Monday, July 16, 2018

TCN's Biblical Journey July 16th

Today's reading is Isaiah 22-26

Too often, prophets are seen as heartless preachers of damnation and judgment. This is not the reality we see in the Bible. More often then not we see the attitude that Isaiah shows in 22:4 "That's why I said, "Leave me alone to weep; do not try to comfort me. Let me cry for my people as I watch them being destroyed"(NLT).

The prophets are portrayed as something they are not. I believe this is done because it is easy to ignore someone who doesn't like you. It is harder to ignore a person who cares about you. 

This is part of the reason why at times Christians are also portrayed as heartless, judgmental people. Yes, some are but they are not the majority. Some may present things badly, but most care deeply and like Isaiah weep over the very people they are trying to warn. They want to see them saved but know that many will reject it. 

To those who weep, don't feel ashamed. Ignore the condemnation and keep speaking the truth (and weep).

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Friday, July 13, 2018

TCN's Biblical Journey July 13

Today's reading is Isaiah 17-21

A prophecy of Judgement, but ...

Here again, we see in the middle of God's judgment a glimmer of hope. "Yet some gleanings will remain" (Isaiah 17:2). It is easy to focus on the destruction, but looking past it, we see hope. This isn't easy if you are the one in the middle of the destruction, but it is there. There is grace and mercy even in the middle of judgment. Over and over this theme is repeated. God is just but he is also merciful and loving.

There is a time to focus on judgment, but today I want to look at mercy because isn't that what we want God to focus on when it comes to dealing with us?

Photo by Dan Kiefer on Unsplash

Thursday, July 12, 2018

TCN's Biblical Journey - July 12th

Today's reading is Isaiah 12-16

"Praise GOD!"

As a result of the events foretold in chapter 11, chapter 12 is a song of praise. For those that have received God's salvation, this song can resound your own feelings. I suppose I could say a lot about this but I want only to point out one thing before I encourage you to read it again. "Surely God is my salvation," God isn't the giver of salvation he is salvation. God is the originator, the provider, the sacrifice, and the fulfiller of it. God is my salvation, nothing else. 

Isa 12:1-6 (KJV)
(1)  And in that day thou shalt say, O LORD, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me.
(2)  Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.
(3)  Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.
(4)  And in that day shall ye say, Praise the LORD, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted.
(5)  Sing unto the LORD; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth.
(6)  Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

TCN's Biblical Journey July 11

Today's reading is Isaiah 7-11

Common, Miracle 

Often in a story, you find something which fits for that situation but is also something which foreshadows something to come. My daughter, Elizabeth, noticed this in a series not long ago, in which a weather vane in a western town had a dragon on it, which showed up at the end of the series. This isn't anything new in fact we see God doing it scripture quite often and we see it here in Isaiah 7:14.

The scripture tells of a young woman conceiving and this was a sign to them that God would bring deliverance. The Hebrew (Old Testament) word Virgin and a young woman are the same but context changes everything. Here it is actually both. For Ahaz, it was a young woman, but for God's covenant people it would be fully realized in a virgin (never been with a man Matthew 1:18-23; Luke 1:34-35). 

God was giving a prophecy not just for that time but was laying the foundation for the greater deliverance that God would bring. This sign (both the first and second) was given not at the request of man but by God himself. Both events, a child born, look from the outside like nothing extraordinary, but they were far more. For the birth of Jesus, it was the event which angels sang and which turned the world upside down, though the world didn't know it at the time. 

For me, this double-sided prophecy demonstrates just how powerful a storyteller God is. 

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TCN's Biblical Journey July 10 - Called to fail?

Today's reading is Isaiah 2-6

"Isaiah, after your done this is it!"

Isaiah 6 is my favorite chapter in the Bible. It recalls Isaiah's vision at the time of King Uzziah's death.

Though some see this as the beginning of Isaiah's call, I disagree. The first chapter says that the times of Isaiah's prophecy was "during the reigns of Uzziah, ..."(1:1). What I see here is a reaffirmation of the call of God and something more a strengthening of Isaiah's constitution for the hard day's ahead. This call isn't something most people would want when looked at in total. This is why, I believe, God gave Isaiah such a dramatic vision.

