Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Isaiah 46

There are times in life when we are hit with unexpected and unpleasant events and circumstances. Isaiah 46 is a wonderful passage to read when we are facing a crisis or an uncertain future.  In this chapter in Isaiah God is talking to His special Old Testament people, the Israelites.  We can apply these same words to our own lives as His children today.  This chapter in Isaiah tells us that God is the only true God.  The chapter also demonstrates the foolishness of relying on anything or anyone but the Lord in facing life's challenges.

Babylon was Israels's enemy in Old Testament times.  Isaiah told Israel at the time of the writing of this book that some day Babylon's false deities were going to be carried off into captivity. These false deities would fall and fail.  Not so the Lord!  In Isaiah 46:3 the Lord told Israel that He had carried Israel since her birth.  He has also carried us, His children today, since our birth!  Our Lord will never fail us!

The Lord said to Israel and the Lord says to us today, "Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you.  I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you." (John 46:4)  The writer of  this devotional is old enough to have a few gray hairs. Looking back on her life she can see that the Lord has indeed always sustained her and carried her through both difficult and pleasant times.  He has always rescued her in times of crisis.  When one is a bit older one begins to gain some perspective on the Lord's faithfulness.  One has seen His faithfulness in the past.  Hence, it is a bit easier to begin to have greater trust in His faithfulness in the future.

In verse five of Isaiah 46 the Lord goes on to say, "To whom will you compare Me or count Me equal?  To whom will you liken Me that we may be compared?"  These are rhetorical questions on the Lord's part.  There is no God, but our true God.  No one or no other resource can be compared to to Him in terms of His power, glory, sovereignty, mercy, or love.  If we trust in anyone or any resource in this life other the Lord for our ultimate protection and well-being, we are sinning.  We are then making that person or resource our idol.  The Lord God alone must be our first love and passion. He alone must be the One to whom we turn for protection and help.  He alone is our help, our salvation, and our hope in this life and for eternity.

Read verses eight through eleven of Isaiah 46, and let the words flow through your spirit.  Revel and find joy in their words of comfort to you.  The Lord says to you, "Remember this, fix it in mind, take it to heart---I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is none like Me.  I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.  I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please---What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do."

Our sovereign God is in control of the seeming uncertainties in this world.  He is in sovereign control of our lives as His children.  He is watching over us and protecting us in His goodness. He has every detail of our lives in His sovereign will and plan.  He knows our beginning from our end on this earth and has an eternal future for us with Him.  His purpose for us will stand.  When we truly believe and begin to comprehend the glory of that concept there is no room for fear, worry, or panic even in times of crisis!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Isaiah 43

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name, you are Mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One---, your Savior;---you are precious and honored in my sight." Isaiah 43:1b-4

One can find wonderful promises in God's Word where one least expects it. Isaiah 43 is one example of this.  In this passage God is making some wonderful promises to the people of Israel. We can apply these same promises to our lives as His people today!  This chapter of Isaiah tells us that the Lord formed us, created us, and redeemed us; so as His children we need not fear! We need to ask the Lord's help to never fear but to always trust Him.  He chose us to serve Him as His children!

Isaiah 43 tells us that the Lord calls us and knows us each by name!  We can replace all of our fears with the Lord's joy and peace, because He gives us the right to a personal relationship with Him!  He says to you and to all His children, "I have summoned you by name; you are Mine." (Isaiah 43:1b) What is even more wonderful is that He gives us His name!  We are part of His family!  As His children we belong to the Lord!

The Lord also promises that He will always be with us.  When we "pass through the rivers" of life's difficulties they will not sweep over us.  When we "walk through the fire" we "will not be burned." (Isaiah 43:2)  We will always have difficulties in this life.  That is inevitable.  But the Lord will be with us protecting us and guiding us all the way!  As His children we are "precious and honored" in His sight, and He loves us! (Isaiah 43:4)  We need not be afraid of anything, because He is always with us.  In fact, His command to us in Isaiah 43:5 is "Do not be afraid, for I am with you."

When you or I are feeling overwhelmed with life's struggles we can cry to the Lord, and He will see us through those troubles!  The waters of life and the fires of life can not overwhelm us as His children!  The waters of life and the fires of life are under His control, so we need not fear.  He will be with us and give us His strength, as we pass through them.  The Lord will not give us His extra strength ahead of time, but He will give us His extra sustaining strength at just the right time when we are going through our deepest trials.

