COMFORT AND JOY

God rest ye merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay
Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day
To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy…

Isaiah is forecasting from God what will happen next to His people—comfort and joy!  After suffering as captives, they will return to their homeland.  After leaving traditions and ceremonies behind in captivity they will learn to worship the living God in honest and holy celebration of his love, provision, protection who has saved them and brought them back.  Like a new mother comforts her newborn, so God will comfort His people with even more compassionate love and care.  Joy returns because of God setting the captives free!  Yes, God is the One who brings comfort and joy we can count on as He is One and Only who saved us and set us free! 

God had a Plan to save us when we went astray.  The Plan is Jesus, Messiah, the One who Saves us all from evil’s hold on us. 

Warren Wiersbe comments on this passage; “Of course, the remarkable thing will be the birth of a nation as Israel takes center stage on the international scene. The return of the Jews to their land will be as swift as the birth of a baby. Israel’s travail will be “the day of the Lord” or “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7), when God will purify His people and prepare them for the coming of their Messiah. Like a nursing baby, she will find health and peace in the arms of the Lord.”

Isaiah 66, The Message

Living Worship to God

1-2 God’s Message:

“Heaven’s my throne,
    earth is my footstool.
What sort of house could you build for me?
    What holiday spot reserve for me?
I made all this! I own all this!”
    God’s Decree.
“But there is something I’m looking for:
    a person simple and plain,
    reverently responsive to what I say.

3-4 “Your acts of worship
    are acts of sin:
Your sacrificial slaughter of the ox
    is no different from murdering the neighbor;
Your offerings for worship,
    no different from dumping pig’s blood on the altar;
Your presentation of memorial gifts,
    no different from honoring a no-god idol.
You choose self-serving worship,
    you delight in self-centered worship—disgusting!
Well, I choose to expose your nonsense
    and let you realize your worst fears,
Because when I invited you, you ignored me;
    when I spoke to you, you brushed me off.
You did the very things I exposed as evil,
    you chose what I hate.”

But listen to what God has to say
    to you who reverently respond to his Word:
“Your own families hate you
    and turn you out because of me.

They taunt you, ‘Let us see God’s glory!
    If God’s so great, why aren’t you happy?’
But they’re the ones
    who are going to end up shamed.”

* * *

Rumbles of thunder from the city!
    A voice out of the Temple!
God’s voice,
    handing out judgment to his enemies:

7-9 “Before she went into labor,
    she had the baby.
Before the birth pangs hit,
    she delivered a son.
Has anyone ever heard of such a thing?
    Has anyone seen anything like this?
A country born in a day?
    A nation born in a flash?
But Zion was barely in labor
    when she had her babies!
Do I open the womb
    and not deliver the baby?
Do I, the One who delivers babies,
    shut the womb?

10-11 “Rejoice, Jerusalem,
    and all who love her, celebrate!
And all you who have shed tears over her,
    join in the happy singing.
You newborns can satisfy yourselves
    at her nurturing breasts.
Yes, delight yourselves and drink your fill
    at her ample bosom.”

12-13 God’s Message:

“I’ll pour robust well-being into her like a river,
    the glory of nations like a river in flood.
You’ll nurse at her breasts,
    nestle in her bosom,
    and be bounced on her knees.
As a mother comforts her child,
    so I’ll comfort you.
    You will be comforted in Jerusalem.”

14-16 You’ll see all this and burst with joy
    —you’ll feel ten feet tall—
As it becomes apparent that God is on your side
    and against his enemies.
For God arrives like wildfire
    and his chariots like a tornado,
A furious outburst of anger,
    a rebuke fierce and fiery.
For it’s by fire that God brings judgment,
    a death sentence on the human race.
Many, oh so many,
    are under God’s sentence of death:

17 “All who enter the sacred groves for initiation in those unholy rituals that climaxed in that foul and obscene meal of pigs and mice will eat together and then die together.” God’s Decree.

18-21 “I know everything they’ve ever done or thought. I’m going to come and then gather everyone—all nations, all languages. They’ll come and see my glory. I’ll set up a station at the center. I’ll send the survivors of judgment all over the world: Spain and Africa, Turkey and Greece, and the far-off islands that have never heard of me, who know nothing of what I’ve done nor who I am. I’ll send them out as missionaries to preach my glory among the nations. They’ll return with all your long-lost brothers and sisters from all over the world. They’ll bring them back and offer them in living worship to God. They’ll bring them on horses and wagons and carts, on mules and camels, straight to my holy mountain Jerusalem,” says God. “They’ll present them just as Israelites present their offerings in a ceremonial vessel in the Temple of God. I’ll even take some of them and make them priests and Levites,” says God.

22-23 “For just as the new heavens and new earth
    that I am making will stand firm before me”
        —God’s Decree—
“So will your children
    and your reputation stand firm.
Month after month and week by week,
    everyone will come to worship me,” God says.

24 “And then they’ll go out and look at what happened
    to those who rebelled against me. Corpses!
Maggots endlessly eating away on them,
    an endless supply of fuel for fires.
Everyone who sees what’s happened
    and smells the stench retches.”

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

The Messiah did indeed come to save us and redeem us forever.  Jesus came not to be served, but to serve.  He came with a message of love, joy, and peace.  He taught us how to love each other while displaying His perfect love for all to see firsthand.  Those who saw and walked by His side, Jesus trained to love like He loved and sent them out as discipled missionaries to all the parts of the world so that we today could be saved by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus.  Generations of trained missionaries still go out to tell the Good News!  Are we one of them?

When God intervenes and interrupts the world with His Son Jesus to save us and set us free, comfort and joy follows all because God so loved the world…

Isaiah’s warns about pure worship of God.  Once we believe, ceremonies of worship can never take the place of a humble heart. God does not live in buildings; He dwells with those who submit to Him. In Isaiah’s day, God’s people were complacent.  They were going through the motions of worship without having a heart for God. The people were not sacrificing the animals; they were murdering them! Because their hearts were far from God, their offerings were as unclean things to the Lord. The heart of the worshiper determines the value of the offering.

God’s message through Isaiah shows what God longs to give…comfort and joy all because of His love.  John reminds us that “we love God because He first loved us.”  (1 John 4:19) Rest in His love this season.  Be fueled and set ablaze by his gospel (good news) of peace and spread the news of God’s comfort and joy to others so others will know God and what He has done for us.

God rest ye merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay
Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day
To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy…

Isaiah speaks God’s Message and we who believe God are saved.

