Tuesday, December 29, 2009
This email might come as bad news for some of you, but I need to take a break from writing the devotions for a couple of weeks. There is a lot of personal stuff that needs to be worked through, and I do not feel that it would be beneficial for me to write the devotions at this time. As of now, I am planning to re-start writing devotions for Monday, January 11.
I am sorry for any inconvenience this might cause.
Grace & Peace,
Sunday, December 27, 2009
24 The Lord of Heaven’s Armies has sworn this oath: “It will all happen as I have planned. It will be as I have decided. 25 I will break the Assyrians when they are in Israel; I will trample them on my mountains. My people will no longer be their slaves nor bow down under their heavy loads. 26 I have a plan for the whole earth, a hand of judgment upon all the nations. 27 The Lord of Heaven’s Armies has spoken—who can change his plans? When his hand is raised, who can stop him?”
28 This message came to me the year King Ahaz died: 29 Do not rejoice, you Philistines, that the rod that struck you is broken—that the king who attacked you is dead. For from that snake a more poisonous snake will be born, a fiery serpent to destroy you! 30 I will feed the poor in my pasture; the needy will lie down in peace. But as for you, I will wipe you out with famine and destroy the few who remain. 31 Wail at the gates! Weep in the cities! Melt with fear, you Philistines! A powerful army comes like smoke from the north. Each soldier rushes forward eager to fight.
32 What should we tell the Philistine messengers? Tell them,
“The Lord has built Jerusalem; its walls will give refuge to his oppressed people.”
God seems to always have a care for the oppressed. There is something about oppression that moves God in ways that sometimes seem unfamiliar. But the oppressed people receive a refuge. How many times do we confuse our daily struggles with oppression? Do you think there is a refuge for us? Why or why not?
O God, please never let make light of those who are going through real oppression and reduce it down to something lesser. May your Spirit be with those people. Amen.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
1 But the Lord will have mercy on the descendants of Jacob. He will choose Israel as his special people once again. He will bring them back to settle once again in their own land. And people from many different nations will come and join them there and unite with the people of Israel. 2 The nations of the world will help the Lord’s people to return, and those who come to live in their land will serve them. Those who captured Israel will themselves be captured, and Israel will rule over its enemies.
3 In that wonderful day when the Lord gives his people rest from sorrow and fear, from slavery and chains, 4 you will taunt the king of Babylon. You will say,
“The mighty man has been destroyed. Yes, your insolence is ended. 5 For the Lord has crushed your wicked power and broken your evil rule. 6 You struck the people with endless blows of rage and held the nations in your angry grip with unrelenting tyranny. 7 But finally the earth is at rest and quiet. Now it can sing again! 8 Even the trees of the forest—the cypress trees and the cedars of Lebanon—sing out this joyous song: ‘Since you have been cut down, no one will come now to cut us down!’ 9 “In the place of the dead there is excitement over your arrival. The spirits of world leaders and mighty kings long dead stand up to see you. 10 With one voice they all cry out, ‘Now you are as weak as we are! 11 Your might and power were buried with you. The sound of the harp in your palace has ceased. Now maggots are your sheet, and worms your blanket.’ 12 “How you are fallen from heaven, O shining star, son of the morning! You have been thrown down to the earth, you who destroyed the nations of the world. 13 For you said to yourself, ‘I will ascend to heaven and set my throne above God’s stars. I will preside on the mountain of the gods far away in the north. 14 I will climb to the highest heavens and be like the Most High.’ 15 Instead, you will be brought down to the place of the dead, down to its lowest depths. 16 Everyone there will stare at you and ask, ‘Can this be the one who shook the earth and made the kingdoms of the world tremble? 17 Is this the one who destroyed the world and made it into a wasteland? Is this the king who demolished the world’s greatest cities and had no mercy on his prisoners?’ 18 “The kings of the nations lie in stately glory, each in his own tomb, 19 but you will be thrown out of your grave like a worthless branch. Like a corpse trampled underfoot, you will be dumped into a mass grave with those killed in battle. You will descend to the pit. 20 You will not be given a proper burial, for you have destroyed your nation and slaughtered your people. The descendants of such an evil person will never again receive honor. 21 Kill this man’s children! Let them die because of their father’s sins! They must not rise and conquer the earth, filling the world with their cities.”
22 This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: “I, myself, have risen against Babylon! I will destroy its children and its children’s children,”
says the Lord. 23 “I will make Babylon a desolate place of owls, filled with swamps and marshes. I will sweep the land with the broom of destruction. I, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!”
This is a really hard passage to bring to life. The first two verses are more description of things to come, but the following 19 verses we see Israel taunting their fallen enemies. I don't think this means we should kick our enemies when they are down. Honestly, I don't think the response is even very Christ-like, except to say that oppression causes deep wounds that are not easily reconcilable. And we are to be people of reconciliation. The final two verses show that in certain situations, it is God's responsibility to balance out the justice. Again, I really don't like this passage. Does it seem like the people still haven't learned their lesson from before their oppression? How much credit is God getting in this passage from the people? Is there a response that would be better?
Lord, sometimes when I read your word, I get kind of mad how your people act. Then I think about how I act as a representative of you. Please show me the same grace you have shown them. Amen.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Saturday Devotion, December 26
A Message about Babylon Isaiah son of Amoz received this message concerning the destruction of Babylon:
2 “Raise a signal flag on a bare hilltop. Call up an army against Babylon. Wave your hand to encourage them as they march into the palaces of the high and mighty. 3 I, the Lord, have dedicated these soldiers for this task. Yes, I have called mighty warriors to express my anger, and they will rejoice when I am exalted.”
