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Where Do You Find Strength and Right Perspective?

With the many demands and decisions of life, we all need a source of strength. Certainly proper diet, adequate rest, and regular exercise play a part. But those things fall short of providing the internal strength and wisdom that we need to persevere through the most challenging times. We need a place to go to know how to navigate the course of life in a way that is pleasing to God. When we do this, we find amazing strength and right perspective, the kind that can only come from God.

The complaints of the people

In Isaiah’s day, the people of his nation were complaining. They had been conquered by enemy armies. They were worn out and confused. They wanted freedom. They cried out to God in prayer. They complained to God.

Jacob, why do you say, and Israel, why do you assert: “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my claim is ignored by my God”? (Isaiah 40:27)

The people had two complaints against God:

  • “God, don’t you know what we are going through?”
  • “God, why don’t you answer our prayers?”

We say those same things today. When we are going through difficult times, we wonder if God knows what’s going on with us. We think our ways are hidden from Him. Or, we think we is just ignoring us when we pray to Him. Those complaints are not valid, but that is how we feel.

The truth is that God certainly knows what’s going on with you, and He hears your prayers. If you find yourself in the place of complaining, realize that it is normal to be there for a moment, but it is NOT OK to stay there. We must move from that place mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We move from there by realizing the truth of who God is and then drawing strength and getting right perspective from Him.

The truth of who God is

Do you not know? Have you not heard? Yahweh is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth. He never grows faint or weary; there is no limit to His understanding. (Isaiah 40:28)

In this one verse, we learn four powerful truths about who God is:

  1. The Lord is eternal
  2. The Lord is the Creator of the whole earth
  3. The Lord never gets tired
  4. The Lord’s understanding is limitless

Since He is eternal, the Lord certainly knows what happened in your past, He knows what you are currently going through, and He knows what will happen in your future. As the Creator of the whole earth, He is sovereign over all the nations, and sovereign over all of the people and events that affect you. The Lord is in charge. Because He never gets tired, the Lord is always ready to give you the strength and wisdom you need. And since his understanding is limitless, you can know that His guidance is always right.

Finding strength and right perspective

He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless. Youths may faint and grow weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who trust in the LORD will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:29-31)

From verses 29-31, the Lord shows us how to find strength and right perspective.

Look to the Lord. You may be tempted to first look to the resources of the world: money, people, armies, and all of the ways of the world. But those things will all fall short. The are not eternal, the are not limitless, they are not the creator of the whole earth, and they do get tired. Some people think, “If only I was young again,” but the truth is that even young people get tired, even young men stumble and fall. The solution is not to get young again, but rather to look to the Lord. Only the Lord is the eternal, sovereign, creator, never-tired, all-understanding One. Look to the Lord, pray to Him and study His Word. Let the Bible guide you and give you clear direction. Focus on the Lord and trust in Him. He will guide you to the right people, to use the right resources, and to walk in paths of righteousness.

Get strength from the Lord. The Bible says that the Lord will renew the strength of those who trust in Him. He is our unending source of power and perseverance. Call on Him daily, even multiple times during the day. Rest in His strength from moment-to-moment.

Walk and soar with the Lord. Those who trust in the Lord, those who wait upon Him, will find that He gives them strength to walk (and even run!) though the paths of life. They will soar like the eagles! If you think about, the eagles do not provide the strength for their flight. They simply use their wings to ride the winds that God puts in the sky. And they soar to amazing heights. The Lord will give you strength and He will help you soar as you trust in Him and follow His ways.

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Who Will You Compare God With?

Think about it. Who will you compare God with?

  • celebrities?
  • wooden statues?
  • corporate executives?
  • government leaders?
  • sports heroes?
  • kings’ palaces?
  • idols of any kind?
  • academic institutions?
  • the list could go on and on

Let me suggest these truths:

  1. God is the Eternal King.
    • He is the creator and sustainer of the universe
    • He is the source of all wisdom and justice
    • He is sovereign over all the nations
  2. No idol compares with Him.
  3. God has no equal.

As you read the verses below, notice these truths embedded in the text.

