Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Consuming Fire... Refining Fire

Isaiah 33:14-16
The sinners in Zion are terrified;
trembling grips the godless:
"Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire?
Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?"

15 He who walks righteously
and speaks what is right,
who rejects gain from extortion
and keeps his hand from accepting bribes,
who stops his ears against plots of murder
and shuts his eyes against contemplating evil-

16 this is the man who will dwell on the heights,
whose refuge will be the mountain fortress.
His bread will be supplied,
and water will not fail him.

Far too often we sing of a gracious God of love and forgiveness and forget that for the majority of Scripture He is a Holy and Just consuming fire. "The fear of the Lord is His treasure," (33:6). Our God and King demands obedience. In verse 22 of this same chapter He is described as our Judge, our Lawgiver and our King. He is the legislator or lawgiver, He is the standard of the law by which it it interpreted (judge) and He is the executor of the law, the King of justice. There is no executive pardon, no supreme court appeal, no senator or congressman to write, no checks and balances... He is a consuming fire before which no man can stand.
And yet, we have an advocate who stands before the Father and not only represents us but pays the price for our sin, Jesus Christ the Righteous One (1 John 2:1-2). "Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments," (1 John 2:3).
To those who know Him and obey Him, turning from evil, the promise is prosperity (will dwell on the heights), protection (refuge will be the mountain fortress) and provision (bread and water endlessly supplied). To those who know Him, the Consuming Fire, He becomes a Refiners Fire, purifying His people and preparing them for His service (Malachi 3:2-4).
The key to eternal life is to know the refining fire before one must experience the consuming fire.

Lord, teach me to remember Your fire. "Be like a refiner's fire or a launderer's soap....Sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; ... purify (me) like gold and silver. Let me "bring offerings in righteousness," that they may "be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years." (Mal. 3:2-4)

Monday, August 30, 2010


Isaiah 32:7-8
Also the schemes of the schemer are evil;
He devises wicked plans
To destroy the poor with lying words,
Even when the needy speaks justice.
But a generous man devises generous things,
And by generosity he shall stand.

Here Isaiah contrasts two types of people. The schemer devises wicked plans and ways to exploit others for his own benefit and promotion. He ignores justice and has no heart for the cries of the poor. The generous man however devises generous plans. By contrast, he knows justice and his heart is bent toward those in need. When trials, opposition or times of want set in, it is the generosity of this man that preserves him. By contrast, the schemer will fall when such times arise.
So what type of person am I?
What type of person are you?
How would we be described by those closest to us?... to those we work with?... to those we live with?

Father, teach me to be more generous. Teach me to value others, even and especially the poor, as more valuable than my stuff. Amen.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wait on the Lord

Isaiah 30:1
“Woe to the rebellious children,” says the LORD,
“Who take counsel, but not of Me,
And who devise plans, but not of My Spirit,
That they may add sin to sin;

How often have I been a rebellious child of God?... not willfully, but ignorantly? How often have I considered my own plans and sought the council of men rather than God? How often have I failed to seek the Spirit and stumbled into darkness? How often has my good intention turned into sin?

Isaiah goes on to talk about how Israel strove for self preservation by fleeing their enemies and seeking protection from foreign lands instead of standing firm and faithful in Israel waiting on the Lord to protect them. In a sense they jumped from the frying pan into the fire.

Then in verse 18 Isaiah writes this:
" Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you;
And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you.
For the LORD is a God of justice;
Blessed are all those who wait for Him."

What does it mean to wait on the Lord?
For Israel it would have meant standing firm and faithful in Jerusalem instead of fleeing to Egypt for help. It would have meant fearing the Lord more than their enemies. It would have meant believing and trusting in the providence of God rather than silver and gold. It would have meant living in the Spirit rather than the flesh, seeing with spiritual eyes rather than natural eyes.
For me it means believing in the promises of God more than conventional wisdom. It means trusting in the providence of God rather than my bank account. It means learning to rest, to slow down and pray rather than work. It means learning to live with less so that I might experience more. It means living for today knowing that God holds tomorrow. It means listening to the Spirit rather than my gut.

Lord - teach me to wait on You. Break my rebellious spirit so that I don't multiply sin. Teach me to patiently rest and wait in You. Strengthen my faith and grant me greater trust. Amen.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

a sure foundation

Isaiah 28:16
Therefore thus says the Lord GOD:
“Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation,
A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation;
Whoever believes will not act hastily."

