What You Fear Causes You to Stumble

People will always throw stones onto your path. How you see them will change your life.
People will always throw stones onto your path. How you see them will change your life.

What You Fear Causes You to Stumble

For this is what the Lord said to me with great power, to keep me from going the way of this people: Do not call everything an alliance these people say is an alliance. Do not fear what they fear; do not be terrified. You are to regard only the Lord of Hosts as holy. Only He should be feared; only He should be held in awe. He will be a sanctuary; but for the two houses of Israel, He will be a stone to stumble over and a rock to trip over, and a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Many will stumble over these; they will fall and be broken; they will be snared and captured. Bind up the testimony. Seal up the instruction among my disciples. I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding His face from the house of Jacob. I will wait for Him. Isaiah 8:11-17 (HCSB)

Is there a true sanctuary that removes your fears and offers hope? Fear is a natural response God created into each of us for our own good. Fear causes us to either stand our ground and fight with all our strength or to flee with all the stamina and speed we can muster. Self-preservation is at the root of our fears. Fear increases our adrenaline level to better cope with stressful and dangerous situations. However, there are times when we realize that our fear response is not enough to conquer or escape our fears and we seek help to manage our fears.

Mankind has relied upon alliances believing that when forces are combined you can better stand up to your fears. Sadly, we only learn misery loves company! Most alliances are temporary deterrents when dealing with our fears. Fears often cause you and your ally to turn on one another in the middle of the battle because in the end self-preservation overrides common preservation. Friends turn on friends when their own lives are at risk.

In this passage from Isaiah, The northern tribes of Israel believed an alliance with Aram (Syria) was sufficient to defeat their fears; Judah allied itself with a weakened Egypt. However, neither escaped the Assyrians and later the Chaldeans (Neo-Babylonians). Both neglected the small print in their covenant with God – the” if, then” clause that would have saved them from their fears.

God is the undefeated champion for his people. God sought Isaiah to warn those who claimed to be God’s people to start acting like his people and stop relying upon their own alliances. Those who resist the temptation to rely upon their own alliances and trust God discover genuine protection, preservation, and provision that arrests their fears and anxieties. (Checkout Matthew 6:33) All the Lord requires: trust him and stop trying to deal with the fears that threaten our lives daily on your own. God declares that our fears can become stumbling stones or stepping stones.

There is only one genuine “fear” that every person faces that is common to all mankind – the fear of death. The choice is whether we will choose to make that fear a stumbling stone or stepping stone in our relationship with God. Fact: no earthly alliance can defeat the fear of death.

Oh, how history would have been changed if Israel and Judah repented and returned to the Lord as His people? How about your own history? How will you be remembered? Will your life encourage or discourage the next generation about the fears of this life?

Coach

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things (necessities of life to overcome our fears and anxieties) will be provided for you. Matthew 6:33

Authority, Responsibility and Accountability Go Hand-in-Hand

If you have never been lead, how can you lead?
If you have never been lead, how can you lead? 


Authority, Responsibility and Accountability Go Hand-in-Hand

The Lord God of Hosts said: “Go to Shebna, that steward who is in charge of the palace, [and say to him:] What are you doing here? Who authorized you to carve out a tomb for yourself here, carving your tomb on the height and cutting a crypt for yourself out of rock? Look, young man! The Lord is about to shake you violently. He will take hold of you, wind you up into a ball, and sling you into a wide land. There you will die, and there your glorious chariots will be, a disgrace to the house of your lord. I will remove you from your office; you will be ousted from your position. On that day I will call for my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. I will clothe him with your robe and tie your sash around him. I will put your authority into his hand, and he will be like a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the House of Judah. I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; what he opens, no one can close; what he closes, no one can open. I will drive him, like a peg, into a firm place. He will be a throne of honor for his father’s house. They will hang on him the whole burden of his father’s house: the descendants and the offshoots – all the small vessels, from bowls to every kind of jar. On that day, the declaration of the Lord of Hosts, the peg that was driven into a firm place will give way, be cut off, and fall, and the load on it will be destroyed.” Indeed, the Lord has spoken. Isaiah 22:15-25 (HCSB)

Self-serving leaders will stumble from leadership. No one follows a selfish leader for long? History is full of ego-driven leaders who put their agenda ahead of the needs of the people.  Disaster, destruction and downfall lies in the path of their callous, rebellious ways.

In this Bible passage. God placed Shebna in the position of steward over King Hezekiah’s palace (similar to being the President’s Chief of Staff). However he was caught red-handed taking care of his own self-interests rather than worrying about the people he was charged to care for. The Lord replaced him with Eliakim, a more godly, dependable and servant-leader example.

The Lord desires servant-leaders who will stand firm in the face of adversity and use their authority justly, responsibly and accountably. The Lord always honor those kinds of leaders.

We need more Eliakim-like servant-leaders, because when any leader reveals that his personal agenda overrides his responsibilities and duties, chaos and conflict surely follows. Sadly, when selfish-leaders see the chaos and conflict, they bail out on the people are focus on their own well-being and legacy. I have witnessed prominent men and women who found their way into positions of influence within the church who only served to promote their own agenda, and the aftermath was never pretty for the people left behind floundering in their stormy wake.

I remember being called into the office of a pastor because as a bible-study leader and former pastor, I had asked about the motives of a special lesson series we were asked to teach to all of the church’s small groups. I found the motive of the timing and purpose questionable, so I made an inquiry. Instead of a discussion when I arrived at the meeting I was berated and chastised. The pastor pointed to his ostentatiously displayed diploma on the wall as to say “how dare you challenge my authority, my qualifications.” Needless to say that was the moment he no longer claimed any right to be my pastor. His suggested at the conclusion of that meeting: “take a ‘season’ off from teaching. His associates in the room sat speechless with heads bowed. I stood up and said, “thank you, I understand.” This pastor then uttered a prayer to conclude the meeting that put a cold chill down my spine. The irony of this meeting, my wife and I took a leave from the church for three months. Shortly after we left, a huge, very ugly church split was led by the pastor of some of the prominent families in this historic church. Hearts were torn, family and friend relationships strained, and a vibrant legacy destroyed in the press. There were no winners; just a flock of lost, scattered and scarred sheep whose pastor stole the sheep that would follow him and abandoned the rest, standing in shock, drenched in tears. When the split was announced at the end of a service, the fighting got so intense one of the wise deacons flipped off the lights in the sanctuary. The darkness marked the impact upon the church.

What kind of leader do you believe the Lord honors? Can you recognize a godly servant-leader? One willing to acknowledge the authority, responsibility and accountability that comes with the position he or she seeks, realizing the Lord is ultimately the authority and example? 

Coach

Choices and Consequences

Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die! We'll never suffer the consequences of our choices.
Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die! We’ll never suffer the consequences of our choices.


Choices and Consequences

If You Are Going to Sin, You Might as well Be Happy

An oracle against the Valley of Vision: What’s the matter with you? Why have all of you gone up to the rooftops? The noisy city, the jubilant town, is filled with revelry. Your dead did not die by the sword; they were not killed in battle. All your rulers have fled together, captured without a bow. All your fugitives were captured together; they had fled far away. Therefore I said, “Look away from me! Let me weep bitterly! Do not try to comfort me about the destruction of my dear people.” For the Lord God of Hosts had a day of tumult, trampling, and bewilderment in the Valley of Vision; people shouting and crying to the mountains. On that day you looked to the weapons in the House of the Forest. You saw that there were many breaches in [the walls of] the city of David. You collected water from the lower pool. You counted the houses of Jerusalem so that you could tear them down to fortify the wall. You made a reservoir between the walls for the waters of the ancient pool, but you did not look to the One who made it, or consider the One who created it long ago. On that day the Lord God of Hosts called for weeping, for wailing, for shaven heads, and for the wearing of sackcloth. But look: joy and gladness, butchering of cattle, slaughtering of sheep, eating of meat, and drinking of wine. Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” The Lord of Hosts has revealed [this] in my hearing: “This sin of yours will never be wiped out.” The Lord God of Hosts has spoken. Isaiah 22:1-14 (HCSB)

How many times have your heard, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”? It is most commonly heard among those floating in and out of fad diets. Once any of us resign ourselves to not being able to stay committed to eating and living healthy, we not only jump off the wagon with a whoop and holler, we push the wagon right off the nearest cliff and feast upon our true desires without and further guilt. These words of submission offer justification for our inner self to be free to do what it innately thirsts and hungers after whenever we provide no checks or constraints upon our impulsive desires. However, somewhere during the morning after our revelrous bacchanalian celebration, we begin to regret our sloven stupidity, because we recognize sooner or later the consequences of our selfish and reckless abandon do catch up to the horrible emotional choices we made.

In fact, I believe, hangovers and upset stomachs are God’s sense of humor at play within our lives. And, then there is the headache that arises about a month later when the credit card bills arrive reminding us of the literal lavish expense of our rash, unrestrained pleasure-seeking revelry. Yes, there are consequences for all our choices, long after we have forgiven ourselves for our stupidity.

A tragic point to this kind of regret and remorse with long-lasting consequences was as a teacher in high school I witnessed the results of “pregnancy pacts” going around among many of the young girls. They decided it was somehow cool to get pregnant. They bragged with each other about who they chose to be the father from among the evidently more than willing eligible young men. Neither the young girls nor the boys stopped and consulted the wisdom of their parents or other responsible adults before acting out their ill-conceived choices. Sadly, as time passed, each young girl discovered the consequences that made them the real losers in such a pact. The boys admitted that they were not ready to be a father, but openly boasted they fathered one. The girls learned they could certainly bear a child, but each struggled as a mother because each admitted they still needed her mother to console and help mother her own child. What about all the innocent people who got drawn into the pact unwillingly? What about the parents of the ill-prepared mother and father, who are forced to deal with their kid having a kid? Last but certainly not least: the innocent child? How sad such a hasty, ill-conceived idea was hatched as such a wonderful plan! Sadly, it was nothing but a “lose-lose” pact based upon the rationale of “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” Now, years later, I wonder about all those former students and their children who are entering school somewhere themselves.

