Friday, 22 September 2017

Follow your heart??

"The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? – Jeremiah 17.9

‘Follow your heart and you can’t go wrong.’

How often do we hear this kind of advice? It seems to make sense, I suppose, without God in the picture. If there is no God then we are our own god and no one knows us like we do.

But there is a God who knows and loves us and knows best. We are broken vessels because of sin. Look at the world around us to see what it is like when everyone follows the dictates of their own hearts.

The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.

That’s why we see the kinds of news stories we see every day. Sure, man is capable of goodness and kindness and love, but the wicked heart of mankind is why we see the horrible crimes and wars and attacks that we see day by day by day.

We really can’t trust our hearts. They may get things right sometimes, but they simply can’t really be trusted. Eventually they will let us down and get us into trouble.

We need to be careful of trusting our hearts. In fact, we are told that we need to constantly keep our hearts on guard. We need to keep our hearts with all keeping because they tend toward the flesh.

Don’t trust your heart. Trust the word of God. 

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Backward, not forward

But this is what I commanded them, saying, 'Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.' Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward. – Jeremiah 7.23-24

God says ‘obey my voice and I will be your God. Walk in my ways and it will be well with you.’ But these people would not do it. They followed their own hearts and they went backward, not forward, in their spiritual lives.

I am preaching through 1 Peter and a great theme there in chapter two is the importance of growth in our Christian lives. Our goal is always to be moving forward and onward.

Why then do we so often find ourselves slipping backward? Or why does it seem like we find the Christian life so dull and boring and we seeing ourselves becoming complacent about the word of God?

In truth it is because growing in Christ takes work. If we just stop paddling upstream we are always going to drift back downstream. Moving on takes effort, floating back requires nothing.

The word of God tells us that if we have tasted that the Lord is good, we ought to lay aside certain sins and then crave the word of God so that we can grow on to perfection. We are to constantly strive to move on to maturity. Our time is too precious to keep slipping back to where we were.

Forget those things that are behind. Press on to the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

We are delivered

"Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, 'We are delivered to do all these abominations'? Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it," says the LORD. – Jeremiah 7.8-11

I was a bit amazed when I read this passage. I know I have read it many times in my Bible reading but was surprised when I saw the cheek of God’s people in Isaiah’s day. They trusted lying words. The stole and committed adultery and worshipped Baal and followed other gods. And then they go to the Temple in confidence that it would all be okay because God would forgive them!

How is that for a light view of sin? Their cheek! Their shame! Their gall! The utter neck of them!

Until we look at our own miserable hearts. Until we look at our own attitude toward our sin. We may not steal, murder, or commit adultery. We may not commit the sins that are listed here.

But still, how often do we ignore our own sin or treat our sin lightly because we say in our heart ‘I know I shouldn’t do this, but God will forgive me’ and then we go on our merry way?

When we do that, or something similar to it, our hearts should break.  When we do that we are making light of Jesus’ death on the cross. Every blow He took, every glob spit that was hurled, every step where He bore the cross, every cruel blow of the hammer on the nails, every ragged breath He took on the cross, every thorn that pierced His head and the jab of the spear was taken because of that ‘little sin’ that I don’t consider any big deal. When I choose to sin I mock the cross.

One of the criticisms of ‘once saved always saved’ is that it is a licence to sin. Do whatever you want and you are still forgiven. While eternal security is assured, it is certainly no licence to sin. God’s people will not continue in their sin. When we sin lets be aware of the cost. At all times let’s examine our hearts that our actions don’t mock Jesus on the cross.  

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Lying words

Do not trust in these lying words, saying, 'The temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD are these.' "For if you thoroughly amend your ways and your doings, if you thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour, if you do not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, or walk after other gods to your hurt, then I will cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.  – Jeremiah 7.4-7

These people in Jeremiah’s day were in all kinds of trouble. They were religious; there can be no doubt about that. They went to the temple. They talked about it properly. They knew how to play the game.


They were unfair in their judgement. The oppressed the strangers in their midst and the fatherless and the widows. They shed innocent blood. They followed other gods. So they said one thing and did another.

Even then God reached out to them. ‘Instead of those lying word you need to do the right things in your lives.’

Anyone can say the right ‘praise the Lord’ words – how many of us back those words up with our actions?  Be a peacemaker, take care of strangers and the fatherless and the widows, stop the violence, get rid of all the false gods that have crept in. Then, God says, we can dwell in peace with Him.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Break up the fallow ground

For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: "Break up your fallow ground, And do not sow among thorns. – Jeremiah 4.3

This is one of those verses that I can remember back to the first time I came across it. It was probably 30 plus years ago when I had just started a new devotional guide. This was the verse and the question for the day was ‘is there fallow ground in my life?’

Fallow ground is that ground which now longer bears fruit. Sometimes lands are allowed to lie fallow as a part of crop rotation. Sometimes fields are just allowed to lie then for years and weeds and thorns grow up. The soil gets hard and even if seeds were sown they would not take root.

This fallow ground that Isaiah talks about can also apply to our hearts. If we don’t check ourselves we can allow our own hearts to get hard and cold.

That’s why we need to break up the fallow ground of our own hearts so that God’s word can take root there. We let our heart become cold and hard when we do not spend time with God. We all spend plenty of time in this world. We have more possible distractions than at any time in history. Facebook and films and sports and entertainment and work and family and friends are not bad things, but if that is where we spend all our time we don’t have time to spend time in God’s word. If we find ourselves more drawn to the distractions than we do to the word of God and Christian fellowship and going to church and prayer we can be pretty sure that our hearts have become fallow and hard and overgrown.

