Friday, August 31, 2012

Isaiah 63

Isaiah 63:9, 10, 17 NIV

In all their distress he too was distressed,
and the angel of his presence saved them.
In his love and mercy he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them
all the days of old.
Yet they rebelled
and grieved his Holy Spirit.
So he turned and became their enemy
and he himself fought against them.

Why, Lord , do you make us wander from your ways
and harden our hearts so we do not revere you?
Return for the sake of your servants,
the tribes that are your inheritance.

In this chapter God is described as a deliverer who has single-handedly delivered his people from their enemies. In picturing this victory and the events that led up to it three thoughts stand out to me. First, in their distress "he too was distressed." I think we forget that our sin grieves God. The pain we experience when we are disciplined hurts God. God takes no pleasure in seeing his people suffer. Like a parent who disciplines his child but takes no pleasure in it, so God disciplines his people, but he does not enjoy watching them suffer.

Second, the discipline they are experiencing is well deserved. Despite experiencing God's greatness, glory and grace they rebelled. They grieved his Spirit. They did not listen to their God and so he disciplined them. Discipline is always for our own good, but we often fail to accept our responsibility in the matter.

That leads to the third thought. Israel seems to be blaming God for their suffering. "Why, Lord , do you ... harden our hearts so we do not revere you?" Now it's God's fault that they don't listen? People have an incredible ability to blame God, circumstances and other people for their own bad behavior.

Father, forgive me for the times I have neglected to take responsibility for my own sin. Forgive me especially for blaming you. Today may I walk in transparency and honesty before you. When you discipline me may I listen quickly. When I fall may I admit it immediately. I recognize that my sin grieves you. Today may I honor you, not grieve you.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Isaiah 62

Isaiah 62:6, 10 NIV

I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem;
they will never be silent day or night.
You who call on the Lord ,
give yourselves no rest,

Pass through, pass through the gates!
Prepare the way for the people.
Build up, build up the highway!
Remove the stones.
Raise a banner for the nations.

Jerusalem will one day be restored as the glorious city of the Lord. The kings of the earth will see her glory. She will be "a crown of splendor in the Lord 's hand, a royal diadem in the hand of [her] God." So what does that have to do with me? The two verses above give us two applications. First, we need to be praying for the restoration of Jerusalem." Second, we need to be working to prepare the way. "Prepare the way for the people."

Praying for Israel and Jerusalem I understand. I'm a little more uncertain about what it means to prepare the way. Is this about supporting the political entity called Israel? Is this about financially supporting Israel? Is this about taking the gospel to Israel and surrounding areas? Is that simply about promoting the gospel and making disciples wherever we are? I'm not sure, but my guess is that it is some kind of combination of those things. What I do know is that ultimately Israel's hope is in the discovery of her Messiah, Jesus.

Father, forgive me for my prayerlessness, and particularly for my prayerlessness regarding Israel. By your grace I will add Israel and Jerusalem to my pray and watch list. May I be faithful in calling on you in this matter.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Isaiah 61

Isaiah 61:1 NIV

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord  is on me,
because the Lord  has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,

While proclaiming good news to the poor, binding up the brokenhearted and proclaiming freedom for captives is a commendable thing, this verse is not a commendation of, nor a call to justice ministries. The people of God are about to experience God's discipline. As a result, they will be the poor, the brokenhearted and the captives. This chapter is a promise. When God disciplines his people it is only temporary.

God's discipline is for the purpose of restoration, not punishment. God's patience was long with those who were offending his law. God may have taken a long time sending his judgment, but it's coming was sure and certain. His future blessing was just as certain.

When in the midst of discipline it is sometimes easy to feel like we are not loved. The discipline feels harsh from our perspective. The reality is that the discipline is rarely as severe as we deserve. God's love for us never falters. His purpose never fades. His promise of blessing never wavers. Discipline is for the purpose of restoration and that is exactly what he will do with his people.

Father, when I am disciplining may I never forget this. May I always discipline with your heart and your purposes. When I am being disciplined may I humbly receive the discipline and come back to your heart quickly. Your love never fails.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Monday, August 27, 2012

Isaiah 60

Isaiah 60:2-3, 10 NIV

See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord  rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

"Foreigners will rebuild your walls,
and their kings will serve you.
Though in anger I struck you,
in favor I will show you compassion.

