Monthly Archives: October 2018

On Cleaning, and Staying Centered

house-cleaning

Those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem. Isa 4:3

A week ago my company left.  It’s taken me days to get my house back in order.  I mopped the sun porch where the cat stayed, washed the sheets, cleaned the bathroom, and vacuumed up a ton of debris.  When I was done, it was like my head was clean, too.  Looking around at the spotless floor and furniture gave me a sense of clarity and peace.

There’s something about getting things in order that strikes a chord with me, and I think it dovetails nicely with today’s devotional.

Isiaiah 4:3 says that God’s people left in Jerusaelm would be called holy.  It was always the Lord’s intention for his people to be holy.  He said in Exodus 19:5-6, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

Of course, through history, Gods’s people were often anything but holy.  So God instituted a plan to shake his people up and refine them. That’s what Isaiah 4:3 is about.  Earlier, in Isaiah 3 we read about the destruction that would overtake the Hebrews.  “They parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves.” Isa 3:9

But then in Isaiah 4, God promised a restoration.  A remnant would remain, and this remnant would be purified.  The cool thing is this action was only a part of God’s amazing master plan to enable everyone to be his holy people.  Look at these later verses of Isaiah:

  • And there will be a highway called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not travel it, only those who walk in that Way–and fools will not stray onto it. Isa 35:8
  • Behold, the LORD has proclaimed to the ends of the earth, “Say to Daughter Zion: See, your Savior comes! Look, His reward is with Him, and His recompense goes before Him.” And they will be called the Holy People, the Redeemed of The LORD; and you will be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken. Isa 62:12

God intended to make his people holy through a divine removal of their unholiness. Isaiah 4 goes on to read, “The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem.”

Of course, we know this was untimately fulfilled with Jesus, and the incredible salvation we have through him!   “But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  I Cor 6:11

Wow.  Do we remember that we are holy? That’s how the early Christians saw themselves.  They were even called “saints,” which is the Greek word, “hagios,” that can also be translated, “holy.”

  • To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints.” (I Cor 1:2)  (You can find other instances of Christians being called saints in Acts 9:32, 9:41, 26:10, Romans 1:7, 8:27, 12:13, 15:25, and the list goes on.)

So back to my analogy about cleaning.  I’m not like a German house frau.  My home isn’t always spotless.  But when my house goes on the market, that’s a different story.  Then I am wiping things down and vacumming every day!  My goal is not as much to clean, but to maintain the cleanliness.

So the way this all ties in is that we repent, and God makes us clean and holy, like when we do a deep cleaning on our house.  But just like I maintain the domestic tidiness when my house is for sale, it’s also up to us to maintain the holiness of our heart.  (Okay, it’s not a perfect metaphor, but work with me.)

And the verse that is powerful for me and I’ve been using lately is, “Remain in me, and I also will remain in you.” (John 15:4)  If I stay centered in God, it keeps me from cluttering up my heart with all kinds of other things.  It keeps me dealing with my sin.  It reminds me of what is important.

Here is a video I got from my life coaching studies that actually helps me with this.  It’s an exercise in staying focused.  When I do it, I think of being focused on God, not this guy’s face!  I think of myself choosing to think of God instead of the million other things that distract me. I picture myself settling into Jesus and staying in him.

Oh, how troubled and distracted we can be!  Our insides can feel like our house after a toddler play date!

God has made us holy, and when we center in him, we can maintain this holiness and feel clarity and peace.

Ahhh.  Do some belly breaths, and inhale God’s goodness.  It’s going to be okay.

 

 

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Filed under Holiness, Isaiah, Peace, Surrender, Uncategorized

Destined to Bear Beautiful Fruit!

branch fruitIn that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel.  Isa 4:2

What is the Branch of the Lord?  Isaiah 11:1 gives us insight, “A shoot will spring up from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.”

