Thursday, 17 August 2017

Despised and rejected

He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. – Isaiah 53.3

I think one the saddest aspects of the gospel message is the rejection of Christ by the world He died to save. He was known from the beginning that He would be rejected, and yet still He came to die for us.

John describes it as a matter of life and darkness. The whole world was lost in the darkness of sin. There was nothing man could do without light. Sin always blinds us.

Because man was hopeless and helpless Jesus came as the Light of the world. But, as man normally does, the world rejected Christ because they love their darkness more than they love the light. He was despised and rejected by men despite His ultimate sacrifice.

That’s bad enough, but Isaiah is speaking to God’s people when we says ‘and we hid, as it were, our faces from Him. He was despised and we did not esteem Him.’

How sad it is when God’s own people ignore Him and despise Him by our actions and our attitudes. And yet we do that all the time when we choose our way over His. We do that when we ignore His promises to us and choose to trust our way. We despise His word when we ignore all that He does for us and choose to live according to the flesh.

It’s bad when the world rejects Him. It’s heartbreaking when His people do.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Beautiful 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 52.7

What do we think about a messenger who brings good news, peace, glad tidings of odd things, salvation, and the words ‘Your God is in control?’

In these days of seemingly endless bas news that is the kind of news that we need to hear. I hate to admit that I am a news freak. Even when the news is all bad I still am a bit obsessed about seeing and hearing it and reading about it. Good news stories are always a joy to see and even human good news stories can help lighten a day.

Here though we read about the ultimate good news. Peace, good things, salvation, and having a God who has all this covered should make any day bright. God says that the deliverer of this good news has ‘beautiful feet’ and I think that is a lovely way to describe how we feel about the bearer of good tidings.

Of course ultimate bearer of this good news His Christ for He is the one who brought salvation and peace and the knowledge of a God who is in control.

But he told the disciples that He was sending them out just like the Father sent Him out to do these things. We too are called to share the same news. That means that we too can have beautiful feet as we go about our daily task of sharing the good news with those around us. Our lives and and actions and our words should constantly reflect Christ’s message of salvation and peace and how others can know the God who reigns.

It is a shame when I, or anyone else, is so consumed with the worldly news and the badness of it that we don’t have time to share the good news.

Lord, give me beautiful feet today that I might be the bearer of good news to a world that needs it so desperately.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

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 51.6

As I get that little bit older it seems like nothing lasts forever. Everything wears out.
Even heaven and earth will one day pass away and it is certainly true that not a one of us is going to escape death.

Yet it is all these temporary things that grab our attention and that is where we tend to focus because they are so visible and so real. It is these things we see everyday and it only make sense to pay attention to them.

For Christians though there is something in our lives that will last forever. God’s gift of salvation will last forever and His righteousness will never be abolished. Heaven and earth are going to pass away, but Jesus will never fail.

Jesus’ salvation is forever. It is not temporary. It doesn’t come and go. Forever means forever.

Monday, 14 August 2017

God's hand is not shortened

Why, when I came, was there no man?
Why, when I called, was there none to answer?
Is My hand shortened at all that it cannot redeem?
Or have I no power to deliver?
Indeed with My rebuke I dry up the sea,
I make the rivers a wilderness;
Their fish stink because there is no water,
And die of thirst. – Isaiah 50.2

Israel often through her history doubted the power of God. From the time they left Egypt and were sent into the wilderness they questioned God’s ability to take care of them.

And man doesn’t really change, does he? I don’t know about everyone else, but there are plenty of times in my life when I am just as bad as they. I wonder if God can really deal with this situation. Even though I have watched God deliver me from trouble after trouble I still can wonder ‘can He really deal with this one?’

I need this reminder. There are a couple of things in my life that make me anxious about the future. I know I am wrong. I know these things should not make me nervous. I say that I know God can handle it, but I wonder if I REALLY know He can handle it.

God hand is never going to be shortened. He is God. Nothing can limit His power no matter how bad it might look to us. God can do the things that seem impossible to me. His hand is never too short. Nothing is impossible for Him.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

The ends of the earth

Indeed He says,
‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant
To raise up the tribes of Jacob,
And to restore the preserved ones of Israel;
I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles,
That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ” – Isaiah 49.6

We can find clues that God plan, from the very beginning, was not just to be the God of Israel but His desire was to be God of the whole world. It only makes sense because, indeed, God so loved the world that He gave His only son.

God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance – the whole world.

Speaking here to His future Messiah God says ‘it is not enough that You be saviour to the Jews alone, but that You should be a Light to the Gentiles and carry my salvation even to the ends of the earth.’

What is truly is amazing is that Jesus passed that commission on to us. ‘Even as the Father has sent me so send I you’ He said and ‘go into all the world and preach the gospel.’

It is easy to get focused on our own Jerusalems or Judeas because they are so close and they are the people we are most comfortable with. It can be harder to carry God’s salvation to our Samarias and the ‘uttermost parts of the earth.’

God’s plan is for His salvation to be carried to everyone, to the ends of the world. I wonder if we are really doing our part.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

No peace

And they did not thirst
When He led them through the deserts;
He caused the waters to flow from the rock for them;
He also split the rock, and the waters gushed out.
“There is no peace,” says the Lord, “for the wicked.” – Isaiah 48.21-22

Peace.

What a wonderful goal. Everyone wants peace. Nobody really wants fighting and struggle. “Peace, peace’ the world cries. But there is no peace for the wicked.

Peace, real peace, abiding and eternal peace is impossible apart from the peace that Jesus said He would leave behind. The problem with peace is that as long as people live in their sin they cannot find peace. I looked at inner peace recently so I think this time we can look at actual peace between men.

Apart from Christ that is impossible. James tells us why when he describes where fights and wars come from. He tells us that conflict comes because of our wrong lusts and desires and without Christ those lust and desires rule and we do whatever it takes to get what we want and because we do whatever we want and try to get what we want we are never going to be content and never find peace.

The only hope is the internal peace that comes with a relationship with Christ. When we are in Christ we learn to be at peace and to find contentment in Him. We realise that our own lusts and desires are not really all that important. Christ’s peace allows us to rest in Him and not try to fight and scrap like the rest of the world.

There is no real deep abiding forever peace outside of Christ.

Friday, 11 August 2017

He created all things

For thus says the Lord,
Who created the heavens,
Who is God,
Who formed the earth and made it,
Who has established it,
Who did not create it in vain,
Who formed it to be inhabited:
“I am the Lord, and there is no other. – Isaiah 45.18

For about 150 years now there has been a wholesale attack on the concept of creation. The obvious, all of this world could not happen by itself, as been dismissed. Despite the rule that nothing comes from nothing is now mocked and attacked as being unscientific.

