Friday, May 31, 2013

Isaiah 29 - Works Without Faith Is Dead

"The Lord says:
“These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
is based on merely human rules they have been taught.
Therefore once more I will astound these people
with wonder upon wonder;
the wisdom of the wise will perish,
the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.”
Woe to those who go to great depths
to hide their plans from the Lord,
who do their work in darkness and think,
“Who sees us? Who will know?"" (Isa 29:13-15)
Sunday morning rituals and then the rest of the week what do we do? On Sunday mornings we praise the LORD with our lips, but how much honor do we give the LORD during the rest of the week? Some of the saddest moments of my life is when I realize someone worships on Sunday morning purely out of ritual or because they think this "act" is the good work that will grant them eternal life. Or, maybe, it's to enhance their political or business life. I assure you, works without faith is useless.

James tells us (James 2:17-19)  "In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder." 

I know! I know! Martin Luther was not impressed with James. He considered it an "epistle of straw." But, think for a moment... If we have faith - that is a living faith, we will live that faith and it will show in all that we say and do and that goes beyond Sunday morning. Likewise works without faith is useless for our or any one's salvation. Faith, indeed, will produce good works. It is a natural outflowing of our faith and our love of God. Showing up on Sunday morning and not worshipping and honoring God, not living in the Way, the rest of the week is merely a once a week (or month or year) good work.  Maybe we attend this worship service it's because we like the people there or that the people actually do good works. Maybe, it's the preacher you like or maybe you are just paying your dues - just in case - to appease God. Hopefully, the Word you hear during that one hour on Sunday morning will produce the faith you have pretended to have.

You can pretend all you want. Maybe the pretending will become a reality for you. I don't know. There is a 12-step motto that tells us to "fake it 'till you make it." Who knows, it might work. God can accomplish great things through little steps.

But, let us not think that God does not know our motivation? That even though on the outside (on Sunday morning) it looks like we are worshipping; but, in reality we might be just serving self. We might be able to hide it some of the time from some of the people, maybe even all of the people. (Except your Pastor - there's a good chance he/she already knows your motivation) But, you cannot hide your motivation, your plans, from the LORD, ever! He promised to be with you always and He is. Do you think He does not see what you don't want Him to see. Don't delude yourself into thinking that somehow you can hide the fact that there are other things that you put before God during the rest of the week.

Real faith produces good works. It will inspire us to worship and honor God and to feed His sheep, so to speak, the rest of the week.

May God bless the words of our lips, the meditations of our hearts and minds, the work of our hands and every step that we take that all may honor and glorify God, our Creator and Redeemer. Amen
(OK - so I revised that last prayer a little bit)

God's Peace - Pr. J.

P.S. Sorry so late today. The power went off before I could post about 6 a.m.. In the meantime, I planted some flowers and went kayaking. Have a blessed day!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Isaiah 28 - Jesus As The Cornerstone

"So this is what the Sovereign Lord says:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;
the one who relies on it
will never be stricken with panic.
I will make justice the measuring line
and righteousness the plumb line;
hail will sweep away your refuge, the lie,
and water will overflow your hiding place." (Isa 28:16-17 NIV)
There is so much in today's reading, it is hard to decide where to go. The people are being rebuked. The leadership has made some bad alliances, even deadly alliances, for the people. Alliances that only drunkards could celebrate. This lesson reveals both law and gospel. It reveals the law for those who would make such deadly choices making alliances that will surely lead to death out of their arrogance and drunkenness. Hail will sweep away their refuge and the hiding place will be flooded with water. It also reveals the gospel. It reveals life for those who would rely on the cornerstone rather than trusting in their enemy who promises much and delivers nothing, but death.
Verses 16-17 are probably familiar to many of you. It points to Jesus the Christ. He is the "...stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame." (Rom 9:33)
The good news is that those who believe in Him will not fall. In fact, through faith, " are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit." (Eph 2:19-22) 
"As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—  you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says:
"See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,
The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”
"A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.”
They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for." (1 Pet 2:4-8)

(Maybe you've figured out by now that I am trying to send a reminder that scripture supports scripture... Read it! Hear it!)  Jesus is the living cornerstone by which we either fall due to our own arrogance or are raised to be living stones within the house of God. We, along with all who believe, are the temple, within whom (or which) our LORD abides.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Isaiah 27 - Leviathan

Kayak Trip with Cassie on Huron Bay
"In that day, the Lord will punish with his sword—his fierce, great and powerful sword—Leviathan  the gliding serpent, Leviathan the coiling serpent; he will slay the monster of the sea." (Isa 27:1 NIV)
Leviathan, the great sea monster, is mentioned a few times in Scripture. In addition to Isaiah 27, you can find mention of Leviathan in Job 3:8, Job 41:1, Job 41:12, Psalm 74:14, and Psalm 104:26.
On the rare occasions that I've found myself out on the lake in the midst of a storm I think of God overpowering Leviathan. OK - so they are not rare occasions. It seems like the wind picks up almost every time I am out on a boat (big or small) on a large mass of water. I actually warn people that they should not take me fishing unless they want a storm or their motor to conk out... Others should not take me out with them if they don't want to play with Leviathan, or maybe it's God, out in the middle of the water. I don't mind the storms. I know that the LORD is with me, even in the storms. The rushing wind reminds me of the power of the Holy Spirit. God is big enough to destroy Leviathan. He is big enough to protect me, if that is His will. But, if I'm not up to another storm, I stay as close to home as I can with my kayak...
Symbolically, the sea refers to a large number of people. So, for those of you who are big into the Revelation of John, the dragon that comes out of the sea in the book of Revelation most probably refers to the fact that the evil one will come from among the people. "The dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name." (Rev 13:1) We are not looking for a literal dragon to come out of a literal sea, but an evil that comes from the midst of the people. Revelation is filled with symbolism. Please, do not take it literally.
The picture of the evil one may be a bit alarming, but remember the promise found in Isaiah today: The LORD will slay the evil one in the midst of the people. There may be times when things seem just awful. There may be times when your leviathan decides it's time to play with you. But, know this: the LORD will surely rescue His people. He is our very help in the time of trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Isaiah 26 - Full of Promises

A mighty fortress is our God...