God is the Eternal King. For the nation of Israel, the threat of the Assyrian and Babylonian armies was real. In the midst of their fear, God spoke to them words of hope: He is the Eternal King, and long after the Assyrian and Babylonian kings have come and gone, God will still be on His throne. We can take great comfort in these words, even in the midst of the geo-political climate in the world today, with terrorist threats and nations fighting against nations. God is the Eternal King. Verses 12-17 and 21-24 tell us all about how great He is.

No idol compares to God. It sounds ludicrous that you would actually take a piece of wood, carve it into a shape, put gold or other precious metals on it, then bow down to worship it, thinking it had any powers. But people do that all of the time. Sometimes those idols are statues, sometimes they are cars or houses, sometimes they are precious stones, sometimes they are types of currency. People worship lots of different things. The bottom line is that anything that is more important to you that God is an idol in your life. No idol compares with God. Worship Him only. Remove the idols from your life. Verses 18-20 talk about how idols do not compare to God.

God has no equal. No philosopher, teacher, scientist, scholar, engineer, doctor, artist, politician, soldier, businessman, or anyone else or anything else compares with God. He is the greatest. He knows how many stars are in the sky (He created them!) and He can call them all by name. Verses 25-26 encourage you to walk outside at night, take a look at the stars, and marvel at how awesome God is.

12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,
or marked off the heavens with the span of his hand?
Who has gathered the dust of the earth in a measure
or weighed the mountains in a balance
and the hills in the scales?
13  Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord,
or who gave Him His counsel?
14  Who did He consult with?
Who gave Him understanding
and taught Him the paths of justice?
Who taught Him knowledge
and showed Him the way of understanding?
15  Look, the nations are like a drop in a bucket;
they are considered as a speck of dust in the scales;
He lifts up the islands like fine dust.
16  Lebanon is not enough for fuel,
or its animals enough for a burnt offering.
17  All the nations are as nothing before Him;
they are considered by Him
as nothingness and emptiness.18  Who will you compare God with?
What likeness will you compare Him to?
19 To an idol?—something that a smelter casts,
and a metalworker plates with gold
and makes silver welds for it?
20 To one who shapes a pedestal,
choosing wood that does not rot?
He looks for a skilled craftsman
to set up an idol that will not fall over.

21 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
Has it not been declared to you
from the beginning?
Have you not considered
the foundations of the earth?
22 God is enthroned above the circle of the earth;
its inhabitants are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like thin cloth
and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
23 He reduces princes to nothing
and makes judges of the earth irrational.
24 They are barely planted, barely sown,
their stem hardly takes root in the ground
when He blows on them and they wither,
and a whirlwind carries them away like stubble.

25  “Who will you compare Me to,
or who is My equal?” asks the Holy One.
26 Look up and see:
who created these?
He brings out the starry host by number;
He calls all of them by name.
Because of His great power and strength,
not one of them is missing. (Isaiah 40:12-26)

Response:

  • God is the Eternal King — Know Him, trust Him, and follow His ways.
  • No idols compare with God — remove all idols from your life.
  • God has no equal — go outside at night, look up at the stars, and marvel at God’s grandeur — and while you’re at it, take somebody with you!
 
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Posted by on May 20, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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I’ve Got Good News For You

Boy, do we need some good news. The media focuses on the bad news all around us: in our cities, across our nation, and around the world. Discouragement. Fear. Hatred. Hurt.

We need some good news.

The nation of Israel was in need of good news. Their sin had caused them to be conquered by foreign nations. Isaiah spoke to them, seeing toward a time in their future when they would return to their homeland, able to worship the Lord in Jerusalem on Mt. Zion.

In Isaiah 40:9-11, we see four great truths:

  • The Lord is here
  • The Lord is strong
  • The Lord is your reward
  • The Lord protects you
9 Zion, herald of good news, go up on a high mountain.
Jerusalem, herald of good news, raise your voice loudly.
Raise it, do not be afraid!
Say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!”
10 See, the Lord GOD comes with strength,
and His power establishes His rule.
His reward is with Him,
and His gifts accompany Him.
11 He protects His flock like a shepherd;
He gathers the lambs in His arms
and carries them in the fold of His garment.
He gently leads those that are nursing. (Isaiah 40:9-11)

————————-

Did you see the truths in the verses?

