Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Jesus’ feet

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, Who proclaims peace, Who brings glad tidings of good things, Who proclaims salvation, Who says to Zion, "Your God reigns!" – Isaiah 52v7

I don’t find feet attractive. In fact, I think feet are ugly. I don’t think I have ever noticed a pair of feet and thought, ‘My, those are nice looking feet!’

I am glad we have foot doctors like I am glad we have dentists. Those are two jobs I would never want. Feet are smelly, wrinkled, calloused, crooked and they have corns and bunions and all kinds of stuff. Yuck!

So it is interesting to me to read about ‘beautiful feet’ in the Bible.

I realise this picture of ‘beautiful feet’ has been overplayed and overused in missions conferences and such through the years, but that does not negate the importance of the message itself.

Here God clearly recognises the true beauty feet that are busy taking His word to the world. ‘How beautiful are the feet are Him who bring good news, Who proclaims peace, Who brings good tidings, Who proclaim salvation.’

Obviously the passage is primarily concerned with Messiah. His are the original beautiful feet. They are beautiful feet carrying a great message.

But I don’t think the application stops there. When Jesus left He told us to keep carrying His message. He told us to go into all the world and preach the gospel. He told us, in essence, to have feet like His feet.

Lord, give me beautiful feet like Jesus’ feet! 

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Forever salvation

Lift up your eyes to the heavens, And look on the earth beneath. For the heavens will vanish away like smoke, The earth will grow old like a garment, And those who dwell in it will die in like manner; But My salvation will be forever, And My righteousness will not be abolished. – Isaiah 51v6

Everything we see today will one day be gone. It will all be wiped out in a flash. Everything that I work so hard for, all that I relish and cherish, all that catches my eye and draws my attention will be gone. Even the skies I see every day and the ground I stand on will all one day be wiped away.

Today could be a big day. The euro, which some many people put their faith in a decade ago, is in serious trouble. That puts a lot into uncertainty. A lot of folks are afraid today about what might happen. Ireland, which just a few years ago was classified as one of the richest countries in the world, is existing due to the largesse of richer nations today.

The point is where we put our faith and what has our focus. God tells us that all the stuff that is so important to us is going to be gone, everything. In the New Testament He calls these things the invisible and invisible and tells us to focus on the invisible because they are eternal. He tells us ot set of thoughts and affections on things above, not the things here beneath.

The invisible ‘things above’ are salvation and righteousness. They are eternal. When everything else is done and gone God’s salvation and His righteousness will remain. If the euro collapses this week Christ is still my Salvation and He is still righteous.

Praise God that there is something I can hold on to no matter what else happens. 

Monday, 28 November 2011

I will not forget

"Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you. – Isaiah 49v15

There are very few images that capture care, compassion, and love than a mother with her nursing child. There is a deep bond. It is a unity of heart and soul. When you see that image in a normal and healthy relationship it is hard to imagine a nursing mother forsaking the child.

And yet it happens. There are tragic cases where nursing children are laid aside and forgotten. I can’t even imagine the tragedy and circumstances that would force a mother to take that step, but, as unimaginable as it is, it does happen.

This is the image God uses to tell us how faithful He is. ‘Even though a nursing mother might forget about her child, I will not forget you.’

Think about this precious promise. Though tragic circumstances may lead a mother to do do, nothing is so tragic that God will ever forsake is children.

This ought to give us great security in our salvation. We belong to Him. We are His children. Because God is not controlled by circumstances nothing can force Him to forsake and forget us.  

What a wonderful image of God’s love for us. 

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Nobody else knows

"For you have trusted in your wickedness; You have said, 'No one sees me'; Your wisdom and your knowledge have warped you; And you have said in your heart, 'I am, and there is no one else besides me.' Therefore evil shall come upon you; You shall not know from where it arises. And trouble shall fall upon you; You will not be able to put it off. And desolation shall come upon you suddenly, Which you shall not know. – Isaiah 47v10-11

Sin is a great deceiver. Sin leads us to believe that we can get away with it because no one else can see us. We think we are the masters of cover up and that we can just keep going on our way because no one will ever know. In our own warped ‘wisdom and knowledge’ we think we can keep on with our sin and carry on as is.

But the problem is that our knowledge and wisdom become warped by sin. I amaze myself and am amazed at others when we see where sin leads us and how it corrupts our thinking. The issue is one of pride. We run against God’s word and we think that we can keep it quiet and sort it all out on our own while carrying on with our sin.

But trouble will come. We can’t keep it up forever. Our sin will always cause us trouble and it normally comes in a way we don’t expect it.

Let’s just learn to deal with it, shall we? Confess it, forsake it, ask God for help and move on. If we fall again we don’t wallow in our sin, we repeat the process again. And maybe again, and maybe again.

