Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Isaiah’

For the past couple of years, God has been slowly teaching me about mercy.  I have all these questions.  Some days I have cried out to Him, not knowing enough truth to decide what to trust Him for.  Who are You?  How do You work towards us when we fail?  How long is Your long-suffering?  What do You still accomplish through us when we hold back from You?  

I think that the reason I have struggled so much with these things is that the answers are not the same for every person, every time.

This is something I discovered last week when I pondered Isaiah 59:2.  It is not new with me, to be uneasy about this verse and the way I have learned to use it.  Allow me to quote it:

But your iniquities have separated you from your God, 

and your sins have hidden His face from you, 

so that He will not hear.”  

Growing up, I memorized this verse to use in presenting the gospel.  But, is that a right division of the word of God?

Firstly, the verse is in an Old Testament prophecy to the nation of Israel.  By extension, since it says “your God,” we might apply it to those who claim YHWH as their God, namely Christians.  But it seems rather far-fetched to apply it to all humans, particularly to speak it to those whose very condition is having rejected God as their God.

The prophecy itself is directed not as an eternal promise or principle towards God’s chosen people, but as a message to them at a certain time.  In context, the passage reads: “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue has muttered perversity. No one calls for justice, nor does any plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies; they conceive evil and bring forth iniquity.”  God is able to save, but in this case, He is not willing.  Israel’s sins did not constrain God; they provoked Him, and this was His response.

God’s use of the terms “separated” and “hidden” and “not hear” apparently do not prevent Him from knowing the situation, from speaking to them, or acting on their behalf (see Isaiah 59:16-21).  This does parallel the situation with the unsaved, for “when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”  The terms, however, suggest a serious, but less desperate situation.  Israel’s national sins caused a covenant-based relational rift in their help from God.  The individual’s state of sin leaves him an enemy, justly deserving of God’s wrath, and unable to accomplish anything good, doomed – apart from the grace of God – to suffer punishment for his rebellion through ongoing eternal spiritual death in hell.

Though in a sense we may say that our sin-nature and our sinful acts have separated us from God, the Bible’s language of salvation and the gospel does not use that picture, of separation.  The New Testament frequently refers to salvation as as being changed from enemies by Jesus’ death on the cross and by His resurrection to reconciliation with God.  The Bible says that we were dead in our sins, but that God makes us alive, gives us eternal life as spiritually born children of God.  I favor these metaphors to that of “separation”.  In part, they speak much more dramatically to our salvation being useful immediately, and not merely to keeping us out of hell after we die.

In addition, when we are preaching the gospel, we are telling people to “call on the name of the Lord” to be saved.  The good news we are sharing is that because of Jesus’ work, God will hear that prayer.

Returning to God dealing with those who are His, does He always treat their sin with a cold shoulder?  In Ezekiel, God addressed similar sins by saying that when Israel would seek Him, He would answer them (and it would be a fearful thing)!  Hebrews says that God deals with those He loves as sons, chastening them to produce the peaceable fruit of righteousness.  He is a merciful God who, without excusing doubt and disobedience, continues to reveal Himself, to teach, to work through us.  He often pursues us to bring us to full repentance, to have peace and intimacy with us when we are fully yielded to Him.  But He may do good, un-thwarted by our turning aside to our own ways.

But I do not believe that God is obligated to show mercy in this way.  He may refuse to heed our prayers, as David acknowledged:  “If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.”  So it makes sense to me to ask Him to be merciful, if He will allow us to pray this way.

I praise God for the times that He has elected to have mercy on me, and I continue to cry out to Him, begging Him to be merciful towards me and towards those I love.

To God be all glory, 

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

Last Friday I had some of my dear friends over to spend the night.  As the girls fell asleep to a movie in my living room, I prayed for them because I had to.  There was no urgent need, but urgent feeling.  The next day as we spoke I felt convicted to get back to praying specifically on a regular basis.  I have been praying, but it has been need-based, and not diligent. 
 
Sunday morning my pastor preached on prayer.  I know this fact, even though I wasn’t there, and that’s enough.  Sunday afternoon there was a youth leaders meeting where the veterans reiterated the essential role prayer plays in making a meeting or ministry successful.  Filled with a sense of the needs, and the knowledge that God wanted me to refocus, I had a marvelous Sunday and Monday filled with intentional prayer.  And then I stayed up late, and slept in and stayed up and slept in.  I’ve been praying, but it hasn’t been the intentional, set aside time I resolved to do. 
 
