Archive for July, 2016

The one place where all men are equal (Isaiah 54-58)

July 29, 2016

these I will bring to my holy mountain,
    and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
    will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
    for all people’s.” Isaiah 56:7

Years ago I was intrigued by a book entitled, “Animal Farm.”  The author George Orwell presented an allegory about the equality of humanity.  In this allegory Orwell used life on the farm to show how there is really inequality in life.  The fact was, in his book, “everyone was equal, but the pigs, who were more equal than anyone else.”

Is it true that there is inequality among men?  We know this is true in life.  But there is one place where all men are equal.  Where is this place and how do we have access to this place?

The answer comes in the middle of our readings for today.  Isaiah continues, under the Holy Spirit’s guidance to write prophetically about a time in Israel’s future.  The chapters are so rich that we could study them for months and still never even come close to exhausting the depths of their meaning.

Here in chapter 56 we see the one place where all men are equal.  All men are equal before God. Follow this path:

  • All men are sinners and under the wrath of God, Romans 3:23.

 

  • All men are offered the opportunity of forgiveness and a relationship with God, Isaiah 55:1-13

In this chapter God offers to all men forgiveness of sins.  The Gospel Transformation Study Bible offers these amazing notes:

“Gods amazing grace is only for those who resist the impulse to try to earn their way to heaven.  His love and grace come to us not because we have been so good but because He has been so gracious.  In light of the mercy secured for God’s people, the call goes out for men to repent.  God’s invitation echos through creation, calling us to seek, hear, and come to the Lord (55:2-11).  This call goes to all men”  Cited from Pg. 935 “footnotes.”

It does not matter who we are, but it matters what we do in response to what He says about himself and about us.  If we are willing to repent of our sins and to make Jesus Lord of our lives, we will be saved.  We will enter into a relationship with Him, I John 1:9.

This is why, there is equality at the foot of the cross.  Today, come to Jesus who will in no wise cast you out.  Bring others before Jesus, who will in no wise cast them out.  We serve an amazing God of grace who offers grace to all men!!!

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Who Can Do This? (Isaiah 49-53)

July 28, 2016

Kings shall be your foster fathers,
    and their queens your nursing mothers.
With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you,
    and lick the dust of your feet.
Then you will know that I am the Lord;
    those who wait for me shall not be put to shame.” Isaiah 49:23

Yesterday morning I had the honor of speaking to a group of pastors in Malawi Africa by the means of Face Time.  We meet about 5 AM Eastern Standard Time, which was 11 AM in Malawi.

As I got close to the time to share, I was awakened from my sleep about 3 AM.  I found myself asking the Lord, “What can I say that will help these brothers as they seek to lead their congregations through the difficult days of drought, hunger, and fear?”  The Lord’s answer was so quick and so sweet.  He said, “Just point them to me. I can do this.”

I really think this is what Isaiah was saying in each chapter as he was being led to write the book of Isaiah. In the chapters before us, Isaiah is predicting a time when Israel will be restored, have rest from her enemies, and will enjoy the peace of the Lord.

The question that naturally comes is this:  “Who can do these things?”  Answer, “Jesus.”  Notice just a few things Isaiah points out about Jesus:

  • He is the Living Word, 49:1-3 (John 1:1).
  •  He is the Light of the world, 49:6-7 (John 8:12; Acts 13:47)
  • He was rejected by men, 50:9-11 (I Peter 2:4-7)
  • He will return to rule and reign forever, 51:6 (Revelation 19:6-16)
  • He is the one who brings good news, 52: 7-8 (Romans 10:15)
  • He is the one who is the Savior of all men, 53:1-13 (Colossians 2:14)

It was Jesus who did all of these things so that you and I could be free.  Brothers and sisters, these things should be so precious to us.  They come at a great price.

I challenge you to read again Isaiah 53 with a heart to praise the one who did these things for you.  I challenge you to carry this good news to people of every nation, tribe, and tongue.

This is God’s call on our lives!!!  And, yes we can do it, in Jesus power!!!

There are so many around us who are hurting, spiritually hungry, and desperate for good news.  We can do it!!!

Be still (II Kings 18-19; Psalm 46; 80; 135)

July 27, 2016

10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Psalm 46:10-11

It’s hard for a child to remain in a still position when there is so much to do.  But this is what we ask them to do in many situations of life.  Some of my earliest memories of childhood are with my mother in church.  She would say to me, “Be still.”  I would respond with a smile, but deep inside of me was this unstoppable force that had to get out!!!

Question:  “Is it hard for you to be still before God?”  Question:  “Is something trying to get out in your heart?”

