Category: Isaiah (Page 1 of 11)

Those Who Expect the Dawn

“To be a Christian is to live every day of our lives in solidarity with those who sit in the darkness and in the shadow of death, but to live in the unshakable hope of those who expect the dawn.”
~ Fleming Rutledge, Advent

The Advent season is the beginning of the Christian calendar; last Sunday was New Year’s Day for followers of Jesus. And the season is intended to remind us that we live between the First and Second Comings.

The Christmas season is unquestionably a time of great joy. We celebrate the coming of our  Messiah, the holy Son of God. He comes to us in a flesh-and-blood human, the ultimate inbreaking of heaven into earth that redeems us and begins the restoration of all things. We celebrate that gracious gift of God by giving gifts to one another, by gathering together with family and friends and other Christians to sing and praise, by giving generously to those in need, by decorating our homes and church buildings, by forgiving and showing mercy.

But this Advent season is also a time for painful yearning. Right now, we only see glimpses of the Kingdom of God on earth. The kingdoms of men and women are much more obvious. We see terror and violence in the Holy Lands, war and oppression in Ukraine and Myanmar. Poverty and racism and division. Suicide rates still going up. Our society seems increasingly lost in chaos and confusion, aimlessness and animosity.

This is where we are, between our Lord’s First and Second Comings. The glory of what our God has done and is doing through Christ Jesus calls to us and fills us with hope. But we also mourn for this broken world and for fractured people. We long for God’s perfect justice and peace. We pray for reconciliation and unity, for healing and grace. We long for his Kingdom to come on this earth fully and for his will to be done here just as it is in heaven.

The light dawned on this world in a manger in Bethlehem almost two thousand years ago. And we celebrate.

The dawn is also still coming. And we pray. Lord, come quickly.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned…
They rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest…
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end…
The Zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”
~Isaiah 9:2-7


Peace at Advent

This is the liturgy we are using this Sunday at GCR, the second Sunday of the Advent Season. I’m posting these on each of the four Tuesdays of Advent. Please use this in preparation for this Sunday here in Midland, use this in your own private Word and Prayer time this week, or use this at your own congregation.

In the days when God’s people longed for peace, the prophet declared from Isaiah 2:

In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
as chief among the mountains;
it will be raised over the hills, and all nations will stream to it.
Many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war any more.
Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.
~Isaiah 2:3-5

We who gather today also seek comfort and peace. Yet we are not satisfied with ideas of peace that tell us to just keep quiet and go with the flow. We long for real peace, true peace, just peace. The peace promised by our Lord Jesus in John 14:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
~John 14:27

Congregation: We wait as people who yearn for the perfect peace that bears the Kingdom of God fruit of community, equity, and flourishing for all people.

We light this candle as a symbol of God’s perfect peace. May this be a beacon calling us to repent and to live the Good News of Jesus Christ, as we wait and work for the day when all people can gather to worship and glorify God together. Amen.

The Creator is Still Creating

The word “create” is used six times in Genesis 1-2. It’s used seventeen times in Isaiah.

In Isaiah, God’s prophet is speaking to God’s people who are living in a dark and dreadful place. Because of their sin, they have been separated from the place God put them. They’ve been scattered and driven away by the Babylonian Empire. They’re living in exile in a foreign land. But God promises that because he created them and saved them and because he loves them, he’s going to create in them and for them something brand new.

“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,
or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?
Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket
or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?…
…Do you not know? Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood since the earth was founded?…
…Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry hosts one by one, and calls them each by name…
…Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth!”
~Isaiah 40:12-28

The Spirit of God who hovered over the deep darkness in the beginning continues to move, he continues to create. Genesis 1-2 is not just telling us how the world began. It’s not just an origin story to tell us how the sun was made and how the elephant got its name. It is a testimony to the ongoing creation work of God’s Spirit in our world right now.

“The poor and needy search for water, but there is none;
their tongues are parched with thirst.
But I, the Lord, will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs.
I will put in the desert the cedar and acacia, the myrtle and the olive.
I will set pines in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together,
so that people may see and know, may consider and understand,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
that the Holy One of Israel has created it.”
~Isaiah 41:17-20

The word “create” is not just what God did one time for one week a long time ago. “Create” is what God does today for his saved and called people. The men and women he has placed on this earth and given life and purpose — God creates in them and for them still!

“This is what God the Lord says —
he who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it,
who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it:
I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand…
…See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare!
Before they spring into being I announce them to you!”
~Isaiah 42:5-9

God’s people felt so uncreated in captivity. They felt so empty and dark, so unformed and unfit for where they were and what was happening around them and to them. Isaiah brings every detail of the Genesis creation stories right into the present, right into their lives and their place right now. God reminds his people, “Hey, I’m the Creator! I make brand new things out of nothing! I shine light into darkness! I bring life to where there isn’t any!”

“Everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made…
…I am the Lord, your Holy One, Israel’s Creator, your King.”
~Isaiah 43:7, 15

This is creation language from Genesis. I made you. I formed you. I created you. You don’t think I can do it again?

