Isaiah 43 Part 1–The Gospel of Isaiah

Isaiah communicates one of the sweetest promises in the Bible to God’s chosen people.  First, the Lord makes clear who He is–I am the one who created you, who formed you; and, I am the one that has redeemed you.  In short, God is not a disinterested party!  As discussed throughout this book of Prophecy, History and promise–God desires most ardently to communicate to Israel and to those who have decided to be in relationship with Him.  The primary message is very simply I know you.I love you, and I will care for you.

The word pictures are so beautiful and specific.  I have summoned you by name and you are mine! Through flood and fire, you will be safe. I will bring you back literally from the corners of the earth. There is no price to high, no people more important than the ones I have chosen and have chosen Me.  God knew that what lay ahead for Israel and for the church would be difficult.  He wanted both to know that He would never leave or forsake them.

In our day, it is difficult to see that love from God.  All media, culture, and forces in the world would have us believe God is a crutch the weak use to cope.  But the loving Father that called out to Israel through Isaiah calls out to us in 2020–“I created and formed you! Do not fear, I have redeemed you. I have summoned you by name; you are Mine!”

In the most difficult of circumstance, we can cling to this truth that has stood for thousands of years.  God loves us and knows us like none other.  The world desires to use us and then cast us aside.  It only loves itself and makes no provision for the care of others.  That is why we must cling to the truth and gift of our faith.  Romans 10:9 says it best, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and if you believe God has raised Him from the dead–You will be saved.”  God wants us to trust Him and allow Him to have lordship of our lives.  He knows us and wants to lead us through this mess we call life!

God Bless You


But now, this is what the Lord says—
    he who created you, Jacob,
    he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, 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 of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
    Cush[a] and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
    and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
    nations in exchange for your life.
Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
    I will bring your children from the east
    and gather you from the west.
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
    and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from afar
    and my daughters from the ends of the earth—
everyone who is called by my name,
    whom I created for my glory,
    whom I formed and made.”

Lead out those who have eyes but are blind,
    who have ears but are deaf.
All the nations gather together
    and the peoples assemble.
Which of their gods foretold this
    and proclaimed to us the former things?
Let them bring in their witnesses to prove they were right,
    so that others may hear and say, “It is true.”
10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord,
    “and my servant whom I have chosen,
so that you may know and believe me
    and understand that I am he.
Before me, no god was formed,
    nor will there be one after me.

Isaiah 2 Part 1–Two Israels

There is a theory among physicists, or at least among science fiction writers about quantum physics and quantum mechanics.  In short, what would it be like if we could travel along different plains of time and space…Don’t worry, I am not going all “Sci Fi” on you! But as one reads the prophecy of Isaiah one sees two Israels.  the first Israel is what God envisioned for Israel–a nation of priests.  Israel would be a dominant nation–but, not to tyrannically reign over the rest of the world,  instead to be the servant leaders and teachers of the nation’s bringing the truth of God’s greatness and grace.  Bringing peace into the world.


The second picture exposes the chaos of living as the world then and now lives.  Isaiah speaks of the spiritualism, the lack of national identity.  Materialism and power are king, and people are worshiping the things they have made and the things they have earned–sound familiar.  It is not a prophecy of 2020, all though it could very well be any day across the globe. Sadly, the scenario keeps playing out without reprieve.

Still, in the midst, there have been periodic revivals and reawakening. When that has happened on a national level, God has blessed the revived nation; and the nations have become leaders in spreading the Gospel around the globe.

In recent history revival hit in England, In America, and In South Korea. In each case the nation has prospered greatly and influenced the lives of so many.  Sadly, in each case prosperity also led to comfort and a desire for independence from God.  That independence looked a great deal like the cycle in Isaiah’s description. 

God’s model of submission and Humility works both individually and nationally.  It has played out thousands of times in the lives of individuals and countries great and small.  We need to submit and follow the lord.  As we do, we pray for our communities, our states, and our nation to do the same.  Isaiah knew, and we now know that revival starts with the right heart and life bathed in prayer. Otherwise, we will fade into obscurity as have so many before and so many to come.