If only God’s people in Jerusalem had consulted the Lord of Creation? If only they had trusted in His plan for them and realized God would have protected them from the threats of their enemies. How different history would have been!

Because our choices have consequences, just like the people that Isaiah addressed long ago, we should always consider God’s will, ways, and wisdom before we decide to climb off the safety and security of his wagon. Undoubtedly, there will be far less heartache, headache, and stomachache in our life by remaining safely and securely onboard. How much better our choices when we can identify the real consequences!

Coach

Tolerance Versus Acceptance

multi ethnicity

Tolerance Versus Acceptance

An oracle against Egypt: Look, the Lord rides on a swift cloud and is coming to Egypt. Egypt’s idols will tremble before Him, and Egypt’s heart will melt within it. I will provoke Egypt against Egypt; each will fight against his brother and each against his friend, city against city, kingdom against kingdom. Egypt’s spirit will be disturbed within it, and I will frustrate its plans. Then they will seek idols, ghosts, spirits of the dead, and spiritists. I will deliver Egypt into the hands of harsh masters, and a strong king will rule it. [This is] the declaration of the Lord God of Hosts. (As a result in summary the Scriptures reveal) The waters of the sea will dry up, and the river will be parched and dry. The channels will stink; they will dwindle, and Egypt’s canals will be parched. Reed and rush will die: [Egypt’s] weavers will be dejected; all her wage earners will be demoralized. Pharaoh’s wisest advisers give stupid advice! Where then are your wise men? Let them tell you and reveal what the Lord of Hosts has planned against Egypt. The Lord has mixed within her a spirit of confusion. The leaders] have made Egypt stagger in all she does, as a drunkard staggers in his vomit. On that day Egypt will be like women. She will tremble with fear because of the threatening hand of the Lord of Hosts when He raises it against her. The land of Judah will terrify Egypt; whenever Judah is mentioned, Egypt will tremble because of what the Lord of Hosts has planned against it. On that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the center of the land of Egypt and a pillar to the Lord near her border. It will be a sign and witness to the Lord of Hosts in the land of Egypt. When they cry out to the Lord because of their oppressors, He will send them a savior and leader, and he will rescue them. The Lord will make Himself known to Egypt, and Egypt will know the Lord on that day. They will offer sacrifices and offerings; they will make vows to the Lord and fulfill them. The Lord will strike Egypt, striking and healing. Then they will return to the Lord and He will hear their prayers and heal them. Isaiah 19:1-25 (HCSB)

Are you betting on all the gods like the civilizations of long ago? From a metaphorical sense, Ancient Egypt represents modern society today. They worshiped so many gods, no one really knew which ones they believed nor whether they really believed any of them at all, but everyone exhibited tolerance to all the goods and went through the motions anyway.

Ancient Egypt was ruled by everyone but Egyptians during this historical era – Libyans, Cushites, Assyrians, Persians, and eventually Greeks, who provided a dynasty that ended with Cleopatra  (and we all remember how that ended). This foreign intervention created plenty of opportunity for syncretistic worship. However, when anyone worships multiple gods to hedge their bet on worshiping the right god(s) by increasing the odds, which true god would accept such filtered and watered-down worship?

Well, the Lord, the one true and living God would certainly extend his hand to draw those who would believe in him during this era. Egypt, now primarily a Muslim country, was for much of its post-Christ era, a key haven for the Christian community; that is until the spread of Islam in 700 AD. Alexandria was one of the key Christian cities during the formative years of the early church. There,  Jews of the exile had studied and formulated their sacred scriptures and what we know as the Septuagint was written as a translation of the ancient Hebrew writings into the more common Greek language – a great aid to the early Christian church.

But how does that matter to me, you ask. Consider this: how many of us are caught up in the modern secular philosophy of tolerance to allow their beliefs to become watered-down to allow room to believe and accept other religions and other gods that are sprouting daily in our very syncretistic society today? If not another religion, what about tolerance toward beliefs that claim to be Christian but have strayed from and stretched the truth that Jesus preached in the Gospels?

But, consider this: God may be using your tolerance and curiosity to be of value to your faith. God may actually be seeking to use you for a more significant purpose. Might God be desiring you to connect with those with different religious beliefs? Not to prove them wrong, but to demonstrate and be able to explain to them God’s inclusive message. But God desires that every believer take the time to truly understand and know that know why and what you believe in our era of tolerance. Yes, we should be tolerant of and respond to others, but we should also not allow our own beliefs to falter or become water-down as a result of that tolerance. If history can offer anything worthwhile on this topic, it is this: The Crusades did little good for the spread of Christianity. In fact, it helped the spread of Islam. Coercion never brings about true conversion. Missionaries do far more lasting good than mercenaries with their swords…

Note: In the light off current events, this message is truer than ever. Islamic Extremism is a threat, but as history proves terrorism and tyranny is the response when their beliefs are wrong. This is true of all forms of religious extremism which rallies around the sword rather than the strength of their religious beliefs. As Jesus said, “A house divided cannot stand.” There is certainly division within Christianity, but Islam is at war within itself, and has been for centuries. God will bring together all his people in his proper time. Until then, don’t allow tolerance to be confused with acceptance of other gods or beliefs.

Coach

Arrogance Tumbled

arrogance
Arrogance Tumbled

When the Lord gives you rest from your pain, torment, and the hard labor you were forced to do, you will sing this song [of contempt] about the king of Babylon and say: How the oppressor has quieted down, and how the raging has become quiet! The Lord has broken the staff of the wicked, the scepter of the rulers. It struck the peoples in anger with unceasing blows. It subdued the nations in rage with relentless persecution. All the earth is calm and at rest; people shout with a ringing cry! Sheol below is eager to greet your coming. He stirs up the spirits of the departed for you – all the rulers of the earth. He makes all the kings of the nations rise from their thrones.” …Shining morning star, how you have fallen from the heavens! You destroyer of nations, you have been cut down to the ground. You said to yourself: “I will ascend to the heavens; I will set up my throne above the stars of God. I will sit on the mount of the [gods’] assembly, in the remotest parts of the North. I will ascend above the highest clouds; I will make myself like the  Most High.” But you will be brought down… Isaiah 14:3-15 (HCSB)

Babylon was the home of the Chaldeans (Neo-Babylonians) and it became known for its beauty and grandeur; for its haughty rulers proclaiming their greatness. After they plundered Jerusalem and ransacked the temple and palace of the Jews, they felt superior to the God of the Jews as well. However, they failed to realize that they had accomplished the bidding of the Lord. Their arrogance and haughtiness would cause their own demise. The citizens of Jerusalem and Judah who were exiled to Babylonia were not subjects of the Babylonian kings for long. The Persian Empire rose up and captured Babylon while the Babylonians (Chaldeans) reveled and gloated over their plunder. They had become blinded by their own claims of greatness. They sang songs about how they were greater than the gods they conquered. However, this time they flaunted themselves not above man-made gods, but the one true God. God would not let their arrogance go unpunished and they were humbled by defeat and made captives themselves.

The Lord is a gracious and just God, but lessons had to be learned by even his own chosen people. Their belligerent ways and misguided self-serving attitudes were exposed. The Lord responded to them just as he did to all who believe they are without judgment and accountability for their actions. The Lord always humbles the prideful and arrogant and reminds them of their rightful place among all his people.

God inspired the message behind the Proverb that states: “Pride comes before destruction and an arrogant spirit before a fall.” Prov 16:18 (HCSB)

True greatness never needs to be flaunted. True champions and leaders honor God and are among the most humble of God’s chosen. They humbly acknowledge the source of their talents and gifts. In God’s kingdom, those with the greatest responsibility recognize that their authority derives from their greatest accountability before God himself. The message is clear: Be careful! Your arrogance and pride may blind you into believing you are great because of whom you are, rather than who you belong.

This Christmas season, it is appropriate for all of us to take a moment from our busy holiday schedule and humbly acknowledge the true reason for Christmas and the greatest gift of all – God within us.

Coach

The Nations Forgot Who Made Them Possible

Jerusalem todayThe Nations Forgot Who Made Them Possible

Ah! The roar of many peoples – they roar like the roaring of the seas. The raging of the nations –they rage like the raging of mighty waters. The nations rage like the raging of many waters. He rebukes them, and they flee far away, driven before the wind like chaff on the hills and like dead thistles before a gale. In the evening – sudden terror! Before morning – it is gone! This is the fate of those who plunder us and the lot of those who ravage us. Isaiah 17:12-14 (HCSB)

Is there anything that happens in this world that God is unaware or somehow behind the cause? Even the sins of this world he abhors, he allows because sin is by its very nature a product of the free-will choices that God has allowed us to exercise.

Even the rise of every nation, great or small, is as a result of God’s hand for his eternal purposes. All nations exist because God allows them to exist. Yet consider all the many nations that have come and gone over the course of history. Which of the great nations has survived the test of time? Rome fell to its enemies after 1000 years of existence. Egypt today is not the Ancient Egypt that became one of the earliest cradles of civilization along the Nile River. Ancient Egypt as a nation of pharaohs lasted about 2,000 years before it became the victim and slave of other conquering nations. China has the longest claim in history, but it has not gone unscathed in history either. Modern China has little connection to the original dynasties. Then there is America, fore sure an infant in comparison – 1776 to 2015 is but 239 short infant years! We are still trying to determine who our identity and the shape of our destiny and our nation’s legacy in history. In Europe – England, France, Spain and Germany are all infants as well. England and France are the oldest nations yet still youthful at an age of 700-800 years old a piece. Germany is still trying to figure out who they are as a nation. They only attempted to become a unified nation 150 years or so ago, but has been in constant turmoil and conflict ever since.