The answer is not that hard. We need to be less focused on the distractions and more focused on the Lord.  Pray, read the Bible, go to church, spend time with godly friends, pursue holiness. These pursuits will break up the fallow ground so that we are ready to receive God’s word into our hearts and allow it to bear fruit. 

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Changing gods

Has a nation changed its gods, Which are not gods? But My people have changed their Glory For what does not profit. – Jeremiah 2.11

This is a sad verse. God talks here about nations ‘changing their gods’ that are not gods. This is a statement that does not make a lot of sense to our ears today. I think the question is ‘do people really change their gods?’

The rest of the verse is what matters I think – ‘my people have changed their Glory for that which does not profit.’

That is so tragic. The first thing I think of is the church of Ephesus who had ‘left their first love.’ I also think of the prodigal son who had everything, but left it to go after that which does not profit. I think of Demas who turned back from Paul because he loved this present world.

Sadly God’s people drift from Him. Too often people trade God for junk that doesn’t really matter.

But there is hope. Over and over again, all though the Bible, Old and New Testament alike, God calls on people like this to return to Him. He hates to see them living for things that have no profit. His desire is that they come back to him and share in His glory.

Those who have changed sharing in God’s glory for worthless stuff need to return to God. He is there and He is waiting. 

Saturday, 16 September 2017

They will not prevail

They will fight against you, But they shall not prevail against you. For I am with you," says the LORD, "to deliver you." – Jeremiah 1.19

One of the realities of life that we don’t like to hear or think about is that life is a battle. Right from the very start Jeremiah is told ‘the people of this land are going to fight against you.’ That kind of warning is not just for Jeremiah. In the New Testament we are also told ‘those who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.’

So tough times are going to be a part of life for God’s people. As a rule the world is not going to like us. Our lives are never going to fit in with the world. We live for eternity, they live for now. We focus on invisible eternal things and the world focuses on the visible temporal things.

We can’t get lazy. We can’t get lethargic. We can’t get lackadaisical. The trifold enemy of the world, the flesh, and the devil are not going to give up.

But the good news is that ‘they shall not prevail against you.’ They can’t win. They can’t win because God says ‘I am with you to deliver you.’

God is on our side. We cannot fear what man can do to us. Though the battle may seem hard and the days seem dark and fearsome we are going to prevail in the end because God has promised ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’

Friday, 15 September 2017


"Therefore prepare yourself and arise, And speak to them all that I command you. Do not be dismayed before their faces, Lest I dismay you before them. For behold, I have made you this day A fortified city and an iron pillar, And bronze walls against the whole land— Against the kings of Judah, Against its princes, Against its priests, And against the people of the land. They will fight against you, But they shall not prevail against you. For I am with you," says the LORD, "to deliver you." – Jeremiah 1.17-19

Mary and I are still getting back into full schedule mode after a typical slow and quiet August. August is a bit like Christmas in the way that in Ireland most folks kind of slip into a slow, quiet laziness, er, lethargy. It is a big deal to have to get up and face a busy daily schedule. I always need a little push to get back up and get back in the game.

Jeremiah needed a little push – so God gave it to him.

Get up
Get ready
Don’t be dismayed
I will give you the strength to stand
I will protect you

That’s twice in one message where God clearly told Jeremiah what He would do for him. How could Jeremiah doubt?

But then I ask myself how often I doubt God even though His word is so clear and His promises so profound.

It is time to stop doubting God. It is high time to wake up out of our sleep. It’s time to get up, to get ready, and to get busy serving our Lord.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

I am with you

Then said I: "Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth." But the LORD said to me: "Do not say, 'I am a youth,' For you shall go to all to whom I send you, And whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces, For I am with you to deliver you," says the LORD. Then the LORD put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me: "Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.
– Isaiah 1.6-9

Jeremiah tried to find an excuse what he could not go. ‘Ah Lord, I cannot speak, I am only a child. You can’t expect me to do that!

That reminds me of Moses, but God had answers for both of them and He has answers for us as well when we don’t think that we can do it.

Let’s summarise in a simple list what God had to say:

Go to the people I send you to
Don’t be afraid
I am with you
I will deliver you

And then God put His words in Jeremiah’s mouth and said ‘there, I have given you my words.’

This was a particular promise to a particular man, but every one of these promises is made over and over again in the word of God to those God sends out for Him.

It is a scary thought to think about trying to speak for Christ and stand for Him in a world like we live in today. It seems like no one really cares. Few folks are even against God; most just don’t really want to hear about it.

The problem is, God has not changed our task. We still need to share the hope we have in Christ. Even those who don’t seem to care need to see and hear the love of Christ.

So in this we need not be afraid. We need to speak up with courage because God is with us just like He was with Jeremiah. We need to faith to step up and do it. He will give us the words to say if we just go.  

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

I knew you

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations." – Jeremiah 1.5

I enjoy looking at the times when God called prophets and preachers. I enjoy seeing their responses and God’s reaction to their responses. God is about to call a preacher who He knows is basically going to be ignored by the people. I guess that is nothing new.

Before God even announces his call the Jeremiah he reminded Him of an important truth that Jeremiah had to keep in mind as he began to serve God. It is a truth that he could cling when he doubted if God really knew what He was doing.