The Lord is here (v9). The Lord is not far away. He is here. Isaiah tells the herald to declare it to the people, to raise their voices loudly, that the Lord is here. No matter where you are, as a follower of Christ you can know that the Lord is with you. He is here.

The Lord is strong (v10). The Lord is king. He is the Sovereign God of the universe. He is strong. He is powerful, and His power establishes His rule. He created all things and sustains all things. He is strong enough to handle any difficulty you face. Depend on Him. Rest in Him. Lean on His strength.

The Lord is your reward (v10). When kings would lead their armies home from battle there would be a parade through town. They would bring with them the riches from the battle, the gold, silver and other items won during the war. With God, it is different. He is your reward. He gives you Jesus. He gives you eternal riches through Christ.

The Lord protects you (v11). Just like a shepherd cares for His flock, the Lord cares for you. He deals with you gently. He carries you in His arms. He protects you from your enemies. He protects you.

The amazing part of these verses is that they were ultimately fulfilled in Christ. He died for us and was resurrected on the hill called Mt Zion. He offers salvation to everyone who will believe. He is our Great Shepherd. He is strong. He is here with you. He is your reward.

That is truly good news!

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Word of our God Remains Forever

When you go through very difficult times, finding answers and finding hope can be a challenge. When evil seems to be winning, it can appear that good will not prevail. When the circumstances of life are confusing, where do you turn?

Turn to the Bible, the Word of God.

God’s Word remains forever.

The Lord spoke through His servant Isaiah, bringing words of comfort to the nation of Israel. At the same time, Isaiah was pointing all people to the person of Jesus, the Promised Savior, the one born to take away the sin of the world, the one who offers salvation to all who will believe in Him and trust Him as Lord and Savior.

Kings, Prime Ministers, and Presidents have power and influence for only a few years. The Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans all at one time or another ruled the ancient world. During the time period covered in Isaiah’s prophecies, the nation of Israel was invaded by first the Assyrians and then the Babylonians. By the time we get to Isaiah chapter 40, the prophet is looking forward to the day when the Israelites will be free from foreign oppression. God said it would happen that way and it did. Nations rise and fall, but the word of our God remains forever.

6 A voice was saying, “Cry out!” Another said, “What should I cry out?” “All humanity is grass, and all its goodness is like the flower of the field. 7 The grass withers, the flowers fade when the breath of the LORD blows on them; indeed, the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God remains forever.” (Isaiah 40:6-8)

In Isaiah 40:6-8, we see words of comfort, courage and compassion.

These are words of comfort to the people who will be enduring difficult times. The people must realize that the trials are only temporary, just like the grass of the field that withers and the flowers that fade. God’s Word will remain forever.

These are words of courage. Even though enemy armies may be invading your homeland, you can trust that God’s word will come true. And His words throughout chapter 40 of Isaiah are words of hope in the future, hope found in our Savior, Jesus, the Mighty Warrior. Paul writes in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes.”

These are words of compassion. The Lord is compassionate toward us. He is perfectly just in His discipline of us. His judgments are right and fair. Yet He is full of compassion and mercy toward us, not giving us the penalty that our sin deserves. Through Christ, He shows us His compassion, forgiveness, and peace, and He gives us eternal life.

The word of our God remains forever. Read it. Study it. Put it into practice in your daily life. Let your life be guided by the word of God. Media reports will come and go. Circumstances will come and go. World leaders will come and go. The word of our God remains forever.

__________________________

a special thanks to my friend Glen Rowden for his contribution to this blog post

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Forerunners

The nation of Israel had turned their backs on the Lord. God had given them strong warning and had revealed to them their future captivity because of their sin. But, God being rich in his mercy did not leave them hopeless but looked forward, to reveal hope, mercy and grace and forgiveness for the nation of Israel.

So, God moves from a place of condemnation because of sin that would result in their physical captivity to a place of hope because of the spiritual rescue from sin. God’s plan was focused on the root of the nations’ problems (their sin) and not as much the physical consequence of their sin.

