Thursday, October 31, 2019

Faithfulness...

“For twenty-three years, from the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, to this day, the word of the Lord has come to me, and I have spoken persistently to you, but you have not listened." - Jeremiah 25:3
I've known many pastors who served in smaller churches for their entire career. But, the one pastor that made the greatest impact on my life was my own pastor and mentor. During the days of the Crystal Cathedral in California and many churches with Sunday Schools of thousands, my pastor labored vigorously in a much smaller church for twenty-eight years. It was never the biggest or fastest growing chhrch, but it regularly changed lives for the Lord. I will always appreciate that Pastor George Bogan served where God planted him and he was faithful.
Jeremiah was a servant of God with even greater challenges. After twenty-three years of persistent preaching of the Word of God, no one listened. Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet, because he wept and grieved over the wickedness of his people. There were even occasions when he grew discouraged, as he spoke in Jeremiah 20:7, “I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me.“ But, after all was said and done, he served God where he was planted and he was faithful.
I leave you with two thoughts today. First, know where God has planted you and determine to make a difference for Jesus Christ every day, no matter what the response. As the martyr Jim Elliot once said, "Wherever you are - be all there". Second, your pastor is serving God in a day of incredible spiritual lethargy. After over forty years of pastoral experience I can say, the ministry is more challenging today that ever. With this in mind, pray for him as never before and come along side him in the work of the Gospel...because your pastor is serving God where he was planted and he is faithful.


Wednesday, October 30, 2019

He sees you...

“Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord. - Jeremiah 23:23–24
When we were children we found great joy in playing "hide and seek". It was best in the summer time, when we were able to find a big hedge or tree as a hiding place. But, it was just a game and we knew that eventually we would be discovered. No matter how hard we tried, we could never hide from everyone.
When the nation of Israel had so many revelations of God and His power, how could they follow after other gods and still sleep at night? Could it be that they were simply playing spiritual "hide and seek"? Were they under the impression that the Lord was unable to see their rebellious ways? They apparently lost sight of this fact... You can never hide from God. 
Are you walking a path far from God my friend? Or, is there a sinful habit that you keep in the closet of your life? Aren't you aware that the Lord is always near and sees your every move? Remember... When the Lord says "I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5), He really means "never". You can never hide from God. 


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Potter...

"So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do." - Jeremiah 18:3–4
I remember being in art class during the early years of school. One year we were assigned to make something out of clay. Most of the class made mugs, bowls and such. I made a submarine. The interesting point was that each "potter" formed their clay to be whatever they wanted. There were many "do overs", but the finished product seemed good to the potter. 
The Lord saw the house of Israel as clay on a potter's wheel. This clay wasn't cooperative in the hands of the divine Potter and forced Him to do many "do overs". Much like the earthly potter, when God reworked the clay, He made it into another vessel. No matter what it took, the finished product seemed good to the Potter.
We are the clay, and the Lord is the Potter. He has a plan for each one of us. There is diversity in His work, and He continues to form us into his image throughout life. Sometimes we fail to cooperate with his creative work and He reworks us into something new. But, in the end, the finished product will be good to the Potter.


Monday, October 28, 2019

Choose wisely...

"Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come.  He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”  - Jeremiah 17:5-8
In 1996 I watched a number of Christian organizations that we fellowshiped with lose thousands of dollars to the Foundation for New Era Philanthropy. John G. Bennett promised donors and recipients that he would double their money in six months through the generosity of an anonymous group of wealthy philanthropists. In the end, there were no such patrons. This Ponzi scheme defrauded hundreds of churches, colleges and mission organizations out of $135 million dollars. They chose poorly.
The Lord raised up the people of Israel to make a difference for Him in the promised land and the world. He promised to be their God and abundantly bless them if they would only trust Him and walk in His ways. They were to be a vibrant example of a nation that made the LORD their God. They were called away from trusting man and counseled to trust God. Instead, they followed the ways of the surrounding pagan nations to their loss. She chose poorly.
We have to make a choice every day. Will we listen to beckoning call of the world's wise men and women, or will we walk in faith? Will their empty promises lead us astray into schemes that will eventually cause great loss? Promises from the world can seem quick and easy, when trusting God requires patience while waiting. The choices as written are simple... "Cursed is the man who trusts in man... or..."Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD" . Choose wisely my friend.