This chapter is a promise that Israel is still waiting to see fulfilled. They have experienced God's discipline, but his full blessing is still coming. In the darkness of the world Israel's light will shine even brighter. Nations will be drawn to her glory. These are not empty words of encouragement. God will one day cause this chapter to be quite literally fulfilled. The world will look to Israel for their hope.

In the mean time the church has the hope of the world to offer. These verses, on being the light to which a dark world is attracted, cause me to think of our own present responsibility in the world. Jesus said, "I am the light of the world." He also said, "You are the light of the world." We are the presence of Christ and the light of Christ in our world. One day Jesus will reign in Jerusalem. One day Israel will be the light of the world. One day the nations who lie in darkness will come to the light of her truth. But today we are the light of the world.

Our world lies in darkness and we are sometimes intimidated by that. But light is never intimidated by darkness. Darkness always flees from the light. While we are waiting for the fulfillment of this day, God has called us to carry the hope and light of his gospel to a dark world.

Father, forgive me for the times I have been intimidated by the darkness around me. Paul sitting in the Philippian jail was not intimidated by the darkness. He sang songs of praise and the light of the gospel shown clearly. May that be true of my life as well. And, as you have instructed us to pray for Israel, I pray that you will come quickly and fulfill your promise to your people.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Friday, August 24, 2012

Isaiah 59

Isaiah 59:15-16 NIV

Truth is nowhere to be found,
and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.
The Lord  looked and was displeased
that there was no justice.
He saw that there was no one,
he was appalled that there was no one to intervene;
so his own arm achieved salvation for him,
and his own righteousness sustained him.

The "People of God" are not people of God at all. Their way is filled with violence, injustice and wickedness. Those few who attempt to avoid evil are taken advantage of by others. God is not only displeased, he is appalled. God's people are supposed to be the representatives of God on this earth. They are supposed to express and reflect his glory. They are intended to be a light to the nations, a flicker of hope, decency and sanity in an otherwise dark world. Instead they have embraced the darkness and there is no light.

How does God respond. Does he just give up? Does he choose to destroy Israel and start over like he suggested once to Moses? No! He sends a redeemer.

Isaiah 59:20 NIV

"The Redeemer will come to Zion,
to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,"
declares the Lord .

That is mercy and grace. That is the nature and character of the God we serve. He will not allow his glory to be drug through the mud of sin and selfishness. Neither will he allow those created in his image to go on without hope. He provides redemption when all hope appears to be lost. He provides a redeemer when one is not deserved.

Father, I confess that I do not deserve your grace and mercy. Too often my life is characterized much more by the sin you describe in this chapter than by a holiness that reflects your glory. Yet, you sent your redeemer. In him I trust. Today may my life reflect your grace and mercy.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Isaiah 58

Isaiah 58:2-3 NIV

For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
'Why have we fasted,' they say,
'and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?'
"Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.

When I read Isaiah 58:2 I thought, "That's the kind of church I want to be a part of. Those are the people of God I want to hang with." "They seem eager to know my ways ... they ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them," the verse says. But as I read on I realized that the key word is "seem." It doesn't say that they are eager but that they seem eager. Reading through the chapter one quickly comes to realize that there is an hypocrisy prevalent in the lives of these people. What they seem to be is not what they are.

They have come to understand the spiritual discipline of fasting as some kind of magical means by which to manipulate God into doing what they want. When they don't get their wish they respond, "Why have we fasted ... and you have not seen it?" The truth is, their fasting is impotent because their lives are inconsistent with what they say they desire and believe. They fast for justice but dispense injustice. Their lack of ethical behavior nullifies their supposedly spiritual activities.

It's easy to point fingers at a group of people that lived several millennia ago. Yet, this is precisely the same issue many of us face today. Do our lives match our lips? It's easy to talk holiness, justice, righteousness and truth. Do we live it? That's the real question.

Father, forgive me for my own hypocrisy. Today may I live what I say I believe.

By His grace,
Rick weinert

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Isaiah 57

Isaiah 57:13, 20-21 NIV

When you cry out for help,
let your collection of idols save you!
The wind will carry all of them off,
a mere breath will blow them away.
But whoever takes refuge in me
will inherit the land
and possess my holy mountain."

But the wicked are like the tossing sea,
which cannot rest,
whose waves cast up mire and mud.
"There is no peace," says my God, "for the wicked."