Lord,

Thank you for saving my soul.  Thank you for comfort and joy I feel this morning all because you so loved us and saved all who believe.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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SEEK AND FIND

If you are parents, you have probably had this happen to you more than once.  Kids will call out to you, you answer, but their response is to call out again without really looking for you.  I figured this out after my own kids did this to me a few times.  Kids are calling out to know where you are, not to find you, but so they know how much more time they have with how much they can get by with until they come to where you are or you come to them.  Kids are smart, well sneaky, in other words.  The calling out is an early form of a “tracking signal” to get your location so more of what that shouldn’t be into or doing can be accomplished in a certain amount of time left until you come to them.

God understands this method of seek and find.  His people do it to Him all the time.  Just ask Isaiah, he’ll tell you….

Isaiah 65, The Message

The People Who Bothered to Reach Out to God

1-7 “I’ve made myself available
    to those who haven’t bothered to ask.
I’m here, ready to be found
    by those who haven’t bothered to look.
I kept saying ‘I’m here, I’m right here’
    to a nation that ignored me.
I reached out day after day
    to a people who turned their backs on me,
People who make wrong turns,
    who insist on doing things their own way.
They get on my nerves,
    are rude to my face day after day,
Make up their own kitchen religion,
    a potluck religious stew.
They spend the night in tombs
    to get messages from the dead,
Eat forbidden foods
    and drink a witch’s brew of potions and charms.
They say, ‘Keep your distance.
    Don’t touch me. I’m holier than thou.’
These people gag me.
    I can’t stand their stench.
Look at this! Their sins are all written out—
    I have the list before me.
I’m not putting up with this any longer.
    I’ll pay them the wages
They have coming for their sins.
    And for the sins of their parents lumped in,
    a bonus.” God says so.
“Because they’ve practiced their blasphemous worship,
    mocking me at their hillside shrines,
I’ll let loose the consequences
    and pay them in full for their actions.”

* * *

8-10 God’s Message:

“But just as one bad apple doesn’t ruin the whole bushel,
    there are still plenty of good apples left.
So I’ll preserve those in Israel who obey me.
    I won’t destroy the whole nation.
I’ll bring out my true children from Jacob
    and the heirs of my mountains from Judah.
My chosen will inherit the land,
    my servants will move in.
The lush valley of Sharon in the west
    will be a pasture for flocks,
And in the east, the valley of Achor,
    a place for herds to graze.
These will be for the people
    who bothered to reach out to me, who wanted me in their lives,
    who actually bothered to look for me.

* * *

11-12 “But you who abandon me, your God,
    who forget the holy mountains,
Who hold dinners for Lady Luck
    and throw cocktail parties for Sir Fate,
Well, you asked for it. Fate it will be:
    your destiny, Death.
For when I invited you, you ignored me;
    when I spoke to you, you brushed me off.
You did the very things I exposed as evil;
    you chose what I hate.”

13-16 Therefore, this is the Message from the Master, God:

“My servants will eat,
    and you’ll go hungry;
My servants will drink,
    and you’ll go thirsty;
My servants will rejoice,
    and you’ll hang your heads.
My servants will laugh from full hearts,
    and you’ll cry out heartbroken,
    yes, wail from crushed spirits.
Your legacy to my chosen
    will be your name reduced to a cussword.
I, God, will put you to death
    and give a new name to my servants.
Then whoever prays a blessing in the land
    will use my faithful name for the blessing,
And whoever takes an oath in the land
    will use my faithful name for the oath,
Because the earlier troubles are gone and forgotten,
    banished far from my sight.

New Heavens and a New Earth

17-25 “Pay close attention now:
    I’m creating new heavens and a new earth.

All the earlier troubles, chaos, and pain
    are things of the past, to be forgotten.
Look ahead with joy.
    Anticipate what I’m creating:
I’ll create Jerusalem as sheer joy,
    create my people as pure delight.
I’ll take joy in Jerusalem,
    take delight in my people:
No more sounds of weeping in the city,
    no cries of anguish;
No more babies dying in the cradle,
    or old people who don’t enjoy a full lifetime;
One-hundredth birthdays will be considered normal—
    anything less will seem like a cheat.
They’ll build houses
    and move in.
They’ll plant fields
    and eat what they grow.
No more building a house
    that some outsider takes over,
No more planting fields
    that some enemy confiscates,
For my people will be as long-lived as trees,
    my chosen ones will have satisfaction in their work.
They won’t work and have nothing come of it,
    they won’t have children snatched out from under them.
For they themselves are plantings blessed by God,
    with their children and grandchildren likewise God-blessed.
Before they call out, I’ll answer.
    Before they’ve finished speaking, I’ll have heard.
Wolf and lamb will graze the same meadow,
    lion and ox eat straw from the same trough,
    but snakes—they’ll get a diet of dirt!
Neither animal nor human will hurt or kill
    anywhere on my Holy Mountain,” says God.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

Call out to God in confidence, expecting Him to answer, knowing full well that He knows what you will ask before you call out to Him.  “Before they call out, I’ll answer.  Before they’ve finished speaking, I’ll have heard.”  Only God can do this!

Don’t test or play games with God.  God knows our hearts.  There is nothing hidden from God, least of all, our motivations of heart, mind and soul.

God knows where we are because He is already there.  Read that again.

God provides, protects and blesses those who are walking in His ways with a way through all troubles this world has to offer while growing His character in us.  What does the Lord require of us?  Micah, the prophet tells us straight from God, “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) What does that look like?  Jesus shows us by example, clearly with understanding.  Read Matthew, Luke, Mark and John.  John 13 tells us “the full extent of the love” Jesus has for us. (Teaser.) 

Lord,

Thank you for always being there when I call out to you. Thank you for helping me throughout the years, in and out of troubles, sometimes walking right through them with courage and confidence because of your strength.  Thank you for helping me see temptations for what they are—all those things that lead to death spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Help me not to fall for Satan’s schemes to draw me away from you and bring me down in my faith in you.  Thank you for teaching me hard lessons I must learn that transform me daily, inch by inch, so I can be more like you created me to be.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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THE WAIT

Just yesterday, I caught myself in front of the microwave waiting very impatiently while my slice of pizza was reheating.  These words came out of my mouth: “Seriously, how long does it take to get this warmed up.”  Then I laughed at myself because it’s going to take the amount of time I set on the appliance I’m standing in front of…30 SECONDS! 

Yes, we do not like to wait on anything.  We stew and grumble in our impatience.  It is a behavior that begins as infants.  When infants wake up, they cry for food.  When parents don’t have it ready in anticipation of the waking baby, the cries get louder.  Infants train parents to have the infant’s needs in ready for when they want it.  And NOW is when they want it.  As they grow into toddlers, short words accompany the cry along with a little whine.  Toddlers learn the fine art of whining in all circumstances.  “How loooooong is this going to be?” is heard repetitively as you finish a task for their benefit and is just one example of thousands. 