Sunday, October 27, 2019

Life can be better...

"From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him." - Isaiah 64:4
We waited nine months. Then, on the day of delivery, we waited twelve hours and behold, a son! After another four years of waiting, we were blessed again, in the very same way, with another son! This year those two small wonders of God are thirty-six and thirty-two years old. Words will never suffice to express what joy it has been to watch those two young lives grow more like our Savior every year. And we still wait on the Lord in prayer for those two guys because ... Life is always better for those who turn to Him.
In the midst of spiritual backsliding and the Lord's rebuke, words of hope were given. God's wondrous provision and gracious blessing were still ready to be poured out upon those who would turn to Him. We hear the heart of God speaking  in Isaiah 65:1 ... "I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, “Here I am, here I am,”" Sadly, a rebellious people rejected His offer and hard days followed. Life is always better for those who turn to Him.
Child of God, have you allowed time and distance to grow between you and your Lord? Do you wonder if there's any future hope? Remember that he is the potter and we are the clay. He is our Father and we are his children. He never gives up on those who are His. Turn back to the Lord today and wait for the wonders of his mercy and grace. King David reminds us ... "How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you" (Psalm 31:19). Life is always better for those who turn to the Lord.

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Saturday, October 26, 2019

Groan or Grow?

“If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? And if in a safe land you are so trusting, what will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?" - Jeremiah 12:5
The old saying is far too often true ... "Things could be worse". We hate to hear these words, but the trials of life can most definitely get worse, before life gets better. So what will we do when hard days come our way? Timeless wisdom teaches us that the more we learn from today's storms, the better equipped we are, to deal with tomorrow's hurricanes. The principle can be best worded this way ... Grow rather than Groan.
Jeremiah's cry in the first verse was a very common groan ... "Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive?" The Lord didn't sooth or encourage the prophet's grieving heart though. There were going to be much darker days ahead and he needed to be prepared. There would be light at the end of the tunnel, but not until divine correction took place. Faith in the Lord's purpose, and patience with His timing was needed. Jeremiah needed to Grow rather than Groan.
Life may be pressing in on you beyond measure my friend, but "It may get worse". If you don't learn from the storms of today, how will you deal with hurricanes of tomorrow? Don't just seek the face of God with tears, learn to trust His heart with faith. In the darkest hour He is still the light of your world. The deeper the root, the stronger the tree ... Grow rather than Groan.

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Friday, October 25, 2019

Boasting...

"Thus says the Lord: 'Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.'" - Jeremiah 9:23-24
"Bragging rights"! We all have something or someone to brag about. This can be seen on the bumper sticker of your neighbor's car, that says they have a smart child. Or your friend announces they were promoted at work. Then again, you might brag about your recent financial windfall. But remember, such boasting only lasts for a moment.
The boasting that came from a wayward Israel was no different than ours today. It all revolved around human achievements, made by their own efforts. But, the days of independence from God was coming to an abrupt end. The ways, wealth and worship of the worldly nations were short lived. Such boasting only lasted for a moment. 
Why do we brag so much about that which passes so quickly? Isn't there something far more worthy of our boasting? There is nothing in this world that can compare to the joy and fulfillment of understanding and knowing the Lord. Also, when we brag about Him, he delights in us. Such boasting only lasts... Forever! 





Thursday, October 24, 2019

Ancient paths...