But if the world can be convinced that everything got here by itself there is no need for a god and if there is no God there is no one to be accountable to and the world does not need to worry about eternity and go whatever it wants.

But there is a creator God who made heaven and earth and everything in it. There is a God who made the world and who loves His creation. That means that He made us and loves us and wants us to spend eternity with Him. That means that we are accountable to a holy God and that our sin offends Him and His righteousness. But He loves us an provides salvation to all those who will call on Him.

The world may hate the notion of a creator God and do all it can to ignore Him. What joy they miss
both now and for eternity if they continue to ignore Him.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

No other rock

Do not fear, nor be afraid;
Have I not told you from that time, and declared it?
You are My witnesses.
Is there a God besides Me?
Indeed there is no other Rock;
I know not one.’ ” – Isaiah 44.8

On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand
This Rock is Jesus, yes He’s the one
The Lord liveth and blessed be the Rock
The wise man built his house upon the rock
The Lord’s our rock in Him we hide

And so it goes with our hymns and songs. Jesus as the Rock in a great theme of many great songs of the faith. I think this rock picture is so popular because everyone can get it.

I have seen a couple of fabulous structures built into a solid rock foundation. The Rock of Cashel in Ireland and Edinburgh Castle in Scotland we built into massive rocks. Both have stood majestically over the surrounding countryside for about 1000 years. They have not been shaken because they are founded on a rock.

And that is the picture here. There is no rock like Jesus. Only in Christ can we find the total stability we need to face the storms of life. In this world of instability there is only one sure and safe foundation.

That rock, that foundation, is Jesus and nothing else.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

I will not remember your sins

I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake;
And I will not remember your sins. – Isaiah 43.25

There is a difference, I think we all know, between forgiving and forgetting As humans we can understand foregoing someone. When we forgive we choose to no longer be offended by something that once offended us. But we can’t forget the whatever it was that offended us. Those things are burned into our memory. I can’t ‘forget it’ as we sometimes say, but I can choose to not recall the memories of the event.

But when God forgives He can forget. When He forgives ours sins He chooses to not even remember them.

Now that is powerful forgiveness. Once our sins are forgiven it is to God like they never existed. We can’t take old sins back to God because we feel guilty because He has already cast them aside. They are as far separated as east and west and they are buried in the depths of the deepest sea.

Thank God for His forgetfulness of our sin.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

No other saviour

I, even I, am the Lord,
And besides Me there is no saviour. – Isaiah 43.11

From the beginning of human history we know that man has sensed his need salvation. Man may not have known the details – but he has known that man needs to have a relationship with God because we all know that we are not perfect. Man always has wanted a chance at life after death.

Religion tends to focus on this need for deliverance. Religion is always based on providing our own salvation. Usually religion is a bunch of dos and don’ts and it is based on what we can do to get rid of our sins. All these are attempts to do something to make God, or someone’s perception of Him, let us into heaven.

But because our sin debt is so serious there is no other salvation than in Christ. There is only one Saviour and that is the Messiah that the Jews were looking for and who we have seen in Jesus Christ.

A lot of folks blame religion for all the evils in the world. I wouldn’t go that far, but man made religion does cause problems. Religion apart from Christ is worthless at best and destructive at worst.

There is no other salvation than that which is found in Christ.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Redeemed

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.
For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Saviour;
I gave Egypt for your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in your place. – Isaiah 43.1-3

I don’t want to get into a theological debate about ‘replacement theology’ and I certainly don’t want to imply that the Church as replaced Israel in God’s eyes. However we do know that the Church is the spiritual seed of Israel and we do know that God’s redemption applied to Israel and it applies to us.

Redemption in this context is a compensation for the bad actions of something or someone in order to get a good result. Because we are all sinners our sin nature needs to be redeemed. Something has to be done about it. In the Christian context we had to be bought back from the ravages and the penalty of sin. A price had to be paid and the redemption price of sin is death.

But only a prefect sacrifice would be able to pay the price. We had no capacity to pay it.

So Jesus redeemed us when He paid the redemption price through His own blood. Once we accept that gift of salvation the redemption price is paid and we are no longer under the penalty of sin.

And because we are redeemed, we can, like Israel, face whatever comes our way because our Redeemer walks by our side. No matter what trails and tests come our way we are assured that we belong to our Redeemer and He cares for us as His ‘peculiar’ people.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

He will prevail

The Lord shall go forth like a mighty man;
He shall stir up His zeal like a man of war.
He shall cry out, yes, shout aloud;
He shall prevail against His enemies. – Isaiah 42.13

We live in a world where it seems lie there is no way that good is going to win out over evil. There is no good news. We are amazed every day at the capacity and the capability of man to sin. Evil has become good and good has become evil.

But we are not alone in feeling that way. It has been going on for a while.

Henry Wandsworth Longfellow wrote a poem called ‘Christmas Bells’ after the loss of his son who was killed in the Civil War. After writing about the war he wrote:

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;

"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Too often we get stuck there, but Longfellow went on to point out a wonderful truth:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."

God is going to prevail one day. The victory is already won. God have given us the victory in Christ. We, and with Him we, will prevail.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

He won't get discouraged

“Behold! My Servant whom I uphold,
My Elect One in whom My soul delights!
I have put My Spirit upon Him;
He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.
He will not cry out, nor raise His voice,
Nor cause His voice to be heard in the street.
A bruised reed He will not break,
And smoking flax He will not quench;
He will bring forth justice for truth.
He will not fail nor be discouraged,
Till He has established justice in the earth;
And the coastlands shall wait for His law.” – Isaiah 42.1-4

This is a wonderful picture of the nature of, for Isaiah, the future Messiah. It gives only a few descriptions of His divine nature.

He won’t brea the bruised reed. He wants to heal the bruised reed.
He will not put out the fire even when it is just a spar.
He will reveal His justice in truth.
He will not fail.
He will not get discouraged.

I lie that one especially. There are times when things go so badly that we can get discouraged and give up. It can seem like there is no solution.

But our Saviour never gets discouraged with us. No matter how ‘prodigal’ his children get He nows there is always hope. He loves us so much that He is always out looking for us to return and ready to run to us to welcome us home.

God is not prone to our discouragements. God always holds out hope for us. He doesn’t get discouraged because discouragement means He is ready to give up on us. His arms are open for the lost to turn to Him and they are open to us when we wander.

Friday, 4 August 2017

I will hold your hand

For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand,
Saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’ – Isaiah 41.13

I love it when God uses these very clear and practical illustrations. Somehow the image of God holding my hand is extra special because is sweet and tender and compassionate.

