Tag Archives: Christ

A LOOK BACK: Go with the Flow

Read Philippians 4:4-9

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

Imacon Color ScannerMy family and I just recently went on a vacation down to South Carolina. The first four days of our vacation were spent at Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort. One of the things my wife, daughters and I did was go on a two hour kayaking tour of the bay. We all have been kayaking before and we thought that it would be a relaxing way to spend the last morning of our stay at Hilton Head. As we got into our double kayaks, paired up with our children, we quickly realized that the kayaking tour was not going to be a “relaxing”, lazy river experience. The winds had kicked up and the current became rather strong.

At one point, my youngest daughter and I started to get pulled in the opposite direction from the way that the group was going.  I started to paddle harder and harder, but it was to no avail. The current was simply to strong. My arms got tired and I became panicked and concerned that we were in a hopeless situation. No matter how hard my daughter and I rowed, we just could not get our kayak to turn around and head in the right direction.

Finally, a light went off in my head. I realized that the whole time we were trying to row against the current. We were trying to rely on our own strength to turn ourselves around and row upstream.  Yet, the forces of nature were simply too powerful for my arms and the arms of a 9 year old to row against.  But what if I began to row with the current, what if I let go my desire to go against the current, what if I stopped fighting so hard to do what was ultimately impossible?

“Row right, row right,” I called out to my youngest daughter! The second she heard me she caught on to what I was trying to do and began to row with the current in synch with me.  As we began to pick up speed, I plunged my paddle into the water on the left side of the kayak and began to feel the vessel turn around. “Shallow ro, shallow row,” I called out! With those words, my daughter began to row quickly on both sides using the double paddle. As she rowed the kayak picked up momentum, turned and before we knew it, we were paddling quickly upstream. With in a moment or two, we caught up to the group and, shortly after, were able to see a pod of dolphins swim gracefully by us only a few feet away.

What this experience taught both my daughter and I is that, often times, we find ourselves caught in a current. Rather, than letting go of our fears and going with the flow, we often find ourselves fighting the current. At best, we find ourselves paddling in place and never going anywhere. At worst, we find ourselves exhausted, lost and hopeless.

If you find yourself in such a situation, if you find yourself rowing against the stream, if you find yourself fighting the current, today’s challenge for you is to let go. Allow yourself to go with the flow and to gain momentum. Remember, you do not have the strength alone to fight the tide. But if you let go of your fears and go with the flow, through the grace of God, you can build moment enough to turn yourself around and paddle to where God is calling you to be. With God, there is no such thing as hopeless. Remember that, let go, and let God take you to those rewarding, refreshing waters.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Don’t stand about on the edge of life afraid to venture in. go with the flow of circumstances. Follow the voice within.” – Unknown

PRAYER

Lord, help me to realize that I have little control over the circumstances in my life; however, I do have the choice to hand my desire for control over to you. Guide my life in the direction you see fit and lead me to where it is you are calling me. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: An Indisputable Truth

Read Mark 3:20-35

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” (Matthew 6:24a).

thCA5AG0OROn June 16, 1858, then Republican senatorial candidate Abraham Lincoln gave a speech that would shake the foundations of the Illinois statehouse and, eventually, would test the moral fiber and endurance of a nation. Lincoln was advised by his law partner, William H. Herndon, not to read it; however, Lincoln insisted on reading it stating that “the proposition is indisputably true … and I will deliver it as written. I want to use some universally known figure, expressed in simple language as universally known, that it may strike home to the minds of men in order to rouse them to the peril of the times.”

Following the speech, many people called it inappropriate. They felt that it was not politically correct and felt it to be too bold a speech for someone who’s looking to be elected. In the end, Lincoln ended up losing the election to his opponent, Democrat Stephen A. Douglas. Leonard Swett, another lawyer, believed that it was the speech that caused Lincoln to lose the race.

So, what did Lincoln say that was so controversial? He quoted Jesus’ words, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” While Jesus was responding to his opponents accusation that he was in league with Satan, Lincoln was referring to the damning effects of slavery. He was saying that this nation could not carry on being half-free and half-slave; it would either have to become all of one or all of the other. Lincoln knew which end he wanted to see…the end of slavery!

When we look at the modern church, we can see a slavery of a different kind. In the church we become a slave to our own ways of doing things. We see our own theology as being the right theology. We see our own ideas as being the right ideas. We see our own cliques as being the best people in the church. Often times we become slaves to our own egos, forgetting that it is God, not us, that we are called to be serving.