And, then there is Israel. Israel today is not the Israel we know from the biblical account. Modern Israel is man’s attempt to reconcile all the harm done to Jews over the many centuries. England set aside Palestine lands they controlled and gave it to the Israelites as an appeasement offering 60 years ago. Of course, the residents of those lands have been fighting with the Jewish immigrants of the lands ever since. Interesting historical fact, the Jews were exiled twice in history from the promised land and the great city of Jerusalem. First, in the sixth century BC and then between 70 and 134 AD as the same time as the Christian church was being established. 

We believe in the Christian community that somehow the Jews must be in place before the Rapture can take place. But it begs the question: What is our motive for the establishment of the modern Israel and our defiant defense of their right to occupy the land? Is it God’s will or our interests somehow we are serving? Will this effort only ignite the next cataclysmic war to break out in that part of the world where occupants battle over the religious rights of Jews, Christians and Muslims? Does that seem like God’s will, God’s ways, and God’s wisdom according to God’s Word?

A quick note, the Muslim nations are all Johnny-come-lately nations in the history of nations. Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, etc. are young nations inhabited by people with roots that extend hundreds of years, even thousands of years. Islam is the religion and Muslims are the followers of Islam, which only dates back to the seventh century AD. The idea that Islam is a nation is false, although in a broader religious sense, like there is a Christian Nation, the idea is cherished as a sign of the end times. However, Islam suffers from the same divisiveness and diversity of internal belief differences as do all major world religions.

Nations have roared and shown their teeth and claws throughout the millennia of mankind, but none have existed without the consent of God. Their actions have been blessed or cursed by God, as history attests. Once one nation rises up and claims greatness, choosing to exert their own will, walk their own ways, and guide themselves by their own wisdom WATCH OUT! History declares God will silence and humble the roar of any belligerent, self-serving mighty nation. Think about it!

Before we rally around our swords, guns and armies, we should prayerfully ask, what is our real motive. Whose interests are we serving? Our national interests or God’s? Are our actions spurred on by fear or faith?

Who or what is the only constant throughout the history of nations? Who created the nations of the world and who will be collecting the ashes left behind when history runs its course? Will heaven be a haven for nations or God’s faithful people?

Coach

Contentment Turns the World Upside Down

Lion_and_lamb_by_kadiliis
Contentment satisfies the appetite that has spurred us to devour others…

Contentment Turns the World Upside Down

For the Lord will have compassion on Jacob and will choose Israel again. He will settle them on their own land. The foreigner will join them and be united with the house of Jacob. The nations will escort Israel and bring it to its homeland. Then the house of Israel will possess them as male and female slaves in the Lord’s land. They will make captives of their captors and will rule over their oppressors. Isaiah 14:1-2 (HCSB)

How do we interpret this passage? It sounds like revenge exacted upon our enemies? Yet, if we examine the Christian aspect we will see that it is not what it appears. It is a glorious promise that our enemies will be just like us, and that they too will be received with open arms into God’s family, because they too will be freed from their bonds of selfish living, and now are captive to the new life they have found by surrendering to the Lord.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” [2 Cor 3:17 (HCSB)]

Even when we turnover our lives to the Lord and seek God’s will, ways, and wisdom that does not mean we do not have freedom. Quite to the contrary, we now understand genuine freedom is found by surrendering to the Lord. His loving kindness frees us from all the aspects and influences of living to our “self!” Avarice, envy, greed, haughtiness, arrogance and any attitude that haunted our lives in the past and kept us separated from the Lord are swept away. Their grasp upon us is torn away. A new influence upon our lives is discovered once we surrender – the Spirit of God. This Spirit fills the void in our heart and our soul is soothed from the emptiness that we have tried to fill through all the wrong means. Genuine contentment is found for the very first time in our life.

In the days of Isaiah, those who were strangers to the Lord and enemies to his people discovered the Lord’s loving-kindness through the witness of those they enslaved. The Lord’s people dealt with all the trials and tribulations that their enemies forced them to endure. The pagan kings and their people learned about the Lord through the testimonies of God’s people who were forced to live in their lands as slaves and servants. Even after the pagans felt compelled to help God’s people to return to Judah and rebuild Jerusalem, many surrendered their lives over to the Lord and joined in the rebuilding of the Lord’s House. They became captive and a servant to the Lord’s will, ways, and wisdom, just as all the rest of the Lord’s people were. The captor became the captive! Yet in doing so they became the real victors, not the victims as many would believe. They found the contentment that only God’s presence in their lives could bring.

How would you evaluate your own life? Are you the victim or the victor? Do you understand that as the servant to the Lord you are the captive, yet the victor! Think about it. It is not about winning and losing, but overcoming to become what God has intended for you. 

God’s greatest gift to us is the knowledge of true contentment in our lives.

Coach

Come, behold the works of the Lord, who has wrought desolations in the earth. He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariots with fire.

“Cease striving (fussing and fighting over what you don’t have) and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.  Selah. (Ps. 46:8-11)

 

Knowing Right is not Being Right

greener pastures-holtekKnowing Right is not Being Right

An  oracle against Moab: Ar in Moab is devastated, destroyed in a night. Kir in Moab is devastated, destroyed in a night. Dibon went up to its temple to weep at its high places. Moab wails on Nebo and at Medeba. Every head is shaved; every beard is cut off. In its streets they wear Â sackcloth; on its rooftops and in its public squares everyone wails, falling down and weeping. Heshbon and Elealeh cry out; their voices are heard as far away as Jahaz. Therefore the soldiers of Moab cry out, and they tremble. My heart cries out over Moab, whose fugitives [flee] as far as Zoar, to Eglath-shelishiyah; they go up the slope of Luhith weeping; they raise a cry of destruction on the road to Horonaim. The waters of Nimrim are desolate; the grass is withered, the foliage is gone, and the vegetation has vanished. So they carry their wealth and belongings over the  Wadi of the Willows. For their cry echoes throughout the territory of Moab. Their wailing reaches Eglaim; their wailing reaches Beer-elim. The waters of Dibon are full of blood, but I will bring on Dibon even more [than this] – a lion for those who escape from Moab, and for the survivors in the land. Isaiah 15:1-9 (HCSB)

This is one of the many oracles against the nations that surrounded Judah. Their residents were cousins of one another and of Judah, but each also had taken advantage of Judah after they stumbled. Moab had been jealous of Judah’s position in the region, as Judah appeared to have the Lord’s protection while Moab evidently did not. Their jealousy led to conspiracies to drag Judah even further down. They understood why Judah was under the Lord’s blessings. They themselves were well aware of the Lord and His covenant teachings, but they failed to enter the covenant. They preferred to trust in other gods and their own alliances for their protection.

The story of Ruth in the Old Testament is clear about her Moabite heritage, but she became exposed to the Lord’s blessings through the testimony of Naomi, her mother-in-law. In the face of tragedy Ruth sought Naomi’s advice to receive the Lord’s covenantal care, and she discovered her righteous husband: Boaz, a prominent landowner of Judah. Their child, Obed, became the grandfather of David, the king of Israel.

Ruth’s story of redemption serves as encouragement for all who desire to enter the the Lord’s covenant care. However, God blessings do not fall upon someone just because you confess to know the Lord. Each of us must submit to a genuine life-altering relationship with the Lord to realize his care and redeeming love. Just as Ruth’s story testifies of the Lord’s protection and provision, we too can experience God’s care in our life; one lived under the light of God’s will, ways, and wisdom. A life that recognizes that we cannot claim to be right, but are made right by God’s loving kindness. A life that declares that you cannot claim the benefits or blessings of the Lord without being in a right relationship with the Lord.

The warning in the passage from Isaiah is this: Don’t stand on the outside looking in wondering how to become like those on the inside experiencing God’s blessings. Knowing what it takes, desiring it, and likewise, dreaming about it does not make it so. If that is all you are doing, you will grow frustrated and find yourself jealous that you are not able to embrace the same blessings. You will succumb to bad-mouthing Christians, pointing out their mistakes to justify your status as an outsider, living a life absent of God’s fellowship. The Moabites did exactly that and faced God’s judgment for their self-serving actions and attitudes.

What about you? Are you just an interested, jealous onlooker or an active all-in participant? Both know what is right, but only one chooses right. 

Coach

My Lord is within Me!

Old Bucket and StairsMy Lord is within Me!

On that day you will say: “I will praise You, Lord, although You were angry with me. Your anger has turned away, and You have had compassion on me. Indeed, God is my salvation. I will trust [Him] and not be afraid. Because Yah, the Lord, is my strength and my song, He has become my salvation.” You will joyfully draw water from the springs of salvation, and on that day you will say: “Give thanks to the Lord; proclaim His name! Celebrate His deeds among the peoples. Declare that His name is exalted. Sing to the Lord, for He has done glorious things. Let this be known throughout the earth. Cry out and sing, citizen of Zion, for the Holy One of Israel is among you in [His] greatness.” Isaiah 12:1-6 (HCSB)

What a glorious proclamation of one’s deliverance from the crucible of life to find the Lord’s love, grace and mercy waiting upon you, although you had walked away from him! Sometimes in our difficult and challenging life choices we walked intentionally away from the Lord because we wanted our way and not his way. We may even have cursed him and blamed him for the difficulties we have faced in life. However, his love is stronger than our acts of rebellion and rejection. His love is a Father’s love. He patiently waits for the opportunity for you and me to open our eyes and recognize the state of our life when we have walked away from the source of life. He perseveres through our outbursts of anger and even when he only sees the backside of our head because we have turned away from him. He waits for us to recognize the love he has for us.

