Monthly Archives: August 2018

I Need Thee Every Hour

Their land is full of silver and gold; there is no end to their treasures. Their land is full of horses; there is no end to their chariots.

Their land is full of idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their fingers have made.

So man is humbled, and each one is brought low— do not forgive them!  

Crawl into caves in the rocks. Hide in the dust from the terror of the LORD and the glory of his majesty.

The eyes of the arrogant will be humbled and human pride brought low; the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.

For the LORD of Heaven’s Armies has a day in store against all that is proud and lofty, for all that is exalted shall be brought low. 

Isa 2:7-11

Here’s another scary and convicting passage.

The sin the people commit is that they are “proud and lofty.”  They exalt themselves. They’re all puffed up about the possessions they have.   They think they’re great because of “work of their hands,” their accomplishments.  This is what they worship, not God.

What sobers me about this passage is God’s attitude towards them.  He says to not forgive them.

This is the strangest thing ever.  It’s not something you see often in the Bible.  Isn’t God the one who punishes, but then relents? “For if you return to the LORD, your brothers and sons will receive mercy in the presence of their captors and will return to this land. For the LORD your God is gracious and merciful; He will not turn His face away from you if you return to Him.”  (Ex 34:6)  

Isn’t this the God who counseled us through Jesus to forgive seventy times seven?

How does this fit in with this passage later in Isaiah? “‘In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD your Redeemer.  . . “So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again.”‘ (Is 54:9) 

Because many theologans believe that God really is saying in Is 2:8 that he is not going to forgive the Isrealites for their pride.  They quote verses like Ps. 69:27, “Charge them with crime upon crime; do not let them share in your salvation.”

And it reminds me of how Jesus spoke in parables because, “They may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!'”  Mark 4:12

I don’t know what to make of all that, but one thing I can see is that arrogant hard hearts are a huge problem with God.

And here is what I am thinking. The source of the Isrealites’ pride was that they forgot their need for God.  They attributed their wealth and their success to themselves.

It reminds me of Revelations 3:17: “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

It also reminds me of the first verse of the beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”  (Matt 5:3)

How much do we remember that we are poor and needy for God?

Last night, we had planned to have a midweek service at the park, and play games.  As the time for the service approached, the sky began to fill with dark clouds.  When Ken and I got to the park, it looked like a storm was brewing.  Not many people had showed up.  We prayed, and some of us started a game of volleyball in the ominous gloom.

midwk6

Then we began to hear the rumbles of thunder.  Soon we saw flashes of lightening.  We kept staying, holding onto hope, but the lightening got closer.  So finally, Mike, our leader, volunteered his house for us to go to instead.

 

About 15 of us straggled over to Mike’s.  There, we ended up having the best time! We had pizza, and sang songs and played games.

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Now I’m not saying anything about those who decided to not come because of the rain.  Of course that’s very reasonable. But I feel like those who came to the park and the house were those who felt a keen need for the fellowship.   They felt their need for the spiritual.  They felt their need to see God in the faces of their brothers and sisters.

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Ah, I know I need to remember my need for God more.   As the song says, I need thee every hour.  Like the Jews, my heart can get so preoccupied with what I’m doing.   I can think I have all sufficiency in my own little world.

I forget that what I need is that wonderful, harmonious fellowship of being with God in the moment.  I need to see his beauty. I need to feel his goodness.  I need to connect to his peace.  I need to live with his deep meaning and purpose.

Let’s make it our goal today to humble ourselves and bring ourselves low.  Surely it is scarey to think how easily we can be arrogant, and how seriously God takes it when we get that way.

 

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Finding Security in God

For the LORD has abandoned his people, the descendants of Jacob, because they have filled their land with practices from the East and with fortune-tellers like the Philistines. They have made alliances with pagans.  Isa 2:6

It is so scary to think of God leaving his people, even rejecting them, as some translations say in this passage.  I was praying through a bad mood yesterday, and it was so comforting to me to remember that God promised to always be with me.  It would be horrible to not have this.

It was horrible for King Saul.  Our Sunday school lesson for the kids this coming week is going to be how the Lord left King Saul.  As a result, Saul went mad.  He had fits of rage.  They brought David in to play the harp for him and sooth him.

And, I think of Jesus on the cross.  I think one of the hardest things for Jesus wasn’t the physical torment he endured, but that he felt abandoned.  He cried, “My God, My God.  Why have you forsaken me?”  It could be that he felt that way because he was bearing our sins, and was separated from God as a result.

I’m not worried about going in and out of my salvation, having God with me when I think I am doing good, and having God abandon me when I sin.  I do feel space between myself and God when I think I’ve messed up.  Some of that is my own difficulty in forgiving myself.  But I know believe that it is true that “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  (Romans 8:1)

I do think that if I continued to sin over a long period of time, I could fall away.  “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.”  Heb 10:26  But I take much comfort in the scripture, “His mercies are new every morning.” (Lam 3:23)  God’s grace is sufficient.  It is an spring that bubbles up day after day, washing me clean.  “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  (II Cor 5:21)

Yet I think this passage teaches me that I must have a great soberness about the polluting effects of the world.  I am surrounded by all kinds of terrible influences, and I’m so used to them, and I don’t even notice them anymore.