But, as Jesus proclaimed we cannot carry on serving God and serving ourselves. While Jesus was speaking of money, the truth carries over to anything we place before God. We cannot serve two gods, because one will always take precedence over the other. The church, the house and body of God, often stands divided against itself because of the lack of focus on Christ who is our center. And as Christ and Abraham Lincoln both said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

The truth of the matter is, we are either serving God or we are not serving God. There is no in-between when it comes to whom we serve. In order to serve God, we must be striving to live in the image of an imageless God. We must be living examples of God’s love and God’s light. We must be bearers of God’s grace and forgiveness. We must learn to love one another, for only then will we have any business loving the world. If we strive to live into the image of God, we will no longer be divided; rather, we will be united in the eternal love that saved us from ourselves.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Rather than standing divided amongst ourselves, let us stand united in Christ and his mission.

PRAYER

Lord, help me to see the bigger picture and to do my part in standing united in harmony with the rest of your body. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: Bewitched

Read Galatians 3:1-5

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.” (Romans 6:14, NLT)

TheWitch01

The lights darkened, the room silenced, and the discordant sound of stringed instruments filled the air in an unsettling and disturbing manner. The sounds of violin and cello cut through me like serrated steel as the theater screen faded in from black to the image of a teenager’s stone pale and frightened face. It was clear from the way that she was dressed that she was living in seventeenth century New England and that she was among a group of people known as the Puritans.

As it turns out, her father is standing trial for not adhereing to the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, at the time a British colony, because he believes those laws to stand against the teachings of the Gospels. As such he and his family are banished and end up moving out of the village they were in and settling in the wilderness of New England on the edge of a think and dark wood (aka forest). While I will not give away anything, as I run a tight “no-spoiler” ship, this is where the 2016 film, “The Witch”, opens up and where the horror begins.

This film, as I see it, is a work of fine art and there is much for us Christians to pull from it. On the surface, the horror is centering on a potential witch that lives in the woods and is preying upon a New England family that is doing everything they can to remain godly and to stay together as a family. But as misfortune after misfortune happens, and as the family becomes more and more certain they are “witched”, the more and more it is that the real horror is revealed.

Right from the opening scene onward, we are made aware that this family is hypersensitive to their sin, to the sin of others, and to the soveriegnty of God. It is not wrong to be sensitive to those things in a healthy kind of way, but this family is overly sensitive, to the point that every conversation is filled with talk about their sinfulness, the wickedness of the world and the uncertainty of their own, let alone anyone else’s, salvation.

At every turn, the family is reminded that they are wicked and sinful and they start to have the feeling that they are “witched” because God is punishing them and handing them over to the devil as a result of their wickedness. Nowhere, and I mean nowhere, is God’s grace really at play here in this film and in the psyche of the family. Even when God’s mercy is mentioned, it is with the understanding that they are in need of mercy because of their wickedness, and their pleading for it betrays their theology that they worship a God who just might not show mercy to them.

It becomes clear to me, without giving anything away from the actual story line of “The Witch” itself, that the family is bewitched by their own stringent, and horrific, theology. While it is true that God is  sovereign and it is true that we fall short of God’s glorious standard, it is NOT true that God is out to get us for our fallenness. Their theology is so damning that they could never, ever experience the grace and mercy that was already there waiting for them. They were so busy worrying about the prowling devil in the woods that they could not see that they had all they needed to thrive in the wilderness: their family and their faith.

Today’s challenge is this: don’t let yourself get bewitched by a negative and graceless theology. Rather, at every turn, steer clear of the devil by choosing to see the grace of God throughout your life, in your family, and in your community. Community is not perfect, but God is working to perfect it through your presence as well as others. Remember, God saved you from slavery to sin and death, so why negate that by making those things the foundation of your faith? Jesus Christ is the grace of God. That, and that alone, should be your faith’s foundation.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
The devil’s work is division and separation from others.  God is the great uniter.

PRAYER
Lord, keep me from bewitching myself with bad theology. Remind me daily of your grace. Amen.

God’s People, part 234: Barnabas

Read Acts 4:36-37

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard what was happening, they tore their clothing in dismay and ran out among the people, shouting,”  (Acts 14:14, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

barnabasPart 234: Barnabas. When it comes to the New Testament, we think a few prominent figures. We think of Mary and Joseph. We think of Jesus Christ and his twelve disciples. Among them, we think of Peter, John and James. When it comes to Acts, we predominantly think of the Apostle Paul; however, barring those who have read the Acts of the Apostles and the Pauline epistles (aka letters), most would NOT know the name, “Barnabas”; yet, he was a very influential apostle in the early church.