Even in death the righteous find peace. The wicked have no such hope. Their idols are helpless, hopeless and powerless. There comes a point after which it is too late to ask for help. Israel had reached that point. Were there still some righteous individuals among "God's people"? Yes! Would they be spared when judgment came against Israel? Maybe, but this chapter begins with the reminder that, "the righteous are taken away
to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death." Isaiah 57:1b-2 NIV

By way of contrast, the wicked, even if their lives are spared, find no rest. An idol is anything other than God to which we look for security, significance and satisfaction. Money can be an idol. Education, jobs and careers, families, people, a privileged position in society or a false religion can be an idol. Our husband or wife can be an idol if we think that they can I somehow bring us peace apart from God. The truth is that trusting any of those things for security, significance and satisfaction in life is like trusting your life to a boat full of holes on the sea of life.

Father, forgive me for the times I have looked to people, places, things or events to provide for me what only you can truly offer. Thank you that it is not yet too late to cry out to you for help. Thank you that in you I have a hope that goes beyond this life. Today may I walk in the peace of righteousness that you give.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Isaiah 56

Isaiah 56:3, 10 NIV

Let no foreigner who is bound to the Lord  say,
"The Lord  will surely exclude me from his people."
And let no eunuch complain,
"I am only a dry tree."

Israel's watchmen are blind,
they all lack knowledge;
they are all mute dogs,
they cannot bark;

In this chapter we discover that those who are unacceptable according to law and society will become acceptable to God. Those who are, or ought to be, considered acceptable are described as blind and as useless as a mute guard dog. It makes me wonder whether Jesus had this chapter in mind when he called the Pharisees white washed tombs. Was he thinking of theses verses when he told the demoniac who had been living in the tombs to go throughout Decapolis telling what Jesus had done for him?

Israel had come to believe that because they had the law and the temple then all was right with God. God's message to them is that they are mistaken. I fear that we, as 21st century American believers, sometimes fall into that same trap. Jesus said that a prophet is not without honor except in his own home. I think it is also true that a drunk, a womanizer, a druggie, a "rough" individual is immediately categorized and not reached out to because of their history. Yet, Jesus was a friend of sinners. Jesus looked to fishermen, zealots and tax collectors to be the foundation of the church.

This chapter in Isaiah tells us that those who are considered unacceptable will be completely acceptable and blessed by God while the "clean" ones will be disciplined. Father, forgive me for making assumptions about people or avoiding them because of their history. Today may I see people through your eyes.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Monday, August 20, 2012

Isaiah 55

Isaiah 55:7-8 NIV

Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord , and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the Lord .

This chapter contains a free invitation and a promise of both broad influence and great blessing all grounded in the truth that God's ways are not our ways. The invitation is free. If you recognize your thirst, hunger and poverty you are invited to come drink freely. There are no hidden user fees, and no taxes and penalties. The invitation is to come and drink freely. The tab has been picked up by God himself. This is the good news we have to offer the world.

The broad influence promised is the influence of that good news. People from every corner of the earth will come to drink of this free water. The great blessing is the fulfilling of God's kingdom that we anticipate. We deserve neither the influence nor the blessing. They are a part of the free invitation and grounded in the amazing truth that God's ways are not our ways. His word will accomplish what he desires and no one can thwart it.

Do we have an enemy? Yes, but God's word is more powerful. The invitation has gone out. God's word will do it's work. God's plan is nothing like how we would do things, but he will accomplish his purpose and we have the privilege of being a part of it.

Father, thank you for your word and your promise. Open the eyes of those around under me to recognize their own spiritual thirst. May I have the privilege of passing out the invitations to come and drink of your free water to those who come.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Friday, August 17, 2012

Isaiah 54

Isaiah 54:3, 5, 15 NIV

For you will spread out to the right and to the left;
your descendants will dispossess nations
and settle in their desolate cities.

For your Maker is your husband—
the Lord  Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
he is called the God of all the earth.

If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing;
whoever attacks you will surrender to you.

Three thoughts occur to me as I read through this passage. First is the promise that Israel will "spread out."  As the people of God, she will grow. Jesus said a similar thing about the church.

Matthew 16:18b NIV

"I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."

I think that we sometimes read that verse as, "I will gather my church and the armies of Hades will not overcome it's gates." We have begun to think of the church as the wagon train circling it's wagons in the fear of attack, hoping that the cavalry comes soon. But the church is the cavalry. We have the weapons of warfare described in Ephesians 6 as the "full armor of God." That armor contains the offensive weapons of the Word of God and prayer. The church will grow. The church will expand. The church will storm the gates of Hell and rescue many.

