Archive for November, 2010

What If?

November 30, 2010

When a person looses a loved one there is often thoughts of what if. For example, “What if I had spent more time with the person or what if they had taken better care of themselves.”  This morning I had the privilege of going to a families home at 4 am.  The family had just lost their mother after a short illness.  It was a sad time but also a joyous time as family shared in the love of Christ.  I was particularly aware of the husband as he cried out for his wife.  They had been married for 64 years, but still yet he wanted more time.  No doubt he will have questions about what if.

These thoughts were on my mind as I opened my bible to read Isaiah 46-50, Psalm 74, and I John 4.  By the time I arrived at Isaiah 48, I was praising God for His faithfulness in life.  Here is what God spoke to Isaiah in 46:4, “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.” The joy of walking with the Lord is amazing.

But consider Israel who was choosing not to walk with the Lord. “Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments!” 48:18. When I read these words, I paused and I wrote, “What if?”  What would have been Israel’s story if they had obeyed?  The answer to my what if was in the following verses.

Israel would have had peace, righteousness, fruitful heritage, sufficiency for all their needs, a Godly name, and a life that overcame the power of darkness.  But instead we find these words at the end of chapter 48, “There is no peace, says the Lord, for the wicked.”

The fact is, there can be no peace for someone who lives with what if’s.  I wonder are there any what ifs in your life?  Sadly there are those in my life.  Days gone by when I failed to redeem the time for God’s glory.  Days when I choose to do my own thing instead of following God’s plan for the day.

But thanks be unto God that He remains faithful even when we are not, “even these may forget, but I will not forget you,” 49:15. There are no what if’s with God.  When we look at the cross we are reminded that there are no what if’s with the gospel.

It is my prayer that you and I daily seek to obey His commandments.  As we are sensitive, surrendered, and carrying out His will we will come to the end of each day without What if’s.

 

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He Will Make A Way

November 29, 2010

In life we often encounter moments that seem impassable.  For example, “A family deals with the tragedy of a car wreck in which their son was ridding.  A drunken driver hits the car head on.  The driver is killed and his wife is killed.  Their son is in the back seat with their daughter.  Her life is slipping away.  You as the son’s father are in church when your phone begins to vibrate.  You see that it is your wife who was at home.  You immediately leave church to call her back.  To you shock you hear her say, “Our son has been in an accident.  Two are dead and I don’t know if our son will make it.”

In such a moment, what would you do?  Would you turn to panic or would you turn to prayer?  This morning I was gripped by the word of God in Isaiah 41-45, I John 3, and Psalm 73.  Here is what the Lord said in Isaiah 43: 16, “Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty water.”

In the midst of all that was coming toward Israel, God reminds Israel that He had always made a way for them to get through the tough times of life.  The verse we just read reminds Israel that God had made  a way through the Red Sea (Exodus 14).

Brothers and sisters God has always made a way and will always make a way for those who are walking in obedience to Him.  The Psalmist wrote, “My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever,” 73:26.

Our God does not just love us occasionally, His love is forever.  However we must not overlook something, “We must call to Him and we must come to Him in holiness.”  Isaiah continues to write, “Yet you did not call upon Me, O Jacob… You have burdened me with your sins; you have wearied me with your iniquities,” 43: 22,24.

Often we find ourselves in a mess because we fail to call upon God and we fail to walk in holiness.  But be assured even when we fail, God will make a way for us.  What is this way?  “I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins,” 43:25. I praise His name that He makes a way for us to be forgiven when we fail and He makes a way for us to overcome in every circumstance of life.

I wonder, “Are you facing situations that seem to be impassable?”  If so, take heart He will make a way.

Oh, the story in the beginning is a true story and the father did cry out to God and he four years later is still testifying that God made a way. “His son was hurt but God spared his son and this father praises God and is progressing in His faith.”

Once A Year

November 26, 2010

Yesterday Americans celebrated a holiday unique to our nation.  We call this holiday, “Thanksgiving.”  On this day all Americans are encouraged to come together with family and friends with a thankful heart for all we as people have been blessed with.

