Comfort for God’s People

Image credit here

S (Scripture): Isaiah 40

1 Comfort, comfort my people!
says your God.
2 Speak compassionately to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her that her compulsory service has ended,
that her penalty has been paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins!
3 A voice is crying out:
“Clear the Lord’s way in the desert!
Make a level highway in the wilderness for our God!
4 Every valley will be raised up,
and every mountain and hill will be flattened.
Uneven ground will become level,
and rough terrain a valley plain.
5 The Lord’s glory will appear,
and all humanity will see it together;
the Lord’s mouth has commanded it.”

O (Observation): God’s people moved back and forth from faithfulness to unfaithfulness over and over again.   In the time of King Hezekiah, the king made many decisions that pleased the Lord.   The king sought the Lord’s guidance and protection from the Assyrians and the Babylonians.   

Now, on his deathbed, King Hezekiah – the king of Israel – listened to the prophet Isaiah once again.  And the king is rewarded.  God grants Hezekiah 15 more years of life!

And in the wake of his healing, God gives Israel some rest.    Things would still get worse before they got better, but God was not abandoning the people.  In fact, God calls the people of Israel to experience Comfort.  

Their long-term worries are over, though trouble would still come.  Isaiah prophecies that the rough ways would eventually become smooth.  Where there is mountainous terrain, a level and direct path.  (Remember, they didn’t have ATV’s back then : )

No more surprises.  No more arduous journeys back to the Lord.   God would find a way to give us direct access to grace and forgiveness.    

For us Christians, this prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  

A (Application):  I heard a song on the radio again this morning.  The song essentially said that once someone believes in Jesus…all sorrow and pain go away.  

Well…yes and no.  The idea that we suffer eternally goes away, yes.   But do we still feel the suffering of this broken world in both small and immense ways?  Absolutely, we do!   We don’t celebrate the pain, but we do experience it.  

What has changed for God’s people…the leveling of the hills and raising of the valleys…means that our access to God is now on a clear pathway.  God’s people didn’t know what that would look like in Hezekiah or Isaiah’s time…but today, we think this looks like Jesus.   

This leveling also means that in this life – as followers of Jesus – even though we will experience pain and suffering, we will do so under the yoke of Jesus, whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light.  

Maybe the author of the song wanted to convey that life in Jesus has no eternal sorrow…that our pain will be transformed into joy.   I just didn’t hear that transformative move in the song.   My worry is that people will hear a song like this and come into the Christian life thinking: “well, all my problems are solved now that I have Jesus!”  

My friend, if you come into a life in Jesus, your problems are just about to begin.  Life in Jesus is great, but it’s not always a walk in the park : )

P (Prayer): Lord, help us to know that you are with us, and that even though this life is full of fears and worries, that you walk through them with us…bringing us comfort in the end.  Amen.  

Advertisements

Oops…I Lit the Wrong Candle First

S (Scripture): 2 Chronicles 30:15 They slaughtered the Passover lamb on the fourteenth day of the second month. The priests and Levites were ashamed, so they consecrated themselves and brought burnt sacrifices to the Lord’s temple. 16 They stood at their posts according to the regulations outlined in the law of Moses, the man of God. The priests were splashing the blood as the Levites handed it to them. 17 Because many in the assembly had not consecrated themselves, the Levites slaughtered the Passover lambs of all who were ceremonially unclean and could not consecrate their sacrifice to the Lord. 18 The majority of the many people from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun were ceremonially unclean, yet they ate the Passover in violation of what is prescribed in the law. For Hezekiah prayed for them, saying: “May the Lord, who is good, forgive 19 everyone who has determined to follow God, the Lord God of his ancestors, even if he is not ceremonially clean according to the standards of the temple.” 20 The Lord responded favorably to Hezekiah and forgave the people.

O (Observation):  King Hezekiah was ordering that the Passover meal take place as a way to celebrate and re-dedicate the use of the Temple to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel.   The people of Judah came…by the hundreds!

With the people came animals to be sacrificed.  So many, in fact, and in such a short period of time, the people did not all consecrate themselves appropriately (as prescribed in the law).   If you wanted to participate in slaughtering a Passover lamb or to be sprayed with its blood (as a form of receiving atonement for your sins), or eat of the meat of the sacrificed animal, you had to be consecrated.  

Well, as described, a whole of bunch of people showed up with a whole bunch of sacrifial animals, and they were so ready to be re-dedicating themselves to God, that they basically failed to observe the proper cleanliness laws.  

But King Hezekiah, knowing the passion of the people who repented before God and knowing that God was merciful, the king prays for the people that God might not fault them for eating the sacrificed animal meat without the people being properly consecrated. 

And sure enough God agrees to look faborably on the people and forgives them.  

