Category Archives: The Gospel

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 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 11: Right Where I Want To Be

Psalms 87, 125; Isaiah 1:1-4:6

Reading what God has to say to His people through Isaiah, I can get a bit fearful. God is no one to mess with. It’s His way, or the highway. He refuses to even listen to the prayers of we who are sinful.

But then God throws in verses like Isaiah 1:18-19:

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow, though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land…”

Yes, God is to be feared. His judgments are harsh and devastating. Those who do not know Him will suffer greatly, and eternally. But He’s not just warning those who blatantly disobey.

God warns against religion, against simply going through the motions of obedience. Of that He says:

Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong! (Isaiah 1:16)

He calls lip-service, or hypocrisy evil deeds. That means church attendance, or volunteering at a soup kitchen, or whatever kindness and good works you do without first repenting of sin in your life. Evil deeds.

But as fearsome and Holy as God is, He delights in forgiving a repentant heart. He longs to turn sinful lives white as snow. And he does, whenever anyone accepts what Jesus did on the cross when He paid the harsh judgment for my sin and yours.

The psalmist says this in Psalm 125:2:

As the mountain surrounds Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore.”

I do not need to fear God’s judgment. That mountain around Jerusalem protected His people from the enemy. They were hemmed in on all sides.

And that’s right where I want to be. Right there in the middle of God’s protection, under His wings, safe, secure, loved both now and forevermore. So I repent of sin. I ask God to forgive me for impure thoughts and actions, for harboring anger and jealousy, for gossip and hypocrisy. I lay it all out there and ask Him to forgive me.

And He does.

Then, and only then, am I His child, surrounded by His love and protection. Yes, my friend. That’s right where I want to be.

July 5; The Answer

2 Chronicles 29:1-31:1; Psalms 66-67

I believe that, as the Jews were worshiping pretend gods, deep inside they knew something was not quite right. Something was missing. Then, when Hezekiah cleaned house, restored the temple, reinstated the Passover and worship of God, the Jews could hardly contain their joy.

They came from all around, traveled many difficult miles to get to Jerusalem, to go to where God was.

Have you ever been really, really thirsty? Your tongue probably felt like it was made of cotton balls, you might have begun to see stars. When you took your first sip of water – what was it like? Could you feel the moisture slide down your throat? Were you aware of every drop as it worked its way through your body, refreshing and energizing you down to  your fingers and toes? With each swallow you began to return to your former state of health.

I think that was kind of what the Jews must have experienced as they returned to God.

I look at our present day world full of restless people. I see them worshiping all kinds of pretend gods: science, self, religion, money, relationship, excitement, whatever. And I know the reason they are restless is because deep down they know they are missing something. They are dying of thirst.

Using my analogy, I see these restless people trying to satisfy their thirst by eating potato chips, or drinking toilet water, or convincing themselves they aren’t really dying of thirst.

They make new idols, thinking that’s the answer. Or they turn their attention within themselves believing they’ll find what they need. They might tell themselves they’ve found what they were missing, but deep down inside they keep looking. The restlessness continues.

Friend, I know the answer to the world’s problem. I know it’s exactly the same answer we read about in the lives of the Jews under Hezekiah. It’s what Jesus called, “Living Water.” It’s Jesus Himself.

You might disagree. But that doesn’t change what is true. You might choose to continue to try to find fulfillment making pretend idols, and trying to quench your thirst with pebbles. But I am here to tell you, the answers you are looking for are written to you in love from God Himself. It’s in the pages of the Bible.

I know that if you read it, if you accept who God says He is, and allow Jesus to change you, you will find the answers you were looking for all along.

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, that (His) ways may be known on earth, (His) salvation among all the nations. (Psalm 67:1)

 

June 30; Hear It

Isaiah 7:1-10:4, 17:1-14

We’ve already established that Ahaz was an evil king. Yet in the chapters we read today, God inspired the prophet Isaiah to go to Ahaz and give him a word of encouragement. And, to prove God was true to His word, Isaiah told Ahaz he could ask for a sign – any sign – and God would do it.

Ahaz replied, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.”

Sounds rather pious, doesn’t it? Well, neither Isaiah nor God were impressed.

The truth is, God is always giving signs to prove His existence, His power, His Son. Some people flat out say, like Ahaz, “I don’t want to hear it.” Period.

I see this attitude in tons of literature written, and the multitude of “experts” on TV who attempt to disprove God, or to get around God, or to make ourselves God. I see it in the lives of people who live like there is no God. Yet God continues to reveal Himself day after day after day.

I bet the sun rose where you are this morning. I bet your heart is beating, that your lungs are filled with oxygen. I bet the tide came in sometime today, went out, and will come in again just like it did yesterday. And I bet, if you let yourself, every time you held a newborn baby, you recognized the amazing work of God with awe and wonder.

Did you know it was to Ahaz that God inspired Isaiah to pen the famous prophesy about the coming of Jesus?

The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel… For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace…

That was written about 500 years before Jesus’ birth. That and so many other prophesies written and fulfilled concerning the Messiah prove without a doubt God is who He says He is, and that Jesus is the Son. For those of us who know Him, we read these prophesies and our hearts soar, our love for Him overflows.

Please don’t be one who refuses to accept the signs, or who rejects His word. My prayer for all of us today is that we will not only WANT to hear it, we will look for it in nature, in the face of a loved one, in the peace that comes from His presence, and the overwhelming joy of sins forgiven through Jesus’ blood.

Oh, He’s out there. He’s throwing out sign after sign to get our attention. Don’t ignore it.

Hear it. Hear Him.