He called us by name and created us for a purpose.  God's purpose for us is that we live for His glory! We are His servants, whom He has chosen to serve Him! We have been chosen to know the Lord, believe on Him, and understand that He is God!  Most of the world does not understand this; but as His children He is our Savior, our God, and our hope forever! No one can change what He has determined!  No one can deliver us out of His hand!  He is our Redeemer, Lord, Creator, and King!

He has done great things for us in the past, and He will do great things for us in the future.  He does new things for us each day!  The longer the writer of this devotional walks with the Lord the more she sees how he is always faithful.  He is always faithful to us even when we can't understand what is going on in our lives.  He makes a way in the deserts of life.  He does this, because He formed you and I Himself that we might bring glory to His name!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Isaiah 40:27-31

"He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40:29-31

Do you ever feel discouraged and want to give up?  Do you ever feel that a task or trial that the Lord has given you is too much to handle?  Do you ever wrongly feel as if you are all alone in handling a challenge in your life?  God's Old Testament people in Isaiah's day felt that way. God's people at that time were saying, "My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God." (Isaiah 40:27b)

When we begin to feel this way in our lives we must recall God's promises in His Holy Word to always be with us and to always strengthen us.  Isaiah 40:28 says, "Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom."  The Lord is a great and powerful God; and this great God of the universe chooses to give His enabling strength to us, His children! Isaiah 40:29 says, "He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak."

The key to endurance in this life is not our own strength, for "even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall." (Isaiah 40:30)  The key to endurance in this life is the Lord's strength in our lives.  His supply of strength for us is limitless and is always readily available!  The way we avail ourselves of the Lord's strength is by putting our total trust expectantly in the Lord. We must not seek to run ahead of the Lord or try to seek out our own fallible resources.  We need to wait on the Lord for His strength with the absolute confidence that He will give His strength to us.

We might go into the Lord's presence in prayer weary, tired, and discouraged.  We can leave the Lord's presence in prayer strengthened and refreshed!  Isaiah 40:31 says, "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."  As we wait on the Lord and trust Him, our strength for facing life's challenges are renewed and invigorated!  This happens when we begin exchanging our finite weaknesses for the Lord's infinite strength.  Then like the eagles, who are known for their vigor, we will be able to fly or rise above the challenges of this life.  This kind of strength is found only in the Lord, but in the Lord's strength we can "run and not grow weary." The Lord is our strength!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Isaiah 39

"What did they see in your palace?" Isaiah 39:4

If someone would closely examine your or my life and home what would they see?  Would they see lives that are passionate about our relationship with the Lord?  Would they see lives that are consumed with a desire to please and obey the Lord in all things, or would they see lives and homes consumed with materialism and the pursuit of temporal possessions?

In our Scripture passage today God had just healed King Hezekiah from a serious illness. Because of King Hezekiah's desperate plea to God in prayer God had granted him fifteen more years of life. Shortly after this the king of Babylon sent King Hezekiah letters and a gift.  The king of Babylon did this, because he had heard of King Hezekiah's recent illness and recovery.

When the envoys from Babylon came to visit King Hezekiah's palace, he could have shared his testimony of God's grace in his life.  King Hezekiah could have shared with the Babylonian envoys how the Lord had been gracious to him and had answered his prayers for healing.  It would have been a perfect opportunity to share with these people the love and grace of his God. Instead King Hezekiah used this occasion as an opportunity to brag about "what was in his storehouses-the silver, the gold, the spices, the fine oil, his entire armory and everything found among his treasures.  There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them." (Isaiah 39:2b)

After the envoys from Babylon left King Hezekiah's palace the prophet, Isaiah, came to King Hezekiah and asked him, "What did they see in your palace?" (Isaiah 39:4)  Notice Hezekiah's answer to the prophet's question in the later part of Isaiah 39:4.  Hezekiah said to the prophet, Isaiah, "They saw everything in my palace."  Then Hezekiah went on to say, "There is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them."

Hezekiah did not mention speaking to the Babylon envoys about the spiritual and eternal treasures he had in the Lord God.  King Hezekiah did not mention speaking to the envoys about God's blessings in his life in healing him from his serious illness.  He did not speak of the daily blessings and treasures of the Lord's presence in his life.  King Hezekiah spoke only of his material and temporal treasures.