The worst thing we can do is ignore it and try to hide it. 

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Righteousness is near

"Listen to Me, you stubborn-hearted, Who are far from righteousness: I bring My righteousness near, it shall not be far off; My salvation shall not linger. And I will place salvation in Zion, For Israel My glory. – Isaiah 46v12-13

Today’s thought is something of a continuation of yesterdays. When I look around at all the wickedness going on around me I can get angry, frustrated, and even a little self-righteous. I look at people and their sin and their mockery of God and just think that they all deserve all the wrath that God can pour out on them.

But listen to the heart of God hear – ‘Listen to me you stubborn hearted and who are far from righteousness. Pay attention. I have something to say. Even though you are stubborn and have no regard for righteousness I bring My righteousness near to you. My salvation is not far off.’

This is the God-heart to look out over Jerusalem and be ‘moved with compassion’ when He say them like sheep without a shepherd. It is the same God-heart that loved us even while we were His enemies. It is the same God-heart that sent His Son to die for our sins because He loved us so much.

It is this love that brought righteousness near to those who were far from it.

When I compare my attitude toward these stubborn people with God’s I am afraid I fall far short. And who I am to take that kind of attitude when God tells me ‘and such were all of you?’

Lord, help to see this wicked generation the way You do. Help me to share Your righteousness with them. 

Friday, 25 November 2011

Every knee

I have sworn by Myself; The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, And shall not return, That to Me every knee shall bow, Every tongue shall take an oath.- Isaiah 45v23

Humanly speaking probably the last thing we can imagine is a world where every knee bows down in worship to out God. He is constantly mocked by the world around us. He is blasphemed and cursed. I have seen t-shirts with utter vulgarities combined with the name Jesus. It seems like entertainers and others are almost in a rush to prove who can be most offensive. I have heard producers of shows like South Park bragging that nothing is sacred to them and nothing is safe.

We feel like we are just struggling and barely making any progress. How will it ever happen that every knee will bow down to our God?

Yet here and other places we read that one day every knee will bow down to Him. If God’s word is true, and we trust that it is, then this is going to happen. The sad part if that though every knee will one day bow, not everyone is going to bow in worship. Some will bow the knee is subjection and acknowledgement.

In that day those who have mocked Him here will receive His justice. Their knees will be bowed to receive His judgement. They won’t bow in joy and anticipation of eternal blessings. Instead they will bow to receive His wrath.

Instead of seeing these people with anger and hatred perhaps we should stop and pray for them that when the day of universal kneeling comes, they will join us in bowing in worship. 

Thursday, 24 November 2011

A Thanksgiving thought

I, even I, am the LORD,  and besides Me there is no saviour. – Isaiah 43v11

Today is Thanksgiving in America. As expats it is the one American holiday that we still celebrate. Today will be full of friends, family, feasting, and fun. Of all the things to be grateful for the one that should be the most important is that we are thankful for our Saviour, the One who gave His life for us and provided the only way of salvation.

The only way of salvation; that is worth pausing to consider. From the very start there has only been one way of salvation. Even here in Isaiah we read these words – ‘I, even I, and the Lord, and beside Me there is no saviour.’ Jesus repeated these same words on earth when He said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except by Me.’

So, on this Thanksgiving Day, American or not, if you are believer pause to give thanks that you have the way, the truth, and the life.

And maybe try to remember that the best way to show thanks is by sharing Him with others.  

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

I will be with you

But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. – Isaiah 43v1-2

There are some folks out there who would have us believe that God's people are never going to have any troubles. They say that if we are truly following God everything is going to be rosy in the garden and we can always expect everything to go smoothly.

Funny how that is not what we see in scripture. Paul certainly did not experience that. He writes about shipwrecks and stonings and trials and beatings and persecutions and being left for dead. If any believer was ever spiritual and walking with God it was Paul and he went through plenty of trials.

Here we read of God's people going through both fire and flood with the knowledge that God is going through it with them. There is a key phrase here - 'I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are Mine.'

God never promises that we will avoid flood and fire, but He does promise that we are His and that we don't go through flood and fire alone. When we go through those time we can be assured that even though they may be tough times we can be assured that we will not be destroyed. We know that we may suffer pain and maybe even death, but still we are not destroyed because our relationship God is rock solid. Even our earthly destriuction does not negate our eternal protection as God's redeemed ones.

He is with us. We are His. He calls His redeemed by name. Take comfort because these great truths cannot be shaken. No matter what we face here He will always be there for us.

Praise God that we are His! 

