Isaiah 53:1

Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

As we are in the middle of Lent, a time of reflection, repentance, and preparation for Easter, I thought I’d spend some time going through Isaiah chapter 53, one of the most profound, beautiful prophecies of our Lord and Savior.  It was written some 700 years before the birth of Christ.  Granted, it’s among many prophesies of the coming Messiah in the Old Testament.  But the detail poured into this chapter about what Christ endured in our place is awesome.

In today’s verse, we are presented with a question.  Or really – two questions?  I think the two questions go hand in hand.  When we believe in Christ the Messiah with our heart, and profess with our mouth, “He is Lord”, he is revealed to us.  And really, he’s made himself plain to us, so that we CAN believe.  Incredible!  But it reminds me of the verse in Isaiah 6:

He said, “Go and tell this people:  “‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’  Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes.  Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”

While salvation is not something we can obtain by any means but Christ alone, it’s not exclusive to just a certain section of people.  God sent his son to die for all of our sins, for everyone one of us.  But we do have the option to decline his gift – that is what free will is.  That is what makes this gift so wonderful!  We are given the choice to freely love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and strength.  Or to choose our own way, which will ultimately lead to death…..  I pray you consider with all your heart the question presented in verse one of Isaiah 53.  I pray your answer is “I BELIEVE!  I BELIEVE!  PRAISE THE LORD! I BELIEVE!!!”

Here is some context from the tail of Isaiah 52, that leads beautifully into the verses I will discuss over the next few days.  May God bless you abundantly today!

See, my servant will act wisely;  he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.  Just as there were many who were appalled at him — his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness — so will he sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him.  For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand.

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Good Soil….

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.” (From Luke 8:5-8)

I can recognize in my life, times when I fit into each of the four categories mentioned in the parable of the sower.

I know that there was a time where if anyone mentioned the word Jesus, or anything having to do with the Bible, I would sort of “tune out”. I always thought there must be some sort of God, and that Jesus must have existed. But that instead of him being the son of God, or God himself in flesh, I thought he was just some guy who had a lot of great ideas and did great things. And I, like so many, thought that the “one way to the father” stuff was all a bunch of malarky.  So hearing anyone preach, or even share what he’d done for them, sort of fell on deaf ears. At the time the seed was definitely falling along the path, to be trampled on or eaten by the birds.

I remember times also where I felt like “I’ll give this religion thing a shot”. I would go to church, for a week or two, and I was bound and determined to read the bible, even if it was just to say I did, and so that I could be “smart” when people would have “religious discussions”. But there wasn’t anything there, and it all sort of got dry or boring. And “God certainly wasn’t doing anything in my life”, so I gave it up. In those times, the seed was falling on the rocks, quickly withering due to no moisture.

Funny, thought, that is exactly where Jesus met me.  He used that time of pride and selfish ambition in my life, to reveal himself to me in a huge way.  And things started to change in my life……

I still have moments where I am so consumed by this world, and all its troubles. Or – when I seek pleasures of this world, instead of first seeking his kingdom and righteousness. Where I put things before God, and they become my idol. There are struggles I have yet today, that I must wrestle with, and that I often put before God. Lust, anger, gossip, jealousy, greed – I could go into on and on, but I’m sure I’m not alone here. You may be able to come up with your own list. This is definitely when the seed is falling on the thorns, and I allow the things of the world to choke anything the Holy Spirt is trying to do in and through me. I become ineffective for his kingdom, and tend to worry about myself.

Then there are those few moments, where I set myself aside. Where I seek his face. Where I lay my life down for my neighbor, putting their best interests before my desires. Where I am obedient to what the Lord has for me, and others through me. Oh – that I would embrace this fully, always! These are the wonderful moments where the seed falls on good soil, and produces a crop a hundred times more than was sown.

These are those amazing moments where the Holy Spirit does his wonderful work through me! And it’s not anything of me – it’s only when I empty myself of the desires and cares of the world, when I put myself last. When I seek no glory, no fame, no accolades. When I do what is right, for no other reason, for nobody to notice – just because it’s right. Oh, that there would be so many more of those in my life!

But the thing is – I don’t even know I’m doing it so often.  HE’s doing it!  While I do have a choice to make – to follow the Lord or not to follow – it’s the Holy Spirit in me that drives this.  I am powerless without him, and it’s only when I recognize that, and turn my life over, that he begins to work.  Free will – such an amazing gift!  Not the most amazing, but cool all the same….

Father, I thank you that you have sown seed on good, fertile soil in my life. Let me not quench what the Holy Spirit is doing in my life. Reveal to me daily what grieves you in my life, in my heart. I thank you that you have not overwhelmed me, but are constantly working me, transforming me into your image. Let me no longer conform to the things of this world. You gave me free will, because you love me – not because of anything I’ve done, but because of who you are – and you desire my love in return. I want to give that all back to you. Without you, I am nothing. With you in my heart, there is so much to offer! Use me Lord, as you have planned. I pray this in your Son Jesus’ name – name above all names!

Amen…..

“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”

Love Does Win, Part 3

Hello – yet another post on this…..

This should hopefully be the last one, and instead of spending so much time talking or debating about wrong theology, I want to concentrate hard on what I mean when I say “Love does win.  He’s already won”.

We all the know the story of Adam and Eve, no?  How God created man in his own image.  How he gave Adam (man) his wife.  How they lived in communion with God, and with each other.

Wait – let’s stop there.  They lived in communion with God!  Something I could never have grasped as a child, and even now have a difficult time grasping.  They were in the very presence of God ALL THE TIME!  What?!?  that is crazy!