I knew you before I formed you in the womb. Before you were born I set you apart and ordained you a prophet.

Jeremiah needed to know that his being a prophet was God’s plan. He had to know that God had ordained it. When we think about this we can be reminded that God knows exactly what is going on in our lives. He knows us like He knew Jeremiah and He has also set us apart from the world.

God knows what is happening in our lives. We take confidence that even when we can’t figure it out He is there and He knows. He knew us before we were born and He knows us today. And He has ordained that His children have a ministry of serving God by loving Him and loving others and shared the gospel of Christ. 

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

The voice of weeping

I will rejoice in Jerusalem, And joy in My people; The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, Nor the voice of crying.  – Isaiah 65.19

I think that we are all associated with sorrow. We all know what it is like to shed buckets of tears over friends or family or our own emotional pains and hurts. Sorrow is a part of life because sin is part of our broken world. Children are going to get sick. Family and friends are going to die. People we care about are going to suffer. We are going to hurt and we are going to cry.

It is just a part of life. And sadly tears of sorrow are not going to go away as long as we live in this broken world.

But the day is coming when God will wipe away all tears from our eyes. Weeping will be turned into joy and the ‘voice of weeping’ will no longer be heard. One day we are going to see death turned into life and sorrow into joy. Tragedy will be turned into triumph. Peace will overcome war.

Of course only Christ can bring this to pass. When He comes He will bring peace. Sorrow will be vanquished. Heartache will end. And joy will be in God’s people. 

Monday, 11 September 2017

Thou art the Potter

But now, O LORD, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand. – Isaiah 64.8

I don’t know much about pottery. I do know a little more than I used to because our daughter-in-law Holly is a brilliant potter. Pottery is interesting and I am amazed at some of the thing Holly has done. She can take a lump of wet clay and turn into beautiful and useful cups and bowls and such. She takes that clay, throws it on a wheel, turns it and with her skillful hands shapes it into an amazing result. Just a few days Holly posted a lovely array of her pottery on Facebook. Each piece was different and made for a purpose. They were crafted by her hands and according to her plans.

Isaiah uses the work of a potter to describe how God moulds and shapes His people. We may not always understand what God is doing as He moulds into masterpieces of great beauty.

Isaiah writes ‘Lord, you are our Father. We are clay in the potter’s wheel and You are the Potter. We are the work of Your hands.’

Everything we go through is part of what God is doing to shape us into the person He wants us to be. When we are in the midst of the shaping and forming it can be hard to see the end result, but God is doing what is needed to work out the flaws and specks and to produce the masterpiece of His hands that He wants us to be.

We just need to be patient and let the Master Potter work.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Our righteousness

But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away. – Isaiah 64.6

Most of us hate to admit that we can’t do something. I don’t want to sound sexist in the current climate, but I suspect men are much worse at not admitting inability. It is not so bad now but when I was younger I really hated to admit ‘I can’t do it!’

Man has historically thought that if he created the right religion and did the right things God, no matter what concept they had of Him, would take that into consideration. Most people I talk to today think that when all is said and done if their good outweighs their bad surely God will take that into consideration. Surely, my own righteousness, even though it is not perfect, will be enough.

Sadly for mankind God has an answer for that. We are all like an unclean thing. The best of our righteous acts are nothing but filthy rags. There are all kinds of idea about what these ‘filthy rags’ might be, but by any definition these are pretty nasty rags. Even if it was nothing more than a rag used for blowing your nose that would be pretty gross.

Man’s sin is so great that nothing of us can cancel it. Only the righteousness of Christ can be imputed to cover it. His righteousness satisfies God’s holiness and God is pleased to look on us and see Christ instead. 

Saturday, 9 September 2017

I will mention the Lord

I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD And the praises of the LORD, According to all that the LORD has bestowed on us, And the great goodness toward the house of Israel, Which He has bestowed on them according to His mercies, According to the multitude of His lovingkindnesses. – Isaiah 63.7

There are a lot of things that I am quick to mention in conversation. I am quick to talk about the weather, or sports, or the news, or politics, or just about anything and I usually have an opinion on everything. I am not embarrassed to raise my voice on many topics.

But when I think about how often, or seldom, I am willing to talk about the Lord I wonder how I cannot speak up for Him. Why is it so hard to make mention of Him and His works in my daily conversation? What does mentioning Him always feel forced?

How hard would be for us to acknowledge God in our conversations with simple things like ‘God has certainly given us a lovely day today’ or ‘thank God that He took care of me during my recent illness’ or ‘we’ll get through this, God has it covered.’

It makes no sense that we are embarrassed to make mention of all that God does for us. We claim that He is the most important thing in the world to us – but we don’t always talk about it.

I am sure I have mentioned this concept before, but it must be important because God keep bringing it up. Let’s look for every opportunity we have to talk about our Lord. It’s our chance to begin introduce our own relationship to God and that could be the door to sharing more about our relationship to Him. 

Friday, 8 September 2017

Garments of salvation

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. – Isaiah 61.10

‘Clothes make the man’ some people say. I am not so sure that is true, but there is a measure where people often judge us by appearance. How I am clothed can say things about who I am.

Isaiah writes here about the joy that comes with salvation. ‘I will rejoice, my soul shall be joyful in my God’ and then he uses the great word picture that God has ‘dressed him with the garments of salvation’ and ‘covered him with the robe of righteousness’ and how he has been ‘decked out with ornaments.’