A (Application):  How many times do we (as Church people) get upset when someone doesn’t light the “correct” candle first?  Or pronounces a name or place wrong when reading the Scriptures in worship?  Or kneels at the “wrong” side of the Communion railing?  Or (and this is the worst) someone is sitting in YOUR PEW?!?!?!

Okay, that’s all tongue-in-cheek…but the sensation is visceral when these things happen.   And they are a signs that we are too Church-focused, and not enough God-focused.  

Can “church” become our god?  Absolutely it can!   So let’s get rid of Church!?!?  No!  Certainly Not!

The hard thing is to change.   The easy thing is to scrap and re-start.   Granted, both have their place.   Most importantly, God sees the intention in our hearts.   God is not disappointed with us, but encourages us to be focused on grace and mercy in the world, in the church, in our schools, workplaces and homes.    

Coming to God with a heart that seeks grace and mercy will most certainly receive it.  Thanks be to God!

P (Prayer):  God, our ways are fallible, but when we come with pure hearts, you forgive us for our faults.   We thank you for this gift of forgiveness this day.  Amen.  

Get Curious, Not Defensive


S (Scripture): 2 Kings 18:28 The chief adviser (to the king of Assyria) then stood there (before God’s people in Judah) and called out loudly in the Judahite dialect, “Listen to the message of the great king, the king of Assyria. 29 This is what the king says: ‘Don’t let Hezekiah mislead you, for he is not able to rescue you from my hand! 30 Don’t let Hezekiah talk you into trusting in the Lord when he says, “The Lord will certainly rescue us; this city will not be handed over to the king of Assyria.”
…35 Who among all the gods of the lands has rescued their lands from my power? So how can the Lord rescue Jerusalem from my power?’”

O (Observation):  The kings of Israel and Judah were in cycles of doing good in the sight of the Lord and doing evil in the sight of the Lord.  Neighboring nations continually threatened to invade and take over the lush lands inhabited by God’s people.  

Here, the Assyrians are taking on Judah and its king, King Hezekiah.   The adviser to the king of Assyria is trying to cause Judah’s people to doubt the level of protection that their God can provide.   He is planting seeds of doubt, recalling other victories of the Assyrians.  

A (Application):   Facebook is my main source of doubt.  Cynicism is on a sharp increase of late, and it destroys the joy of social media.   I don’t like unfriending people and so I just end up scrolling through to read the next post down…from someone less cynical…or a post of a funny kid picture or a picture of someone’s pet.  

With folks being so divisive, I can start to see how we don’t feel like much hope exists.   The Enemy finds ways to cause us to say and do things that divide, rather than build up. (How do I know?  Because I’ve said things intentionally divisive, and I repent of those times in which I was too harsh.)

So, what builds up?  Perhaps curiosity, rather than defensiveness.  When someone writes a cynical post, I’ve started to get curious, rather than defensive.   That posture takes a lot of energy, though, I will admit.   If you don’t have the energy to keep that posture, perhaps you should keep scrolling…until you do have the energy.   Don’t let the cries of the Enemy win.  God wins.   God has won, already.   

P (Prayer):  Lord, give us wisdom to know when to move on and when to get curious.  Amen. 

Foes Conquered

IMG_4441
Engraving of King Sennacherib

S (Scripture): 2 Chronicles 32:22 The Lord delivered Hezekiah and the residents of Jerusalem from the power of King Sennacherib of Assyria and from all the other nations. He made them secure on every side.

O (Observation): King Sennacherib of Assyria had pretty much won every battle and conquered every people he faced. Until now.

Earlier, in v. 30, the prophet, Isaiah of Amoz, and King Hezekiah called out to the Lord for aid. Hezekiah had been faithful in re-establishing worship practices and re-establishing temple practices. Calling on the Lord before the battle seemed less like a “get out of jail free” card, and more like the culmination of a people who steadily relied on the Lord (at least since Hezekiah became king).

The Lord does come to the aid of Judah, and drives out Sennacherib (who is then humiliated and killed by his own people).

A (Application): If you read my blog post yesterday (click here for that blog post), you would have shared in my struggle of how I lead, and whether or not anyone would follow (or if anyone is following right now).

That’s my struggle. That’s Sennacherib coming into my world in the form of immaturity, doubt, naiveté, inexperience, etc.

Today, I shout to the Lord, “Come to my aid!”

I have a great group of disciple-mates that helped me begin to work through this struggle yesterday. I believe the Lord is out ahead of me, conquering “Sennacherib” for me, so that I can use the gifts God has given me for Kingdom work.

What is your “Sennacherib”? Leave a comment, and let us share in that struggle together.

P (Prayer): Lord, we cry out to you for aid. We remain faithful as best we can, but we rely on you. Conquer Sennacherib for us…pave the way. Amen.