4 Hear the noise on the mountains! Listen, as the vast armies march! It is the noise and shouting of many nations. The Lord of Heaven’s Armies has called this army together. 5 They come from distant countries, from beyond the farthest horizons. They are the Lord’s weapons to carry out his anger. With them he will destroy the whole land. 6 Scream in terror, for the day of the Lord has arrived—the time for the Almighty to destroy. 7 Every arm is paralyzed with fear. Every heart melts, 8 and people are terrified. Pangs of anguish grip them, like those of a woman in labor. They look helplessly at one another, their faces aflame with fear. 9 For see, the day of the Lord is coming—the terrible day of his fury and fierce anger. The land will be made desolate, and all the sinners destroyed with it. 10 The heavens will be black above them; the stars will give no light. The sun will be dark when it rises, and the moon will provide no light.
11 “I, the Lord, will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their sin. I will crush the arrogance of the proud and humble the pride of the mighty. 12 I will make people scarcer than gold—more rare than the fine gold of Ophir. 13 For I will shake the heavens. The earth will move from its place when the Lord of Heaven’s Armies displays his wrath in the day of his fierce anger.”
14 Everyone in Babylon will run about like a hunted gazelle, like sheep without a shepherd. They will try to find their own people and flee to their own land. 15 Anyone who is captured will be cut down—run through with a sword.16 Their little children will be dashed to death before their eyes. Their homes will be sacked, and their wives will be raped.
17 “Look, I will stir up the Medes against Babylon. They cannot be tempted by silver or bribed with gold. 18 The attacking armies will shoot down the young men with arrows. They will have no mercy on helpless babies and will show no compassion for children.”
19 Babylon, the most glorious of kingdoms, the flower of Chaldean pride, will be devastated like Sodom and Gomorrah when God destroyed them. 20 Babylon will never be inhabited again. It will remain empty for generation after generation. Nomads will refuse to camp there, and shepherds will not bed down their sheep. 21 Desert animals will move into the ruined city, and the houses will be haunted by howling creatures. Owls will live among the ruins, and wild goats will go there to dance. 22 Hyenas will howl in its fortresses, and jackals will make dens in its luxurious palaces. Babylon’s days are numbered; its time of destruction will soon arrive.
Black Friday was just a few weeks ago where people treated each other with contempt, suspicion, and greed... all in the name of holiday, or holy day, cheer. Today people are at it again. To show those who took the time to find a gift for them some love, they are immediately exchanging it for something that matches their ego a little better. There is a fear that is about that is not easy to explain. Do you think that fear is anything like what is mentioned above? Have you ever stood in one of these Black Friday or Black Christmas (day after Christmas) lines and looked "helplessly at one another?" Who is the Christ you are worshiping?
Dear Jesus, Fear consumes me and I try to consume things to quell the fear. May you, the God of peace Himself sanctify this hurting world and help us to become blameless. Amen.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
46 Mary responded,
“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
47 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
49 For the Mighty One is holy,
and he has done great things for me.
50 He shows mercy from generation to generation
to all who fear him.
51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
52 He has brought down princes from their thrones
and exalted the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away with empty hands.
54 He has helped his servant Israel
and remembered to be merciful.
55 For he made this promise to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his children forever.”
May the above be our prayer as well. Amen.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
1 In that day you will sing: “I will praise you, O Lord! You were angry with me, but not any more. Now you comfort me. 2 See, God has come to save me. I will trust in him and not be afraid. The Lord God is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.” 3 With joy you will drink deeply from the fountain of salvation! 4 In that wonderful day you will sing: “Thank the Lord! Praise his name! Tell the nations what he has done. Let them know how mighty he is! 5 Sing to the Lord, for he has done wonderful things. Make known his praise around the world. 6 Let all the people of Jerusalem shout his praise with joy! For great is the Holy One of Israel who lives among you.”
How appropriate for Christmas Eve, "You were angry with me, but not any more. Now you comfort me." How do these words hit you today as you read them? Do you find comfort in them?
Dear Jesus, you came into a world ridden wit strife and broken hopes. Continue to comfort us as we struggle and are stretched to follow you. Amen.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
1 Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot—yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. 2 And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 3 He will delight in obeying the Lord. He will not judge by appearance nor make a decision based on hearsay. 4 He will give justice to the poor and make fair decisions for the exploited. The earth will shake at the force of his word, and one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked. 5 He will wear righteousness like a belt and truth like an undergarment. 6 In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all. 7 The cow will graze near the bear. The cub and the calf will lie down together. The lion will eat hay like a cow. 8 The baby will play safely near the hole of a cobra. Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes without harm. 9 Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for as the waters fill the sea, so the earth will be filled with people who know the Lord. 10 In that day the heir to David’s throne will be a banner of salvation to all the world. The nations will rally to him, and the land where he lives will be a glorious place. 11 In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to bring back the remnant of his people--those who remain in Assyria and northern Egypt; in southern Egypt, Ethiopia, and Elam;in Babylonia, Hamath, and all the distant coastlands. 12 He will raise a flag among the nations and assemble the exiles of Israel. He will gather the scattered people of Judah from the ends of the earth. 13 Then at last the jealousy between Israel and Judah will end. They will not be rivals anymore. 14 They will join forces to swoop down on Philistia to the west. Together they will attack and plunder the nations to the east. They will occupy the lands of Edom and Moab, and Ammon will obey them. 15 The Lord will make a dry path through the gulf of the Red Sea. He will wave his hand over the Euphrates River, sending a mighty wind to divide it into seven streams so it can easily be crossed on foot. 16 He will make a highway for the remnant of his people, the remnant coming from Assyria, just as he did for Israel long ago when they returned from Egypt.