Without a doubt many people gathered together for turkey, football, and fellowship.  However I wonder how much time did we spend in verbalizing things we were thankful for?  For most of us the day was so busy that we failed to reflect on what God has given us.

Consider King Hezekiah’s words, “The living, the living, he thanks you, as I do this day; the father makes known to the children your faithfulness,” 38:19. The scene in Isaiah 38 is one of sorrow and joy.  The chapter begins with sorrow as Isaiah recounts the story of King Hezekiah’s sickness.  This sickness was leading to death, but the king cries out to God for mercy and God grants him mercy and declares that his life would be extended for 15 years.  In response the king gives praise to God.

However the question is, “How long would this praise last?”  Not very long because in the next chapter a delegation comes from Babylon and the king shows the delegation all that he has and because of this God sends judgment on the nation.

I wonder, “How long will God continue to bless a nation that does not give Him thanks for anything good they have?’  For the answer to this question we have to look no father than our own nation.  God has blessed us for over 200 years and we continue to fail to praise Him.

God help us as followers of Christ to lead the charge in turning our nation back to God.  I believe this great task begins as we continually praise God for who He is and for what He does.

Think how easy it is to become distracted, as did Hezekiah, from this goal.  Here is an example, “Today millions of Americans are filling malls on black friday pushing and shoving to get the perfect gift.  Thoughts of being thankful and joyful are so far from people’s minds.  Its dog eat dog!

Maybe you are going to head out into a black friday world today?  If so, here is a reminder of what we have to be thankful for before others, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary, his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength,” Isaiah 40:28-29.

Spread It Before The Lord

November 24, 2010

“The very thing we need to do the most we do the least.”  For just a moment allow the previous quote to sink in!  Now consider the book of Isaiah.  God’s people are going through a time of warning concerning their wickedness and now the warning becomes a reality as the king of Assyria sends a delegation to declare, “Your God cannot save you,” Isaiah 34-36.

Notice what King Hezekiah does, “Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord,” 37:18. In the moment of his greatest fear and in the moment when his greatest foe was boasting the man of God knew exactly where to go and what to do.

Question, “where do you turn when you have fears and it seems that your foes are greater than you?”  For many of us we turn to tears, doubts, sadness, and even bitterness.  But this is not Gods intention for our lives.  God intends for us to spread everything before Him and to allow Him to speak into our lives as He wills.

God certainly spoke into the Kings life, “Because you have prayed to me,” 37:21. “For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David,” 37:35.

When we spread our lives before the Lord and we listen for His direction we discover the greater purpose of our lives.  Our lives are to be lived for His sake.  God would deliver Judah because the king would bring honor to Him.

For me this was very challenging as I thought about all that I face today.  This morning, I have the honor and privilege to deliver the message at Mom’s memorial service.  There will be many wonderful memories shared about mom and this is great.  But my challenge is to remember that I am to lift up Christ alone because He is the one who gave mom new life (II Corinthians 5:17) and He is the one who has given mom eternal life (John 14:3).

So I have spread everything before the Lord and now I exhale as I take bible in hand. Jesus in my heart and head and I put my feet on the Rock of Christ knowing that when I open my mouth He will fill it with words that make Him famous today.

I encourage you to spread everything before the Lord this day and I encourage you to seek to bring Him glory in everything.  To God alone be the glory.  To God alone be the praise.

Who Are You Looking For?

November 23, 2010

“But the Lord in majesty will be for us a place of broad rivers and streams, where no galley with oars can go, nor majestic ship can pass,” Isaiah 33:21.

This verse leaped off the printed page as I continued my study of the book of Isaiah, 32-35.  The prophet of God is writing about the joy believers will have when they stand before His throne.  A few verses earlier the Prophet proclaimed, “Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty.”