Happy Lent!

IMG_4433

S (Scripture): 2 Chronicles 29:8 King Hezekiah continues: The Lord was angry at Judah and Jerusalem and made them an appalling object of horror at which people hiss out their scorn, as you can see with your own eyes. 29:9 Look, our fathers died violently and our sons, daughters, and wives were carried off because of this. 29:10 Now I intend to make a covenant with the Lord God of Israel, so that he may relent from his raging anger.

O (Observation): So some kings follow God, and others outright disobey God. And while King Hezekiah starts off faithfully, going so far as to cleanse the Temple, one remains suspect. How long will Hezekiah obey God before he goes off the rails?

Hezekiah establishes a covenant, which is all good and well, but as a sinful being, we can’t put too much faith in that covenant.

A covenant we can put faith in is God’s covenant with Abraham. Kings come, Kings go…but the Lord remains.

A (Application): As a 36 year-old, I can remember several times re-committing myself to God in the Lenten season. I treat it too often like a New Year’s resolution. And as such, fall of the wagon, usually.

But over the last few years, I’ve been learning more about God’s covenant with all believers. This covenant establishes a relationship between God and us, essentially making us one with God, never to be separated. I’ve been putting more faith in that covenant than any covenant I establish.

Lenten disciplines are about being reminded that God is faithful, even when we are not. But putting forth some effort is NOT discouraged. Sure, we will fall short, but as Dallas Willard says, “Grace is not opposed to effort, just earning.”

I encourage you to re-commit your life, your finances, your time to the Lord. See where God is calling out to you. Respond accordingly.

I’d love to work with you through these thoughts and feelings. Leave a comment or contact me through the Contact page on this site.

Happy Lent! (Is that a thing? Maybe it is now.)

P (Prayer): Lord, we are frail, we are fickle. Remind us that you have established an everlasting covenant with us, made perfect in Jesus Christ. Remind us of this daily, and give us the guidance and strength necessary to dig daily into your Word and help us to see your grace come alive in your Word and in our lives. Amen.

Who Provides and Protects?

My apologies for nor not posting yesterday. Spent the day preparing for a short trip to Atlanta for a family wedding for the weekend.


The next week or two may not be totally consistent for me with devotions, but rest assured…my daily practice of devotions will remain in 2015. Take care! Happy devoting.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/acd/73707674/files/2014/12/img_3966.jpg

S (Scripture): 2 lessons today…

2 Kings 18:30 ‘Don’t let Hezekiah talk you into trusting in the Lord when he says, “The Lord will certainly rescue us; this city will not be handed over to the king of Assyria.” 18:31 Don’t listen to Hezekiah!’ For this is what the king of Assyria says, ‘Send me a token of your submission and surrender to me. Then each of you may eat from his own vine and fig tree and drink water from his own cistern, 18:32 until I come and take you to a land just like your own – a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey. Then you will live and not die. Don’t listen to Hezekiah, for he is misleading you when he says, “The Lord will rescue us.”

&

Acts 5:35 Then Gamaliel said to the council, “Men of Israel, pay close attention to what you are about to do to these men (i. e. Peter & the apostles). 5:36 For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and nothing came of it. 5:37 After him Judas the Galilean arose in the days of the census, and incited people to follow him in revolt. He too was killed, and all who followed him were scattered. 5:38 So in this case I say to you, stay away from these men and leave them alone, because if this plan or this undertaking originates with people, it will come to nothing, 5:39 but if it is from God, you will not be able to stop them, or you may even be found fighting against God.”

O (Observation): okay…I’m trying to overachieve today….

In the 2 Kings text, the representative of the King of Assyria is trying to convince the people NOT to listen to King Hezekiah, who is a king who ACTUALLY DOES GOOD IN THE SIGHT OF THE LORD, for a change. They are saying that the King of Assyria will bring protection and provision, and NOT The Lord.

In the Acts text, Peter and the apostles are arrested for healing and teaching in the name of Jesus. The council doesn’t like this one bit, and wants the apostles put to death. But Gamaliel tells them to slow their roll…just in case God is the one actually at work here.

In both texts, the source of provision and protection of those speaking/acting on behalf of God is called into question.

A (Application): These texts make me ponder the competing interests in my life. I know The Lord compels me to live only for Him, but the promise of provision and protection from my work, my accomplishments, my intellect, are tempting sources. Of course, all of us know that when we lean only on these sources, we fall and fail – like in the case of Theudas and Judas the Galilean.

Who/What is offering provision and protection – like the King of Assyria – in your life? Is it your job? Money? Social status? What is getting in your way of trusting The Lord completely? I will struggle through this with you.

P (Prayer): Lord, remind me (gently, please : ) that you alone provide and protect. Amen.