Consider why this is true: The strongest declarations of God’s love come from those who have tried to survive without his love. Once we have found our way back to his protection and loving kindness there is no other way to respond but with loud proclamations of praise. The greatest hymn sung in and out of the church, “Amazing Grace” was written as a testimony by a former slave ship captain who came to the point in his life where he recognized his rejection of God’s love and how he returned to the Lord and experienced the true meaning of God’s grace – the presence of God’s love in one’s life. He turned his new found deliverance from his life of sin and misery to one of praise by becoming a preacher and song writer. He turned London upside down through his preaching and sharing the good news he had experienced through God’s grace.

Never believe that you are so far gone down the road of sin that you cannot return and claim God’s grace and mercy. He loves all of us, no matter how far we tried to run away from Him. Your debt has already been forgiven in full for whatever sin that controls your life. All he asks is you turn back to him and become freed from your old life. No questions asked – your past will remain in the past with the Lord. If you seek God’s will, ways, and wisdom, you will find God’s love waiting for you. He created you to be who you are and wants you to seek his face to discover his smile. He will introduce you to the peace that surpasses all understanding and change the direction of your daily walk – you will know the Lord lives within you, just as he lives within all of us.

Coach

When the Captive Becomes the Victor

SetFree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the Captive Becomes the Victor

For the Lord will have compassion on Jacob and will choose Israel again. He will settle them on their own land. The foreigner will join them and be united with the house of Jacob. The nations will escort Israel and bring it to its homeland. Then the house of Israel will possess them as male and female slaves in the Lord’s land. They will make captives of their captors and will rule over their oppressors. Isaiah 14:1-2 (HCSB)

How do we interpret this passage? It sounds like revenge exacted upon our enemies? Yet, if we examine the Christian aspect we will see this in a different light. It is a promise that our enemies will be just like us, and they too will be received with open arms into God’s family. All will be freed from their bonds caused by selfish living, and become captive to the new life found by surrendering to the Lord’s will, way and wisdom.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Cor 3:17 (HCSB)

Even when we seek to turn our lives over to God’s will, ways, and wisdom does not mean we do not have freedom. Quite the contrary, we finally understand genuine freedom is found by surrendering to the Lord. His loving kindness frees us from all the aspects and influences of living life solely for the benefit of “self!” Avarice, envy, greed, haughtiness, arrogance and any other attitudes that has overshadowed our lives and kept us separated from the Lord are swept away — their hold upon us is torn away. A new overriding influence upon our life has come upon us once we surrender — the Spirit of God, filling the void in our heart and soothing our weary soul. We no longer will struggle to fill the void in our life through all the wrong means. We can discover the satisfaction never before realized by our own efforts.

In the days of Isaiah, those who were strangers to the Lord and enemies of his people discovered the Lord’s loving-kindness through the witness of his people as they faced the trials and tribulations that they were called to endure. Pagan kings and their people learned about the Lord’s lovingkindness through the testimonies of God’s people who were living in their lands. They became compelled to allow them to return to Judah and rebuild Jerusalem. The captors became the captives as they likewise became willing servants seeking the Lord’s will, ways, and wisdom, just as all of the Lord’s people had already done. By humbling themselves from being the captor to the captive, they became the real victors and no longer victims, as many previously believed.

How would you evaluate your own life? Are you feeling like the victim or the victor? Are you wishing you were the captor or the captive? Do you understand that as the servant to the Lord you are the captive, yet the victor! Think about it. It is not about winning and losing, but overcoming to become what God has intended for you. What better way could you explain what it means to be saved?

Coach

Faith Breaks the Yoke of Our Burdens

The beast of burden is not free from the yoke until their master releases them.
The beast of burden is not free from the yoke until its master releases them.

Faith Breaks the Yoke of Our Burdens

On that day his burden will fall from your shoulders, and his yoke from your neck. The yoke will be broken because of [his] fatness. Assyria has come to Aiath and has gone through Migron, storing his equipment at Michmash. They crossed over at the ford, saying, “We will spend the night at Geba.” The people of Ramah are trembling; those at Gibeah of Saul have fled! Today he will stand at Nob, shaking his fist at the mountain of Daughter Zion, the hill of Jerusalem. Look, the Lord God of Hosts will chop off the branches with terrifying power, and the tall [trees] will be cut down, the high [trees] felled. He is clearing the thickets of the forest with an ax, and Lebanon with its majesty will fall. Isaiah 10:27-34 (HCSB)

This passage is about the historically accurate period in the history of Judah when the Assyrians had wreaked havoc on the lands of Judah and were fast approaching Zion, the mountain upon which Jerusalem rests. God had used the Assyrians to exact judgment upon the arrogance of his people who began to worship other gods and exalted themselves in their minds with allegiances of their making rather than cling to the faith in their Lord God who promised to preserve and protect them. Though a remnant survived as God promised in the lands north of Judah in Samaria – northern tribes of Israel – the threat of devastation and destruction caused fear to spread in the remaining southern tribal region in Judah. However, when their capital and sacred city of Jerusalem found itself at risk, the Lord lifted the burden his people feared. It fell upon the arrogant and prideful, disobedient Assyrians. The Lord placed himself between the Assyrians armies and the walls of Jerusalem, and he cut down the army that surrounded the city while the people trembled inside the city of Jerusalem.

God used Isaiah as his messenger to change Hezekiah’s heart back to the Lord. As a result, Jerusalem was saved from God’s wrath because their hearts recognized that the Lord was true to his word. We too should realize that in the face of the various trials, tests, and periods of tribulation we will face in life, the Lord never forsakes or leaves us. As long as we stand firm in our faith, we will witness the Lord’s loving-kindness and mercy through all of our difficult times. Our faith will break the yoke of all our burdens.

How is your faith today? Do you turn to the Lord in tough times, or do you seek to flee by your own efforts or worse yet fight against your adversaries through your own resources and short-sighted schemes that are certain to fail. How can we know what is the right thing to do? Invest daily seeking God’s will, ways, and wisdom searching God’s Word. You will undoubtedly learn how to stand firm in your faith and how to face your fears by allowing God to release the yoke of your burdens.

We all may mess up in life at one time or another and the consequences will pursue us, but those who recognize the errors of their ways and turn to the Lord will be saved. That is a promise found over and over in God’s Word.

Coach

Grace and Mercy Follow Discipline

No crisis can overtake you when mercy and grace intersect in your life.
No crisis can overtake you when mercy and grace intersect in your life.

Grace and Mercy Follow Discipline

On that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no longer depend on the one who struck them, but they will faithfully depend on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel. The remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the Mighty God. Israel, even if your people were as numerous as the sand of the sea, [only] a remnant of them will return. Destruction has been decreed; justice overflows. For throughout the land the Lord God of Hosts is carrying out a destruction that was decreed. Therefore, the Lord God of Hosts says this: “My people who dwell in Zion, do not fear Assyria, though he strikes you with a rod and raises his staff over you as the Egyptians did. In just a little while My wrath will be spent and My anger will turn to their destruction.” And the Lord of Hosts will brandish a whip against him as [He did when He] struck Midian at the rock of Oreb; and He will raise His staff over the sea as [He did] in Egypt. Isaiah 10:20-26 (HCSB)

Although masses of people in the Bible suffered greatly for the choices of a few, the faithful  were brought through the harsh time of God’s discipline by his mercy and grace. This has been true since the beginning of man’s relationship with his Creator. God’s covenant has always been guaranteed by God’s name and character. His reputation and the promises he made are guaranteed by him alone. He is faithful even when the people who claimed his name were not.

In the provisions of the God’s covenant, he exercised the appropriate consequences for the choices the people made and those consequences were always for the purposes of changing the hearts and minds of the people who turned away from his will, ways, and wisdom. Therefore, we can be assured that there will always be a remnant that he will preserve and deliver though his discipline. His discipline or the appropriate consequences for our choices are never out of hate but love to draw his people closer to him… A lesson for all of us as well in our own life when dealing with others who stumble and falter in their choices.

In this passage, the message was given by Isaiah to the people of Zion, or Jerusalem. They were called out to recognize that God’s judgment was being exacted upon the land by God through the Assyrian army as his agent. The Assyrians would ultimately be dealt with by God for their arrogance as his agent before they defied God’s intended instructions and laid siege to Jerusalem. Isaiah proclaimed God’s promise that he would preserve the faithful remnant from the scorched and seized land by the invading Assyrian armies. However, just like us when facing trials and tribulation in our own life, the question for the people of Jerusalem and the surrounding towns remained, “Do you believe your eyes or the Lord’s promises?” When our eyes see what appears as a real threat, how will your faith hold up? Hezekiah was given a sign by the Lord and the city survived, because the Lord was then and still remains faithful to his promises.

But, never assume your survival and salvation comes from anything you have merited or done. Our deliverance only comes through his grace and mercy alone – his everlasting, unyielding love for his people. The rest of the story as one reads in the Bible, as well as recorded in world history, Jerusalem was saved from the Assyrians but just over a century later was destroyed by the Chaldeans (Neo-Babylonians) because the people of Jerusalem and Judah believed they were better than all the surrounding peoples and their pride and arrogance became their downfall.

Relevance for us today: What claim can you make in your own salvation or deliverance from the challenges in your life? Or have you recognized and are eternally thankful for God’s grace and mercy poured out in your life?