Wednesday my mom taught the Awana Sparks about the Lord’s Prayer, and in our weekly debriefing of funny things kids said, she shared part of her lesson.  Afterward I read a new article on one of my favorite websites – it was on the Lord’s Prayer, too. 
 
This week I also received in the mail the newest Michael Card album, Hymns.  The first or second song (most listened to if you push play right before you fall asleep each night) is Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.  There is a part of that song I remember a pastor talking about a long time ago.  The author of the hymn wrote “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it… Here’s my heart, o, take and seal it…”  He did wander.  That’s the testimony of his life.  He knew himself.  His heart needed sealed. 
 
So does my heart, because it wanders.  In some ways this week has been beautiful, but it’s only because I’ve spotted God’s grace and messages, not because I’ve had victory in yielding to them.  I know everything about the need to be content, but I just am not content.  My heart isn’t focused.  I’m not diligent with my time or energy, or responsible with my money.  I’m tired. 
 
On Sunday something said at the leader’s meeting reminded me of Galatians 6:9: “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”  Like a breath of keenest fresh air to one suffocating, I needed every ounce of the hope in that verse.  There is conviction in Paul’s words also.  That is what I want to focus on today.  
 
Proverbs 4:20-27, “My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings.
Let them not depart from thine eyes;
keep them in the midst of thine heart.
For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.
Keep thy heart with all diligence;
for out of it are the issues of life.
Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.
Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.
Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.
Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.
 
The word “keep” in verse 21 is shamar, “keep, give heed” like a shepherd or watchman. The word “keep” in verse 23 is natsar, “guard, watch over.”  So Solomon’s words, inspired of the Holy Spirit, are to be kept.  And my heart is to be kept.  How is this done? 
 
The first thing Solomon mentions after this command is speech.  There is a lot about speech in Ephesians, but this reminds me also of James, whose vivid description of the tongue as the spark that sets a forest on fire opens with “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” 
 
We’ve probably all heard the question, “Who’s being walked?  The dog or the human?”  A man holds a leash with the cord wrapped around his hand several times in the manner of a bull-rider.  The dog strains ahead, eager, easily distracted.  Sometimes the man seems to be pulled along against his will.  Other times the firm hold on the leash restrains and directs the pet.  The image of a bridle in James is that of me being both dog and master, horse and driver.  The bridle doesn’t just restrain; it guides.  It controls and regulates.  This is self-control, one of the fruit of the Spirit, also known as temperance.  Many of the fruit of the Spirit involve a self-command or restraint. 
 
Solomon goes on to talk about our eyes.  Ok, I can’t resist.  One of the best songs kids ever learn is “Oh be careful little eyes,” and actually I think we should make teenagers and adults sing it, too.  Do you remember it?  Oh be careful little tongue what you say, oh be careful little tongue what you say.  For the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful little tongue what you say.  Oh be careful little eyes what you see.  Oh be careful little feet where you go.  Tongue, Eyes, Feet.  Ponder your path.  Don’t get distracted.  Keep control of your tongue.  Guard your heart.  Commit to focusing on wisdom and truth and goodness.  “Set your mind on things above.”  
 
Galatians 5:22-23 lists the fruit of the Spirit.  All the virtues are connected.  Love is a choice.  Joy is something we are commanded to have.  Peace, Philippians tells us, is a result of giving our anxieties to God in prayer.  Patience, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.  Meekness has been described as power under control.  This may be what Mr. Darcy had in mind when he defended his character and his quiet nature by saying, “Where there is real superiority of mind, pride will always be under good regulation.”  While at first impression this seems like another evidence of Mr. Darcy’s arrogance, it has been suggested by those sympathetic to his character that what he was saying was a strong enough mind knew how to keep his pride – his selfish impulses – under control.  His reluctance to speak when he might be tempted to go too far is a sign of his meekness rather than of his pride. 
 
Dennis Prager is a strangely blended Jewish moralist who speaks, writes, and hosts a radio show.  Though his is by no means an absolute authority, he makes a good point by saying that happiness comes from the mind making choices over the instinct for fun or pleasure.  The mind knows better than feelings.  It can make choices based on the long-term.  Essentially he is saying that self-control brings happiness. 
 
