Sunday, July 29, 2012

Isaiah 48

Isaiah 48:1-2, 17-18 NIV
"Listen to this, you descendants of Jacob,
you who are called by the name of Israel
and come from the line of Judah,
you who take oaths in the name of the Lord
and invoke the God of Israel—
but not in truth or righteousness—
you who call yourselves citizens of the holy city
and claim to rely on the God of Israel—
the Lord  Almighty is his name:

This is what the Lord  says—
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
"I am the Lord  your God,
who teaches you what is best for you,
who directs you in the way you should go.
If only you had paid attention to my commands,
your peace would have been like a river,
your well-being like the waves of the sea.

"If only..." Those have got to be some of the most distressing words in the English language. "... your peace would have been..." It makes me wonder how often we have come close to blessing only to leave God saying, "If only..." It makes me wonder how many sit in our churches on Sunday morning called by the name of Christ, taking oaths in the name of Christ, "but not in truth or righteousness." It makes me wonder how many prayers have been prayed, "but not in truth or righteousness." It makes me wonder how many call themselves citizens of Heaven and claim to rely of God, but don't.

It causes me to look again at my own life. Has my faith become only words or am I truly trusting God? Have I missed out on seeing God work powerfully in my life or in the lives of others because of my own failure to pay attention to God's commands for and demands on my life? Am I more like Israel than I care to admit?

Father, despite Israel's failure, you chose to use her, protect her, restore her and bless her. I am always amazed by your patience and grace with hardhearted, dull of hearing, self focused people. "Why should he love me so?" becomes my theme song. And yet you love me. Father, forgive me for my own fickleness. Thank you for your grace, mercy, patience and love. Today may I walk with you. Don't allow "what might have been" to be the epitaph of my life.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Isaiah 47

Isaiah 47:1, 7 NIV

"Go down, sit in the dust,
Virgin Daughter Babylon;
sit on the ground without a throne,
queen city of the Babylonians.
No more will you be called
tender or delicate.

You said, 'I am forever—
the eternal queen!'
But you did not consider these things
or reflect on what might happen.

Babylon was the world power in her day. She was big and beautiful. The hanging gardens of Babylon are one of the 12 wonders of the ancient world. She was arrogant, self-sufficient and merciless. God had allowed her to become great. He had used her to judge and discipline his own people. Soon it would be time for her to fall.

How many "great" men have we seen fall in past generations; "self-made" individuals; "A list" men and women whose lives fall apart? Nations rise and fall. Kings, rulers and presidents come and go. Fame and notoriety grows and disappears.  It doesn't matter how confident a person is or how secure a nation appears to be. It doesn't  matter how wealthy, how gifted or how popular they are. Elvis may still be popular, but what good does that popularity do him now? Gifted young actors and athletes lose their lives to drugs, alcohol and violence. Reputations are smeared. Money is wasted and lost. Beauty fades. Memory and clarity of thought dissipates. What then?

Empires crumble. Past glory becomes present tourist attractions. But the security of false hope leads only to dust. Where we place our hope and faith makes all the difference. Israel may have been disciplined but her hope was in God who would restore her. Babylon's hope was in her own greatness and glory. All that came down in a single night when she fell to Persia.

Father, forgive me for how often I look to people, things and circumstances for the hope that only you can give. May I live today with my eyes firmly fixed on you.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Isaiah 46

Isaiah 46:1 NIV

Bel bows down, Nebo stoops low;
their idols are borne by beasts of burden.
The images that are carried about are burdensome,
a burden for the weary.

The gods of the world, their idols, are burdensome. They bring no rest. They offer no release. They are unable to tell the future. They are incapable of hearing and answering prayers. They are created by those who worship them, and then need to be carried about by those who bow down to them. The gods of this world are burdensome.