In just a couple of chapters we are going to read about what our righteousness is worth. We are told that it is no more than filthy, rotten, stinking rags. That is what we are clothed in apart from Christ, but more on that in a couple of days.

But once we come to Christ He changed our clothes to salvation and righteousness. When we stand before God He no longer sees our filthy rags but He sees the righteousness of Christ.

Praise God for my garments of salvation! 

Thursday, 7 September 2017

The Spirit of the Lord in upon me

"The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified." – Isaiah 61.1-3

If I could pick out one passage that encapsulates the ministry of Christ in one place it would be here. I say that because this is the passage that Jesus used to explain His ministry when we preached it in Luke 4.

Look why Jesus came:

To preach good tidings to the poor
To heal the broken-hearted
To proclaim liberty
To open the prison to the bound
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord
To proclaim God’s judgement
To comfort and console the mourners
To exchange
        Beauty for ashes
        Joy for mourning
        The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness
To proclaim them as ‘trees of righteousness’
To plant the Lord that He may be glorified

To be honest each one of those things probable deserves individual attention. What blesses me seeing the list as whole is how often Jesus says that He came to do something loving for and to us. He brings goodness, He heals, He frees, He comforts, He exchanges His good for our bad, and He declares us righteous.

Too many people won’t be saved because all they see is the burden that ‘religion’ would place on them. They think that be saved will take away all their fun. I think part of that is that we Christians don’t show the real impact of what Christ has done. We aren’t perfect, but our lives should reflect the goodness He has provided. We ought to see beauty out of ashes. Joy should overcome mourning. Praise ought to replace heaviness.

I am grateful for all that Christ has done – do I show people what He has done? 

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

The Light has come

Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the LORD will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising. – Isaiah 60.1-3

Behold, the darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the people.

If there is a more apt description of the world today I certainly don’t know it. The world is so lost in darkness that it doesn’t even know what it is stumbling over. When I was a Scout we had a test where we had to travel by foot overnight to a set destination without a compass or map. We were supposed to use the stars, but it was pitch black. I tried walking but was tripping over everything, I don’t have a clue what tripped me so I headed up on my hands and knees feeling my way. (Yes, I made it back to camp J ).

That is what the world is like without the light of Christ.

God did not leave the world in darkness. Jesus brought to full measure of the light. Today the Light is shining in the darkness but the world does not get it. The Light shines, but the world rejects the Light because it prefers the spiritual darkness than the Light because the deeds of the world are evil and reject God.

But that’s not all. God sends us to be lights in the world to reflect the light of Christ. We vessels of light and it is our job to let our light shine in the dark, dark world.

How does ‘the Light has come relate to us.’ I think we can go back to the little children’s chorus that goes ‘the little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.’ 

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

The Redeemer

"The Redeemer will come to Zion, And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob," Says the LORD. "As for Me," says the LORD, "this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants' descendants," says the LORD, "from this time and forevermore." – Isaiah 59.20-21

I’ve been thinking a lot about redemption recently as I have been working on a message from 1 Peter and trying to get my head around what this means instead of just knowing the textbook definition. In this sense the word redeem means to ‘buy back’ to ‘pay off’ or to ‘reclaim.’ It is a word and a concept that has been known as far back as Job who wrote ‘I know that my Redeemer lives.’

We need to ask the question ‘what do I need to be reclaimed from?’ Why do I need bought back? Why do I need a redeemer?

The world needs a redeemer because of our sin. God made us. We are His by virtue of creation. But man broke that relationship through sin. Sin separates us from our Holy God. None of us would want a God who was no better than us. His holiness and our sin make it clear that something has to happen in order for our relationship to be restored.

Job saw the sense of a redeemer. Isaiah knew that the redeemer would come. These men and others accepted the idea of a redeemer by faith even though they never knew how it would all take place.

We though now know how. Jesus came as our Redeemer to pay the reclamation price through His blood on the cross. Man is not stuck in sin. God wants to restores His relationship with everyone. He provided the redemption price. That is the wonderful message that we have to share. 

Monday, 4 September 2017

Not shortened - but

Separated from God
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. – Isaiah 59.1-2

One thing that we can be sure of is that God is never going to change. His power never weakens and his reach never shortens. Nothing is too hard for Him and nothing is out of His reach.

What that means is that if we don’t sense God working it is because we have something wrong with us. God is able, but we don’t trust Him. God is able, but we don’t ask Him. God is able, but we make things worse by trying to do things our own way.

God’s hand is not shortened – but your sins have separated you from Him. He will not hear you. When we ‘regard iniquity in our hearts the Lord will not hear us.’

If there is a problem with seeing God work the problem is that that our sin is getting in the way. It may not even be an open blatant sin. It may be as simple as the sin of not trusting God to do what He says He can do.

Obviously, God does not always do what we want. He doesn’t always do things our way. But we can never doubt His power. Whatever is out there He can do. All I need to do is to make sure that my heart is right and my walk is right and then I can know that He is doing what I need. 

Sunday, 3 September 2017

The Lord will guide you

The Lord will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought,
And strengthen your bones;
You shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. – Isaiah 58.11

There are days when we don’t know what we are going to do next. We wonder which path to take or which choice to make. We have prayed and examined scripture and sometimes we still don’t know what we are going to do.