One of my all-time favorite passages above. Easily in the top 10. Justice will come to all of creation, not just humanity. Can you imagine a world of harmony? A peaceable kingdom? We have the opportunity right now to act in ways that can bring God's grace into others lives. This is our hope, that salvation is all in all. Does this excite you?
Oh God, my hope in you is great. May my life be lived as if this is true. Amen.
Monday, December 21, 2009
20 In that day the remnant left in Israel, the survivors in the house of Jacob, will no longer depend on allies who seek to destroy them. But they will faithfully trust the Lord, the Holy One of Israel. 21 A remnant will return; yes, the remnant of Jacob will return to the Mighty God. 22 But though the people of Israel are as numerous as the sand of the seashore, only a remnant of them will return. The Lord has rightly decided to destroy his people. 23 Yes, the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, has already decided to destroy the entire land. 24 So this is what the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, says: “O my people in Zion, do not be afraid of the Assyrians when they oppress you with rod and club as the Egyptians did long ago. 25 In a little while my anger against you will end, and then my anger will rise up to destroy them.” 26 The Lord of Heaven’s Armies will lash them with his whip, as he did when Gideon triumphed over the Midianites at the rock of Oreb, or when the Lord’s staff was raised to drown the Egyptian army in the sea. 27 In that day the Lord will end the bondage of his people. He will break the yoke of slavery and lift it from their shoulders. 28 Look, the Assyrians are now at Aiath. They are passing through Migron and are storing their equipment at Micmash. 29 They are crossing the pass and are camping at Geba. Fear strikes the town of Ramah. All the people of Gibeah, the hometown of Saul, are running for their lives. 30 Scream in terror, you people of Gallim! Shout out a warning to Laishah. Oh, poor Anathoth! 31 There go the people of Madmenah, all fleeing. The citizens of Gebim are trying to hide. 32 The enemy stops at Nob for the rest of that day. He shakes his fist at beautiful Mount Zion, the mountain of Jerusalem.
33 But look! The Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, will chop down the mighty tree of Assyria with great power! He will cut down the proud. That lofty tree will be brought down. 34 He will cut down the forest trees with an ax. Lebanon will fall to the Mighty One.
The first three verses in today's section kind of scare me. There are many people who would say that God is their God, but only a few of them will prove themselves faithfully. Unless you are one of the few, and you somehow know it, can hearing this really make anyone happy? Just a few days from Christmas and we are hearing that God is going to destroy his people. There are going to be trials for all of us, but what trial will keep you from trusting the Lord?
Almighty God, teach me how to trust you more. Amen.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
5 “What sorrow awaits Assyria, the rod of my anger. I use it as a club to express my anger. 6 I am sending Assyria against a godless nation, against a people with whom I am angry. Assyria will plunder them, trampling them like dirt beneath its feet. 7 But the king of Assyria will not understand that he is my tool; his mind does not work that way. His plan is simply to destroy, to cut down nation after nation. 8 He will say, ‘Each of my princes will soon be a king. 9 We destroyed Calno just as we did Carchemish. Hamath fell before us as Arpad did. And we destroyed Samaria just as we did Damascus. 10 Yes, we have finished off many a kingdom whose gods were greater than those in Jerusalem and Samaria. 11 So we will defeat Jerusalem and her gods, just as we destroyed Samaria with hers.’”
12 After the Lord has used the king of Assyria to accomplish his purposes on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, he will turn against the king of Assyria and punish him—for he is proud and arrogant. 13 He boasts, “By my own powerful arm I have done this. With my own shrewd wisdom I planned it. I have broken down the defenses of nations and carried off their treasures. I have knocked down their kings like a bull. 14 I have robbed their nests of riches and gathered up kingdoms as a farmer gathers eggs. No one can even flap a wing against me or utter a peep of protest.”
15 But can the ax boast greater power than the person who uses it? Is the saw greater than the person who saws? Can a rod strike unless a hand moves it? Can a wooden cane walk by itself? 16 Therefore, the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, will send a plague among Assyria’s proud troops, and a flaming fire will consume its glory. 17 The Lord, the Light of Israel, will be a fire; the Holy One will be a flame. He will devour the thorns and briers with fire, burning up the enemy in a single night. 18 The Lord will consume Assyria’s glory like a fire consumes a forest in a fruitful land; it will waste away like sick people in a plague. 19 Of all that glorious forest, only a few trees will survive— so few that a child could count them!
Interestingly, even though God will use our enemies as a way to punish us, God will still punish our enemies for the things they will do. Maybe God controls our enemies, maybe not. I would say not because it seems out of God's character to force someone to do something and then punish them for it. What do you think? Do you think that the God who cries for justice would be unjust? Why or why not?