But as with many of us, that’s just not enough is it?  The serpent  came in spewing lies, and suggesting lies (notice he even asks Eve a question, suggesting God said they could not eat ANYTHING in the garden, or they would die), and they fell for it.

Remember one big point here – God was there all along…..  So – WHY DIDN’T HE STOP SATAN???  That’s a very typical question we ask, no?  Why do you let that happen???

Love.  God loves us so much, he allows us to make very stupid choices.  In this case, separation from God.  Sound familiar?  We all do this – even those of us who know Jesus as Lord and Savior.  How much easier is it to separate yourself from God if you don’t know him?  I speak from my past experiences, when I say for me it was too easy…..  And it breaks his heart every time…

Seems satan has done a great job throughout history in helping to create this divide.  Be it idols, hardening our hearts, malice, hatred, bigotry, sexual sin, divorce, murder, slander, jealousy, rage, theft, slothfulness – you name it.  If you think you live for yourself alone, if you think what you are doing doesn’t hurt others – don’t you think for a moment that you might be thinking only OF yourself????  That is NOT what God wanted from us.  Or for us……

And that is not how he left us.  He provided a way to save all nations, through his Son Jesus Christ!  Where satan meant to steal, kill and destroy, God has rescuded and restored through Jesus Christ!  Where satan has corrupted our hearts, God has washed us clean through Jesus Christ!

We should all know that satan hates God, and everything he stands for.  But he’s powerless against him.  So he chose us to target – God’s glory.  And we basically gave him every right to destroy us, by turning away from God and to him – we gave him the keys to, or dominion over this earth, where God had given to us (Genesis 1:28).

But thanks be to God for his Son Jesus Christ, the lamb who takes away the sin of the world!  He came and took on all our sin, so that we might become righteous through him!  And all we need to to is recieve!  to believe!  And THIS is how much God loves us – that he DOESN’T turn us over to our sinful ways, but instead provided a way for us to be again in communion with him, and this time for eternity.

LOVE DOES WIN!  HE’S ALREADY WON!   PRAISE THE LORD!

I’ll leave you with these verses from Romans 5:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!  Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Love Does Win, Part 2

Last week, I discussed a popular belief that has been circulating, that “a loving God would never condemn anyone to hell”.  This is not by any means a new belief, though it’s gotten new attention lately.  This is also not the only thing you would find out there that questions or stands against biblical truth.  Today I read an article on Time Magazine’s website claiming that men erased from the Bible the “facts” that God had a wife named Asherah.

There is no “original text” to produce, which could prove this is to be an accurate, or even possible claim- but it’s so easy for us to maybe believe something such as this, no?  To make God more like us?  To show that maybe he has faults?  That he is not perfect?  That he’s either not all-powerful, or he’s not all-loving?  Then it would be easier for us to justify our own sinful lives.  And we can pick and choose those pieces of the Bible that please us, and toss out that which makes us uncomfortable.

2 Timothy 4:3 says “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”  And that is exactly what we are doing.  And God will allow us to do just that .  That is how much he loves us – enough to risk rejection by us, so that we might choose to love him of our own free will!  Don’t think it doesn’t grieve him that we reject him.  Don’t think our complete rejection of him doesn’t break his heart.  Don’t think anyone who chooses hell, a complete separation from God, over eternal life with God the Father through his Son Jesus Christ, doesn’t matter to him, doesn’t crush him.

Revelation 3:20 says “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”

Matthew 18:12-14 says “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?  And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.  In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.”

John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Yes, God loves us so much that he sent his son to die in our place.  But why then doesn’t everyone get to go to heaven, if he sent his son for us?

A gift is only a gift if it is first given, second recieved.  If we choose not to recieve it, it’s not our gift……..

I beg you, if you haven’t yet recieved this gift, to consider what is really on your heart about this.  Why do you reject Jesus Christ?  Don’t just chime in with your same old reason or excuse – really check your heart on this.  Is it REALLY because you can’t find evidence to prove God exisits?  Or are you afraid of looking like a fool before your friends?  of what comes next – “do I have to change my entire life”?  Of “admitting I was wrong”?  Of <insert excuse here>?  I get that, really I do.  It’s humbling, scary, foreign – maybe even uncertain at first.  This is not something you need to share with me, or anyone right now – but be honest with yourself.  And you may just be surprised.  I pray for so many of you, that you consider just how wide and how deep and how high the love of God is for you.

Love does win.  He’s already won.  It was won when Jesus, who was without sin, took on our sins (all of them), died on the cross and rose again.  All glory, honor and prraise to the Lord Jesus Christ!

The Least of These….

So – My wife and I have been praying over what to give for relief in Japan, who to give to, all that jazz. And God came through in a big way! See, our company is willing to match dollar for dollar up to a certain amount for a few organizations. So, being that the organizations they will match for are reputable, and a couple were ones we were considering, we are going to go that route. And suddenly you see our donation multiply, and God can use that in powerful ways! Praise him for that!

I wanted to take a moment here, to list out just a few good organizations that you might consider giving to. Many of you may already have given – which is super cool. You’re faster than we are. Many of you may not have, or may not even want to – that is cool too. But if you have been considering where to give, or how to help, this may be somewhat helpful. So here goes:

Samaritan’s Purse

American Red Cross

Salvation Army

Feed My Starving Children

Kids Against Hunger

World Relief

On each of these pages, you’ll find info about how they are helping, and how to donate.  These are just a small few, I’m sure there are more.  In fact – I’d encourage anyone to comment on this post with other options – even the ones where you can send a text and your provider will charge you $10 – you’d be amazed at how quickly those dollars add up!  And thank you and God bless you for your giving heart!

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’”