The Branch of the Lord is the Messiah, who will come from the line of Jesse, David’s father.  So the prophesy of Isaiah 4:2 says that the Messiah will be beautiful and glorious, and that he will be associated with fruit.

Although we could take “the fruit” literally, and believe that it refers to a time of crops and prosperity for the Hebrews, I think it also has to refer to the progeny of the Messiah.  Look at Isaiah 26:7, “In the days to come, Jacob will take root. Israel will bud and blossom and fill the whole world with fruit.”

Doesn’t this remind you of the Great Commission?  Jesus told his disciples to go into all the world so that all could become worshippers and children of the Most High.

We get such a picture of God’s plan to bring vitality and abundance.

Look at how other prophesies speak to this.

They say that the Messiah would establish an ever increasing kingdom.  “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from that time and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of Hosts will accomplish this.” ( Isa 9:7)

They say that he would bring salvation.  “He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. . . by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.” (Isa 53:2, 11)

There’s just one caveat for the production of fruit. “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” John 12:24

For the Messiah to bear fruit, he would have to die.  The rest of Isaiah 53 makes this clear. “because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.” (From Isa 53:12)

For there to be beauty and glory, there must first be death.

And the same is true for us.  If we want to be effective, if we want the life we long for, we have to die to self.

It’s a good thing to remember.  We just had a friend and his dad and cat stay with us for a week after Hurricane Michael. The time was a blessing.  I think in the way my husband and I served our friend, we planted a seed of faith.   But I also think I can learn from this how to die to self more completely, how to be more willing and wholeheartedly, and to do better next time.

I long for our church to grow.  It hits me like never before that this will only be accomplished as each of us dies to self.

And what other beauty do I long to see?  How does my heart yearn to see God work?

His work starts with my death.  It could be an action.  It could be surrendering the matter to him in prayer.

But I am the progeny of the Branch of the Lord.  It is my destiny to bear fruit as he did.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

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A Heart That’s Prepared

The Lord says, “The women of Zion are haughty, walking along with outstretched necks, flirting with their eyes, strutting along with swaying hips, with ornaments jingling on their ankles. Therefore the Lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of Zion; the Lord will make their scalps bald.”

In that day the Lord will snatch away their finery: the bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces, the earrings and bracelets and veils, the headdresses and anklets and sashes, the perfume bottles and charms, the signet rings and nose rings. Your men will fall by the sword, your warriors in battle.  The gates of Zion will lament and mourn; destitute, she will sit on the ground.  Isa 3:-16 26

As I’ve been reading through Isaiah, this passage seems appropriate for today.  I’ve seen so many scenes of devastation from Hurricane Michael.

Hurricane

Hurricane2

This reminds me of these verses, because it shows how we can be walking around one day, feeling rich and all together, and the next day, find that everything is in ruins.

Now I am not at all saying that the hurricane was a part of God’s judgment, like the disaster forecast in this prophesy.  I’m saying that we need to be careful to not be complacent and full of ourselves, thinking we have it together and taking what we have for granted.

We need to be careful to not be haughty.  God doesn’t look very kindly on the haughty in this verse.  The Hebrew word means, “to raise up to a great height.”  It’s used of King Saul when he’s described as being taller than the other people.  It definitely conveys the idea that you think you are above everyone else.

And that is what the women that God condemed were acting. The passage even goes on to describe them in kind of a comical way, with necks that are stretching up.  I get this picture of society gals with thier noses in the air.

haughty woman

I would enjoy laughing at them, if I didn’t know that I can be that way too.  Oh sure, maybe it’s not so obvious.  But how easily do I get down to the level of a servant? I have to say, as I have served hurricane victims this past week, my heart has some work to do!

Here are some great verses that help my heart in this:

  • Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Phil 2:3)
  • Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Phil 2:5-7)
  • But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower.  (James 1:10)

It also helps my heart to remember that the things I take for granted could be gone at any time.  It could be my turn next.  Here are some verses to help me think more soberly:

  • So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! (I Cor 10:12)
  • Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.  (Prov. 16:18)
  • Then [the rich man] said, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. ” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” Luke 12:20

Life can change at any moment. I’ve seen that first hand this week.  And at this point, I am thankful for the wake up call to my heart.