Self-control, or temperance, is from the Greek egkrates, “strong, robust; having power over, possessed of (a thing); mastering, controlling, curbing, restraining; controlling one’s self, temperate, continent.”  Strength is active, working both on itself and on progress.  Tolkien describes a curb not only as a limit to where one can go, but as a tool for navigation: a ditch, bank, or curb would enable one to stay on a road in the dark or in a fog.  So limits restrain us, but they also get us to our destination.  Solomon warns against off-roading. 
 
Peter says to add temperance to knowledge, and patience to temperance (2 Peter 1:6).  A pastor is told to be temperate in Titus 1:8.  He is also required to be sober: “curbing one’s desires and impulses, self-controlled, temperate”  Titus 2:5 uses the same word to describe that which a young woman ought to be taught.  It is translated “discreet” in KJV.  Modesty is a consequence of discretion.  Sobriety is the opposite of drunkenness or dissipation, in which control of yourself is loosed.  Dissolution is a word meaning exactly that “cut loose”, and it leads to all sorts of sinful indulgence and decadence.  I need to be moderate. 
 
Paul depicted this virtue in 1 Corinthians 9, in the metaphor of an athlete. 
 
1 Corinthians 9:24-27, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all,
but one receiveth the prize?
So run, that ye may obtain. 
And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.
Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 
I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 
But I keep under my body,
and bring it into subjection:
lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
 
Every man who strives for the mastery (enters the contest, contends for the prize) is temperate in all things.  Verse 27 says “I keep under my own body,” the word used here is a practice of athletes, to use their bodies roughly to make themselves tough or conditioned.  It comes from a word for the part of the face that turns into a black eye if punched.  Some Christians known as ascetics took this too far; they were so focused on abusing themselves that they forgot to do anything fruitful.  Rather, this is the same word Jesus employs in Luke 18, where He is teaching me to be diligent in prayer. 
 
Luke 18:1-8, “And he spake a parable unto them to this end,
that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; 
Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: 
And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying,
Avenge me of mine adversary. 
And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself,
Though I fear not God, nor regard man; 
Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her,
lest by her continual coming she weary me. 
And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. 
And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him,
though he bear long with them? 
I tell you that he will avenge them speedily.
Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh,
shall he find faith on the earth?”
 
The judge was made weary (kept under, conditioned) by the widow’s persistent appeal. 
 
Back in 1 Corinthians 9, Paul also says that he brings his body under subjection, he makes a slave of it using stern discipline.  One stern discipline, an exercise in self-control and dependence on God, is fasting.  Fasting should never be about indulging my own cravings, whether sensual, for food, for the praise of men, or to soothe my conscience.  Isaiah 58, beginning in verse 3, contains God’s design for fasting. 
 
Isaiah 58:3-11, “Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not?
wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge?
Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure,
and exact all your labours.
Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness:
ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.
Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul?
is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?
Is not this the fast that I have chosen?
to loose the bands of wickedness,
                            to undo the heavy burdens,
                                                   and to let the oppressed go free,
                                                               and that ye break every yoke?
Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry,
and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house?
when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him;
and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
Then shall thy light break forth as the morning,
and thine health shall spring forth speedily:
and thy righteousness shall go before thee;
the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward. T
hen shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer;
thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am.
If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger,
and speaking vanity;
And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul;
then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday:
And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought,
and make fat thy bones:
and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water,
whose waters fail not.”
 
In a paradoxical way, while fasting is about denying one’s self, it is for the purpose of releasing bonds and weights.  Fasting is reliance on God, not only for what I don’t have, but also with what I do.  Fasting is always accompanied with prayer.  1 Peter 5:7 says to cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you.  In the Sermon on the Mount, right after Jesus speaks on prayer, He goes into teaching on fasting.  Though food is good, or other things from which you might fast, the exercise of self-denial and sacrifice and dependence and focus on God is good.  All things are lawful, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians, but not everything is beneficial.  When I practice what is beneficial, I am stronger for the unexpected temptations when I must deny myself. 
 