Whatever gods we serve, whatever we look to for security, significance and satisfaction, are ultimately burdensome. We worry about our bank accounts and our livelihood. We revel in our new car, but then we must buy gas, change oil, perform maintenance, wash it and keep it clean and nice. We glory in our new boat, or motorcycle, or some other toy that we hope will bring us happiness, only to find that it becomes one more thing for us to care for. We work hard to keep young and healthy only to discover that one day we all die. None of these things are self sustaining. None of these things have the ability to hear or answer our cries for help. None of these things can offer the security, significance or satisfaction that only God can provide.

What is amazing is that even while they are off "loving on" these gods of the world, God's love for his people never fades.

Isaiah 46:12-13 NIV

Listen to me, you stubborn-hearted,
you who are now far from my righteousness.

I am bringing my righteousness near,
it is not far away;
and my salvation will not be delayed.
I will grant salvation to Zion,
my splendor to Israel.

Now why would he do that? It is certainly not because Israel has been faithful. They have been running after other gods. It is not because they have recently drawn near to God. Verse 12 says that they are stubborn-hearted and that they are far removed from righteousness. And yet, God says:

Isaiah 46:3-4 NIV

"Listen to me, you descendants of Jacob,
all the remnant of the people of Israel,
you whom I have upheld since your birth,
and have carried since you were born.

Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

God's care for his people is based on the nature and character of God, not on the righteous acts of his people. It is based on his promise, his word and his purposes, not on whether people deserve his care, provision and protection. And he is a God that can actually care for, protect and provide for his people rather than having to be cared for by his people. God, the only true god, made us, carries us, sustains us and rescues us. Do we really want to serve a god we must carry, sustain and rescue?

Father, I confess that I have often looked to the wrong things for my security. Thank you that your care for me is dependent on your character, not on mine. In you in find rest, hope, peace, security and real deliverance.  In you I trust.

By His grace,
Rick weinert

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Isaiah 45

Isaiah 45:4, 6 NIV

For the sake of Jacob my servant,
of Israel my chosen,
I summon you by name
and bestow on you a title of honor,
though you do not acknowledge me.

so that from the rising of the sun
to the place of its setting
people may know there is none besides me.
I am the Lord , and there is no other.

Who is this chosen one of God that he will honor, and through whom the world will know that God is the Lord? It is Cyrus, king of Persia. God says that he will summon and honor Cyrus even though he does not acknowledge God at all. I think that we sometimes get the idea that the accomplishment of God's great purpose is dependent on people of great faith and purity. The truth is that God, who spoke to Balaam through a donkey, can use anyone to accomplish his purposes. That is no excuse for disobedience, but it is grounds to take heart.

The eternal purposes of God are not thwarted if the "wrong" person gets into office. The purposes of God are not thwarted if those in power do not recognize God as Lord. These verses should encourage us to take heart. They should remind us that God is God and that he will accomplish his purposes. They should illuminate us to the truth that God doesn't need people of great personal charisma, passion and power. He simply wants ordinary people to be available. It is all about him, not about us.

The chapter nears its close with these words:

Isaiah 45:21 NIV

Declare what is to be, present it—
let them take counsel together.
Who foretold this long ago,
who declared it from the distant past?
Was it not I, the Lord ?
And there is no God apart from me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
there is none but me.

There is no other god like God. He knows the future from the past. No other god can do that. Yet here is the amazing thing, he is a righteous God and a Savior. Other gods demand service though they do not deserve it. God offers forgiveness though we do not deserve it. What a tremendous God we serve.

Father, forgive me for taking you and your forgiveness for granted. Today may I live in a constant mindset of worship knowing who you are and resting in your gracious salvation and eternal purpose.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Isaiah 44

Isaiah 44:6-7 NIV

"This is what the Lord  says—
Israel's King and Redeemer, the Lord  Almighty:
I am the first and I am the last;
apart from me there is no God. Who then is like me?
Let him proclaim it.
Let him declare and lay out before me
what has happened since I established my ancient people,
and what is yet to come—
yes, let them foretell what will come.

