Thursday, February 21, 2008

Isaiah 58: The Cure for "Common Christianity" Part 1

OK, now I am into Chapter 58. It reads like a prescription for "common Christianity."

The patients hear about their disease

"Declare to my people their rebellion, and to the house of Jacob their sins."

God considers hypocrisy and divided allegiance to him to be sinful rebellion. Those addressed are people who are called by the name of the God of Jacob (Israel). They should know better.

"For day after day they seek me out. They seem eager to know my ways as is they were a nation that does what is right, and has not forsaken the commands of its God."

Unlike the idolaters and prostitutes in Chapter 57, these people are overtly religious.

"They ask me for just decisions, and seem eager for God to come near them."

They are God-conscious and probably mean well

"'Why have we fasted' they say 'and you have not seen it?' 'Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?'"

But they are in a quandary. Is God forgetting something? Since that doesn't jibe with their theology, they just can't figure out why God doesn't acknowledge their efforts.

But here is the culprit.

"Yet on the day of your fasting you do as you please"

Indifference to God. It showed up in the agenda.

"And exploit all your workers."

Injustice rears its ugly head

"Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife and in striking each other with wicked fists"

Even uglier. Maybe in their extreme hunger they got crabby and the slightest little thing ticked them off, and their emotional reactions were exaggerated.

"You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high"

Given their efforts they probably were shocked by this statement.

"Is this the kind of fast I have chosen. Only a day for a man to humble himself, Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes."

Ok, what else is there?

Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?

I guessed so.

"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen. To loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke?
To se the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry, and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter. When you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?"

It must be a miracle. Usually when people are starving, they don't care about anything else but their stomach.

"Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear. Then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call and the Lord will answer. You will cry for help and he will say "Here am I." If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk. And if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed. Then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday."

It is certainly a miracle. Its how the fast ends. Not eating, and learning to depend on God. Finding him there, and understanding his Word and power more clearly. Seeing his glory. Proceeding to righteous attitudes and actions of love and benevolence. Being full of joy through the Holy Spirit.

May God do this for all of us.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

God Moves For His Name's Sake

What a valuable morning today at church! Dr. Michael Easley of Moody Bible Institute spoke on Psalm 25. This psalm speaks of David's desire for God to come near him in his hour of distress, particularly that from his sin, and from the enemy without. Easley's main point was that God may not grant our prayers right away, but he will enlarge our capacity to wait. He used the example of how White Fence Farm in Denver constructed a waiting facility with many amenities--simply for those waiting to get a table at the oft-busy restaurant.

Another valuable lesson relates to the portion of Isaiah 58 I have been memorizing. Consider the following verses:

"According to your steadfast love remember me for the sake of your goodness O Lord! (v. 7).

Verse 11: "For the sake of your name, O Lord, forgive my iniquity, for it is great."

Two verses in the middle of the "what" David wanted that give the "why." David is concerned with the name of the Lord being glorified. And in that spirit, he will receive the help he so desperately needs from God.
What is this leading to? Just that God seems to close the windows of heaven so long as we are still preoccupied with our own name and our own kingdom (contrast the Lord's prayer). In short, our prayers will not avail with God if we are self-preoccupied.

What are the personal implications? Years and years I prayed and never had peace. I received nothing I asked for. I was double-minded. What is the cure? Desperation and brokenness before God (see Psalm 51:17).
It also reminds me of James 4: "Wash your hands you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn, and wail."

This is a most blessed work indeed--when God moves and changes our orientation from self to God. It is consistent with the miraculous nature of faith. Faith is supernatural. We are not born with it. Man cannot manufacture it. GOD gives it! And he does so for the sake of his name. "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my name's sake, and will not remember your sins" (Isaiah 43:25).

Once you begin this life of faith, you will know that there is no earthly joy to compare to it. Sometimes, I get deceived, and go to hang around Egypt's shore, but I know I can never get too far. God will call me back. May he do the same blessed work in your life as you meditate on Scripture.

Monday, February 4, 2008

A Good Prescription

I found this on a blog site for the Christian Research Network. It is in response to a polemic book published recently. I think it would have saved a church split I saw about 8 years ago if anybody cared to think deeply about the issues it raises:

The problem with [reformed minister] and others is that they think if you have and believe the truth, that is enough. Defend it. But where are the books that point out their/our sin? Where are the articles that castigate us for our powerlessness? How about our obvious pride about having the truth? Where are the calls for fasting and seasons of elongated prayer?

It is not enough to have the truth inside the castle walls, on display for all the inhabitants to see and show their children. We must take the truth, draped in power and grace simultaneously to the world. The orthodox crowd (me) are just as guilty of seeking bigger cars, bigger houses, Christian cruises, expensive clothing, and displaying our Christianity in a tearless portrait of western culture, not a broken and disturbed love that disregards our own needs and desires in favor of His.