Let me do a better job of being prepared, and be better able to say, as Mary did, “I am the Lord’s servant.  May it happen to me according to your word.”  (Luke 1:38)

It’s easy to think it’s all about me, that I have it together.

God says that I need to stop stretching my neck, and instead, bow before him.

Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, . . . You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (Luke 12:40)

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The Real and Firm Presence

Sunrise

Then the LORD will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over everything the glory will be a canopy.

It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.  Isa 4:5-6

This is the coolest passage!  In my blogging about Isaiah, I’m skipping over the last part of Isaiah 3, and the first part of Isaiah 4, and focusing on these words, because they are just what I need to hear.

The verses talk about a time when God will establish his presence with his people as a very firm and real thing.  They harken back to the time when he led the Isrealites out of Egypt, and through the desert: “And the LORD went before them in a pillar of cloud to guide their way by day, and in a pillar of fire to give them light at night, so that they could travel by day or night.” (Exodus 13:21)

The imagry also references the tabernacle in the desert that Moses set up.  God’s presence would come down on the tabernacle in a cloud of glory.  When the cloud was over the tabernacle, the Isrealites knew they were to stay where they were.  When it lifted, this signified it was time to travel.  “So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels.” (Exodus 40:38)

So Isaiah 4:5-6 was prophesying about a time when God would establish his presence as the same thing that the Israelites had.  And Isaiah went on to describe this presence as a protection, refuge and hiding place.

There are all kinds of ways to look at this prophesy, but I think that one application of it has to be that today we are the Lord’s temple, and we have his presence with us in the form of the Holy Spirit.  “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”  (I Cor 3:16)

Here’s what Jesus said in John 14:26 about the presence of the Holy Spirit with us, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

And in this 14th chapter of John, we see the giving of the Spirit as a part of a whole narrative.  Jesus starts out by telling the disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Believe in God.  Believe  also in me.”  He goes on to talk about heaven.  “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”  Then he assures them that he will not leave them as orphans, but will come to them.  He concludes with comfort, “Peace I leave with you.  My peace I give you.”

Here are two lessons I got from comparing the presence of the Lord in the story of Moses with the presence of the Lord that we now have through the Holy Spirit:

  1. The pillars of cloud and fire, and the cloud of glory over the tabernacle, were guides.  The Spirit that is with us is meant to be a guide as well.    The clouds led the Israelites through the desert to the Promise Land.  The Spirit leads us through our life on earth to heaven.
  2.  The very visible presence of God was meant to comfort the Isrealites, so they would know they were not alone.  Jesus makes it clear that we are to be comforted.  He will not leave us alone.  He is sending us the Spirit, his peace.

May we see how much of a comfort the presence of the Lord can be!  This past week was very challenging for me.  I kept getting extremely upset.  My emotions took me hostage and carried me away.  My mind went around and around and I couldn’t stop it.

It was a true Godsend that I read Isaiah 4:5-6.  When I couldn’t sleep, I pictured God being there with me.  I thought of his goodness, love, faithfulness and mercy and how these are like unbreakable tent poles that go into the ground and form an absolutely solid and reliable foundation around me.  I imagined God’s presence like the tent on these poles — warm and safe.  I saw the things that troubled my heart were like fierce winds that could buffet the tent without affecting it in the least.*

Now this wasn’t specifically the Holy Spirit that I was picturing, but it was extremely helpful to remember that God is with me.  And we live in an age when God is with us as never before, when Jesus promised he is with us always! (Matt 28:20)

How amazed and grateful we can be that God is our safe place!  We are not at the mercy of chaos.

How peaceful we can be as we realize that God is guiding us!  He does not leave us alone, as orphans, to wander aimlessly.