The promises of God our grounded in the person of God. God is the one who formed us. Idols were formed by us. God is the one that created us in his image. Idols and false gods are designed by men in their own image. God knows past, present and future. Idols know nothing. God, who created us and who called out Israel as a special people for himself, promises to restore Judah and Jerusalem. He will do so by turning the King of a foreign country, who serves idols and foreign gods, into his shepherd to protect and provide for his people. What other God can do that?

God says of the one who fashions and then bows down to an idol:

Isaiah 44:20 NIV

"Such a person feeds on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him;
he cannot save himself, or say,
"Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?"

Reading this chapter makes me think about all the gods we have created for ourselves. We have created everything from idols before which we brown down to philosophies of life that ultimately fail us. We feed on ashes and are mislead by a deluded heart. What philosophy can protect you against the wickedness of this world? What god can give you real hope beyond this life? What guru of finance can always be right? What bank account or stash of supplies can protect you when the world falls apart?

Father, thank you for the hope I find in you. You alone can see the end from the beginning. You alone can turn evil into good and ashes into beauty. Your promises are grounded in who you are. Thank you!

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Monday, July 9, 2012

Isaiah 43

Isaiah 43:25 NIV

"I, even I, am he who blots out
your transgressions, for my own sake,
and remembers your sins no more.

This chapter records God's passionate love for his people, promising their restoration. God will bring them together from every corner of the earth, from north, south, east and west. They were created and formed for God's glory. He is the only true God and they are his special people. But...

Israel was created and formed for God's glory and forgiven for her sins yet she has repeatedly and continually ignored God. I know how a grandparent feels when a grandchild won't come to him. I know how a parent feels when a child appears to be headed down a wrong path in life. I know how a spiritual shepherd feels when one under his care makes spiritually destructive decisions with their life. That cannot even come close to how God must feel watching those he created for his glory choose to ignore him, assign his glory to another, and make decisions in life that destructive. Yet God loves them.

Father, I am amazed by you and your love for me. Forgive me for the times I have ignored you. Forgive me for the times I have justified poor decisions. Forgive me for the times I have looked to something else to provide the meaning, significance and security that can ultimately come only from you. Thank you for your overwhelming and unending grace. Today may I listen well to you and walk closely with you.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Isaiah 42

Isaiah 42:6-7, 25 NIV

"I, the Lord , have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

So he poured out on them his burning anger,
the violence of war.
It enveloped them in flames, yet they did not understand;
it consumed them, but they did not take it to heart.

There is so much in this chapter, but at the heart of it, God is not in a panic because of the rebellion of his people. He will open blind eyes. He will lead them and keep them. He will cause them to be a light to the gentiles. How can that be when the chapter ends by saying that no matter how he has disciplined them, they don't take it to heart?

The first five verses of the chapter seem to have the answer. God will send his servant. His Spirit will be upon this servant. The servant will not raise his voice or defend himself, yet he will bring justice to the nations. The God who created, who gave breath and life to all people, the God who stretched out the heavens and brought into existence the earth and all that fills it ... this God will bring it to pass.

There is no panic here, no wringing of hands, no fear of failure. I wonder sometimes whether we really believe that God is in control. I wonder whether we really believe that God can really accomplish what he said he would do. Court decisions are made, ungodly rulers come to power, anti-Christ thinking seems to have taken over and we form our little holy huddles lamenting the fall of civilization as we know it. What happened to, "I will build my church?" What happened to, "I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles?" What happened to, "Nothing can separate you from the love of God?" Do we really believe these promises or are they only good when governments are godly and people are good?

Father, forgive me for the many times I have allowed sight to override faith. Forgive me for the times I have been blind to your plans and purposes. Forgive me for the times that in my blindness I have not listened even in your discipline. Today, may I walk by faith. Today may I rest in your promises. Today may your word and your promises be more real to me than the newspaper and the TV newscaster. Today may I hear your voice clearly and see you with unobstructed vision.

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...