Barnabas’ actual name was Joseph and he was nicknamed Barnabas which means, “son of encouragement”. While on the surface it may not be clear why he was given that nickname, a closer read of Scripture provides the clues as to how Joseph fit into his nickname. When Saul of Tarsus first became an apostle, he was taken under the wing of Barnabas, with whom he traveled the known world on mission trips to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles.

While the Scriptures do not explicitly say that Barnabas was Paul’s mentor, it can be ascertained by the order in which their names appear. In Acts 11:30; 12:25; 13:2, 7, they are always listed in the following order: Barnabas and Saul. From that point on, however, they were listed as Paul and Barnabas. That means that from that point on, Paul (who decided to use his Roman name) was the apostle in charge.

Yet, mentoring Paul was not the only place where we find Barnabas encouraging people. He was a mentor to many, no doubt, including his cousin John Mark, which may or may not have been the same Mark who wrote the Gospel. Not only did Barnabas encourage him, but he advocated for him when Paul no longer wanted John Mark to be a part their missionary journeys.

The reason behind this is that John Mark had been with Barnabas and Saul (before he was using his Roman name) on their first missionary journey together. At some point during that first journey, John Mark had “abandoned them” midway and returned to Jerusalem. I put the word “abandoned” in quotes because, while it is never mentioned why John Mark left them, Paul was upset by it and clearly viewed it as a sort of abandonment of duties.

Thus, when Paul invited his good friend Barnabas on his next journey, and Barnabas stated he wanted to bring John Mark along, Paul vehemently disagreed. That, sadly, ended up in the a division between Barnabas and Paul. They parted ways and Paul went on his next journey with Silas, while Barnabas went to Cyprus with his cousin. The two sadly never joined forces again.

It is impossible to know if the two kept in contact with each other from that point on, or if their split became a permanent end to their friendship, or if they’re going separate ways made it impossible for them to reunite; however, Barnabas stood up to Paul in defense of his cousin Mark. He believed his cousin should be shown grace and encouraged to grow. As a result, Mark went on to possibly author the Gospel (though that is disputed) and more than likely to be a bishop of Apollonia.

Thus, as Christians, we could use to be like Barnabas. We could use to be an encourager and an advocate for people who we see great potential. Some times we do need to be like Paul and move on from people who are consistently unreliable; however, in this case, Paul may have been too rash as John Mark only left them once.

We, too, can often write people off too quickly because it seems like the easier route; however, Christ (and, ironically, Paul too) encourages us to be encouragers and a people who build others up. We are not to write people off, but to extend grace and extra chances to them, until it becomes clear that they are unwilling to accept such grace and change. Let us be encouragers, like Barnabas, and nurture people into deeper commitment and discipleship.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”  – Paul of Tarsus, Apostle of Christ in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, NLT

PRAYER
Lord, help me to be an encourager of the church. Give me the grace to extend to those who may not be where I think they should be, for I know I am not where you think I should be. Thank you for your grace and your love. Amen.

God’s People, part 177: Matthias

Read Acts 1:12-26

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place.”  (Act 2:1, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

MatthiasPart 177: Matthias. When looking to secure the future of a movement, one would hardly be inclined to leave it up to “chance”. One would, no doubt, do everything in his or her power to take all of the necessary steps to ensure that all things were in order. If a leader in the movement died, one would choose among the people a worthy replacement for that position. Nothing, if at all possible, would be left to chance.

Yet, when one pays close attention to what the Apostles did at the beginning of Acts, he or she will notice that the Apostles left the replacement of Judas up to the drawing of lots. Judas had killed himself due to the dishonor he felt in his betrayal of Jesus. Too guilty to continue on, Judas tragically took his own life. Need to replace him, the 11 remaining Apostles nominated two men out of 120 of Jesus’ disciples who had assembled to meet.

Yes, that is right, Jesus had far more than just 12 disciples. The 12 were Jesus’ inner circle whom he mentored to continue the movement on without him. From that can be gathered this fact: Jesus knew that he would not always be around to lead his disciples and, as a matter of fact, that was never his plan. From the time he called the 12 until the time he died and resurrected, Jesus had been preparing his disciples to be the Apostles who would carry his mission and ministry forward.

Out of those 2 men, Joseph Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias were nominated. Then to make the final decision, they drew lots. “Wait,” one might think, “they left the fate of Jesus’ mission and ministry up to chance?” The answer is, no. They did not; rather, they left the decision up to God. They trusted that whoever won out in the casting of lots was being selected by God. That was a sign of their faith and, clearly, something that Jesus must have conveyed to them along the way. It was not their decision, it was God’s.