"Thus says the Lord: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’" - Jeremiah 6:16
John Mast of Eititz, created a simple "snap trap" to catch mice in 1899, and it was patented in 1903 (# 744,379). Over the years, some 4,400 mousetraps have been patented, but fewer than two dozen have earned their creators a cent. Today, it is the simple "snap trap", better known as the Victor mousetrap, that outsells all other American mousetraps combined, by a ratio of two to one. Annual sales are rumored to be in the vicinity of 30,000,000. Maybe older is better.
In the midst of greed and unjust leadership, there were those who said "Peace, peace, when there was no peace" (vs. 14) As is often the case, there were voices that proposed a better way to deal with life that the tried and true ways of the Lord. The only place to find rest for the soul was to be found in the ancient paths, where the good way was. But, the people of Israel said "no way" to God's way. Little did they realize that older is better.
There seems to be more religious and philosophical alternatives to Christianity today than ever before. Every year some new approach takes the stage as popular and hip. Most often, they promise peace, when there is no peace. The Bible, Church, prayer, and faith is the stuff of the past, they say. They believe that the twenty-first century needs a new and better religion. But, the words above were never more relevant... Rest for your soul will only be found in the ancient paths. The Old IS better.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Mercy and Forgiveness...

"Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, “ ‘Return, faithless Israel, declares the Lord. I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful, declares the Lord; I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt, that you rebelled against the Lord your God and scattered your favors among foreigners under every green tree, and that you have not obeyed my voice, declares the Lord." - Jeremiah 3:12-13
In our world today, a wrong word, action or decision can quickly and irrevocably lead to a job loss. Depending on the infraction one might even be frozen out of their career field. It's no wonder when those who are guilty refuse to acknowledge any wrongdoing. Where is mercy and forgiveness for those who would turn back to right?
When it comes to the tribunal of God Almighty, one might expect a similar outcome for spiritual or legal disobedience. But, in the midst of His words of condemnation on the Northern Kingdom of Israel, the Lord pauses to make an offer for repentance. The heart of God has always been merciful and forgiving to those who would turn back to Him.
In this world, judgment is too often swift and harsh. But, the qualities of mercy and grace come from a Benevolent Redeemer who, in love, provides a way to be forgiven. David, the King of Israel once wrote, "I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin." (Psalm 32:5) There is always mercy and forgiveness for those who will turn back to God.


Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Is He still important?

"Can a virgin forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number." - Jeremiah 2:32
When was the last time you forgot to go on vacation? Or did you miss your own wedding? How about Christmas morning... Did you sleep in? Some things in life are so exciting and full of joy that you couldn't possibly forget them. Some believe that we only forget things that aren't important to us.
The book of Jeremiah begins with the Lord contending with His people. He is disappointed in their willingness to choose other gods who are no gods at all. He grieved over the fact they forsook Him... "the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. (2:13) But, the most telling complaint centered on thier forgetting the Lord. Apparently, He was no longer important to them.
How often have you read your Bible and prayed this week? How many days have passed between times with the Lord? Was it because you were too busy, or were there more demanding or enjoyable things on your schedule? Have you ever considered the real meaning of your forgetting time with the Lord my friend? Could it be the simple fact that He is no longer important to you?


Monday, October 21, 2019

Liberation...

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;" - Isaiah 61:1
Prior to entering the pastorate I was involved in a weekly jail ministry. I conducted Bible studies with men who were facing a number of years behind bars. Today, my son is a Federal Prison Chaplain, ministering to some men who may die in prison. We both have had the joy of seeing hardened criminals set free from the bondage of sin. The years may pass, but the timeless message of liberation is for every generation. 
It's a sad occasion when someone with a promising future chooses a life of crime and ends up in prison. Is there any hope for such people? Our promised Messiah, Jesus, came to bring liberty to the captives. While prisons must exist, the chains of sin can be broken and prison doors of the heart can be opened. This is still God's good news for every broken and sin bound life... A timeless message of liberation for every generation.
You may, or may not be behind the steel bars of a jail or prison cell my friend. But, Jesus said... “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin... So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:34, 36) Your bars and chains are deep within and only Messiah Jesus can set you free. This is God's promise to you... A timeless message of liberation for every generation. 


Sunday, October 20, 2019

Comfort ...

"Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins." ~ Isaiah 40:1-2
Some years ago I was visiting my father-in-law in the hospital. As we talked, I happened to notice a fellow pastor that we both knew. Pastor Charlie was sitting at the bedside of an elder in his church who was terminally ill. The man wasn't able to feed himself and Pastor Charlie, patiently and lovingly, fed his parishioner. It was a touching moment to watch the one who delivered God's Word every week with distinct authority, extend needed comfort in the most gracious way. We're never more Godly, than when we comfort those in need.
Some have been totally misled to believe that God, as revealed in the Old Testament, was a God of judgment and wrath alone, without love or compassion. For these people He was a hard task master, demanding perfection without mercy. Yet, we find in the passage above a very different picture of God. His heart was opened wide with tenderness and pardon for sin. Trials had passed, corrections were administered, but at the end of the day our God cried out to comfort, ... comfort his people.
Do you really know the heart of your God my friend? David knew Him as his personal Shepherd, when he wrote ... "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." (Psalm 23:4) Paul the apostle knew Him as "the Father of mercies and God of all comfort" (2 Corinthians 1:3) What are you struggling with today? Have your trials overwhelmed you? Then look to your heavenly Father and find his comfort in this time of need.

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Saturday, October 19, 2019

At the top...

"For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite." - Isaiah 57:15
It has been said that nice guys end up last. In the fight to get to the top, most big wheels follow this worldly wisdom very closely. Climbing up the corporate ladder often means trampling over very humble and lowly people who get in the way. Then, when the battle is won and they become a big cheese, they finally learn that... "it's lonely at the top".
In contrast to the "kings of the earth" we see the Lord, "high and lifted up". He inhabits eternity, dwelling in the high and holy place. Yet, a red carpet is always rolled out for humble and lowly people, such as those who were trampled by the "big wheels" of the world. Rather than trample the lowly, our Lord welcomes them and revives their hearts. So, it's never lonely at His top.
No matter where the top is in this world, it's lonely. Getting there can cost you your health, family, friends and even your faith. Why fight your way up the ladder of success when the invitation is extended to join the Ruler of the universe in the highest and holiest place, without price? Come, just as you are, with a humble and lowly spirit. Then, you'll enjoy the revival of heart, and never have to be lonely at His top.


Friday, October 18, 2019

Happy Feet...

"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” - Isaiah 52:7
Prior to entering the ministry, I worked at a specialty shoe store fitting and selling shoes. Some shoes were made for orthopedic needs and others were made for glamour. Some people came with special needs, while others with special desires, but everyone left happy. The big question my employer always had was... Would those happy feet carry a happy message? 
The Lord's heart desire was that... "all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God." (vs. 10) Such a goal would involve those who would bring the good news of happiness, as well as publish peace and salvation. Both Israel and the world had a special need that could only be met by the God who reigns. With the promise of such joy (vs. 8), would there be happy feet to carry a happy message?
How beautiful are your feet my friend? Have you received the good news of happiness, peace, and salvation? Has your life been transformed and blessed with great joy by a God who reigns in your heart? If all of this is true, are you busy telling, sharing and passing on this good news? Will your happy feet carry a happy message? 

Thursday, October 17, 2019

"IF"....

"Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea;" - Isaiah 48:18
Have you ever purchased a new lawn hose to water your precious flowers? Was the spigot on the other side of the house? Were you all primed to give your garden a steady flow of a much needed shower? Were you surprised and frustrated when nothing came out of your brand new hose? Did you soon discover that you caused a kink in your hose when you pulled it around the house? Oh, if you had only paid attention.
With all the pushing and pulling to get their own way, Israel couldn't seem to get anything right. The Word of God had been faithfully passed down from one generation to the next. But, it was regularly ignored. The prophetic warnings came with clear instructions on how to repent and turn to the Lord. And, they were ignored as well. The Lord had spoken, taught and lead them, but He was ignored to their loss of rivers of peace and waves of righteousness. Oh, if they had only paid attention. 
The words seem so simple don't they? I suppose the most haunting concept can be wrapped up in one word... "IF". When we reach the end of our rope of godless living and find nothing but turmoil and more dark days ahead, what can we say? Oh, "IF" I had only paid attention to the Lord...my life would have been different. Why wait my friend? Decide today to pay attention and be blessed with rivers of peace and waves of righteousness. 



Wednesday, October 16, 2019

He will carry you...