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

To open blind eyes

"I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, And will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the Gentiles, To open blind eyes, To bring out prisoners from the prison, Those who sit in darkness from the prison house. – Isaiah 42v6-7

God had a plan from the very start. There was a purpose in providing redemption. There was something for God’s people to do while He held their hands and gave them courage. He called in righteousness; he took them by the hand. He promised to keep them and be true to His covenant. He did all of this so that they would be a light to the nation who were blinded in their darkness and the set them free from their prison of sin.

This reminds me of Jesus’ words to Paul when he sent him out ‘to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.'

We have a job to do. A whole world is lost in the darkness of sin. A whole world is in chains of bondage. It is a scary job. It is difficult. We face ridicule, opposition, and maybe even persecution.

But we don’t have to do it alone. Our precious Lord takes us by the hand to lead us into the task. With God holding my hand I can do anything! 

Monday, 21 November 2011

I’m gonna hold your hand

For I, the LORD your God, will hold your right hand, Saying to you, 'Fear not, I will help you.' – Isaiah 41v13

Sometimes God uses the most precious pictures to show us how He cares for us. Here we have an especially tender picture.

Being Grampy now allows me the precious opportunity to care for young children again. We get to do things and go places with our grandkids. Sometimes we go to unknown places and some of the kids are not comfortable there. It is such a pleasure when, in those moments, one of the kids will reach up and take me by the hand for that little bit of comfort and encouragement. Maddie is a hand-holder. Sometimes she wants to hold a hand just to be there with by our sides. As rambunctious as AJ can be when he is in a new place he likes to walk around hand holding for a while till he gets his bearings.

A young child seems to draw strength and encouragement from holding our hands. It is a joy to give that. I can’t think a whole lot I enjoy more than walking hand in hand with one of the grandkids.

Hand-holding is kind of special. It is a picture of love and togetherness. It is a sign of compassion and protection and comfort. It really is a nice part of life.

Here God makes a precious promise – ‘I will hold your right hand, saying ‘don’t be afraid, I am with you.’’

Isn’t that a great picture? How much comfort could we take today if we knew that God was right there holding our hand no matter what we face today? If we knew that God was right there holding our hand would we fear the day?

The great truth is that He is. No matter what is on our plate for today if we are His child He is right there holding our hand. May we draw strength and courage from Him. 

Sunday, 20 November 2011

In God's hand

The hand of God

Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.' – Isaiah 41v10

The next couple of chapters of Isaiah are packed with promises and assurances of God’s protection for His people. They are facing scary times as they look into the unknown and God promises them that the need not be afraid because He is with.

These may be specific promises to Israel, but they tell us how God relates to and deals with His people. In Christ we are God’s children and can take comfort in God’s faithfulness for those who belong to Him.

We read here a blessed promise that we will see repeated – ‘Don’t be afraid, I am with you.’ This is followed by a few reinforcing statements, ‘Don’t be dismayed. I am your God. I will give you strength. I will help you I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.’

I am at an age now where I think about age. The years are starting to close in and I wonder what I am going to do when I get old. We don’t own any property. I have some retirement funds, but they surely are not going to be enough to totally get me through those years. I do worry about the next 20-30 years sometimes.

This reminds that life is scary is all stages. If I didn’t have these fears I would have others. This is why we can find comfort in God’s word.

I love here the last phrase – ‘I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.’ This reminds me of where Jesus promises us that once we are in the Father’s hand we can rest assured that no one will even be able to pluck us out. I have total security there. While I may face a lot of unknown in the years to come I can be assured of one thing. I will always be His child and He will carry be through whatever may come my way. 

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Like eagles

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40v28-31

It’s a tough old world. We had just better accept that. Things are tough and life is not fair. Sometimes it seems that we are worn out and crawling through the dirt trying to eke out an existence in this dusty, dirty old world. It gets wearying. We get tired of it. Sometimes we just want to stop even trying.

Everybody gets tired. Even the youngest, strongest, and fittest eventually get tired. When you get to a certain age that tiredness tends to come even sooner. We all fall, even the young. Falling is a part of life.

Failure and falling come when we depend on ourselves. Our own strength will always fail us, every single time.

But (there is that marvellous interjection again) they that wait on the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles to soar above all of the daily stuff we all fight with. They will run in His strength and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

What is the key phrase it this beautiful passage? It’s pretty simple – ‘they that wait on the Lord.’

Waiting on the Lord means we know that He knows what is best. We know His timing is best. We know His circumstances are.

If we ever get to that point we can be like the eagle soaring above all the hardships and challenges and difficulties that come our way.

Let's try some soaring today shall we? 

Friday, 18 November 2011

Have you not known?

Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless. – Isaiah 40v21-23

This is the first of two ‘have you not knowns’ in just a few verses here in Isaiah. These passages are kindly, lovely reminders from God for a people who may have forgotten about Him.

