Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Isaiah 17

Isaiah 17:10, 11 NIV

You have forgotten God your Savior;
you have not remembered the Rock, your fortress.
Therefore, though you set out the finest plants
and plant imported vines,
though on the day you set them out, you make them grow,
and on the morning when you plant them, you bring them to bud,
yet the harvest will be as nothing
in the day of disease and incurable pain.

The Bible rhetorically asks, "If God be for us who can be against us?" The opposite is also true. If God is against us who can be for us? Our talent, our money, our influence, our intricate plans will all fail if God is against us. Can people be successful without God's blessing? From the world's perspective the answer is "Yes." People who do not honor God or believe him have conquered kingdoms, built business empires, amassed wealth, established false religions, gained large followings, and accomplished great things.

It is one thing to use one's personal charisma, talents and power for "success" when God for some reason elects to either leave you alone for the time being or allow you to prosper. It is a very different thing when God chooses to judge or oppose you. If God is against us, who can be for us? The obvious answer is, "No one." In this chapter God has decided that it is time to judge Damascus. All of their planning and success will fail them. God has decided that enough is enough and it is time for their demise.

Father, sometimes when I see the ungodly prosper it makes me wonder what's going on. Thank you for the reminder from this chapter that their day is coming and nothing short of repentance can stop it. Today may I simply keep in step with you.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert
District Superintendent
EFCA Northern Mtn District

Friday, March 23, 2012

Isaiah 15-16

Isaiah 15:1 NIV

A prophecy against Moab:
Ar in Moab is ruined,
destroyed in a night!
Kir in Moab is ruined,
destroyed in a night!

Isaiah 16:11 NIV

My heart laments for Moab like a harp,
my inmost being for Kir Hareseth.

Isaiah 15-16 is a prophecy against Moab. Because of their sin, arrogance and false worship they will be brought down. Their wealth will fail them. Their gods will not answer them. Their arrogance will prove empty. This raises the question of whether God takes pleasure in the judgement he brings. The answer appears to be, "No." Verse 11 says, "My heart laments Moab..." Her destruction is sure. God's judgment is determined, but that does not mean that we should take pleasure in her pain.

We give lip service to the idea of hating the sin but loving the sinner but I wonder whether we really mean it or whether we know what that really means. Do we really care about the drunk staggering down the sidewalk or do we just want to avoid him? Do we care about the homosexual dying of AIDS or do we just think that she deserves it? Are we concerned about the soul of a mass murderer as the lethal injection is administered or do we celebrate his death? These are not easy questions. The answers are even more difficult. They reveal as much about our heart as they do about the depravity of the sinner being judged.

Father, I have to confess that it is much easier for me to give lip service to the idea of hating the sin and loving the sinner than it is to actually do it. Today may I love the things you love and hate the things you hate. But, may I never love the things you hate and hate the things you love.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert
District Superintendent
EFCA Northern Mtn District

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Isaiah 14

Isaiah 14:5, 10, 16 NIV

The Lord has broken the rod of the wicked,
the scepter of the rulers,

They will all respond,
they will say to you,
"You also have become weak, as we are;
you have become like us."

Those who see you stare at you,
they ponder your fate:
"Is this the man who shook the earth
and made kingdoms tremble,

This chapter talks about the ultimate restoration of Israel. She will be the center of God's blessings to the nations. In the mean time, those who have been her enemy, those who have opposed God, those who have haughtily exalted themselves will be brought down. The one thought in this midst of this that struck me is this: Those we have feared, revered, and held in awe will be nothing in the end.

People have talked of how impressive and intimidating the Oval Office is. I have no doubt they are correct. People seemed awed by movie stars to such an extent that today any well known movie star that speaks out on some issue is somehow considered an expert. Girls swoon over Rock stars, or at least they used to. Entertainment is one of the key topics listed on almost all news readers. Even in the Church world we have developed musical, denominational and pulpit phenoms that we almost revere. In the political world nations and national leaders vie for power and importance. The bottom line is that one day all these will be meaningless.

It is my guess that if there are heroes in Heaven it won't be the people we expect. I'm thinking that when we get there the great pulpiteers and Christian music icons will be sitting at the feet of some obscure believer asking to hear the stories of how God used them in this world. The bottom line is that how we define greatness and how God defines greatness are not the same. Those the world calls great will one day be seen for what they really are, weak and broken.

Father, forgive me for the times I have pursued "greatness" instead of pursuing you. Today may I seek more of you and less of the world.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert
District Superintendent
EFCA Northern Mtn District

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Isaiah 13

Isaiah 13:11 NIV

I will punish the world for its evil,
the wicked for their sins.
I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty
and will humble the pride of the ruthless.

I realize that growing up in America, growing up in an American church, I have not really experienced much of what it means to be a stranger in this world. My world, my family, my culture has for the most part been pretty supportive and respectful of my faith. I know that is not true of my brothers in much of the world.