The second thought in Isaiah 54 is foundational to the fulfillment of the first. God is "God of all the earth." That is a revolutionary thought. The gods of the nations were considered territorial. There was a god or gods of Babylon, of Assyria and of Egypt. Israel's god was considered powerful in Israel. When one nation would attack another the winner would consider their god superior to the local god they conquered. But God is not a territorial god. He is God of all the earth. No matter where his people would go into captivity he would be there. No matter how impressive their enemies, God is bigger. He is God of all the earth and there will be a day when all the earth will recognize that truth.

Third, not all attacks come from God. He says in verse 15, "If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you." Israel had not been walking according to the covenant. As a result, God had been disciplining them. They needed to understand, however, that when god restores them he would not discipline them like this again, and that any attack against them will be unsuccessful. Revelation 20 describes it this way:

Revelation 20:9 NIV

They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God's people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them.

Not every bad thing that happens to God's people is a discipline from him. We are in his hands, and under his protection. We can rest in that assurance because he is the God of the whole earth, and he will build his church.

Father, thank you for that assurance. Forgive me for the times I have allowed fear and unbelief to rule in my heart. Today may I rest in your unfailing love and purpose.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Isaiah 53

Isaiah 53:5, 10 NIV

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

Yet it was the Lord 's will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord  makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord  will prosper in his hand.

From a New Testament perspective it is easy to see that the one described in this chapter is Jesus. It was the Lord's will to crush him for our iniquities, our sins. It was through his death that we are able to find life. Because his life became an offering for sin he is able to see his offspring. This is an incredible truth. I understand how a mother might starve herself in order to feed her children, but for God to willing crush his son in order to save us, his enemies...  That leaves me speechless.

In our egocentric, I'm okay, you're okay, everybody is a winner world the idea of not deserving God's forgiveness is becoming a foreign, almost incomprehensible concept. How do we communicate the truth that we are all despicable in the sight of God and worthy of Hell to a generation that has been trained to believe they can do no wrong?

I have heard people say that they have a higher level of morality than God because they would never allow their son to suffer like God did. That statement reveals the truth that they do not understand the depth of depravity to which we have fallen, or the height of glory for which God created mankind. Therefore, they cannot understand the love that would willing send a son to die in order to restore order.

Father, thank you for your loving grace that intentionally sent your son to die for me. Open the hearts of a new generation to see, understand and come to trust you. May the older generation embrace this truth as well. Forgive us for inoculating our children against the gospel.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Isaiah 52

Isaiah 52:9, 11 NIV

Burst into songs of joy together,
you ruins of Jerusalem,
for the Lord  has comforted his people,
he has redeemed Jerusalem.

Depart, depart, go out from there!
Touch no unclean thing!
Come out from it and be pure,
you who carry the articles of the Lord 's house.

Two things are going on in this chapter. First is a promise of restoration to Israel. They are to take hope in God's promise of future privilege. This chapter is a call to live and act as ones who will be restored. Too often we live and act as those who have no hope. We live as if we must be resigned to failure for eternity. We look as if there is no hope beyond this life and not much hope here either. We talk as ones destined to failure but we'll keep trying anyway. We often act as though Eeyore is our patron saint. This chapter is a call to joyful holiness because of God's promise. If we really understood what we have in Christ I am convinced that joyful holiness rather than mournful resignation would be the chief characteristic of our lives.

That brings us to the second thing going on in this chapter. The last few verses are a description of a suffering servant.

Isaiah 52:14-15 NIV

Just as there were many who were appalled at him—
his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
and his form marred beyond human likeness—
so he will sprinkle many nations,
and kings will shut their mouths because of him.
For what they were not told, they will see,
and what they have not heard, they will understand.

When Jesus was beaten and nailed to the cross people were appalled at his appearance, but because of his death and resurrection he will "sprinkle many nations." The good news of God, which was primarily held by and for the Jews, is not just for them. The restoration that brings joyful holiness is available to all. And so we find verse 7:

Isaiah 52:7 NIV

How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
"Your God reigns!"

Father, I confess that I too often resemble Eeyore more than I resemble Jesus. Forgive me. Today may I live in the joyful holiness of hope in Christ, and my I be a clear testimony of your grace.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Isaiah 51

Isaiah 51:6-7, 17 NIV

Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
look at the earth beneath;
the heavens will vanish like smoke,
the earth will wear out like a garment
and its inhabitants die like flies.
But my salvation will last forever,
my righteousness will never fail.
"Hear me, you who know what is right,
you people who have taken my instruction to heart:
Do not fear the reproach of mere mortals
or be terrified by their insults.

