July 21; Subtle Sin and Satan. It’s Serious.

Isaiah 56-60

I wish the devil really did wear a red suit, had horns and a tail, and carried a pitch fork. It would be so much easier to recognize him and resist the temptations he throws my way. It would be so much easier to recognize Satan’s lies ands distortion of God’s Truth if a bull horn blared or thunder crashed when people spoke anything other than Truth.

But the truth of the matter is, that serpent is not so easily spotted. That’s why we need to be actively engaged in the study of Scripture. We have got to know what God has said, so we know what He does not say.

Isaiah tells us God is absolutely 100% able to save. (chapter 59). He is able and ready to accomplish His will, which is to redeem lost people. But we, who are His arms, legs, and voice, prevent Him from reaching the lost when we don’t address the sin in our own lives. Our iniquities separate us from Him, our sin hides His face from us, so that even our prayers fall on deaf ears.

Our hands, our fingers, our lips, and our tongues are useless to God when sin exists in us. (verses 1-3). And not just the blatant, “I’m having an affair” kind of sin. It’s pride, and jealousy, and laziness, and compromise, and tolerance, and whatever else Satan dresses up like truth, or however he helps us rationalize our evil. God can’t use blood-stained hands.

When we speak lies, when we live a lie, we conceive trouble and give birth to evil. A lie, whether spoken or lived, or just believed, takes on a life of its own. It becomes a poison that kills, a spider web that traps. Whoever is caught in those lies will die. (verses 4-5)

People caught in the web of lies, may wear that web like clothing. But Isaiah says the truth is, they wear the covering of evil, of violence, ruin and destruction. There is no peace in the life of the one who has put on a lie and tried to pass it on as truth. (verses 6-8)

They live in darkness. They try to feel their way around, they stumble and fall because they have no light in them. They are blind to the Truth, and they live without hope. (verses 9-11)

It’s a pretty bleak picture that Isaiah paints here in this chapter. And it’s serious business. It’s nothing to blow off, or minimize. All of us are subject to Satan’s lies. All of us have sinned. It’s easy to read the “they” of this post and of what God inspired Isaiah to write, and think, “Well, that’s not me.” But I wonder.

In fact, Isaiah tells us that God looked for one righteous man who would be able to intervene, someone without sin who could stand up to the lies. And there was no-one. Not even one of us. Your sins, and mine, have driven a wedge between us and God. That’s a fact.

So God, knowing that there will never be one of us able to set things right, did it Himself. He gave His own life. God, in human form, paid the price I deserve for following Satan’s clever lies. Jesus died for my sins.

The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins. (verse 20)

I started this post by saying I wished Satan was easier to spot. When the truth is, if I am in God’s Word, if my heart is pure, my sins forgiven by the blood of Jesus, Satan’s not as clever as he thinks. Greater is God in me, than that snake who is in the world.

I pray that each of us will deal with sin in our lives, even the sins we’ve labeled, “no big deal.” I pray that we all will want to be God’s hands, fingers, lips, and tongue to proclaim the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are souls God died to save out there that are yet walking in the darkness of sin.

God went to the cross alone, died so that we can be forgiven. He did that Himself. But He is depending on us to carry the light of His Truth to a world of people living in the darkness of sin. Let’s get out there and shine that light.

 

July 20; Wake up! I Mean It!

Isaiah 51-55

I will confess I am not usually a morning person. I’m better now than I was as an adolescent, but I still stay in bed until the very last minute every chance I get. My parents had the challenge of getting five girls up and ready to catch the bus every morning during the school year. I’m pretty sure they’d tell you that was not fun.

Our dad finally had had enough. “Time to get up, girls.” “Get up, girls.” “You’ll be late for school, girls.” “Get out of that bed RIGHT NOW.” And we would turn over and go right back to sleep.

So one day we heard, “Either get out of that bed right now, or I am going to pour water on your head.” And I turned a deaf ear, rolled over and went back to sleep. I’m pretty sure I was in a deep sleep the first time I got drenched with cold water. Let’s just say I got out of bed.

And, after that when Dad told us it was time to get up, all he had to do was turn the faucet on in the kitchen, and our feet hit the floor! “I’m up!” We learned that when he said, “Wake up,” he meant it.

I remembered that today as I read God saying, “Awake! Awake!” in Isaiah 51:9, then again in verse 17, and a third time in 52:1. It sounded rather urgent, so I decided to look at what else God was demanding of His children (just in case He had a glass full of water at the ready).

The first thing was, “Listen to me,” (51:1 and 4). Like a mom who takes her child’s face in her hands and is face to face with that little one. “Listen to me,” God says. “What I have to say is important.”

