Category: Isaiah (Page 1 of 11)

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



Knowledge of God

According to the Bible, Bible knowledge is not having a grasp of the facts. It’s not being able to recite the names of the apostles or Israel’s kings or knowing how many generations are in the various genealogies. That’s not it. Biblical knowledge, according to Scripture, is a very specific thing: knowing who God is, what God is doing, and how he is doing it in Christ Jesus. That’s knowledge.

“We have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God… for he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” ~Colossians 1:9-14

Knowledge is understanding who God is and what God is doing and how he is doing it in Jesus. It’s knowing that salvation is available for all people in Jesus. It’s understanding that God is bringing all people and all things together in Jesus. That’s the kind of specific knowledge the Bible is talking about. We are told to pursue that knowledge, to gain that knowledge, to grow in that kind of knowledge, what the Bible calls “the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3).

Having that knowledge will keep us from being sucked in to the world’s forms of knowledge and understanding. What the world is doing and how the world is doing it – the values and beliefs and practices of the world, how the world gets things done – those are powerful forces. They are opposing forces. And without the knowledge of God, we can wind up following a mushy K-LOVE kind of shallow sentimentality we can buy at Mardell or a pathway of power and success reinforced by the herds at political rallies and stockbroker meetings.

Christians may not know more than others, but we ought to know better.

Knowledge of God changes everything. Isaiah 11 says when the Kingdom is finally perfected, when God’s holy will has all been finally fulfilled, there will be righteousness and justice and peace for the whole world, because “the earth will be full of the knowledge of God.”



Show People God

“Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.” ~Luke 11:52

The teachers of the law were guilty of prioritizing the letter of the law over the spirit of the law. They knew God’s law front and back, they had it memorized – book, chapter, verse. They could tell you exactly what you could and couldn’t do and what you could wear, what you could say, what you could eat, and who you could be with as you were doing it. Or not doing it. They were strictly enforcing the rules on others and felt no obligation to obey those same rules themselves. They would require certain things of others, but exempt themselves. They acted this way to improve their own position and increase their own power. There’s no love of God, no justice for neighbor.

Jesus says you are keeping people from knowing God. You’re blocking people from knowing who God is and what God is doing in the world. You yourselves don’t know God and the way you keep your thumb on people in the name of religion keeps anybody around you from ever experiencing God.

Jesus came here to reveal to the world who God is and what God is doing. If you want to understand God, you look at Jesus. He said it himself: “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” And we join him in that work. We, too, are called to reveal God to others. But these teachers of the law are doing just the opposite. They’re so concerned about keeping the letter of the law, they’re so consumed with following every tiny detail and making sure others are following it exactly the way they interpret it, they miss God. They turn the commands into their God, they make the Bible their God, and they beat everybody over the head with it.

This could also be a problem for us if we’re not careful. Sometimes we are capable of fostering an environment in our churches, our Bible classes, and our small groups – sometimes you can create this culture just around yourself – so that everybody has to believe everything and practice everything the same way we do. Or the same way you do. We can demand uniform compliance with the way we do things. Or the way I do things. People can walk into our settings and just feel like they’re being watched.

Just like the religious leaders were checking to make sure Jesus washed his hands exactly like they think he should, we can make it our goal to catch people. We catch people doing something wrong so we can wag our fingers in their faces or tell on them behind their backs. We can suffocate the people around us. If we’re not careful, we can straight up condemn people. How in the world are these people going to experience the love and grace and forgiveness of God if we’re acting like this in his name? That’s not him! But we make people think it is.

“Is this the kind of fast I have chosen? Is that what you call a fast? Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him?” ~Isaiah 58:5-7

Our Lord and the Scriptures tell us again and again that it’s not about the fasting or the sacrifices or the details of our worship. It’s not making sure the people around you know the law, it’s making sure the people around you know the Lord.

Show them God. Bring them into the presence of God. Show them his mercy and love. Express to them his grace and forgiveness. Extend to them his joy and acceptance.

Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, forgive without limits, walk the extra mile, give up your coat, and love your enemies. Why? Because, he says, that’s the way of our Father in heaven. Live like this because that’s how God is. Join Jesus in his revelation. Show people God.



Joyful in Our Salvation

“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. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you!” ~ Isaiah 9:2-3

In Isaiah 9, God is speaking through his prophet to a people who have trusted in their own power instead of the Lord’s. They’ve rejected God and his ways. In their own pursuits of power and pleasure, wealth and success, they’ve turned their backs on God and his will for his children. Instead of having the canopy of God’s protection over them, instead of being guided by the pillar of cloud and fire, they are living in darkness. They are in bondage to the Assyrians. They’re destitute. In distress. The very nations they have trusted for protection have now imprisoned them. They’ve been plunged into deep darkness. The land of the valley of the shadow of death kind of darkness.

And the Father in Heaven, our God, the eternal Creator of Heaven and Earth, looks down with compassion on his burdened children and says, “I will not leave them in the darkness.”

In the very places where the Assyrians conquered them, in the very location where the death and destruction began, God says, a new light will dawn. For these people walking in darkness, I will send this great light.

And as a result of God’s gracious intervention, because of God’s generous and merciful act, the people will rejoice.

God’s people will experience great joy and they will rejoice just like farmers after a record-breaking harvest. They will rejoice just like the soldiers after VE Day. The people will rejoice as if a loved one had been raised from the dead, like a Powerball Lottery winner, like a Hail Mary touchdown pass to win the Super Bowl! The people will rejoice!

The yoke will be shattered. The burden will be lifted. The enemy’s tools and weapons will be destroyed. Bright light will shine into the darkness. Victory will come from defeat. Life will spring from death. And the people will rejoice!

When? When is this going to happen? And how? How is God going to accomplish this?

“For to us a child is born. To us a Son is given.” ~Isaiah 9:6

God accomplishes the salvation of the world in the birth of a baby. Immanuel. God with us.

All  of your fears, all of your pains, all of your sins and your brokenness — it’s all met head-on in Jesus Christ and dealt with forever. All your hopes and dreams, everything you know as right and good and true, all your deepest longings — they are all found in Jesus and delivered to you forever. God has been born to us, he has come to us. He made himself subject to all our pain and suffering in order to bring healing and comfort. He became open to loss while he is mighty to save. He is vulnerable to death in order to give eternal life. He walks in your darkness — he walks through your darkness with you — and shines his salvation light.

It is through this Christ, this promised Savior, that God personally gets involved in your situation and fixes it. He enters your mess and makes things right. God in the flesh comes to this earth, in the very place where your brokenness and sickness and sin took over your life and wrecked everything — that’s where the new light dawns! Jesus brings right into your circumstances the eternal Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of everlasting peace, of which there will be no end.

Jesus is born in Bethlehem and the light shines in the darkness. God himself walks our streets and touches our people, he hugs our kids and eats with us and loves us. Distressed people are encouraged when they meet Jesus. Hopeless people are given hope when they encounter this Lord. Prisoners are released, outcasts are brought in, cold people are warmed, hungry people are fed, sick people are made well, sinful people are forgiven, the weak are given power and the tired are made to soar on the wings of eagles! The devil’s grip on God’s people is broken forever! Sin and death and Satan and all the things that work around the clock to separate us from God and from one another are eternally destroyed! That’s the Son of God! That’s our Savior!

To us a child is born! And the people rejoice! They can’t help it!

May we all be joyful in our salvation.



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