As for Matthias, he was among those who had followed Jesus throughout his earthly ministry. He was, more than likely, among disciples who witnessed the resurrected Lord before he ascended. It is clear from Scripture that he did not witness the Lord ascend; however, he was among the 12 Apostles who received the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room in Jerusalem during Pentecost.

Not much more is known about him. Aside from that brief mention in the Acts of the Apostles, Matthias disappears off of the page without a trace and into legend. According to Greek tradition, Matthias planted the faith around Cappadocia and the region of the Caspian Sea. According to Nicephorus, he first preached the Gospel in Judaea and then in Aethiopia (modern-day Georgia) where he was stoned to death. According to Coptic tradition, Matthias brought to to The City of Cannibals in Aethiopia.

In another tradition, he traveled to the barbarians and “meat-eaters” in Ethiopia. Again, another tradition has Matthias being stoned to death in Jerusalem. Making a long and disjointed story short, no one really knows what became of Matthias following his being selected as Apostle. Chances are that, regardless of where he took the Good News to, he was likely martyred for doing so.

All of this should challenge us in the following ways. First, how goes it with your faith? Do you have faith in God enough to leave major decisions up to him? Sometimes you may, sometimes you may not? This was clearly the case with the Apostles as well. Sometimes they cast lots seeking God’s will, other times they vied for their own will and way of doing things.

Second, do you take the time to discern what God’s will is for you and/or those around you? Do you prayerfully consider God in your decisions and do you follow God regardless of the cost. Matthias and the other eleven Apostles came to understand Jesus Christ as the Lord and they followed him to the ends of the earth, forsaking all else for the sake of the Gospel. That is what we are all called to do. Reflect on this and challenge yourself to grow deeper in your faith and more faithful in your response to God.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!” ­— Saint Peter in The Act of the Apostles 2:36, New Living Translation

PRAYER
Lord, grow me deeper in my faith and more faithful in my response to you. Apart from you this is not possible, but with you all things are possible. Amen.

God’s People, part 145: Simeon

Read Luke 2:25-35

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions.”  (Joel 2:28, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

SimeonPart 145: Simeon. In the Gospel of Luke we get a little more of Jesus’ back story than we do in the other three Gospels. In Luke and John, we really get no back story at all. In Matthew, we learn that Jesus and his family flee to Egypt to avoid being slaughtered by Herod. After some time, no one really knows how long, Jesus’ family take him back to Israel and settle in the town of Nazareth, which a backwater town that was inconspicuous and far enough away from King Herod’s sons reach.

In Luke, however, Joseph and Mary were originally from Nazareth, traveled to Bethlehem to participate in Caesar Augustus’ census, and gave birth to Jesus in a stable. Eight days later, as per Jewish Law, Jospeh and Mary brought their son to the Temple to be circumcised. Following that they return to Nazareth and raise their son there. From there we are told that Jesus’ family went to the temple annually to partake in Passover and, when Jesus’ was twelve years old, he gives his parents a heart attack when he decides to stay behind as they were traveling home in order to school the religious leaders in the Temple.

But that is getting ahead a bit. After Jesus was circumcised, his parents and him ran into an old man named Simeon. Like most observant and devout Jews, Simeon had spent his life wondering when the God would deliver God’s people from the oppression of foreign occupation. In fact, Simeon not only wondered but, at least as an old man, was lying in lament and wait for this event to happen.

We are told that Simeon was a righteous man, meaning that he lived in right relationship with God and with neighbor and that he was a just man. The Holy Spirit was upon him and revealed to him that he would see the Lord’s Messiah before he died. We are also told that on the day Jesus was circumcised, the Holy Spirit led him to the Temple.

Friends, this is an amazing account because it shows the powerful workings of the Holy Spirit. God’s guidance is given to those who seek God out and open themselves up to what God is doing. That is exactly what happened here to Simeon. As such, not only did Simeon get to see the Christ, but he also was the beginning of the fulfillment of what was prophesied in Joel: “I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions.” Joel was not yet fulfilled, that would happen later at Pentecost, but this was a sign of what was to come.