We have grown children now and we are enjoying the grandparent part of life. It is a precious thing when our children or grandchildren reach up and take us by the hands. We have had a few handholders who almost every time we walk with them will reach up for a handhold. Sometimes, it we aren’t paying attention, they will nearly force our hands open. The children find love and strength and power and encouragement in holding our hands. When they hold our hands they feel lie nothing can go wrong.

Of course, we do all we can, but we can still fail.

But we have someone to hold our hand who can never let us down. God tells His people ‘don’t worry, I’m right here, I’ll hold your hand, so don’t be afraid.’

God isn’t just here with us. He is here with us holding our hands. As long as I am holding on to Him I am not going to wander and stray.

And if I do wander off He is always waiting with His hand open for me to come back and grab His hand again.

Than God for His open hand.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

I am with you

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 41.10

God was encouraging His people. At the time He was speaking to Israel but this precept continues on into the New Testament and the promise is renewed for the church.

Fear not, not be dismayed. I am with you. I am your God.

That reminds me of the angel’s message when he announced ‘his name shall be Immanuel – God with us.’ It reminds me when the angels said ‘for unto you is born this say a Saviour.’ It reminds me of when Jesus said ‘lo, I am with you always.’

The idea of ‘God with us’ is a universal and timeless truth for the people of God. It transcends time and space. It is always true. The writer of Hebrews wrote that we ought to be content because God is with and He will never, ever, ever leave us.

We need nor fear. We need not ever fear. We need to remember that our God is with us and that is never going to change no matter what.

Just like God was with Israel He is with us. He has always been there. He is always here now. He will always be with us.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

They that wait on the Lord

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 40.29-31

They that wait on the Lord. There is that waiting again.

When we are waiting we are waiting on something or someone. We are at their mercy. When we wait we have to admit that we are not in control.

And we don’t like that – we would rather do it our way in our time. When we do that we get mired down in all the troubles and muck of this world.

But if we can learn to wait on God acknowledging that we are totally at His mercy. If we can wait on Him, He has some blessed promises for us.

He promises that He will give us the strength to keep on going.. He will enable is the not be ‘weary in well doing.’ He will allow to to not faint in the ministry He has given us. He will help us to ‘be stedfast, immovable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord.’

And He promises that we will mount up with wings as eagles instead of being of having to involve ourselves in all of the filth that makes up this world.

Wait on Him – it will be worth it.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Nothing gets by God

 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. – Isaiah 40.28

Don’t you know that God, the Lord…never faints and never gets tired?

Nearing the end of our two month US trip I will admit that I am tired. I cannot thank God enough for the chance to make this trip and for the time we have spent with our US family. There are things I am going to miss when we go home – but I am weary and look forward to the rest we will get.

I often find myself right now fighting to stay awake while driving or talking or in church. Doziness is a real battle and when I get dozy I have a hard time concentrating or thinking clearly. Things slip by me watching the telly. Several times I have had to fight road hypnosis on this trip. It is an uncomfortable state.

Thank God that He is not a man who has to battle weariness. He doesn’t have to fight to keep his eyes open.

Psalm 121 tells us that God is our Keeper and that He does not slumber nor sleep. He is always there and always focused. When I slumber and dose I miss thing, like who the killer was on ‘Murder She Wrote.’

But God misses nothing. We can rest because He is not resting.

Now if I can just remember that every day.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Don't you know?

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. – Isaiah 40.21-22

Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard? God laid the foundations of the earth and sits above it and we are all lie grasshoppers in His sight.

How can we forget who our God is? How can we forget what He has done?

And yet we do it all the time when we doubt His ability to deal with tough situations. We act like we don’t know what we are supposed to know. If we really knew these things it seems like we would trust Him to be who He says He is.

Instead I act like I have to work all of this out. I act like God isn’t even here sometimes. I act like it all depends on me. I say I trust Him, but I really trust me.

If we truly knew who God is and what He does for us and how good He is and how much He loves us and how powerful He is and that He knows all of the future and that He sees things we can’t see and the His ways are far above our ways and plans we would not worry or be anxious or not His ability and we really would have the peace that passes all understanding that keeps our hearts and minds in Christ.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Who can teach God?

Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord,
Or as His counsellor has taught Him?
With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him,
And taught Him in the path of justice?
Who taught Him knowledge,
And showed Him the way of understanding? – Isaiah 40.13-14

I love this rhetorical question. Of course no one is really looking for an answer, but it does show us how silly we are when we question God or we think that we have all of the answers.

Isn’t it weird how easy it is for us to get caught up in the notion that we know more than God does? We see situations that we don’t understand or worry about things down that the road that we don’t have a solution to and we get upset because we think if I can’t figure this out nobody else can.

Or, we see God doing something and we think ‘that's not the way I would do it’ and we get upset with God like we know better.

Habakkuk did that. He didn’t like the situation in Israel and he prayed and when God told him what He was going to do he didn’t like it. But he didn’t stay there. He remembered that ‘the Lord is in His holy temple’ and that the best thing for him to do was to sit down and watch God work.

And that is what is best for us. We can’t teach God. We can’t correct Him. We can watch Him work in His perfect way.

Instead of trying to sort God out we ought to be sitting back and learning.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

The people are like grass

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 40.7-8

When we are young sometimes we think we are going to live forever. That’s especially true when we are young. It seems like we have forever, so people don’t tend to have eternity in mind. Why bother with eternity when we have so long here on earth?

But as we get older we begin to realise that we really don’t have all that long. We look back at how quickly 40 or 50 or 60 or 70 years have passed and it is hard to imagine things can go so quickly and wonder ‘where have all those years gone.’ I was talking to an old friend recently and realised that some of the things we were talking about happened 50 years ago and more!

In the light of eternity our lives are just like the grass Isaiah talks about here. We appear, we grow and blossom and thrive, and then we pass away and are blown away like the wind.

That’s why we have to redeem the time. We don’t have much of it left. It is high time to wake up out of sleep. The time is coming when no man is going to be able to work.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Trusting in chariots

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help,
And rely on horses,
Who trust in chariots because they are many,
And in horsemen because they are very strong,
But who do not look to the Holy One of Israel,
Nor seek the Lord!
Yet He also is wise and will bring disaster,
And will not call back His words,
But will arise against the house of evildoers,
And against the help of those who work iniquity.
Now the Egyptians are men, and not God;
And their horses are flesh, and not spirit.
When the Lord stretches out His hand,
Both he who helps will fall,
And he who is helped will fall down;
They all will perish together – Isaiah 31.1-3

Woe to those who go down to Egypt to get their help. Those folks are looking to horses and chariots and warriors because they are many and they are strong.

People don’t seem to change much do they? Today people still trust in things that they think are strong. We trust in our governments. We trust in our stuff. We trust in our bank accounts. We trust in our friends. We trust in our churches.

