Monday, January 10, 2022

A Good Name

 


The pursuit of riches and power is a story as old as time itself. We all know the sordid tales of men like Bernie Madoff, Jeffrey Epstein, and Ken Lay (of Enron fame).  At one time, each of them had fabulous wealth, graced the covers of magazines, and were the envy of many.  But now that the truth is out, their legacy is one of scandals, lies, and worse.   

 

Proverbs 22:1

A good name is more desirable than great riches;
    to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

Things to think about:

·       Who else comes to mind as someone who for a time had the world by the tail only to be outed as a fraud?

·       Money and power are strong magnets for our time and attention.  

o   At their core, they give the illusion of control.  The more control we feel we have, the more we can feel like we oversee people, circumstances, even the future.

o   Doesn't this sound a little bit like having godlike qualities?

·       1 Timothy 6:9-10

o   Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

o   Proverbs 10:7 - Good people will be remembered as a blessing,but evil people will soon be forgotten.

·       Our text says there is something far greater to be aspired to, and that is a good name and the esteem of others.

o   The shininess of gold and silver reflects back on us

o   The reflection of a good name goes to our Father who has given us His wisdom and Spirit to live godly lives

o   1 Cor. 15:10 – “But by the grace of God I am what I am…”

·       What steps can we take to get this good name?

o   Proverbs 3:3-4 - Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.

o   Love and faithfulness, these are the keys

§  It says we should never let them leave us and to bind them around our neck and write them on the tablets of our hearts

§  It seems that these are things that must become a permanent part of who we are and that if not handled with diligent, daily care can be lost

o   How do we make love and faithfulness indelibly etched into our lives?

§  Avoidance of sin

§  Devotion to the Word

§  Prayer

§  Praise

§  Loving others as we love ourselves

·       Naked we came into this world and naked we shall depart it.  Our good name is our lasting legacy. 

Monday, January 3, 2022

When it Rains it...

 


As we head into the teeth of winter, rain and snow are regular features of the forecast.  I don’t know about you, but that usually doesn’t bring a smile to my face!  But, as I was reading in the Book of Isaiah, it has given me a new perspective on how God thinks about water falling from the sky.

 

Isaiah 55:10-11

As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

 

Things to think about:

·       Whenever I think about elements of nature that don’t suit my fancy, I’m always convicted by the realization that God, in His infinite wisdom, deemed it useful for His purposes.

o   It’s hot, it’s cold, it’s wet, it’s dry. It’s His creation, my oh my!

o   OK, that was really lame but seriously, who am I to criticize the Creator???

·       Clearly, the rain and snow have a crucial role in irrigating the Earth.  

o   In our verse, it says they do not return to Heaven without first accomplishing their purpose to “water the earth and make it bud and flourish so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater.”

·       There is a cyclical process He architected.  That is incredible to think about by itself:  Vital to His grand design was the process of precipitation, irrigation, and evaporation that all work in harmony

o   Without this process, there would be no food!

·       There are two primary beneficiaries – the sower and the eater

o   Sometimes we are the ones who sow the seed of His Word

o   At other times, we are the ones who get nourished by the hands of those who sowed beforehand

o   Can you think of a time when either God gave you the right words to say or perhaps when you heard just what you needed at that moment?

·       We are told that God’s Word does not return empty

o   That is amazingly comforting to know.  It’s not the quality of the sower but of the seed itself

o   Even when it feels like the world has closed its ears

·       Like the rain and snow, we are here for a season and then will go to our home in Heaven

o   May it be said of each of us that we achieved the purpose for which God sent us!

The next time you see the rain or snow, just think about our passage today.  It is a powerful visual reminder God has given us of the nourishing power of His Word.


