He Loves Us This Much

Seven hundred years before he was born, Isaiah spoke a stunningly accurate prophesy about Jesus.

Here’s my 2021 response to parts of Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 53: 2-6 –

Jesus was not a good-looking man.  The pictures we have of him where he looks like a movie star are totally inaccurate.

People despised him but he was used to pain and sorrow – that was his life.  A lot of people ignored him and avoided him when possible.

Yet he took on more pain – the pain that was meant for us.  He paid the price for our rebellion and selfishness and anger – all the sins of all the world.

Some people were confused when they saw all the problems Jesus had – they thought God was punishing him.  Their eyes just weren’t open to the truth.

The truth is that Jesus loves us so much that he took all of the punishment that we deserved…

so he could be our Savior…

so we could have peace…..

so we could be healed.

You and I have sinned.  And we keep sinning.

Have I said anything out of frustration or lack of patience today?  Not yet – but it’s early.

Have you thought of anything unkind or unforgiving today?  God also knows our thoughts – that’s a tough one.

Jesus paid the price for all of our sins for all time….

so he could offer us salvation.  For free.  For eternity.

Thank you, Jesus!

He is the Light

I love how accurate Isaiah’s prophecies about the Messiah were even though he spoke them 700 years before Jesus was born.  This shouldn’t surprise me – God knows everything and is in control of everything – including my future.

Isaiah’s prophecy in the 9th chapter of his book was fulfilled when Jesus came to earth, died on the cross for our sins and rose again in victory over death.

Isaiah’s prophecy came true –

People who were walking in darkness saw a Great Light.  Lost in deep darkness, they saw the Light as it dawned.  This Light gave them success and joy.  They celebrated the Light just like they celebrated a great harvest.  They celebrated just like warriors who are dividing the plunder after a victorious battle.

This Light’s name is Jesus.

He forever shattered the yoke of sin and shame in our lives.  There is no need for war in his kingdom.

For he came to us as a child, the Son of God.  And we call him –

Wonderful,

Counselor,

Mighty God,

Everlasting Father,

Prince of Peace.

He is reigning forever victorious and there is no end to the peace he gives to those who put their faith in him.

He reigns in justice and righteousness –

now and forever.

The LORD Almighty has done it all for us.

Thank you, Abba Father

My Peace

He will be our peace.

Seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus, Micah prophesied about the birth of Jesus saying that a ruler would come from Bethlehem, “And he will be our peace.” Micah 5:5.

Notice – it doesn’t say ‘a source of peace’.

Jesus is our peace. Period.

Do you feel that in your life?

I do.

I don’t find peace in the things that so many people here on earth think are so important.

I have not found peace with money and success.

I have not found it in relationships other than my relationship with God.

Buying things has definitely not given me peace since things break and grow old – no longer shiny, no longer ‘the latest’.

I have not found peace in education and achievements.

I love to travel and experience new things but that is not where I find peace.

Jesus is my only source of real Peace. I feel the peace he gives me down in the center of my soul.

I can trust him with everything and he has a perfect love for me.  He has proven his love for me over and over in my life.  He who never sinned became sin for me on the cross so that the price for my sins was paid and I can live with him forever.

My eternal life with Jesus has already started on this earth –

as he fills my life with the peace only he can give.

Thank you, Jesus

What Does He Want?

Have you heard anyone say something like, ” I just can’t figure  out what God wants from me?” or ” I really don’t know what God wants me to do?”

Statements like these confuse me because I think God is amazingly clear and to the point about the ‘main things’ that need to be the focus in my life.

The only two commandments Jesus gave us are to love God with our whole hearts and love others.  Jesus tells me that obeying these 2 commandments fulfills ‘all the law and the prophets’ which includes the original 10 commandments from the Old Testament.

There used to be 10 commandments – now it’s 2.  God knows we need simple and clear directions.

As I read the 6th chapter of Micah, I am again amazed at how direct God is as he tells me what he expects from me. ” And what does the LORD require from you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8.

Which part of that is unclear?

Act justly – do the right things. God tells us what is right in his Word.