Lord, I want to be your tool for peace. Amen.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
1 What sorrow awaits the unjust judges and those who issue unfair laws. 2 They deprive the poor of justice and deny the rights of the needy among my people. They prey on widows and take advantage of orphans. 3 What will you do when I punish you, when I send disaster upon you from a distant land? To whom will you turn for help? Where will your treasures be safe? 4 You will stumble along as prisoners or lie among the dead. But even then the Lord’s anger will not be satisfied. His fist is still poised to strike.
You know that God and the gospel are political, right? God is not a democrat and he's not a republican. But God cares deeply how we treat those who cannot fend for themselves. He cares the kind of leadership we elect who make laws and enforce them and interpret them. We spend so much time trying to find out God's will, and it is mentioned several times: give justice to the poor, rights to the needy, and take care of the widows and orphans. Do you see doing devotions or praying in that list? How can you do God's will today?
Almighty God, I get so caught up in being a good person and doing the right things that I sometimes ignore the things that you mention often. Help me find ways to do what you have called us to. Amen.
Friday, December 18, 2009
8 The Lord has spoken out against Jacob; his judgment has fallen upon Israel. 9 And the people of Israel and Samaria, who spoke with such pride and arrogance, will soon know it. 10 They said, “We will replace the broken bricks of our ruins with finished stone, and replant the felled sycamore-fig trees with cedars.”
11 But the Lord will bring Rezin’s enemies against Israel and stir up all their foes. 12 The Syrians from the east and the Philistines from the west will bare their fangs and devour Israel. But even then the Lord’s anger will not be satisfied. His fist is still poised to strike. 13 For after all this punishment, the people will still not repent. They will not seek the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 14 Therefore, in a single day the Lord will destroy both the head and the tail, the noble palm branch and the lowly reed. 15 The leaders of Israel are the head, and the lying prophets are the tail. 16 For the leaders of the people have misled them. They have led them down the path of destruction. 17 That is why the Lord takes no pleasure in the young men and shows no mercy even to the widows and orphans. For they are all wicked hypocrites, and they all speak foolishness. But even then the Lord’s anger will not be satisfied. His fist is still poised to strike. 18 This wickedness is like a brushfire. It burns not only briers and thorns but also sets the forests ablaze. Its burning sends up clouds of smoke. 19 The land will be blackened by the fury of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. The people will be fuel for the fire, and no one will spare even his own brother. 20 They will attack their neighbor on the right but will still be hungry. They will devour their neighbor on the left but will not be satisfied. In the end they will even eat their own children. 21 Manasseh will feed on Ephraim, Ephraim will feed on Manasseh, and both will devour Judah. But even then the Lord’s anger will not be satisfied. His fist is still poised to strike.
"For after all this punishment, the people will still not repent." What does it take for you to admit that you are wrong? As soon as you find out? Most people hold on dearly even if they find out they are wrong, because they feel that they will be embarrassed or appear weak if they admit. Yet some people even after admitting they are wrong won't repent or turn from their ways. Are you the person who refuses to change? Or do you honestly try to live in the right?
Lord, I not only confess my sins to you, but I also repent of all the wrong and hurt that I have caused. Strengthen me to live in reconciliation. Amen.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
1 Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory. 2 The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. 3 You will enlarge the nation of Israel, and its people will rejoice. They will rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest and like warriors dividing the plunder. 4 For you will break the yoke of their slavery and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders. You will break the oppressor’s rod, just as you did when you destroyed the army of Midian. 5 The boots of the warrior and the uniforms bloodstained by war will all be burned. They will be fuel for the fire.
6 For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!
Now, most of us have heard verse 8 as a reference to Jesus, which is definitely true, this passage is not talking about Jesus initially. It is a continuation of yesterday's passage. The people might stumble in darkness, but out of grace and mercy, they will have a chance at reconciliation. In the same way, what ever darkness and despair you are going through, no matter how dire, God will give you the chance for restitution.
Do you seem to dwell in darkness or light more? Do you believe that God reaches out to those in the dark? Why or why not?
In my darkness, you bring me light o God. Let the light that shines upon me flow through me and shine upon others. Amen.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
11 The Lord has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does. He said,
12 “Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them. 13 Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear. He is the one who should make you tremble. 14 He will keep you safe. But to Israel and Judah he will be a stone that makes people stumble, a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare. 15 Many will stumble and fall, never to rise again. They will be snared and captured.”
16 Preserve the teaching of God; entrust his instructions to those who follow me. 17 I will wait for the Lord, who has turned away from the descendants of Jacob. I will put my hope in him. 18 I and the children the Lord has given me serve as signs and warnings to Israel from the Lord of Heaven’s Armies who dwells in his Temple on Mount Zion.
19 Someone may say to you, “Let’s ask the mediums and those who consult the spirits of the dead. With their whisperings and mutterings, they will tell us what to do.” But shouldn’t people ask God for guidance? Should the living seek guidance from the dead? 20 Look to God’s instructions and teachings! People who contradict his word are completely in the dark. 21 They will go from one place to another, weary and hungry. And because they are hungry, they will rage and curse their king and their God. They will look up to heaven 22 and down at the earth, but wherever they look, there will be trouble and anguish and dark despair. They will be thrown out into the darkness.
Okay, this is going to seem a bit obvious, but it is truly surprising how overlooked it is. Most of us do not seek God for guidance and when we do we only accept the guidance that confirms how we want to deal with an issue. We say we want advice or help, but we only want the advice or help that matches what we think the answer should be. Instead of accepting that 2+2=4, we look for "help" that agrees with our answer being 3.