‘Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has is not been told you from the beginning?’

‘God sits above the circle of the earth. All of its inhabitants are like grasshoppers…’

I know the Bible uses grasshoppers in this for illustrative purposes. I think we would understand it a little better if we used ‘ants’ instead.

Imagine a bright summer day (I know it is hard to imagine here, but try really hard). Maybe you are out for a picnic or a day with the family.  Think about what it is like when you come across a bunch of ants busy at work. They have their jobs and goals and task before them and they work like crazy to accomplish those jobs.

What does it take for us to control their work? A swipe of the foot and it is all done. We control their destiny. We are in charge.

We need to remember that man has not more control over what is going on than those ants. God can step and alter the course anytime He wants. He is still on His throne and He is still in control.

Why does He not act then to stop all the bad stuff that happens? I don’t know, but then again I am not God.

Our confidence comes in faith that He is what He says He is. He is love. He is good. He cares for us. And in all that He is in control. He does know what we are going through. 

Thursday, 17 November 2011

But the word of our God

The voice said, "Cry out!" And he said, "What shall I cry?" "All flesh is grass, And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, Because the breath of the LORD blows upon it; Surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever." – Isaiah 40v6-8

We have a picture on our wall downstairs that we took several years ago during a long dry spell in Ireland (yes, albeit rarely, they do happen). It was taken from near the visitor centre looking toward the round tower. Normally it is very plush and green and vibrant, but that day the grass was dry and yellow and dying.

I thought of that when I read this passage. ‘The grass withers, the flower fades as the breath of the Lord blows in it.’ It doesn’t take long for the flowers and grass to die away. I am reading ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ for the first time in many years. As Steinbeck describes the effects of long term drought the reader can almost sense the fading and drying and dying the grasses and other plants.

All those things are temporary. But that is not the point. God is using the fading grass and flowers to point out what man’s life is like. ‘All flesh is grass…surely the people are grass. Just like the grass and flower fades, but…’

‘But’ is a great Bible word. Everything fades away, BUT the word of the Lord endures forever.

I am like most folks. I like life and I like the stuff that comes with it, but it won’t be long before all the stuff I hold dear, even my iPhone, will all be gone. It is will all fade away and disappear. All the news and events and circumstances I deal with will soon be of no importance. Everything relating to me will indeed fade away.

On my desk at the moment I have my computer, a printer, a mouse, speakers, and external hard drive, pens, pencils, books, envelopes, various papers, and a couple of lamps. All of these will be gone in just a few years. I also have a couple of Bibles. Though the physical copies of these will also fade away what is contained in them will not. The word of God stands and will still stand when everyone and everything I can see is gone.

So where is my focus today? I am focused and life and stuff or I am focusing on the one thing that will always stand?

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The Highway of Holiness

A highway shall be there, and a road, And it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, But it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, Shall not go astray.  – Isaiah 35v8

This caught my eye because I just like the sound of Highway of Holiness. Though it speaks of a physical road that leads to the future New Jerusalem I think there is a great illustration for today and our journey to our spiritual Jerusalem.

The Highway of Holiness is for the, well, holy. The Highway of Holiness may be described as the path we travel as we go through life. Though not perfectly holy, we have been declared holy through the blood of Christ.

As we travel this Highway of Holiness we need to examine our own lives to see if the befit the traveller on that road. I am declared holy at the cross, but does my life reflect that. Do I look like a traveller on the Highway of Holiness?

How should a traveller on the Highway of Holiness walk. Not perfectly, because we still bear the burden of the flesh, but according to the word of God and reflecting Christ’s holiness in our lives.

I hope that people can see what road I am on by the life I live today. 

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

That little voice

Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, "This is the way, walk in it," Whenever you turn to the right hand Or whenever you turn to the left.  You will also defile the covering of your images of silver, And the ornament of your moulded images of gold. You will throw them away as an unclean thing; You will say to them, "Get away!" – Isaiah 30v21,22

This is just a neat little titbit to think about. You know that little voice that you hear when you are in a situation where you are not sure what to do? You know, the voice that says ‘Go this way’?

I often ‘wish’ that there was a more Biblical explanation for that little voice. Is it the Holy Spirit? Is it my conscience?

I don’t know for sure, but here Isaiah speaks to the people about what to do when faced with opposition and living in a world that does not follow God but instead is full of false gods and idolatry.

‘When you wander from the path you are supposed to be on you will hear a word behind you saying ‘This is the right way, follow it.’ If we follow that we are going to cast off all the worldly coverings that we are drawn to and say to them ‘Get away from me!’