Then He says in 51:7, “Hear me.” And both here and in the verses above God is telling us His righteousness is unchanging, His salvation is forever. Just listening to the words is not enough. God wants us to take it in, to understand it, to pay attention.

When He tells us to “Awake,” He also tells us to get dressed. Clothe ourselves with strength. And in verse 2 of chapter 52 He tells us to free ourselves from the chains on our necks. Wake up… and get moving.

52:7 says we are to “Depart, depart, go out from there!” There is an urgency here for us to leave sin behind, to come out from among it and be pure.

In 54:1 He says, “Sing.” Burst into song, shout for joy. And in verse 4 He tells us, “Do not be afraid.” God is true to His Word. That is reason to rejoice, and put aside any fear.

I love that, in 55:1 God bids us to “Come.” Think about it. The Creator God wants you and me with Him so that He can bless us.

And lastly, He invites us to “Seek the Lord” (verse 6). Call on Him. Turn to Him and He will have mercy on us.

Friend, that is the Gospel in a nutshell. God has given us His Word. He has repeated the Truth over and over, given example after example, and tells us to pay attention. Listen! Hear!

Wake up! It’s time. It’s time to repent, to depart from Satan, to come out from the presence of sin and be separate. Because when we do, He gives us reason to sing. Our sins are forgiven, our hearts are clean.

And we need not fear. God is greater, more powerful, more loving than we can imagine. And He WANTS us to come to Him. He gives food for the hungry and water for the thirsty. We have reason for joy.

Then, as a sinner saved by grace, we can continually seek Him, read His word, pray, grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus, and be blessed.

In the middle of these chapters is the beautiful description of Jesus. (chapter 53) Jesus, the center of God’s plan to adopt each of us into His family. Jesus is the Gospel, the good news!

Listen. Hear. Awake. Depart. Sing. Fear not. Come. Seek.

I pray you are awake. God means it.

 

July 19; Don’t Say You Weren’t Warned

Isaiah 47-50

God, through the prophet Isaiah, is talking to his enemies, then to His people, and the message seems to be the same. “Go right ahead and keep doing what you’re doing. But don’t say you weren’t warned.”

Each of them goes on in his error; there is not one that can save you.  (47:15b)

If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea. (48:18)

There is no peace for the wicked. (48:22)

I can’t read the warnings to the ancient Jews recorded here in these chapters in Isaiah without making it personal. There have been times in my life when I’ve done my own thing, gone to church, served on committees, yet held on to a sin and told myself God was okay with it. There are times even today when I can rationalize sin, or tell myself God’s will will be done no matter what I do, and still think I’m a stand-up Christian.

God seems to be telling me today, “Go ahead, Connie. Try to be a Christian on your terms. But don’t say you weren’t warned.”

God has lovingly spelled out His demands, His plan, the Truth so that there can be no excuses. He is God and there is no other. He is the Way and there is no back door. He is the Truth and that Truth is not subjective. And God is very honest to say I either listen to Him and obey, or else. I can come up with my own idea of holiness, obey when I want, worship so I’m satisfied, but that won’t cut it in the end.

But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from my hand: You will lie down in torment. (50:11)

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

July 18; Who Is God?

Isaiah 43-46

Some days you just have to let God speak for Himself.

“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior.” (43:10-11)

I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” (43:25)

“I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.” (44:6b)

This is what the Lord says – your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: “I am the Lord, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself…” (44:24)

For this is what the Lord says – he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited – he says: “I am the Lord, and there is no other.” (45:18)

“Even to your old age, and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” (46:4)

“Remember this, fix it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels. Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.” (46:8-9)

I bear witness: God is who He says He is. The Bible tells me that. And He has shown Himself to be true in my life. There is no other god. None.

These are only a few verses I read today that declare the identity of God. I hope you’ll read all that He has to say about Himself, and His relationship to you. Listen to His heart.

I love God, who tells me not to fear, that He is with me, that He saves me. And He never fails.

How can such a great, awesome, powerful God be so personal? Because HE IS!

July 17; One Of Those Days

Isaiah 40-42

I’ve had a very frustrating day. In fact, I’m sitting here at 5 in the afternoon instead of in the morning when I usually have my time in the Word. Oh, I started the day out with my Bible in front of me, but then it began… Just one irritating thing after another, and I ended up in a very bad mood. It’s been one of those days.

When I finally sat down and opened my Bible this afternoon the first words I read were:

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to (Connie) and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” (40:1-2)

Yep. That was just one of the hugs I got. God comforted me. He reminded me of His sweet gift of salvation, more precious than anything. He continued to encourage me with words like:

Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (verses 4-5)

God knows I have a bad day here and there, and He wants me to trust Him. He wanted to remind me I can trust Him.