I could go on for some time about everything I see in Isaiah 6 but first I have to point something out. Often in the west, we look at ministry as a hard but safe profession. We think that if you go into the ministry that everything will grow and prosper after all this is the good news we are preaching. This is not always true. Yes, the church is booming in the third world, but this is after decades, even centuries of mission work where little growth took place (as % of the population). Even Paul's ministry, though growing works all across Asia Minor didn't have a majority. No, I am not saying we should have a defeatist mentality and accept that we can't make a difference, but we do need to be honest. Most of our ministries don't end up turning into megachurches. However, Isaiah was given something much less than we can hope for.

What I want to highlight isn't the vision but the promise God gave to the acceptance of the call. After Isaiah accepts the call, God promises him that he will serve until everything in his country which he loves is destroyed. God promises a tenth, a stump will remain when his ministry is over. Even that bit, though it will grow, will not be seen by Isaiah. This is in Star Trek terms, "The Kobayashi Maru" a no-win scenario (at least from man's perspective).

I just returned from district assembly for my denomination. There was much encouragement on growth (and I believe there should be). The district superintendent made it clear he didn't want to serve if it meant he was serving over the death of the district. I can't blame him neither would I. I have served on two churches that were dying and nothing could be done to save them as they were. I have made a commitment to myself never to be in that place again. Yet, this is exactly what Isaiah is being called to do. Stay until the turn the lights out. Stay until all you know and love is gone.
Stand and watch it burn to the ground. It is no wonder God gave him this vision, he would need it in the years ahead. It is though, a beautiful reminder that God gives us what we need to finish the task he has set before us.

I have called Isaiah's call a no-win scenario but in the eyes of eternity, what God did through the work of Isaiah and his associates has changed the world. The book of Isaiah has given so much to the world, I can't imagine the canon of scripture without it. Yes, during his day he saw no reward, but like many artists, years later the world can't be imagined without them.

On a side note: If you regret not having a vision like Isaiah, maybe you should be glad you haven't. I sure wouldn't want his ministry, though who could argue with the eternal outcome.

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Monday, July 9, 2018

TCN's Biblical Journey July 9th

Today's reading is Song of Solomon 5-8 and Isaiah 1

The Song of Song or the Song of Solomon is not an easy book to comment on if you're a father of a teenager whom might read what you are writing. I blush at some of the very sensual connotation found in its words. However, love and sex are God's creation and in the proper context a beautiful thing. However, sin and abuse have changed that for too many. The other side is those who see this as a very private activity which embarrasses then when it is discussed openly.  I, therefore, will jump over it into Isaiah 1

Looking at an overview of Isaiah shows it is unique in that it contains story (narrative), teachings, and prophecy. Though there is some argument over the authorship, it doesn’t negate the power of this book or its prophetic voice especially in regard to the coming Messiah.
The Kingdom of Judah has been watched over by God as a parent looks after a child (see verse 2-4). However, they are soon to discover like the child who has been forced to live without their parent just how much the parent has been doing. The results of their sins are about to come upon them. They had been living like God wasn’t in charge and they will soon see what will come.
Side note: Isaiah’s use of the terms Sodom and Gomorrah in this chapter has little to do with sexual sin and everything to do with a people who are destined to be destroyed. Like Sodom and Gomorrah, Judah’s destruction is certain.

Friday, July 6, 2018

TCN's Biblical Journey July 6th

Today's reading is Ecclesiastes 12 and Son of Solomon 1-4

The depressing book of Ecclesiastes ends with the voice of its author the person who has collected all of these sayings. In a sense it is the conclusion of both Proverbs and Ecclesiastes is Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 "The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil."

There is a pattern to life but the world is broken and sometimes the principles that God has put into place don't work as they should. Yet, this doesn't change the plan of God. We are to obey and serve him and he will make it all right in the end.

To the atheistic critic, this sounds like wishful dreaming. They, after all, deny the Proverbs (God's order) and see only the meaninglessness of life. It is a sad way to live, but those who see the whole picture the pattern and the chaos know this wasn't the way it was meant to be and it won't be this way forever. It will be made right. Our job is to live right and to trust God.

Because if we do and there is no God then we have lost nothing but have lived with purpose. The atheist lives, though, without real purpose.  However, God is real and we both have a purpose and a future. The atheist has neither. 

It's something to think about. 

Now move on to some really unusual (for the modern reader) love poetry, The Song of Solomon.