Monday, November 22, 2021

God's Head Fakes

 


One of our dear brothers likes to talk about “God winks”, those moments when the Lord is looking down on us and saying, “Here’s a special surprise for you, enjoy!” Besides winks, I think He often uses head fakes, meaning that He goes in the opposite direction we would naturally look. For example, if I was designing the ideal Savior of the world, he would be Hollywood handsome, powerful, with a commanding presence.  He would win every conflict and never tolerate disrespect.  Basically, Rambo in a robe.  Let’s look at Isaiah 53 and see how God did it.

 

Isaiah 53:3

He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    He was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

 

Things to think about:

·       Appearance – we value beauty over almost every other attribute.  Surely God’s Son would be a good-looking guy!

o   Is: 53:2 - He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in His appearance that we should desire him.

o   Why would God do it this way?

·       Powerful – this is God’s Son we’re talking about, His power should radiate from Him

o   Is. 53:2 - He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.

o   Just a really average, even fragile youth, not bursting on the scene from a prominent family but one scraping to get by

·       Popular – we vote celebrities into office on the basis of their fame, even when they have no qualifications.

o   Is: 53:3 - He was despised and rejected by mankind…
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held Him in low esteem.

o   Not only was He not popular, but He was despised!

·       Look out for #1 – take care of your own needs first

o   Is. 53:4-6 - Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by Him, and afflicted.
 But He was pierced for our transgressions,
    He was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on Him,
    and by His wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on Him
    the iniquity of us all.

o   Now this is a major head fake!  Jesus didn’t have sin or misdeed He was personally guilty of, but He CHOSE to take your place and mine.

o   God’s playbook says where there is guilt and shame, He will pay the price.

§  Why would He do that?

·       Assert your rights – if you’re being mistreated, don’t just sit there and take it – hit back!

o   Is 53:7 - He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet He did not open His mouth;
He was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so He did not open His mouth.

·       So clearly God operates with a different playbook than man

o   Is 55:8-9 - “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways My ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are My ways higher than your ways
    and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

§  Is 53:10 - Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer, and though the Lord makes His life an offering for sin, He will see His offspring and prolong His days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in His hand.

o   God is always playing the long game

§  How can we look past our immediate circumstances (the head fakes) to see God working His plan in and through us?

§  How does knowing Jesus endured everything He did for our sake give you hope and encouragement today?

 


Monday, November 15, 2021

Light My Fire

 




Often, the Bible uses light as a metaphor for truth and understanding.  Sometimes as children of God, through disobedience, we can stray and wander off into darkness.  To create a source of light in the darkness of our folly, the believer may for a while try to manufacture their own truth to suit the situation.  Isaiah gives a very stern warning that this path does not end well.

 

Isaiah 50:10-11

Who among you fears the Lord
    and obeys his servant?
That person may walk in the dark
    and have no light.
Then let him trust in the Lord
    and yet depend on his God.
 But instead, some of you want to light your own fires
    and make your own light.
So, go, walk in the light of your fires,
    and trust your own light to guide you.
But this is what you will receive from me:
    You will lie down in a place of pain.

 

Things to think about:

·       We are all like sheep, prone to wander

o   Clearly, the Lord knows we are not perfect

o   God doesn’t say, “Fine, don’t coming crying to me when you fall!”

o   Instead, He says, “Trust in Me and depend on Me.”

§  The word for this is repent (turnaround and head back to the Light)

o   Which of God’s qualities do you see in this passage?

o   How does this contrast with how God is sometimes depicted as an angry policeman?

·       The crux of this passage is found in the second part:

o   “But instead, some of you want to light your own fires and make your own light”

o   God’s natural light on this planet is the sun.  It burns endlessly and with no extra effort from man. It is a pure gift from above.

§  When we have to make our own light, that requires energy, has to be constantly replenished, and leaves ashes and residue

§  What are ways we light our own fires and make our own light?