Coach

Motives Matter to God

 

arrogance-ignorance-and-greed-show-of-hands-e1276617715140

Motives Matter to God

Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger – the staff in their hands is My wrath. I will send him against a godless nation; I will command him [to go] against a people destined for My rage, to take spoils, to plunder, and to trample them down like clay in the streets. But this is not what he [Assyria’s king] intends; this is not what he plans. It is his intent to destroy and to cut off many nations. For (rather) he [the Lord] says: Aren’t all my commanders kings? Isn’t Calno like Carchemish? Isn’t Hamath like Arpad? Isn’t Samaria like Damascus? As my hand seized the idolatrous kingdoms, whose idols exceeded those of Jerusalem and Samaria, and as I did to Samaria and its idols will I not also do to Jerusalem and its idols? But when the Lord finishes all His work against Mount Zion and Jerusalem, [He will say,] “I will punish the king of Assyria for his arrogant acts and the proud look in his eyes.” For he [the king of Assyria] said: I have done [this] by my own strength and wisdom, for I am clever. I abolished the borders of nations and plundered their treasures; like a mighty warrior, I subjugated the inhabitants. My hand has reached out, as if into a nest, to seize the wealth of the nations. Like one gathering abandoned eggs, I gathered the whole earth. No wing fluttered; no beak opened or chirped. Does an ax exalt itself above the one who chops with it? Does a saw magnify itself above the one who saws with it? As if a staff could wave those who lift it! As if a rod could lift what isn’t wood! Therefore the Lord God of Hosts will inflict an emaciating disease on the well-fed of Assyria, and He will kindle a burning fire under its glory. Israel’s Light will become a fire, and it’s Holy One, a flame. In one day it will burn up Assyria’s thorns and thistles. He will completely destroy the glory of its forests and orchards as a sickness consumes a person. The remaining trees of its forest will be so few in number that a child could count them. Isaiah 10:5-19 (HCSB)

There may come times in your life when God will open the door for you to serve a key role for his greater purposes. You may called to instruct and redirect the hearts of others. However, be careful to remember you are but God’s ambassador, the authority behind the message rests with the author of the message. We often allow our egos to get caught up in our role to deliver the message and believe we had something to do with the life-changing response to our sharing the message.

Assyria was God’s ambassador to discipline the nations of Israel and Judah – His chosen children, but pride and arrogance got in the way. They needed a wakeup call from God. Assyria had been instructed to provide a dire message to Israel and Judah, not their annihilation and exile from the land! However, the pride, greed and arrogance of the Assyrian kings conflicted with their marching orders from God. They not only plundered, they also razed the kingdom of Israel from the lands that God provided to fulfill his promise to the people. The Assyrian army headed into Judah intent to exact the same harshness on the land of Judah until they laid siege against Jerusalem. Only there history and the Bible records they were turned away by God’s hand as he redirected his anger upon Assyria for their disobedience. Not long after, Assyria was crippled by disease and taken captive themselves by the Chaldeans and Medes (Neo-Babylonians).

When we eagerly seek to serve God, remember to stay near to him each step along the way. Invest in the guidance of God’s perfect will, not our selfish will; God’s pleasing ways, not our perverse ways; and, God’s infinite wisdom, not our finite wisdom. When we serve humbly and faithfully God blesses over-abundantly. However, should we attempt to take control and do things our way, God will intervene and detour our selfish efforts.

Even when our intentions appear to be good, are our intentions stirred by the right motives? We might fool ourselves and others, but never God. When we are engaged in God’s work, it is his name on the line, his reputation that matters.

Coach

Our Attitudes and Actions Affect Others

woe_to_the_oppressor_isaiah10_1-2b-880x340Our Attitudes and Actions Affect Others

Woe to those enacting crooked statutes and writing oppressive laws to keep the poor from getting a fair trial and to deprive the afflicted among my people of justice, so that widows can be their spoil and they can plunder the fatherless. What will you do on the day of punishment when devastation comes from far away? Who will you run to for help? Where will you leave your wealth? [There will be nothing to do] except crouch among the prisoners or fall among the slain. In all this, His anger is not removed, and His hand is still raised [to strike]. Isaiah 10:1-4 (HCSB)

Have you come to the point in life where you realize that you cannot live upon a remote island totally isolated from others? Have you come to the realization that no matter the cause or motive, self-serving attitudes and actions are harmful to others? That attitudes and actions whether for good or bad intent impact everyone within our circle of influence. God created us to interact and socialize directly and indirectly with others. We all have neighbors all around us whether we know their names or recognize their faces, and like our family and friends, they take notice of our presence and our absence.

However, in today’s passage what is the worst kind of impact anyone can have upon others? What about intentionally orchestrated, self-serving attitudes and actions of those elected to govern for the good of the people who chose them? Whether the burdens of the laws and taxes are considered necessary, they harm those who cannot stand up and voice their concerns against unjust and unfair laws and taxes. They feel betrayed by those they empowered to represent them for the good of the people. They feel betrayed when self-serving attitudes and actions neglect the good of the people.

Under normal circumstances governments are held in check by the will of the people – that is called the social contract theory of man. Men created governments to provide security and order among men by consent of the men that created the government, however when government forgets where their authority is derived, rebellion and removal of those corrupting the government is a reasonable and often necessary course of action to reestablish the ideal, rightful and just government to govern over them, as it was intended originally. These ideals stirred the hearts of our founding fathers against the tyranny of England over the Colonies.

In the case of God’s people, God is the final authority over the government because most often the helpless were the ones taken advantage of in the days of Israel and Judah – even when that religious government walked daily in the hypocritical shadow of the temple where they worshiped God. The same religious leadership took the original 10 commandments that God gave to all his people and over 600 constrictive laws about living were constructed by their self-serving interpretation of those commandments. Even Jesus confronted the injustice of these misguided precepts, ordinances and laws. The religious leaders continued to legislate their own interpretations of God’s original laws because they felt empowered to do so. They in return burdened the same people that God meant them to protect and preserve through his original commands. In the case history of Israel and Judah, God stepped in and expressed his objections and warnings through the prophets and eventually through the actions that history records. God even sent Jesus to make the point, but pride, jealousy and greed rejected and crucified him rather than accept the changes God demanded. History records God’s hand upon Jerusalem and the Jews that still is felt this very day.

On a personal note: You may feel that you are not held to the same standards as those in power who make laws or levy taxes, but I believe God says otherwise. When our attitudes and actions adversely affect others, especially the helpless, you are at the same risk from God’s intervention in your life. His will is to protect and preserve the helpless and discipline the offender.

How can you avoid such action by God upon your life? Live your life by the light of God’s will, ways, and wisdom and you will certainly be far more sensitive to how your attitudes and actions impact others every day. Your attitudes and actions can serve to build up or tear down others around you. God leaves that choice to you, but leaves warning of the consequences or blessings that follow from our choices.

How can we judge or criticize the attitudes and actions of others, especially those who represent our values and priorities if our own attitudes and actions are no better?

Coach

Run! Poppa’s Mad Again

Run-from-GodRun! Poppa’s Mad Again

The Lord sent a message against Jacob; it came against Israel. All the people – Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria – will know it. They will say with pride and arrogance: “The bricks have fallen, but we will rebuild with cut stones; the sycamores have been cut down, but we will replace them with cedars.” The Lord has raised up Rezin’s adversaries against him and stirred up his enemies. Aram from the east and Philistia from the west have consumed Israel with open mouths. In all this, His anger is not removed, and His hand is still raised [to strike]. The people did not turn to Him who struck them; they did not seek the Lord of Hosts. So the Lord cut off Israel’s head and tail, palm branch and reed in a single day. The head is the elder, the honored one; the tail is the prophet, the lying teacher. The leaders of the people mislead [them], and those they mislead are swallowed up. Therefore the Lord does not rejoice over Israel’s young men and has no compassion on its fatherless and widows; for everyone is a godless evildoer, and every mouth speaks folly. In all this, His anger is not removed, and His hand is still raised [to strike]. For wickedness burns like a fire that consumes thorns and briers and kindles the forest thickets so that they go up in a column of smoke. The land is scorched by the wrath of the Lord of Hosts, and the people are like fuel for the fire. No one has compassion on his brother. They carve [meat] on the right, but they are [still] hungry; they have eaten on the left, but they are [still] not satisfied. Each one eats the flesh of his own arm. Manasseh is with Ephraim, and Ephraim with Manasseh; together, both are against Judah. In all this, His anger is not removed, and His hand is still raised [to strike]. Isaiah 9:8-21 (HCSB)

There may be times when everything seems to be stacked against you. You realize the trials and tribulations you are facing are the consequences for choices you made in your past. Is this the time to play the blame game and get mad at God? Is it time to run from the Lord because you fear his anger? Or, is this the time to ignore all the voices of those who are causing you to stumble as they cry out, “Run for your lives!”

If only Israel and Judah recognized the wrath of the Lord was not intended to destroy them, but to reveal their wicked, selfish ways. Their leaders distorted God’s word and tickled the ears of the people as they turned their hearts towards man-made idols erected in man-made temples. The people of Israel and Judah became impressed upon what they could build and the beauty and majesty of their creation and forgot why they built it in the first place – God. They forsook the covenant care of the Lord and forgot who had delivered them from their bondage in Egypt and delivered them into the land they were living. They forgot this same Lord as they began to settle in the land, They looked around and declared they wanted to have control over their lives. They begged God for a king like all the other kingdoms and everything went downhill from there.

Within three generations (Saul, David and Solomon) Israel rebelled within itself and divided. Their external troubles came as a result of their internal selfish strife. The northern tribes became known as Israel, and the southern tribes known as Judah.

Their selfish acts of jealousy, pride and arrogance caused the Lord to finally declare, “Enough is enough!” The Lord made it clear through the message that Isaiah declared – “our choices have consequences, and running won’t solve the problem.”