What do we do at times like that? Sometimes we have to simply trust that the Lord will guide us. Though this is a specific time and place the principle of God’s guidance comes up over and over again in the word of God and He promises to guide His people in every time we read about.

God’s guidance is vital if we are going to survive in all this mess and confusion. God’s first and foremost through His word. The decisions we make must me made of the principles of God’s word. If our choice goes contrary to the word of God we know that is not the path. We also have the assurance that God’s Hoy Spirit will guide us into all truth. The indwelling Spirit is there when we need Him.

God also can guide through circumstances. This is a bit more intangible, but I think it comes when we are seeking God’s will, praying, and being aware of the Holy Spirit in us. We see what God brings across our paths, who he allows us to meet, and thought I don’t know how to explain it there is a peace that God gives us when we seek and follow His guidance.

We don’t have to face this future alone – we have a guide. He is the shepherd who ‘leads us beside the still waters.’

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Stop pointing your fingers

Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, “Here I am.’
‘If you take away the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
If you extend your soul to the hungry
And satisfy the afflicted soul,
Then your light shall dawn in the darkness,
And your darkness shall be as the noonday. – Isaiah 58.9-10

We as Christians are pretty good at pointing our fingers at others in judgement and condemnation. We look out at that terrible world full of wicked sinners and if we are not careful we see their sin before we see the people. We would rather judge and condemn than help.

What a sad situation. Isaiah here says that our focus needs to on extending ourselves to the hungry, to satisfy the afflicted, and let our light shine in darkness. And then, not when we point fingers and condemn, the darkness will be like noonday.

This reminds me of the place in 2 Corinthians when Paul is talking about our motivation for ministry. He says there that the love of Christ constrains us and compels us to reach others. He says that when we are motivated by the love of Christ we no longer see people with the eyes of our flesh. We see them as souls who need the Saviour. We don’t point fingers. Instead we show them our love and we meet their needs and shine the light of the gospel.

We will do nothing by just pointing our fingers. We will accomplish much if we share what we have and shine the light. 

Friday, 1 September 2017

Don't hide yourself

Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh? – Isaiah 58.6-7

The second half of this description of a proper fast switches from spiritual needs to physical. For most of my Christian life I heard very little about our need to take care of the physical needs of other. Now that I have studied I realise that this teaching runs al the way through the word of God and it is not just a mention, but a major part of what it means to God’s people.

Share your bread with the hungry
Bring the poor castaways into your homes
Cloth the naked
Don’t hide yourself from your fellow man

I am tempted to really go off on world issues here, but I think I am better off to just deal with the context we are in. This is all about the attitudes and action that go with true Bible fasting.

There is a major part of our ‘religious’ practice that deals with helping others. I don’t need to comment on most of this because it is pretty black and white.

The last point intrigues me because of it wording. The point here is that that Lord made all men of one flesh – everyone. Therefore how can we hide ourselves from our own flesh when he has a need?

Every person we see is one of us. Skin colour, nationality, religion, creed, or whatever. We are all made of one flesh. We are all of one blood. Everyone is 'our people.' How can we do anything but help them out?

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Spiritual aspects of fasting

Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh? – Isaiah 58.6-7

True fasting is not just putting on a show and not eating. It is so much more than just ‘look how spiritual I am.’

Here is the fast God has chosen. This is the evidence of a true fast. There is something we do as well as something we don’t do. There are two types of things we should be doing. There are spiritual things to do and there are physical things.

Let’s look at the spiritual things first.

Loose the bonds of wickedness
Undo the heavy burdens
Let the oppressed go free
Break every yoke

When we fast part of our focus is on the spiritual needs of those who don’t know Christ. It is easy for us to be critical of them and attack them for their wickedness and wrongness. It is harder for us to take Christ’s perspective and to see them in need of a saviour. It is hard for us to remember that we have a ministry of reconciliation, not a ministry of condemnation.

The problem is that this world is bound by wickedness, it is burdened and oppressed by sin and the cares of this world, and it is carrying a yoke of pressure it need not carry.

We have the answer in Christ. Let love motivate us to lift the cares and woes that this work has to deal with every day.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Is this how you fast?

Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen?
Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’
‘In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure,
And exploit all your laborers.
Indeed you fast for strife and debate,
And to strike with the fist of wickedness.
You will not fast as you do this day,
To make your voice heard on high.
Is it a fast that I have chosen,
A day for a man to afflict his soul?
Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush,
And to spread out sackcloth and ashes?
Would you call this a fast,
And an acceptable day to the Lord? – Isaiah 58.3-5

I love Isaiah 58. I came across this passage when I was preparing a Bible study on fasting. It took me a good chunk of my Christian life to get around to fasting. I rarely if ever heard it preached on for most of my life.

First the peope ask God a question - 'Why are we fasting and you are not doing anything for us?

That seems like a fair question. If I am doing everything right why doens't God do His part?

So God asks a question of the people. He gives His views of an acceptable fast day and asks them if that is how they see it.

Is God’s acceptable day for a man to afflict his own soul? Is it to ‘spread out sackcloth and ashes.?'  Is it a day for a man to showingly bow his head in humility? The people Isaiah addresses at the beginning were doing so out of pride and to make a name for themselves. ‘Look at me, I am a faster!’

That is not what God wants by any stretch of the imagination. We can see this when Jesus describes fasting.  He says ‘don’t make a show of your fasting. Go about your regular daily routine.’