·       Worldly philosophies

·       Rationalizations

·       Inaccurate biblical instruction

§  Why are man-made sources of light inevitably going to burn us?

o   God will allow people (even His children) to pursue their folly:

§  “So, go, and walk in the light of your fires and trust your own light to guide you”

§  Just like the father in the story of the prodigal son, God permits us to leave the safety and security of our home with Him to go chase lies and foolishness

o   “But this is what you will receive from Me, you will lie down in a place of pain”

§  Ouch

§  Sin always has consequences

§  Exchanging God’s truth for a lie is especially egregious.

·       Before it’s too late, if you are busy making your own light, turn around and, “trust in the Lord and depend on your God.”

o   If you’re reading this, it’s not too late!

Monday, November 1, 2021

The Bird Feeder

 



Earlier this year, I put a bird feeder outside the window of my home office.  I keep a bag of birdseed in my office so I can refill it when it starts running low.  It gives me great joy to look out the window at cardinals, sparrows, doves, and whatever other bids I don’t even know the names of.  But a funny thing happens when I approach the window to get a closer look – the birds always fly away!  What’s up with that??? Let’s review the situation here - I installed the birdfeeder, I make sure it stays full of seeds, and I enjoy being in the company of the birds.  But instead of appreciation, as soon as they sense my presence, they perceive a threat and skedaddle.

 

James 1:17 - Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights

 

Things to think about:

·       We humans can be just like these birds.  Every good gift we have comes from a loving heavenly Father who longs to be in relationship with us

·       Instead of naturally gravitating towards Him, our nature is to flee

·       And yet, He is the source of every good and perfect gift

·       Some of the reasons people flee might include:

o   Ignorance as to His loving nature

o   Misinformation about God, like He’s displeased and wants to smite us

o   Shame and/or conviction

o   What else?

·       What about the birds who won’t approach the birdfeeder at all to taste and see that it is good?

o   Psalm 34:8 - Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.

·       Some birds like blue jays chase away the more timid birds so they can gorge themselves

o   I wonder if we are ever like blue jays in our churches or fellowships that keep other folks from the source of nourishment?

·       What about the birds who don’t even know there is a birdfeeder readily available to them with no strings attached?

o   Are we doing what we can to tell other birds where they can find seed?

o   Especially in the wintertime of their lives when comfort and nourishment seem scarce?

·       God is good, He loves you and has made every provision for you

o   Matthew 6:26 - Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 

Monday, October 18, 2021

Whiners

 


We can be whiners.  Really, sometimes we just sound like little kids, “You don’t love me.  Nobody cares about me!”  Things aren’t happening on our timetable, in our way and we just poke out our lip out and mope.  We’re part of a long line of complainers.  Way back 2,800 years ago, the people of Jerusalem were moaning about their plight. God had a gentle but direct response then, and it applies as much to us today as it did to them.

 

Isaiah 40:28 - Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.

 

Things to think about:

·       For some reason, we as humans tend to focus on what we don’t have or what’s not going right instead of the other way around.

·       Is. 40:27 – “Why do you complain, Jacob?
    Why do you say, Israel,
‘My way is hidden from the Lord;
    my cause is disregarded by my God’?”

·       Think about a time when God felt distant from you.  Can you empathize with Israelites? Are there areas in your life where God seems more plugged in and others where He might feel more distant?

o   Family

o   Finances

o   Physical

o   Something else

·       Does God ever “disregard our cause”?

o   Psalm 139:7-10 - Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.

o   Romans 8:34 – “Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”

o   Not only is Jesus interceding for us, He told us in John 14:16, “and I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever…”

·       “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.”

o   Well, that’s good that He doesn’t get tired, but what about us???

·       This passage you can probably quote –

o   Is. 40: 29-31 – “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.”

o   In typical God fashion, He does the work for us. 

§  Are you weary? Are you tired?

§  Do you think maybe God has looked the other way from your challenges?

§  The Lord doesn’t diminish what you’re trying to deal with, rather He does what you can’t do for yourself.

·       God hasn’t forgotten you.  He sees and cares about what’s going on in your life.

·       He just asks that you put your hope in Him and He will give you the strength to stumble through.

o   No, not stumble through, but to SOAR.