I must be ready, then, by exercising self-control, to do good works.  Pray with perseverance and persistence.  Be steadfast.  Stand therefore.  Gird up the loins of your mind, and be sober, that you may be ready in and out of season to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.  Hope is even described in the Bible as an anchor – the image of stability and strength.  Do not be slothful, but fervent in whatever you do.  Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.  
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

Emergent Cloister – Emerging Church Nothing New

Idiosystematic, a critique of change in the Emerging Movement

John MacArthur on The Emergent Church

Evaluation of the “gospel” in Rob Bell’s Nooma videos in 3 parts.  Part 1. 

Part 2

Part 3

A long review of Rob Bell’s book, Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith

Doug Pagitt on whether Good Buddhists go to Heaven

Brian McLaren sounds like my brother’s Buddhist friend explaining John 14:6

 

Too many web pages open – and most of them are about the Emergent Church.  Rob Bell and Nooma, Brian McLaren’s broad-way interpretation of John 14:6, and a variety of Christians warning other Christians about the subtle heresies of the Emergent authors and leaders.  I have a lot more links about Rob Bell, and I think that’s because he’s more accepted by the people I know.  He doesn’t push everyone into joining the Emergent Movement.  But he’s a part, and basically he wants to infiltrate the existing Church with emerging theology – which is actually more philosophy, because God is a song in everyone’s heart.

McLaren, Pagitt, they say things that are extreme.  The links I have up for them are not ones that say: when McLaren said this, he was wrong because…  No.  The links I have for them are from their own mouths or pens, self-explanatory in their heresy.  Yes.  Heresy.  The Bible may not be all about who gets to heaven and who goes to hell, but it is about something; it’s about God, the God who so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  Jesus is the center; not only His teachings or His compassion, but also His fulfillment of prophecy, His divine miracles, His judgment, His death, His resurrection, His ascension, His return.  The Bible is about having a relationship with God, God dwelling with individuals, but it is about grace.  God chooses.  God pursues.  God enables the relationship when we rebel and deserve to perish. 

 

I read a McLaren page to my brother, and afterward I asked him, “Isn’t that horrible?  That someone can teach that about John 14:6?  I don’t understand how he can believe that.”  My brother added that the sad thing is, McLaren had a lot of cool stuff to say mixed in with the bad theology. 

 

Emergent books are like that.  Especially the beginning is usually full of the enthusiastic, God-acknowledging, people-loving, truth-seeking community we’re looking for.  And then, slowly at first, the authors begin to slip in their man-centered words, and then they talk about worship and evangelism.  I wonder if the authors or editors intentionally include the controversial things in the latter halves of their books.  My friends read these books very trustingly.  Without being too critical, they think these books and teachers are just encouraging us to have a personal faith, to fulfill Jesus’ command to love. 

 

But if I read closely, and look at other things these guys have said, I start to wonder…  Faith in what?  Who is the Jesus they say commanded love?  What is worship?  What gospel are we bringing to the world through our love and concern for social justice and community? 

 

Rob Bell interprets Peter’s walk on water as faith (or little faith) in himself.  The Jesus these guys mention omits mention of condemnation, hell, judgment, and sin.  Their Jesus was an all-inclusive non-judgmental type.  If we must acknowledge Jesus criticized some people, it was the favorite bad-guys, the hypocrites of Judaism, the exclusive and legalistic Pharisees.  Good followers of Jesus would be the opposites of the Pharisees.  Their gospel is some vague idea of the kingdom of God, a culture where people interact with God and love each other, all accomplished here on earth by Jesus’ trusted followers.  Their gospel is joining God on His mission to make the world a better place. 

 

They don’t talk about the gospel of life for the spiritually dead, or salvation for the sinners who have earned the eternal wrath of God.  Without acknowledging our horrible guilt and God’s just right to wrath, we have no ability to understand His grace and His love and His sacrifice.  Without acknowledging our total depravity, religion is not only not about the awesomeness of God; it inevitably plummets to being all about us. 

 

Which is maybe why the emergent definition of worship is so disturbing.  Worship to them is recognition of the spiritual.  It can be expressed in more than music because candles are also spiritual, and painting is spiritual, and the beauty of nature is spiritual.  To me, to the Bible, and to the English language, worship is recognition of the worth of its object.  Yes; worship has an object, not in name only, but an inspiration.  We don’t just sing praise songs because we feel like it, or because it’s a spiritual experience.  Worship is not an experience; it’s an action.  It either proclaims God’s glory or yields to it.  We sing because God, about whom and to whom we sing, is worthy of it.  Worship is more than music because our lives, sacrificed to His service and to His glory, can be a response to His wisdom and sacrifice and glory.  God spoke light into the world, and created the nature we like to paint.  He has done great things; therefore we will not keep silent.  We will thank Him for His goodness toward us, marvel at His attention, proclaim His mighty works to the nations. 