In this post, we will focus on Isaiah 40:3-5 —

3 A voice of one crying out: Prepare the way of the LORD in the wilderness; make a straight highway for our God in the desert. 4 Every valley will be lifted up, and every mountain and hill will be leveled; the uneven ground will become smooth and the rough places, a plain. 5 And the glory of the LORD will appear, and all humanity together will see it, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

A forerunner in ancient times was someone who would go ahead of the king’s procession to clear the roads, repair potholes, and make sure the path was safe. They prepared the way so that the king could be seen and be praised by the crowds. In modern times, the term forerunner is still used in some sporting events, including the winter sport of bobsled. Beginner athletes slide down the bobsled track in their sleds right before the competition begins to make sure the track is safe, the timing equipment is working properly, and the track is ready for the race to begin. They prepare the way so that the race competitors can be seen and praised for their victory!

John the Baptist was the forerunner of Christ.

1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!” 3 For he is the one spoken of through the prophet Isaiah, who said: A voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way for the Lord; make His paths straight! 4 John himself had a camel-hair garment with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then people from Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the vicinity of the Jordan were flocking to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the Jordan River as they confessed their sins. (Matthew 3:1-6)

John’s purpose, as the forerunner of Jesus, was to prepare the spiritual landscape of people’s heart so that they could be prepared to believe in Jesus when He came. Just as Isaiah prophesied to a group of people whose hearts were hardened, so it was with John the Baptist. His message of repentance prepared the way for people to see Jesus and praise Him.

What about you? Are you willing to be a forerunner for Christ, in a similar way to John the Baptist? Will you allow God to use you to prepare the way in people’s hearts to hear the message of salvation that is available through Christ?

As the Holy Spirit empowers you, He uses your attitudes, your words, your decisions, your very life to point people to Jesus. May God use you to point many people to Him.

__________________________

a special thanks to my friend Keith Savage for his contribution to this blog post

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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God’s Comfort is Real

At the beginning of Isaiah chapter 40, we find a nation struggling to find answers. The prophet Isaiah had been warning the nation that their sin and their determination to turn their back on the Lord would result in God’s judgment upon them, specifically that they would be invaded by the Assyrian Empire soon and that later they would be attacked, defeated, and deported by the Babylonian Empire.

The people would experience pain, separation, and loss. Their lives would be disrupted. How could they ever know comfort and peace again?

In the midst of this scenario, God speaks words of comfort to His people.

1 “Comfort, comfort My people,” says your God. 2 “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and announce to her that her time of forced labor is over, her iniquity has been pardoned, and she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.” (Isaiah 40:1-2)

God’s comfort is real. You can know and feel His comfort in your life.

He gives a double portion of comfort. Notice that He repeats the word “comfort” twice in verse one. He could have just said the statement once: “Comfort my people.” But, for emphasis sake, He repeats the word: “Comfort, comfort my people.” Double comfort. God knows how much comfort you need. He knows the situations of life that you have been through, what you are going through now, and what you will go through soon. He provides an abundant portion of comfort. God’s comfort is real.

He is your God. Notice in verse one that it is the Lord your God who gives comfort. False gods give no comfort. It is the Lord your God, through the person of the Holy Spirit, that you have comfort. He is your Comforter, filling you with comfort and peace. If you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you know the comfort that He brings. God’s comfort is real.

Trials are temporary. In verse two, we read the words spoken to Israel that their “time of forced labor is over.” Isaiah looked far into the future to speak to the nation, past the Assyrian conquest and past the Babylonian captivity. He saw a time in the future — more than 100 years in the future — when the nation would return to their homes, rebuild Jerusalem, and once again worship the Lord in the temple. Their trials would be temporary. And yours are too. They may last for a few days, a few years, or even all of your life, but you can know they will not last eternally. The trials of this life are only temporary. That brings comfort. God’s comfort is real.

