Sunday, April 29, 2012

Isaiah 27

Isaiah 27:12-13 NIV

In that day the Lord  will thresh from the flowing Euphrates to the Wadi of Egypt, and you, Israel, will be gathered up one by one. And in that day a great trumpet will sound. Those who were perishing in Assyria and those who were exiled in Egypt will come and worship the Lord  on the holy mountain in Jerusalem.

"In that day..." Israel has had some rough times. She has been attacked, exiled, ravaged and burned, but never completely destroyed. God still has a plan for her. This phrase, "In that day..." is repeated four times in this chapter, twice at the beginning and twice at the end of the chapter. In the middle he says, "in days to come..." God still has a plan and a purpose. Enemies will be brought down. God's people will be restored.

Sometimes life throws crisis after crisis at us. All our efforts seem pointless. All our prayers appear unanswered. Our hope has almost slipped away. But, in that day... God has promised that he will never leave or forsake us. As the people of God we are never abandoned. There will be a day of reckoning. In that day all will come to light. In that day all will be restored. In that day life will again make sense.

It is interesting to me that prophetic passages like this bring fascination and curiosity to the table when believers are comfortable, but they bring comfort and hope to believers who are suffering. Perhaps as American Christians we have not experienced enough pain and opposition to really get the point of these passages. I wonder.

Father, forgive me for being more curious about when these things will happen, than expectant of them. May I live, walk and minster today in light of that day when you will set all things right.

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

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Isaiah 26

Isaiah 26:8, 10, 12 NIV

Yes, Lord , walking in the way of your laws,
we wait for you;
your name and renown
are the desire of our hearts.

But when grace is shown to the wicked,
they do not learn righteousness;
even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil
and do not regard the majesty of the Lord .

Lord , you establish peace for us;
all that we have accomplished you have done for us.

This is a rich chapter. It is a song to be sung when the King reigns in Jerusalem. In that light three phrases caught my attention. First is the phrase, "your name and renown are the desire of our hearts." It makes me wonder how true that is for believers. For myself I have to admit that there are days when the desires of my heart seem to be anything but that. Yet, as someone has suggested, every desire is really a desire for God. As the song goes, "You are the treasure that I seek. You are my all in all." Realizing the vanity of my supposed desires and the truth of who God is allows me to realign my desires. He is my all in all.

Second, is the phrase, "When grace is shown to the wicked, they ... do not regard the majesty of the Lord." I think that we sometimes have the idea that if we could only express the gospel better, if we were only better witnesses, if we were only better examples of the grace of God then people would believe. The truth is, some will never believe no matter how clear the expression of the good news or how clearly they see and understand who God is. The truth is Satan knows the majesty and glory of God better than anyone yet he has deceived himself into believing that he is somehow God's equal. Can we expect any different from those whom he has deceived?

The third phrase that caught my attention is, "all that we have accomplished you have done for us." The truth is, we can do nothing in and of ourselves to the glory of God. We can't change anyone's heart. We can't convince anyone to believe. We can't even change our own hearts. We certainly couldn't save ourselves. But God... That's why he is the desire of my heart, and that's why those caught in the pride of self refuse to believe. It's all about Him.

Father, I take pleasure in you, and you for some reason take pleasure in me. I rest in your grace, and glory in your greatness.

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

Friday, April 20, 2012

Isaiah 25

Isaiah 25:1 NIV

Lord , you are my God;
I will exalt you and praise your name,
for in perfect faithfulness
you have done wonderful things,
things planned long ago.

The greatness of God is seen in his sovereign oversight of creation, the destruction of a sinful city, his provision and protection for the poor, his abundant provision for his people, and ultimately his destruction of death itself.

When we look around at our world we see abundant evidence of the Fall of mankind. We see pain, destruction, poverty and oppression, violence and death. But when we look closer there is also evidence of the goodness of God. We see an unwarranted kindness expressed, a gentle touch, an outpouring of help and provision in the wake of a destructive storm; we see an accident that could have been fatal, a peaceful day that could have been stressful, a lost soul who gives their heart to God, or we hear a "feel good" story that brings tears to our eyes. If we look around we can see the grace and glory of God even in this fallen world. That should move us to worship.

Father, I confess that I too often see the dirt, the pain and the grime of sin and too seldom recognize your sovereign hand of grace behind the scenes. Today I choose to celebrate your greatness.