While in Israel it amazed me just how important Jerusalem (Zion) and the temple mount truly is. Traditions says that the Jewish Tabernacle set up by David and the Temple built by Solomon as well as the later Temple built by Herod the Great were all set upon the very bedrock where Abraham was provided a substitute as he obediently sacrificed his son Isaac. This place is known as Mount Moriah and is believed to be the most holy place in all of Israel. Today, the temple mount looks very different. Upon that very place sits the Muslim Dome on the Rock. To the Muslims, this bedrock is also very sacred. Muslim tradition says that it was here on Mount Moriah that Muhammad was called to the heavens and given the Koran. As he jumped up into the heavens, the stone beneath him was so envious that it too tried to jump up to be with Allah. However an angel held it down and now it hovers, suspended between heaven and earth, beneath the Dome on the Rock.
Since the Jews no longer control the Temple mount and cannot worship on this mountain, they gather at the closest point to this stone, the Western wall or Wailing Wall. The reality is that even if they had access to this place, a devoted Jew would not go there for fear they would walk on the Holy of Holies and be destroyed. Today, the entire mount has been covered by concrete and stone except for one small area. Some believe this bedrock to be the actual place where the Temple
In Matthew 21:42, Jesus quotes Psalm 118:22 and claims to be "the stone the builders rejected" that would become "the capstone." He is the fundamental stone, the very bedrock on which all things have been established (Col. 1:16). He is also the capstone which completes all of creation and the redemptive plan of God.

So how do I view this foundation? Is my Jesus as sacred and Holy and revered as this rock in Zion? Am I willing to fight for this stone? Is my life built upon His principles? Do I tread upon this stone carelessly or reverently? How do I view this Stone?

"In Christ Alone" has to be one of my favorite songs of worship. It reminds me of how I must approach this stone, where and how I must stand.

In Christ Alone
Songwriters: Getty, Julian Keith; Townend, Stuart Richard;

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm

What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless Babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save

'Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live, I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again

And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From a life's first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny

No power of hell, no scheme of man
Could ever pluck me from His hand
'Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I stand

Jesus, You are my rock, my cornerstone, my sure foundation, my capstone and covering, my all in all. Teach me to stand upon Your Word, Your promises and Your character. Teach me to stand reverently and to bow humbly in your presence. Help me remember this stone in every moment of my life. Amen.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

perfect peace

Isaiah 26:3-4
You will keep in perfect peace
him whose mind is steadfast,
because he trusts in you.
Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.

Have you ever experienced perfect peace?
My guess is that if you have it is rare and temporal.
Because we live in a world of struggles, sickness, suffering and spiritual warfare, our peace is easily robbed. Like Peter walking on the sea of Galilee, we take our eyes off Jesus and become overwhelmed by the wind, waves and waters of life.
So how do we find and sustain perfect peace? How do we keep our minds steadfast on God?
I think the secret is to make the Truth of God and His presence just as (if not more) visible, tangible and experiential as the trials that take our eyes off Jesus. This means keeping the Word of God visibly accessible in our every-moment paths. Deuteronomy 6 suggests writing it all over our homes and binding it to our bodies. If we worry about money, placing a passage in our wallet or checkbook would be a good idea. If we worry about our children, writing God's promises on their bedroom doors or beds would remind us of His faithfulness. If we struggle with loneliness, passages of peace placed on our computers or set as wallpapers on our phones would help. Wherever it is that you struggle, there should be the reminder of God's presence and promises.
Another secret is to dwell in the praise of God. Keeping your home, your car, your life filled with praise and worship not only reminds us of the Truth of God but also shouts out the taunts of the enemy and crowds out lies we tend to dwell on. Furthermore, Psalm 22:3 says, "But You (God) are holy, Enthroned in the praises of Israel." God dwells in the praise of His people. Where there is worship, God is there.
Finally, where there are passages of Scripture and praise, there is prayer. Connecting with God is the natural byproduct of a life filled with His Truth, praise and presence. We have the power and presence of mind to speak to him about our problems rather than ourselves. And when we pray, the certain result is always peace. Philippians 4:6-7 says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Father, may my life be marked by perfect peace. Fill my home with Your word, my day with Your praise, my mouth with prayer and my heart with peace. Amen.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Isaiah 25:4 & 9
For You have been a strength to the poor,
A strength to the needy in his distress,
A refuge from the storm,
A shade from the heat;
For the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall.

In that day they will say,
"Surely this is our God;
we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the LORD, we trusted in him;
let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation."

What a beautiful reminder of the nature of God for anyone who has ever been poor or needy, or anyone overwhelmed by the storms and scorching heat of life. In the midst of our suffering, God alone is our strength, our refuge, our shade and our comfort. There is no wealth or strength or shelter or shield that compares to our God.
Therefor, God does not comfort with anything other than His presence and nature. Notice that in the midst of the trials mentioned, God does not provide wealth or resources. He does not calm the storm or cool the day. Instead, in the midst of such suffering, God Himself stand with us and comforts us.
When God stands with us, we can rejoice and be glad, for salvation is found in His presence.