There is nothing wrong with those things. There is nothing wrong with having some confidence in them.

But if that is where we put our faith we are going to be disappointed. Since none of those things are perfect all of those will eventually let us down. The wheels are always going to fall off the chariots.

But things are different with God. The wheels are not going to fall off with Him. He is our steady rock and our steady path. We can always put our trust in Him.

Quit relying on those chariots.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

While God waits

Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you;
And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
Blessed are all those who wait for Him. – Isaiah 30.18

We know all about how we are supposed to wait. We have seen that at least a dozen times. We are used the fact that we are supposed to wait on God.

But here we read about something else – ‘therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious.’

‘The Lord is slow to anger’ we read, but He is ‘great on power’ and He will punish the wicked. God is righteous and evil cannot go unpunished. I don’t think anyone would like the concept of a God who didn’t deal with evil.

But, God is also patient. ‘God will wait’ instead of acting in haste.

Thank God that He is waiting. Even as this world gets more and more wicked God still waits to give the world a chance to accept His amazing gift of eternal life in Christ.

We must be active telling other while He waits in order to show His grace.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Counsel, but not from me

Woe to the rebellious children,” says the Lord,
“Who take counsel, but not of Me,
And who devise plans, but not of My Spirit,
That they may add sin to sin; - Isaiah 30.1

God tells us in His word that we are wise to seek advice from a multitude of advisors. I am glad that He does that and I am glad for all the godly advice I have received. I don’t know what I would have done without it.

That’s good and it is a wise thing to do. But that counsel all by itself is not going to do us much good. The human counsel we get must be in line with the godly counsel found in His word.

When we follow human advice that is contrary to the word of God we are just asking for trouble. Man’s counsel, no matter how good it is, always has the chance of being flawed by our sin nature. God’s word never has that problem. It is always right.

Israel was facing all kinds of problems because they sought only the counsel of other men. God had given them all they needed  - but they chose to listen to men.

Isn’t it said that we do exactly the same thing? Instead of seeing God’s answers we keep looking for counsel that agrees with what we want to hear.

God’s word has all we need. Let’s look for counsel and to confirm man's counsel.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Lip service

Therefore the Lord said:
“Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths
And honour Me with their lips,
But have removed their hearts far from Me,
And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men, - Isaiah 29.13

They honour me with their lips, but they have removed their hearts from me.

The problem of paying lip service to God without the heart to go with it is nothing new. The word of God condemns this lips only worship all through the scriptures. A religion of words is nothing at all.

Then the second part of the verse explains it – their fear of God is based on the commandments of men.

What a disaster! How bad is it when people claim to serve God – but only claim it with their mouths? How bad is it when people claim to fear the Lord, but their worship is guided not by the word of God – but on man’s rules and regulations.

This isn’t just a vague Old Testament notion. This happens today. All over the world Christians, or professing Christians, praise God with mouths but their lives don’t match it. All over the world people claim to fear God, but they try to prove it by what men expect out of them.

Our lives must always match up to pair words. We ought to fear God because of who He is and not because we are following man-made rules and regulations.

Our faith is not a show.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Let grace be shown

Let grace be shown to the wicked,
Yet he will not learn righteousness;
In the land of uprightness he will deal unjustly,
And will not behold the majesty of the Lord.
Lord, when Your hand is lifted up, they will not see.
But they will see and be ashamed
For their envy of people;
Yes, the fire of Your enemies shall devour them. – Isaiah 26.10-11

‘Let grace be shown to the wicked even though he will not learn righteousness.’

That’s an amazing statement. It tells us that God is willing to show His grace to anyone – even those who are going to reject it. God shows grace everyday to a world that doesn’t deserve it. He keeps the water cycle working. He keeps providing fresh air. He shows grace by holding back the full impact of sin on the world.

I think what we are seeing here is a reminder of the love of God and the grace that goes with it. As God shows grace to the ungodly knowing that they will not respond so should we continue to show grace to the world around us even if there is no chance of a response.

That’s pretty amazing.

If our perfect, sinless, holy God is willing to keep showing grace to a world rejecting Him what ought we we to?

The principle is that God’s grace is always worthy of sharing just because it is God’s grace. The whole world needs to know that we serve a God of all grace. We show His grace through our words and our actions. We show it by loving others even when they don’t love us back.

Let me manifest God’s grace in this tired old broken world.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Perfect peace

You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You. – Isaiah 26.3


Perfect peace. That is a goal I think all of us can identify with. We would all lie to have total peace in our lives where we don’t have to worry about all the thing that trouble our minds.

God says here that those who minds are fixed on Christ and those who trust in Him will find perfect peace. Of course I think about Philippians 4 when I read this passage. Have a look:

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

The way to perfect peace is clear – it all depends on whether we are willing to go after it. Don’t let yourself be full of cares. Pray with thanksgiving and peace beyond comprehension will be yours. Think about and focus on the right things and the peace of God will be with you. Perfect peace comes when we cast our cares on Him knowing that he cares for us.

We lack peace because we are relying on ourselves instead of relying on God.

Unrest comes when we depend on us. Great peace when we leave it all up to him.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Good things come to those who wait

And it will be said in that day:
“Behold, this is our God;
We have waited for Him, and He will save us.
This is the Lord;
We have waited for Him;
We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” – Isaiah 25.9

As much as I might not understand it or ‘get it’ waiting is a good thing. God says that it is good to learn how to wait while we are young. I think part of the reason is that the older we get the harder it is to wait.

Right now it is pretty tough to live in this broken world, and wait on the Lord to come back and sort all this mess out.

Here we have an insight into what it is going to be like in that day when Jesus has come to establish His reign on earth. On that day the broken world will be fixed and we will see the wonder of seeing Christ face to face.

‘We have waited’ the people say, ‘and now we will be glad and rejoice in His final salvation.’

In other words they are saying ‘we waited and now it will be worth it all.’ The old saying ‘good things com to those who wait’ and this is the ultimate example of that adage.

The great old hymn ‘When We See Jesus’ says it perfectly.

Ofttimes the day seems long, our trials hard to bear,
We're tempted to complain, to murmur and despair;
But Christ will soon appear to catch His Bride away,
All tears forever over in God's eternal day.

It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,
Life's trials will seem so small when we see Christ;
One glimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase,
So bravely run the race till we see Christ.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Death is swallowed up

He will swallow up death forever,
And the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces;
The rebuke of His people
He will take away from all the earth;
For the Lord has spoken. – Isaiah 25.8

Like a lot of Christians on of my favourite modern hymns is the Getty’s’ song ‘The Power of the Cross.’ It is a wonderful song proclaiming what Christ accomplished at the cross. One stanza says

‘Oh, to see my name
Written in the wounds,
For through Your suffering I am free.
Death is crushed to death
Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love.’