As disciples of Jesus Christ we are pilgrims and strangers in this world. This is not our home. Jesus said that in this world we would have tribulation. As stranger in this world that is to be expected. As believers in Jesus that should not surprise us, and yet our natural tendency is to be offended that we are not treated fairly. As we face increasing opposition to biblical truth we need to keep in mind that our affliction is temporary but the affliction of those who oppose God will be eternal. God will one day "put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless."

Father, why is it that I so easily forget this? Today may I live in light of eternity.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert
District Superintendent
EFCA Northern Mtn District

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Isaiah 12

Isaiah 12:1 NIV

In that day you will say:
"I will praise you, Lord.
Although you were angry with me,
your anger has turned away
and you have comforted me.

This chapter is a short psalm of praise. Twice in these 6 short verses we find the phrase, "In that day you will say..." This is not a song of praise based on God's present deliverance, but on his future deliverance and blessing. That is faith. That is hope and expectation. That is looking at a world facing destruction with eyes that see beyond the pain to the hope.

This is a short chapter, but it is a reminder that as a people of God we walk by faith, not by sight. It is so easy to be overwhelmed with the pain of the present. It is so easy to become discouraged with what our eyes see and our ears hear. The present is more real to us than the future, but the future lasts longer. The long term future is bright for those who hope in God. Believers have the assurance that God is working a higher purpose and that "joy comes in the morning." We claim to be people of faith, but I fear that we more often live as people of the present.

Father, forgive me for my own lack of faith. Thank you for your faithfulness in the past and for your promises of blessing in the future. Today may I live as one who has hope beyond today and beyond this life.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert
District Superintendent
EFCA Northern Mtn District

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Isaiah 11

Isaiah 11:1, 3 NIV

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;

Three thoughts struck me as I read through this chapter. First is the fact that God will keep his word to Abraham by fulfilling the Abrahamic Covenant. God promised Abraham, in Genesis 12, that he would bless all the nations of the earth through him. That is exactly what we see being done in this chapter through this "shoot" from the "stump of Jesse." Not only will he keep his word to Abraham, but he will also keep his word to David. In the Davidic Covenant God promised that there would be a descendant of David that would sit on his throne forever. That is this "shoot" referenced in the first verse. God will keep his promises.

Secondly, this "shoot" of Jesse will "delight in the fear of the Lord." The scriptures talk about the fear of the Lord. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. We are to live and walk in the fear of the Lord. But, it's not often that you hear the phrase "delight in the fear of the Lord." Clearly fear is not dread. This statement raises all kinds of practical and theological questions, but perhaps the most significant for this discussion is the question of whether I delight in the fear of the Lord.

The third thought that occurred to me while reading this chapter is that this "shoot" of Jesse will not judge by what he sees or hears, but with righteousness and justice. What we see and hear can be misunderstood. The more interpersonal conflict I deal with the more I realize the truth of that statement. Righteous  judgment begins with fear of the Lord. Righteous judgment is not based on personal observation or emotional response, but on the Spirit of the Lord who is described in this manner:

Isaiah 11:2 NIV

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—

Father, your promises are sure. In light of those promises may I live, walk and minister led by your Spirit, the Spirit of wisdom, and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert
District Superintendent
EFCA Northern Mtn District

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Isaiah 10

Isaiah 10:33 NIV

See, the Lord, the Lord Almighty,
will lop off the boughs with great power.
The lofty trees will be felled,
the tall ones will be brought low.

Because of Israel's heartless lack of care for the poor, because of their own pride, and because of their looking to Egypt for help rather than listening to the Lord, they will be judged. Assyria will be released against them. Because of their arrogance Assyria will be judged as well.

A remnant of Israel will be preserved. That remnant will eventually become strong again. God will remain true to his covenant with Abraham, and the wicked will not prosper. Historically that is exactly what happened. Assyria fell to Babylon. Israel was preserved and remains to this day. God was true to his word.

The underlying issue here is pride. Pride expresses itself in many ways. It looks down on those less fortunate. It seeks to preserve the benefits of privileged positions even at the cost of hurting others. Pride assumes that past victories assure future success. Pride tries to reason out solutions to problems, often looking for answers in dangerous places. Pride goes before the fall. Pride is resisted by God. Israel and Assyria, as different as they were, had the same problem. Pride led to their downfall. It will do no less in my own life.

Father, I have no hope but in you. I have no wisdom but from you. For insight and understanding I rely on your Spirit. I have no where else to turn. Forgive me for the multiple expressions of pride I see in my own life. Reveal to me those that I do not see.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert
District Superintendent
EFCA Northern Mtn District

Reflections on Psalms 77-78

Psalms 77:7 (ESV) [7] “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?   The first nine verses of this psalm express abso...