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

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Isaiah 24

Isaiah 24:5-6 NIV

The earth is defiled by its people;
they have disobeyed the laws,
violated the statutes
and broken the everlasting covenant.

Therefore a curse consumes the earth;
its people must bear their guilt.
Therefore earth's inhabitants are burned up,
and very few are left.

God announces judgment against the whole earth in this chapter. Three things stand out to me in this pronouncement. First, the whole earth was affected but the fall and now the whole earth will be affected by the judgment. Everything is connected. What I do in the privacy of my own home affects others because it affects who I am, what I think and how I view others. There are no closed systems.

Second, rich, poor, king or pauper, everyone will feel the pain of God's judgment. The wealthy have no protection against the judgment. The poor will not be overlooked. Class systems disappear when God's judgment falls.

Third, not only people and creation will be judged.

Isaiah 24:21 NIV

In that day the Lord  will punish
the powers in the heavens above
and the kings on the earth below.

Satan and his demons do not escape. God holds man accountable for his choices and his sin, but the Tempter, the Destroyer, the Deceiver will be judged as well. There is no escaping God's judgment.

This is not happy news, but it is neccesary news. God is a just God. He will not let sin go on forever. There will be a day of accounting. The good news is that there is, after all, a way to escape the judgment. It has nothing to do with stockpiling resources or keeping a low profile. It has everything to do with embracing by faith the fact that God has already poured out his judgment on his Son in our place. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. That's the good news.

Father, thank you that sin will not always prevail. Thank you that you have offered mercy and grace. I pray that my life will reflect that truth. Today may I walk in your freedom and peace.

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

Friday, April 13, 2012

Isaiah 23

Isaiah 23:9, 17-18 NIV

The Lord  Almighty planned it,
to bring down her pride in all her splendor
and to humble all who are renowned on the earth.

At the end of seventy years, the Lord  will deal with Tyre. She will return to her lucrative prostitution and will ply her trade with all the kingdoms on the face of the earth. Yet her profit and her earnings will be set apart for the Lord ; they will not be stored up or hoarded. Her profits will go to those who live before the Lord , for abundant food and fine clothes.

Glory and greatness is no guarantee of perpetuation. Failure and destruction is no guarantee of disappearance and annihilation. Pride, however, is a pretty good indicator of a fall to come. Humility often precedes blessing. Blessing is not for us, but for the glory of the One we serve.

I had a conversation with another pastor yesterday about a "less than ideal" leadership structure in a particular church. He commented that when we were younger we would have felt that we would have needed to wade in and immediately change the leadership structure. Today, as older, more experienced men we realize that there are bigger fish to fry. Looking back I am amazed that, in the arrogance of my youth, God used me at all. Looking forward I just want to finish well in humble dependence on God.

Whether we are talking about a country, a city, a church or ministry, or an individual life, glory and greatness is no guarantee of perpetuation. Failure and destruction is no guarantee of disappearance and annihilation. There are individuals with a lot of money and glory in this world. They are the ones that capture the headlines, but they are not neccesarily the ones that honor God or make the world a better place.

The flip side is that when things look dark we have a tendency to give up. Yet it is often in our darkest times that God's grace shines brightest. It is often through our darkest times that God is preparing us for something great.

Pride and glory seem to be what the world is constantly pursuing. Humility and service is what honors God and what God honors. Father, thank you for your patience with me in my younger, arrogant years. Forgive me for the times I am still proud and arrogant. May I walk in humble dependence today. May I rejoice in your glory rather then mine. Thank you that even when things look dark, I know that you are there. To God be the glory!

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

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Isaiah 22

Isaiah 22:12-13 NIV

The Lord, the Lord  Almighty,
called you on that day
to weep and to wail,
to tear out your hair and put on sackcloth.
But see, there is joy and revelry,
slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep,
eating of meat and drinking of wine!
"Let us eat and drink," you say,
"for tomorrow we die!"

People tend to respond to threats and problems in several ways. Some ignore the problem thinking that the place where they are or the position they hold is safe. It might be the town or country in which they live, the family that surrounds them, or even the government to which they look for security. It could be the job they have, the title they carry or the degrees they have earned that brings them a sense of invincibility. The truth is, none of these things guarantee safety.