Now, don’t go about basing your decisions on voices in your head - that could get you in big trouble. I think though that folks who are trying to follow the Lord know the voice I am talking about. We know and we know it is the right thing to do. The problem is doing it. 

Monday, 14 November 2011

Fleeting beauty

The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, Will be trampled underfoot; And the glorious beauty is a fading flower Which is at the head of the verdant valley, Like the first fruit before the summer, Which an observer sees; He eats it up while it is still in his hand. In that day the LORD of hosts will be for a crown of glory and a diadem of beauty to the remnant of His people, - Isaiah 28v3-5

There can be no doubt that man is capable of doing marvellous works and achieving great things. We have all musical scores or seen works of art or seen feats of architecture that almost take our breath away. God gave mankind a measure of ability and creativity that extends to all men, not just His own. I think we can see this all the way back to the Tower of Babel which men built to draw attention to themselves.

But as magnificent as all these things are eventually they grow old. I have seen artist’s rendering of the nearby Trim Castle in its heyday when its whitewashed walls must have glowed in the rising and setting sun on its hill in County Meath. While still an impressive site 600 later it is basically ruins which man must work to preserve.

No one knows the ‘crown of pride and glorious beauty’ of Ephraim today. It is long gone. But the Lord of Hosts still remains and His crown of glory and diadem of beauty still shine. His people are still crowned with His glory.

All the works man crowns himself with today will one day be gone. Only God’s crown of glory lasts. Which one is most important to us today? 

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Perfect peace

You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. – Isaiah 26v3

It must seem like we address the issue of peace just about every time it comes up in scripture. There is a good chance that is true since these are my own thoughts and it is an area that I need to be reminded of all the time.

It is hard to find peace in this troubled world. Every time I check out my news feed it seems like something out of future disaster film. Virtually every news story is doom and gloom and pending disaster. Every new scandal and criminal act is more and more ugly and grotesque.

It is pretty unsettling and anything but peaceful.

Then I think about my personal situation. What am I going to do if support keeps drying up? What happens if the government decides to close down the Youthreach programme and I lose my job? What am I going to do when I get old and have been renting for all these years? What is going to happen?

Even as I type this my heart is beating faster and I have that terrible anxious feeling in my gut.

This kind of anxiety comes when my mind is ‘stayed’ on circumstances. It comes because I put my trust in the wrong things. I am not trusting the God who is in control, but circumstance created by sinful man.

Paul picks up this thought when he writes to the Philippian believers. ‘Don’t be full of cares, but instead, in every situation approach God with a thankful spirit with your prayers and supplications. Then He will give you His peace which passes all understanding.’

God will keep us in perfect peace when our minds are stayed on Him, because we are trusting Him instead of everything else. 

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Your counsels of old

O LORD, You are my God. I will exalt You, I will praise Your name, For You have done wonderful things; Your counsels of old are faithfulness and truth. – Isaiah 25v1

What are the marks of someone we can really depend on?

There are a lot of things we could list. We depend on someone who is always there. We depend on someone who has proven themselves. We depend on someone who won't let us down.

That being the case why is it that we have such a track record of trusting the wrong people? I am not talking here about those rare friends we find, but just people in general. We look for advice and counsel to all kinds of books and philosophies of the world. We pick up every new fad that comes along. And, time after time, we get let down and wait for the next new thing comes along.

We don't have to do that. It seems like eventually we would realise that there is One that we can depend on totally. There is One who counsels from all eternity have been faithful and true.

In the midst of wickedness and despair and confusion there is counsel that we can trust. God's counsels from all eternity have always been faithful and true. He has proven Himself over and over and over again. He has never given bad advice. If we look back we discover that His counsel has always been right.

Because of that we know that we can trust Him to face whatever comes our way today.

Exalt Him. Praise Him. He has done wonderful things. He is always, always faithful and true. 

Friday, 11 November 2011

Anger to comfort

And in that day you will say: "O LORD, I will praise You; Though You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; 'For YAH, the LORD, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation.' " Therefore with joy you will draw water From the wells of salvation. – Isaiah 12v1-3

‘I will praise You. You were angry with me, but Your anger is turned away and now you comfort me. God is my salvation, I will trust and not fear.’

This concept of anger being exchanged for comfort caught my eye this morning. Sin angers God. It is a righteous anger. The Bible speaks of this anger in 1 Kings - "When they sin against You (for there is no one who does not sin), and You become angry with them and deliver them to the enemy, and they take them captive to the land of the enemy, far or near;”

So what can turn that anger into comfort?

I have mentioned before that no illustration is perfect. However, as I think about this I think of a human illustration of this truth.