What does God condemn his people for?  Filling their land with practices from the east.  When I researched this, I found that it refers to this passage: “Now King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, and saw the altar which was at Damascus; and King Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the pattern of the altar and its model, according to all its workmanship.”  (II Kings 16:10)

The King of Judah built a foreign altar, not worshiping as God prescribed.

I am really convicted that another translation for Is. 2:6  includes the phrasing, “Because they be replenished from the east.”  The word used there does mean “filled,” but when I see the word “replenished,” it reminds me that we can feel empty, and we can find the wrong things to assuage that emptiness.  It’s so easy to do.

Here is what I find myself doing.  I keep surrounding myself with order and perfection.  I want everything to go well.  Then I feel safe and secure.  The other day, I got really grumpy at church because a couple of things went a little wonky.

This desire for perfection is a false altar.  My security and well being can only come from God.  I can’t only be happy when things are going as I think they should.  I need to be able to trust God when things are wonky!  And of course, there is much more to trust God about right now in my life than a couple of worship service items.

I have to remember the thing we stressed in last week’s Sunday School lesson, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.”  (I Sam 6:17)  God doesn’t care about things looking perfect.  That is a “practice of the east.”  It is what the world does.  Let me show you this post that I recently saw on Facebook.39811111_10106277147143671_6227426464342474752_n

Poor mothers today don’t know what to do.  They feel the pressure to be perfect, but everyone has a different idea of what perfect is!  We all need to get our security from God, not how we fit in to the world.

Yes, God does want us to give him our best, and serve him with excellent.  But he wants this to come from a place of wholehearted devotion to him.  “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”  (II Chron 16:9)

This morning I was having trouble sleeping, and I remembered the words of a song I wrote years ago:

Let me worship you with my whole heart today

All of my mind, strength and soul I pray.

May the distractions leave my mind.

All of the worries left behind.

‘Til in you a peace I find.

So ready, so ready, to worship you.

Let’s shake off the influences of the world and be wholly devoted to God, knowing only he will meet our needs.

It is in our seeking replenishment elsewhere that we begin to leave him.  But he will not abandon us.  Let draw closer to him instead.

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Light Bulbs, Answers and Walking with God

Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD.  Is 2:5

I have been doing a study of Isaiah, and I thought I would share what I am learning.

This is one of the first places in the Bible where we see the imagery of God as light.  We know that God’s appearance was radiant.  When Moses went up on the mountain to be with God and he came back down, his face was shining.

But we don’t see the analogy that walking with God is being in the light, or that God is bringing light into the world.  These are themes introduced in Isaiah.  Here are a couple of other verses about light in Isaiah.

  • The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned. Isa 9  (This verse was quoted in Matthew 4:16)
  • Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.  Isa 60:1

There is a theme of darkness, and of light coming out of darkness in the early books of the Old Testament.

  • God created the universe out of darkness, and said, “Let there be light.
  • God gave the plague of darkness to the Israelites, and the Egyptians had no light for three days.  The Lord said it was, “darkness that can be felt.”  But the Israelites had light in their homes.

We do see that the word of God is seen as giving illumination.

  • Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.  Ps 119:105

Of course, light is a huge theme in the New Testament.  We are familiar with verses such as these:

  • And this is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you: God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.  I John 1:5
  • . . . the rising sun will come to us from heaven, to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.  Luke 1:79

God sees people as living in the darkness of sin, and that Christ came to bring the light of salvation to them.

  • This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  John 3:19

So what do we do with all of this?

I think that when God spoke these words In Isaiah 2:5 about walking in the light, he was referring back to the passage that precedes it about the mountain of the Lord coming and and how many nations would come to it, saying, “He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.”  Is 2:3

God was saying that it was time to start walking with the Lord, and learning his ways. I think it also means that the age was coming when God would help us to know him in a greater way.

Today, we are living out these prophesies of light.  But how much do we know God?  How much do we understand his ways?

This morning, I got a text from a Chinese friend.  I studied the Bible with her 6 or so years ago.  We got very close, but she never was able to get the story of Christ to come together for her enough in her head that she could make a commitment to him.  She kept going to church for several years, even as she moved to different locations, but it didn’t click.  Two years ago, she quit going.

But now she has started seeking God again, and this time, the light bulb is going off!  Things are making sense!

Her text said, “Every time I helped people, something changed inside of me.”

It reminds me of the verse, “If you hold to my teachings, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31

My friend was finding out the truth that when you walk with God and his ways, you start to see the light.

What you can do this week to walk more closely with the Lord in his ways?

Because the answer to almost anything can be found by walking closer to the Lord.  We’re all confused.  We’re all stumbling around.  We need more of the illumination that is found in God!

So I want to draw closer to him, spend more time with him, “remain in him,” ask him questions, listen to his whispers.

And I want to bring the light to others more, so they can learn of God’s ways.  This is something I’ve been slacking off in, yet it is my greatest dream.

“Let us walk in the light of the Lord.”  Father God, may you help us to do this more.

You must pay close attention to what [the prophets] wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place–until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts.  II Peter 1:19

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