Wow! Today's reading is full of promises. He gives perfect peace to those whose faith is strong. He has overcome our enemies. He makes the path smooth and straight for those who obey Him and prosperous the nations fat faithful.

Even when we were unfaithful, He was faithful in that He helped to turn us back on His way. Although we die, He promises to rise us to life. We will rise from our graves and celebrate with shouts. The LORD is our rock and salvation. This knowledge alone should refresh our souls and give us peace.

God's peace be with you... Pr. J.

P.S. Sorry about typos today. On my Smartphone in the woods and just too hard to edit...

Monday, May 27, 2013

Isaiah 25 - Death Is Swallowed Up!

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.

In that day they will say,
“Surely this is our God;
we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the Lord, we trusted in him;
let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.” (Isa 25:6-9 NIV)
Today is Memorial Day in the United States, the day we remember those loved ones, particularly are military members, who are no longer with us in this world, and I find myself very blessed in that it happens to fall on a day when our reading includes one of the scriptures that I often use for funerals. It is a picture of the great banquet feast. It reminds us that through Jesus Christ, the power of death has been overcome. Death has been swallowed up forever! Although, we die, yet we shall live. There will be no more sorrow or pain. There will be no more reason for tears. (See Rev 7:17, 21:4) And all God's people will say: "“Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.” (Isa 25:9) Yes, it's worth repeating! Let us rejoce and be glad in His salvation! 
Thanks be to God! God's Peace - Pr. J.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Isaiah 24 - Grandfatherly Figure; Not!

If everyone actually read the old testament, maybe, we would appreciate and not take for granted the new covenant that has come to us through Jesus the Christ, just a little bit more.

I don't know how many times I've had people tell me that they just can't believe in a grandfatherly figure sitting up some where up on the clouds. Read the old testament and you will find a picture of God that they probably did not teach you in Sunday School.

The picture that Isaiah 24 paints is one of devastation for the people of the earth. The earth has been defiled by the people according to this prophecy and their will be consequences.  But, there is good news in this chapter as well. There is good news for those who love their creator and redeemer. "The moon will be dismayed, the sun ashamed; for the Lord Almighty will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before its elders—with great glory." (Isa 24:23)

You see, it doesn't really matter whether you believe or not. It doesn't change God one iota. God is still God and He will reign! Worship the LORD, your God and give Him thanks for He has sent One and only One to redeem the world.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Isaiah 23 - Stand for Something or Fall for Anything

Here's an interesting prophecy. Tyre, a most prosperous country, is about to fall at the hands of the enemy. The LORD will cause her to fall. But, according to Isaiah:  "At the end of seventy years, the Lord will deal with Tyre. She will return to her lucrative prostitution and will ply her trade with all the kingdoms on the face of the earth. Yet her profit and her earnings will be set apart for the Lord; they will not be stored up or hoarded. Her profits will go to those who live before the Lord, for abundant food and fine clothes." (Isa 23:17-18 NIV)

Tyre was (still is) an island off of the coast of Lebanon. It was a major seaport. In fact, according to some historians, the first major seaport and; therefore, had become very wealthy. They had become sort of a collection place for much of the world's riches.

In being a trader, though, we often make compromises. How often do we hear about agreements our own countries have made that have gone awry and wonder if anyone thought about the long-term ethical consequences of the agreements before they made them? Tyre made trade agreements, regardless of ethics, with anyone and everyone that they could profit from. Their god became wealth and prosperity and they would do anything or anyone to serve their god, neglecting to honor the one true God.

The quote from either Peter Marshall or Alexander Hamilton comes to mind: "If you don't stand for something you'll fall for anything." Tyre was prophesied to fall. Indeed, she did.

But, Isaiah also prophesies that at the end of the seventy years, she will turn to her lucrative prostitution (that is her lucrative commercial enterprises); but this time Tyre will set apart her tithe for the LORD.

Many good lessons in this lesson. For one, let us watch who we do business with that we are not compromising our own values or ethics. Second, let us remember to set apart a tithe in thanksgiving for the LORD who has and continues to bless us with so much.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, May 24, 2013

Isaiah 22 - Look To the One Who Loves You

"...but you did not look to the One who made it, or have regard for the One who planned it long ago." (Isa 22:11b NIV)

A woe, a prophecy against even Jerusalem. Jerusalem's enemies have heard of their demise, now it is Jerusalem's turn. They, who have been blessed by God are revelling on the rooftops. They are rejoicing and partying. But, they are not rejoicing in the LORD. They've become complacent. They do not look to the LORD, but to themselves and to their own (individual) pleasures.

And... they will suffer. The LORD Almighty cannot be mocked - not unless you are willing to accept the consequences of putting Him on a back burner in your life.