The prophet, Isaiah, then told King Hezekiah, "The time will surely come when everything in your palace and all your fathers have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon.  Nothing will be left, says the Lord." (Isaiah 39:6)  The information gained by the Babylon envoys about King Hezekiah's treasures would be valuable to future Babylon kings, and someday Hezekiah's descendants would be taken into captivity.  All King Hezekiah's hoarding of earthly possessions and all his pride and dependence on these things was useless.  King Hezekiah's focus should have been on the Lord God and on eternal and spiritual treasures.

Matthew 6:19-21 tells us, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Where is your and my heart?  Do we place value in the material and temporal things, or are we placing value on spiritual and eternal treasures?  If others came to our houses today, what would they see in our homes and lives?  May others see in us the treasures of a vibrant love relationship with the Lord.  May they see the joy of the Lord in our lives.  May they see obedience to the Lord in all areas of our lives.  May they see us storing up eternal and spiritual treasures! Nothing this earth has to offer is worth pursuing.  The Lord and His spiritual treasures are all that ultimately counts in this world and for eternity!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Isaiah 6:1-8

"'Woe to me' I cried, 'I am 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.'  Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar.  With it he touched my mouth and said, 'See this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.' Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send?  And who will go for us?'  And I said, 'Here I am,  Send me!'" (Isaiah 6:5-8)

Isaiah was a prophet in the Old Testament times of the Bible.  In this chapter of the Bible Isaiah was in the temple.  Suddenly Isaiah had a vision from God.  Isaiah was suddenly able to see beyond the limits of ordinary understanding and eyesight.  God allowed Isaiah to see the Lord God in all His holiness.  Isaiah also saw God in all His greatness, sovereignty, and glory.

Isaiah further saw angels in His vision in the temple.  These angels had six wings.  With two of their wings these angels covered their faces.  This showed the glory and supremacy of God. With two of their wings these angels covered their feet.  This showed their humility before the Lord God. Finally, with two wings these angels were flying.  This showed their obedience to the Lord in all things.  We also need to stand in awe and bow in humility before God's glory and holiness. We also need a willing and obedient spirit in all things.

The angels were calling, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory." (Isaiah 6:3).  The Lord is infinitely holy.  He is majestic and sovereign, and the whole earth is filled with His glory!  The Lord's power is seen all around us in our world.  It is seen in how the Lord controls creation and in how He controls the nations.

When Isaiah saw all these things in His vision He realized the depths of His unworthiness and sin.   In Isaiah 6:5 he said in response, "Woe to me!"  You and I are also naked in our sins before a holy God.  We like to compare ourselves with others sometimes, and we like to imagine ourselves as good and decent people.  The more we realize God's holiness, however, the more we realize our sinfulness and unworthiness.  

Isaiah was overcome with an awareness of God's holiness and an awareness of his own sin and unworthiness.  But God said to him in Isaiah 2:7b, "your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for." You and I also deserve hell and God's condemnation.  Praise God, however, that He chose us to be His children!  Praise God that He cleansed us from our sins through the blood of Jesus on the cross! The Lord says to you and me, as he said to Isaiah long ago, "your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for."

Then the drama of Isaiah vision unfolded one more step.  God said to Isaiah, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?  Isaiah's response was, "Here I am.  Send me!" (Isaiah 6:8).  In light of Jesus Christ's sacrifice for our sins on the cross for us we need to live our lives in eternal gratitude to Him. We need to be passionate about our desire for an ever growing personal relationship with the Lord. We need to be passionate about our desire to serve Him.  We need to submissively obey the Lord in all things.  We need to be willing to go where He wants us to go and do what He wants us to do.  We must be a willing servant for Him wherever He has placed us in our small corner of this world.  We must seek to bring Him glory in all areas of our lives!  We must pursue practical holiness in our lives. How can we do anything else in light of what He has done for us? 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Psalm 51

"Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin."  Psalm 51:2

"Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow."  Psalm 51:7b

Sin is not a popular topic.  We do not like to think about the sins that reside in our lives.  We can not appreciate the wonder of our salvation in Jesus, however, if we do not realize the gravity of our sins. Also, we as redeemed believers, can not fight against sin and grow in holiness, if we do not come to an ever greater awareness of the gravity of our sins.