Do we worship ourselves where God changes to be a worthy God or do we worship God and we change to be worthy to Him?
Lord, sometimes to follow you well, I have to change more than I am comfortable with. Give me the strength to follow your ways even when I feel a great cost. Amen.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
1 Then the Lord said to me, “Make a large signboard and clearly write this name on it: Maher-shalal-hash-baz.” 2 I asked Uriah the priest and Zechariah son of Jeberekiah, both known as honest men, to witness my doing this. 3 Then I slept with my wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. And the Lord said, “Call him Maher-shalal-hash-baz. 4 For before this child is old enough to say ‘Papa’ or ‘Mama,’ the king of Assyria will carry away both the abundance of Damascus and the riches of Samaria.” 5 Then the Lord spoke to me again and said, 6 “My care for the people of Judah is like the gently flowing waters of Shiloah, but they have rejected it. They are rejoicing over what will happen to King Rezin and King Pekah. 7 Therefore, the Lord will overwhelm them with a mighty flood from the Euphrates River—the king of Assyria and all his glory. This flood will overflow all its channels 8 and sweep into Judah until it is chin deep. It will spread its wings, submerging your land from one end to the other, O Immanuel.
9 “Huddle together, you nations, and be terrified. Listen, all you distant lands. Prepare for battle, but you will be crushed! Yes, prepare for battle, but you will be crushed! 10 Call your councils of war, but they will be worthless. Develop your strategies, but they will not succeed. For God is with us!”
We are going to have a lot of moments through Isaiah where God seems to be on trial. Sadly, I have had many conversations with believers who ask, "How can good God do ______?" while completely ignoring what God has provided them. Of course there are also some who claim to be a believer but rarely attribute to God what is from God.
How many times do you deny what God has done for you playing it off as something else?
Lord, help me to know when to credit you properly with the many great things you have done. Amen.
Monday, December 14, 2009
10 Later, the Lord sent this message to King Ahaz: 11 “Ask the Lord your God for a sign of confirmation, Ahaz. Make it as difficult as you want—as high as heaven or as deep as the place of the dead.”
12 But the king refused. “No,” he said, “I will not test the Lord like that.”
13 Then Isaiah said, “Listen well, you royal family of David! Isn’t it enough to exhaust human patience? Must you exhaust the patience of my God as well? 14 All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’). 15 By the time this child is old enough to choose what is right and reject what is wrong, he will be eating yogurt and honey. 16 For before the child is that old, the lands of the two kings you fear so much will both be deserted. 17 “Then the Lord will bring things on you, your nation, and your family unlike anything since Israel broke away from Judah. He will bring the king of Assyria upon you!” 18 In that day the Lord will whistle for the army of southern Egypt and for the army of Assyria. They will swarm around you like flies and bees. 19 They will come in vast hordes and settle in the fertile areas and also in the desolate valleys, caves, and thorny places. 20 In that day the Lord will hire a “razor” from beyond the Euphrates River—the king of Assyria—and use it to shave off everything: your land, your crops, and your people. 21 In that day a farmer will be fortunate to have a cow and two sheep or goats left. 22 Nevertheless, there will be enough milk for everyone because so few people will be left in the land. They will eat their fill of yogurt and honey. 23 In that day the lush vineyards, now worth 1,000 pieces of silver, will become patches of briers and thorns. 24 The entire land will become a vast expanse of briers and thorns, a hunting ground overrun by wildlife. 25 No one will go to the fertile hillsides where the gardens once grew, for briers and thorns will cover them. Cattle, sheep, and goats will graze there.
King Ahaz is a jerk, yet at the same time he isn't too much different than most of us. We are taught from a very young age to feign a scent of humility whenever we are offered something outside of our own. We don't want to impose. We want to show how respectful we are... blah, blah, blah! When someone offers us something in generosity, it is a slap in the face to turn it down because we don't want to appear rude. Ahaz is asked by God to ask for a sign and Ahaz refuses because he doesn't want to seem petty by not believing in God enough. Yet our God is not afraid of our challenges. He welcomes them.
When people offer you stuff, how do you reply?
Almighty God, giving may be better than receiving, but please teach me to receive properly, too. Amen.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
1 When Ahaz, son of Jotham and grandson of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Syria and Pekah son of Remaliah, the king of Israel, set out to attack Jerusalem. However, they were unable to carry out their plan. 2 The news had come to the royal court of Judah: “Syria is allied with Israel against us!” So the hearts of the king and his people trembled with fear, like trees shaking in a storm.
3 Then the Lord said to Isaiah, “Take your son Shear-jashub and go out to meet King Ahaz. You will find him at the end of the aqueduct that feeds water into the upper pool, near the road leading to the field where cloth is washed. 4 Tell him to stop worrying. Tell him he doesn’need to fear the fierce anger of those two burned-out embers, King Rezin of Syria and Pekah son of Remaliah. 5 Yes, the kings of Syria and Israel are plotting against him, saying, 6 ‘We will attack Judah and capture it for ourselves. Then we will install the son of Tabeel as Judah’s king.’ 7 But this is what the Sovereign Lord says:
“This invasion will never happen; it will never take place; 8 for Syria is no stronger than its capital, Damascus, and Damascus is no stronger than its king, Rezin. As for Israel, within sixty-five years it will be crushed and completely destroyed. 9 Israel is no stronger than its capital, Samaria, and Samaria is no stronger than its king, Pekah son of Remaliah. Unless your faith is firm, I cannot make you stand firm.”