The reason this verse was so important in my heart was simply because tomorrow morning we will lay Sherry’s mothers body to rest.  I was thinking about all the people mom has already seen since going home Saturday afternoon.  She has met family and friends who trusted in Jesus alone for their salvation.  She has been reunited with Pa-Pa, the love of her life.  But I wonder, “What it must have been like to meet Jesus?”

It seems to me that we often spend the bulk of our thinking talking about those we want to meet when we get to heaven, which is not wrong.  But how much time do we give to thinking about meeting Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith.

The Psalmist proclaims, “For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord from my youth.  Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you,” 71:5-6.

The fact is, God is the one who has been our source of strength, salvation, and security throughout our lives.  Even when we come to the latter stages of life, as did Mom-Mom, God is right there with us.  When I think of heaven I think about finally being able to meet Jesus.  I am so excited about being able to fall before Him in praise, honor, and thankfulness.  He is my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my shelter, and a very present help in a time of storm.

How could I do anything but praise Him.  So tomorrow as I stand to deliver the message at mom’s funeral I will lift up Jesus, because is who I am looking forward to seeing above all others.

But, be assured I must praise Him at all times. Here is what the Psalmist wrote in 71:18, “So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.”

Question, “Who are you looking for?” Your answer will help you understand why you are prone to either happiness or sadness, blessing or bitterness, joy or sadness.   How can I be anything but happy, blessed and joyful because I am going to meet Jesus.  Praise be to His name!!!

Stubborn Children

November 22, 2010

Ah, stubborn children, declares the Lord, who carry out a plan, but not mine, and make an alliance, but not of my spirit, that they may add to sin,” Isaiah 30:1

Imagine engaging someone in conversation with the words of Isaiah.  Typically this is not the best way to begin a conversation, but in Israel’s case this was crunch time.  There was no time for diplomacy nor was their time to just talk about life in hopes that the conversation would turn to spiritual matters.

Israel was on the brink of disaster and was about to make another foolish decision.  She was about to turn to Egypt for help against her enemies.  A careful study of chapters 25-31 helps us to understand that God was not the lord of these stubborn children.

As I read through these chapters, in particular chapters 30-31 I saw a nation that. “were children who were unwilling to hear the instructions of the Lord; who say to the seers, ‘do not see,’ and to the prophets, ‘do not prophecy to us what is right, speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions,'” 30:10.

Can you believe what you just read?  These people wanted to be told they were ok with God and they wanted to be told doing what they wanted to do was alright.  Does this sound familiar to you?  Does this description reach beyond their generation?

The fact is every generation has those people who can be described as, “Stubborn children.”  But before we start naming names, consider this, “I too am stubborn.”  If not for God’s grace and power in my life, I would rebel at every turn.

These chapters challenged me to mortify the deeds of my flesh and to focus on walking in the new life I have in Christ.  The Apostle Paul said it best, “refuse to let sin reign in your mortal body,” Romans 6:12.  My life does not have to be characterized by stubbornness, it can be characterized by submission to the Holy Spirit in a process called sanctification.

Even deeper than this I realized the love that God has for stubborn children like me.  In Isaiah 30:18 we find the following words, “Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.”  After all of our stubbornness God still offers mercy.  A few verses later the bible says, “As soon as He hears it, He answer you,”

What is it that God hears?  “In returning and rest you shall be saved,” 30:15.  The word returning can be translated, “repentance.”  As you and I recognize our stubbornness and we repent of this stubbornness God extends mercy and grace in cleansing our sin and creating a right spirit within us.

Question, “Are you being stubborn today?”  If so follow Isaiah’s direction, “repent.”  This alone will bring the rest you need in your troubled heart.  Thank God for His mercy.

Somebody Has To Die

November 19, 2010

The title of our bog sounds much like a Mafia movie from the sixties but it much older than that.  Consider Isaiah’s time, God’s people were facing impending judgment because of their sins.  Consider chapters 20-25.  In chapter 22 we find these words:

“The Lord of Hosts has revealed himself in my ears; Surely this iniquity will not be atoned for you until you die, says the Lord of Hosts.”