As growing children, we get more sophisticated in our impatience with large doses of sarcasm that develops into an art form.  Going on a trip out of town, or just across town, the ongoing, incessant question is, “Are we there yet?”  Added to the repertoire with rolling eyes you can almost hear, “How long does it take to get there?”  “Can’t you drive any faster?”

Yes, we humans are not patient.  It’s a good thing our Father God in heaven is…

Isaiah 64, The Message

Can We Be Saved?

1-7 Oh, that you would rip open the heavens and descend,
    make the mountains shudder at your presence—
As when a forest catches fire,
    as when fire makes a pot to boil—
To shock your enemies into facing you,
    make the nations shake in their boots!
You did terrible things we never expected,
    descended and made the mountains shudder at your presence.
Since before time began
    no one has ever imagined,
No ear heard, no eye seen, a God like you
    who works for those who wait for him.
You meet those who happily do what is right,
    who keep a good memory of the way you work.
But how angry you’ve been with us!
    We’ve sinned and kept at it so long!
    Is there any hope for us? Can we be saved?

We’re all sin-infected, sin-contaminated.
    Our best efforts are grease-stained rags.
We dry up like autumn leaves—
    sin-dried, we’re blown off by the wind.
No one prays to you
    or makes the effort to reach out to you

Because you’ve turned away from us,
    left us to stew in our sins.

8-12 Still, God, you are our Father.
    We’re the clay and you’re our potter:

    All of us are what you made us.
Don’t be too angry with us, O God.
    Don’t keep a permanent account of wrongdoing.
    Keep in mind, please, we are your people—all of us.
Your holy cities are all ghost towns:
    Zion’s a ghost town,
    Jerusalem’s a field of weeds.
Our holy and beautiful Temple,
    which our ancestors filled with your praises,
Was burned down by fire,
    all our lovely parks and gardens in ruins.
In the face of all this,
    are you going to sit there unmoved, God?
Aren’t you going to say something?
    Haven’t you made us miserable long enough?

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

Why is God not working wonders? In this instance, the people have sinned and must confess their sins and turn from them. If our righteous deeds are filthy, what must our sins look like in His sight! According to verse 4, God has planned wonderful things for His people, things beyond their imagination, but their sins prevent Him from sharing His blessings.  Turn to God, repent, and listen to His voice above all other voices in this world that draw us away from him—including our own voice!

Isaiah’s prayer (and that of the believing remnant) ends with a question: Why is God silent? His temple has been destroyed, His glorious land has been ravaged, and His people are in exile. God’s reply is found in the next two chapters.  See you tomorrow! Wait for it…

Lord,

We think we have it altogether until life falls apart.  We throw a tantrum of impatience while you lovingly and patiently lead and teach us through the troubles and hard times.  Lord, I pray for all of us to turn around and look full into your wonderful face of love, mercy, and grace.  Your compassion never fails.  Your love is unending.  Your mercy and grace are undeserved but yet you “so loved” us that you sent Jesus to save us.   Thank you, thank you, thank you.  I’m listening, letting go in the wait, as you prepare me for what is next.

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen

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MIGHTY TO SAVE—OUR ONLY HOPE!

Everyone needs compassion
A love that’s never failing, let mercy fall on me
Everyone needs forgiveness
The kindness of a Savior, the Hope of nations

Savior, He can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Forever, author of Salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave…

(Songwriters: Ben Fielding / Reuben Morgan)

“Mighty to Save”, sung by Hillsong is playing in the background of my mind this morning as I read our next chapter of Isaiah.  God is indeed mighty to save in all kinds of troubles and circumstances that are self-imposed or not.  How grateful are we? Do we give credit where credit is due?  When we get to the other side of our troubles, do we thank the One who saved us?  Sometimes all that God does for us is forgotten as we trudge through life, distracted by shiny objects, going from challenge to challenge thinking we don’t need God—until we do.  It is only then, it seems, when all else is exhausted as help, that we realize His love, compassion, mercy, and grace—our only Hope of salvation forever.  So, do we really believe what God says really real?

So take me as You find me
All my fears and failures
Fill my life again
I give my life to follow
Everything I believe in
And now I surrender (I surrender)

Savior, He can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Forever, author of Salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave

Isaiah 63, The Message

Who Goes There?

The watchmen call out,
“Who goes there, marching out of Edom,
    out of Bozrah in clothes dyed red?
Name yourself, so splendidly dressed,
    advancing, bristling with power!”

“It is I: I speak what is right,
    I, mighty to save!”

“And why are your robes so red,
    your clothes dyed red like those who tread grapes?”

3-6 “I’ve been treading the winepress alone.
    No one was there to help me.
Angrily, I stomped the grapes;
    raging, I trampled the people.
Their blood spurted all over me—
    all my clothes were soaked with blood.
I was set on vengeance.
    The time for redemption had arrived.
I looked around for someone to help
    —no one.
I couldn’t believe it
    —not one volunteer.
So I went ahead and did it myself,
    fed and fueled by my rage.
I trampled the people in my anger,
    crushed them under foot in my wrath,
    soaked the earth with their lifeblood.”

All the Things God Has Done That Need Praising

7-I’ll make a list of God’s gracious dealings,
    all the things God has done that need praising,
All the generous bounties of God,
    his great goodness to the family of Israel—
Compassion lavished,
    love extravagant.

He said, “Without question these are my people,
    children who would never betray me.”
So he became their Savior.
    In all their troubles,

    he was troubled, too.
He didn’t send someone else to help them.
    He did it himself, in person.
Out of his own love and pity
    he redeemed them.
He rescued them and carried them along
    for a long, long time.

10 But they turned on him;
    they grieved his Holy Spirit
.
So he turned on them,
    became their enemy and fought them.

11-14 Then they remembered the old days,
    the days of Moses, God’s servant:
“Where is he who brought the shepherds of his flock
    up and out of the sea?
And what happened to the One who set
    his Holy Spirit within them?
Who linked his arm with Moses’ right arm,
    divided the waters before them,
Making him famous ever after,
    and led them through the muddy abyss
    as surefooted as horses on hard, level ground?
Like a herd of cattle led to pasture,
    the Spirit of God gave them rest.”

14-19 That’s how you led your people!
    That’s how you became so famous!
Look down from heaven, look at us!
    Look out the window of your holy and magnificent house!
Whatever happened to your passion,
    your famous mighty acts,
Your heartfelt pity, your compassion?
    Why are you holding back?

You are our Father.
    Abraham and Israel are long dead.
    They wouldn’t know us from Adam.
But you’re our living Father,
    our Redeemer, famous from eternity!
Why, God, did you make us wander from your ways?
    Why did you make us cold and stubborn
    so that we no longer worshiped you in awe?
Turn back for the sake of your servants.
    You own us! We belong to you!
For a while your holy people had it good,
    but now our enemies have wrecked your holy place.
For a long time now, you’ve paid no attention to us.
    It’s like you never knew us.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

Isaiah is looking ahead, as prophets do, and sees Jesus Christ returning from the battle of Armageddon that climaxes the day of the Lord (Revelation 19:11–21).  In that day, people crushed grapes with their feet into a winepress that took the juice from the grapes.  In the process the juice would splash on the garments of the “crushers.”  Our Lord’s garments were dyed with blood as the result of the great victory over His enemies.