As parents we can at times get angry at our children. Sometimes the anger is justified, sometimes it is not. That is where the illustration breaks down; God’s anger at us is always just and righteous. Anyway, back to the illustration. Those angry times are unsettling. We hopefully got through the proper steps to deal with the action that angered us and our response. After is all said and done there should be a time of comfort. I think back to holding a child on my lap and giving forgiveness and comfort. Sometimes I have had to ask for forgiveness as well, but there is that marvellous feeling of love and comfort that follows the anger.

What makes this passage more amazing is that God will turn His anger into comfort even though He never has any fault. His comfort is always based on His mercy. His anger is only atoned through the blood of Christ and then His mercy brings comfort that only He can provide.

Praise God for His anger transforming mercy! 

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Can an axe boast?

Shall the axe boast itself against him who chops with it? Or shall the saw exalt itself against him who saws with it? As if a rod could wield itself against those who lift it up, Or as if a staff could lift up, as if it were not wood! – Isaiah 10v15

Sometimes the word pictures of scripture really stir up the mind. I think about the illustrations of the body and its many parts in 1 Corinthians. I love the image of ‘were the whole body an eye.’ It really drives the point home with a few simple words.

There is the same kind of picture here. ‘Can an axe boast itself against the one who chops with it?’

Don’t you love the image? I wish I was a cartoonist. Imagine a lumberjack out chopping a tree with his axe. Suddenly, in mid swing, the axe stops and says ‘Wait just a second. I am tired of doing what you want me to do! I want to go over there and chop down that pine tree. The wood is much softer over there. Chopping these hard woods is killing me!’

Can you imagine the look on the lumberjack’s face? Those kinds of things just don’t happen. The ass talking to Balaam is one thing, an axe talking back to a lumberjack would be quite another.

Though God is dealing with Assyria here He does make a point that all of us need to take to heart. All an axe can do is yield to its user’s control. Axes and saws don’t rebel. It makes no more sense for man to rebel against God and try to tell God what to do.

In a specific sense for us who claim to serve Him. We are to be tools in His hand, doing what He wants us to do and don’t saying like that imagined axe, ‘Awe come on, let’s go over to that tree!’

It makes much more sense to just yield to His control and let Him use us. 

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The zeal of the Lord

Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. – Isaiah 9v7

The day is coming when the Lord will reign in perfect judgement and justice. This wonderful reign of the Lord will last forever once it starts, and this will be accomplished by the zeal of the Lord.

I like the fact that God is referred to as zealous. Zeal is a strong emotion. Zeal motivates us to action. I like to say that when it comes to doing things that we ‘do what we want to do.’ The idea is that we tend to be able to accomplish what we prioritise. To put it in this context we do what we are zealous about.

To an extent this is true. We do what is important to us. But there is a limit to that. There is always a chance that no matter how much I want to do something circumstances and my lack of ability may prevent it. No matter how zealous I am, I can’t do everything no matter how much I want it.

God is not limited like that. When God is zealous about something it will get done. His zeal and His ardour for His people will accomplish the coming Day of the Lord. We can be absolutely assured of it. With God it is really true that ‘He does what He wants to do’ because nothing can limit it.

Praise God that we can look forward to this government when King Jesus will rule! 

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

And His name

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  – Isaiah 9v6

There is a lot of name given to the child we talked about yesterday. But, as we pointed out He was no ordinary child!

And His name shall be called:

Wonderful – The Child was wonderful in the total sense of the world. He is full of wonder that we will never completely understand. This word is translated in other places as ‘mystery’ and that suits because we can never grasp His wonder.

Counsellor – He is the One who is the ultimate source of counsel. Human counsellors may fail but He never will.

Mighty God – the omnipotent One. There is nothing we are going to face today that is stronger than God.

Everlasting Father – My spiritual Daddy will always be there when I need Him. Always.

Prince of Peace – For all of the great peacekeepers the world has seen not a one of them has brought real peace. The Prince of Peace Himself will.

Praise God for just an insight into what He can do for us if we will let Him and quit trying to do it ourselves. 

Monday, 7 November 2011

A Child is born

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  – Isaiah 9v6

I wish it was closer to Christmas as we come across the passage. When I read this passage I hear the chorus from Handel’s Messiah ringing out. ‘For unto us (for unto us) a Child is born – a Son is given (a Son is given)…’ The amazing classic has sadly become mostly associated with Christmas though the message is one we need to keep in mind year round.

I have what might just be a kind of side note from this passage today. I don’t know how if I can build any theology on it, but I think it is an interesting aspect.

‘For unto us a Child is born…’

Notice that – a Child. Of all the methods God could have used to present His message and bring His salvation He chose a Child. He chose a tiny little weak baby to do this most important work of all.