God Bless You

It shall come to pass in the latter days
    that the mountain of the house of the Lord
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
    and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it,
    and many peoples shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
    and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,[a]
    and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
    and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
    and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
    neither shall they learn war anymore.

O house of Jacob,
    come, let us walk
    in the light of the Lord.

The Day of the Lord

For you have rejected your people,
    the house of Jacob,
because they are full of things from the east
    and of fortune-tellers like the Philistines,
    and they strike hands with the children of foreigners.
Their land is filled with silver and gold,
    and there is no end to their treasures;
their land is filled with horses,
    and there is no end to their chariots.
Their land is filled with idols;
    they bow down to the work of their hands,
    to what their own fingers have made.
So man is humbled,
    and each one is brought low—
    do not forgive them!
10 Enter into the rock
    and hide in the dust
from before the terror of the Lord,
    and from the splendor of his majesty.

Isreal Reunites With God and Joseph–Genesis 46 Part 1

It was finally happening.  Israel and all his family were going to Egypt.  Israel would see Joseph for the 1st time in 20 years.  As the pain was fading, Israel’s recognition and dependence upon God returned and at Beersheba–he did something he had not done in a long time–he offered sacrifices to God.  It was no small thing, and God met him there.  God personally took Israel aside to reassure him that this plan was moving forward as he intended.  

In those moments, Israel had to feel completely content.  He knew that God had done all that he promised to do; and was preserving his family for generations to come.  Then, the moment when father and son reunited–the greatest moment in this man’s life.  The two men hugged and wept for what must have seemed hours.  Together again after all that they had endured.

It is in those moments, we have to continue to stake our faith in God–the author and creator of our story.  We  realize that life is tough, but, we carry on–knowing that God does work his plan to the end.  When we grasp that concept, we can then trust His leadership and continue to focus upon His grace and plan.  Then, at moments when we least expect, God reveals himself.  He shows us that He will care for us and will never forsake us.  That is why we must trust him–now and forever!

God Bless You

 

So Israel set out with all that was his, and when he reached Beersheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, “Jacob! Jacob!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

“I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.”

Then Jacob left Beersheba, and Israel’s sons took their father Jacob and their children and their wives in the carts that Pharaoh had sent to transport him. So Jacob and all his offspring went to Egypt, taking with them their livestock and the possessions they had acquired in Canaan. Jacob brought with him to Egypt his sons and grandsons and his daughters and granddaughters—all his offspring…All those who went to Egypt with Jacob—those who were his direct descendants, not counting his sons’ wives—numbered sixty-six persons. 27 With the two sons[f] who had been born to Joseph in Egypt, the members of Jacob’s family, which went to Egypt, were seventy[g] in all.

28 Now Jacob sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph to get directions to Goshen. When they arrived in the region of Goshen, 29 Joseph had his chariot made ready and went to Goshen to meet his father Israel. As soon as Joseph appeared before him, he threw his arms around his father[h] and wept for a long time.

30 Israel said to Joseph, “Now I am ready to die, since I have seen for myself that you are still alive.”

A Nation is Born–Genesis 33 Part 2

 So, life in the new nation–Israel had begun; not in the way one would usually see the birth of a nation, but, instead–a true and organic nation built by the birth of a family. God changed it’s patriarch from a deceiver, to the chosen leader of the nation.  And the leader bought land on which to settle.  Unlike his grandfather before, Israel came to settle and grow.  His sons were establishing their own families, and for the first time since Terra settled in Haran, the people were settling in.  It was a strange sense for them, but, they had no idea, that these simple steps, would set in motion our ability to know and be known by God.

God made the covenant, first with Abraham, the again with Israel that all nations would be blessed through his family—we can affirm that that covenant is true. A world that knows about God; and people in every nation that are in relationship with God wave as a glorious  banner to the fulfillment of God’s original covenant. We, should wake each morning truly grateful for that covenant.  We should recognize that we are, by spiritual adoption, a beneficiary of that covenant.  With that, we should never hesitate to be a part of the execution of God’s plan to fulfill that covenant.

