Month: March 2020

It’s Always a Surprise!

Your sun will never go down, and your moon keep back her light; the LORD will be your eternal light, and your days of your sorrow will be ended.  Isaiah 60:20

One of the things I love to do in the middle of the night is to take a verse completely apart.  Each significant word is unwrapped, the meaning captured in a journal.  After it’s dismantled, what a rewarding exercise to paraphrase it with my new understanding.  (No, the paraphrase is not inspired.  I can see some theologians wincing!)  The paraphrase is for me to personalize the Word and take it to heart.

When I encountered this verse, it was 3:30 a.m., and I thought I knew what it meant.  I almost moved on to the next but stopped.  I’m excited to share what happened next as each concept was unwrapped.

Sun ~ is God and His divine love and wisdom.

Going down ~ refers to natural and earthly things, lower in value.

Moon ~ signifies an intelligence in the natural self.

Light ~ is divine truth; knowledge and understanding that come to us from the Lord.

Eternal light ~ ‘is the fervor of the church, the zeal of those who live in love with the Lord.

Days ~ describes a state in which we are turned toward the Lord and are receiving light .

Sorrow ~ encompasses the anxieties and warfare we experience while learning the truth.

The clock said 4:30 and I was wide awake. I realized that each concept expanded in a direction I never would have gone.  I couldn’t wait to paraphrase it, and when I finished, I would go back to sleep ~ in peace.  Here’s my paraphrase.

God’s divine love and wisdom will never stoop to become earthly things, nor will my natural intelligence diminish divine truth. The power and goodness that are God, Himself, will make me as an innocent soul who lives in love with the Lord.  The days I turn toward God and seek His light will greatly affect my anxiety and my ability to engage in warfare in my fight for God’s truth.

It’s always a surprise to discover what a verse really means compared to what I thought it meant.  How many have I skipped over because of false presumptions of understanding?  A lot.  I am making up for lost time.  The big takeaway from this scripture, for these times, is the remedy for anxiety and the ingredient needed for the spiritual energy to do warfare.

Your Word always means more than I think it did.  I’m learning that this is true across the board.  You are bigger than I think you are.  Your love is wider than I can conceive.  Everything about you is too large for me to grasp and when I breathe my last, I’ll only have just begun to know You.  I love my future.  Amen

He Emptied Himself to Fill My Emptiness

For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.      Isaiah 44:3

The nature of God is to give.  He doesn’t throw down penny candy.  He gives out of his storehouse and empties it into empty places.  He pours water out on dry ground.  He pours out His Spirit on those who ask for Him.  He pours out His wisdom to those who seek it, according to Proverbs.  He pours out His thoughts to anyone who aches to know the mind of God for their times.  Wherever there is emptiness, it can be filled.

In these days, the mind of God begs to be shared through His prophets.  This world needs a kingdom clash and there won’t be one without intercessors asking God to pour out His Spirit on an earth that is empty of knowledge.  “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.  Joel 2:28 

God loves His creation and when He saw our emptiness, He sent Jesus, who “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and was made in the likeness of men.”  Philippians 2:7   This was called kenosis, from the Greek verb meaning, “to empty.”   The incarnation was living proof that God gives everything for those He loves.

When Jesus left this earth, He sent back His Spirit, an indwelling Spirit, not a companion Spirit.  At my rebirth, His Spirit was poured out upon me.  He sealed me to the day of redemption, He came to live in me, to fill me, and then flow out of me.  What is the proof that my emptiness underwent a spiritual takeover?   “He who believes in Me, as the Scriptures said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ John 7:37  Out of a previously empty spirit, my spirit now pours out the Living Water of the Spirit.  I treasure the words of this old hymn.

To wait on the eternal God means that we terminate ourselves.
That we stop ourselves with our living, our doing, and activity;
Receive God in Christ as our life, our person, our replacement.

I terminate myself.  God, in Christ, is my replacement.  Wow.  Paul said, I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.’ Galatians 2:20  If ever a life was poured out without reservation, giving evidence of a filling of the Spirit, it was the life of Paul.  Though previously highly educated, successful, and a zealot leader, he was empty.  His filling came while on a road to Damascus.  From then on, Living Water trumped, and then shaped, his education, success, and zeal.  He was poured out and the world has never been the same.