Awake, awake!
Rise up, Jerusalem,
you who have drunk from the hand of the Lord
the cup of his wrath,
you who have drained to its dregs
the goblet that makes people stagger.

Experience does not equal truth. Israel had drunk deeply from the cup of God's wrath. That did not mean that he had rejected her. It did not mean that he did not love her. It did not mean that he had given up on her, or that he had forgotten his promises to Abraham. I'm sure it felt that way to those people who were experiencing God's discipline, but experience does not equal truth.

The problem with experience is that it is so limited. Experience is only past and present. We serve a God of the past, present and future. He sees what we can only dream of. He knows what we can only hope for. The earth and sky seem to us to be the most permanent things in our experience, yet God says that they will wear out and vanish, "But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail."

God says that there will be a day when Israel's experience of God's blessing will outlast the earth. He says that there will be a day when they will never again experience his discipline. He says that there is coming a day when the enemies they fear will be trampled down and destroyed, but Israel will flourish.

As believers we are not people who live according to experience, but people who walk by faith. We look not to what we see and hear, but to what God promises. We live in the clarity of hope that comes from the promises of God despite the fog of our experience. Like a pilot flying by instrument, we keep our eyes fixed on the Word of God, not the cloud and the darkness through which we're flying.

Father, experience is often so much more real to me than the truth of your word. Yet I know where truth is found. Today may I fly by your instruments and not become disoriented by the fog of experience that surrounds me.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Friday, August 10, 2012

Isaiah 50

Isaiah 50:10-11 NIV

Who among you fears the Lord
and obeys the word of his servant?
Let the one who walks in the dark,
who has no light,
trust in the name of the Lord
and rely on their God. But now, all you who light fires
and provide yourselves with flaming torches,
go, walk in the light of your fires
and of the torches you have set ablaze.
This is what you shall receive from my hand:
You will lie down in torment.

As a people, Israel had not listened to her God. In contrast, the prophet, though listening to God, has been rejected and abused by Israel. This chapter then ends with the challenge of the verses quoted above. If you are walking in darkness, as the prophet is, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on God. But what do we do? We try to light our own fires. We try to produce our own light when God's light isn't visible. We seek our own answers and solutions. The result? Darkness. "You will lie down in torment."  Darkness in the hands of God is always better than our own imitation light which leads to darkness with no hope.

Following God, walking with God, is a walk of faith. Why is it that we consistently seem to think that we somehow need to come up with our own solutions? That didn't work for Samson. It didn't work for King Saul. It didn't work for the people of Israel. Yet, we seem to naturally default to second class solutions because we're not willing to trust God in the dark.

Father, forgive me for my lack of faith. In the next dark valley, through which you call me to walk, may I trust your faithful hand to guide me rather than trying to come up with my own torch.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Friday, August 3, 2012

Isaiah 49

Isaiah 49:23 NIV

Kings will be your foster fathers,
and their queens your nursing mothers.
They will bow down before you with their faces to the ground;
they will lick the dust at your feet.
Then you will know that I am the Lord ;
those who hope in me will not be disappointed."

This chapter is a message of encouragement and hope. Israel has been told that they will be judged. They are discouraged. Things are not going well. The question that comes to mind is: Where is God?

They are God's chosen people, but it certainly doesn't feel that way to them at the moment. They feel abandoned, rejected, hopeless, helpless and worthless. God's assurance in this chapter is that none of that is true. They may be disciplined, but they are not rejected and abandoned. Even if a nursing mother could abandon her child God will never abandon Israel. They may experience scattering and destruction, but they are not helpless and hopeless. God will exalt them in the eyes of all the nations. Kings will stand in their honor. They may feel worthless, being despised and abhorred by others, but God will restore them and swell their numbers to such an extent that they won't have enough room to contain all the people. He will make them great.

Sometimes hoping in God feels pointless. Sometimes is feels as if God is not there at all. But that's the lie. God loves his people. His discipline is not an act of rejection but an expression of love. God will keep his word and honor his chosen ones. That's the truth.

Father, forgive me for the times that in my frustration, fear and emotional stress I have given in to the lie. Thank you that you have given us your word; you will never abandon your own. I stand on that promise and look anxiously for your redemption.

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...