In my life, each morning—I am confronted with the very proposition, how is the world being blessed through me?  Most days, the answer truly remains a question mark.  But, like Israel as he settled in, we have no idea how God intends to use us, our families and those in whom we pour our lives. In the early 20th century, a tent revival preacher was coming to the end of his ministry.  He knew the end was near, because people were no longer coming to the tent in mass, and those that came, were not being moved as they once had.  Yet, as the week was drawing to a close, the old preacher gave the invitation and after several verses, only one person came forward to start a relationship with God.  Dejected, the old preacher tossed in the towel and retired.  What that evangelist did not, or could not have known–was that the person that came forward that night was none other than Dr. Billy Graham.  We remain faithful–then allow God to make the difference.

God Bless You

14 So let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I move along slowly at the pace of the flocks and herds before me and the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.”

15 Esau said, “Then let me leave some of my men with you.”

“But why do that?” Jacob asked. “Just let me find favor in the eyes of my lord.”

16 So that day Esau started on his way back to Seir. 17 Jacob, however, went to Sukkoth, where he built a place for himself and made shelters for his livestock. That is why the place is called Sukkoth.[a]

18 After Jacob came from Paddan Aram,[b] he arrived safely at the city of Shechem in Canaan and camped within sight of the city. 19 For a hundred pieces of silver,[c] he bought from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem, the plot of ground where he pitched his tent. 20 There he set up an altar and called it El Elohe Israel

The Blessing , Take 2–Genesis 28 Part 1

It must have been a difficult realization for Isaac–when he realized he had been secretly trying to subvert God’s plan.  Isaac then did what he should have done long before; he blessed and counseled his son, Jacob.  I imagine the blessing rang a bit hollow to both Jacob and Rebekah–but, none the less, it gave the family a sense of solidarity and alignment in the development of the nation.
 
Isaac knew it was important to remain separate from the local people–ultimately the land they were visiting would be their land–not the local people’s.  In addition, their godless ways would likely draw the family away from their faith–as it had with Esau.  So Jacob did, as he had always done, and obeyed the instruction of his parents–he left the comfort of home and headed to his uncle’s home.
 
Interestingly, Esau, always trying, took a third wife from  uncle Ishmael’s–family…not God’s plan, but when did that matter, anyway.  Esau simply did not understand the importance of following God’s plan–even when he thought he was doing a big thing–he neither knew why, nor did he realize he missed the point.
 
In our world, we experience the same things–when we reflect, we realize that following God is easier and best.  We listen to his leadership and direction and are blessed along the way.  There is still trial and conflict,, but eventually, we are completed and blessed by following closely and humbly.  When the world sees our blessing, it wants to have the same experience. 
 
So, in its way, the world tries to match what they see–they put on trappings of religion but they neither know why or for what purpose they need God in their lives.  They do not want his counsel, guidance or forgiveness–they simply want the experience that his chosen have.  Sadly, its a package and only those willing to surrender to his leadership can experience the peace and eternal life that following him brings.  It is not the prayer, its the surrender that makes us his–let Jesus be your LORD and savior–then you will know what it truly means to be one of his own.
 
God Bless You
 
So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him. Then he commanded him: “Do not marry a Canaanite woman. Go at once to Paddan Aram,[a] to the house of your mother’s father Bethuel. Take a wife for yourself there, from among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother. May God Almighty[b] bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. May he give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of the land where you now reside as a foreigner, the land God gave to Abraham.” Then Isaac sent Jacob on his way, and he went to Paddan Aram, to Laban son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, who was the mother of Jacob and Esau.