In my innermost being, my spiritual womb, I am filled and sense you at work.  Pour me out as a drink offering, Jesus.  Amen

The Best Promise Of All

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.  Isaiah 11:1

God is the Savior of any who want Him, of any to whom He grants the power to believe.  It may be a Rabbi of a rural town in Israel.  It may be an Imam in Pakistan.  It may be a Chinese government official who, at this very moment, arrests pastors in his village.  And it may be young people who, at this moment, are so infected with the darkness of our age that their spiritual condition appears hopeless.

God’s plan to be the God of all peoples prevails.  My heart must adjust accordingly – humbly – to rejoice in such unbiased love.  And my heart must hope in a God powerful enough to touch the one I consider most unlikely to believe ~ especially in these desperate times of a global pandemic when people’s ears are more likely to turn God-ward.  Wherever there is a seeking soul, God listens.  God saves.  Wherever there is a cry for help, God is not biased in who He answers.  God is aroused to answer.

Is my Gospel inclusive? It is easy to be standoffish with those I don’t understand, with those whose culture is so unlike my own.  I am repelled by their violence, their practices, and shake my head in disbelief when I see their stories portrayed in the media.  They are so far from God and the gap seems insurmountable.  Yet, God is revealing Himself to a modern-day Saul, to those who kill Christians and to those whose passion is to destroy every vestige of Christianity.  He appears to them in dreams, in visions, and they wake up exclaiming, “Lord Jesus!”  Do I rejoice over such stories?

The pandemic is global but so is God’s love.  And so is the Gospel.  If my heart beats like God’s heart, my passion for the nations will be tearful and earnest.

Give me global eyes and a global heart.  Amen

How God Comforts Me

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

Every day, we have more reasons to fear.  This morning, a well respected psychologist was interviewed and he advised us to keep our exposure to the news to no more than one hour a day.  After that, it becomes difficult to keep a perspective.

Such advice reinforced again that without God there is no comfort, no peace, and no hope for the future.  Many were kept awake last night by the sound of their own crying.  Comfort was needed.  Comfort was sought.  Prayers for God’s presence were whispered through their tears.

You may be asking, how does God comfort me?  He reveals Himself in scripture as a Father.  He says that he hovers over me, as a mother hovers over the young in her nest.  He dries my tears and He shares my tears over the things which hurt me.  He sings over me as a mother or father sings a lullaby over their young child.  He quiets me with His love when I’m beside myself.  He often sends a dream that will convey a specific message of comfort.  He will send someone with human arms to enfold me and give me a taste of what it’s like to be hugged by God.

Each nurturing way comes by way of scriptural promises.  I must search for them and own them, memorize them and use them as swords when doubts and fears would take me into the shadows. Through them, God is whispering ~ “I’m here.  Don’t be afraid.”  “I’ll never leave you.”  “You can trust me.”  “Come to me, lay down your burden, and find the rest you’re seeking.”

More than two decades ago, I traded the inspirational idea of God’s comfort for experiential reality.  One feeds my intellect; the other feeds my heart.  God’s comfort is meant to be experienced and it’s there today for any of us who are overcome by current events.  Not one bad headline can eclipse the good news that God has the last word on this broken world.  He grieves with us, He comforts us, but He is working in power to redeem it all.  What we see now is not what will be.  PARADISE RESTORED will be the final headline.

 I’m living in Your promises.  Amen

The Tender Promise Of A Shepherd

He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.   
Isaiah 40:11
Jesus came to prepare the way for His flock to walk the path to His kingdom. The little Shepherd who napped in the manger would be the One who would make crooked paths straight. He would remove each and every barrier of sin and condemnation. He would defeat the foe who lures lost people onto the wrong pathway.
His promise to shepherd me for the rest of my life is tender yet powerful in its implications.  He exposes sin, the sin that destroys me. He inspires repentance, the deep apology and heart change that restores my life. He points to each crooked place in my heart in order to make my path straight without painful detours. He cheers me on when I’m done in. He picks me up when I’m limping until I can walk again. He helps me when I’m feeble, working within each nuance of my emotional and spiritual limitations. He shepherds me perfectly ~ not from afar but from up close and personal.
Every one of us has a deep desire to be known by one who loves us. Because we were made for this, our soul strains to be under the care of one who sees the expanse of our lives and has the power to shape an environment where we can thrive. He’s a Shepherd, not a brute. He is the singer who energizes, not the taskmaster who bellows orders.
Your promise to shepherd me has so many dimensions, all of them intimate, all of them powerful enough to lead me to green pastures. Even when it doesn’t feel like it. I trust You. Amen