We have dear friends who had their first child just a week ago. She is tiny and precious and frail and weak. Nobody outside of our immediate circle thinks much about little Elizabeth as she begins the first stages of life in a home not too far away. She is totally dependent on her parents. She has no strength of her own.

The Saviour of mankind entered earth the same way. Without all the modern technology, without a hospital, without trained medical staff, and with no one there but His earthly parents and a bunch of stabled animals a Child was born. Who could have known what God had in store for that Child?

Obviously, no child today is growing to grow up to be the Saviour of the world. But who knows what that child we have in Sunday School or Bible club or Holiday Bible Club might one day be? D.L. Moody and Suzanna Wesley and Charles Spurgeon and Adoniram Judson and Isobel Kuhn and so many unnamed servants of God were all children one day. Every godly parent doing their best to raise their children for the glory of God were children one day.

No wonder Jesus said ‘Let the little children come to Me, don’t keep them away.’

Sunday School and other children’s ministries are not just ‘tack ons’ to our service. The next time you see a group of children remember the words ‘For unto us a Child is born.’ 

Sunday, 6 November 2011


The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined. – Isaiah 9v2

The image of light and darkness is one that permeates scripture. In fact it is there form the very start. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty and darkness was over the face of the earth.

So there we have it – dark, empty, and shapeless. That would not be much use to anyone if it stayed that way. But the Spirit of God was hovering over that darkness. So God spoke four little words and everything changed ‘Let there be light!’ and lo and behold there was light!

It is interesting that the book of John starts the same way ‘In the beginning’ but it lets us in on a spiritual aspect when it continues, ‘was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ Just a couple of verse later, just like in Genesis, light comes into the picture – ‘and the Light was shining in the darkness, but the darkness did not understand it.’

We could go on for pages about the image of light and darkness in the word of God. After all God is Light and there is no darkness at all in Him. He brings light but man does not always understand the light when he sees it.

Sadly it is a willing blindness sometimes. John speaks of men whose deeds are evil loving darkness more than light. Because they love evil they reject the light.

But spiritual darkness is destructive. We can’t find our way. The darkness is so deceptive that people who walk in darkness don’t even know what is tripping them up.

But God is Light and He sent His light into the world in Jesus Christ. Acts also speak of people walking in darkness. Men don’t naturally understand that darkness to he send us to ‘open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.' (Acts 26v18)

God sends His light. Those of us who are His children have it. Are we showing that light by our lives, our words, and our deeds? Or are we still acting like we live in darkness? 

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Hoping and Waiting

And I will wait on the LORD, Who hides His face from the house of Jacob; And I will hope in Him. – Isaiah 8v17

I suspect most of us can certainly identify with Isaiah here. At least if we are going to be honest that is. Let me parrowphrase this – 'Even though I can't see what God is doing I am going to wait on Him and put my hope in Him.'

Isaiah had seen God high and lifted up. He knew Him and because of that encounter He had confidence that God could sort things out.

The nation of Israel was a mess. They had forgotten about God. Isaiah, and godly men like him did not see God doing anything about it. They had two choices – they could get frustrated and angry with God and turn against Him, or they could choose to trust Him no matter what they saw.

Choosing to trust God in those days is the essence of what faith is all about. Faith is the substance of things hoped for. It is the evidence of things not seen. It is choosing to wait on God and hope in Him no matter what we see going on. It is choosing to do those things even when it seems like God is hiding His face.

When do you and I chose to do when it seems like God is hiding His face from us? What do we do in those dark and lonely hours?

Faith says that in those days we are going to wait on God put our hope in Him. Faith is, after all, the substance of things that we truly hope for.

Friday, 4 November 2011


Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. Isaiah 7v14

I would not be, by any means, a great theologian. I know most of the facts. I know enough to pretty much defend my faith. I hope I know enough to be a useful teacher of God’s word. I would not consider myself a Bible dummy, but I don’t understand a lot of the fine points of theology.

I don’t understand all of the ramifications of the virgin birth. I do know that the virgin birth is vital because it allows Jesus to be both God and man at the same time. I do believe that without the virgin birth Jesus would have been just another man. I have my own views on the rest of the importance, but those things are all that I really ‘get.’ The nice thing is that I don’t have to ‘get it’ now. One day it will all be clear.

But I do I have a limited, human understanding of ‘Immanuel.’ Although we can never ‘get’ any spiritual truth completely I do understand the importance of the words ‘God with us.’ It is spelled out in Isaiah 57 when God is the ‘High and lofty One who lives in eternity’ and whose name is Holy. In that same chapter we also read that God also lives with those who are of a humble and contrite spirit.