Your sin-debt is paid for. Verse two tells us that our iniquities have been pardoned. This promise to the nation of Israel was a promise that the Lord Himself would pay the price for their sin. He would forgive them. And though the person of Jesus, He has provided forgiveness for our sin. His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead have provided the payment for your sin and the promise of eternal life for all who put their trust in Him. God’s comfort is real.

You have received a double-portion of His grace. In Isaiah 40:2, we read the phrase that indicates that Israel has “received double from the Lord’s hand for all her sins.” This word “double” could allude to double-judgment, but that is certainly not a comfort. It can also mean “double portion of blessing,” indicating the kind of grace and comfort that God is promising to them. You see, in the time of Isaiah, a “portion of an inheritance” meant at most one-half of the father’s estate. So, a double portion of an inheritance means the whole estate (1/2 x 2 = 1). (You may remember that Elisha asks for a double-portion of Elijah’s spirit after Elijah was gone, meaning, “I want God to use me just like He used you, not half-way.”) Therefore, in Isaiah 40:2, we see God promising to the people (and to us!) to give us exactly the amount of comfort and grace that we need. God’s comfort is real.

Lean on the Lord. His comfort is real.

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Questioning Evangelism: Using Questions to Share the Good News

Evangelism can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Witnessing conversations don’t have to be awkward. You don’t have to be an expert on the Bible or theology for God to use you. You can use questions to help share the good news of Jesus Christ. It was one of the ways that Jesus and Paul shared the good news of salvation.

Jesus used two powerful tools — questions and a story — to share with the rich young ruler (Luke 10:25-37). Paul used questions when he dialogued with people in the synagogues (Acts 17:1-4). A short passage from Romans illustrates the kinds of questions that Paul would ask (see Romans 3:27-31).

Peter writes about the importance of being ready to share your faith in Christ.

Honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame (1 Peter 3:15-16).

Five Reasons to use questions as you share the gospel. If you look closely, these reasons are embedded in 1 Peter 3:15-16 (above).

  1. To show respect to the person to whom you are talking. Ask questions and listen to what they have to say.
  2. People are looking for answers, and although you should work hard to learn answers to their questions, you can’t possibly know the answer to every question that someone might ask you in a witnessing situation.
  3. To get the person thinking, without the conversation becoming an argument. They are going to ask you questions when they see the hope you have in Christ. Let God speak to them through your answers and your questions.
  4. To help the person look deep into their heart for answers. You honor Jesus the Messiah as Lord in your heart. Your questions will help them look deep into their heart for the most important answers about life and eternity.
  5. To point people to the hope that can be found in Christ, the hope that you have in Jesus your Savior and Lord.

Here is a Good Resource: Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People’s Hearts the Way Jesus Did, by Randy Newman. In this book, you will find literally hundreds of good questions to ask people, questions that can be used to share the gospel in a variety of settings and dealing with a variety of issues. The author gives many sample conversations to help you ask good questions to point people to Christ. Many of the questions on the list below were drawn from this resource.

Seventeen good questions to ask in witnessing conversations are below. As you read the list, pause after each question and think about scenarios in which you might use that question.  

  1. Really?
  2. Can you explain what you mean?
  3. What makes you believe that?
  4. So…?
  5. Isn’t it possible…?
  6. Would you like it if…?
  7. If Jesus is not the only way for salvation, why did He have to die?
  8. Something within us cries out for goodness and moral purity, doesn’t it?
  9. How do you explain the bad things that happen in life?
  10. What has brought you hope in the midst of this trial of life?
  11. What do you think…?
  12. What do you believe about Jesus?
  13. How do you think a person gets to heaven?
  14. Have you ever read the Bible for yourself?
  15. Could I share my story of faith with you?
  16. Could I share with you some verses that are really important to me?
  17. Could I share the good news of salvation with you?

BONUS — The gospel in four words:

  • Creation
  • Rebellion
  • Christ
  • Response

Hear Jesus’ words: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). We are ALL called to go. Sometimes you may do a lot of talking. Sometimes you may do a lot of listening. Ask good questions. And be ready to share the good news of salvation, leading people to faith in Jesus Christ.

Pray for opportunities this week. When God opens the door, use questions to share the gospel. Be amazed at how He uses you.

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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