Hmmm.... Now how do I put a good construction to this prophecy against Jerusalem after all "...we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him..." (Rom 8:28) I guess that's the key. The people of Jerusalem forgot their first love. 

May God help us to always remember our first love - the one who first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

God's Peace - Pr. J   

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Isaiah 21 - Looking Out

I am having just a bit of a problem focusing this morning. It is already dawn. Maybe the sunrise has already come; but, it is hard to tell. The skies are once again darkened with clouds. My eyes keep straying out toward the river as I hope for the sun to show its face so that I might get out on the water today. I am on the lookout for sunny skies and calm seas. I'm afraid both may not happen for some time.

I am on the lookout, this morning, for signs that summer will actually come soon, for things that please, while the lookout in today's reading is waiting to hear the news that "Babylon is fallen."

Part of my job description (whether anyone likes it or not) is to be on the lookout - to be observant. I look for both the gifts of God so that we might be good stewards of God's gifts. I also watch for those things which need to be avoided. It absolutely drives some members of my family bonkers that I spend time watching for things that need to be avoided or stopped before they begin. I definitely adhere to the saying, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." (Benjamin Franklin) In order to know what needs preventing, we need to be on the lookout for those things that might cross our path that will cause much pain and suffering. And... even if it looks good, but will bring danger, I don't have a problem calling it for what it is. That is, warning others.

Not long after the Boston Marathon Bombing my husband (who is a retired Marine) and I had a conversation about being aware of our surroundings at all times. I found it quite interesting that he does not look out for dangers in the crowds around him, while I stay on the lookout for things that may bring unwanted surprises. I have been this way most of my life. I don't know if it's learned, genetic, or simply a gift from God. Sometimes, standing on a watchtower gives us this broader view so that we can be alerted in ample time to prevent tragedy. At other times, it is simply a distraction keeping us from seeing and enjoying the intricate and infinite possibilities that are close up.

Whatever, I apologize for being distracted this morning. Watch... Keep alert!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Isaiah 20 - By Word and Deed

Those of you who have heard my sermons have heard this exhortation quite often: "Go and proclaim the Good News by both word and deed."  The Gospel needs to be proclaimed so that other might hear and believe. But, in proclaiming it with our lips our actions need to fit what we preach. Our lifestyles are reflections of what we say. Others hear not only what we say, but what we do.

Prophets often took this "doing what you speak" to the extreme. According to God's word to Isaiah, the prophecy against Egypt and Cush was to be lived or acted out by Isaiah. He was to strip himself of the sackcloth and sandals that he wore as the prophecy that "the king of Assyria will lead away stripped and barefoot the Egyptian captives and Cushite exiles, young and old, with buttocks bared—to Egypt’s shame." (Isa 20:4 NIV)

I'm thinking that none of us quite measure up to being the dedicated and faithful servant of God as Isaiah was; none of us will probably be asked to strip as a sign that our enemies will be overthrown and shamed. I'm not sure how Isaiah managed it. But, I'm quite sure we'd be arrested long before three years was up and locked away someplace for some time to come.

While we may not be as zealous as some of the prophets called by God, that does not negate the fact that we have been called by God and are to share the good news of the kingdom of God through Jesus Christ to people near and far. We do this with word and deed. We do this by sharing the story with those who would hear and by living our new life in Christ for all to see.

And, we are zealous about it. Maybe, not as zealous as Isaiah; but we zealously share this good news because it is Good News, indeed!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Isaiah 19 - Brother Betray Brother or Peace?

Assyria had been warned and so today it is time to read the warning the LORD gave to Egypt, as well. The LORD is coming to Egypt. "See, the Lord rides on a swift cloud and is coming to Egypt. The idols of Egypt tremble before him, and the hearts of the Egyptians melt with fear. 'I will stir up Egyptian against Egyptian— brother will fight against brother, neighbor against neighbor, city against city, kingdom against kingdom.'" (Isa 19:1-2 NIV)

The Egyptians have turned their backs on God and against God's people. He, apparently, has determined to save some of them. Trouble is coming. Ultimately, five cities come to swear their allegiance to God, while others continue in their descent as they consult the idols and the spirits of the dead, the mediums and the spiritists.

It is not uncommon that people who serve different gods come to have differences, even disputes. They will, even within families, betray one another in order to hide their own guilt, to justify worshipping their false gods. When Jesus entered the scene, was he not hated by the "religious" people of the day - the people who lifted the law and their own righteousness before God? Jesus' own people turned against him.

And... so it will be with those who follow in the footsteps of Jesus.  “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death." (Matt 10:21) We will not be loved by all. We will, in fact, be hated by many. Our presence is a reminder that Jesus is LORD and not everyone is willing to accept that. They prefer to be their own gods, masters of their own destinies. There are many, even within our own families, who would betray us in order to try to hide or destroy the truth that Jesus Christ is our LORD and Saviour. He is the LORD of all the earth.

There is good news to be heard regarding the prophecy against Egypt. Egypt, Assyria and Judah, together will be blessesd.

"In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, 'Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.'" (Isa 19:23-25)

May the LORD bless and keep you all in the unity found in Jesus Christ, our LORD.

God's Peace - Pr. J 

P.S. Yes,things like unity and reconciliation with one another is a gift from God. It is not something that can be conjured up by man. That kind of peace will not last. No matter how hard we try our own attempts at peace seem to only bring more division and dissenion. We are only truly united through the blood of Christ, an everlasting covenant.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Isaiah 18 - Woe or Blessing

"Woe to the land of whirring wings along the rivers of Cush, which sends envoys by sea in papyrus boats over the water. Go, swift messengers, to a people tall and smooth-skinned, to a people feared far and wide, an aggressive nation of strange speech, whose land is divided by rivers." (Isa 18:1 NIV)

Woes sometimes have the effect of bringing us around to the Worship of God.