This principle is brought out beautifully in Philippians 4:6-7.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Notice that when we are anxious and pray, the answer to our prayers is not always the object of our prayers. Instead, the promised answer to our prayers is peace. The peace of God goes beyond our circumstances and changes our hearts and minds. Even when our heads can't make sense of the feelings in our hearts, God's peace passes all our needs for understanding and grants us strength to move forward.

This is our God.
We can trust in Him.
He alone will be our strength,
our refuge,
our shelter,
our shield,
our comfort
and our peace.

Friday, August 13, 2010


Did you know that the book of Isaiah is 66 chapters long and is divided into two sections; chapters 1-39 concerning the judgment of God against sin and chapters 40-66 concerning the grace of God and restoration of creation?
Did you know the Bible is 66 chapters long and is divided into 39 Old Testament books concerning the judgment of God against sin and 27 New Testament books concerning the grace of God and the restoration of creation?
Not only is the Bible full of truth and power but even the details and divisions proclaim just how special it truly is!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

prophets and youth pastors...

Isaiah 20:3-4
Then the LORD said, “Just as My servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot three years for a sign and a wonder against Egypt and Ethiopia, so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians as prisoners and the Ethiopians as captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt.

2 gut-reactions to reading this passage...

1. boy am I glad I'm a youth pastor and not a prophet.

2. perhaps Isaiah was a youth pastor... a pioneer in youth ministry... inventing the moon. If only he had a church van!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Merciful King

Isaiah 16:5
In mercy the throne will be established;
And One will sit on it in truth, in the tabernacle of David,
Judging and seeking justice and hastening righteousness.”

Here in the prophesy against Moab, Isaiah suggests that their only hope would not come out of Moab, but through the establishment of a foreign kingdom and throne. Only out of the tabernacle or tent of David would a rule come who would be true, merciful, just and righteous. These were not common attributes of a king in those days... or these days for that matter. Kings are strong, bold, lavish, aggressive, indulgent, ambitious, etc.... And foreign kings are harsh, dominant, oppressive, unfair and even cruel. Yet when Christ sits on His throne, it will be established in mercy... for not only Israel but also for Moab and the nations that once tormented the people of God.
This mercy will be guided by both truth and justice. By no means will this King allow for injustice or turn his head from evil (Num. 14:18). However, the word "righteousness" means the mixing of justice and mercy; doing the right thing, in the right way. And this King has the right to extend both justice and mercy not simply because He sits on a throne, but because He purchased His people with His own blood and took upon Himself their infirmities, burdens and flesh. Moab's greatest hope, and the world's, is found in the righteous One whom they have offended, in the One they have made their enemy.
The more I read and study the Scriptures, the more beautiful and profound the person and position of Jesus Christ becomes. His nature, His character, His ministry is so unimaginable. Though I find myself a sinner at odds (even enemies) with the will of my creator, He is my greatest Hope, my Rescuer, my Redeemer, my Savior... my King.

Lord, I humbly submit to Your rule and reign in my life. Teach me to love Your ways and embrace Your kingdom. Let me rejoice in Your throne of mercy and justice. May righteousness be hastened in and through me. May I be identified in everything I say and do with You and Your sovereign rule. Amen.

Monday, August 9, 2010


Isaiah 13:11
I will punish the world for its evil,
the wicked for their sins.
I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty
and will humble the pride of the ruthless.

Here in the middle of God's proclamation of destruction against Babylon we find an indictment for the world. This is because from this time forward throughout Scripture, Babylon represents the world and peoples that set themselves up against God and His people.
I find it interesting that of all the things the world could be judged for; deception, lies, murder, war, violence, sexual immorality, etc... God chooses pride. Here in verse 11 he uses four words to reinforce His anger and wrath against this specific sin; arrogance, haughty, humble or humiliate and pride.

In the movie "The Devil's Advocate," Al Pacino, playing the devil, delivers a couple of speeches about vanity and pride. He says,
"Vanity...is definitely my favorite sin. Kevin, it's so basic. Self-love. The all-natural opiate."
"You sharpen the human appetite to the point where it can split atoms with its desire; you build egos the size of cathedrals; fiber-optically connect the world to every eager impulse; grease even the dullest dreams with these dollar-green, gold-plated fantasies, until every human becomes an aspiring emperor, becomes his own God... and where can you go from there?"

If vanity truly is the Devil's favorite sin, this verse demonstrates that it is among God's most hated. We cannot stand back and accuse Babylon of being more wicked than us... for as soon as we judge, we make ourselves guilty of the same pride for which they were condemned. Pride gives way to greed, lust, desire, ambition, deception, destruction and every other sin committed by man. Pride is the license to sin, to self medicate, to self indulgence, to self justification. Pride is the foundation of the lies we tell ourselves and the very walls that define us and the roof that covers over all our ugliness.

Perhaps instead of rooting out various sins in our lives, we should instead focus on removing our pride and work on humility, sober-mindedness, modesty and self discipline. With every decision we make, it would be good to ask, "Will this decision exalt me or God?" "Will this decision promote my agenda or God's?"