In Psalm 51 David expressed a deep sense of the depth and depravity of his sins.  David also expressed a profound desire for the Lord's forgiveness from his sins.  David said in Psalm 51:1-2, "Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love; according to Your great compassion blot out my transgressions.  Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin."

David called his grievous sins "transgressions" and "iniquity."  David knew he was in desperate need of the Lords's "unfailing love" and "great compassion."  David knew his only chance of being restored to a love relationship with the Lord was by having his sins blotted out and washed away. We too need to have a deep sense of our sins.  We too must run to the Lord in repentance and for forgiveness from our sins.  We too must be washed from our sins by the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God.  Jesus Christ needs to wash away our sins and restore us to a right relationship with the Lord.

David went on to say in Psalm 51:3-4, "For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.  Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight."  We often like to excuse and justify our sins, but there is no justification for sin against our Lord God.  We must confess those sins like the tax collector in Luke 18:13b.  Our prayer must be,"God, have mercy on me, a sinner."  There must be sorrow for sin, confession of sin to our Lord God, and a turning away from sin.  Like David our penitent prayer from our heart must be "Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow." (Psalm 51:7b)  Jesus Christ can and does wash away our sins and turns the filthy rags of our sinful lives into white robes of righteousness!

Verse eight of Psalm fifty-one even suggests that unconfessed sin can have physical consequences on our bodies.  Our desire and prayer to the Lord should be, "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." (Psalm 51:10) Jesus Christ can restore us to a right relationship with Him, if we confess our sins and seek His cleansing with a sincere heart.  The Lord will then restore to us the joy of our salvation.  Joy in our relationship with the Lord only comes after we confess our sins,  After confessing our sins we must also pray for a "willing spirit to sustain" us in our struggle against sin and in our desire to live holy lives (Psalm 51:12).

The Lord does nor desire our empty rituals and sacrifices. Psalm 51:17 says "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart."  The sacrifices that the Lord desires from us is our grief over our sins.  He wants us to run to Him for forgiveness and restoration.

Psalm 51 :15 suggests that the Lord also desires the sacrifice of our mouths declaring His praises and our thanks for His forgiveness in our lives.  The Lord desires the sacrifices of lives totally devoted to Him in thanks for what He has done and continues to do for us!  Sin is a grievous thing in our lives. Praise God for His salvation in our lives!  Let us live our lives in a sacrifice and service of praise to Him!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Psalm 46

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble."  Psalm 46:1

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

In life we face many challenges and problems and sometimes deep trials, but God has promised us in Psalm 46:1 to be "our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." He will be my "refuge and strength" and your "refuge and strength."  We can have fearless trust in Him no matter what upheavals are occurring in our lives and no matter what catastrophic events are happening all around us!   Psalm 42:2-3 reminds us that we need not feat even if "the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging."

We can trust the Lord even if all we hold dear is taken from us, because He is our powerful "refuge and strength!"  He is our constant help and strength in all kinds of problems and in the deepest of trials!  He gives us just what we need of His strength day by day and moment by moment.  The Lord has been our help in the past, and He will be our help and strength in the future!  When we can't see our way out of a problem situation in our lives, the Lord already has a plan in place for our lives!  We can trust Him.  His will and timing are always best.

Sometimes the Lord allows trials in our lives to get our attention and to help us grow spiritually. Sometimes trials are given to us to help us grow more dependent on the Lord and to help us grow in our love for Him.  Even in trials the Lord is smiling down on us, protecting us, and seeing us to victory!  He sustains us, protects us, and pours His blessings on us sometimes especially in difficult times in our lives,  Even in the difficult times in our lives we can be full of the Lord's joy, because no ultimate spiritual harm will ever come to a child of God!

Psalm 46:4 reminds us that our Lord is the "Most High" who dwells within us!  Nations rise and fall because of the Lord's power and control.  This same powerful God is our fortress and our protection! So all we have to do is rest in His care and not fear.  He says to us in Psalm 46:10, "Be still, and know that I am God."  The Almighty Lord of the universe is with us eternally!

We must put aside the voices of the world and of self-reliance, and we must trust in Him to meet our every need.  We must trust the Lord to lead us through even very difficult times.  We need to grow in our love for Him.  We need to truly rest in the Lord and listen for His still small voice of direction for our lives!  The longer this devotional writer walks with the Lord the more she sees His faithfulness in her life.  His grace is always sufficient.  His victory is always sure, and His promises are always reliable!