We can do that only if we learn a spirit of humility. It can’t be a show of humility where we figuratively cover ourselves in sackcloth and ashes. Fast days are days for action and the next few verses describe what we are supposed to do.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

The High and Lofty One

For thus says the High and Lofty One
Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
With him who has a contrite and humble spirit,
To revive the spirit of the humble,
And to revive the heart of the contrite ones. – Isaiah 57.15

I first came across this lesson while reading the book ‘Be Ye Holy’ by Fred Moritz, a friend of mine. He was describing the different types of God’s holiness and this section is called ‘God’s Immanent Holiness.’ This is the almost incomprehensible idea that God’s holiness is in heaven and at the same time can be in man.

I can understand that God lives in heaven. I can understand how a perfectly holy God can dwell in eternity. He is, after all, God. He is the perfect holy almighty sinless One.

But the second part stuns me. This perfect holy sinless God chooses to also dwell with him who has a ‘humble and contrite’ spirit.

How can this God who lives in a high and lofty place and who dwelling place is eternity live in a temporal space with wicked and sinful man?

It is because of His love. His love allows Him to come and dwell with all those who will humble themselves and and turn to Him. He will heal and revive and lift up the humble who realise their own inability to deal with their sin and will call on Him.

So the God who is forever is willing to live in sinful man and to prepare us for eternity. Those of us who are believers know the joy of ‘Christ in me.’ We have strength to deal with whatever comes our way because the God of eternity lives in us.

What a marvellous truth to go with us today!

Monday, 28 August 2017

An everlasting sign

For you shall go out with joy,
And be led out with peace;
The mountains and the hills
Shall break forth into singing before you,
And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree,
And instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree;
And it shall be to the Lord for a name,
For an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” – Isaiah 55.12-13

Did you ever consider the fact that everything around us, everything we see today, all the things we treasure and all the things we hate, are temporary and will one day be gone?

That gives us a different perspective on life. All of the bad stuff will one day finally be over and none of the good stuff it going to last forever.

I think that is why Paul writes that we don’t look on the things we can see, but the things we can’t see. All the things we can see are temporal. All the things we cant are eternal.

And one day, when all this mess is said and done and we go out with joy and peace and singing the name of the Lord will shine forever and it will be an ‘everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.’

Maybe we ought to go ahead and get on board now and start focusing on that ‘everlasting sign that will not be cut off.’

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Go out with joy

For you shall go out with joy,
And be led out with peace;
The mountains and the hills
Shall break forth into singing before you,
And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree,
And instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree;
And it shall be to the Lord for a name,
For an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” – Isaiah 55.12-13

One day all of this realities of this broken world are going to be changed. The anger and hatred and death and destruction and wars and pain and tears and agony and shame will all be cut. Sin will finally be vanquished.

The day is coming when we will be able to go out, not into a world full of sin and sorrow, but. To go out with the joy of the Lord. Nature itself will sing with joy and the trees of the filed will clap their hands. The thorns and briars that were a part of the curse of sin will be replaced with shade trees.

There is more to life that just this short span of 70-80 years here on earth. If this was all our hope there would not be much hope. But we have the assured hope of eternity with our God in a place of perfect peace and where joy will reign.

Oh for that day of unbridled joy.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

It shall prosper

For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. – Isaiah 55.10-11

Sometimes it seems like all of our efforts to be a witness and all of our preaching and teaching and sharing in is vain. It feels like no one cares and no one wants to hear.

God says this though.

Water the earth. Spread the seed. Give out the bread of life. Just keep doing it. There is never an indication about when we are supposed to stop because we are not meant to stop.

But that’s not all. The verse goes on to say why we should not stop. God’s word is not going to return void or empty. God’s word will accomplish what He wants it to do. It will prosper in the way that he intended.

We have been doing Kids Klub here for 20 years. We have shared the gospel with many hundreds of children. We have shared the gospel with friends and coworkers and associates and neighbours and strangers with only a handful of visible results. That can be discouraging. It can make us question ourselves sometimes.

I think that is part of the reason that God gives us this reminder. His ways are higher than my ways. His thoughts are not my thoughts. While I may wonder about what we are doing God says that His word that has been sent out will not return void. It is not a waste. Every Kids Klub we have done and every time we have shared the gospel has not been a waste. God says that it will accomplish what He wants it to do.

So we just keep on keeping on and leaving the results up to God.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Our thoughts and His thoughts

For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater, - Isaiah 55.8-10

I think I have mentioned before that there are times when I don’t get what God is doing. From my perspective in this moment in time I can’t always see God’s perspective in every situation.

And that really makes sense when I think about it. I can’t see situations from God’s perspective and with His knowledge because I am not Him. I am just Roger, locked  into this spot on planet Earth on this date in history. I can’t see all that is going on around me and I can’t see what is coming next.

On the other hand we have a God who sees and knows it all. He sees how what is happening in my life affects and is affected by everything around me. He sees all the events of the past, He sees what is going on right now, and He sees everything that is going to happen down the road.

God is every present at once. He knows it all. He knows the pieces of the puzzle that I have not and may not ever on earth know how they fit.

Why then do I ever think that anything has to go my way? Why do I think that my plans are better than His?

My pride makes me think that my ways are best. My pride leads mean to believe that my thoughts are better than God’s thoughts. My pride makes me think that if I can’t figure this out no one can.