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save." - Isaiah 46:3-4
Our little grandson is now walking. And so it goes, he's off into a lifetime of walking on his own. The many months of being carried seemed like such a very long time for the little guy. Then again, whether it's infancy, injuries or down right old age, being carried by someone else can be frustrating. But, what a blessing to have someone who cares enough to carry us when needed.
The Lord had shown the foolishness of an Idolatry that involved man-made gods that had to be carried. He now reminded the people of Israel that it's God that carries His people. He was there from the womb to old age. He made, bore, carried and saved. He alone is God. Throughout the years, there were so many occasions that Israel needed to be carried, even when she resisted, He was there. What a blessing to have a God who cared enough to carry them when needed.
One of our greatest weaknesses is the pride that resists being carried by someone else. Like our little grandson Nate, once we can do it ourselves, we just don't want any more help. But, as we move through the seasons of life, we all face unexpected challenges that can rob us of our independent abilities. These are the days when we should welcome and  treasure our God and His people who care enough to carry us when needed. 


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Life long commitment...

“You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”;  fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." - Isaiah 41:9-10
My wife and I have watched" Bluebloods" (a police drama) for ten seasons. As those seasons developed, so did a romance between two lead characters. As marriage came into view, they wrote their own vows, which read as follows: "Groom: I will always have your back. If you fall behind I will wait up. Bride: I will earn your respect and pay you respect every day we have. Groom: I’ll be your scout, your night watchman, your cavalry. Bride: Your medic, your chaplain in our army of two. Groom: No retreat, no surrender. You can count on me. Bride: You can count on me." Well, it certainly strayed from traditional vows, but what a thoughtful and thorough life long commitment!
In a far greater way, the Lord called Israel to be His own, and He promised to never cast her off. His vow was one sided... He would be: "with her", "her God", "her strength", "her help", and always "uphold her". With the same devotion He promises us today, the following in John 6:37 "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out." and Hebrews 13:5-6: "I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Wow, what a thoughtful and thorough life long commitment!
As you can see, it's much more than a religious belief to know God. It's a true love relationship. He calls us to His side and promises to never cast us off and to never leave us or forsake us. The only logical response is found in our verse above... "Fear not and be not dismayed." Why? To put it In contemporary lingo, because He'll always have your back. So, you can count on Him. Now, that's commitment! 

Monday, October 14, 2019

Is there any hope?

"Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back. . - Isaiah 38:17
Illness and physical pain can cause overwhelming frustration. It can reduce our capacity to focus and, for the believer, even our faith. We are often haunted with the worst case scenario and may wonder if we've come to the end.  We are desperate for hope. 
For Hezekiah, it was even worse, the warning of verse 1 seemed final, “Thus says the Lord: Set your house in order, for you shall die, you shall not recover.” Yet, the King held firm to faith in his God. The Lord heard his prayer, saw his tears and responded with hope.
You may feel great this morning my friend, but will your health change? If it does, how will you respond? What will you do if the Doctor's report comes back with little hope? Follow the example of Hezekiah and seek the One who delivered his life in love. With the Lord, there's always hope. 

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Who's in charge?

"This is the purpose that is purposed concerning the whole earth, and this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations. For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?" - Isaiah 14:26-27 
Boards, committees, clubs, or governments ... All of these need a leader. People will often fight to the death to hold the position of "leader". They may not be qualified, but power and prestige is what they want. Good leadership has far higher and more selfless goals than this. To that end, the best leader is the one who understands and knows who's really in charge.
The Sovereign work of God over the nations, throughout the ages, is a sobering and fearful fact. No one can resist what the Lord purposes, and no one can turn back His hand. The pages of history show that Babylon tried, Assyria tried, as well as Philistia, but they all failed. Their great leaders thought, "I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’" (Isaiah 14:14) to no avail. They just didn't know who's really in charge.
No matter what your position is in life my friend, you're leading someone. Take note of the many examples found in the Word of God. Some show us what to do, some show us what not to do, and some show us that good leaders always know how to follow THE Leader. Always take time to discover God's plan and then make it yours. Never forget who's in charge. 

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Get going ...

"Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD:" - Isaiah 37:14–15
Where did we turn, when as children, we skinned our knee or came home with a black eye? Who did we look to for help and comfort? Interestingly enough, as we grow older, we tend to take care of our injuries and insults all by ourselves. Even when we are stressed to the limit, we rarely seek help from anyone. We simply try our best to "tough it out", because "when the going gets tough, the tough get going"... but where are they going?
Hezekiah was a great and godly king, who led Israel back to the Lord. In addition to restoring the temple, he reinforced defensive fortifications, increased the number shields and weapons and organized strong combat forces. So, when a threat came to the gates of his kingdom, what would he do? As a tough, battle readied Sovereign, it was time to get going, but where was he going? ... straight to prayer.
Has your self confidence and "I can do" attitude gotten you in trouble lately? Have you missed the sage counsel of a parent, older brother or sister? Did you face the enemy and find that your strength was lacking? So, did you turn to anyone for help, wisdom or provision? Don't let pride get in the way my friend. Follow the lead of a powerful king who knew when It was time to get going ... straight to prayer.

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Friday, October 11, 2019

Stubborn hearts...

“Ah, stubborn children,” declares the Lord, “who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who set out to go down to Egypt, without asking for my direction, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!" - Isaiah 30:1–2
Parenting can be one of the greatest privileges in life. Yet, raising teenagers can be the most frustrating experience ever. Happy, obedient and receptive young people suddenly change, and every other person in the world has better ideas than mom and dad. They live on the wild side without any sense of the cost. Nothing can change their mind, because an immature heart is a stubborn heart.
The hearts of God's people added sin to sin every day. In days gone by they were a grateful and obedient people, but then they changed. Prophets regularly reminded them of the Lord's ways versus their sinful ways. Basically, they knew better, but they ignored their God and made other plans for refuge and protection. Nothing could change their mind, because an immature heart is a stubborn heart.
Growing up is never easy and there are always rocky roads to get over. But, if we won't grow up, life will become harder and harder. Isaiah used the reference "children" with distinct purpose. The Lord hadn't rejected Israel, but he planned to correct their ways and help them grow up in Him. He desires the same for every believer today and graciously works to change our stubborn hearts to mature hearts. 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Cornerstone...

"thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’ - Isaiah 28:16
The last church building in which I served as pastor was built in 1911. The dated cornerstone is still quite visible on the front corner. It served as more of a date than a supportive foundation stone. In earlier years a cornerstone was the first foundation stone laid, from which all other stones were aligned. It was intended to keep the building straight and secure.
When the Lord spoke of setting a Cornerstone in Zion He was referring to the coming of Messiah Jesus. He is the only tested, precious and sure foundation stone. As the kingdom of God continues to be built, the "plumb line" (vs. 17) of righteousness is aligned with Christ our Cornerstone. In this way, the work of God will always be straight and secure.
The image is more than a picture to inspire believers in their daily walk. It enables us to stay on point as "living stones being built up as a spiritual house" (1 Peter 2:5). If our house is to withstand the storms of trials and temptations, (Matthew 7:24-25) we must keep "plumb" by "looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith" ... our Cornerstone and sure foundation. Only then will we be straight and secure. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

No more death...

"He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken." - Isaiah 25:8
When we were young, we foolishly thought that we would live forever. Then we experienced our first loss of a friend or family member. Death became a cruel reality and we knew that it was only a matter of time for us. But, what if there could be no more death?
Well, "the Lord has spoken". Long before our Savior's birth, the promise was made... "He will swallow up death forever". Just imagine, the sting of the grave gone and no more tears. Centuries of sorrow have passed and we continue to suffer such grief, but the day is coming when there will be no more death. 
In the very last book of the Bible, the apostle John is given a vision of things to come..."And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4) Be encouraged my friend, a new day is coming! 

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Bitter tears...