Over the years, I've noticed that some Christians, when confronted with trouble in their lives, tend to stay away from public worship of God. I'm thinking this might be because they are embarrassed that they have not been able to control their lives in a manner that is Christ-like. They don't want others to know that they have slipped up, they have sinned. There's a little problem with this and that is that they think that they have been saved by their good works. They think that they are or were good because they had been able to keep up the appearance of morality by their own inner strength. The glory was not God's, but theirs. Consequently, because they thought their good character was attributed to themselves, so was their fall, and they are embarrassed by their fall. They failed or so they think. Hopefully, they will come to understand that the LORD can use these failures to open our eyes so that we see the way to return to Him.

Others, when their sins begin to cause them stressful living, decide that it is God's fault that their lives are spiraling downhill. They cannot acknowledge that maybe they have chosen to follow another path that the LORD would not have them follow through the wilderness. Again, the LORD can use these times of woe so that we will seek the light and turn from the path of darkness that we have been following.

Either way, both of these are symptoms of an underlying issue - a control issue. It is really hard to relinquish our whole lives into the hands of Almighty God. But, when we do, something marvelous happens, by the power of the Spirit of Christ, we will become more Christ-like. We will desire to Worship the LORD.  It needs to be understood that worship of God is not a good work credited to you. It is a natural outpouring of the love that we have for the one who first loved us.

Whoever, these tall, smooth skinned people who live between the rivers are that God sends this warning of woe to, many of them end up worshipping the LORD Almighty.

"At that time gifts will be brought to the Lord Almighty from a people tall and smooth-skinned, from a people feared far and wide, an aggressive nation of strange speech, whose land is divided by rivers—the gifts will be brought to Mount Zion, the place of the Name of the Lord Almighty." (Isa 18:7)

Woes can be turned to blessings. Let us rejoice for God for the gifts that God has given us. Let us give all glory to God "for in him we live and move and have our being." (Act 17:28)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Isaiah 17 - Woe To Those Who Think Too Highly Of The Work of Their Own Hands

"In that day people will look to their Maker and turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel. They will not look to the altars, the work of their hands, and they will have no regard for the Asherah poles and the incense altars their fingers have made. (Isa 17:7-8 NIV)

Does is really have to get that bad before people will look to their Maker, the Holy One of Israel? It just amazes me that we have to face destruction, even live through it, before we give up trusting in the work of our own hands, before we turn and trust the LORD. 

Isaiah prophecies that the people will plant and they will grow, yet the harvest will be worthless. The work of their hands will come to nothing. They will be hungry. He prophecies against those who rage like the stormy sea. "In the evening, sudden terror! Before the morning, they are gone! This is the portion of those who loot us, the lot of those who plunder us." (vs 14)

Woe to those who rage against others. Woe to those who plot secretly to destroy them. Do you not know that you will not prevail? Do you not know that you are bringing an end to yourself? Leave off trusting in your own ability to prevail. You are not a god. Leave off trusting in your false gods.

Return to the LORD, look to your Maker, and rejoice for our Father has mercy on all who hear His Word and believe. Live life justly!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Isaiah 16 - Refuge For All Who Believe

"Let the Moabite fugitives stay with you; be their shelter from the destroyer. The oppressor will come to an end, and destruction will cease; the aggressor will vanish from the land. In love a throne will be established; in faithfulness a man will sit on it— one from the house of David—one who in judging seeks justice and speeds the cause of righteousness."  (Isaiah 16:4-5 NIV)

The LORD desires harm to no one. He offers refuge to all, even to the Moabites, who will turn from the wicked and ways and toward Him. In love, He has established a throne, upon which, our LORD Jesus the Christ sits and reigns with justice and righteousness.

The Moabites are offered an opportunity to avoid the prophesied destruction. We are all offered this opportunity to avoid destruction. In receiving that opportunity, we may find ourselves as homeless refugees in a world where we are not particularly desired. But, we will find refuge in the house of the LORD and with His people. The LORD will and has prevailed!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, May 17, 2013

Isaiah 15 - "Every head is shaved and every beard cut off."

"Every head is shaved and every beard cut off." (Isa 15:2b NIV)

Today's reading comes at a very fortuitous time. Today, my godson, who will graduate from High School next week, will cut his hair for the first time. His habit has been to wear it in a braid down the middle of his back. I like that braid. But, it is his hair and he can do with it what he chooses.

I, myself have worn my hair long most of my life, except for that pixie cut my mother gave me when I was a teen and that brief period in the early 80's when I got tired of my husband complaining about me not wearing my hair like other women my age - short. He wanted me to look my age! LOL! I had it cut to the length of less than an inch. He hasn't requested I cut my hair since then. The last time I actually had my hair cut was when Maurice, a teen at a correctional facility, was being trained as a barber. I was his first client. That was in the spring of 1998. He cut off about 6 inches. There had been rumors among the boys at the facility that I was a Nazarite because of my long hair and the fact that I do not drink - plus I have a few food issues with things like pork. It makes me ill... so they never saw me eat it. The hair cut was a way to show Maurice that I trusted him enough to give him that much power over me. He was, after all, a young felon, standing behind me with scissors, in a facility where he was not allowed to handle even sharp steak knives. I have trimmed a few split ends since that day. But, nothing more.

