Friday, July 20, 2018

God the Protector and Restorer

1But 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.
2When 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.
3For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
and Seba in your stead.
4Since 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.
5Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west.
6I 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—
7everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”  (Isaiah 43)

Thoughts: This is a beautiful passage that has brought hope to so many.  Isaiah is really writing to remind the people that though they will be taken into exile, God will bring them back.  This happened after a 70 year exile (586-516 BC). 
    But the promise is that God is both the protector and restorer when we go through the very toughest times of life.  When we face floods- they will not overwhelm us with God.  When we face fires- God will shelter us.  God ransoms us and brings us back to Him.  In some ways this is all our story.  We all will face death, but God will not let death be the last word.  We are all prodigals- but God brings us back to Himself.
    Here we are also reminded that we, the redeemed, are made for His glory.  We are made to glorify and enjoy Him.  

Prayer: Lord, help me to trust in you when I pass through the floods and fires of life.  Help me to believe you will bring me back when I stray.  Let me grow in trust in you.  

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Creator is Almighty to Help

27Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?
28Do 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.
29He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31but 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)

Thoughts: Isaiah is contrasting the faithlessness of people with the faithfulness of God.  He is a comfort to His people.  He comes with the ability to help- to speak a powerful word that makes things happen.  He is after all the creator of the ends of the earth.  He is not a piece of wood or even gold-inlaid-wood.  He does not grow deaf, or tired of caring or weak.  Instead he gives strength to the sick, the tired, the wear.  They will be lifted up higher than eagles!  God not only lifts us, inspires us, and motivates us, but He lifts us up higher than we ever thought possible.  

Prayer; Lord, thank you that you care- though we do not deserve it.  Thank you that your love continues despite our faithlessness.  Help me to live a grateful life. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Peace for the contrite not the wicked

“Build up, build up, prepare the road!
Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people.”
15For this is what the high and exalted One says—
he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
“I live in a high and holy place,
but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
and to revive the heart of the contrite.
16I will not accuse them forever,
nor will I always be angry,
for then they would faint away because of me—
the very people I have created.
17I was enraged by their sinful greed;
I punished them, and hid my face in anger,
yet they kept on in their willful ways.
18I have seen their ways, but I will heal them;
I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners,
19creating praise on their lips.
Peace, peace, to those far and near,”
says the Lord. “And I will heal them.”
20But the wicked are like the tossing sea,
which cannot rest,
whose waves cast up mire and mud.
21“There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”

Thoughts: Isaiah just rebuked the Israelites for following the practices of the nations around them- sacrificing their children and worshiping rocks and stones.  He made them sound silly.  Btu then more seriously he points out that God is with the humble and contrite who repent.  He is able to give peace to those who truly seek Him.  But there is no peace for those who will never say they are sorry or repent.  The proud who will not bow the knee to God will have a tough time in this life and the next.  Those who rebel against their Maker are setting themselves up to lose.  The wicked, the selfish, the proud cannot have peace because we are not designed to rebel or think we know better than God.  

Prayer: Lord, help me to be contrite. Forgive me of my sins.  Grant me the peace of forgiveness with you.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Jesus and the Demoniacs

They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes.[a] When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”
Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.
11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.
14 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened.15 When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 16 Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. 17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.
18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis[b] how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed. (Mark 5)

33In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an impure spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, 34“Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
35“Be quiet!” Jesus said sternly. “Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.
36All the people were amazed and said to each other, “What words these are! With authority and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!” 37And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area.
 41Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah. (Luke 4)

Thoughts: These are two unusual passages.  In both of them, a person who we would say was mentally ill confronted Jesus. The first when he got off the boat and the other while he was in the synagogue worshiping in his adopted home town of Capernaum.  This also often happened to Jesus' followers- like Peter and Paul.  The demoniacs seem to be attracted to the good.  It seems that evil is attracted to good in some ways in order to destroy, distract, or discourage the work of the Lord.   In both cases Jesus healed the sick person.  In ancient days everything was spiritual.  In over-reaction to that, in our day nothing has a spiritual root or influence.  I believe evil spirits are real as surely as I believe the Holy Spirit is real.
     In the second case- and echoed by many cases according to Luke 4:41, the demons testified to Jesus being the Son or Holy One of God.  It is amazing that these spiritual beings would testify to his identity while many others were not.  The other part of this is that the people didn't know how to handle these mentally ill people.  One group had put them in chains and left them in an isolated place of death (the cemetery) where they would just fizzle out their lives.  When the demoniac (there may have been two of them there according to Luke) was healed, the people got angry at Jesus.  He had told the demons to go into the pigs.  This was their income and investment, and they were mad about losing the money more than they were about healing the person.  Money is a gift not a god.  People are always more important than money.  If we have money, it should be used- not to hoard- but to help.   Truth is, as Jesus' followers, we are called to love the mentally ill, mentally hurting, and those overwhelmed by evil.  Paul says, "Do not be overwhelmed by evil, but overwhelm evil with good."  Loving those mentally ill is a challenge but also a responsibility. 

Prayer: Lord, help me to be merciful to those who need mercy.  Give me a heart to help those who are crushed by the circumstances of life or even worse evil influences or spirits. 

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Isaiah 55 God's grace

6Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
7Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
8“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.9“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.

Thoughts: God's thoughts are above our thoughts.  We think that when we do something wrong we should be punished.  God thinks thoughts of grace and love.  We think there is no hope, but the hope is found when we turn away from wickedness and turn toward God by listening to His Word.  His Word will bear fruit and bring us more than we deserve.  God longs for us to turn to Him that we might go out in joy and be led forth in peace.  

Prayer: Lord,thank you for your call to turn to you. Be gracious to us and we will bless your name.  

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Hope To Lift You Up

But you, O Lord, are a shield around me.  You are my fortress and the lifter of my head.  (Psalm 3:3)

Thoughts: God is our defense- a shield and fortress when people attack us.  But more than that, He is the lifter of my head.  That means when we are feeling sad and we just want to look downward- God raises our eyes to Him.  He allows u sto see more and to enjoy life more- even in the tough times.
   Tomorrow 3 billion people will watch as France and tiny Croatia have the finals in the world Cup.  It is the most watch sporting event- more than the world series (18.9 million per game) or superbowl (103 million).  The Croatian coach is a committed Christian.  He said this, “When a man loses any hope, then he must depend on our merciful God and on our faith,”  he said.  No one had hope that Croatia would go so far.  God is the lifter of our heads.  We should give Him credit and glory for that. 

Prayer: Lord as you lift my head may I lift my eyes and hands to you.  

Friday, July 13, 2018

Isaiah on Idolatry

6“This is what the Lord says— Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty:
I am the first and I am the last;apart from me there is no God.
7Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and lay out before me
what has happened since I established my ancient people,
and what is yet to come— yes, let them foretell what will come.
8Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago?
You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.”
9All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless.
Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame.
10Who shapes a god and casts an idol, which can profit nothing?
11People who do that will be put to shame; such craftsmen are only human beings.
Let them all come together and take their stand; they will be brought down to terror and shame.
12The blacksmith takes a tool and works with it in the coals;
he shapes an idol with hammers, he forges it with the might of his arm.
He gets hungry and loses his strength; he drinks no water and grows faint.
13The carpenter measures with a line and makes an outline with a marker;
he roughs it out with chisels and marks it with compasses.
He shapes it in human form, human form in all its glory,
that it may dwell in a shrine. 14He cut down cedars,
or perhaps took a cypress or oak. He let it grow among the trees of the forest,
or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow. 15It is used as fuel for burning;
some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread.
But he also fashions a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it.
16Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares his meal,
he roasts his meat and eats his fill. He also warms himself and says,
“Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.” 17From the rest he makes a god, his idol;
he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says,
“Save me! You are my god!” 18They know nothing, they understand nothing;
their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand. 19No one stops to think,
no one has the knowledge or understanding to say,
“Half of it I used for fuel; I even baked bread over its coals,
I roasted meat and I ate. Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left?
Shall I bow down to a block of wood?” 20Such a person feeds on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say,
“Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?”
21“Remember these things, Jacob, for you, Israel, are my servant.
I have made you, you are my servant; Israel, I will not forget you.
22I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist.
Return to me, for I have redeemed you.”

Thoughts: Idolatry was the major reason given for the exile of Judah to Babylon.  Isaiah clarifies the monotheism of Israel.  Idolatry's folly is also clarified here.  On one part of a log an idol/fake God is made.  The other side would be used for fuel for the fire.  Yet it was this false-man-made worship that people stubbornly clung to.  It was this idolatry that caused God to take them into captivity. Idolatry is the worship of created things.  It is valuing things over God.  Things would be cars, houses, clothes, money.  God created everything, but when we worship them they lose their value and our soul gets lost as well.  Calvin said Idolatry is the root of all sin.  

Prayer: Lord, help me to live for you, the living God. Keep me from worshiping stuff.