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



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.

Monday, October 11, 2021


We have an enemy who is full of loud, obnoxious threats designed to make us lose heart.  He tells us that what and Who we are relying on is of no use. He mixes half-truths with lies to provide evidence that all is hopeless. If you are in a battle right now, there is great biblical instruction here for you. Let’s look at a scene from the Book of Isaiah to get a glimpse into his playbook and what our response should be.


Isaiah 35: 3-4

Strengthen the feeble hands,
    steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
    “Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
    He will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
    He will come to save you.”


Things to think about:

·       In Isaiah 36 and 37 we have a drama unfolding.  Sennacherib, the King of Assyria, has sent his commander to go to Jerusalem to persuade them to not put up a fight and agree to be conquered by Assyria. He is speaking to three men on King Hezekiah’s staff.

·       His playbook consisted of telling them that their alliance with Egypt was no good and that their trust in God was pointless

o   Is. 36:6-7 - Look, I know you are depending on Egypt, that splintered reed of a staff, which pierces the hand of anyone who leans on it! Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who depend on him. But if you say to me, “We are depending on the Lord our God”—isn’t he the one whose high places and altars Hezekiah removed, saying to Judah and Jerusalem, “You must worship before this altar”?

o   First, the half-truth – I’m not a historian as to the exact power Pharaoh and Egypt could have offered, but Jerusalem’s help was never going to come from a godless country

o   And the lie – Hezekiah didn’t destroy anything erected to God, he destroyed the Asherah poles and other symbols of idolatry

·       Then the commander moves in to make a deal with them

o   Is. 36:8-10 - “‘Come now, make a bargain with my master, the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses—if you can put riders on them! How then can you repulse one officer of the least of my master’s officials, even though you are depending on Egypt for chariots and horsemen? Furthermore, have I come to attack and destroy this land without the Lord? The Lord himself told me to march against this country and destroy it.’”

o   Compromising with our enemy is never a valid strategy

o   With a bit of sarcasm, he is offering a shortcut (2,000 horses)

§  He layers in another lie, claiming authority from God  

·       He then steps up the rhetoric and tells them if they don’t comply, they “will have to eat their own excrement and drink their own urine”

o   Can’t make this up!

o   The devil is rude, vulgar, and has no scruples

·       Previously, Hezekiah wisely instructed them in verse 21, “Do not answer him.” 

o   In Proverbs 26:5  it says to not answer a fool according to his folly or you will be like him.

o   Absent the Sword of the Word, we are poorly equipped to out-debate our enemy

·       Hezekiah sent the men to the prophet Isaiah for godly counsel, which is exactly what they got

o   Is. 37:6 - This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard—those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. 

o   Now, the enemy is not going to give in so easily

§   “Say to Hezekiah king of Judah: Do not let the god you depend on deceive you when he says, ‘Jerusalem will not be given into the hands of the king of Assyria.’ Surely you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the countries, destroying them completely. And will you be delivered? 

§  There is plenty of evidence that our world is still in the enemy’s hands.  Therefore, it should come as no surprise when we see on the news all of the bad things that are happening, which can lead us to think that there is no hope.

·       When Hezekiah received back the message from the King of Assyria, he prayed:

o    “Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to all the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.

 “It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste all these peoples and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, Lord, are the only God.”

§  Here’s the playbook!

·       He exalted God, he acknowledged the reality of what was happening, he put his trust in the Lord to His glory.

·       And how did God answer Hezekiah?

o   He assured him regarding his enemy

§  “But I know where you are
    and when you come and go
    and how you rage against me.
Because you rage against me
    and because your insolence has reached my ears,
I will put my hook in your nose
    and my bit in your mouth,
and I will make you return
    by the way you came.

§  Is. 37:36 - Then the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies!  So, Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there.”

·       Our verse from this study actually comes from the preceding chapter because it foreshadows this vivid illustration:

·       (He will) Strengthen the feeble hands,
    steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
    “Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
    He will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
    He will come to save you.”

·       Don’t believe the vicious lies of the enemy.  Whatever battle you are in today:

o   Don’t rely on your own strength or that of others

o   Don’t engage with the enemy on his terms

o   Do take it to the Lord in prayer

o   Do let God take up your cause for His sake

o   Do be strong, He is coming to save you