Isaiah looked back at what God has done for Israel. He praised God for His unfailing love and goodness, for the pity and love bestowed on Israel. God identified with Israel’s suffering as He does with His people’s suffering today.

Isaiah turns to God in prayer for the nations.  May God come down again and reveal His awesome power to all people, prays Isaiah.  May those who trust in dead, man-made idols turn to God and see what the living God of Israel can do! 

God answers Isaiah’s prayer.  God still answers today.  God is Mighty to save!  God sent Hope to save us for eternity.  Believe in Jesus, our Only Hope, and be saved for life!  Jesus, who conquered death once and for all!

Savior, He can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Forever, author of Salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave

Shine Your light and let the whole world see
We’re singing for the glory of the risen King, Jesus
Shine Your light and let the whole world see
We’re singing for the glory of the risen King…!

Lord,

Thank you for saving us in such mighty miraculous ways! Thank you for saving us from ourselves.  Thank you for taking our sins to the cross and leaving them there.  Thank you for not only erasing the debt of sin but teaching us how to love you back, how to love and serve others, with wisdom and power to avoid temptations.  Thank you for renewing our spirits and restoring our joy when we fall and forget your benefits. Thank you for your loving patience with us.  Thank you for hearing our prayers, seeing our hearts and turning back to our repentant souls. Thank you for all you have done, are doing and will do as you abide in us and we abide in you.  Thank you for Hope, dear Jesus.  To you be the glory!

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen

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GOD DELIGHTS IN US!

God loves each one of us so deeply we cannot understand it.  Most of us know we do’t deserve His love.  But, the more we realize the distance God would go to save us from ourselves, our sins, our lostness and all the calamities that go with being self-driven; the greater His love, mercy and grace are magnified when we really believe what God is saying and doing is indeed really real.  God comes closer into view when we let go of all that stands between us and the One who loves us most. 

I realize His great love every time he sends a person to stand in my way to say what I need to hear in my confusion while seeking His will for my life.  It happened just yesterday.  Last week, I prayed and struggled with God over how I could still contribute to His church.  I asked God for His help daily.  But each day nothing of significance came to mind.  Then Sunday morning, while making my way to the worship center, a dear friend stopped serving coffee and came out to talk with me.  Her words were exactly what I needed to hear—a message from God—about the peace and hope I already possess from God.  Then while the sermon was spoken passionately about the same thing I was pondering all week, God spoke so fast to my heart, I could hardly write it down quickly enough.

Oddly, that has happened before when I seek what God wants because God wants me to spend time letting go of what is holding back His best before telling me what is next.  In the wait, I am taught to, well, wait.  Because I have walked this life for quite a few years with God, I have learned that after the wait, God intervenes when the time is exactly right.  The excitement and enthusiasm for God and HIS work builds beyond what we can hold inside and we “can’t keep our mouths shut” or “hold our tongues” about what God has done, is doing and will do in each of our lives.  Before leaving the worship center, I shared what God laid on my heart to another dear friend.  THIS is how God is always at work in our being.  And it is so amazing!

God not only loves us beyond our wildest dreams but He truly delights in all the details of our lives!  He is always there before we “get there” in our understanding.  He is there before we know we need His help in troubles and calamities.  His plan for us was decided by him before we were born!  We make life hard by trying to add to His plan or change His best plan for us.  He knows us better than we know ourselves for he created us!  (See Psalm 139 for real encouragement that is truth!)

Are we listening, letting go, being still and waiting on God to do what He does best to restore, revitalize, renew and refresh what He started in us long ago?  The answer is reflected in our behaviors.  Mm, ponder and pray.

Isaiah 62, The Message

Look, Your Savior Comes!

1-5 Regarding Zion, I can’t keep my mouth shut,
    regarding Jerusalem, I can’t hold my tongue,
Until her righteousness blazes down like the sun
    and her salvation flames up like a torch.
Foreign countries will see your righteousness,
    and world leaders your glory.
You’ll get a brand-new name
    straight from the mouth of God.
You’ll be a stunning crown in the palm of God’s hand,
    a jeweled gold cup held high in the hand of your God.
No more will anyone call you Rejected,
    and your country will no more be called Ruined.
You’ll be called Hephzibah (My Delight),
    and your land Beulah (Married),
Because God delights in you
    and your land will be like a wedding celebration.
For as a young man marries his virgin bride,
    so your builder marries you,
And as a bridegroom is happy in his bride,
    so your God is happy with you.

6-I’ve posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem.
    Day and night they keep at it, praying, calling out,
    reminding God to remember.

They are to give him no peace until he does what he said,
    until he makes Jerusalem famous as the City of Praise.

8-9 God has taken a solemn oath,
    an oath he means to keep:
“Never again will I open your grain-filled barns
    to your enemies to loot and eat.
Never again will foreigners drink the wine
    that you worked so hard to produce.
No. The farmers who grow the food will eat the food
    and praise God for it.
And those who make the wine will drink the wine
    in my holy courtyards.”

10-12 Walk out of the gates. Get going!
    Get the road ready for the people.
Build the highway. Get at it!
    Clear the debris,
    hoist high a flag, a signal to all peoples!
Yes! God has broadcast to all the world:
    “Tell daughter Zion, ‘Look! Your Savior comes,
Ready to do what he said he’d do,
    prepared to complete what he promised.’”
Zion will be called new names: Holy People, God-Redeemed,
    Sought-Out, City-Not-Forsaken.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

God wants His best for all who believe in Him.  Believe and be saved.  

God will transform us as He transforms the circumstance and situations that surround us if that is necessary.  Allow Him to do what He needs to do in us.

God is always at work.  God saves us.  God changes us.  God does not change in His compassion, love, mercy, and grace that is inexhaustible for us.  “Look, He sent a Savior!” says Isaiah.  Hallelujah!

God will have no rest till He accomplishes His purposes for His people, and the world will have no peace till He succeeds. He asks us to “give Him no rest” (v. 7) but to intercede for Israel and Jerusalem, for the prayers of His people are an important part of the way God works.  “Day and night they keep at it, praying, calling out, reminding God to remember.”  So we pray,

Lord,

We pray for lost people to come to your saving grace, to hear your voice above all other voices in this world, and to obey what you say for what you say is for our best!  I pray for you to do in me what you must so I will be all you created me to be before doing anything of significance for others.  Help me to love like you love us without conditions.  Help me to serve like you showed us to serve without favoritism.  May all I think, say or do be pleasing to you—even today.