"Unless your faith is firm, I cannot make you stand firm." So many ways we can understand this. Today we will look at it through the lens that if you are not going to give God an honest shot, it is unreasonable to expect Him to work on your behalf. I rarely see people who are seeking God say things like, "God has never helped me out." Firm faith does not mean we know with certainty the details of how everything is going to work out. Firm faith is sloppy and messy, but more importantly it gives God an honest shot to work in the world and your life.
Does your faith give God an honest shot? Why or why not?
Lord Jesus, my faith in you seems to waver more than politicians' words. Help me stand firm in believing you without the empirical evidence for support. My faith in you cannot be seen except through my actions. Amen.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
1 It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. 2 Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3 They were calling out to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!”
4 Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke. 5 Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7 He touched my lips with it and said, “See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.”
8 Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?”
I said, “Here I am. Send me.”
9 And he said, “Yes, go, and say to this people, ‘Listen carefully, but do not understand. Watch closely, but learn nothing.’ 10 Harden the hearts of these people. Plug their ears and shut their eyes. That way, they will not see with their eyes, nor hear with their ears, nor understand with their hearts and turn to me for healing.”
11 Then I said, “Lord, how long will this go on?”
And he replied, “Until their towns are empty, their houses are deserted, and the whole country is a wasteland; 12 until the Lord has sent everyone away, and the entire land of Israel lies deserted. 13 If even a tenth—a remnant—survive, it will be invaded again and burned. But as a terebinth or oak tree leaves a stump when it is cut down, so Israel’s stump will be a holy seed.”
Very powerful passage that usually gets cut short at verse 8. Individuals of God rarely see the "Holy, Holy, Holy" moments when the people of God do not follow and obey. So many times we feel that it is just between "me and God" that the very world we live in crumbles. Many times we Christians are the last to understand what is really going on because we are blinded by our own egos. To have a Temple moment is to experience future but necessary heartache to help bring the Kingdom into now.
How many times do we not get transformed by worship? How much of our worship is self focused rather than God focused?
Heavenly Father, may there be more of you in me so there will be more of you in this world. Amen.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
20 What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter. 21 What sorrow for those who are wise in their own eyes and think themselves so clever. 22 What sorrow for those who are heroes at drinking wine and boast about all the alcohol they can hold. 23 They take bribes to let the wicked go free, and they punish the innocent. 24 Therefore, just as fire licks up stubble and dry grass shrivels in the flame, so their roots will rot and their flowers wither. For they have rejected the law of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies; they have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. 25 That is why the Lord’s anger burns against his people,and why he has raised his fist to crush them. The mountains tremble, and the corpses of his people litter the streets like garbage. But even then the Lord’s anger is not satisfied. His fist is still poised to strike! 26 He will send a signal to distant nations far away and whistle to those at the ends of the earth. They will come racing toward Jerusalem. 27 They will not get tired or stumble. They will not stop for rest or sleep. Not a belt will be loose, not a sandal strap broken. 28 Their arrows will be sharp and their bows ready for battle. Sparks will fly from their horses’ hooves, and the wheels of their chariots will spin like a whirlwind. 29 They will roar like lions. like the strongest of lions. Growling, they will pounce on their victims and carry them off, and no one will be there to rescue them. 30 They will roar over their victims on that day of destruction like the roaring of the sea. If someone looks across the land, only darkness and distress will be seen;even the light will be darkened by clouds.
Pretty dreary stuff. Once again, these are the believers who are getting told that God will not save or rescue them, not unbelievers. You will be judged on how true you stick to your beliefs.
Do you really believe what you say you believe? How do you know?
Heavenly Father, help my unbelief. Amen.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
8 What sorrow for you who buy up house after house and field after field, until everyone is evicted and you live alone in the land. 9 But I have heard the Lord of Heaven’s Armies swear a solemn oath: “Many houses will stand deserted; even beautiful mansions will be empty. 10 Ten acres of vineyard will not produce even six gallons of wine. Ten baskets of seed will yield only one basket of grain.” 11 What sorrow for those who get up early in the morninglooking for a drink of alcohol and spend long evenings drinking wine to make themselves flaming drunk. 12 They furnish wine and lovely music at their grand parties—lyre and harp, tambourine and flute—but they never think about the Lord or notice what he is doing. 13 So my people will go into exile far away because they do not know me.Those who are great and honored will starve, and the common people will die of thirst. 14 The grave is licking its lips in anticipation, opening its mouth wide. The great and the lowly and all the drunken mob will be swallowed up. 15 Humanity will be destroyed, and people brought down; even the arrogant will lower their eyes in humiliation. 16 But the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will be exalted by his justice. The holiness of God will be displayed by his righteousness. 17 In that day lambs will find good pastures, and fattened sheep and young goats will feed among the ruins. 18 What sorrow for those who drag their sins behind them with ropes made of lies, who drag wickedness behind them like a cart! 19 They even mock God and say, “Hurry up and do something! We want to see what you can do. Let the Holy One of Israel carry out his plan, for we want to know what it is.”
These people that God is speaking against are not our enemies. These people are the people of God, Israel. They no longer act as if God is their God, and they reap the repercussions of it. It is possible for even us to "never think about the Lord or notice what he is doing."
How often do you think about the Lord and notice what he is doing?
Lord God, let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you. Amen.