Just like the people of Israel and Judah, we too are subject to the same dangerous and destructive acts of jealousy, pride and arrogance. Those selfish acts still seek to turn our hearts from God’s will, ways, and wisdom. Thankfully, the biblical historical narrative testifies that God never quits on us. The circumstances we face in life are not God’s fault, but are the consequences of our choices that God allows to catch our attention. When we try to outrun the consequences of our choices, God finds a way to send the same message to us, “Running won’t solve the problem! Stop running! Quit listening to the crowd. Seek the salvation that can only come by living according to my will, ways and wisdom.” Discover by faith, not fear, that the Lord is working through what is going on in your life to draw you closer to him?

Are you tired of running?

Coach

The Promise of Peace and Prosperity

isaiah9_2

The Promise of Peace and Prosperity

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of darkness, a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased its joy. [The people] have rejoiced before You as they rejoice at harvest time and as they rejoice when dividing spoils. For You have shattered their burdensome yoke and the rod on their shoulders, the staff of their oppressor… For the trampling boot of battle and the bloodied garments of war will be burned as fuel for the fire. For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:2-7 (HCSB)

In this passage of hope for God’s people, the faithful remnant would continue to face the wrath of foreign armies for centuries. Between the Greek and the Roman occupation, the Jews tried to rule themselves during what we know as the Maccabean period for about a century, but there was bloodshed and fighting for control and domination within the nation of the Jews. By the time of Caesar Augustus, early in the first century, God’s people fervently prayed for the promise of God’s peacemaker.

Had Isaiah gotten the message from God wrong? Every time a supposed “messiah” rose up, the people placed their faith in each of them only to become disappointed, but the people kept looking for an earthly champion to lead them. By the time Jesus arrives, the Jews (Roman derisive name for the residents of Judea – repopulated post-exile Judah) were ruled by a quasi-Jew, Herod the Great (an Idumean, not of Jacob but Esau). Consider the irony; the remnant of the nation of Israel (aka Jacob) had a king from Idumea whose lineage was connected to Esau, Jacob’s brother. [Read Genesis 25-36] Herod wanted to claim to be the king of the Jews and feared any rival to the claim.

Jesus stepped onto the scene and proclaimed loudly that the Jews were so focused on earthly kingdoms and rulers for their salvation they had neglected, just as their forefathers had done, to recognize that there is but one king of kings and lord of lords. He alone can be called the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, and Prince (Ruler) of Peace. In this historical setting of ironies and ongoing domination, Jesus pointed to God making His presence known through the Scriptures and writings of the Prophets. When the people proclaimed Jesus to be the Messiah, he claimed no authority except to glorify God as the Heavenly Father. When Jesus said, I and the Father are one, his message was simply that he only offered the exact message that God wanted him to share. Jesus’ words were the words of God, who alone remains on his throne. God guarantees his kingdom will prevail and prosper. However, once again, the arrogance of religious piety fed by jealousy, greed and fear, crucified Jesus because they realized the good news he brought to the people would remove them from power. 

So how did God accomplish this promise given in Isaiah’s passage?

The question remains for each of us to answer for ourselves. It is a question that each generation faces as a matter of faith. Since Jesus pointed us to God’s glory and grace, we have created a whole network of churches still claiming to build God’s kingdom. Each claims to be right and the struggle continues for defining the kingdom on earth. God has promised peace and prosperity, but what prevents us from realizing it on earth? Can all the churches be right? Or are we victims of the same failures of the past generations since the first families heard the promises from God? 

Why are we still struggling to find peace and prosperity in our own communities, much less country? Is there a trend toward unifying churches or creating more divisions of the vision that Jesus proclaimed? Just ask yourself, why within a few short decades after entering the land the nation of Israel split up and went their own ways into the land? Why did Isaiah speak as God’s agent to a divided nation, Israel and Judah? Are we living according to God’s will, ways, and wisdom or are we too busy, like so many in history, filtering everything through our will, ways and wisdom?

Final question: Why is it that Jesus found oneness with God, his Eternal Father, but we cannot find oneness in His kingdom? The answer is why cannot find the promised peace and prosperity that God promised to his faithful remnant.

Coach

Why Life Has Dark Days

light v darknessWhy Life Has Dark Days

Here I am with the children the Lord has given me to be signs and wonders in Israel from the Lord of Hosts who dwells on Mount Zion. When they say to you, “Consult the spirits of the dead and the spiritists who chirp and mutter,” shouldn’t a people consult their God? [Should they consult] the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the  testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, there will be no dawn for them. They will wander through the land, dejected and hungry. When they are famished, they will become enraged, and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. They will look toward the earth and see only distress, darkness, and the gloom of affliction, and they will be driven into thick darkness. Isaiah 8:18-22 (HCSB)

We often lose our focus on what are the really important issues of life and we discover the light fades along the path we are on in life. Darkness prevails because we grow ignorant to what is happening to us and to our loved ones. Darkness morphs to distress and despair along our path and we discover only an uncertain, gloomy, fearful journey lies ahead. When that happens many of us realize they are helpless and attack anyone else for the feelings of despair. When that fails, God becomes our target for our frustration.

People will resort to consulting “dead” spirits for answers in their darkness hours of desperation. But, “what benefit can the dead be for the living?”How can light be shed from searching the darkness of the grave? Why not search for the source of all light? 

“Why do bad things happen to good people?” is an age old question that many struggle with. God allows times of trials, testing and tribulation,to strengthen our relationship with him, not to cause despair. As we walk by faith in difficult and dark times, seeking God’s will, ways, and wisdom to guide and protect during those dreaded dark times, the dawn will reveal a stronger faith within us that binds us closer to God than before the darkness overcame our lives.

Only the truly faithful survived the trying days that fell upon Israel and Judah shortly after the days of Isaiah. Centuries later, a faithful remnant huddled in an upper room in Jerusalem in the darkest days after the crucifixion of Jesus. However, where no hope is found, God’s grace restores hope and his glory sheds light upon our dark and gloomy fears. Why is it that God separated the day from the night? Is it because it makes us appreciate the light of day and fear the darkness and uncertainty of night? Without darkness how would we know to love and appreciate the light?

So why would we try to save our own life and seek light from darkness? There is but one source of light and he also is the Lord of life, not death. No one enjoys darkness and despair, but oh how we all love the dawn of light when we are surrounded by that darkness and despair. Run to the light!

Coach

Speeding to the Spoils

Flooding-risk-to-UK-007

Speeding to the Spoils

Then the Lord said to me, “Take a large piece of parchment and write on it with an ordinary pen: Maher-shalal-hash-baz. I have appointed trustworthy witnesses – Uriah the priest and Zechariah son of Jeberechiah.” I was then intimate with the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. The Lord said to me, “Name him Maher-shalal-hash-baz, for before the boy knows how to call out father or mother, the wealth of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria will be carried off to the king of Assyria.” The Lord spoke to me again: Because these people rejected the slowly flowing waters of Shiloah and rejoiced with Rezin and the son of Remaliah, the Lord will certainly bring against them the mighty rushing waters of the Euphrates River – the king of Assyria and all his glory. It will overflow its channels and spill over all its banks. It will pour into Judah, flood over it, and sweep through, reaching up to the neck; and its spreading streams will fill your entire land, Immanuel! Band together, peoples, and be broken; pay attention, all you distant lands; prepare for war, and be broken; prepare for war, and be broken. Devise a plan; it will fail. Make a prediction; it will not happen. For God is with us. Isaiah 8:1-10 (HCSB)

In this passage, Isaiah proclaims that the Lord is affirming his justice will come swiftly like a flooding river and that the signs should not be ignored. As a sign of his intent, Immanuel from the previous passage (7:14) would be named Maher-shalal-hash-baz —  for us non-Hebrews: Speeding to the Spoils or Plunder. The Lord would reveal his presence among his people, and those who have thought they could conspire together and plan evil will fail, because God is with us

In our lives there are times that God proves his presence in our lives to prepare us for the tough times of trials and tribulation. Bad things can happen to good people, but the Lord promised to be with us in the midst of the floods and times of testing. God wants us to turn to him and trust him, rather than panic and seek manmade schemes to overcome the troubles of this world.

We all have a choice: listen and heed the call to race to God’s protection or witness the destruction and race to the spoils, only to find we too have been swept up in the same storms in life.

Be sensitive to racing toward him, in lieu of seeking out the spoils of others caught in the storms. We always have a choice but every choice has a consequence. In which direction will you race in those tough times? This passage is seldom preached – we stop at the Chapter 7 reference to Immanuel, God with us. But what was the context of the message to Israel? How is it relevant to us? Do we still let greed draw us to ignore the rising waters around us too? 

Coach

 

Be Careful What You Ask For

Be-Careful-What-You-Ask-For
Be Careful What You Ask For

Then the Lord spoke again to Ahaz: “Ask for a sign from the Lord your God – from the depths of  Sheol to the heights of heaven.” But Ahaz replied, “I will not ask. I will not test the Lord.” Isaiah said, “Listen, house of David! Is it not enough for you to try the patience of men? Will you also try the patience of my God? Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel. By the time he learns to reject what is bad and choose what is good, he will be eating butter and honey. For before the boy knows to reject what is bad and choose what is good, the land of the two kings you dread will be abandoned. The Lord will bring on you, your people, and the house of your father, such a time as has never been since Ephraim separated from Judah – the king of Assyria [is coming]. Isaiah 7:10-17 (HCSB)

In the midst of this passage is the oft referenced verse in the Gospel of Matthew that claims to point to Jesus as the Messiah. Immanuel literally means “God with us.” It would be the name that attested to “the presence of God’s anointed.

The term translated first by the Septuagint translators as virgin, actually means “young maiden.” In this context, a child would be born to a chaste, innocent girl as a sign to the king of Judah, Ahaz, and his people.