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen

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DRESS TO IMPRESS?!

We dress for all occasions even though we seem to live in an “anything goes” culture.  When we go to a funeral, we avoid bright colors that might draw attention to ourselves because we attend to pay respect and honor to the life lived.  We dress in our shiny party clothes for wedding receptions.  We dress in all kinds of ways for church going, not trying to impress, but to be honest. We dress according to the tasks of our workplace.  We dress in stretchy clothes to go to the gym to seriously work on those muscles!

As I read this passage, I am reminded of Paul’s instructions about “clothing ourselves” in ways that please God.  When we believe in Jesus as Savior AND Lord of our lives, what we think about affects how we dress and how we behave. Is how we dress our top priority—to please God?  Do we dress to be like Jesus?  Do we dress for Him, as a representative of Him?  Is our motivation love for Jesus?

We adore and love Jesus.  Our relationship is compared in God’s Word to a “bride and groom”.  Jesus is our bridegroom, the one relationship we have been waiting for our whole lives, the One who loved us and laid down His life for us.  He is preparing a special place for us where He lives and He will come for us and take us home to be with Him forever someday. 

So, how would you dress to please someone who loved you as much as Jesus loves us as His bride?  What clothing will impress Him?  What does that clothing look like? 

Paul makes it perfectly clear:

“In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:11-17

Isaiah tells us, “He dressed me up in a suit of salvation, he outfitted me in a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom who puts on a tuxedo and a bride a jeweled tiara.”  God has dressed us with holiness by washing our sins away because of Jesus redemptive work on the cross for all who believe.  May our hearts, minds and souls stay focused on the One and Only who loves us most and loves us best.  Let’s keep our garments clean before Him.

Isaiah 61, The Message

Announce Freedom to All Captives

1-7 The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me
    because God anointed me.
He sent me to preach good news to the poor,
    heal the heartbroken,
Announce freedom to all captives,
    pardon all prisoners.
God sent me to announce the year of his grace—
    a celebration of God’s destruction of our enemies—
    and to comfort all who mourn,
To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion,
    give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes,
Messages of joy instead of news of doom,
    a praising heart instead of a languid spirit.
Rename them “Oaks of Righteousness”
    planted by God to display his glory.

They’ll rebuild the old ruins,
    raise a new city out of the wreckage.
They’ll start over on the ruined cities,
    take the rubble left behind and make it new.
You’ll hire outsiders to herd your flocks
    and foreigners to work your fields,
But you’ll have the title “Priests of God,”
    honored as ministers of our God.
You’ll feast on the bounty of nations,
    you’ll bask in their glory.
Because you got a double dose of trouble
    and more than your share of contempt,
Your inheritance in the land will be doubled
    and your joy go on forever.

8-9 “Because I, God, love fair dealing
    and hate thievery and crime,
I’ll pay your wages on time and in full,
    and establish my eternal covenant with you.

Your descendants will become well-known all over.
    Your children in foreign countries
Will be recognized at once
    as the people I have blessed.”

10-11 I will sing for joy in God,
    explode in praise from deep in my soul!
He dressed me up in a suit of salvation,
    he outfitted me in a robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom who puts on a tuxedo
    and a bride a jeweled tiara.
For as the earth bursts with spring wildflowers,
    and as a garden cascades with blossoms,
So the Master, God, brings righteousness into full bloom
    and puts praise on display before the nations.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

If we have trusted Christ as our Savior, we are free to love like He loves, think more like Him so we will walk with God in ways that are pleasing to Him.  We have been set free from bondage; our spiritual debt to the Lord has been paid. Instead of the ashes of mourning, we have a crown on our heads, for He has made us royalty as part of His family. We have been given His Holy Spirit to guide and help us and we wear a robe of righteousness as His “bride”, His beloved, forgiven from all our sins.  In other words, we have been “made right” with God, fully forgiven of sins, so we can be in relationship with Him.

We respond is grateful praise and humble thanksgiving for we do not deserve what God has to offer as His gift to us.  But He gave anyway, while “we were yet sinners”, for “God so loved”.

Lord,

Thank you!  Thank you for saving my soul and making me whole. Thank you for growing our relationship with trials and challenges so I will depend on You and trust you with ALL my life.  You chose me.  I choose you.  Thank you for loving us the way you do.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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THE REUNION

In a few short days many people will gather to reunite our families around a table full of food.  I pray there will be laughter as memories are recalled while making new ones on this day.  Most of all I pray that God will be given the glory and thanks for all He has done, is doing and will do in all the details of our lives here on earth.  Some who gather with us have walked out on God but not on the family yet.  So may our lives as believers be evident at the table of God’s blessings so that God’s love and light in us will attract a reunion between the lost and God.

Isaiah is foretelling the reunion of Israel back to Jerusalem and much more.  The Babylonian captivity had been the nation’s darkest hour, but that is not the darkness that Isaiah was describing. He was describing the awful darkness that will cover the earth during the day of the Lord (Amos 5:18) when God punishes the nations of the earth for their sins. God’s judgement gets worse before it gets better.  Along with this prophecy, Isaiah is also describing the glorious light that will come to Israel when her Messiah returns to reign in Jerusalem.  His words are parallel to the words John will write as a result of God’s Revelation to him on the island of Patmos!  Pay attention!  “Put your face in the sunlight, God’s bright glory has risen for you.”

Isaiah 60, The Message

People Returning for the Reunion

1-7 “Get out of bed, Jerusalem!
    Wake up. Put your face in the sunlight.
    God’s bright glory has risen for you.
The whole earth is wrapped in darkness,
    all people sunk in deep darkness,
But God rises on you,
    his sunrise glory breaks over you.
Nations will come to your light,
    kings to your sunburst brightness.
Look up! Look around!
    Watch as they gather, watch as they approach you:
Your sons coming from great distances,
    your daughters carried by their nannies.
When you see them coming you’ll smile—big smiles!
    Your heart will swell and, yes, burst!
All those people returning by sea for the reunion,
    a rich harvest of exiles gathered in from the nations!
And then streams of camel caravans as far as the eye can see,
    young camels of nomads in Midian and Ephah,
Pouring in from the south from Sheba,
    loaded with gold and frankincense,
    preaching the praises of God.
And yes, a great roundup
    of flocks from the nomads in Kedar and Nebaioth,
Welcome gifts for worship at my altar
    as I bathe my glorious Temple in splendor.

What’s That We See in the Distance?