Father - Forgive me for my pride and arrogance. Protect me from vanity. Humble me. Teach me modesty, sobriety, self-discipline and contentment. Let me be counted with the people of God who humble Honor You and promote Your kingdom and Your agenda. Amen.

Friday, August 6, 2010

a root and a branch

Isaiah 11:1 & 10
There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,
And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.
And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse,
Who shall stand as a banner to the people;
For the Gentiles shall seek Him,
And His resting place shall be glorious.”

Isaiah 11 is packed with beautiful imagery of the Messiah and His eternal kingdom: the lion and the lamb lay down together, a child will lead them, perfect peace. The imagery that strikes me most however is what describes the Messianic King himself. Isaiah describes Him as both a rod and branch from the stem or stump of Jesse as well as the root of Jesse.
We know Jesse is the father of David whose kingdom was promised to last forever ((Isa 9:7). So this Messiah King would not simply be a descendant of David (a branch) but also his ancestor or root: a human descendant of David as well as a divine and eternal ancestor.
Again and again God affirms through the prophets the beautiful identify of Messiah and unveils His identity so that Israel might not miss Him when He comes. And yet, it was the Gentiles who would recognize this and seek Him. What mercy! God extends his branch over the Jew and the Gentile as well. And Israel is not lost (Isa 11:11) but included in the great plan of redemption as they play the part of branches extending this mercy and grace out to cover the whole world.

There is nothing more beautiful and so profound as the person of Jesus Christ who
"is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." (Colossians 1:15-20).


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The coming king...

Isaiah 9:6
For to 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.

While this is a passage we traditionally read and recall at Christmas time, it is far more prophetic of the Messiah's second coming. This is a prophesy of hope and promise for both Israel and the church; pointing to a time when God will reign and rule over all creation.

"A child is born" speaks of the fact that the messiah would be human. This was necessary because only a human could pay for the sins of humanity. Furthermore, God promised that an heir of David would sit on his throne forever (2 Sam. 7:15-16).

"A Son is given" speaks of His deity. This Son would not be the result of human decision or initiation, but divine gifting. The Son of promise reminds us of the first prophesy concerning the Messiah and His responsibility to restore creation to proper order (Gen. 3:15).

"The government" here is singular. Under the Messiah's reign, there is one King, one kingdom, one law and one order. The Messiah will be not only establish this, but will also sustain it; it will be "upon His shoulders."

"Wonderful Counselor" begins to describe His reign. He will rule with perfect prudence and wisdom. This makes me think of Solomon and all his wisdom. The Messiah will rule with greater wisdom than Solomon, perfect knowledge and wisdom.

"Mighty God" speaks to the Messiah King's military might and strength to establish and sustain His kingdom. This reminds me of Saul, Israel's first king whom everyone thought would be a mighty warrior and king since he was a head taller than any other man (1 Sam 9:2). The Messiah is mighty not in stature but in power. His strength is not in the sword alone, but in the Lord.

"Everlasting Father" describes the perfect and inexhaustible provision that Messiah would bring. Like a father provides for his family, so does the Messiah provide for His people, yet without limits. This reminds me of the exodus and God's leadership through Moses. Under His leadership, Israel lacked nothing (Nehemiah 9:21). Yet, when the Messiah reigns, there will be no end to such provisions, they will be everlasting.

"Prince of peace" is a declaration that the Messiah is both the rightful heir of the throne of David as well as the right heir who will provide perfect peace. In 1 Chronicles 22:9, the Lord says to David, "But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign." This was true of Solomon for a season and will be true of the Messiah forever.

What a prophesy! What fulfillment!

Lord, come quickly and establish Your kingdom. Amen.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Isaiah 7:13
Then Isaiah said, "Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also?

To try the patience of man is not uncommon. Daily I try the patience of my wife by being selfish and demanding. I try the patience of my kids by being too firm or too busy. I try the patience of my coworkers by being self-centered and dismissive.
If it's this easy to try the patience of man, how much more often do I try the patience of a perfect, holy and just God? My family, friends and acquaintances can be offended only my my words and actions. God takes offense to my thoughts, my motives, my attitudes and the condition of my heart. And somehow I still maintain (and try to convince those I'm offending) that God favors me. While God does favor and has favored me in both eternal and temporal ways (Eph. 1:11), daily He is patient with me. Daily He is merciful and forgiving. God's stance of favor with me in solely based on the magnitude of His virtue and holiness, not my worthiness.
Therefore, when I approached the throne of God in prayer, or interact with others, I must remind myself of the patience and mercy of God. This thought should drive me to both change my behavior and words as well as humble my thoughts and motives.

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Father I praise You for being patient and merciful. Teach me to be like You and act like You day by day, moment by moment. Amen.