I love the line ‘death is crushed to death’ and that idea is seen way back here in Isaiah with the words ‘He will swallow up death.’ We see the results of that in 1 Corinthians where we read ‘O death where is your sting?’

Nobody likes the idea of dying. Dying is so unknown that it is natural to be anxious about it. It si scary to thing about.

That’s natural, but for the believer death has no power over is. We have nothing to be afraid of. Death has no sting – because Jesus swallowed it up. He crushed death to death. ‘He is risen’ gave hope to all generations.

But that hope is only for those who have put their faith in Him because He along had the power to conquer death.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Shade from the heat

For You have been a strength to the poor,
A strength to the needy in his distress,
A refuge from the storm,
A shade from the heat;
For the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall. – Isaiah 25.4

We have been in the South for about six weeks now and one word sticks out – HOT!  I have been able to do quite a bit of geocaching, but I can’t do all I want because it is just so hot. You step outside the house or the air conditioned car and within seconds you are drenched with sweat. I find myself looking for spots of shade for relief from the heat.

Life can be like that sometimes. There are times when we can’t seem to escape the heat of the pressures of life. The heat can seem relentless. It beats us down and we are exhausted.

The wonderful truth is that just like I can find shade and comfort from the hot sun the Lord will be our shade from the heat. The heat will still be there, but we can find rest and comfort in the shade of His protection.

When the heat just gets to hot let us run to the shade that only He can provide.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Peace in the MIddle East

In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian will come into Egypt and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians will serve with the Assyrians. – Isaiah 19.23

The goal of peace in the Middle East is a noble one. There has never been peace there since the time of Christ, but most of us are fully aware of the current situation there. Since the modern state of Israel in 1948 there has been conflict and ensuing attempts at a resolution to the conflict. The one that sticks out the most in my mind when President Carter’s Camp David Accord. There is a famous photo of the president with the leaders of Israel and Egypt shaking hands. People thought or hoped that this was finally the answer – but it wasn’t.

Today we still see nearly daily reports of rocket attacks and suicide attacks and all sorts of violence. There is no peace in the Middle East.

And it is not going to happen. It won’t happen because wars are caused by man’s selfish lusts and desires. Nations are never going to be willing to accept what is not going to be best for them. Wars and conflicts are going to go on and on and on.

But there is a day coming when Israel and Egypt and Assyria are all going to be called God’s people and there will be unity in the land.

But that is only going to happen through the power of Christ. It is not President Carter or Reagan or Bush or Clinton or Bush or Obama or Trump or anyone else who will negotiate lasting peace. Only Christ has the power to do that.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Sing

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.
And in that day you will say:
“Praise the Lord, call upon His name;
Declare His deeds among the peoples,
Make mention that His name is exalted.
Sing to the Lord,
For He has done excellent things;
This is known in all the earth. – Isaiah 12.2-5

Singing is special. Singing is universal. In every culture singing plays an important role. Even in the cultures most secluded from human material progress some plays a role. We sing praises to our nation or our schools or our sports teams or even how favourite toothpaste.

But here we go again – how are we about singing praises to our God?

I love singing in church, and I have been blest to be in a lot of services where there is a real godly spirit of singing in a way that honours God.

But too often our song services our just a matter of going through the motions.

That’s not want God wants. Our singing is to honour God, edify others, and to encourage our own spirits. We are to sing and make melody in our hearts to the Lord. We are encourage each other with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.

It is not just in church, but we ought to fill our lives with praiseworthy songs so that in those quiet moments songs of praise fill our hearts instead of toothpaste jingles.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Declare His deeds

Therefore with joy you will draw water
From the wells of salvation.
And in that day you will say:
“Praise the Lord, call upon His name;
Declare His deeds among the peoples,
Make mention that His name is exalted.
Sing to the Lord,
For He has done excellent things;
This is known in all the earth. – Isaiah 12.2-5

A lot of us like to talk. When we talk we are ready to brag about things that like. We talk about how great our country is or how great our sports teams are. We openly declare the great things they do and we are proud of our devotion to them. We don’t care what other people think.

And I guess that is okay.

But why is it so hard for us the declare the things our God does? Why don’t we brag on Him? Here in Alabama it is easy to say “Roll Tide’ but it is much harder for us to say ‘Praise God.’

But how are people going to know about our God unless we talk about Him and what He does? If we are going to brag on anything ought we not to be ‘bragging on’ our God?

How do we do that? I think we simply need to include God in our conversations. Instead of the usual answers to ‘How are you?’ We might say, ‘God is good. We facing a few challenges right now but He will get us through it’ or ‘I am really doing well, thank God.’

Let’s give God the credit he is due and brag on Him a bit.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

With joy

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 12.2-3

I love these two verses kind of tucked into Isaiah’s prophecy here. The image here reminds me of the story of the woman at the well and Jesus offered here eternal life from the ‘well of salvation.’

But it is not just eternal life, as good as that it. Jesus says that we can draw for the well but that we can do so with great joy.

I think we Christians can at times forget about the importance of joy. Sometimes we can act like life is a drudgery. We can almost make it sound like we are extra spiritual if we are suffering for Jesus. Christians walk around downcast and dark and living a life that on one could possibly desire for themselves.

Sure, we are going to have bad days. News is going to shake us and make us sad and we are going to get depressed.

That’s why we are reminded to draw water from the wells of salvation with joy. At the end of the day we can always rejoice in the knowledge that we are truly saved and that no matter what storm we are going through we have the joy of the Lord as our strength.

No matter what storm we face there ought to be that deep, abiding, eternal joy drawn from the well. There ought to be that ‘joy unspeakable and full of glory.’

Saturday, 15 July 2017

The delight of the Branch

His delight is in the fear of the Lord,
And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes,
Nor decide by the hearing of His ears;
But with righteousness He shall judge the poor,
And decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins,
And faithfulness the belt of His waist. – Isaiah 11.3-5

What does our Branch delight in? What does our ruler take joy in?

Most of our earthly rulers love the exact opposite of the kinds of things we read about here. Human rulers delight is power and prestige and personality and popularity. They delight is doing what is best for them.

But this Branch of Jesse delights in the fear of the Lord and because of that He will judge in righteousness and decide with evenness for the meek and will punish the guilty and be dressed in righteousness and faithfulness.

I am so looking forward to righteous rule. One day all of the wicked rulers we deal with today will be dead and gone and we can live in the way of true righteousness. Until then we strive for righteousness and holiness and faithfulness in our own lives.

Our day will come.