8-22 “What’s that we see in the distance,
    a cloud on the horizon, like doves darkening the sky?
It’s ships from the distant islands,
    the famous Tarshish ships
Returning your children from faraway places,
    loaded with riches, with silver and gold,
And backed by the name of your God, The Holy of Israel,
    showering you with splendor.
Foreigners will rebuild your walls,
    and their kings assist you in the conduct of worship.
When I was angry I hit you hard.
    It’s my desire now to be tender.
Your Jerusalem gates will always be open
    —open house day and night!—
Receiving deliveries of wealth from all nations,
    and their kings, the delivery boys!

Any nation or kingdom that doesn’t deliver will perish;
    those nations will be totally wasted.
The rich woods of Lebanon will be delivered
    —all that cypress and oak and pine—
To give a splendid elegance to my Sanctuary,
    as I make my footstool glorious.
The descendants of your oppressor
    will come bowing and scraping to you.
All who looked down at you in contempt
    will lick your boots.

They’ll confer a title on you: City of God,
    Zion of The Holy of Israel.
Not long ago you were despised refuse—
    out-of-the-way, unvisited, ignored.
But now I’ve put you on your feet,
    towering and grand forever, a joy to look at!
When you suck the milk of nations
    and the breasts of royalty,

You’ll know that I, God, am your Savior,
    your Redeemer, Champion of Jacob.
I’ll give you only the best—no more hand-me-downs!
    Gold instead of bronze, silver instead of iron,
    bronze instead of wood, iron instead of stones.
I’ll install Peace to run your country,
    make Righteousness your boss.

There’ll be no more stories of crime in your land,
    no more robberies, no more vandalism.
You’ll name your main street Salvation Way,
    and install Praise Park at the center of town.

You’ll have no more need of the sun by day
    nor the brightness of the moon at night.
God will be your eternal light,
    your God will bathe you in splendor.
Your sun will never go down,
    your moon will never fade.
I will be your eternal light.
    Your days of grieving are over.

All your people will live right and well,
    in permanent possession of the land.
They’re the green shoot that I planted,
    planted with my own hands to display my glory.
The runt will become a great tribe,
    the weakling become a strong nation.
I am God.
    At the right time I’ll make it happen.”

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

“Arise, shine” is God’s wake-up call to Jerusalem because a new day is dawning for Israel. This light is not from the sun but from the glory of God shining on the city.

Isaiah saw ships and caravans bringing people and wealth to Jerusalem.  In this holy reunion, however, he also saw that the nations refusing to honor the Lord and His city would be judged. He saw that even Israel’s old enemies will submit and help to serve the Lord.  We learn that when God intervenes, the whole world takes notice!

The Lord, through Isaiah, describes some of the joys and wonders of the glorious kingdom under His rule and protection.  John, beloved disciple of Jesus, exiled to an island for preaching the Good News, used some of the characteristics of the millennial Jerusalem when he described the Holy City (Rev. 21–22): The sun never sets; no sorrow is there; the gates never close; and so forth. But the city Isaiah described is the capital city of the restored Jewish nation, and Jesus Christ shall sit on the throne of David and judge righteously. The Jewish “remnant” will increase and fill the land according to prophecy.

“I am God. At the right time I’ll make it happen.” –God

The benefits of believing and trusting God:

  • When we wait on God, trusting Him to do what only God can do, our lives will reflect His glory on our faces!
  • When we repent of our sins, God forgives—and forgets them all!  Freedom at last!  Redeemed people are guilt free people.
  • When we lay down our will for God’s will, peace, joy, wisdom, and love grow in us—even in (and especially through) the struggles of this world. 
  • When we seek God first each day with a heart’s desire to grow in a deeper relationship with Him, our lives are never the same and certainly not stagnant.  Adventures with God become plentiful!
  • Everything good we tried to do by ourselves is now suddenly magnified exponentially when we allow God to do what He must in us—working from the inside out. 

Lord,

I know You will make it happen.  You are always at work whether we see it or not, believe it or not.  I do believe.  I pray for the day when all the lost ones of my family will arise and see you for who you are—their hope, salvation, and peace and reunite with You completely.  I pray that our reunions this season will be sweet and joyous as we gather in your Name to give you thanks.  I thank you now for saving my soul and making me whole—daily.  You are my life.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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NOTHING WRONG WITH GOD

“When you least expect it—expect it!” When our kids would try to overtake their dad in tickle wars or harmless pranks, this was his warning to the little ones who thought they could win against their dad.  They rarely defeated their dad who was wiser, stronger and ready to act when necessary.  He also protected them from danger, always looking out for the holes in life they could fall into.  He provided help in troubles like flat tires and cars that wouldn’t start as they grew to be adults.  He taught them to be responsible so they could pass on this knowledge to their kids.  When sinful acts tried to put a wedge between us, the relationship was and is still there.  This is parenting, mentoring, and letting go, all at the same time.  God, our Father in Heaven, responds in much the same ways.

Sin is a tireless tool of the evil one thrown out of heaven for trying to be God, which is the ultimate sin.  Sin is lying to cover up the other sins such as gossip, manipulation of others to get them to do what you want them to do, pride of thinking you are the best, arrogance of letting people know you are the only one in charge, self-satisfaction in all kinds of perverted ways because you think you deserve it and finally the sin of blaming God when life falls apart for living away from God’s wings of protection, provision, and wisdom.

Nope, says Isaiah, “there’s nothing wrong with God.  The wrong is in us.”

Isaiah 59, The Message

We Long for Light but Sink into Darkness

1-Look! Listen!
    God’s arm is not amputated—he can still save.
    God’s ears are not stopped up—he can still hear.
There’s nothing wrong with God; the wrong is in you.
    Your wrongheaded lives caused the split between you and God.
    Your sins got between you so that he doesn’t hear.
Your hands are drenched in blood,
    your fingers dripping with guilt,
Your lips smeared with lies,
    your tongue swollen from muttering obscenities.
No one speaks up for the right,
    no one deals fairly.
They trust in illusion, they tell lies,
    they get pregnant with mischief and have sin-babies.
They hatch snake eggs and weave spider webs.
    Eat an egg and die; break an egg and get a snake!
The spider webs are no good for shirts or shawls.
    No one can wear these weavings!
They weave wickedness,
    they hatch violence
.
They compete in the race to do evil
    and run to be the first to murder.
They plan and plot evil, think and breathe evil,
    and leave a trail of wrecked lives behind them.
They know nothing about peace
    and less than nothing about justice.
They make tortuously twisted roads.
    No peace for the wretch who walks down those roads!

9-11 Which means that we’re a far cry from fair dealing,
    and we’re not even close to right living.
We long for light but sink into darkness,
    long for brightness but stumble through the night.
Like the blind, we inch along a wall,
    groping eyeless in the dark.
We shuffle our way in broad daylight,
    like the dead, but somehow walking.
We’re no better off than bears, groaning,
    and no worse off than doves, moaning.
We look for justice—not a sign of it;
    for salvation—not so much as a hint.