"Therefore I said: “Look away from me; let me weep bitter tears; do not labor to comfort me concerning the destruction of the daughter of my people.” - Isaiah 22:4

"The Age of Reason" had such an influence on the churches and schools of the late 1700s that a need for revival was sought. Timothy Dwight, grandson of Jonathan Edward's and president of Yale University, helped to create a national evangelical movement called the "The Second Great Awakening". This effort was intended to "re-church" America and In 1800, Dwight wrote the hymn "I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord", which contained the words: "For her my tears shall fall". 
Isaiah prophecied at a time when spiritual declension was wide spread in Israel. The rampant apathy and ungodly pursuits had finally led to the outpouring of God's chastening wrath. The Lord's call for repentance had been ignored, "In that day the Lord God of hosts called for weeping and mourning... and behold, joy and gladness." (22:12-13) The prophet now wept bitter tears for his people.
When you and I see the materialism, spiritual apathy and pleasure seeking of the evangelical church, do we weep? When we hear the reports of hatred and rage across our nation, do we recognize the need for revival? Revival, or a "great awakening" is all about restoring spiritual passion, power and influence to a repentant people of God. And I don't believe that it will come until we fall on our knees in prayer and weep bitter tears for His church.


Monday, October 7, 2019

Try to remember...

"For you have forgotten the God of your salvation and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge; therefore, though you plant pleasant plants and sow the vine-branch of a stranger, though you make them grow on the day that you plant them, and make them blossom in the morning that you sow, yet the harvest will flee away in a day of grief and incurable pain." - Isaiah 17:10–11
There was a time when I just forgot because I had too much on my mind, but now I just plain forget. Whether it be a busy schedule or age, forgetfulness can be controlled. That's why calendars, little note pads and note apps are made. We can keep track in many ways, but in the end we only remember what we want to remember.
In the midst of divine judgments of various nations, the Lord returned to focus on his people. He was the God of their salvation and the Rock of their refuge. But, they forgot his blessings and place in their life and worship. They went about their daily routine hoping for a full harvest, but only grief and pain came. Why? Because they only remembered what they wanted to remember.
Let's be honest with ourselves... Some forgetfulness isn't because of stress or age, it's simply a matter of choice. Then, when we begin to experience sad and disappointing results, we wonder why. Jesus made it very clear when he said in John 15:5... "I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." Be wise and "want" to remember the Lord... and then remember. 


Sunday, October 6, 2019

True Love...

"Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised." - Song of Solomon 8:6–7
Speaking of her marriage, a fellow believer once quipped to me, "you can't live on love". In the context of our conversation I had to agree. Love won't pay the rent. But, when it comes to the bond and durability of any marriage, love is an absolute necessity. The tsunamis of disaster, the floods of grief or, even the outpouring of wealth can quickly dissolve any union without true love.
How intense are the words of the bride for her beloved! She desired nothing less than to be a seal on his heart and arm. She knew that the strength of true love was the only power that would hold them together throughout the years. Could it be that her knowledge of true love came from knowing the Source of true love? ... "I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love" (Hosea 11:4).
Every marriage, family, and friendship is only as strong as the love that binds it together. Some people think that they can fall out of love, but when God is the source, you have unquenchable love. That is the kind of love that will fight to survive, no matter how high the waves or how strong the winds of hardship. It might not pay the rent...but it will certainly weather the storm!

Saturday, October 5, 2019

On His Shoulder...

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." - Isaiah 9:6
Atlas... condemned to hold up the celestial heavens for all eternity. And so, Greek mythology paints a rather burdensome picture. Go forward a few centuries and you see poor Atlas used as an icon for moving companies that carry earthly treasures from place to place. Then again, on any given day, we all might feel like Atlas... carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders.
In the dark days of distress and evil domination, words of hope were prophesied. A Messiah would be coming... One who would be called "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Finally, a glorious light at the end of a tumultuous tunnel. But, most promising was the fact that the "government shall be upon his shoulder". The people of God would no longer need to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders.
How dark and distressing has life been for you my friend? Do you feel overwhelmed by the press and stress of it all? Are you trying to carry every bit of it by yourself? Do you feel like your middle name is Atlas? Well, there is hope, for the promised Messiah has come. Jesus is calling... "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." - (Matthew 11:28) He has come so the weight of your world will be on HIS shoulder.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Where do you turn?