The fact is, God’s wrath in the moment would subside but God’s eternal wrath against sin could not be satisfied no matter how many people die.  As I read this passage I was reminded that God was sending one from heaven who could offer a sufficient sacrifice for our sins.  This one is Jesus.

“But when Christ, (came) and offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,” Hebrews 10:12

I am so overwhelmed at what Christ did for me.  As Sherry and I made our way back to Va to be with mom in her last hours I felt the fleshly emotion of sorrow for our loss but in the spirit I experienced the joy of knowing that only mom’s body was dying.  Because Christ died and rose again, mom at the point of death will only experience a separation from her body because Heaven will be her home because of Jesus.

For those who have walked with family through the time of death, it is so joyous to know the Lord.  But even greater is the joy of being able to proclaim the work of the Lord for humanity.  Here is how the psalmist proclaimed this truth, “May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you!  May those who love your salvation say evermore, God is great,” Psalm 70:4.

So as you approach this day, have joy that no matter what you face, Jesus saves!!!

Nothing Will Grow

November 18, 2010

“The harder I tried the less results I got.”  This was the commentary on all of my efforts to grow grass in certain parts of my back yard during my years living in Georgia.  I don’t think you understand the depths of the first sentence of this blog.

Sherry and I spend five wonderful years on the south coast of Georgia.  During those years we were blessed with warm weather and multitudes of friends as well as many people coming to Christ.  However everything was not so easy.  We were blessed to build a wonderful house, but there was one problem.  The lot we built on had terrible dirt.  Literrally the harder we tried the less results we got.  I spent five years, countless dollars, and hours upon hours of sweat.  Still yet at the end of the day I would have to say, “Nothing would grow.”

You ask, “What does this have to do with the word of God.”  Look with me at chapters 16-20 in the book of Isaiah.  Isaiah is proclaiming God’s judgment upon the nations including Israel.  These nations have many claims to earthly fame.  For example Syria, chapter 17, was a strong nation that boasted of great trade and industry.  But notice what the man of God says, “Therefore, though you plant pleasant plants and sow the vine-branch of a stranger, through you make them grow on the day that you plant them, and make them blossom in the morning you sow, yet the harvest will flee away in a day of grief and incurable pain,” 17:10b-11.

Syria though she was accomplishing much in her life, but it was only superficial and at the end of the day, “her harvest was death and destruction.”  I wonder, “What are you investing in?”  What decision are you about to make?  Could it be that you are hoping your choice will grow into what you have always wanted?

Be careful, because what looks good on the surface maybe be gumbo underneath the surface.  That was my problem in Georgia.  No matter what I did, it would not grow grass.  Finally someone said, “Only fresh dirt will grow grass.”

Here is what Isaiah wrote, “For you have forgotten the God of your salvation and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge,” 17:10.  God alone can make your plans grow and God alone is the one we must consult with every decision of life.

I was so mindful of this as I read I Peter 5:6-14.  Here is just an exert: “Casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.”  Only our God cares enough to create a plan, cultivate a plan, and give harvest to a plan for your life.  Our only assignment is to do life His way.

I can still see myself back in Georgia sweating it out, trying to make grass grow in terrible dirt. I also can see people today sweating it out trying to make something out of life without God’s plan or power.  At the end of the day, “Nothing will grow.”  Submit to God and you plans will be established (grow).

Are You Happy?

November 17, 2010

“What kind of question is this at 6 am?” This was the response my flesh gave as I read Isaiah 12 this morning.  Here is what Isaiah wrote, “With joy you will draw water from wells of salvation, 12:3.  As you read chapters 11-15 it seems to be anything but joyful when it comes to God’s judgment upon the nations.

However as one looks closer, you can see the scarlet thread of redemption.  Chapter 11 begins with, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” Certainly David’s descendants were not leading because of the judgment of God, but their was one who was to come, “We know Him to be our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”  How could I not be happy in knowing that My Savior is coming again and will bring peace and rest to our lives, 11:10.