12-15 Our wrongdoings pile up before you, God,
    our sins stand up and accuse us.
Our wrongdoings stare us down;
    we know in detail what we’ve done:
Mocking and denying God,
    not following our God,
Spreading false rumors, whipping up revolt,
    pregnant with lies, muttering malice.
Justice is beaten back,
    Righteousness is banished to the sidelines,
Truth staggers down the street,
    Honesty is nowhere to be found,
Good is missing in action.
    Anyone renouncing evil is beaten and robbed.

15-19 God looked and saw evil looming on the horizon—
    so much evil and no sign of Justice.
He couldn’t believe what he saw:
    not a soul around to correct this awful situation.
So he did it himself, took on the work of Salvation,
    fueled by his own Righteousness.
He dressed in Righteousness, put it on like a suit of armor,
    with Salvation on his head like a helmet,
Put on Judgment like an overcoat,
    and threw a cloak of Passion across his shoulders.
He’ll make everyone pay for what they’ve done:
    fury for his foes, just deserts for his enemies.
    Even the far-off islands will get paid off in full.
In the west they’ll fear the name of God,
    in the east they’ll fear the glory of God,
For he’ll arrive like a river in flood stage,
    whipped to a torrent by the wind of God.

20 “I’ll arrive in Zion as Redeemer,
    to those in Jacob who leave their sins.”
        God’s Decree.

21 “As for me,” God says, “this is my covenant with them: My Spirit that I’ve placed upon you and the words that I’ve given you to speak, they’re not going to leave your mouths nor the mouths of your children nor the mouths of your grandchildren. You will keep repeating these words and won’t ever stop.” God’s orders.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

We learn that sin comes on slowly—like boiling a frog in a kettle, so aptly illustrated by George Barna in his prophetic book long ago by the same name, “The Frog in the Kettle.”  Put a frog in a warm bath and he will enjoy swimming around in it.  Turn up the heat, ever so slowly, until the warm water is boiling him to his ultimate demise—death.  That is exactly how sin works.  Sin “looms on the horizon” slowly, Isaiah writes, making its way into our lives in ways, turning up the heat ever so slowly that we don’t feel or see it at first. 

But God sees it.  He wonders why no one is doing anything about the injustice, hate and darkness of it all.  So, God shines a Light on the world so people will see who are becoming more blind with every step.  God then, when evil least expected it, sent a Savior—Jesus Christ, His own Son, to defeat the enemy and make all things right between God and mankind. 

But we must believe to be saved from the sin in the pot that is rising to a boil.

One of my favorite authors, Joni Eareckson Tada relates, “Though gradually, though no one remembers exactly how it happened, the unthinkable becomes tolerable. And then acceptable. And then legal. And then applaudable.” 

When we least expect it, expect it.  The enemy is still at work with limited power with the tricks of his trade that he has had since the beginning of creation—self pride.  He has learned to move slowly and strategically with a goal to have a whole generation who does not know God or who Jesus is and what He did for them.  Are we going to allow him this outcome?  Will God?  I don’t think so.

When we least expect it, expect God to act on our behalf for “Greater is He that is in me/us, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)Jesus said this to remind us our war is not against each other but against the one not made of flesh and blood but of the spirit of evil—all that is not God.  Know that God will use us in the battle against evil.  Be ready.  Put on the whole armor of God!  (Ephesians 6)

Isaiah relates, “’As for me,’ God says, ‘this is my covenant with them: My Spirit that I’ve placed upon you and the words that I’ve given you to speak, they’re not going to leave your mouths nor the mouths of your children nor the mouths of your grandchildren. You will keep repeating these words and won’t ever stop.’ God’s orders.”

We defeat evil when we love God with all our hearts, minds and souls and love each other the way God loves us and live in obedience to His will and ways.

God wins in the end.  We all win when we really believe what God says and does is really real.  “Because faith makes invisible things real, and visible things unreal, earthly dissatisfaction becomes the road to heavenly satisfaction.”  –Joni Eareckson Tada

Lord,

You cannot be where sin resides.  So, I repent of all sin in my life so you can abide within me.  I’m not perfect.  I need you.  Thank you, Jesus, for your perfect forgiveness, making me whole and holy before God, making things right with God so our relationship can grow in healthy ways.  Thank you for redeeming me and setting me free to love like you love, pointing the way out of sin and onto a road of peace and joy with eternal love and life forever!  YOU are where I want to be!

In Jesus Name, Amen Truly, greater are YOU in me than he that is in the world. I trust in you, dear Jesus!

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GETTING OFF THE GROUND

In my past work, I had to travel a great deal.  Traveling in flight is not as glamorous as it looks.  Those who travel for work by plane know that it is the same as riding a bus or taking the train. There will be unexpected delays, layovers, and stops in progress.  You are not in control of your schedule.  You are at the mercy of the airline industry along with the weather.  You hurry and wait.  There are times you might be actually sitting in your seat on the plane, ready to go, but can’t get off the ground because of “technical difficulties”.  There is nothing to do but wait.

God tells Isaiah that sometimes our prayers don’t get off the ground!  Wait, what?!  As soon as Isaiah has our attention by shouting this truth, we realize what God is saying and that He is right.  God is always right.  God sees our hearts, knows our minds, and sees the emptiness of our souls when we pray.  Sometimes we, too, have technical difficulties and our prayers have trouble getting off the ground.  Sometimes our prayers are totally grounded because of a heart condition that must be dealt with before “take-off.”

Isaiah 58, The Message

Your Prayers Won’t Get Off the Ground

1-3 “Shout! A full-throated shout!
    Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!
Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives,
    face my family Jacob with their sins!
They’re busy, busy, busy at worship,
    and love studying all about me.
To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people—
    law-abiding, God-honoring.
They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’
    and love having me on their side.
But they also complain,
    ‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way?
    Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’

3-5     “Well, here’s why:

“The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit.
    You drive your employees much too hard.
You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.
    You fast, but you swing a mean fist.
The kind of fasting you do
    won’t get your prayers off the ground.

Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after:
    a day to show off humility?
To put on a pious long face
    and parade around solemnly in black?
Do you call that fasting,
    a fast day that I, God, would like?

6-9 “This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
    to break the chains of injustice,
    get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
    free the oppressed,
    cancel debts.
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
    sharing your food with the hungry,
    inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
    putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
    being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
    and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
    The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
    You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’

A Full Life in the Emptiest of Places

9-12 “If you get rid of unfair practices,
    quit blaming victims,
    quit gossiping about other people’s sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
    and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
    your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
    I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
    firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
    a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
    rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
    restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
    make the community livable again.

13-14 “If you watch your step on the Sabbath
    and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage
,
If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy,
    God’s holy day as a celebration,
If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,’
    making money, running here and there—
Then you’ll be free to enjoy God!
    Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all.
I’ll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob.”
    Yes! God says so!