Friday, 14 July 2017

The spirt of the Branch

There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,
And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.
The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. – Isaiah 11.1-2

The ‘Branch from the stem of Jesse’ is a clear allusion to the coming Messiah, who we now know is Jesus Christ. It describes His character and we can immediately see the contrast between His character and those in power today. It gives us something to look forward to during His reign on earth, but it also comforts us in who are true Master is today.

He has the Spirit of the Lord
He has a spirit of wisdom and understanding
He has a spirit of counsel
He has a spirit of might
He has a spirit of knowledge
He has a spirit of the fear of the Lord

That us certainly the kind of spirit that I want to follow and it is the kind of spirit that I want in my own life.

The great thing is that we have that Spirit dwelling in us. When we were saved we received the Spirit of the Lord in the person of the Holy Spirit.The only thing that keeps us from manifesting those traits is our flesh. We have the power to walk in that kind of spirit because we have the Holy Spirit living in us.

I am afraid that my spirit doesn’t always reflect the fact that the Holy Spirit lives in me. I am afraid that too often it is my flesh that wins out.

Lord help me today to walk in that Spirit instead of my flesh.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Tools

Shall the ax 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 10.15

I like tools. Well, I love the idea of tools. I like the feel of them and what they do and the potential they have to do. I have a toolbox full of tools.

The problem is that I am not much of a DIY guy and my toolset has, through the years, scattered and partly disappeared. The tools I have left don’t do much unless somebody uses them.

This is the illustration Isaiah uses to talk about us. Unless the Lord is using us we aren’t going to get much accomplished. Unless we depend on Him we are working in vain.

But in the hands of the Master we find our usefulness. A good workman can get a job done even with flawed tools. In the same way God can use us even with the nicks and chips and rust spots and all the other flaws. All we need to do is to be wiling, not perfect tools.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

The zeal of the Lord

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, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
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 9.6-7

Zeal is a great thing. Zeal, even human zeal, can get a lot accomplished. Zeal is even praised by God a we are called to live of Christian lives with zeal. We are told to be zealous of good works.

The problem is that our zeal will always flag and weaken. Our zeal will always let us down and at times or zeal will fail. If it were up to us to establish the kingdom of God we would tire and fail.

But the Kingdom of God does not depend on us. It will all be done because ‘the zeal of the Lord will do this.’

It is hard for us to imagine a zeal that does not wear out, this is God’s zeal. His is zealous in all that He does. He is zealous about his Wonder. He is zealous about His Might and His Fatherhood and His peace. And He is zealous about His governance.

It is of great comfort that it is God’s zeal that we count on, not mine or any other man’s. His is the only zeal we can trust completely. His zeal alone will cary us through.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Forever

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, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
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 9.6-7

There is not a whole lot we can really depend on. Part of the reason for that is that everything is temporary. The greatest nations on earth rise and fall. Great churches rise and fall. Great men and women rise and fall. Even the things that we feel like we can really depend on are going to end eventually.

But in this blessed messianic promise we find hope that will not fail. Jesus will order His kingdom in judgement and justice forever.

One day He is coming to establish His kingdom and His literal reign on earth. All else will be taken away and there will be no corruption or failings will exist because King Jesus will be in control and He will reign forever.

Although the passage speaks of His earthly reign we now know that His reign doesn’t have to wait until then. We can begin to enjoy the reign of our King while we are here. King Jesus is already at the head of His kingdom and we live under his reign.

The most wonderful thing about King Jesus reign is that it is forever and forever He will be Wonderful, Counsellor, Almighty God, my Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.

Monday, 10 July 2017

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, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
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 9.6-7

A name is an important thing. We are told for ourselves that a good name is more important than riches. Our name becomes associated with our character.

Even naming a child can be a big choice. These days in our cultures names most often are just family names or names that we think sounds good or just because we like the name.

I like my name. Roger is derived from the old Norse/Germanic name Hroogar. It means ‘a mighty spearman or warrior.’

But, back to our topic. The Son who is given for us has a name, or several of them. Here we read that His name will be called

Wonderful
Counsellor
Mighty God
Everlasting Father
Prince of Peace

That’s a lot of names and that’s a lot of meaning. Every one of those names has an impact. His blessed names give us hope for the future. He is the one who is truly full of wonder, the One who can give counsel in every situation, the Almighty God who can do all, the eternal Father who will never stop loving, and the One who along can bring peace to this troubled world and to my troubled life.

His names ought to give me all the comfort I need to survive this troubled world. Let me rest in His names.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Unto us

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, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
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 9.6-7

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.

Unto us – you and me
Unto us – unworthy sinners
Unto us – fleshly beings deserving of the wrath of God
Unto us

When I think of the ways God could have given us the truth using a child doesn’t make much sense. I would think He would split the skies and have His Son appear in the heavens and proclaim His truth.

But He sent a Child – His Son.

God became one of us. He became a living human being subject to tiredness and hunger and pain. Unto us He became one of us. God so loved this world that He gave His only begotten son. When He was born the angels proclaimed ‘unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour.’ ‘Unto you’ the angels said.

In God’s love, despite our sin and rebellion and rejection, He sent His Son to us.

Praise God for the words 'unto us.'

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Broken the yoke

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.
You have multiplied the nation
And increased its joy;
They rejoice before You
According to the joy of harvest,
As men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
For You have broken the yoke of his burden
And the staff of his shoulder,
The rod of his oppressor,
As in the day of Midian. – Isaiah 9.2-4

There are a couple of kinds of yokes. One kind of yoke is the kind a person might use to carry a load. It goes over the shoulders and has hooks or some kind of devices to attach a load to both sides so that the weight is balanced. The other is a device used to attach animals together to pull a load.

I think this yoke is the first kind. The people of Israel were under the yoke of the Midianites. Over and over God had delivered the nation from the oppressive yoke of various nations.

But we know now in retrospect that this ‘lifting of a yoke’ also pictures the yoke of sin or the yoke of the Law that was lifted on the cross. We are all born with a great sin burden. Nothing we could do had any power to break that burden. Jesus said ‘don’t use that yoke that you are carrying by yourself, join up to my yoke, for it is a light burden.’

Israel could rejoice that their yoke of oppression was broken. We an rejoice that Jesus broke our yoke of sin on the cross.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Woe is me

Then said I, 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 mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. – Isaiah 6.5-8

I’ve been thinking about this passage, and though I talked about it a few days ago I had to go back and mention it again. I skipped right over and important aspect of theses words – ‘woe is me.’

Isaiah’s response is the only response we can have to the holiness of God – He was literally awestruck. In the presence of a thrice holy God Isaiah is fully confronted with his sin.