Monday, December 7, 2009
Tuesday Devotion, December 8
Isaiah 5:1-71 Now I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a rich and fertile hill. 2 He plowed the land, cleared its stones, and planted it with the best vines. In the middle he built a watchtower and carved a winepress in the nearby rocks. Then he waited for a harvest of sweet grapes, but the grapes that grew were bitter. 3 Now, you people of Jerusalem and Judah, you judge between me and my vineyard. 4 What more could I have done for my vineyard that I have not already done? When I expected sweet grapes, why did my vineyard give me bitter grapes? 5 Now let me tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will tear down its hedges and let it be destroyed. I will break down its walls and let the animals trample it. 6 I will make it a wild place where the vines are not pruned and the ground is not hoed, a place overgrown with briers and thorns. I will command the clouds to drop no rain on it. 7 The nation of Israel is the vineyard of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. The people of Judah are his pleasant garden. He expected a crop of justice, but instead he found oppression. He expected to find righteousness, but instead he heard cries of violence.
Sometimes we blame God for what happens in the world even though he does not do anything wrong. We rob a store and blame God for the jail time. We lie to our parents and blame God for losing privileges. Yet in many ways, God has provided the resources for us to become his kingdom already; still we find ways to keep it not yet.
How often do you bring conflict upon yourself and blame God or others for it?
Jesus, help me to turn from my negative patterns and attitudes. May I help bring your Kingdom by your grace. Amen.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
2 But in that day, the branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious; the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of all who survive in Israel. 3 All who remain in Zion will be a holy people— those who survive the destruction of Jerusalem and are recorded among the living. 4 The Lord will wash the filth from beautiful Zion and cleanse Jerusalem of its bloodstains with the hot breath of fiery judgment. 5 Then the Lord will provide shade for Mount Zion and all who assemble there. He will provide a canopy of cloud during the day and smoke and flaming fire at night, covering the glorious land. 6 It will be a shelter from daytime heat and a hiding place from storms and rain.Quick Notes
God is the one who washes away the filth that we create. If we stay true to God, we will survive and again we will be provided for. I think we get scared of doing things differently because of the future. Few of us have problems changing things that we feel are unimportant, but when we consider something important, we do not want to change... even if it would be better for us.
Do we really believe that staying true to God is important, and if so, are we willing to do it?
Almighty God, I want to believe the future will be better off if the world relies on you. Help me to be a part of that. Amen.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
16 The Lord says, “Beautiful Zion is haughty: craning her elegant neck, flirting with her eyes, walking with dainty steps, tinkling her ankle bracelets. 17 So the Lord will send scabs on her head; the Lord will make beautiful Zion bald.” 18 On that day of judgment the Lord will strip away everything that makes her beautiful: ornaments, headbands, crescent necklaces, 19 earrings, bracelets, and veils; 20 scarves, ankle bracelets, sashes, perfumes, and charms; 21 rings, jewels, 22 party clothes, gowns, capes, and purses; 23 mirrors, fine linen garments, head ornaments, and shawls.
24 Instead of smelling of sweet perfume, she will stink. She will wear a rope for a sash, and her elegant hair will fall out. She will wear rough burlap instead of rich robes. Shame will replace her beauty. 25 The men of the city will be killed with the sword, and her warriors will die in battle. 26 The gates of Zion will weep and mourn. The city will be like a ravaged woman, huddled on the ground.
4 1 In that day so few men will be left that seven women will fight for each man, saying, “Let us all marry you! We will provide our own food and clothing. Only let us take your name so we won’t be mocked as old maids.
Israel has spent its time and resources on pleasing everything except God. She has flirted to be attracted to what seems to be good in the moment - the other nations - that she misses how this will affect her future. Today several of us spend our time and resources to please or impress other people because it looks good in the moment and miss how this will affect our future. We bring our own downfall by flirting with "success" instead of relying on what God provides.
Who do you try to impress? What do you spend most of your time doing?
Lord, I spend most of my time trying to get the approval of other people without considering how you view me. Help me with strength to rely on you. Amen.
Friday, December 4, 2009
1 The Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, will take away from Jerusalem and Judah everything they depend on: every bit of bread and every drop of water, 2 all their heroes and soldiers, judges and prophets, fortune-tellers and elders, 3 army officers and high officials, advisers, skilled craftsmen, and astrologers. 4 I will make boys their leaders, and toddlers their rulers. 5 People will oppress each other— man against man, neighbor against neighbor. Young people will insult their elders, and vulgar people will sneer at the honorable. 6 In those days a man will say to his brother, “Since you have a coat, you be our leader! Take charge of this heap of ruins!” 7 But he will reply, “No! I can’t help. I don’t have any extra food or clothes. Don’t put me in charge!” 8 For Jerusalem will stumble, and Judah will fall, because they speak out against the Lord and refuse to obey him. They provoke him to his face. 9 The very look on their faces gives them away. They display their sin like the people of Sodom and don’t even try to hide it. They are doomed! They have brought destruction upon themselves. 10 Tell the godly that all will be well for them. They will enjoy the rich reward they have earned! 11 But the wicked are doomed, for they will get exactly what they deserve. 12 Childish leaders oppress my people and women rule over them. O my people, your leaders mislead you; they send you down the wrong road. 13 The Lord takes his place in court and presents his case against his people! 14 The Lord comes forward to pronounce judgment on the elders and rulers of his people: “You have ruined Israel, my vineyard. Your houses are filled with things stolen from the poor. 15 How dare you crush my people, grinding the faces of the poor into the dust?” demands the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
Above is a really awesome passage dealing with judgment. "The wicked are doomed, for they will get exactly what they deserve," is sometimes translated that doing bad now will lead to bad consequences on judgment day, which may be true. But this passage is speaking in a past tense. As soon as you make a bad decision, you face the consequences immediately. For example, take lying. The first time you lie allows for the second time to be easier, and so on. The easier it is to do bad things the more we deserve the doom of making bad decisions.