Long hair has, in many cultures, been a sign of power and strength. Some cultures cut off the hair of conquered enemies to show their control over them - to shame them even further. It was a sign of great loss - a sign of someone without power. The shaving of the hair or the beard was also used as a sign of the grief experienced from losses incurred during war or even natural death.

In today's reading they are mourning the losses incurred by Moab and so every head is shaved and every beard cut off.

I guess, in a sense, it is fitting that my godson is cutting his hair today. He is making a great transition, from High School into the work force (hopefully) and college which he will enter this fall. He will be taking on even greater responsibilities and he will, as all of the young people graduating, lose contact with many friends. Many things change with graduation. Everyone celebrates! But, even as we celebrate, it is also fitting that we grieve the loss of a childhood as they step out into the world as young men and women with all the responsibilities of an adult.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Isaiah 14 - The Fallen Morning Star

Hate to disappoint you all this morning, but I need to hit the road to do a long distance hospital visit so don't have the time to research chapter 14 as well as I would like to. Maybe, you would like to?

Verses 12 through 15, in particular, leaves us with a question. Who, exactly, is this "morning star, son of the dawn" that has fallen from heaven?

"How you have fallen from heaven,
morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations!
You said in your heart,
“I will ascend to the heavens;
I will raise my throne
above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.
I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.”

But you are brought down to the realm of the dead,to the depths of the pit." (NIV)

First choice is the king of Babylon is the fallen morning star, as in our previous chapter that is what is being prophecied. We need to take a look at these verses in context.

Second choice would be Satan. These would be some of the verses that some Christians traditionally use to support the concept of the fallen angel.

Third choice; although, not a good one... would be the one that some use to deny the deity of the Christ and that is that the morning star refers to Jesus the Christ. See 2 Peter 1:19, Rev 2: 28, and Rev 22:16. These all refer to the Messiah as the morning star. However, we need to remember that the evil one is quite capable of disguising himself as the angel of light. "And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light." (2 Cor 11:14)

Overall, it is difficult for me not to see the fall of Satan in this reading, mainly because this is what has been engrained in me from early years. Satan, the anti-Christ's, desire is to be seated above the throne of God. On the other hand, this prophecy can be legitimately said to have been fulfilled with the fall of the last king of the Babylonian empire,  Belshazzar. (See Daniel 5 for his fall). I personally am thinking that this prophecy could well have two meaning - two fulfillments.

The good news here in this chapter is that God's ways will not be thwarted. He will have compassion and He will save His people and that His people (according to this prophecy is Israel) will be united in peace with foreigners (this I am reading as you and me - all who believe in salvation through Jesus the Christ).

Got to get moving! Have a blessed day!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Isaiah 13 - Day Of The Lord's Wrath

Babylon will be overthrown. Isaiah's prophecies, up to now, have centered on God's people. But, not any more. The LORD's wrath is to come upon those who are not His people. Babylon is to be destroyed.

This day, of the LORD's wrath, is too horrible to imagine. I cannot begin to imagine the horrible vision that Isaiah saw that prompted this prophecy and I do not want to. This message, I imagine, would bring a sense of comfort to God's people, knowing that God would act against their enemies. But, at the same, time would be a reminder to His people that if He would act against those who were not His people, who did not listen to Him; how would He deal with those who were His people and turned their backs on Him as the pagans did?

God is not to be mocked or taken for granted. God is God. He will protect and care for those who love Him. Even in the awesome (awful) day of His wrath, He will be with you. In that day, may He be for you and not against you.

God's Peace - Pr. J

P.S. Sorry, not a pretty picture today. But, if you read chapter 13 of Isaiah, you will find that the day of His wrath is not a pretty picture.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Isaiah 12 - I Will Praise You, LORD

Into exile - out of exile. Over and over again, the people of God turn their back on Him, they go into exile, they repent, and receive grace, mercy, and a multitude of blessings in their return from the LORD. And... when they receive their freedom they rejoice.

So, too, will all people rejoice as they receive the salvation given to them through Jesus Christ, our LORD.

In that day you will say:
“I will praise you, Lord.
Although you were angry with me,
your anger has turned away
and you have comforted me." (Isa 12:1 NIV)
God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, May 13, 2013

Isaiah 11 - The Wolf Will Live With The Lamb As A Little Child Leads Us

A blog can't even begin to touch these marvelous prophecies of Isaiah! They are the predictions of not only Israel from the Assyrians, but they look even more forward than that.  The Davidic line will be no more than a stump, the tree having been cut down. But, from that lineage which has been pretty much decimated, will spring forth a branch, a leader, a king, who wears righteousness as his belt and faithfulness as a sash around his waist. (Isa 11:5 NIV) Isaiah predicts the coming Messiah, who is Jesus the Christ.