But my ways and my thoughts can’t compare to God’s. By faith I must choose to follow His and trust Him to sort it all out. I need to trust the highest thoughts and I need to walk the highest way.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Seek the Lord

Seek the Lord while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way,
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
Let him return to the Lord,
And He will have mercy on him;
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon. – Isaiah 55.6-7

Once we we the wonderful invitation to ‘come to me’ we see another appeal that goes a little deeper.

Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.

The world is seeking after all kinds of things. Most of what the world seeks only gives temporary satisfaction. We seek money and possessions and popularity and fame and fortune. There is nothing wrong with these things, but they are never going to be able to fully satisfy. We may also seek that ‘something’ through drink or drugs or sex or politics or other things and still find no satisfaction.

There is however a goal worth seeking. Seek the Lord while He may be found and call on Him while He is near.

That at least implies that there is a time coming when the world may no longer find Him and that He will no longer be near. Of course we know that to be true.God’s spirit will not always strive with mankind. God is loving and gracious and patient and kind, but one day in His eternal plan He will set up His kingdom and the time will run out. Eventually our lives will come to an end and they will be no more time.

Today is the day to make a decision. Now is the time to turn to Christ. Stop going after all the things that are never going to satisfy and seek Christ with heart, mind, and soul.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Come to me

Incline your ear, and come to Me.
Hear, and your soul shall live;
And I will make an everlasting covenant with you—
The sure mercies of David. – Isaiah 55.3

Come to Me.

Those words seem so simple, but in this context there are no more precious words.

At the beginning God and man were companions. There was nothing between them. They had regular and open communication. God met them in the Garden in the coolness of the evening to fellowship with Him.

But one day that changed. Adam and Eve sinned and they did not show up. God said ‘where are you?’ but they were ashamed because of their sin and because of their nakedness and they hid from Him.

And yet, despite all of that, we still find God offering ‘come to Me.’ God, who is rich in mercy, would have all men repent and turn back to Him. Though the mystery of the gospel is still veiled here we see that God does want His people to come to Him. This truth was made clear in Christ.

‘Come to me, all you who are weary and and burdened, and I will give you rest….For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’

A world of sinners walks away from Jesus every day – but He still calls out ‘come to me.’

The whole thing reminds me of the story of the prodigal and his father. While the prodigal was away wasting his life and wandering in all sorts of wickedness his broken hearted father waited for him to come home. And when he did decide to come the father put everything aside and ran to meet him.

God is calling out to a seeking world today saying ‘come to me.’ Lets be sure the world knows about that call.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Stop wasting your life

Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And let your soul delight itself in abundance. – Isaiah 55.2

Why are you wasting your money are things that are not important? Why are you spending your whole pay cheque on things that can never satisfy you?

Wow! What a great question! The question applies today at least as much as it did when Isaiah penned these words.

I like these words from the country music song ‘Mayberry.’ I know it is a secular song and has nothing to do with faith, but it nails what the world is doing today.

‘Sunday was a day of rest. Now it's another day for progress. And we can’t slow down, ‘cause more is best. Its all an endless process.’’

The phrase ‘it seems like the world is spinning faster than it did in the old day’ also appears in the song and that describes to me the madness of the world in its pursuit of, well, I don’t know what we are all pursuing and nobody seems to know. It is just a rush for more.

I think the rush for more and more is ever maddening because no matter how much more we get it is never more enough and the more we chase more the more we realise that the only answer is more and more never does what we want.

There is an answer to this quest for more. It is not a call to abandon everything or to give up all our worldly goods, but it is a call to focus on the things that are really important. The call is to stop spinning our wheels in vain pursuit if that unknown something that we go after. It is a call to listen to the Lord and find out what is really important.

There is hope and peace and satisfaction. We don’t have to me caught up in the race race. The answer follows in the next few verses.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Everyone who is thirsty come

“Ho! Everyone who thirsts,
Come to the waters;
And you who have no money,
Come, buy and eat.
Yes, come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without price. – Isaiah 55.1

I think it is pretty obvious that we live in an age a deep thirst. The world thirsts for meaning and love and compassion and peace and contentment. We thirst for meaning to life and hope for the future. In the deep recesses of our hearts we thirst for eternity that has hope and something to cling to that will give cause for why we are here.

People try everything to sate that thirst. We try religion and drugs and drink and sex and violence and entertainment and politics and religion and just about anything you can imagine to quench our spiritual and emotional thirst and still throats are parched and dry.

When Jesus met a woman at a well in Samaria He used her physical thirst to teach a spiritual lesson and meet a spiritual need. Her took her a while to cop on, but eventually Jesus’ talk about never thirsting again finally sunk in and it all made sense. As bad as physical thirst is spiritual thirst is even worse. We can take a drink of water and satisfy physical thirst, but nothing satisfies spiritual thirst but Christ.

Religion by itself cannot satisfy our thirst. It always demands more and more and more.

But Jesus satisfies so that we never need to thirst again. He gives the water freely, without cost, salvation is free for all who will come to Him. It’s a shame that the world is so thirsty when the quenching water if so available.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Who will declare?

He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. – Isaiah 53.7-8

There is a question right here in the middle of this great discourse on the sacrifice of our Saviour. He went through all of this, but He was cut off. So the question is presented – ‘who will declare His generation?’

I wonder if Isaiah thought back to when he heard the Lord say ‘who will I send? Who will go for us?’ God has chosen to use men to spread His message. Getting that message out was the last thing Jesus said on earth after His resurrection. “You shall be by witness He said,’ and ‘go into the world and preach the gospel to every creature.’