In this chapter the "Valley of Vision" is not safe. The very place people go to hear from God is a place in which they are hiding or from which they are fleeing in fear. Likewise, in the end of the chapter the leader that is secure in his position will fall. There is no security in places, positions or people. So what do we do in the face of these insecurities? Evidently the response of some was, "Let's party hard because tomorrow we're going to die."

The proper response would have been repentance, not partying. I hear people boast that they want to go to Hell because that's where all their friends are. That is foolishness. I see believers justify sin because they can't help themselves or because they can always ask for forgiveness. That too is foolishness. Jesus quoted, "You shall not test God." Do we not hear him, or do we just choose to ignore him?

The proper response to pain, threat, trouble, judgement, jeopardy, or simply difficulty in life is to turn toward God, not away from him. In the most vulnerable places and circumstances in life, there is no security anyway but in Him.

Father, I admit that my natural response to problems is often resignation instead of faith. Forgive me. I am surrounded on all sides today by people I love who are hurting, grieving and struggling with death, conflict, and troubles beyond their ability to change. May they find peace, assurance and security in you.

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

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Isaiah 21

Isaiah 21:9, 16-17 NIV

Look, here comes a man in a chariot
with a team of horses.
And he gives back the answer:
'Babylon has fallen, has fallen!
All the images of its gods
lie shattered on the ground!'"

This is what the Lord says to me: "Within one year, as a servant bound by contract would count it, all the splendor of Kedar will come to an end. The survivors of the archers, the warriors of Kedar, will be few." The Lord , the God of Israel, has spoken.

This chapter contains prophecies against Babylon, Edom and Arabia. It is written in picturesque language but the bottom line is the destruction of those who have opposed God and his people, and who have embraced wickedness and false worship. The fall of these nations is sure. Their glory, their strength and their gods have no ability to protect and preserve them when God decides to judge.

As believers we have an enemy. Sometimes it feels like he has the upper hand. Bad things happen. People with no respect for our God or our faith seem to have the upper hand. Laws, policies and procedures are put into place that seem oppose God and His ways. Fear tends to grip our hearts as a result. But the bottom line is that God will judge. The glory, strength and plotting of those deceived by the Evil One will not stand. God never stops being God. The gods of this world will fall.

Father, I confess that I am sometimes inclined to fear and anger instead of faith. Thank you that your truth never changes. Thank you that you will deal with evil. Thank you that I can rest in you and wait.

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

Monday, April 2, 2012

Isaiah 18-20

Isaiah 19:11, 22 NIV

The officials of Zoan are nothing but fools;
the wise counselors of Pharaoh give senseless advice.
How can you say to Pharaoh,
"I am one of the wise men,
a disciple of the ancient kings"?

The Lord will strike Egypt with a plague; he will strike them and heal them. They will turn to the Lord, and he will respond to their pleas and heal them.

Isaiah 20:6 NIV

6 In that day the people who live on this coast will say, 'See what has happened to those we relied on, those we fled to for help and deliverance from the king of Assyria! How then can we escape?'"

Egypt was known for her greatness, wisdom and power. All these failed her when God chose to bring her down. One day she will be restored. When that happens her greatness will not be hers, but God's. When she is restored her wisdom will not be that of her magicians and wise men. It will be God's wisdom. Her power will be found in the blessing of God, not in her own armies. God brought her down and God will one day life her up.

Isaiah 19:21 NIV

So the Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians, and in that day they will acknowledge the Lord. They will worship with sacrifices and grain offerings; they will make vows to the Lord and keep them.

This brings two thoughts to mind. First, you never know whom God will choose to use. In the case of Egypt God choose to bring down to nothing one of the best and brightest from man's perspective. He promises, however, that once he had reduced her glory to nothing he would then rebuild her for his glory.

Second, brokeness is often a significant part of the process. God can use anyone from the greatest to the least in man's eyes, but they first must be broken before being lifted up for his glory. As believers we tend to have preconceptions about the kinds of people that are open to the gospel. Our preconceptions are often wrong. Those we think would make "good Christians" might never be broken enough to be used of God. Others that we would never expect to respond might actually be in the preparation process for greatness in the Kingdom.

This is a good reminder not to make assumptions about who might be open to the gospel. It is also a great reminder not to become to enamored with our own "greatness." Our greatness is only as great as the God or gods we serve.

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...