I don’t understand though why He would do it. Why would the God who is holy and who is high and lifted up dwell with man? Why would Jesus, our ‘God with us’ leave heaven to live amongst us?

There is only one answer. ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…’

Praise God for ‘God with us!’ 

Thursday, 3 November 2011

How long?

Then I said, "Lord, how long?" And He answered: "Until the cities are laid waste and without inhabitant, The houses are without a man, The land is utterly desolate,  - Isaiah 6v11

I am not one for asking God what to do then running to my Bible, flopping it open, pointing to a verse, and taking that for an answer. It can be like the old joke about the person who did that. When the opened the Bible the first thing he saw was ‘and Judas went and hung himself.’ Not being satisfied he flipped a few more pages and read ‘go thou and do likewise.’

While that may be a joke it does express the danger of just grabbing a particular verse and making a decision.

However, there are times when God can answer a prayer for our specific circumstance by using another similar one in scripture.  

Almost exactly nine years ago I was sick of this ministry. I was looking for any excuse to quit. If I had the slightest indication from God that I could go I would have jumped at it. If someone had bought us one way tickets back to America I would have gone. All it would have taken was the slightest nudge in that direction.

I walked out of the shower one morning. I was so mad at God that I was fuming. I don’t know if I said it out loud or not, but I said ‘What do you want from me God? How long do you expect me to stay here and put up this?!’

I went to my computer to check my email. (This was back before I got email alerts on my phone J ) My friend Dwayne and I were exchanging devotions be email. He had studied this verse. I am afraid that I don’t even remember his thoughts. All I saw was ‘I said Lord, how long?’ BAM! That grabbed my attention! ‘Okay,’ I thought, ‘how long?’

Then the next words, ‘Until the cities are laid waste and without inhabitant, The houses are without a man, The land is utterly desolate.’

I was stunned! I had always preached on deputation about God’s call and Isaiah’s response so this was a very clear answer. God might as well have said ‘Okay Roger, you said you would go. You just asked Me how long I wanted you to stay. Here’s my answer.’

God does not call us to run a 100 metre sprint. He calls us to triathlons where we run the race with patience. Stay at the task.

How long? Till the job is done!  

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Here I am!!

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: "Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me." – Isaiah 6v8

Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up. He saw God’s holiness. He lamented his sin and was forgiven and cleansed. Then he heard God cry out ‘Who will I send? Who will go for Us?’

God could have chosen any of a myriad ways to get His word out. He could have emblazoned it across the heavens. He could have angels with trumpets calling out to mankind. He could have implanted His word in men’s hearts.

But He didn’t do that. Instead He called men to reach men. He gave man His word and expected man to give it to others. I am amazed at that privilege. He could have used anything or anyone, but He chose to use us. Not only that, He chose to use the weak, the foolish, and the base things of the world.

So the Lord calls out ‘Who will go?’

Isaiah, freshly made aware of his sinful nature and purged of his sin responded immediately ‘Here I am! Let me go!’

We hear this preached a lot in relation to ‘surrendering to missions.’ I used it myself in that context. I think there is some application there and would not be critical of using this in that context.

However, I think that if we think of the verse only in that context we miss an important part of the message. We all have friends, neighbours, co-workers, and other associates who need to hear the gospel. He has commissioned us to go into the entire world and preach the gospel to every creature. We often forget that all the world and every creature includes our own Jerusalem and the people that are closest to us.

Who will God send, and who will go to them? The answer should be obvious. Who else is going to say ‘Here am I!’ and go to these people?

‘Who will go?’ is not just a missionary call. It is a call for each and every one of us. 

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Woe is me

So I said: "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts." – Isaiah 6v5

How do you think we will respond when we see Jesus face to face? There is a song by a modern Christian group that puts the scenario this way – ‘Surrounded by Your Glory, what will my heart feel? Will I dance for you, Jesus? Or in awe of You, be still? Will I stand in Your presence, or to my knees will I fall? Will I sing 'Hallelujah!'? Will I be able to speak at all?

I am not sure how all of that is going to work out any more than the song writer is, but we do get a glimpse here of how one man responded.

When Isaiah saw the high and lofty thrice holy God he said ‘Woe is me. I am undone.’ Isaiah saw his own righteousness compared to the Lord’s righteousness, and the knowledge ‘undid’ him.

No matter how we will respond when we see Jesus face to face, how do we respond before Him today. Yes, God is our Abba, our loving Father. Yes, Jesus calls us His friends. Yes we are a part of the family of God. All of that is true and wonderful and encouraging.

But let’s be sure that the wonderful familiarity does not breed contempt for His holiness. When we sin our only response and we fling ourselves once again on His mercy – ‘Woe is me!’

Woe is me indeed if not for the free and precious gift of salvation.