Oh, there’s more. God loved on me so much today through the words Isaiah intended for the ancient Jews. God showed Himself to me, and assured me He is bigger than any problem big or small that comes my way. He doesn’t turn a blind eye to anything that would steal my joy or cause me pain.

“Be silent before me,” He tells me. “Hope in Me and and let me renew your strength.

For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

I am ashamed to tell you the sources of my frustration today. They are petty and insignificant in light of what some of you are going through. But I want you to know God loves me enough to want to encourage even me in days like today. I want you to know he wants to do the same for you.

I pray that you will open the pages of God’s love letter to you every day. I’m here to testify that He can and does speak to hearts that are open to hearing from Him. I am so glad that my devotional time was postponed today. I’m not sure I needed those verses as much this morning as I need them this afternoon.

Does God care what kind of day you are having? Oh yes He does!

 

 

 

July 16; Stop Trying So Hard

2 Kings 18:3-7, 20:20-21; 2 Chronicles 29:2, 32:32-33; Isaiah 24:1-27:13

When I read Isaiah’s words I see Jesus, the Rock eternal, the upright One whose life, death, and resurrection makes the path of righteousness level, and who makes salvation a wall and a rampart that protects His children.

So many religions require their followers to do certain things, to suffer in certain ways, to make sacrifices in order to attain favor, or god-likeness, or whatever the goal of that religion is.

On the other hand, Jesus says: “Here, let me do that for you.”

In other religions people can be at different levels, different stages in their pursuit of heaven or actualization or enlightenment.

Jesus says, “Believe in me.”

Salvation Jesus’ way is a gift, not something you strive for or earn. In Jesus’ economy we are all equal. No one is saved more than someone else by virtue of a series of completed tasks.

Ask.

Receive.

That’s it. No matter who you are. And if you’ve done that you know there is such peace and rest given to us. When we finally stop trying so hard to earn that unattainable goal, and allow Jesus only be our goal, we can rest in His grace.

Isaiah has so much to say about this. I hope you’ll read it and see Jesus, see how He cares for His children, how He shows grace to the wicked in order to bring them to Himself. Let Him speak to you about your relationship with Him in 2019.

Then rejoice with me in the truth of 26:3,

You will keep him in perfect peace, him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.

July 15: Pass or Fail

Isaiah 37:14-38:22, 39:1-8; 2 Kings 20:1-18; 2 Chronicles 32:24-31

When I was in college I had the opportunity to “audit” a class or two. I was permitted to attend a class that wasn’t required for my major.  I could attend the lectures, do the work and take the tests, but my grade would be either pass or fail instead of the usual letter grade or percentage like in my other classes. It gave me the opportunity to learn a topic of interest without the pressure of making a grade for my GPA.

I think we are living life on a pass/fail basis. Not that we are simply auditing life. In fact, the result of our lives has much more significant outcomes than a GPA. Because in the end, we will either go to heaven or hell. Pass or fail.

During the course of our lives, we face times of testing. Sometimes we go through difficulties in life, and come out on the other side stronger in our faith, our relationship with the Lord more real than ever. We pass that difficult test, so to speak, and realize we really do have faith in God. Like Job, in all these things we do not sin. Actually, the tests involving hard times, illness, grief can be the easiest tests to pass because we can recognize the enemy, and face it head-on with God by our side.

But we’ve got to understand that hard times are not Satan’s only weapon against us. It’s not the only test he throws our way. Often that snake will revert back to his Garden of Eden tactics: pride, flattery, friendship.

Read what went down between Hezekiah and Merodach-Baladan the son of Babylonian king Baladan. This enemy sent men to Hezekiah with presents and good wishes. Isaiah says Hezekiah gladly received the enemy, gave them the grand tour of the palace and storehouses and sent them on their way. The enemy had tapped into Hezekiah’s pride, and the king couldn’t wait to show off.

Hezekiah had passed the war and illness tests. But he miserably failed the test of pride. Let’s remember that it’s Satan’s sole mission to trip you up. He’s throwing darts and trick questions your way, hoping you will fail to be true to God. And often, his methodology is flattery, success, and pride.

Paul, in his second letter to Timothy says:

Study to show yourself approved by God, a workman that needs not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babbling: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.

I think Paul and Isaiah would both tell us to arm ourselves with the Word, ground ourselves in the Truth of Scripture, put on the whole armor of God so that when, not if, Satan throws a pop-quiz at us, we will be ready.

Then look what else Paul tells Timothy: watch out for the flattery, the pride. Those things will lead to ungodliness, which is a fail.

You will be tested today. Will you pass, or fail?