If we have the truth and the emergents don’t, where is the demonstration of the Spirit and power? Do not hide behind the “results oriented” excuse, we will never see the glorious gospel of the Lord Christ without seeking His face as if we were a hungry deer. I am orthodox, but I refuse to be smug about the fortress we’ve built around our pitiful camp. We quote the reformation but where are those same reformation fires burning today. Spurgeon, Edwards, and Wesley would be offended if they saw who quoted them as if we were on the same page.

Books, books, books, words, words, words, tapes, tapes, tapes, and all things remain the same since the fathers slept. The orthodox crowd does not recieve correction, we are too busy correcting everyone else. And if you say we have no sin, you make God a liar. And not just a benign “everyone sins” attitude that soothes our flesh, I mean that says “If I believe there are brothers and sisters in Christ who are being deceived, I need God to empower me with such a loving and urgent anointing that I can reach out to those who I love with God’s love”.
Where is our pathos, our concern. I can cleaverly articulate the errors of [popular, trendy Christian authors] but how many tears have I shed. You would only need one hand to count them. That is what I find objectionable about scholarly books about the emergents or seekers or purpose driven theologies and their adherants. These antiseptic treatises are useless as they make the choir sing and pounce doctrinally on those not in the choir, but without any tears or urgency.

You can read these books and nod your head in agreement or shake your head in disgust, but until we all get sacrificially serious about Christ and His gospel which rises light years above just having the truth, we will continue to fail our Wonderful Savior. Forgive all of us Lord, we are in love with our own words and call them Yours.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

STARS Come Out At Full Light Of Day

I recently received a newsletter from the STARS disability ministry at church. It highlighted many of the adult STARS in the ministry who overcame their limitations through Christ who strengthens them.
Specifically, this occurred with the imminent hospitalization of one of their own young women who suffers from seizures, and a stroke, and was about to be admitted to the hospital the morning that STARS holds their annual Disability Ministry Sunday. One of the STARS, Cheryl Newing, just would not let that happen without prayer and supplication to God. More joined in, and as it turned out, the Lord granted the girl an amazing and against-all-odds recovery, and she returned that very morning for the special service!

I am frequently told that we all need to take a lesson from the simple faith of these fine servants of the Lord.
This occurred before I worked in the ministry but I would have loved to be there. Actually, I would have cheered the loudest if I had been there at the time of this faithful prayer for Becca Tally. This is the kind of faith that I--by His grace--possess to some measure, and want to encourage in others.

Let's take another look at the boat in the storm with the panicking disciples and a sleeping Jesus. Lets go back to the God who, in Christ, saw the wind and waves not as threatening, but as an opportunity to display his mighty power that we might believe:):)

It Doesn't Matter!

Who is elected president of the United States, that is.

In one sense, it does matter deeply to the heart of God that righteousness prevail in the hearts of our people, but as far as utopian dreams of the perfect leader leading us into the promised land, forget it.

Unless you mean that Jesus is the leader.

Yep, I mean it. Jesus. Despised and rejected by men. Ridiculed by the religious leaders of his day. Blown off by the rich young ruler. Betrayed by one of his close friends. Whipped and mocked, nailed to a cross, spat upon with sore abuse and scorn.

Forsaken by his beloved heavenly Father.

But check this out: loved by many little children. Clung to by prostitutes, beggars, thieves, and murderers who knew themselves so. The hope of the downcast, the sight of the blind, the reason for the paralyzed man to leap for joy, the awakening from the sleep of death for Jairus' daughter, the son of the widow of Nain, Lazarus, and of course His own glorious resurrection.

Why did I go through all that? So your thinking would be saturated with His glory, and you perhaps would chill out and relax as you wait and pray for the upcoming election.

This same Jesus is in charge. Even if the most vile ruler imaginable was in power, it would still be under his control.

In the days the Bible was written, the people did not elect their rulers. They were stuck with them. There were no "Vote for Herod" stickers on the backs of donkeys.

Who do we think we are complaining about our government? Bellyaching about the loss of our "freedoms?" Don't you believe a word of it. Even if wholesale persecution of Christians to death were to commence, it would actually serve to strengthen the Church. If it doesn't happen, we get to live in this great land with privileges unimagined by our ancestors.

But it won't last indefinitely.

My point is: yes, pray for the elections and for our national leaders, that we may live peaceable and quiet lives in all godliness. (Titus 3). But chill out if your guy or gal doesn't win.

Look to the Leader of leaders, Jesus.