Love Mercy – forgive others.  Give people a break especially when they don’t deserve it.  Help others.

Walk Humbly with God – develop a close relationship with God understanding that he is a supernatural combination of Creator of the Universe, the Holy and Perfect One and my Abba Father.

Micah told us this thousands of years ago.  I have discovered that, if I am serious about doing the things God has already told me to do, he fills in the other details at the right time.

It’s time to stop asking God what he wants us to do and focus on the directions he has already given us.

Thank you for how clearly you guide me through your Word, Abba Father.

Coming Straight at You

One of my favorite things about the Chronological Bible is that the words of the prophets are placed into the reading so they are talking straight at the kings and people who God called them to warn.

God sent the prophet Amos to both Israel and Judah to call out the current religious establishment.  The religious leaders in Judah were leading their people to develop meaningless religious traditions while refusing to do what God really wanted them to do – give mercy and justice to the oppressed and needy.

Israel was experiencing a time of prosperity which led them to a lifestyle of greed and immorality.

Sound familiar?  Do we see any of this in our culture today?  Immorality – have you turned on your TV lately? Have you looked at billboards along the freeways?  Greed – there are so many examples its hard to figure out where to start.  People will do anything these days for money.

As I read the book of Amos, God speaks to my heart and asks me to critically evaluate my religious habits and my ethical conduct.  He also warns me against complacency – getting too comfortable.

I’m careful to keep my relationship with God as my first priority, not religious habits.  When someone tells me they aren’t into organized religion, I tell them I’m not either – I’m totally into having a close relationship with God.  That always gets their attention.

But I know what God means by being too comfortable.  I used to live in a nice Christian bubble.  All of my close friends were Christian.  Everyone on my social calendar was a Christian.  I knew some non-Christians at work but everyone in my personal world was a believer.

This is the definition of complacent.

For God so loved the world……we have been commissioned to tell the world the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ.  That’s not comfortable – that’s being stretched and reaching into the mess that is our culture today with the love of Jesus.  Now my calendar always includes places and relationships where I can be the light and let the love of God flow through me out to people who don’t know him.

Take a close look at your life.  Have you wandered into some immorality?  Or greed?  Or meaningless religious traditions?  Or complacency?

If that’s true, it’s time to turn back to God. “Seek me and live” God tells us in Amos 5:6. When we repent, he restores.  And he renews.  And he changes us from the inside out.

Thank you, Abba Father.

Real Love

Love is a choice. It’s a decision.

Many people get confused when they think love is something they feel – or not. Real love is not an emotion, its a commitment.

God has so much real love for us that he made us in his own image and he gave us free will to make our own decisions. He could have made us love him – but that’s not love, is it.

The arms of God are full of grace and compassion and they are wide open to each and everyone one of us. We have a choice to make – are we going to love him back?

God chose Jonah to go tell a group of people, the Ninevites, to stop their wickedness. Jonah didn’t want to do it so he tried to run away from God. Did you know that it’s impossible to hide from God?

Jonah ended up in the belly of a whale for 3 days where he repented, was spit out and ended up going to Nineveh anyway.

After Jonah spread his message throughout Nineveh, everyone – including the king – stopped the wickedness and rebellion. They repented and God did not punish them.

This made Jonah very angry. “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” Jonah 4: 2.

Why was Jonah so mad? He did not think the pagan Ninevites deserved God’s love and grace.

The fact is that none of us ‘deserve’ God’s love and grace. We can do nothing to earn it. We can never be ‘good enough’. If we’re honest we know we have all rebelled and ignored God while doing things the way we want them done putting ourselves at the center of our universe.

When we place our faith in Jesus, he saves us from the eternal death we have ‘earned’ because he is more than ‘good enough’.

Unfortunately, people who decide not to love God and put their faith in Jesus are choosing eternal separation from God’s grace and love. God doesn’t want that to happen to anyone but he won’t make this choice for us.

If you have not chosen Jesus yet, today is the day. Only Jesus can save us from getting what we truly deserve.

Thank you, Jesus.