Even though we know this to be the case, I find so many believers who are not happy.  Please be honest with yourself this morning!  Are you really happy? Is your happiness consistent or does it just come in spurts?  Now I know what some of you are thinking, “How can I be happy with all the turmoil I am facing?”

Certainly we will always have turmoil (Job 14:1) but this turmoil and toil does not have to rob us of our happiness.  That is if our happiness is in Christ.

Let’s consider Isaiah 12 a little more closely.  “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation,” 11:2.  Isaiah was happy because he was in a right relationship with God.  It was God who by His mercy made Isaiah right.  Isaiah was happy because God is trustworthy and this kept him from being afraid.  Isaiah was happy because God gave him the strength to face every day.  Isaiah was happy because God put a song in his heart.

Now let’s break it down for our time.  We should be happy that we belong to Christ in a world that is under Satan’s control and under the wrath of God.  We should be happy because our trust is in Him and not in a failing economy. We should be happy because His strength will see us through every trial we face.  Finally we should be happy because we have a song to sing. “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the people’s with equity and guide the nations upon the earth.,” Psalm 67:4.

Is this how you face every day?  Certainly it is not always the case in our lives.  But it should be the case in our lives.  So how do we become happy every day?  Here is the answer, “With joy draw from the wells of salvation,” 12:3.  Daily we must come before the Lord and take in all that we have in Him.  As we daily do this exercise we are setting our mind on things above and not on things of the earth, Colossians 3:1.  Be assured you will be happy today and tomorrow if you will drink from Him!

You Are On Your Own

November 16, 2010

Does the title of our blog send chills down your spine?  Certainly your response depends upon what your thought process is concerning, “You are on your own.”  For example, “if you are in a pie eating contest, being on your own is a good thing.”  However, if you are facing an opposing army, being on your own is not such a good thing.

Consider God’s people in the time of Isaiah.  The prophet of God is predicting coming judgment on Israel because of her sin, chapters 6-10.  As I read through these chapters I thought about the devastation Israel was going to face because of her sin. Isaiah asks, “How long, O Lord?” and God responded, ‘Until the cities lie waste, and the Lord removes people far away,'” 6:11.

I am aways amazed as I read the book of Isaiah because even though God gives a clear picture of what will happen the people still refuse to turn to God.  It’s the same way in our nation, but this is a message for another day.

As I read verse after verse I felt the weight of what was ahead for Israel.  But suddenly the weight took on new meaning as I came to chapter 10. Isaiah drives the point home in Vs: 4, “What will you do on the day of punishment, in the ruin that will come from afar? to whom will you flee for help?”  Let those words sink in for a moment.  Now look at the next verse, “Nothing remains but to crouch among the prisoners or fall among the slain.”  The NKJV renders Vs: 4, “Without Me, they shall bow down among the prisoners, And they shall fall among the slain.”

When I read those words I cried out, “God never leave me.”  The greatest tragedy of judgment is simply to be left alone without God.  I cannot imagine, having walked with God, to be on my own.  If God were to leave me to my own devices I would be destroyed.

As I read these words I felt the fright of such a moment but instantly the Lord reminded me of what Isaiah wrote one chapter earlier, “For unto us a Child is born, unto 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, The Prince of Peace. Of His kingdom there shall be no end,” 9:6-7.

Isaiah is giving a prophecy 700 years before the first Christmas that God was coming to step on this earth to be our Savior.  Praise God that we do not have to be alone because of Jesus.  As I read this, I was lead to I Peter 4:14, “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of Glory and of God rests upon you.”  O what a Savior we have.

Question, “Do you feel as if you are on your own?”  If so, I wonder have you broken the fellowship between you and God? If so, repent, and experience the joy of fellowship again.  If you have been distracted by all of your problems, look back to the cross and again feel the joy of His presence and power.  If you do not know Christ, come to Him today.  You will never be alone again.