He’s Going With Me

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.  Isaiah 43:2

The power of this promise makes little sense if I fail to understand the sinister nature of water in scripture.  It’s hard to see the sea as something negative if I love the beach and the sound of waves lapping up on shore.  But to the ancient Jew, the sea meant something else entirely  It was a symbol for something ominous and life-threatening. In Semitic mythology, a sea monster was synonymous with chaos and evil.  With that in mind, these verses paint a more complete picture.

  • Isaiah said that the wicked were like a tossing sea. Isaiah 57:20
  • A psalmist said that God divided the sea by His might and broke the heads of the sea monsters on the waters. Psalm 74:13-14
  • David said that God’s vicious waves had swept over him like an angry ocean. Psalm 42:7
  • And in John’s revelation, it’s most interesting that the Beast arises from the sea. (Revelation 13)

When God promises to accompany me through the waters, it is clear that He goes with me into the deepest chaos, evil, turbulence, and even death.  God doesn’t promise to take me around the sea, to keep me on dry land.  Just like the days we are living now, we find ourselves in deep waters.  The darkness is thick, life-threatening, and it’s comforting to be assured that we’re not alone.

Think about it.  How very fitting that Jesus walked on water!  The symbol of that is not lost on me.  He was not overcome by evil, not knocked around by the chaos of the waves, not swallowed up by the deep.  In the worst of storms, he walked on the waves.  Calmly, with no need to yell, He spoke to His disciples.  His voice penetrated the roar of the storm.

It makes me think of Ephesians 1 and I Corinthians 15.  “And He put all things under His feet.”   There is no evil He has not conquered.  There is no virus He cannot heal.  There is no chaos He can not order.  There is no life, for a saint, that will not triumph in life – and in death.  Through all the passages of life, often with the roar of the waves in my ears, my Captain is not afraid.  Everything, no matter how ominous, is subject to His authority.

You are Lord over all the elements and I am never out of Your care.  Amen

What Kills a Relationship

They have forsaken Yahweh, spurned the Holy One of Israel, and turned themselves back into foreigners. Isaiah 1:4

A big blowup in a relationship is not what usually kills it. People argue. Some fight passionately. But if both are committed to the each other and also committed to truth, there is understanding and restoration. What is deadly to any relationship, however, is a gradual deadening of the heart. A slow death is much more difficult to turn around.

You’ve heard the phrase, “I feel like I don’t know you anymore.” A ‘foreigner’ is a good description. It is saying, ‘You are acting so strangely that I don’t even recognize you. You may as well have come from a foreign land.’

Amazing that what can be intimate can grow so deeply estranged. In a spiritual sense, this is what happens, more than not, to the children of God toward their Heavenly Father. No wonder there are so many songs about returning to your first love, about stirring the cold embers of your heart. Erosion can happen so slowly that the gradual decline is inconspicuous.

To make sure that it doesn’t happen to me, I want to think about this more intently this morning. What would happen that might show I’ve turned my face away from God to tiptoe in the other direction?

  • I fail to take the sins of my heart seriously.
  • I keep the reading of the Word technically and intellectually.
  • I lose the lump in my throat when I talk about Jesus.
  • The mercy He showed to me becomes a casual thought.
  • God’s wooing is easily ignored.
  • I play it safe to live in unbelief instead of by faith.

I used to believe that some ‘thing’ would happen that would kill my faith. I guess I was wrong. Nothing can do that for me. Isaiah says that God’s children have turned themselves back into foreigners. Circumstances don’t make or break a relationship. It’s whether two people choose to walk together or not. It’s commitment. It’s nurturing the love that exists and never allowing any other priority to eclipse it.

Oh, that I might always say that we are intimate. Amen