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

God gives us the diagnosis:  Read, rinse and repeat.  Read His Word while prayerfully reflecting on the condition of our hearts.  Rinse off our ego, pride, arrogance, and greed by repenting of these sins in the Name of Jesus.  God offers spiritual therapy to get those sharing and serving muscles working again.  We repent of the sin of “showing off our humility” and He gives us steps to improve our “serve” in the world.  Repeat.  We pray again and do what God says.  God will answer with His Presence in our lives.  Spiritual health will return and thrive.  Our prayers will finally get off the ground. 

God gives us the steps to walk with specific guidance!

  • Stop complaining.  (Ouch)
  • Seek justice.
  • Show mercy.  (Micah 6:8)
  • Walk humbly with God without telling others how humble you are.
  • Stop the gossip!  (Gossip kills the progress of our spiritual health.)
  • Stop bickering and fighting among the believers!
  • Fast incognito—only between you and God.
  • Exploit and manipulate no one.

God says, “What I’m interested in seeing you do is:

  • sharing your food with the hungry
  • inviting the homeless poor into your homes
  • putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad
  • be available to your own families

“Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once.”

Then you’ll be free to enjoy God!  Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all.”

Lord,

Thank you for waking us up this morning with a splash of cold water to our sluggish being, making us face our daily sins.  I repent of all this and more.  You know what I need most and you give it freely.  Thank you for being a God who wants to see us grow strong and healthy while we walk with you in humbled adoration.

In Jesus Name, Amen

**Jesus will come later as Light in the darkness and repeat and explain this same diagnosis.  See Matthew 5-7.  His disciples and apostles will also repeat God’s words.  (See Ephesians, Galatians, and Philippia

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PEACE FOLLOWS GRACE

Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind but now I see

What are we hanging onto to that blinds us from God’s amazing grace?  What is it that takes away our peace in good times and bad?  These are daily questions of reflection we must ask ourselves in order to move forward with God in the lead.  Peace is a gift from God that follows our “being still and knowing God,” repenting and letting go of all that is not God in our lives.

During the last days of Judah and Jerusalem, before the Babylonian army came, the land and the city were polluted with idols. King Hezekiah and King Josiah had led the people in destroying the idols and the high places, but as soon as an ungodly king took the throne, the people went right back to their old ways. Both Isaiah and Jeremiah told the people that God would punish them for breaking His law, but they persisted in the ways of the godless nations around them.

Friends, we all have idols that we hide or hang onto while we wonder why God is not helping us.  What is it that is standing between you and God?  That is your idol.

Isaiah 57, The Message

Never Tired of Trying New Religions

1-2 Meanwhile, right-living people die
    and no one gives them a thought.
God-fearing people are carted off
    and no one even notices.
The right-living people are out of their misery,
    they’re finally at rest.
They lived well and with dignity
    and now they’re finally at peace.

* * *

3-10 “But you, children of a witch, come here!
    Sons of a slut, daughters of a whore.
What business do you have taunting,
    sneering, and sticking out your tongue?
Do you have any idea what wretches you’ve turned out to be?
    A race of rebels, a generation of liars.
You satisfy your lust any place you find some shade
    and fornicate at whim.
You kill your children at any convenient spot—
    any cave or crevasse will do.
You take stones from the creek
    and set up your sex-and-religion shrines.
You’ve chosen your fate.
    Your worship will be your doom.

You’ve climbed a high mountain
    to practice your foul sex-and-death religion.


Behind closed doors
    you assemble your precious gods and goddesses.
Deserting me, you’ve gone all out, stripped down
    and made your bed your place of worship.
You’ve climbed into bed with the ‘sacred’ whores
    and loved every minute of it,
    adoring every curve of their naked bodies.
You anoint your king-god with ointments
    and lavish perfumes on yourselves.
You send scouts to search out the latest in religion,
    send them all the way to hell and back.
You wear yourselves out trying the new and the different,
    and never see what a waste it all is.
You’ve always found strength for the latest fad,
    never got tired of trying new religions.

11-13 “Who talked you into the pursuit of this nonsense,
    leaving me high and dry,
    forgetting you ever knew me?
Because I don’t yell and make a scene,
    do you think I don’t exist?
I’ll go over, detail by detail, all your ‘righteous’ attempts at religion,
    and expose the absurdity of it all.
Go ahead, cry for help to your collection of no-gods:
    A good wind will blow them away.
    They’re smoke, nothing but smoke.

“But anyone who runs to me for help
    will inherit the land,
    will end up owning my holy mountain!”

* * *

14 Someone says: “Build, build! Make a road!
    Clear the way, remove the rocks
    from the road my people will travel.”

15-21 A Message from the high and towering God,
    who lives in Eternity,
    whose name is Holy:
“I live in the high and holy places,
    but also with the low-spirited, the spirit-crushed,
And what I do is put new spirit in them,
    get them up and on their feet again.
For I’m not going to haul people into court endlessly,
    I’m not going to be angry forever.
Otherwise, people would lose heart.
    These souls I created would tire out and give up.
was angry, good and angry, because of Israel’s sins.
    I struck him hard and turned away in anger,
    while he kept at his stubborn, willful ways.


When I looked again and saw what he was doing,
    I decided to heal him, lead him, and comfort him,

    creating a new language of praise for the mourners.
Peace to the far-off, peace to the near-at-hand,” says God—
    “and yes, I will heal them.
But the wicked are storm-battered seas
    that can’t quiet down.
    The waves stir up garbage and mud.
There’s no peace,” God says, “for the wicked.”

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed

Amazing Grace is playing in the background of this scary, but necessary warning from Isaiah who is speaking to all who have abandoned God while they seek self-satisfying, self-seeking religions that lead to death.   Does that happen today?  Absolutely! 

Anything that we trust other than the Lord becomes our god and therefore is an idol. It may be our training, experience, job, money, friends, or position. One of the best ways to find out whether we have idols in our lives is to ask ourselves, “Where do I instinctively turn when I face a decision or need to solve a problem?” Do we reach for the phone to call a friend? Do we assure ourselves that we can handle the situation ourselves? Or do we turn to God to seek His will and receive His help?

Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come
This grace that brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home

Here is the key passage that explains the amazing grace of God: “When I looked again and saw what he was doing, I decided to heal him, lead him, and comfort him, creating a new language of praise for the mourners.”  That new language of praise is Jesus.


Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind but now I see

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Lord,

Thank you for saving my soul and making me whole again. Thank you for your gift of peace that surpasses anything this world has to offer.  You are God, we are not.  There is no one like You.  So, I trust in you.  I believe in what you say.  Your grace to me will never be taken for granted.  Thank you, Lord.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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