"In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple." - Isaiah 6:1
I was sitting in class on November 22, 1961 when the announcement came over the loadspeaker that President Kennedy had died. The moment was unexpected and quite shocking as a number of students broke down in tears. As the years passed I stood with people of all ages and circumstances, who faced their own shocking and unexpected loss. At that moment, in the midst of confusion and tears, the question haunts... "Where do you turn?"
"The king had died. Uzziah had brought many benefits to the country and had introduced an era of prosperity and peace. But now Judah was without the king." - Edward J. Young, The Book of Isaiah. The nation had suffered a great loss and was drifting into anarchy. For just this time Isaiah was given a reassuring vision of God on his throne, high and lifted up. The answer rode on the clouds in majesty to the haunting question... "Where do we turn?"
The ages have passed, but the King of the ages still reigns, my friend. Has unexpected and shocking loss overwhelmed you? Are you still struggling with the grief and confusion of it all? Are there days when you are just numb to life? Then "be still and know that he is God" (Psalm 46:10), finding hope in the One who is still "high and lifted up" . He will also lift you up in his "Everlasting arms" (Deuteronomy 33:27) so you will never again be haunted by ... "Where do you turn?"

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Don't wait...

 "It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." - Isaiah 2:2–3
There was a time when those who chose to be somewhere else other than church  on Sunday, were people of little faith. Today, even those who are believers consider themselves to be quite faithful by attending church once every three to four weeks. According to Church leadership.org, every year more than 4000 churches close their doors compared to just over 1000 new church starts! When will spiritual hunger and passion return?
Isaiah prophesied at a time that was quite similar to our day. The words of Isaiah 1:4 make the point clearly... "They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged." The heart of God's people had grown cold and their worship superficial. Today's passage, which is repeated in Micah 4:1-3, gives hope for a new day. In that day, the house of the Lord will be established and spiritual hunger and passion will return. 
We who have experienced the great transformation of the new birth have no reason to wait for a new day. Now is the time to come to his house, that he may teach us his ways so we may walk in his paths. Now is the time to seek the Lord every day privately and every week with the congregation of fellow believers. Don't wait for spiritual hunger and passion to return. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Red on red ...

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lordthough your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool." - Isaiah 1:18 
The story is told of a young boy who grew up in Great Britain. On one occasion while quite ill, he watched a parade from his bedroom window. He found it quite unusual that the Royal Guards were dressed in white, rather than their usual red uniform. His mother pointed out that he was looking through a rose tinted widow, and red on red becomes white. 
The atoning work of our Lord is hinted at in a number of ways throughout the prophetic Scriptures. From the earliest moment in Genesis 3:21, the provision of God's forgiveness of sin is spoken of in connection with sacrifice. Leviticus 17:11 tells us that ... "it is the blood that makes atonement by the life." We find this truth revisited again and again all the way to Revelation 7:14 when we read ... "They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." You see, our crimson red sin only becomes white as wool when covered by the red blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God. Red on red becomes white.
How about it my friend? With what have you been trying to cover your sins? How have you tried to remove the stains of ungodly living? Where has your hope been placed for God's forgiveness? The Bible speaks of only one way for crimson sins to become white as wool. Ephesians 1:7 says it quite well ... "In him (Jesus Christ) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace" Red on red becomes white.

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Tuesday, October 1, 2019

At the end of the day...

"The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil." - Ecclesiastes 12:13–14
You are stopped for a traffic violation. You argue your case until you're blue in the face. When it's all over..You pay the ticket. You receive your new property tax bill with an unexpected increase. You write a letter and visit town hall to express you're profound displeasure. When all is said and done...You pay the bill. Somethings in life may not seem fair, but ... At the end of the day you just do the right thing.
Solomon enjoyed more wealth and wisdom than any other. But, over the years he sank into gross materialism and became so self absorbed that he lost sight of spiritual values. He saw all the inequities that exist "under the sun" and languished over the ultimate passage of life. But ultimately, he learned that his whole duty in life was to fear God and obey His Word... At the end of the day you just do the right thing.
Your life was full of hopes and dreams. Pleasures and opportunities were constantly knocking at your door. Over time you may have achieved success in all of the above or very little, only to feel empty. Have you finally come to a point of complete frustration? Just remember, after "all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man"... At the end of the day just do the right thing.