So Long Sister Sarah–Genesis 22 Part 1

 Abraham lost his best partner.  Sarai, later Sarah stood beside Abraham during his days in Haran, then as he wandered through Canaan.  She allowed herself to be taken as Abram’s sister–by a number of Kings. She never held a grudge, nor did her years of bareness cause her to lose faith. She waited until  nearly one hundred to bear her son. She raised him faithfully and allowed God to continue to do the leading.  In that mode, she watched her family grow to be wealthy and powerful, but, never expected anything; she only followed faithfully.
 
It is also the same today.  We are in a wilderness of culture similar to the godless Canaanites. As we follow God closely, we may often feel like wanderers.  We may face points in the journey where we seem like hopeless captives, homeless foreigners or simple nomads. All the while, we journey toward the promised land–Heaven.  As we approach, we look more and more like the one we follow most closely.  Interestingly, our journey leaves a trail of others who also adopt the relationship and legacy of those who want become like our father.
 
Sarah, Abraham and those who came after, had one likeness–their desire to please and honor God.  That desire, the attitude of their heart was the greatest legacy they could leave.  It is also the greatest legacy we can leave.  God never demands perfection, only a desire to seek and follow him.  So as we follow God–we need to adopt the same spirit as Sister Sarah…
 
God Bless You
Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old. She died at Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her.

Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites.[a] He said, “I am a foreigner and stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead.”

The Hittites replied to Abraham, “Sir, listen to us. You are a mighty prince among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will refuse you his tomb for burying your dead.”

Then Abraham rose and bowed down before the people of the land, the Hittites. He said to them, “If you are willing to let me bury my dead, then listen to me and intercede with Ephron son of Zohar on my behalf so he will sell me the cave of Machpelah, which belongs to him and is at the end of his field. Ask him to sell it to me for the full price as a burial site among you.”

10 Ephron the Hittite was sitting among his people and he replied to Abraham in the hearing of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of his city. 11 “No, my lord,” he said. “Listen to me; I give[b] you the field, and I give[c] you the cave that is in it. I give[d] it to you in the presence of my people. Bury your dead.”

12 Again Abraham bowed down before the people of the land 13 and he said to Ephron in their hearing, “Listen to me, if you will. I will pay the price of the field. Accept it from me so I can bury my dead there.”

14 Ephron answered Abraham, 15 “Listen to me, my lord; the land is worth four hundred shekels[e] of silver, but what is that between you and me? Bury your dead.”

16 Abraham agreed to Ephron’s terms and weighed out for him the price he had named in the hearing of the Hittites: four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weight current among the merchants.

No Thank You–Genesis 14 Final

Why wouldn’t Abram be glad to claim the treasures he and his men obtained after routing the enemies of the 5 kings? It was a simple principle for Abram–he did not want to be tied to the king in any way–not even as a benefactor.  There have always been those for whom even gifts come with a price tag–The King of Sodom was such a man.  He wanted everyone to feel that they owed him.  That is why Abram’s victory was so galling to him.  Now he owed Abram, or so he thought. 
 
The reality was that both Abram and the king of Sodom were indebted to God.  Abram saw that, that is why he gave a tithe to Melchizedek.  But, the King of Sodom wanted nothing to do with acknowledging God–so he was willing to give stuff to Abram–then Abram would be grateful.  Abram was already grateful to the provider and protector of his life–God.
 
We are often faced with opportunities to align with the world–when we do we could be enriched and put in the spotlight.  The problem is, when we become beholden to the world–no matter how innocently it happens, or how much we feel we deserve it–we are then beholden to someone other than the God who protects, provides and prepares us. 
 
We need to live in the world, but, never be indebted to the world for our lives, family or property.  We need to understand that God is our source and resource for all we are and all we have.  When that realization becomes a part of our lives, then, like Abram, we will be free.
 
God Bless You 
The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.”22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “With raised hand I have sworn an oath to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, 23 that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the strap of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’ 24 I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me—to Aner, Eshkol and Mamre. Let them have their share.”

The End of the Beginning–Ecclesiastes 11 Part 2

Solomon was closing out hos search for meaning by the recognition that life simply looks a lot different when you are young.  It is wise to know that optimism and energy are gifts for the young.  When you come across a young person that is cynical and lethargic–it is alarming and off-putting.  Conversely, when us old goats of the world still see the wonder and excitement of life–well, we are minimalized and told we are cute.
 