He IS with us, the most real, solid, reliable thing ever.

(* I got this imagry from reading Max Lucado’s book, “anxious for nothing.“)

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When God’s Heart Sings

The Lord takes his place in court;

he rises to judge the people.

The Lord enters into judgment

against the elders and leaders of his people:

“It is you who have ruined my vineyard;

the plunder from the poor is in your houses.

What do you mean by crushing my people

and grinding the faces of the poor?”  (Isa 3:13-15)

In life coaching, we talk about finding and doing the things that make your “heart sing.”  These are the things we’re wired to do, and when we do them, we feel alive and on purpose.  For me, this includes being in nature, discovering insights in the Bible, singing spiritual songs, coming up with ideas, dancing, engaging in the arts.

But I started thinking this week, “What makes God’s heart sing?”

Surely his heart sings as he watches the amazing and everchanging dance of his creation on earth.  As Genesis says, “And God saw that it was good.”

But I think his heart also sings when people are devoted to him and they subsequently flourish, and become all they were designed to be.

Sadly, this is not often the case.

We’re going to come to Isaiah 5 later, but  I want to refer to it now because it lets us know so well what God’s heart is.  God says, “I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard.”  He goes on to describe Judah as a field that he planted with careful work and great anticipation, and then asks, “When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?”  The passage concludes, “And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.”

So that’s why God is angry and promises judgement in Isaiah 3.  The individuals who comprise his dream are harming one another.  His beloved planting is bearing bitter fruit instead of flourishing.

Will there ever be a happy song for God’s heart?  In Zehpaniah 3, God promises,

“Then I will purify the lips of the peoples,

that all of them may call on the name of the Lord 

and serve him shoulder to shoulder. . . .

 I will remove from you your arrogant boasters. . .

But I will leave within you the meek and humble. 

The remnant of Israel will trust in the name of the Lord . . .

The Lord your God is with you,

the Mighty Warrior who saves

He will take great delight in you;

in his love he will no longer rebuke you,

but will rejoice over you with singing.

Isn’t this incredible?

There are two things we can learn from this passage.

First, that God intended to purify his people so they would become what they were created to be.  I believe that Christians today are these purified people.  I love this description in Ephesians, 5:26b- 27  “just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”  What a picture of tender adoration!  Surely, when we are purified through Christ and live holy lives, God’s heart is singing!

Second, that humility is so key.  God’s plan is set in motion when we are humble and trusting. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, so that in due time He may exalt you.” I Peter 5:6

So I want to remember, and keep this as my goal — to be pure and holy, to be humble.

Surely I want to be the fulfillment of all God’s dreams.  I want to know that I make his heart sing.  I want to think of him smiling as he looks at me.

And know that as I fulfill all I am designed to be, I can fulfill God’s dreams as well.

They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands, for the display of my splendor.  Isa 60:21

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.  John 15:8

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Eph 2:10

But I must also face that I too often fall short.  So I remember this picture of God taking his place in court.

Some of the judgment will take place at the last day.  But we also experience a judgment in the form of consequences for our actions every day.

Two nights ago, my neighbor died.  She had a heart attack.  There were five emergency vehicles parked on the street, with lights flashing, as it poured down rain and the EMTs worked to save her life.

And I thought about how I have lived across the street from this woman for nine years, and never built much of a relationship with her.

Sure, she kept to herself.  The time or two I did talk to her she didn’t seem interested in pursuing a friendship.

But now I regret that I didn’t reach out a little more.  If there is anyone I should love as myself, it is my neighbor.  But I let the selfishness and preoccupation of my heart win out.  And the consequence is that I didn’t build a connection that I could have.  God’s love wasn’t spread.  I didn’t really give his field a chance to be developed.

I have a new chance today to live better.

May I seek to make God smile.

May I become a part of his song.

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Filed under Beauty of God, Delighting in God, Isaiah, Make Every Effort, Synchonicity