I am afraid that sometimes I don’t take my sin that seriously. I can make a light thing of it even when I am acting spiritual. It is way to easy to take sin way too lightly.

When I see my sin, my sin in particular, my only response should be that of Isaiah. When I am confronted with my sin I should fall on my face before God and say ‘woe is me.’

When I see my sin that way I see the joy that Christ brings. Woe is me as a Christian because when I see I am making light of what Jesus did for me on the cross. My sin ought to break my heart whenever I sin. It ought to put me on my face before my holy, holy, holy God.

This is one of the reasons I am thankful for a weekly opportunity to go to the Lord’s Table and examine my own heart. It doesnt give me a chance to get complacent in my sin.

Lord, give me a heart to view my sin the way that Isaiah saw his.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

I will wait

Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.
And I will wait upon the Lord,
that hideth his face from the house of Jacob,
and I will look for him.
Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me
are for signs and for wonders in Israel
from the Lord of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion. - Isaiah 8:16-18

It sometimes looks like the tests and trials that we go through are going to go on forever, doesn’t it. Sometimes it feels like we can’t buy a break. Trouble is followed by problem which is followed by testing which is followed by more bad news.

That must be how it felt to Isaiah during this time. It felt like God was hiding from them and it seemed like the enemy was going to win.

Isaiah had the right perspective though – ‘I will wait for the Lord…I will look for Him.’

That reminds me of the words of Micah when he was in a similar situation. ‘I will look to the Lord. I will wait. And my God will hear me.’

We go through those same kinds of things today. As the world gets worse and worse we need to keep looking to our God. As our trials and testings come and it even seems like God is not listening we need to remember that He is still there.

Like Isaiah we need to say ‘I will wait on Him’ and while I am waiting ‘I will look to Him.’

Wait on God. Look to Him. And He will answer.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

A conspiracy?

For the Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand,
and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying,
Say ye not, A confederacy,
to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy;
neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.
Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself;
and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.
And he shall be for a sanctuary;
but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel,
for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken,
and be snared, and be taken. – Isaiah 8.11-15

I love a good conspiracy story. I think everyone does. At one point back in the 70s I joined the John Birch Society which is a hyper right wing conservative group dedicated to exposing all the conspiracies and groups and organisations in the world and how it is all being done to destroy our lives. Two of my favourite writers, Agatha Christie and Taylor Caldwell, were believers in the world conspiracy to control all the nations of the world. Just look through any list of television programmes on various cable channels and you will see that conspiracies are still big business. I don’t know for sure, but I would not be surprised if there was a ‘conspiracy channel’ out there somewhere.

The problem with all of these conspiracies is that once we get past the intriguing titillation they are all based on stirring up fear. They are based on the notion that some vast international conspiracy is so powerful that it is in control of our lives and it is what is going to determine our future.

But here God says ‘don’t you worry about conspiracies or confederations that may seem to endanger you. Instead set the Lord apart from all that in your lives. He will be your protection and your safety even when those things happen.’

So we need not be too concerned and the Illuminati or any other supposed vast world-wide conspiracy. They can’t win out anyway. Instead let us keep our focus on the high and lifted up thrice holy God that Isaiah saw in the vision that called Him to service.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

God is with us

Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces;
and give ear, all ye of far countries:
gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces;
gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces.
Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought;
speak the word, and it shall not stand:
for God is with us. – Isaiah 8.9-10

I am in America for the Fourth of July this year. It is my first time to be here for the Fourth since 1997. Things have changed in the last twenty years. There is still, at least in the South where I am, a great show of religion. Right now I am in the buckle of the Bible Belt.

It is kind of nice the be a Christian in comfort.

But that doesn’t mean that we are no longer strangers in a strange land or pilgrims passing through until we get to our real homes. We even find ourselves right now in a land which is being friendly to Christians.

But we need to be careful that we never put our hope in a friendly government. The danger of this kind of comfort is that we can get, well, comfortable. And then comfort makes us lazy and lethargic. Then we are in danger when things turn on us.

But Isaiah had that covered.  He wrote 'God is with us.'

Our total reliance must be on the Lord even when things see okay. Things an turn on a dime was we need to remember that no matter what happens God’s always already given us the ultimate victory.

Our faith cannot be in politicians or leaders. They are prone to be pragmatic and do whatever works for them, but God is with is. Let our faith be in that turn, not in laws and leaders.

Monday, 3 July 2017

How long?

Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered,
Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant,
and the houses without man,
and the land be utterly desolate,
And the Lord have removed men far away,
and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.
But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten:
as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves:
so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof. – Isaiah 6.11-13

God showed me this verse years ago when I was in one of my cycles of being discouraged about the ministry. It seemed like for every success there were two failures. I was in the shower one morning and was really upset. I remember saying to God as I was getting dressed ‘how long do you expect me to keep doing this?’

As I walked into the office I turned on the computer and checked my email. A friend and I were sharing devotions at the time. The email he sent that morning started with this passage!

How long? Until these cities lie empty and a wasteland. In other words, when we go for God we go. Whether is to to our neighbour next door or someone on the far side of the world – we go and we keep going and going and going. We don’t give up. We don’t get weary in well doing. We don’t lose heart. We are stedfast. We are immovable. We are always abounding. We will reap in His time. Our labour is not in vain. God’s word will accomplish that which He desires.

How long? God will let us now when we are done.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Here I am

Then said I, 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 mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. – Isaiah 6.5-8

When God revealed Himself to Isaiah he was stunned. All he could was to fall on His face in worship and confess His sin.

In the midst of that we see God Himself calling out ‘Who will I send? Who will go for us?’

It is an amazing fact that God has chosen men to do His work. We can all say ‘woe is me’ and must recognise that we too are men of unclean lips in a land full of the same kind of people, but it is to that land that God says ;who will go for us?’

Then we see Isaiah responding ‘here I am, send me.’

Such simple but powerful words from a man of unclean lips. Isaiah knew he was not worthy to go – but still he said he would go.

Isn’t that a lot like us? God is still looking for people to go and do His work He is still looking for someone who will go for Him.

Who will it be? Are you and I willing to say ‘Here I am Lord, send me?’ Are we willing to say ‘send me to that hurting neighbour or that troubled co-worker or that family member or needs Christ or that town character that everyone laughs at or that refugee fleeing oppression or that foreign land where vast numbers don’t know Christ?

None of us a ‘good enough’ to go – God will take care of that, but are we ready to say ‘here I am!’

Saturday, 1 July 2017

High and lifted up

In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said,
Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts:
the whole earth is full of his glory. – Isaiah 6.1-3

The nation needed something. It was a mess and it was only getting messier and messier. The people had totally forgotten God and were living lives only for themselves. 