Life is hard, unfair, rugged and cruel.  There are events that happen and people that pass through that literally suck any positivity out of our existence.  In those times, we have to trust God to replace that which is stolen by our enemy.  Young or old, we look to God for our joy, and, as we follow him, we allow the Holy Spirit to replace the joy life talks away.  Facing life daily is hard.  The longer we endure, the more difficult it becomes.  The great news is that if we capitalize on optimism when we are young, and, we trust God for joy when we are old–well, then we complete the race and keep the faith only to see that we have only come to the end–of the beginning!
 
God Bless You
Light is sweet,
    and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.
However many years anyone may live,
    let them enjoy them all.
But let them remember the days of darkness,
    for there will be many.
    Everything to come is meaningless.

You who are young, be happy while you are young,
    and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.
Follow the ways of your heart
    and whatever your eyes see,
but know that for all these things
    God will bring you into judgment.
10 So then, banish anxiety from your heart
    and cast off the troubles of your body,
    for youth and vigor are meaningless.

The 1st Missionary Journey–Acts 13 part 1

As God revealed his mission to the church, the church, after prayer and fasting simply followed God as he led.  The result was the church’s growth in Europe and Asia.  It started out with Elders like Barnabas, young fire bands like Paul and youthful assistants like John Mark.
The Mission was to trust God and share the gospel of hope to anyone that would listen.  The team set out after much prayer to the Island of Cypress.  There they spread the gospel to all that would listen up to and including the Proconsul–Governor of Cypress.  In the attempt, Paul and Barnabas encountered great opposition from the Governor’s personal assistant.  God used the trial to establish his power and to end the conflict.  The assistant was blinded and the Governor was led to Christ.  It was a turning point in the churches growth in the journey.
 
In our personal journey, we have to bathe our steps in prayer and then trust God to guide and direct.  As we do we will encounter trial and opposition that will many times seem overwhelming. If we are willing to stay the course, and trust God to do the work–the impact could be amazing and world changing.  There is simply no way of knowing the spirit’s plan or power to do his mission.  There is a plethora of history, however, that shows God will complete his plan in a way that is dramatic and complete.  All we must do is trust him and follow his lead. 
 
God Bless You
1 Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch and Saul.While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus.

When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.

They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus,

who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God.

But Elymas the sorcerer for that is what his name means opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith.

Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said,

“You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?

Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind for a time, not even able to see the light of the sun.” Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand.

When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.

24 But the word of God continued to spread and flourish.

When God Intervenes–Acts 12 Part 1

No way!! That is the common answer when something simply amazing happens.  That is the best reaction to the amazing miracle of Peter’s release from Herod’s prison.  Herod was always looking for ways to gain favor with the Jews that he ruled and the Romans that ruled him.  He found a common enemy—The Church.  He first killed John’s brother, James.  That was met with approval by both Rome and the Jews—So he arrested Peter.

Under heavy guard, Peter faced an imminent trial and execution.  Peter was then about to see God intervene.  God’s angel entered the jail, released Peter and led him out of the prison through the 16 guards charged with his security. Once free, Peter realized, for the first time, he was not truly dreaming. God did intervene to carry out his plan.

In our lives, we see God’s hand–day in and day out.  He rarely intervenes so dramatically, but, as with Peter, God assures that his plan will be completed.  As we walk with him, we continue to trust God with our future and the timing of our future. When we do, he will deliver us, provide for us and prepare us for our journey.

The most difficult part is initially trusting God. It is not nearly so difficult when life is easy, but when adding trials, traumas and temptation—our natural reaction is to take control and depend upon ourselves.  God has shown time and again that is not the best approach. Solomon said it best, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, acknowledge him in all your ways and he will make your path straight!” Proverbs 3:5-6

God Bless You

It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.

So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.

The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.

Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.

11 Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.”