“I have made you, you are my servant;
O Israel, I will not forget you.
I have swept away your offenses like a cloud,
your sins like the morning mist.
Return to me, for I have redeemed you…
…This is what the Lord says — your Redeemer who formed you in the womb:
I am the Lord, who has made all things,
who alone stretched out the heavens,
who spread out the earth by myself.”
~Isaiah 44:21-24

Nothing Israel could do was going to make any difference. God’s people were standing around empty-handed and confused. It was dark and they were dead. They were helpless. Hopeless. Nothing made sense anymore. Everything they were experiencing was totally foreign from what they thought they knew. The only hope they had was for God to do in them and for them something only God can do: create.

“Behold! I will create new heavens and a new earth!
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind!
But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy.
I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people;
the sound of weeping and crying will be heard in it no more.”
~Isaiah 65:17-19

God, create in us something new. Breathe in us, O God. Form us. Make us. Bring to us your light and life. Create in us your Spirit and your holy image.

God’s Spirit is near. God’s Spirit is hovering over our darkness and emptiness and our sins. God’s Spirit is moving.



A Talking God

One of the main things that makes our God THE GOD is that he talks. It’s one of the biggest things that distinguishes our God from all the other gods – he speaks. God has a voice and he uses it. We don’t always think about that. When we’re asked to articulate God’s uniqueness, we’ll point to his holiness, his righteousness, his power, his love in coming to us in Jesus. The fact that God speaks isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind. But our God is a talking God. And that’s different.

God said. God said. How many times in the Bible, over and over again? God said. We shouldn’t take that for granted.

Throughout Scripture, the prophets ridiculed those who worshiped anyone or anything but the Lord. “You make those idols out of wood and stone! That’s not God! That’s not real!”

How do you know?

“Because the wood and the stone don’t speak. Our God speaks!”

1 Corinthians 12 refers to “speechless idols.” If your god isn’t talking to you, he isn’t really a God.

In the other world religions, you’ll notice the gods don’t speak. You don’t hear testimonies about how their gods interact with them personally. The God of the Bible talks. He talks all the time. To us.

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.'” ~Isaiah 30:21

A lot of us are trying to have a relationship with God in a monologue. You’re doing all the talking! In fact, some of us have said and taught – a lot of us have been taught! – that after the Bible was finished, when the Scriptures were finally all written, collected, and compiled, God stopped talking. Everything God wants us to know and do is in the Bible. It’s done. So for two-thousand years, God has been giving his children the silent treatment.

Some of us say, “Well, I’ve never heard God speak, so my experience must be normal.” And that drives us to call people who talk to God pray-ers and people who hear God talk weirdos. There’s one problem with that: it’s not God’s nature to be silent. It’s not his essence. It’s not personal and it’s not biblical if God’s not talking.


So, the Stars lose game one, they lose home ice advantage, and they lose Joe Pavelski. I’m calling a huge bounce back win tonight. Minnesota has accomplished their goal by winning one in Dallas, they’ll be feeling a bit more accomplished, and the Stars will be playing with much more desperation. Dallas is the more talented team and that will show tonight, by two or three goals. I’m calling it 4-1 or 5-2, something like that.

Go Stars.


No Solo Missions

Our God is on a mission to save the world. But he has no interest in doing it by himself. God doesn’t do solo missions. He’s not interested in that.

When God decides to tell us how he’s going to restore the world, how he’s going to fix the problem of sin and death, he lets us know clearly that we’re in on it with him. He’s not going to do it alone. He recruits Abraham to join him. “Go to the place I will show you. All the peoples of earth will be blessed through you.”

God calls Moses. “I have come down,” he says, “to rescue my people. But I am sending you to do it.”

God calls Joshua. “I am giving this promised land to the people. But you’re going to lead them and do all the fighting.”

God saves his people Israel out of exile, not for their own sakes, but for the purposes of participating in his global mission:

“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles (nations), that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” ~Isaiah 49:6

Then God decides to show us in person exactly what he’s doing and how he wants it done by coming here in the flesh and blood of Jesus, so we can see it and understand it. Jesus says, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” Well, what do we see in Jesus? He calls the apostles and recruits the disciples to partner with him in bringing the Kingdom of God to earth. They pray together, “Your Kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” And that’s exactly what happens.

Jesus heals the sick because there’s no disease in heaven. He feeds the poor because there’s no hunger in heaven. Jesus raises the dead because there are no cemeteries in heaven. He turns the other cheek because there is no violence in heaven. He eats and drinks with everybody because there are no divisions between people in heaven. That’s the mission. And our God is not doing it solo. On that last night, Christ Jesus sends his disciples out.

“As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.”

“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do the same things I’ve been doing. In fact, you’ll do even greater things because I will live inside you.” 

“Remember, you didn’t choose me; I chose you!”

Every one of us is on God’s mission. None of us is exempt. According to Matthew 25, Jesus says on that last day the King is going to judge us according to who was on the mission and who wasn’t. Our God is on a mission to bring the fullness of his eternal Kingdom to this earth. And he refuses to do it by himself.



Second Candle – PEACE

We are observing Advent together here at GCR as a tangible way to participate in the Gospel story, as an active way to “remember.” Each Tuesday I’ll be posting here the liturgy we’re using the coming Sunday.

Today we light the second candle of Advent, the candle that represents peace.
This candle is also purple, which stands for our spiritual preparation for the coming of Christ.
Today we remember that Christ Jesus is the only source of true peace.
We resolve to make peace in our families and in this community of faith.
We pray for the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts and in this world.
And we prepare to welcome God’s peace on earth and into our lives.

Isaiah 9:6-7



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