Upon seeing Jesus, Simeon took him into his arms and blessed him and praised God for fulfilling God’s promise to him. He then, again a sign of what was to be fulfilled on Pentecost, prophesied: “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.” (Luke 2:34-35, NLT)

Sisters and brothers, the Holy Spirit IS REAL and works through those who seek out the LORD. The challenge for us is to open ourselves, as Simeon did, to the presence and the working of the Holy Spirit. The time for complacency is over. Christ came, Christ lived, Christ died, Christ rose again and ascended into heaven, and Christ will come again in final glory. We are here in advent of that coming and there is much more work to be done to prepare the way of the coming Lord. Let us be the ones who do not oppose him, but proclaim the Christ’s holy name. Amen.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Yea, amen! let all adore thee, high on thine eternal throne; Savior, take the power and glory, claim the kingdom as thine own: O come quickly! O come quickly! O come quickly! Thou shalt reign, and thou alone.” – Rev. Charles Wesley

PRAYER
Lord, spark your passionate fire within my soul and use me to prepare Your way in this broken world. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: Haunted

bflw-devotional-800x490Writing the Life-Giving Water devotionals is not only an important ministry, but is a deeply rewarding spiritual discipline for me as well. With that said, observing Sabbath (aka rest) is an important spiritual discipline as well. So here is a LOOK BACK to a devotion I wrote in the past. Read it, reflect on it, be challenged by it. Who knows how God will speak to you through it and how it will bear relevance in your life today? May the Holy Spirit guide you as you read the suggested Scripture and subsequent devotion.

God’s People, part 88: Zedekiah

Read 2 Kings 25:1-26

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“But Zedekiah did what was evil in the LORD’s sight, just as Jehoiakim had done.” (Jeremiah 52:2 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

ZedekiahPart 88: Zedekiah. Zedekiah was the great-grandson of Josiah; however, he wasn’t even half of the king that his great-grandfather was. Following the death of Josiah, the third eldest son of the great king succeeded him. This certainly attests to the fact that Josiah must have seen him as being in line with his agenda and policies; however, Johoahaz reigned for only three short months before being deposed by the Eyptian Pharaoh Necho II, and was exiled to Egypt.

The Kingdom of Judah was given over to Jehoiakim, Josiah’s second eldest son. At first, he was a vassal of the Egyptian Pharaoh until Egypt was beseiged and conquered by King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon. At that point Jehoiakim switched allegiance to avert the destruction of Jerusalem. As a part of the agreement, Jehoiakim paid a tribute from the national treasury, handed over Temple artifacts, and handed over some of the royal family and nobility as hostages to the ruthless Babylonian king.

Eventually, however, Jehoiakim switched his allegiance back to Egypt and sealed his own fate and the fate of Jerusalem. Jehoiakim died during the first Babylonian seige of Jerusalem and was succeeded by Jechoniah (aka Jehoiachin), Josiah’s grandson and Jehoiakim’s son. Three months later, fearing retribution from a possibly vengeful king, Nebuchadnezzar deposed Jechoniah and replaced him with his son, Josiah’s great-grandson, Zedekiah. It wasinto this treacherous and precarious situation that his reign began.

Zedekiah proved to be a head-strong young king who was determined on revolting against the great Babylonian king, which sealed his fate. It was during his rule that Jeremiah was prophesying. The great prophet’s counsel, and the counsel of the Zedekiah’s other advisers and family member, was to acquiesce to Babylon’s rule and spare Jerusalem and it’s people from certain disaster. Jeremiah’s message was that it was because of Judah’s sin and pride that they were in this predicament to begin with. The prophet counseled Zedekiah to humble himself and remain a vassal king of Nebuchadnezzar.

Zedekiah, on the other hand, had other ideas and he, following the example of his grandfather, allied himself with Egypt and revolted against the Babylonians. This, sadly, ended in Jerusalem being beseiged for two long years. The author of 2 Kings wrote: “By July 18 in the eleventh year of Zedekiah’s reign, the famine in the city had become very severe, and the last of the food was entirely gone. Then a section of the city wall was broken down. Since the city was surrounded by the Babylonians, the soldiers waited for nightfall and escaped through the gate between the two walls behind the king’s garden. Then they headed toward the Jordan Valley” (2 Kings 25:3-4 NLT).

The results were catastrophic. Babylon beseiged the city, meaning that they blocked anything and/or anyone from getting into the city, and they blocked anything and/or anyone from getting out of the city. That resulted in famine within the walls of Jerusalem, and people starving to death. Some resorted to cannibalism and, eventually, Jerusalem was so weak that Nebuchadnezzar could just waltz into the city and take it with very little resistance. Once he did, he slaughtered tons of people, took treasures out of the Temple, and leveled the Temple to the ground.