 

What worship should never be is about us.  It should never be about recognizing the spirituality of a candle-lit room.  Our songs cannot be about how much we love God, unless they are the overwhelmed effusions of people who cry on Jesus’ feet in gratitude.  It isn’t about the art, or the environment, the sensation; worship is about the Almighty Creator of the universe who knows my name and who died for a wretch like me. 

 Rob Bell says in his Rhythm Nooma, “An infinite, massive, kind of invisible God—that’s hard to get our minds around. But truth, love, grace, mercy, justice, compassion…the way that Jesus lived. I can see that. I can understand that. I can relate to that. I can play that song!”  But Isaiah said, “Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.”  I relate to – and worship – a God who is bigger than me or my comprehension!   

A month ago or more I watched Persuasion on PBS’s Jane Austen season, and commented that the best thing about the movie was that it made me want to re-read the book.  The best thing about studying the Emergent Movement is that it makes me want the real thing, the solid truth against which I need no guards.  I read the Bible to see what God really said, who Jesus really was, to find the passages where Jesus is the Savior, the Man of Sorrows, the Almighty God.  And I get caught up again in the story.  The story that has to do with my day, right now, but that casts me to my knees.  I despised and rejected God.  I betrayed and abused Him.  And He loves me.  He will never leave Me.  He died for me.  He gave me a beautiful day, and His pure Word.  He enables me to teach about Him, and to coach my friends in study of His Word.  Truth.  His understanding is unsearchable, but whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. 

 

1 Corinthians 2:12-16, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.  Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.  But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.  For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

“O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!”
– Isaiah 40:9

Based on Isaiah 40:1-11:
When God delivered Israel from Egypt, “different” was a glorious privilege. Isaiah was a prophet to a people who had become ashamed of being different. It had been centuries now, and Judah wanted to be the same as the wicked nations around her. The prophet’s message, however, was one of peace.

In our world today, peace is something almost no one has: nations war; businessmen rush to work; moms hurry from school to soccer to laundry; and people wonder during the quietest times, “Am I believing in the right thing? Will tomorrow work out ok?” As Christians, we have those answers. We have peace to offer a hectic world. But so often we are afraid to tell others about the difference God has made in our lives. Isaiah tells us not to be afraid to proclaim the message of peace – not only to say it, but from a high mountain, with strength, so everyone can hear.

What are we to proclaim? “Behold your God”: that God came to be with us and to lead us as our Shepherd. When God is with us, no one can stand against us. We can have peace. That is one of the things Jesus came to give us. He is called Immanuel: ‘God with us’ because His life and death allow us to have a relationship with God. How can you not shout it from the mountains?

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

Isaiah 64:1-12

“And there is none that calleth upon Thy name,

that stirreth up himself to take hold of Thee:

for Thou hast hid Thy face from us,

and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.”

 ~ Isaiah 64:7 

Isaiah had been a prophet for a long time. He had visited the throne room of God and written the prophecies of Messiah in chapter 53. Now he saw the need for God’s presence among the people, because the people continued in their ways. No one stirred himself up to take hold of God, literally: to fasten onto God.  Everyone was perfectly content with their same sinful ways. But Isaiah remembered God’s awesome deeds and wasn’t content with anything else. His prayer in chapter 64 reveals his hope for more – God’s very presence in their lives. Only God’s presence could restore their peace. Today we need God’s presence in our lives as much as ever.

For years, each December I’ve written out a Christmas wish-list. I wanted clothes, toys, or candy. But Christmas is about God being with us, Immanuel. As Christmas approaches again, we should be hoping for God’s presence in our daily lives. Jesus told us He would be with us always, but how often to we realize that? Like a child Christmas morning who opens one gift and is no longer satisfied with it five minutes later, our weekly doses of God are just not satisfying. Jesus is the only gift that completely satisfies. Spend every day in His presence. Hope for it. Put it on your Christmas list. God will do awesome things for which you do not look!  

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »