Putting God's Word into Practice…

Isaiah 6 ~ Woe is Me!

(For our ladies’ Bible study this week, we were supposed to spend time in Isaiah 1-6.  It has been a rich buffet of learning and conviction, indeed!)

My last five blog posts have been about Isaiah’s message to the people of God who were rebelling against Him.  He was on a verbal rampage against sin and impurity among God’s people–calling them out for materialism, pride, greed, hypocrisy, injustice, etc…

There is something interesting about the book of Isaiah…the commissioning by God to make Isaiah His spokesman comes in chapter 6, not chapter 1.  And there is a major event that happens between chapter 5 and the commissioning.  Isaiah sees the Lord! Sees Him in all His splendor, glory and holiness!

I can’t say this to be true of Isaiah, but I know it is true of my sinful heart.  If I was prophesying doom and gloom over sin in the lives of God’s people, I would be prone to pride.  I may start looking for sin in others.  I may have a critical spirit towards others, and think that I’m doing so much better than they are.  I might take my eyes off God in the process of doing God’s work.  When we stop measuring our own lives by God’s standard of holiness, we can become self-righteous and judgmental.  The only cure for that is a good look at the Lord!!  Whether Isaiah struggled the way I would, I don’t know, but I do know that God gave Him a very personal and exceptional dose of His holiness!

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim.  Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  And one called to another and said, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, IS THE LORD OF HOSTS; THE WHOLE EARTH IS FULL OF HIS GLORY!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.  And I said, “WOE IS ME! FOR I AM LOST; FOR I AM A MAN OF UNCLEAN LIPS AND I DWELL IN THE MIDST OF A PEOPLE OF UNCLEAN LIPS; FOR MY EYES HAVE SEEN THE KING, THE LORD OF HOSTS!”

After declaring so many “woes” on the people of God, when Isaiah is ushered into the presence of the Lord and sees Him worshipped in His holy splendor, Isaiah says, “Woe is me!  I’m just like everyone else!”  And I’m just like everyone else too.  I’m sinful!  I’m prone to ignore God’s glory (3:8).  I disregard His deeds all over the earth (5:12).  My mouth is prideful and unclean.  But thanks be to God!!!  He has the power to take away our guilt and forgive our sins and make us clean!!!

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.  And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

Repentance and humility must precede ministry!  We cannot minister to others until we have something to offer them–our own story of God’s grace in forgiving our sins and taking away our guilt!

Spend some time before the Lord today, experiencing His presence, asking Him to examine your heart and exposing anything unholy.  Repent, let Him take it away and make you clean.  Then tell someone about His grace!

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Isaiah 5 ~ Wild Grapes

(For our ladies’ Bible study this week, we were supposed to spend time in Isaiah 1-6.  It has been a rich buffet of learning and conviction, indeed!)

Isaiah starts this passage with a beautiful song about His beloved God and the vineyard of the Lord.  He eloquently sings of the Lord hand digging the fertile soil, patiently preparing and planting the choice vines, and watching over them as they sprouted and grew.  When the time for harvest came, the Vinedresser expected a yield of sweet grapes that would be made into wine that would bring Him joy while blessing and sustaining others.  Instead He was met with wild grapes!  Grapes that grew as if they didn’t have a gardener!  Rebellious grapes!!  Sour grapes!!!  God always does His part in our lives–what we give back to Him is on us!  Are we wild and rebellious, going our own way instead of walking in the purposes He prepared for us?!  (Ephesians 2:10)

Isaiah then goes on to elaborate on the rebellious, wild “grapes” and why the Lord is angry with them?

  • They trust in and accumulate possessions (8-10).
  • They chase after pleasure, but refuse to see God’s works as good and pleasing (11-12).
  • They test and mock God (18-19).
  • They disregard His ways and commands (20).
  • They are wise in their own eyes (21).
  • They live for self-gratification and greed (22-23).
  • They reject His law and despise His Word (24).

Geez, those sinful, wicked people.  I’m sure glad I’m not like them…

(Tune in tomorrow for the rest of the story!!)

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Isaiah 3 and 4 ~ Rejection and Restoration

(For our ladies’ Bible study this week, we were supposed to spend time in Isaiah 1-6.  It has been a rich buffet of learning and conviction, indeed!)

Chapter 3 starts right out with the Lord’s discipline of His people .  He takes away support, supply, sustenance, rulers, leaders, protectors, wise men…any one or any thing that we are prone to hope in that IS NOT HIM!!!  When God removes His hand of grace, the result will always be calamity.  God sent calamity because His people turned away from Him.  They defied (disregarded, ignored) His glorious presence with their words and actions.  In essence–they were filled with pride!

In chapter 4, we see that God can and will restore beauty, glory and fruitfulness to the land and holiness to His people.  He also will restore His perfect, perpetual presence!  This is the whole point of discipline–restoration!

I was reminded in these chapters that purity in WHO I am seeking, humility before and dependence on the Lord alone for my “self-worth” and as my provider is rewarded with His glorious presence by day AND by night.  And, oh, how I need His presence in the night right now!!

In that day the branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel.  And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, every one who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning. Then the LORD will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy. There will be a booth for shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain. (2-6)

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Isaiah 2 ~ Rejecting the Reigning Lord

(For our ladies’ Bible study this week, we were supposed to spend time in Isaiah 1-6.  It has been a rich buffet of learning and conviction, indeed!)

Verses 1-5 beautifully portray a time of victory for the Lord and what living under that victory looks like!  The reigning Lord brings wisdom (3), direction (3), peace (4), prosperity (4), justice (4), and light (5).  Not all people will come under His authority and walk according to His ways, but MANY will!!

Those who choose not to walk according to His ways and in His light will be rejected by Him.  In fact according to verses 6-22 God rejects all who:

  • are in partnership with unholiness
  • pin their hope on possessions
  • participate in idolatry
  • practice pride

God WILL humble mankind and exalt Himself.  His glory is always the supreme aim of all He does.  He is all-powerful over our partnerships, possessions, false gods, and pride.  Therefore we are called to, “Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?”  and instead fix our gaze on the “splendor of the Lord’s majesty.”

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Isaiah 1:21-31 ~ Importance of Faithfulness

(For our ladies’ Bible study this week, we were supposed to spend time in Isaiah 1-6.  It has been a rich buffet of learning and conviction, indeed!)

The faithfulness of God’s people is the theme of this passage.  What was once faithful ceased to be faithful, and God needed to do something to restore their faithfulness.

In verse 21 the corporate change in God’s people is defined as “the faithful city has become a whore, she who was full of justice! Righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers.”  These people sound wicked, but are they that different from the church of God today?  A “whore” is someone who sells themselves for money.  How often do we sacrifice ourselves for money?  They were running after falsehood, unjust gain, and material possessions instead of relying on God to be their faithful, sovereign Provider.  They lost their spiritual value and purity–became watered down and dull spiritually.  They were murderous–letting people die in oppression instead of caring for their needs.  God takes the plight of the underprivileged, widows and orphans very seriously.  In fact in Proverbs 24:11-12 it says, “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Behold, we did not know this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?”  The people of God had “well-fed beasts” for sacrifices (11) while people among them made in His image were dying from lack of care.  For all these reasons, they made themselves enemies of God of Heaven’s Armies!

God cannot let His faithful ones continue in rebellion and sacrifice their purity for money and greed.  He can’t let their extravagant honor get watered down and lose its value.  He can’t let the shiny treasure of righteousness become dull and defiled.

God is the Mighty One, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies!  We are so insolent to thing we can exchange His ways for ours and not suffer consequences!  When we make ourselves His enemy, we should expect the hand that longs to hold us to turn against us instead.  He will fight against rebels.  He will put them through fiery trials.  He will make them accountable.  Because He is loving and faithful, He requires it of those who bear His name.  His discipline may be painful and seem unwarranted to our earthly minds, but His discipline is a display of His grace!  It is always used for our good and for His glory!

There are only two responses to God’s discipline.  We can repent and receive righteousness and redemption.  Or we can rebel and be broken, consumed, withered, barren, empty, dry, weakened, and destroyed!  Remember God’s invitation is for complete cleansing from sin–“Come NOW, let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”

Verse 26b says, “Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness; the faithful city.”  Only God can take defiled, unfaithful people and make them faithful again!

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Isaiah 1:1-20 ~ Hypocrites

For our ladies’ Bible study this week, we were supposed to spend time in Isaiah 1-6.  It has been a rich buffet of learning and conviction, indeed!

Isaiah 1:1-10 ~ When God’s People Stray

  • Separation from the Lord starts when we turn our backs on Him–we rebel, we sin, we act corruptly, we forsake and despise Him.
  • God allows His people to face the consequences of their rebellion (head-sick, heart-sick, battered, wounded, desolated, overthrown by enemies, besieged, abandoned, helpless, and lose the ear of the Lord).
  • In His grace, He always leaves a remnant of His people who will turn back to Him!
  • The pathway to change starts with hearing the word of the Lord, and inclining our ear to the teaching of our God (10).

Isaiah 1:11-15 ~ God’s Description of an Hypocritical Christian

  • vs. 11 Multitude of sacrifices with wrong motive (“Look what I’m giving up for you!”)
  • vs. 12 Come into God’s presence like a parade (“Look at me!”)
  • vs. 13 Sinful celebrations and false fasting
  • vs. 13 Vain offerings–meaningless gifts
  • vs. 15 Pious and plentiful prayers just for the sake of praying
  • vs. 15 Only care about self while trampling others

Mixing sin and church is hypocrisy.  God cannot endure it!  He hates it!  It burdens Him, and He is weary of it! Hypocrites force God to action against His people!

God issues His people a personal invitation to, “Come NOW, let US reason TOGETHER…”  Now is the time to take care of this issue of sin, pride, and false religion!  Our sin is against Him and can only be forgiven by Him.

Isaiah 1:16-20 ~ Getting Right with God

  • Wash yourselves–get clean
  • Cease from evil–just stop!
  • Learn to do good–takes work and diligence
  •           Seek justice/help oppressed
  •           Defend orphans and widows

We can fake others with our religious practices, but we cannot fake God.  Putting His character into practice in our lives proves our position before Him.  Physical, tangible displays of justice, mercy, love, grace, and selflessness–not getting dressed up, appearing at church, putting something in the offering plate, singing songs, or doing what we perceive as required– are what pleases the Lord.  Not to be crass, but a lot of Christians are just “polished turds!”–pretty on the outside but stinky on the inside!

Only Jesus can wash our “religion” away and make us right and pure (18)!  If we submit to His cleaning power in obedience, we will reap abundant blessings (19).  If we rebel, we will be faced with destruction (20)!

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Like an Infant

Yesterday I had a bad day–not a “catastrophe and tragedy” day, but an “immature, selfish responses to minor letdowns” day.  I got up at 5:30 a.m. (not by choice) and was in complete meltdown mode by 10:30 a.m. sure that my whole day was “ruined.”  Just 3.5 hours later things were looking up and the rest of the day…well, I’ll get to that in a bit.

This morning as I fed my 6-week old son, I realized just how alike we are!  He woke up crying.  (Sometimes I feel like doing that too!) I soothed him and laid him down while I went to the kitchen to make his bottle.  By the time I got back to him, he was in the throes of a major tantrum–writhing all over the bed, face covered in snot, bellowing at the top of his lungs.   He is not mature enough to trust that I was going to take care of his needs, even though I have been faithfully doing it since he entered the world.  Halfway through his bottle, I needed to burp him, and he went right back into that tantrum–as if I wasn’t going to let him be completely filled and satisfied.  He couldn’t understand that the pause in eating and the back smacking were going to result in his getting more food without a tummy ache.  He’s sitting next to me now fully contented…until the next time!

God is a good Father.  He always takes care of my needs.  He has been faithful to me beyond belief!  He is filled with abounding grace and mercy! Yet somehow in the midst of crisis–even minor ones–I still forget that.  Yesterday, although I had failed him morally, displayed a lack of trust in Him, and refused to take time to pray for change (I asked others to pray for me, without praying myself.)–He was still faithful to redeem the day (The day He created–His day, not my day!)  At 2 o’clock I stopped everything to pray and read His Word.  At 3 o’clock I took a one-hour nap.  At 4 o’clock I took a 2 mile walk out in the sunshine and relative warmth of the day.  It was during that walk that I really talked with the Lord, and let Him show me where everything fell apart.  (I literally talked to him out loud, with my cell phone by my ear, so that anyone passing by would just think I was on a call and not crazy!! I’m a dork!)  Here is what I learned:

Setbacks to Seeking the Lord…Two weeks ago, God revived my heart and put a fresh desire in me to seek Him continually.  (1 Chronicles 16:11, Psalm 27:8)  There was so much joy and peace in the coming days.  But like the old song says, we are “prone to wander.”  One morning, I forgot to ask the Lord how to use the day He had given me.  The next day, everyone was up in the morning, and I didn’t get a chance to spend time in prayer with the Lord and had a quick Bible reading later in the day that I didn’t have time to make applicable to my heart–I just read.  The third day, I skipped prayer and Bible reading because I had so many needs to meet for others.  Three days out, and my joy and peace were gone.  I was back to doing everything according to “my” schedule and in my own strength.  My intimacy with my Heavenly Father was missing, and I forgot that I could trust Him.  Yesterday what I really needed to do in the midst of my meltdown was to stop serving and striving and start seeking and savoring my Savior!  He already knew he was going to give me an afternoon or rest and refreshment.  If I could have just held on by faith through the morning, I wouldn’t have had so much strife and pain in the process. I wouldn’t have a snotty face and sore throat due to a tantrum because I had to wait for my “milk.”

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1 John 3:22-24 ~ Believe and Love

And whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. AND THIS IS HIS COMMANDMENT, THAT WE BELIEVE IN THE NAME OF HIS SON JESUS CHRIST AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER, just as he has commanded us.  Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

When we read the Bible long enough, God uses it to answer our questions.  Several days ago when I was studying the word “abide” from 1 John 2:18-29 I asked the Lord, “How do I abide in You?” The answer is to believe in the name of Jesus and love others.

To believe means to have faith in or accept something as truth.  We abide in the Lord when we daily live out our belief that Jesus is who He and His Father says He is–God the Son.  That He accomplished what He said He did–the salvation of all who believe in His finished work on the cross and resurrection.  And that He’s able to do what He says He can–the impossible.  We believe in Jesus’ position, power, and promises!  Believing in the name of Jesus means that we don’t go ahead with our own plans, but submit to the ones He has planned for us.  It means that we don’t spend our lives trying to make our own righteousness, but we completely trust in His grace alone.

Abiding in the Lord doesn’t just hinge on believing in Jesus, but also in letting that belief affect our actions–specifically in the area of love.  I have a son who thinks his sports skills should be good right away–a natural–but he is so consumed with how he looks in the process that it stunts his ability to play.  His pride prevents him from taking risks on the basketball court.  I feel like that when it comes to loving others.  As a Christian, loving others is my job and it should come naturally to me because it’s God’s character that He infused into me when I became His child.  But loving others is the most challenging part of my spiritual walk.  Pride and selfishness get in the way.  I’m too afraid to risk when it comes to loving others. (How would loving others affect me? What if my love is rejected? Do they really deserve my love?)  Obedience to God is how we demonstrate love to Him.  He has given us only one other command to obey–and that’s loving others.  Loving others demonstrates love to Him!  It’s easy to say, “I love God,” but real love is not words, it’s action (1 John 3:18).  It’s one thing to say, “I can make that basket.”  It’s another thing to shoot the ball and prove it!

Loving others is essential for abiding in Christ.  But, loving others is impossible by sheer will power and human strength.  Love happens because the Holy Spirit abides in us.  Surrendering to His power and work in our lives enables us to express the love of God to others.  Love requires laying down our pride–admitting we need supernatural help to love not only “difficult” people but all people according to God’s definition of love found in 1 Corinthians 13:1-7. Love requires laying selfishness aside–laying down our rights, our reputation, our schedule, our will–just like Jesus did (Phil. 2:3-7, Matthew 26:39).

When I don’t feel close to the Lord, I need to examine my heart to see if there is anyone that I am not loving selflessly, unconditionally, and sacrificially.  Being unloving prohibits abiding!  I know this personally because today, I was feeling distant from the Lord, and it was due to a critical spirit towards others.  Thankfully I BELIEVE that Jesus’ sacrifice and grace are the only means to forgiveness and restoration!  Now I am abiding again!!!

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1 John 3:20-22 Present Tense Purity and Prayer

For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and HE KNOWS EVERYTHING.  Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, WE HAVE confidence before God: and whatever WE ASK we receive from him, because WE KEEP his commandments and WE DO what pleases him. (20-22)

First, I’d like to clarify some thoughts on condemnation (being guilty of wrong and sentenced to punishment).  Those who belong to the Lord have finished with condemnation.   (Romans 8:1~ “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”) The moment that Christ’s forgiveness and grace washed over our sins we were made righteous before the Living God.  The wrath of God toward our sins has been satisfied by Christ’s finished work on the cross.  Jesus Christ took our guilt and our punishment.  He was condemned on our behalf.  God knows everything!  If our sins are covered by the blood of Jesus, and He has given to us His righteousness as our own–we are not condemned!

However, God also knows our hearts in each circumstance.  He knows whether our motives in giving and our words of love flow from a pure heart.   He knows if we are being obedient in doing all that He asks with all that He’s given to us.  Basically, we can’t fake God out with our actions…and we can’t pray to him with fake, selfish motives and boldly expect Him to give us what we want. Powerful praying requires purity!

Pure prayers require an inclination towards obedience and a submissive heart that longs to please the Lord.  All the verbs in the verses are present tense.   When we make a practice of love, obedience, and pleasing the Lord, our hearts are aligned with His and we can ask anything and trust we will receive it.  What a promise!!!

Lord, align my heart with yours.  I want to be a bold pray-er.  I want a heart set on obedience to your answer even if it is different from my will.  May your will be done in all I ask of you…specifically regarding my sons, my husband, the church, and my daily activities.

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1 John 3:16-19 ~ Love

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and WE OUGHT TO LAY DOWN OUR LIVES for the brothers.  But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his HEART against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, LET US NOT LOVE IN WORD OR TALK BUT IN DEED AND IN TRUTH.  By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him.

Love is not a phrase, it’s an action.  It is more than a mushy Valentine’s Day card.  (Personal peeve:  It really bothers me how many “romance” cards focus on how the receiver makes the giver feel which isn’t love at all!)

One who is filled with true, godly love doesn’t take life from others, but lays their own life down for the sake of others.  True love is sacrificially and it should cost us something! Love starts in the heart and flows out to others in generosity. Love meets the needs of others at our expense–that is, if we want to love like our Savior!  Just giving for the sake of giving is not love.  1 Corinthians 13:3 says, “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body up to be burned (sacrifice my body), BUT HAVE NOT LOVE, I gain nothing.”  Jesus gave us all He had and sacrificed His very life–but underneath it all was intense, selfless love for sinners (Romans 5:8)! To know how to love, we have to know Jesus.

Love requires a choice.  Will I use what I have to show love to others or keep it for myself?  Will I love others in the same manner that Christ loves me?

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