Today’s readings from II Kings 18 and 19 find Judah in a place where it was hard to be still before God.  The Assyrian army and it’s leaders are bearing down on the nation.  Here is an overview of the scene:

  • We see a discouraging prediction in 18:27 “You will eat your dung and drink your urine.”
  • We see a direct assault against their God in 18:29, “Don’t trust in the Lord.”
  • We see a depressing  assessment in 19:3, “This is a day of distress, rebuke, and disgrace.”

In the midst of this God speaks through the prophet:  “Be still, I will take care of this.”

No greater words could be spoken into our inner being than these:  “Be still, for I will take care of this.”

This is what the Psalmist is encouraging us to do in Psalm 46.  To be still is speaking of “you and I taking our hands off the situation and allowing God’s hands to be in charge.”  What happens when we do this?

  1.  We are comforted by our King, Psalm 46:10.
    1. We are both safe and secure in Him, 46:1.
  2. We are brought to a clam place by our King, Psalm 46:2-7.
    1. We know the world is passing away, but we know the new world is coming, Revelation 22:1-3
  3. We are challenged to look for the King, Psalm 46:8-10.

In each storm we hear His voice, “Be still.”

Brothers and sisters, please look to our King. He is Lord for all. He is able to do all and He is doing all.  Look to this king who is coming again.  Here is a view of the coming King:

11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in[d]blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. Revelation 19:11-16

If we could only get this (Isaiah 44-48)

July 26, 2016

    remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
    I am God, and there is none like me,
10 declaring the end from the beginning
    and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
    and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ Isaiah 46:9-10

This days readings are packed with truth about the glory of God at work in men’s lives.  Each chapter has individual themes about God’s dealings with both individuals and with nations.  There is so much I want to write about.  Here is just a sampling:

  • In chapter 44 I want to write about the one and only true God.  He is the God who has formed us, forever with us, and cleanses us.
  • In chapter 45, I want to write about the God who is everlasting.  We see God in comparison to the dead gods of this world.  We are challenged to turn away from the dead Gods and follow the living God.

In chapter 46, I want to write about the God who never gives up on us.  We see God as the one who has always been and always will be.  We praise Him as the God who has included us in His plan.

  • In chapter 47, I want to write about the God who uses everyone for His glorious purposes.  Babylon rose to existence and would be overthrown for the purposes of God.
  • In chapter 48, I want to write about the God who places us in the furnace of affliction to make us into vessels that will live for His glory.

Each of these things are so important for us to get!!!  We exist for God’s glory.  I want to challenge you to reread the chapters before us today.  Here is one thing to think of as you read, “Am I fulfilling my purpose to exist for God’s glory?”  I Corinthians 10:31

How Did you Miss it? (Isaiah 40-43)

July 25, 2016

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.
29 He gives power to the faint,
    and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
    and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:28-31

Question: “How many times, in your life, have you encountered these verses?”  For me,  this is a daily occurrence because I have these verses edged in a glass picture with an eagle flying in the back ground.  This picture sits on my office desk.  But sadly, I often take for granted the truth given by Isaiah.
Begining in chapter 40 Isaiah writes prophetically about what God is going to do in the life of Israel as well as in the life of all who come to know the Savior of Israel.  These chapters are more than prophecy, they are “Awe Moments” before God.
For those who can, tonight’s prayer service at First Baptist Jackson will be focused here as we reclaim what we have missed.  The service begins at 6 Pm.
For those who cannot be there, here is a small sample of what we will discover:
  • God offers us a present blessing in teaching us to have His peace, 40:1.

In Christ we are brought to a place of glorious peace, even when the storms rage, John 14:27.

  • God offers us a prophetic blessing in teaching us of the glorious importance of the Lord’s coming, 40:2-5.

Seven-hundred years after Isaiah’s prophecy, Jesus would come, John 1:5-9.  John the Baptist would announce His coming.  You and I celebrate His coming which means our salvation has come.  But we also turn our eyes to look to His Second-Coming which will be the moment when he will defeat all our enemies, 41:10-20.

  • God offers us a proven blessing in teaching us that His promises always come true, 40:6-8.

What God promises He also provides.  He alone has kept every promise He has made.  He will continue to forever keep His promises, I Peter 1:24.  Brothers and sisters, we can trust the Lord.

Oh how I pray that you come to know God as Isaiah presents God in these chapters.  Come and join us tonight if you can, to discover even more of what we have missed.

…But I thought…” (Isaiah 31-34)

July 22, 2016

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help
    and rely on horses,
who trust in chariots because they are many
    and in horsemen because they are very strong,
but do not look to the Holy One of Israel
    or consult the Lord! Isaiah 31:1

Just a few days ago I found myself kind of upset with John because he did just the opposite of what I asked him to do.  Upon further investigation I discovered he had heard something entirely different that what I had spoken to him about.  His statement to me was simply, “but I thought…”

Was Israel’s problem, in the time of Isaiah, simply a hearing problem?  The answer, “No.”  Israel had made a conscious decision to rely on and to trust in the things and people of this world.  Isaiah writes:

The Egyptians are man, and not God, and their horses are flesh, and not spirit.

Are you one who sometimes get caught up in one of those, “but I thought,” moments?  In our readings today we are blessed to see a different way of thinking.  Isaiah challenges his people and he challenges each of us, “A King will reign in righteousness,” 32:1.  This King is Jesus, Isaiah 9:1-7.  It is God who is our salvation, 32:2.

In this midst of all the dueling voices of our day we need to remember, “God is returning as King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s. 33:17.  We are called to listen for His voice.

The world is also headed to a meeting with the Lord. This meeting is called the “Day of Vengeance.”  34:8

This meeting will bring great sorrow to the world.  They will not be able to stand before the Lord and say, “I thought…”  According to Revelation 14:6 “The everlasting Gospel has been proclaimed and they are without excuse.:

Now, I really don’t know if John just heard me and decided to do his own thing or if he really could not hear. However I do know, the Lord day is coming and i need to be ready.

Anyone for bread and water? (Isaiah 28-30)

July 21, 2016

20 And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. Isaiah 30:20

One of the dreaded deeds of the affluent in America is the decision where to eat out.  It often ends in arguments.  But for much of the world, the ability to have anything to each is a welcomed circumstance.  For example, “to have bread and water” would be an awesome meal for my brothers and sisters in parts of Malawi Africa.

However, this is not the bread and water I am speaking about this morning.  Isaiah writes of bread and water in a metaphorically way.  Bread and water were a stable part of the diet of Israel in Isaiah’s day.  The prophet was predicting, “Adversity and Affliction” will become a stable part of your spiritual diet.

What would be the reason for this?

  • Because God is a wonderful God. 28:29

God in his excellent wisdom is disciplining Israel for her rebellion.  God’s desire is for His people to serve Him.

  • Because God is mighty and strong. 28:2

The people could not withstand his disciplining hand, 28:3-13.  God will use Assyria as His instrument of adversity and affliction.

  • Because God will not move His plumb line of justice. 28:16-17

God will not allow His standards to be compromised.  God will always sweep away lies and rebellion.

  • Because God is a merciful God in allowing His people the opportunity to repent. 30:15

If Israel would only return, she would have rest from her adversity and affliction.

Yes, it is God who sends affliction and adversity to His people, when they are in rebellion.  Today we would label this as the chastening hand of God, Hebrews 12:5-11.  Notice what Isaiah says will be the fruit of this meal:

20 And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction,yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. 30:20

26 Moreover, the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day when the Lord binds up the brokenness of his people, and heals the wounds inflicted by his blow. 30:26

 

In Israel’s case she was in this moment of adversity because of her rebellion.  If that is your case, repent and come home to Jesus.  But if your adversity is because of your righteous stand?  Keep eating the bread and drinking the water, blessed are you, I Peter 3:12-17!!!

A clear choice (Hosea 8-14)

July 20, 2016

Whoever is wise, let him understand these things;
    whoever is discerning, let him know them;
for the ways of the Lord are right,
    and the upright walk in them,
    but transgressors stumble in them. Hosea 14:9

Each day, you and I make choices!!!  No big revelation here. One of the many blessings of living in America is the amount of choices that are placed before us.  For example, “there are many choices of types of coffee to drink.”  I was with Sherry on a date to our local Kroger (grocery story).  She stopped in the coffee aisle and I was shocked at all the choices.

In the above case, it’s a blessing to have choices.  But in other things it is not really a blessing.  For example, “when you have enough food for one person, but there are seven to feed.”

In today’s readings, Israel had two choices:

  • She could obey or disobey God.

We know she has been for some years disobeying God.  Beginning in chapter 8 we read of the fruit of her forgetfulness of God.

 

For Israel has forgotten his Maker
    and built palaces,
and Judah has multiplied fortified cities;
    so I will send a fire upon his cities,
    and it shall devour her strongholds. Hosea 8:14

Hosea’s prophecy is intended to remind the people of the whirlwind of God’s judgment that was coming because of her choice of serving other God’s.  God promises judgment, but He also offers them another choice:

Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God,
    for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. Hosea 14:1

Sadly, they would not take the choice.  Instead they would try to overcome God and remain in the land.  Eventually the judgment would be so severe that they would cry out for the rocks to cover them from the judgment of God, 10:8.

Why would anyone make such a foolish choice?  Answer: “they were blind and bent on sin.”

This brothers and sisters is a picture of our world in 2016.  When you read Revelation 6:16 you will see this same scene in the tribulation period.

The fact is, “you and I cannot make the world decide on a different choice.”  However we can decide to follow God faithfully being a light to a dark world.  Here is the choice Hosea wants the people to make:  

Sow for yourselves righteousness;
    reap steadfast love;
    break up your fallow ground,
for it is the time to seek the Lord,
    that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.