The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea. (Isa 11:6-9)

I find it providential that this lesson is coming up today, even as I have been working on another blog article regarding the wolf. In it, I ponder how to discern the difference between a sheep and a wolf in sheep's clothing and how dangerous it is to the flock to knowingly allow a wolf in disguise to be active in a congregation. So, as I consider this chapter from Isaiah, I wonder if the time has come that has been prophesied where the figurative wolves and the sheep (lamb) can live in peace alongside one another, doing God's will. You all know what I'm talking about. There are wolves in almost every congregation and some of them border on being very carnivorous. They are those antagonists who smile a lot, yet manage to stir up a lot of divisions between the members and sometimes even between the members and the pastor. They come disguised as a little lamb, but inside are ravenous wolves. Yet, God manages to bring it all around to a good purpose and even what seems to be the worse case scenario to us, where the congregation actually closes its doors, maybe in the long run we will see the good that God intended from that, as well. All I know is that somehow He manages to produce fruit through even the wolves. Wolves, sheep, lion, ox, cow, bear all gathering together. Even I can be a bear, at times. In fact, I'm thinking, would I rarely, except maybe by some of our youngest children ever be likened to anything as peaceful as a lamb. We live together, as the one who came to us as a little child, leads us. (Isa 11:6)

Peace is good. It is very good, indeed! May the righteousness of God be the rule in our lives. May peace abide in us and we in the Prince of Peace.

God's Peace - Pr. J 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Isaiah 10 - Too Many Unjust Laws

God's people are not only contending with the Assyrians, but with their leadership as well.  The word of the LORD, as given through Isaiah:

"Woe to those who make unjust laws,
to those who issue oppressive decrees,
to deprive the poor of their rights
and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey
and robbing the fatherless.
What will you do on the day of reckoning,
when disaster comes from afar?
To whom will you run for help?
Where will you leave your riches?" (Isa 10:1-4 NIV)

As I read chapter 10 this morning, I was thinking about the U.S. Congress and Senate. I wondered how, in few words, one could describe their role. Three words:  "They make laws." And... we pay them pretty well to do it. Why... why do we pay people to make laws that oppress? The more laws there are, the more restrictions there are on our freedoms. I'm not saying laws are a bad thing. I'm just thinking that it seems to be a waste to make so many that no one can even know them all let alone follow them all. 

I'm thinking that the reason we have so many laws and restrictions on the books is because we need to justify giving these men and women such huge paychecks and benefits while there are multitudes in this country that go without basic necessities.

Just a reminder: the law never saves anyone. It has a good purpose, but it will not save one soul. Only Jesus saves!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Isaiah 9 - The Light Has Dawned

The prophecy continues... Although, there will be war; although, there will be distress, there is hope for the righteous, for those who walk in the light of Christ.

"The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this."  (Isa 9:2,6, 7 NIV)

The prophecy concerning the coming Messiah. He has come. He is present, even now. The light of Christ does shine! The light has dawned! Yet, there are multitudes who have not, yet, seen the light and many who have seen the light who have retreated even further into darkness.

Hope is to be had for those who will live in this light that we have been given. Jesus the Christ, is that light. But, for those who continue to live in the darkness of their own ways, there are many woes to be had.

"By the wrath of the Lord Almighty
the land will be scorched
and the people will be fuel for the fire;
they will not spare one another.
On the right they will devour,
but still be hungry;
on the left they will eat,
but not be satisfied.
Each will feed on the flesh of their own offspring:
Manasseh will feed on Ephraim, and Ephraim on Manasseh;
together they will turn against Judah.

Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away,his hand is still upraised."  (Isa 9:19-21)
It's not looking so good for those who live either on the right or the left...! In the light of Christ, seems to be the place to be.
Live in the light or the darkness? In peace or in war? Righteousness or Unrighteousness? May God help you to live life in the light of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.
God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, May 10, 2013

Isaiah 8 Today

A prophetic warning: because the people have rejected what God has given them, Assyria will attack them. They will go to battle.  God has warned Isaiah not to follow in the way of the people. Apparently, God's children have strayed, again. They're not following in His way.
There are a couple of things that really jump out at me from this chapter from the perspective of 2013. First off, do not be afraid of things of this world.
“Do not call conspiracy
everything this people calls a conspiracy;
do not fear what they fear,
and do not dread it.
The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy,
he is the one you are to fear,
he is the one you are to dread." (Isa 8:12-13 NIV)
It reminds me of how Luther responds to "What does this mean?" in regards to the 10 Commandments. "We are to fear and love God, so that..." And... so often I am asked by confirmands, "what does it mean to fear and love God? Why would you fear someone you love?" And... my response is usually something like: "God is God. He gave you life and He can take it away." This fear of God is a healthy respect for who He is and we love Him because of who He is and what He has done for us. The point I want our young people to be aware of is that the world can do nothing to take away our life in the Kingdom of God. Do not fear their threats, for God is with you and will always be with you. For this, He rightly deserves our respect and our love. Jesus said:
"I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.  But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." (Luke 12:4-7).
And... the second thing that really jumps out at me this morning is this:
 When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness. (Isa 8:19-22)
If you are seeking the assistance of a fortune teller, CUT IT OUT! The future is not going to be so good for you is you are seeking their assistance before the direction of the LORD, your God. I don't know how many Christians I've known who have no clue that consulting mediums is quite contrary to the will of God. CUT IT OUT! You don't want to living in distress, darkness and fearful gloom.
The LORD is there for you. Follow Him.  
God's Peace - Pr. J.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Isaiah 7 - Promise of Sign; Immanuel

Judah is in trouble. Ahaz, the king, is in trouble. Judah is about to be invaded. The LORD sends  Isaiah to him with a promise of hope. The LORD spoke to him, through Isaiah, the promise of a sign, who is Immanuel, in spite of the fact that Ahaz was worshipped other gods. Ahaz... "Unlike David his father, he did not do what was right in the eyes of the LordHe followed the ways of the kings of Israel and also made idols for worshiping the Baals. He burned sacrifices in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and sacrificed his children in the fire, engaging in the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the high places, on the hilltops and under every spreading tree.  (2 Chron 28:1b-4 NIV)

The LORD gives this promise of of a sign of hope to this wretched sinner. He has given us this sign. He has given us Immanuel, God with us, in Jesus Christ. It is interesting to note that even though God wanted to help Ahaz, Ahaz never gave up his false gods and turned to worship the one true God. Will we?