Without someone going to ‘declare His generation’ man is never going to hear. God has chosen you and me to to declare Him to the world around us.

Who will declare? By the grace of God let it me you and me.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Wounded for my trangresssion

But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed. – Isaiah 53.5

What a world it was before sin. Adam and Eve walked in perfect sweet fellowship with God. Apparently they went for a walk in the garden to spend time with Him. There was no pain. There was no sorrow, no grief, and no tears.

But then Adam and Eve blew it and when they did life changed for all mankind. The world was broken. God and man were separated by sin and there really was no hope unless God did something about it.

So He did. God so loved the world that despite our sin and rebellion He sent His perfect Son, Jesus, to be wounded for my sins.

That’s a love I can’t really grasp in my human understanding. The fact that a perfect sinless Christ would go to the cross to take my place and take my chastisement is beyond my ken.

But that is why He came. He came to be ‘wounded’ for our transgressions. I even like the use of the word ‘wounded.’ Though Jesus died on the cross His death was only a wound because it was only temporary. He rose from the dead giving us victory over death.

His wounding was my healing.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Our grief bearer

Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted. – Isaiah 53.4

Grief us a terrible part of life. Every one of us has had plenty to grieve over in our lives. Death and illness and sorrow cause us grief. Our own behaviour can cause us pain and sorrow. We can grieve over our own failures. The more years go by the more grieve and sorrow we see. It can sometimes seem that live if ever and only all about grief.

Without hope that can be what life is all about. I think that is why suicide is such a huge problem today. There is grief and sorrow and pain and people can’t see an out, so they just decide that death must be better than sorrow.

But there is a hope for our grief and our sorrow. God has it sorted. He gave us a grief bearer.

Surely, He, the messiah, Jesus Christ, has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. Even in those sorrowful grief filled moments we have hope because we learn to see our trials in the light or eternity. All of the trials and tests and sorrows and grief that we face today are not worthy with the glory that will be revealed because Jesus carries the load of our grief.

He shares the yoke of grief with us and gives us a place to turn. Let's let Him carry the weight. 

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Despised and rejected

He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. – Isaiah 53.3

I think one the saddest aspects of the gospel message is the rejection of Christ by the world He died to save. He was known from the beginning that He would be rejected, and yet still He came to die for us.

John describes it as a matter of life and darkness. The whole world was lost in the darkness of sin. There was nothing man could do without light. Sin always blinds us.

Because man was hopeless and helpless Jesus came as the Light of the world. But, as man normally does, the world rejected Christ because they love their darkness more than they love the light. He was despised and rejected by men despite His ultimate sacrifice.

That’s bad enough, but Isaiah is speaking to God’s people when we says ‘and we hid, as it were, our faces from Him. He was despised and we did not esteem Him.’

How sad it is when God’s own people ignore Him and despise Him by our actions and our attitudes. And yet we do that all the time when we choose our way over His. We do that when we ignore His promises to us and choose to trust our way. We despise His word when we ignore all that He does for us and choose to live according to the flesh.

It’s bad when the world rejects Him. It’s heartbreaking when His people do.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Beautiful feet

How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who proclaims peace,
Who brings glad tidings of good things,
Who proclaims salvation,
Who says to Zion,
“Your God reigns!” – Isaiah 52.7

What do we think about a messenger who brings good news, peace, glad tidings of odd things, salvation, and the words ‘Your God is in control?’

In these days of seemingly endless bas news that is the kind of news that we need to hear. I hate to admit that I am a news freak. Even when the news is all bad I still am a bit obsessed about seeing and hearing it and reading about it. Good news stories are always a joy to see and even human good news stories can help lighten a day.

Here though we read about the ultimate good news. Peace, good things, salvation, and having a God who has all this covered should make any day bright. God says that the deliverer of this good news has ‘beautiful feet’ and I think that is a lovely way to describe how we feel about the bearer of good tidings.

Of course ultimate bearer of this good news His Christ for He is the one who brought salvation and peace and the knowledge of a God who is in control.

But he told the disciples that He was sending them out just like the Father sent Him out to do these things. We too are called to share the same news. That means that we too can have beautiful feet as we go about our daily task of sharing the good news with those around us. Our lives and and actions and our words should constantly reflect Christ’s message of salvation and peace and how others can know the God who reigns.

It is a shame when I, or anyone else, is so consumed with the worldly news and the badness of it that we don’t have time to share the good news.

Lord, give me beautiful feet today that I might be the bearer of good news to a world that needs it so desperately.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Forever salvation

Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
And look on the earth beneath.
For the heavens will vanish away like smoke,
The earth will grow old like a garment,
And those who dwell in it will die in like manner;
But My salvation will be forever,
And My righteousness will not be abolished. – Isaiah 51.6

As I get that little bit older it seems like nothing lasts forever. Everything wears out.
Even heaven and earth will one day pass away and it is certainly true that not a one of us is going to escape death.

Yet it is all these temporary things that grab our attention and that is where we tend to focus because they are so visible and so real. It is these things we see everyday and it only make sense to pay attention to them.

For Christians though there is something in our lives that will last forever. God’s gift of salvation will last forever and His righteousness will never be abolished. Heaven and earth are going to pass away, but Jesus will never fail.

Jesus’ salvation is forever. It is not temporary. It doesn’t come and go. Forever means forever.