But all was not lost, there was a prophet named Isaiah in he land. When King Uzziah died Isaiah saw vision that would start a great change. 

Isaiah saw God. 

Isaiah saw God high and lifted up. He saw the Lord on a throne and God’s apparel filled the temple. He saw angels surrounding God and they cried out ‘holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts.’ And they cried out ‘the whole earth is full of His glory.’ 

We are certainly not going to find much holiness around us. It’s a word where holiness is mocked and ridiculed. 

But the holiness of God is our hope. God is separate from all sin. He is the only One who is so He sees things from the outside in a sense. He sees with unmuddled vision because His nature is not tainted by our sin. So He sees the answer and way through all of this. 

That’s why it is so important to pursue holiness in our sin cursed world today. We need to see this world from God’s perspective and we can only do that as we see Him high and lifted up in our lives. Instead of being drawn away by the wickedness of this broken world we ought to be looking at God in His holiness and putting our faith in Him. 

Friday, 30 June 2017

Calling evil good

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil;
that put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! – Isaiah 5.20

I am still not that old, but I certainly am amazed at how much this world has turned since I was younger. I have been saved for 43 years now. Looking at life from a Christian perspective has been an amazing experience. The are loads of things that everyone ‘knew’ were wrong back then that now are seen as a normal part of life.

We can expect that out of the world, but the sad thing is that things that we once knew were sin have become accepted and now are even seen as laudatory and good and positive.

While we are called to be loving and compassionate and caring and kind despite the sins of the world at the same time sin is still sin and we still must pronounce it as such. We still need to recognise wrong as wrong and evil as evil. We can and should be loving in the way we deal with it, but sin is the enemy, not the sinner. We must never get to the point where we tolerate sin just because it is popular or ‘normal.’

Evil is never going to become good. We can sugar coat it and call it by different names and make excuses, but evil is evil, was evil, and always will be evil. We dare not call evil good.

In all of this, let us remember that the enemy is evil, not the people that are caught up in that evil.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Walk in the light

O house of Jacob, come ye,
and let us walk in the light of the Lord. – Isaiah 2.5

There can be no doubt that we live in a world of darkness. There are times and places and situations where the darkness is nearly palpable. In places like Ireland, where there has never been a genuine revival the darkness can be overwhelming. All of man’s attempts at creating light eventually fail.

Part of the problem is that men tend to love darkness more than they love light. Darkness hides their sin. Nobody can see what we do in the darkness. The bad thing about darkness though is that we all stumble in the darkness and man doesn’t even know why he is stumbling.

Things are so dark and so bad that even we Christians can find ourselves ignoring the light and trying to muck about in the darkness.

The thing is that Jesus came as the Light of the world, to lead the way out of that darkness, but He was rejected by the world because they love darkness so much.

But there is no excuse for God’s children to walk in darkness. We have the light and we must not allow ourselves to get trapped in darkness and spending our days walking in it.

Not only that, but because we have the light we are to shine that light to the world. When we walk in the light we will draw others to walk in that light. We are instruments of light to show the world the Light that is found in Christ.

May my light shine so brightly before the world that they will see my goods works and that God might be lifted up and glorified in this dark world.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Swords into ploughshares





And he shall judge among the nations,
and shall rebuke many people:
and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruninghooks:
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.  - Isaiah 2.4

In 1959, at the very centre of the Cold War, the Soviet Union gifted the UN with the iconic image of a man beating a sword onto the cutting edge of a plough. The image is not only iconic, but also ironic since the USSR at that moment was on the verge of a potentially cataclysmic war against the US.

But still, the image and the notion was a good one. That war never came. Despite the hard talk and the rhetoric and a few near misses somehow that war was avoided.

Sadly though the image hopes for an impossibility. Man’s wars have continues to rage since 1959. We just can’t seem to get along despite of laudable goal of turning our weapons of war in to tools for peace and the betterment of mankind.

We can’t do it because man is always going to want what is best for himself. Nations want to take care of themselves and the cost to others really doesn’t matter. The goal is noble and man should all he can to achieve it. But, at the end of the day man’s peace will always fail.

That’s the context of this verse. Despite man’s conflict and despite the raging battle and all that the day is coming when God will send His Son back to earth to put an end to all war. The day is coming when He will reign and war will be no more.

That is only possible when man’s broken relationship with God is restored. That’s what the angel’s meant when the promised ‘peace on earth’ and that’s what Jesus meant when He said ‘My peace I leave with you.’

So lets take great hope in the image of swords being beaten into ploughshares. We have a great and mighty God who is going to bring it to pass and let us put our trust in Him to see it accomplished. 

And lets be busy bringing the message of His peace to a world that surely needs it. 

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Whiter than snow

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord:
though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:
But if ye refuse and rebel,
ye shall be devoured with the sword:
for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. - Isaiah 1:18-20

We could hardly blame God if He just decided to wipe it all out and start again. The whole Bible is a record of God’s people walking in rebellion against Him and turning from Him. No matter what God does for us, we seem to turn from Him.

Why not just give up on us?

Israel in Isaiah’s time was like that. They didn’t really care about God or His way or His desires. They were all about satisfying self. God had been dealing with this since He chose Israel.

But God still loved His people. He continued to reach out to them. He wanted them to come to Him. God reached out with an offer because man had not power to reach out to God. ‘Come to me with your sins’ God says and I will taken the darkness of sin and make you whiter than snow.

Our only hope to have our slates washed clean is through the blood of Christ. It is the only thing that makes sense. I know I am not perfect and I know that I cannot rectify my sins on my own. I can be made white as snow because Christ’s righteousness covers me and God sees only His perfection when it is imputed on me.

I may not always feel whiter than snow – but that is how God sees me because of Christ.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Tired of your religion

Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth:
they are a trouble unto me;
I am weary to bear them.
And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you:
yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear:
your hands are full of blood.
Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;
Learn to do well;
seek judgment, relieve the oppressed,
judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. - Isaiah 1:14-17

Even while Israel was in a mess they still maintained their semblance of religion. They did the sacrifices and observed the holy days. The surface religion was still there. But there was no reality to it.

So God told them what they needed to do:

Cleanse yourselves of your sin
Get rid of the evil in your lives. Stop doing it.
Learn how to do well.
Seek just judgement.
Take care of the poor.
Care for the fatherless and the widows.

Obviously, the first though that comes to mind is how James defined true religious – ‘to care for the fatherless and the widows in their affliction and to keep yourself unspotted by the world.’

I wonder how God feels about my ‘religion?’ Is my religion the kind of thing Isaiah talks about or James writes about, or my religion mostly a show that makes me feel good about myself. Am I content with my religion, or am I striving to live out my faith by dealing with my sin and by caring for others?