For those who aren't reading the Bible, please read it. There is so much that you will miss if you don't. But, for the benefit of those who will not, I'm including the verses that are most familiar from this chapter to so many...  "Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel."  (Isa 7:13-14)

God's Peace - Pr. J

"If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all." (Isa 7:9b)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Isaiah 6 - Will You Really Go?

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” (Isa 6:5 NIV)
Can you imagine having a vision of the LORD, seated exalted on his throne, surrounded by six-winged seraphim, shaking the temple, with their singing "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory."?  
I think we'd all be crying "Woe is me!" We will all be crying "Woe is me!"
One of the seraphim takes a live coal from the altar and touches Isaiah's lips and says, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” (Isa 6:6)
Now that Isaiah has been made clean, he hears the voice of the LORD saying "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?"  And I said, “Here am I. Send me!" (vs 8)
And.... God sends him. He sends him to the people.
"He said, “Go and tell this people:
“‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’
Make the heart of this people calloused;
make their ears dull
and close their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”" (Isa 6:9-10)
This prophecy is to be fulfilled when the cities lie in ruins, the people have been dispersed from the land, and the land is utterly forsaken, when; hopefully, the ears, eyes, and hearts of the people will be opened and they will turn and once again worship and serve the LORD.
Isaiah's response to the LORD reminds me of the song, "Here, I am, LORD." It is a favorite among many people. Whenever, we sing it, I wonder if they actually know what they are committing to when they sing with such gusto: "Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord? I have heard You calling in the night. I will go Lord, if You lead me. I will hold Your people in my heart."
When God asks you to go, when He calls you to do something, to be a messenger for His Word, an appropriate response would be to say yes. That yes, if we have any sense, would drop us on our faces to the ground in humility and trepidation of the awesomeness of God and the . What is more God is sending us out to share His Word. He is not saying that we get to sit at home in front of our television sets and just think about it. He is saying go - go to a people who have ears, but cannot hear; eyes, but cannot see; hearts, but cannot understand. Go to them with my Word, that they might hear and turn and be healed.  Now, if you have any delusion that bringing the Word of the LORD to others is going to be easy, think again! 
According to the Book of Hebrews 4:12. "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."
In my mind, I often picture the Word of God as a two-edged sword. One edge is used to put to death. That side is the law. The other side of the sword, when heated, has been used on battle fields to cicatrize wounds, bringing healing and wholeness, even new life to those who have been wounded. This side of the sword represents, of course, the gospel. This two-edged sword, that is the Word of God, will not be welcomed by everyone. And, if you plan on actually answering the call to follow Jesus, and to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom to all people, please know, that this is Almighty God sending you out. I'd be taking this call a little more seriously than just thinking about it and putting it off for another day. Might not hurt to consider falling on our faces in humility, as Isaiah did. God is not just giving you a catchy song to sing His praises and definitely not our praises! This is Almighty God who is sending you to bear His Word to the nations, to our neighbors, that they who have been wounded, might be healed. If someone were dying along side the road, would you leave them there to die or would you help them? Would you try to save their life? No mistaking it, you cannot save one soul. But, the Word, who is Jesus the Christ can and does and has. As Christians, you are merely the vessels which brings Christ, who is the Word of God, to the world. But, the vessel does have a purpose which encompasses more than just sitting there. It holds something. It carries something.
Take the commission that the Word of God gave to us seriously, please.... It may not be easy. It might even be downright frightening at times, but go. ".... go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matt 28:19-20)
God's Peace - Pr. J 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Isaiah 5 - Woe To Those Who Call Evil Good

A lot more woes, today, for the children of God, who have proven fruitless! There are consequences, it seems, for real world sin. There are consequences for those who have turned their backs on God and followed in their own ways. Isaiah uses a parable of a vineyard, to warn the people before it is too late and they suffer the consequences of their own greed and self-centeredness.

God has planted a vineyard. He planted it with the choices vines, but it has yielded for him only bad fruit. Woe says, the Word of God, through Isaiah to the children of God.

"Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter.

Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes
and clever in their own sight.

Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine
and champions at mixing drinks,
who acquit the guilty for a bribe,
but deny justice to the innocent.
Therefore, as tongues of fire lick up straw
and as dry grass sinks down in the flames,
so their roots will decay
and their flowers blow away like dust;
for they have rejected the law of the Lord Almighty
and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel.
Therefore the Lord’s anger burns against his people;
his hand is raised and he strikes them down."  (Isa 5:20-25 NIV)

Has anything changed since Isaiah's time? God's children suffer the consequences of their unfruitfulness, they repent, they turn to God, and then do it all over again. Will we ever learn? Over and over again, we do the same things that lead us into trouble, but so often we just never learn. Here's one - how about that drunk driver who either almost or does kill someone and; yet, refuses to acknowledge that he has a drinking problem so he's out there sneaking behind the wheel while he's intoxicated the first chance that he has when he thinks he won't be caught. Or... the prescription drug uses who abuses these "legal drugs" to the point that they can no longer care for their families appropriately. They use these "legal drugs" and then blame the fact that they are crabby or mean or neglectful of their family or maybe can't even work because they are sick when the reality is that they can't do these things because the "legal drugs" have made them sick. This illness we call addiction. Get help before you (and the people you love) suffer worse consequences than you already have. And, please don't try to justify your abuse of "legal drugs" by saying it's the only thing that helps. I hear this way too often, by way too many people. God knows better. I know better. You know better. Calling evil good is one of the things we are warned about by Isaiah. If it damages your body, mind, and spirit; if it damages your family, your relationships, how can it be called good? There are consequences for doing those things which we call good, but are not.