The priests, scribes, nobles and other prominent people were taken alive from Jerusalem and exiled to Babylon. Zedekiah took a secret escape route out of the city, but was caught by Nebuchadnezzar’s soldiers. They slaughtered his sons as he watched and then gouged out Zedekiah’s eyes. The deaths of his sons was the last thing, literally, that Zedekiah would see.

The challenge for us here is humility? Are we like Zedekiah, too proud to listen to painfully true advice, or are we the type of people who swallow our pride, listen to good advice, and make the necessary changes in order to avoid catastrophe? If we are the former, we can expect that we will, at some point, find ourselves humbled by the catastrophic unintended consequences of our pride; however, if we are the latter, then will be honoring God and following in the footsteps of Christ, who embodied humility. Let us all, by the power of the Holy Spirit, find ourselves walking in the footsteps of Jesus.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” – Jesus of Nazareth in the New Living Translation of Matthew 23:12

PRAYER
Lord, keep us humble so that we may not stumble on our pride. Amen.

God’s People, part 83: Isaiah

Read Isaiah 6

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“So Isaiah the prophet asked the Lord to do this, and he caused the shadow to move ten steps backward on the sundial of Ahaz!” (2 Kings‬ ‭20:11‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

 Part 83: Isaiah. Isaiah is a name well-known in Christianity because of the prophetic book named after, and traditionally considered to be written by, the prophet. While Christians may not know much about the prophet himself, they know some of his famous prophecies such as, the virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14), pastoral images of heaven such as the lion laying down with the lamb (Isaiah 11:6), and other such prophecies in which Christians see fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Isaiah was a prophet who was actively prophesying for 64 years. He played an adviosry role with a number of kings. His early ministry started in the last few years of King Uzziah and he died under the reign of King Hezekiah, whom he was influential in advising. With that said, not all of Isaiah’s ministry was smooth and easy. A number of years were spent standing up to the wickedness of King Ahaz. In fact, Isaiah 7 was written as a message to be sent to that wicked king.

In that chapter of the prophet’s book that God challenges Ahaz to demand a “sign”. The king refused the challenge and answered in a “religiously correct” way. He said, “I will not ask for a sign. I refuse to put the LORD to the test.” Yet, the king was insincere and Isaiah called him out on it. He may not have asked God for a test; however, he was TESTING God’s patience with all of the injustice and unrighteousness Ahaz and his courts were engaging in. God had enough and sent Isaiah to call him out on it.

It is to Ahaz that Isaiah declared that God would, indeed, provide a sign anyway. The sign would be a “virgin” or a “young woman” giving birth to a child. This child would one day grow up to be righteous, to reject what is wrong, and before fully maturing destruction would come upon the wicked king. This prophecy, in the moment, was announcing the end of Ahaz’ reign. Of course, as with all reigns, Ahaz’ did come to an end and his son, Hezekiah, was a righteous king.

With that said, it is wrong to only read the prophecy as having to do with Ahaz. God was announcing the end of the wicked world order. While Hezekiah may have been righteous, he was still sinful in some areas, and most of the kings who succeeded him fell short of even his standard, let alone Gods. This prophecy, through the eyes of those who knew him and came to believe in him, pointed right to Jesus Christ who would reject wrong and live a perfectly righteous life. It is the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ that sets God’s plan of redemption and the upheaval of the wicked world order in place.

Powerful words for Isaiah to deliver to a king who, know doubt, might have had Isaiah thrown in prison or executed. Yet, the bold prophet was not always so bold. At the outset of his call, according to his own words in Isaiah 6, the Isaiah had a vision of God. The vision was so intense that he feared he might die from having looked upon God’s holy presence as a sinful man. As is a common human experience, Isaiah could not believe that God was choosing him. Clearly he was wrong and, when God affirmed his call in the vision, Isaiah’s response was “Here I am, Lord send me.”

From that point on, everything changed for Isaiah, who went down as one of the most influential prophets in the history of Israel. The same is true for you. As you read this, you are probably thinking, “Who? Me? I am not called! Not me!” That, my friend, is the response most of us have when we feel God’s call. Let me put it this way, God is calling you! God is calling us all. You may be called in the same way as me, or you may be called differently than me, but you are called. The question is, what will your response be? If you answer yes to the call, I can promise you this, nothing will ever be the same again! Everything will change for you and for the world around you. May it be so.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Denial is a common human response, but it seldom exacts any change.

PRAYER

Lord, here I am. Show me what you are calling me to do and send me to do it. Amen.