Within 12 years (the age of accountability in the Jewish mind) after this child was born, the enemies of Northern Israel and their ally, Syria (Aram) would be destroyed and people put into exile. Yet God was not done with Judah. The arrogant people of Judah became more arrogant and turned from their love for God. They boasted of their strength, wealth and invincibility. So God declared that he would bring his wrath onto their land as well, and only a faithful remnant would be under his covenant care, even after the land was scorched and never the same again. The pride of the men of Judah was reflected in their beards as their symbol of manhood and virility, but they would sent into exile shaved from head to toe.

Isaiah dared to be the herald of God’s warning: Be careful what you ask for, and do not believe that I did it because of what you have done or what you deserve, because you do not deserve anything better.

In Bethlehem, many centuries later, a child would be born who be likewise identified as Immanuel. The Jews of the first century had long returned from exile and rebuilt their temple but fell under the rule of the Romans. They felt they deserved to be freed from the yoke of their Roman oppressors. However when Jesus revealed he was not what they envisioned as their Messiah, God’s Immanuel – a great and powerful earthly king to orchestrate political change,  orchestrated instead a spiritual revolt against the religious oligarchy, they conspired to destroy Jesus out of jealousy and greed. Why didn’t they hear the same message? Be careful what you ask for, and do not believe that I did it because of what you have done or what you deserve, because you do not deserve anything better.

Even today, we need to be careful when we are jealous or afraid of certain conditions in our life and we seek God’s vengeance upon our enemies. God knows our motive? If we ask for selfish reasons, we stand the risk of God making major changes in our own lives to humble us. He will strip away our symbols of pride and arrogance. We should take care what we ask God to do for us, and allow God to reveal the motive in our heart before we ever ask God to turn his wrath on those we perceive as rivals or a threat to our lives. Otherwise, we may find ourselves under the same judgment that we are asking God to pour out upon our enemies. 

This is troubling time on our country and there are a myriad of prayers and petitions directed to God about the perceived threats we face. Should we listen to the same warning and be careful what we ask for? We may not relish the response anymore than what history has shown.

Coach

 

Jealousies and Conspiracies

Dem-and-Republicans-Fighting-cartoon-pod-cast

Jealousies and Conspiracies

This took place during the reign of Ahaz, son of Jotham, son of Uzziah king of Judah: Rezin king of Aram, along with Pekah, son of Remaliah, king of Israel, waged war against Jerusalem, but he could not succeed. When it became known to the house of David that Aram had occupied Ephraim, the heart of Ahaz and the hearts of his people trembled like trees of a forest shaking in a wind. Then the Lord said to Isaiah, “Go out with your son Shear-jashub to meet Ahaz at the end of the conduit of the upper pool, by the road to the Fuller’s Field. Say to him: Calm down and be quiet. Don’t be afraid or fainthearted because of these two smoldering stubs of firebrands, Rezin of Aram, and the son of Remaliah. For Aram, along with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, has plotted harm against you. They say: Let us go up against Judah, terrorize it, and conquer it for ourselves. Then we can install Tabeel’s son as king in it.” This is what the Lord God says: It will not happen; it will not occur. The head of Aram is Damascus, the head of Damascus is Rezin (within 65 years Ephraim will be shattered to be a people), the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you do not stand firm in your faith, then you will not stand at all. Isaiah 7:1-9 (HCSB)

Even the Lord’s House breeds dissension and controversy, and conflict and division are sure to follow. Rival groups can rise up to challenge the legitimate authority of the church. Competition within the church never nurtures pleasing results. However, history reveals that the Lord’s will, ways and wisdom always prevail in the end.

In the historical setting of this passage in Isaiah,  the northern tribes of Israel, known here as Ephraim or simply Israel, and the Syrian tribes or Aram (Syria, the country in the news today) made an alliance pact between them. It was common for kings of the various city-states at that time to form an allegiance for protective purposes. In this particular setting, the Assyrians were a real threat. Israel envied Judah and the glory of the temple found in Jerusalem. Aram and Israel decided to bring their armies together for selfish reasons against Judah. 

The Lord sent Isaiah as His messenger to warn Israel of their folly if they continued to pursue their evil plot against Judah. “Remain steadfast in your faith that the Lord is your God and be content in your own land or you will face My wrath and no longer be My people under My protection, and you will suffer.” History revealed both Aram and Israel ignored the warning and suffered devastating defeat at the hands of the Assyrians. Their lands and citizens became slaves and were exiled into oblivion.

For us, the relevance is this: jealousy has no place in God’s Kingdom. The Lord promised His protection to preserve His faithful people. When we choose to wander from that covenant promise because of our growing jealousies, the Lord will intervene to protect and preserve His faithful people. Our conspiracies will fall back onto ourselves.

Daily, churches suffer from within by their own selfish conspiracies and struggles for power and control. Church people cause far more harmful dissension and division than external threats. However, the Lord never abandons his people and he intervenes to preserve and protect the faithful remnant from the schemes of selfish people.

Sometimes the faithful are sent into exile and the church building and land falls into the control of the wrong people, but the land nor the building on it is God’s church. His faithful people comprise His Church. In God’s timing the faithful remnant will be restored to continue God’s Kingdom work, while those sitting in the pews and gloating over the buildings discover no peace and face even greater threats. No matter who paid for the most money or invested the most time and talents in the construction of the church buildings, if it is to be the Lord’s House, all ownership claims must be surrendered to the Lord.

Therefore, think twice before taking sides in a conflict in God’s House. God always prevails and a faithful remnant will be preserved long after the dust clears from the devastation that jealousies and conspiracies conspire to inflict for their selfish purposes.

Coach

God Seeks Our RSVP

rsvp+3

God Seeks Our RSVP

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, and His robe filled the temple. Seraphim were standing above Him; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts; His glory fills the whole earth. The foundations of the doorways shook at the sound of their voices, and the temple was filled with smoke. Then I said: Woe is me, for I am ruined, because I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips, [and] because my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts. Then one of the seraphim flew to me, and in his hand was a glowing coal that he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth [with it] and said: Now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, and your sin is atoned for. Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying: Who should I send? Who will go for Us? I said: Here I am. Send me. And He replied: Go! Say to these people: Keep listening, but do not understand; keep looking, but do not perceive. Dull these people’s minds; deafen their ears and blind their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears, understand with their mind, turn back, and be healed. Then I said, “Until when, Lord?” And He replied: Until cities lie in ruins without inhabitants, houses are without people, the land is ruined and desolate, and the Lord drives the people far away, leaving great emptiness in the land. Though a tenth will remain in the land, it will be burned again. Like the terebinth or the oak, which leaves a stump when felled, the holy seed is the stump. Isaiah 6:1-13 (HCSB)

Although most of us will never have the amazing experience of being in the presence of the Lord as Isaiah revealed in this passage – at least in this life – we all have the opportunity for the Lord to make His presence known in our lives. Like Isaiah, there may come a moment in time when we realize that our sins will be revealed when we draw close to God. However, there is good news. We have been created with spiritual DNA that enables our actions and attitudes to turn from disobedience to obedience. God’s loving kindness simply requests that we confess our disobedience, then love him first and foremost, above all others and things in our life, then we will enthusiastically embrace God’s will, ways and wisdom. Our ears will become attuned to God’s desires for our life and we will respond as did Isaiah.

Once the conversion occurs in our life, God does not step away and leave us on our own. He nurtures, guides and prepares us for living the second command – love others as we love ourselves. With our heart, soul and mind set to his will, ways and wisdom, he does not have to tap us on the shoulder to get us to volunteer to love others. But, before we hastily run out the door, stop and seek the Lord’s direction. Prayerfully seek to discern what God wants you to do and realize that success may not include the response we would expect. Isaiah heard his audience would not listen and even reject the message. Success is measured by our obedience, not the response of those we are called to reach out to help. Most often we are but the messenger.

Will we all have a huge task like Isaiah, probably not. The Lord may guide you to one specific person when he gives you your marching orders, but whether your mission is one person at a time or one much grander in scale, serve the Lord with the same attitude of “no retreat, no reserve, and no regrets!” God is not measuring the quantity of work you do for him, but your heart-felt willingness to do what he asks of you. In the God’s Kingdom, small tasks are as important as the highly visible mega tasks. The only applause you should desire is his.

What will your RSVP sound like when you hear his invitation?

Coach

Woes Warn Against Living Lies

conflict of evil v goodWoes Warn Against Living Lies

Woe to those who drag wickedness with cords of deceit and [pull] sin along with cart ropes, to those who say: “Let Him hurry up and do His work quickly so that we can see it! Let the plan of the Holy One of Israel take place so that we can know it!” Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness, who substitute bitter for  sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own opinion and clever in their own sight. Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine,  who are fearless at mixing beer, who acquit the guilty for a bribe and deprive the innocent of justice. Therefore, as a tongue of fire consumes straw and as dry grass shrivels on the flame, so their roots will become like something rotten and their blossoms will blow away like dust, for they have rejected the instruction of the Lord of Hosts, and they have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. Therefore the Lord’s anger burns against His people. He raised His hand against them and struck them; the mountains quaked, and their corpses were like garbage in the streets. In all this, His anger is not removed, and His hand is still raised [to strike]. He raises a signal flag for the distant nations and whistles for them from the ends of the earth. Look how quickly and swiftly they come! None of them grows weary or stumbles; no slumbers or sleeps. No belt is loose, and no sandal strap broken. Their arrows are sharpened, and all their bows strung. Their horses’ hooves are like flint; their [chariot] wheels are like a whirlwind. Their roaring is like a lion’s; they roar like young lions; they growl and seize their prey and carry [it] off, and no one can rescue [it]. On that day they will roar over it, like the roaring of the sea. When one looks at the land, there will be darkness and distress; light will be obscured by clouds. Isaiah 5:18-30 (HCSB)

This is the climax when we risk ignoring the warnings that the Lord gives us. When he spells out the gory details of the consequences if we continue to ignore the warnings it is time listen. If we continue to disobey and deceive ourselves and the people around us, we will face the dire consequences for our behavior. The “woes” are God’s repeated fair warning…though none should be necessary.

Who do you know who clings to the cords of deceit as the foundation of their lives? They spin evil as good, and dismiss good as evil! They are the same who find darkness comforting to hide their evil ways, and sleep during the light of day. They thirst for beer and wine and boast of their grand feats while under its influence. They idolize the wicked and perverse, and find fault in the righteous and innocent. However, ignorance will not be acceptable. The Lord our God desires to transform our behavior to the ways of justice and righteousness – ways pleasing to him – by whatever means are needed, even if it requires times of trials and tribulation. Israel flaunted their selfish and hedonistic ways and the Lord directed the ruthless armies of Assyria upon them and ten of the twelve tribes of Israel were conquered and exiled into literal extinction. Only a faithful remnant survived and were dispersed into foreign lands.

In our lives, if we rebel against God’s will, ways, and wisdom, challenges and conflict will be a part of our future too. Our God remains vigilant and hopeful that we will pay attention to his warnings which will cause us to woe just as the Israelites centuries ago. There are real eternal consequences for perverting truth, goodness, and justice – the unforgivable lifestyle that will not go unpunished.

God loves us and desires to do everything possible to clutch us and call us one of His own, but you and I must stop living the lie and place our faith and trust in him, because genuine love and lies cannot co-exist! Since God always knows the truth, we only end up lying to ourselves.

The only unpardonable sin is our belligerent rejection of God’s will, ways and wisdom.

Coach

 

Woes and Warnings

We never own it or possess it. We can only share it or lose it says the Lord.
We never own it or possess it. We can only share it or lose it says the Lord.

Woes and  Warnings

Woe to those who add house to house and join field to field until there is no more room and you alone are left in the land. In my hearing the Lord of Hosts [has taken an oath]: Indeed, many houses will become desolate, grand and lovely ones without inhabitants. For a ten-acre vineyard will yield only six gallons, and 10 bushels of seed will yield only [one] bushel. Woe to those who rise early in the morning in pursuit of beer, who linger into the evening, inflamed by wine. At their feasts they have lyre, harp, tambourine, flute, and wine. They do not perceive the Lord’s actions, and they do not see the work of His hands. Therefore My people go into exile because they lack knowledge; the dignitaries are starving, and the masses are parched with thirst. Therefore  Sheol enlarges its throat and opens wide its enormous jaws, and down go Zion’s dignitaries, her masses, her crowds, and those who carouse in her! Humanity is brought low, man is humbled, and haughty eyes are humbled. But the Lord of Hosts is exalted by His justice, and the holy God is distinguished by righteousness. Lambs will graze as [if in] their own pastures, and strangers will eat [among] the ruins of the rich. Isaiah 5:8-17 (HCSB)

In God’s Word one of the great words of warning that means something important follows is any passage beginning with “Woe”! It identifies the arrival or threat of grief or great distress, unless something changes. Jesus spoke time and again of woes and warnings to the leaders and powerful people who were living their lives disregarding the needs of the people around them. He proclaimed their lifestyle was causing harm to the people around them. God will exhaust all means to get us to change our ways before his judgment brings devastating consequences upon our selfish choices. We just need to be sensitive to listening and heeding the woes and warnings he sends our way.

In this passage, the people enjoyed a fruitful period. Their wealth and health flourished, but they selfishly expanded their possessions at the expense of others. Their lifestyle choices included the consumption of beer morning, noon, and night, which further numbed their sensitivity to their actions and attitudes. They became blinded to the bad effects of their selfish ways upon others and themselves. When arrogance and malevolence surround the actions and attitudes of someone, others are forced to leave or in many cases choose to leave. The end  result: only the arrogant, hard-hearted remain with only their property and possessions to keep them company. They stand ignorant to what caused everyone to desert them. The only one left is the Lord preparing to exercise his judgment. Only owner-less possessions and the empty fields will remain until the Lord brings the innocent and needy to occupy the possessions and fields.

The Lord remains faithful to establish justice and righteousness in the land. You are either living for him or living against him. Choose the lifestyle you want, but are your choices living in the light of God’s will, ways, and wisdom. If so, you will not hear woes and warnings. If not, pay attention to the woes and warnings before it is too late.

Coach

 

What Will Your Song Sound Like?

Casting Crowns sings of such a song...
Casting Crowns sings of such a song…

What Will Your Song Sound Like?

I will sing about the one I love, a song about my loved one’s vineyard: The one I love had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He broke up the soil, cleared it of stones, and planted it with the finest vines. He built a tower in the middle of it and even hewed out a winepress there. He expected it to yield good grapes, but it yielded worthless grapes. So now, residents of Jerusalem and men of Judah, please judge between Me and My vineyard. What more could I have done for My vineyard than I did? Why, when I expected a yield of good grapes, did it yield worthless grapes? Now I will tell you what I am about to do to My vineyard: I will remove its hedge, and it will be consumed; I will tear down its wall, and it will be trampled. I will make it a wasteland. It will not be pruned or weeded; thorns and briers will grow up. I will also give orders to the clouds that rain should not fall on it. For the vineyard of the Lord of Â Hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah, the plant He delighted in. He looked for justice but saw injustice, for righteousness, but heard cries of wretchedness. Isaiah 5:1-7 (HCSB)

“Song of the Vineyard” speaks of the rebellion of Israel, the chosen people. It proclaims how the Lord takes extraordinary measures to prepare the lives of his people to be fruitful. However, if we are found to be unproductive because of our choices in life, the Lord will remove his protection and provisions from us and allow our lives to become a wasteland. 

How can we be productive, pleasing to the Lord, our Caretaker? The Lord seeks justice and fairness among all his people. The Lord expects his people to live in harmony with each other according to God’s will, ways, and wisdom – living a righteous life. To be deemed as righteous cannot be claimed. The Lord alone can proclaim us as righteous. It is his standard and thus he alone is the judge.Consider all he has done to inspire us to live according to the choices that please him. Christ stands before us as our model and guide of what a righteous life looks like. When we have humbled ourselves and surrendered our heart, soul, mind and strength to God, then our choices and attitudes towards others will reflect the righteous life inside of us. For all of us who genuinely surrender ourselves to the Lord, a hedge will be placed around our lives. He will tend to our needs so that we can grow to be fruitful participants in his kingdom on earth. He will pluck out the thorns and briers from our life which can hinder our fruitfulness.

What will your song sound like about your life? Will it testify about your righteous life? Will it be a joyous song of praise or a dirge (funeral song)? For most of us, our song is still being written? How we respond to the challenges we face and where we place our trust will write the rest of our song. Pray your song will be a love song that will inspire others and place a smile on the Lord’s face when it is sung.

Coach

There Will Always Be a Remnant

The fisherman – by Charles Napier Hemy, 1888
The fisherman – by Charles Napier Hemy, 1888

There Will Always Be a Remnant

On that day the branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of Israel’s survivors. Whoever remains in Zion and whoever is left in Jerusalem will be called holy – all in Jerusalem who are destined to live – when the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodguilt from the heart of Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of burning. Then the Lord will create a cloud of smoke by day and a glowing flame of fire by night over the entire site of Mount Zion and over its assemblies. For there will be a canopy over all the glory, and there will be a booth for shade from heat by day, and a refuge and shelter from storm and rain. Isaiah 4:2-6 (HCSB)

This passage is one of the many in the Bible we overlook the significance. Beginning in the 19th Century, many in the Church wanted us to believe that the Rapture of the Church would be a removal from this earthly existence. However, the Lord Himself is quoted as saying  here, echoed by Jesus in the Gospels, it is the wicked who will be removed from the land, not the holy remnant preserved by their faith.

“On that day” is a phrase used to depict the day of judgment by God when we all will be required to give an accounting for our lives. When Isaiah was inspired to write this passage, the people of Jerusalem chose prideful ways contrary to what God desired. Despite repeated warnings, they persisted in selfish ways and earned one more warning regarding “that day” would arrive upon them. (For those who are not historians, in 586 BC the Babylonian Empire not only completely conquered but dismantled the city of Jerusalem).

If it is God’s purpose to remove the “holy ones” from this world, then why are we saved by faith into the family of God in this life? Why aren’t we  freed from the wickedness and arrogance of the world? Why is it that we pray so fervently to get healed from our illnesses and certain death to continue to live in this world? If the “Rapture” is the hope of the Church, then why pray to continue to live here now? Why would God create mankind only to find fault in it so that it must be destroyed along with all of creation? Did God make a mistake in creating this world? Is the evil in this world beyond his powers to cleanse and restore what he intended to be holy and in relationship with him?

I am not a notable theologian or philosopher, yet in reading through and studying the Bible for many years, I have discovered many man-made positions the Church bought into because it served the purposes for Church, much instilled a sense of fear, not by faith for adherence. Jesus said only the wicked should fear, not the faithful. He pointed to the fact that the unfaithful and wicked would be separated and taken away to oblivion or destruction. God’s Word reveals repeatedly, where faith remains, hope and love also prevails, and there fear cannot exist!

By faith begin a journey to invest in God’s Word prayerfully every day. Seek God’s will, ways, and wisdom with an open heart and mind. I believe you will be enlightened as I have over the recent years. Approach God’s Word humbly and something new will be revealed, no matter how many times you read it. God is the creator of life, the unmatched, unconquerable author of all life. In this life we are to remain as his faithful remnant to seek out and share the God’s message of life among the living with others. This continues to be what God intended since the Genesis of mankind’s existence.

Coach