Prophecy (in the Old Testament) is not so much a prediction of what will come. It is more of a prediction (a warning) of what might come if something doesn't change. It doesn't have to be. Remember that no matter what we have done in the past, through faith in the redeeming power of the Son, Jesus the Christ, we are forgiven all the evil that we have done. You are forgiven, through Jesus the Christ and that alone should be cause enough to rejoice and return most fully to the LORD! We can change. With the help of God, we can be changed so that our lives are more fruitful. Give up on those desperate attempts to go against God's will - receive His love - His grace - His mercy - and live life!

God's Peace - Pr. J

P.S. The list of evil that we call good, in today's world, is way too long to even think about enumerating in a blog.


Monday, May 6, 2013

Isaiah 4 - Chapters and Verses

Today's reading from chapter four of Isaiah reminds me that the Holy Bible did not always have chapters and verses. The breakdown we have today makes for an easier way to reference scripture and was actually instituted in the 13th century A.D.. Verse 1, "In that day seven women will take hold of one man and say, “We will eat our own food and provide our own clothes; only let us be called by your name. Take away our disgrace!”" seems to fit much better with the woes of chapter three than the promises found in the rest of chapter four. It is a good reminder, while we're reading the Bible, one chapter at a time, that we have to remember the whole context of what we are reading. Yes, it can be fun to "proof-text" and "dig" into one verse. But, we should remember that "scripture validates scripture." If our interpretation of scripture (one of two verses) cannot be validated by the rest of scripture, then we are probably interpreting it from our own bias.

In chapter four, we begin with what appears to be the end of the woes to Judah, Jerusalem, and ourselves if we do not turn to the LORD and trust Him; if we put material things and even ourselves before God. But, we also have the promise of the Branch of the LORD, who will be the pride and the glory of those who survive the woes and continue to live in Zion. God will be their glory. This is amazing and wonderful Good News as Jesus is the branch that is beautiful and glorious and with and in Christ, we live and dwell in the Kingdom of God, even now.

He is our shelter and refuge! (vs 6)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Isaiah 3 - Judah, Jerusalem, & We Are Warned

Prior to being taken into captivity by the Babylonians, Isaiah warns the people of Jerusalem and Judah of their impending judgement. God will take away their supply and support. They will be hungry. They will be without home. Neighbor will rise up against neighbor. The haughty women who parade about flirting, as they flaunt their beads and bangles will lose it all. Their fine jewelry, their fancy clothes will be no more. There will be no honor anywhere.

"Jerusalem staggers,
Judah is falling;
their words and deeds are against the Lord,
defying his glorious presence.
The look on their faces testifies against them;
they parade their sin like Sodom;
they do not hide it.
Woe to them!
They have brought disaster upon themselves."  (Isaiah 3:8-9 NIV)
My son, John, is working on a set of photographs depicting the 7-deadly sins. He has completed wrath. ( )  Yesterday, I was trying to imagine what he will come up with for gluttony. Someone stuffing their face? Then I read an interesting article this morning about gluttony being the desire for anything in excess. Gluttony could, in effect, pertain to over-indulging in anything: money, fine jewelry, even cheap jewelry. It could pertain to the many compulsive behaviors and addictions that afflict the world. It appears to me that Jerusalem and Judah had become a bit gluttonous - OK - maybe a lot gluttonous. They were the favored people of God. They had it made and so they indulged in a lot of worldly things and began to forget who it was that had blessed them. If they were going to be over-indulgent, it probably would have been a good thing to indulge in loving and worshipping the God who had blessed them so and maybe they would have avoided captivity in Babylon. 
But, they did not. They became haughty, self-centered, helping no one but themselves. Each to their own, as they say. And, they suffered because of it. The children of God (including us today) have a really bad habit of forgetting God, of turning our backs on the one who has blessed us and then out in the wilderness, back into slavery, back aimlessly wandering through the wilderness (from whence the name of this blog comes). Sure enough, there is usually repentance for many of God's children once we've been cast out into the wilderness. We realize our sin and turn back to God receiving the blessings of His presence.  You see, that is a huge part of why we end up in trouble. We fail to recognize our sin when we're so busy enjoying it. Everyone does it so, it can't be a sin. Woe to the people when sin is no longer sin!
The circle doesn't seem to end, though. Once we repent and have received forgiveness and multitudes of blessings by this generous God of ours; we begin to overindulge, again, worshipping the gifts rather than the Giver, and then back out in the wilderness we go so that we can remember again who God is.
Isaiah's prophetic warning was for Judah and Jerusalem. It was fulfilled with the Babylonian captivity. It was again fulfilled when the Romans toppled Jerusalem. Isaiah's warning is for all God's children, even today. Do not allow your gluttonous desire for things of this world kill your desire to worship and serve the LORD your God, by doing His will among you.
What did Jesus ask Peter to do?  "Feed my sheep." It's not about you. It's not about me. It's about us being in relationship with one another, serving one another, so that God might be glorified.
God's Peace - Pr. J