May it be so Lord!!!

A strange family (Hosea 1-7)

July 19, 2016

Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days. Hosea 3:5

When I was a kid, one of my favorite TV programs was the “Munster’s.” The program was simply a funny show that depicted a family that was let’s say, “very strange.”  There was Hermon, the Father, “who was a modern-day Frankenstein.” His son, Eddie, “a modern-day werewolf.  His wife, Lille, “a strange woman indeed.”  Grandpa, “a modern-day Dracula.” And then one ordinary woman, a niece.  Together they made up one strange family.

Today’s readings reveal us to a strange family.  The writer, “Hosea,” is called to begin a strange family.  He is to marry a prostitute and together they were to birth 3 strange children.

The story of their family depicts Israel during her days of decline (750 B.C. to 722 B.C.).  Israel is in great rebellion against God.  She is attempting religious syncretism (which is the blending of true and false religion).  She wanted to maintain a religious connection to God (to receive his blessings) but she also wanted to maintain worship of Baal (the fertility God).

God uses Hosea to teach Israel a lesson in what her attempt at syncretism really looked like.  Israel was like the prosititue Hosea married.  She would run after other men (false Gods).  Her deeds would give way to the birth of children that had the following impact:

  • Jezreel-you are sowing judgment on yourselves.
  • No Mercy-God will not allow you go without wrath.
  • Not my people-God will reject this nation.

Judgment would come to this strange family.  But in the midst of judgment God would promise a time of redemption, 1:10-11.   Israel would not listen, 2:1-12, judgment was coming.  Israel,’s only hope would be in God’s Work of grace, 2:13-23 (Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 8:3-13).

But for the time, Israel would be like Gomer, she would go into every idolatrous place she could go.  3:1.  Hosea would predict judgment upon these people (4-7).  He would clearly state the why of judgment.  This was a strange family.

But right in the middle of this mess between Israel and her God we see hope.  Here is what the Bible records in 3:2-5

So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech[a] of barley.And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days.

This is a miracle.  While Gomer was at her worst, Hosea goes and redeems her for her sin.  The price he pays is half silver and half produce.  To our shock he pays the price for the purchase of a slave, 30 pieces of silver.  Think through this.  What a picture we have of Jesus who was sold, by Judas, for 30 pieces of silver.  Jesus Christ has purchased a strange people for his family.

 

I Peter 2:9-10

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

What great mercy in being called into God’s family.  You and I are so blessed!!!  The message of Hosea is so amazing!!!

Get in the circle (II Kings 18:1-8; II Chronicles 29-31; Psalm 48)

July 18, 2016

29:1  Hezekiah began to reign when he was twenty-five years old, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abijah[a] the daughter of Zechariah. And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done.  II Chronicles 29:1-2

It was many years ago when I heard it for the first time.  I can still remember the penetration into my heart when I heard it.  You ask, “What did you hear?”  Here is what I heard:  “If you want revival, draw a circle on the ground.  Pray that God would revive everything in the circle.  Then get in the circle.”

When I heard those words, I understood personal revival.  This morning, those words came flooding back to my mind as I considered our readings for the day.

This day we are reading about the second greatest king in Judah’s history.  David would have to be the greatest.  But close behind would be King Hezekiah.  When he came to the throne, Israel is all but gone as a nation.  It would be in his early days as king when Assyria would come and take the people of Israel away, II Kings 18:11.

This was Judah’s fate as well, unless national revival came!!!

This revival would come in the form of a spark!!!  A spark at the top.  It happened as the new King of Judah did the following:

  • He came to the throne with a heart fully committed to the Lord, 29:1-2.
  • He ruled on the throne with a heart fully connected to the Lord, 29:3-31:10.

These chapters of II Chronicles tell us the glorious story of personal revival that led to national revival. Here were some of the things a man who has personal revival will lead out in:  He led the people to cleanse the temple (i.e. our churches).  He led the temple leaders to consecrate themselves (i.e. church leaders).  He led the people to restore true worship (i.e. churches worshipping one true God). He led the people to make atonement for their sins (i.e. Christ’s blood alone can cleanse us).  He led the people to celebrate Passover (i. e. the church must again celebrate the Lord’s Supper).

Revival did come. Certainly there were those who would not obey (30:10; 36:16), but there was revival unlike any other time except in the early days of Solomon.    Brothers and sisters, could it be that God could revive the church to be as she was in the beginning?

The answer to that question is, “Yes.”  If the people of God will fully return to Him.  Hear the words of Peter as He pleads with the church to be faithful in the midst of trials:

17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And

“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
    what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”[a]

19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

I Peter 4:17-19

Lord, we can not ask for national revival until we first ask for personal revival!!!