Friday, June 22, 2012

Isaiah 41

Isaiah 41:10, 29 NIV

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

See, they are all false!
Their deeds amount to nothing;
their images are but wind and confusion.

"Do not fear." There will be opposition, but do not fear. There will be armies who come against you, but do not fear. There will be spiritual powers that oppose you, but do not fear. The gods of this world are nothing. They cannot know the future. Their images are just images. Their power is built on lies. They offer nothing but "wind and confusion."

But God... God is the one who knows the end from the beginning. God is the one who acts. He is the one who sends forth armies. He is the one who protects his people. He is the one who will strengthen those who are weak. God's provision and protection is not based on the greatness of those he is protecting but on his own power and compassion. Israel may be small and Jacob a worm, but God will help them (see verse 14).

Father, forgive us. Far too often we default to thinking that we need to be strong for you. In fact, you are strong for us. We are weak. We are impotent. We are worms, but you are God. Forgive us for the fear that we have too often let control and manipulate us. We are nothing, the armies of this world are nothing, and the gods of this world are nothing. In you we find hope, strength and power.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Isaiah 40

Isaiah 40:5, 11 NIV

And the glory of the Lord  will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord  has spoken."

He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.

Twice in this chapter we are asked to whom we can compare God. Between those two instances lie some of my favorite picturesque expressions of the greatness of God that we find in the Bible. God is compared to other gods, to people, to creation, and to the nations, but nothing comes close to God. He is so great that if we were to take all the wood of Lebanon to build altar fires and all the animals of the forests there for sacrifices it would never be enough. He is so great that the nations are like a drop in a bucket. Other gods are formed by men, but God formed men. He is a god of glory and his glory will be revealed.

Amazingly though, this chapter is not about the glory of God. It is about the comfort of God's people. Wrapped around this expression of the greatness and glory of God is the assurance that the suffering and discipline of his people will end. He will tend his flock and carry them close to his heart. He will give strength to the weary and increase the power of the weak. It is the power and glory of our God that guarantees our comfort, our strength and our hope.

Isaiah 40:31 NIV

but those who hope 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 be faint.

Father, thank you that connected to some of my favorite expressions of your greatness I find some of my favorite expressions of your sustaining strength. Forgive me for often allowing circumstances and people to loom larger in my eyes than you. It is in your greatness and glory that I find hope, strength and rest.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Isaiah 39

Isaiah 39:4 NIV

The prophet asked, "What did they see in your palace?"
"They saw everything in my palace," Hezekiah said. "There is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them."

Ego, lack of discernment, and shortsightedness show up in Hezekiah in the 8 verses that follow his song of praise and humility about his healing. Just when we thought that Hezekiah might be poised for a great finish; remember his words in Isaiah 38:15 "He has spoken to me, and he himself has done this. I will walk humbly all my years..."? Just when we thought that he was poised for a great finish someone comes along and strokes his ego. How susceptible we are to a little praise and attention.

In the pleasure of the moment he shows a surprising lack of discernment. Hezekiah's eyes are on Assyria as the threat. He never even sees the danger from Babylon, yet it is Babylon that will ravage Jerusalem in the near future. Assyria has already ceased to be a threat, yet this King is looking backwards at yesterday's threats instead of forward to tomorrow's. I see that often in my own life and in the lives of other believers and churches. We are fighting the battles and setting policies for the threats of last year, the last decade, or even the last generation while a very real threat looms before us that we never even recognize. Lord, give us discernment.

Finally, in Hezekiah's ego driven lack of discernment, her makes an even deadlier error. He thinks only of himself and his own personal peace.

Isaiah 39:8 NIV

"The word of the Lord  you have spoken is good," Hezekiah replied. For he thought, "There will be peace and security in my lifetime."

He takes no consideration for the generations to come. When I was a boy my grandfather was planting trees. I could not understand why he would plant trees that he would never see come to maturity. He told me it was for future generations. I couldn't see that far into the future, but he could. Today those trees are beautiful, mature trees that someone he never even knew are enjoying. As believers, and as churches we need to be asking ourselves the question: Are we preparing the next generation or are we satisfied to preserve our own comfortable existence until we're gone?

Father forgive me for the times I have allowed my ego to get in the way. Forgive me for the times I have shown a distinct lack of discernment rather than seeking your guidance. Forgive me especially for the times I have been more interested in my own personal peace and affluence than in the generations to follow me. May my life be characterized by humble discernment, focused on preparing the way for those who will follow.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Isaiah 38

Isaiah 38:15 NIV

But what can I say?
He has spoken to me, and he himself has done this.
I will walk humbly all my years
because of this anguish of my soul.

In this chapter Hezekiah is dying, but in answer to his pleading God extends his life 15 years. Most of the chapter is Hezekiah's response to the news that he will live. In the middle of that response we find the verse listed above. I'm intrigued by his statement, "I will walk humbly all my years." The reality is that didn't happen. Hezekiah's last 15 years were not as spotless as his first years.

Why is it that we feel like some great event will change our lives? Hezekiah's words lie heavy on my ears. It brings to mind all those camp promises to God, all those youth rally commitments, those revival promises that have been broken through the years. Certainly there are appropriate times for commitments to be made, for a new direction in life to be chosen, for faith to be embraced. But the thing that changes lives are not the experiences. They just give us the opportunities for a change of course or for course corrections. The things that change lives are those moment by moment, day by day decisions to do the right thing, embrace truth, walk in light and follow in humble obedience.

I'm sure that Hezekiah was sincere in his belief that because of God healing him, he would walk humbly all his years. Father, I confess that I have often relied on the passing emotion of an experience to carry me forward in faithfulness. I recognize that emotion fades and experience, as great as it is, is not enough. Today may I walk humbly and faithfully by your grace. May I never forget how dependent on you I am.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Isaiah 37

Isaiah 37:18, 30 NIV

"It is true, Lord , that the Assyrian kings have laid waste all these peoples and their lands.

"This will be the sign for you, Hezekiah:
"This year you will eat what grows by itself,
and the second year what springs from that.
But in the third year sow and reap,
plant vineyards and eat their fruit.

Sennacherib, the Assyrian King, was threatening Judah. Many of the threats and taunts his envoy threw at Judah are the same ploys Satan uses. It was true that the Assyrian kings had laid waste many peoples and lands. It is also true that Satan has destroyed many families and individual's lives. But God...

We forget that Satan can do nothing on his own. Because of mankind's rebellion God has given Satan certain freedom to tempt, test, taunt and destroy, but he can never go beyond the bounds set by the Father. He is only a fallen, created being.

In this chapter God promises Judah protection. The protection and restoration will not be immediate, but God will provide and protect. In Israel's case it will take until the third year for things to get back to normal. In the mean time, God will guard them, keep them, provide for them, and eventually make them prosper.

We often want instant and immediate solutions to deep and complex problems. We want a quick fix for a situation it took years to develop. God doesn't often work that way. We dig a hole and ask God to quickly fill it back in when we realize the consequences. God's response has something more in mind than just removing the immediate consequences of our poor choices. He wants us to actually learn, grow and mature through the whole thing. Sooo... "This year you will eat what grows by itself, and the second year what springs from that. But in the third year sow and reap, plant vineyards and eat their fruit."

Father forgive me for my selfish impatience and my lack of faith. Today, in the conflicts and issues of life may I trust that things are never out of your control. May I trust that you ultimately have my best interest in mind. May I rest in your sovereign love and truth.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

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...