at a couple verses again. “In Jerusalem, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will spread a wonderful feast for all the people of the world. It will be a delicious banquet with clear, well-aged wine and choice meat. There he will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away our tears.” (25:6-8, NLT). God promises to remove death from our world, and He did just that. These verses remind me of the Easter story. Christ instituted a meal (the Eucharist, aka Holy Communion), then handed his life over as an offering for the sins of humanity. By our belief, we have eternal life. This can only be found through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23). Through our pain and tribulations, we can find relief in knowing that God has promised salvation to those who not just believe in Him, but in the Son as well (John 3:16).

If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ, I hope that you seek one out. I am always available to help as I can. Just contact me, and I’ll do my best.

If you do have a relationship with Jesus Christ, I challenge you to talk to someone about Him today. The only way people have an opportunity for salvation, is if His followers lead others to Him. How can we put our trust and faith in someone we don’t know about? Talk to someone, that’s the best we can do.

 

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He Keeps His Promises (Isaiah 13-16)

Book of Isaiah

In today’s reading, God turns His sight upon Babylon. At this time they were not a powerful nation. They were still a part of the Assyrian Empire. But He knows they will be a people who are against Him. They, like Assyria, will even think that they are better/higher than God. However God promises destruction upon them as well. “Babylon, the most glorious of kingdoms, the flower of Chaldean pride, will be devastated like Sodom and Gomorrah when God destroyed them.” (13:19, NLT). Because of its pride, Babylon will be overrun by God’s wrath. God goes on to describe how He will display His might to the people of Assyria and Philistia. Then the Lord turns His sights upon Moab, a long time enemy of the Israelites. He tells them, “Even the waters of Nimrim are dried up! The grassy banks are scorched. The tender plants are gone; nothing green remains.” (15:6, NLT). God had threatened Moab before, but the important point is “Within three years, counting each day, the glory of Moab will be ended. From its great population, only a few of its people will be left alive.” (16:14, NLT). The people of Judah saw all of these prophecies made against other nations (except Babylon) come true in their time before the Exile.

I find some peace in knowing that God keeps His promises. Sure the ones He gave in this reading were destructive, and not exactly something I want in my own life. Yet it is still nice to know that He will keep those promises. In the book of Deuteronomy Moses wrote, “Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments.” (Deuteronomy 7:9, NASB). This says to me that, even though God proved His follow through with these destructive promises, He still remains faithful to you and I for simply believing in Him. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NASB). God keeps that promise too. We haven’t been left alone to figure things out on our own. God gave us a way for salvation. It is found in Jesus Christ, and God will keep that promise until the end of time.

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