How quickly do you experience the consequences for doing something bad? Have you ever done something bad that you don't believe you suffered any consequences?
Lord, by praying to you right now, I am hoping to pattern my life in relying on you for my future. Amen.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Friday Devotion, December 4
5 Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord! 6 For the Lord has rejected his people, the descendants of Jacob, because they have filled their land with practices from the East and with sorcerers, as the Philistines do. They have made alliances with pagans. 7 Israel is full of silver and gold; there is no end to its treasures. Their land is full of warhorses; there is no end to its chariots. 8 Their land is full of idols; the people worship things they have made with their own hands. 9 So now they will be humbled, and all will be brought low— do not forgive them. 10 Crawl into caves in the rocks. Hide in the dust from the terror of the Lord and the glory of his majesty. 11 Human pride will be brought down, and human arrogance will be humbled. Only the Lord will be exalted on that day of judgment. 12 For the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has a day of reckoning. He will punish the proud and mighty and bring down everything that is exalted. 13 He will cut down the tall cedars of Lebanon and all the mighty oaks of Bashan. 14 He will level all the high mountains and all the lofty hills. 15 He will break down every high tower and every fortified wall. 16 He will destroy all the great trading ships and every magnificent vessel. 17 Human pride will be humbled, and human arrogance will be brought down. Only the Lord will be exalted on that day of judgment. 18 Idols will completely disappear. 19 When the Lord rises to shake the earth, his enemies will crawl into holes in the ground. They will hide in caves in the rocks from the terror of the Lord and the glory of his majesty. 20 On that day of judgment they will abandon the gold and silver idols they made for themselves to worship. They will leave their gods to the rodents and bats, 21 while they crawl away into caverns and hide among the jagged rocks in the cliffs. They will try to escape the terror of the Lord and the glory of his majesty as he rises to shake the earth. 22 Don’t put your trust in mere humans. They are as frail as breath. What good are they?
It is probably nt surprising, but we get attached to things and make them more important than they are. What we are doing is making idols. Even though the idols may start off as innocent, we can become too attached and ultimately lose sight for our purpose on earth.
What are your idols? If no idols, what do you come the closest to idolizing? Why?
Lord, I know that I do not always put you above every other God. Help me to prioritize you first. Amen.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Wednesday Devotion, December 2
1 This is a vision that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: 2 In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s house will be the highest of all— the most important place on earth. It will be raised above the other hills, and people from all over the world will stream there to worship. 3 People from many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths. For the Lord’s teaching will go out from Zion; his word will go out from Jerusalem. 4 The Lord will mediate between nations and will settle international disputes. They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore.
Interesting imagery. We are usually told that at the end of time, we will all have been perfected in heaven, but Isaiah's vision says that in the last days we will learn his ways and walk in his paths. It will be then that world peace has a legitimate chance. Our weapons of mass destruction will be tools of provision. This does not mean we should not work to world peace now or that we should purposely stray from God, but that only when God is all in all will we see the kingdom fully revealed.
Do you think we should be responsible for the world we live in today? Why or why not? How does the above scripture play into your answer?
Heavenly Father, your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Wednesday Devotion, December 2
21 See how Jerusalem, once so faithful, has become a prostitute. Once the home of justice and righteousness, she is now filled with murderers. 22 Once like pure silver, you have become like worthless slag. Once so pure, you are now like watered-down wine. 23 Your leaders are rebels, the companions of thieves. All of them love bribes and demand payoffs, but they refuse to defend the cause of orphans or fight for the rights of widows.
24 Therefore, the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the Mighty One of Israel, says, “I will take revenge on my enemies and pay back my foes! 25 I will raise my fist against you. I will melt you down and skim off your slag. I will remove all your impurities. 26 Then I will give you good judges again and wise counselors like you used to have. Then Jerusalem will again be called the Home of Justice and the Faithful City.” 27 Zion will be restored by justice; those who repent will be revived by righteousness. 28 But rebels and sinners will be completely destroyed, and those who desert the Lord will be consumed. 29 You will be ashamed of your idol worship in groves of sacred oaks. You will blush because you worshiped in gardens dedicated to idols. 30 You will be like a great tree with withered leaves, like a garden without water. 31 The strongest among you will disappear like straw; their evil deeds will be the spark that sets it on fire. They and their evil works will burn up together, and no one will be able to put out the fire.Quick Notes
Justice is prevalent theme through the Bible. Justice is a great thing if all the peoples act justly to each other. But it can be a bad thing if you are unjust and justice comes to you. Justice squelches out injustice. And still, we get the opportunity to repent. For those of us that don't, well justice will destroy us.
Based on the above passage, what does a just person look like? If you compare yourself to that person, how do you rank justice wise?
Almighty God, maybe justice come and bring us all to repentance. May no one drown in the flood of justice, but be saved. Amen.