I’m Sinking

If Jonah was writing his prayer (the second chapter of Jonah in the Bible) to God today, it might sound something like this

I’ve hit rock-bottom, God and I have decided to call out to you. I know you will answer me.

My choices have taken me to a deep, dark place in my life, far from you.  But I’m confident you still hear me when I pray.

I tried to run from you – a very bad decision.  And now you’re letting me pay the consequences as waves of darkness and regret wash over me.  I feel like you are very far away, dear God.

Even so, I am looking for you, watching for you, calling out to you.

I keep sinking….

down,

into the cold,

deep,

sadness.   This is where my choices have taken me.

But I know you are here, Lord God.  And you will lift me back up into your arms.

I was lost and dying, LORD, but now I am turning back to you.  I’m not like those other people who idolize money, success or fame.  I praise you with a joyful heart, my God!

I am here to do your will.  I will do what you have asked me to do. I will tell everyone that ‘Salvation comes from the LORD.”

I’m listening, ready to obey, Abba Father.

Open My Eyes

I can be so blind!

Blinded by the immediate.

Blinded by what everyone else thinks.

Blinded by my routines or traditions.

Blinded by worry.

Blinded by trying to control things in my life .

There are times when its a major struggle to open my eyes…

open my mind….

open my heart…

to the truth….

to a different reality – God’s reality.

Sometimes I can be just like Elisha’s servant in the Bible who was afraid of the huge enemy army which surrounded the city they were in. Elisha wasn’t afraid. He knew something the servant didn’t know. Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, Lord, so he may see.” 2 Kings 6: 17.

And when the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, he looked up and saw the hills around Elisha full of horses and chariots of fire. God’s army.

Elisha was not worried – he knew the truth.  God had his back and there was no cause for alarm. Elisha understood and trusted in the power and faithfulness of his Father God.

His eyes were open.

Please open our eyes, Abba Father.

How Many Jars?

How big is my God?  How much does he want to bless me?

God stopped me today as I read the story in the Bible of the widow whose son was going be taken as a slave because her husband had debts he didn’t pay before he died.  She asked Elisha for help saying she had nothing left except a small jar of  olive oil.

Elisha said, ” Go around and ask your neighbors for empty jars.  Don’t ask for just a few.  Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.” 2 Kings 4: 3 – 4.   She did exactly what Elisha said and she just kept filling the jars until they were all full. The oil stopped flowing when her last jar was full.  Then she sold the oil to pay her debts and had enough money left over to live on.

Now that I know the end of the story, my automatic response is – too bad she didn’t get more jars!

Did you go there? It was great that she had enough money to live on but how much more did God want to give her?

And then I wonder how many times God was willing to bless me abundantly but I didn’t bring enough jars?  I didn’t bring enough faith?  Enough trust?

How often do I short-cut God’s attempts to lavish love and care on my life because I don’t ask?

The message I’ve been consistently receiving lately from God is that there are some mountains he will move if I will boldly ask.  He’s stirring up a wind of his Spirit that he is inviting me to take part in if I will ‘bring enough jars’.

Nothing is impossible for my Father God so I will acknowledge that by boldly asking and watching expectantly for his answer.

I’m getting a lot of jars lined up, Abba Father.

Be Still and Watch

It’s hard for me to be still and watch.  I’m a doer.  I’m an achiever.  I spent over 34 years of my career “making things happen”.

So I tend to skim over all the situations in the Bible where God tells us to “be still and watch”.  And God says this often.  You probably don’t notice how often he says this unless you’re trying to ignore him when he says this – like me.

In 2 Chronicles, King Jehoshaphat tells his people not to be discouraged by the huge, combined army that is marching toward them. “You will not even need to fight.  Take your positions; then stand still and watch the LORD’s victory.” 2 Chronicles 20:17.

After saying this, the king and all the people bowed before God with their faces to the ground and they worshipped God. This creates a great visual picture in my brain because they were acting like they had already won!

Because they had.

Early the next morning, they marched out to their positions singing praises to God.  They were not afraid – God was going to fight for them.

And he did.  While King Jehoshaphat was marching out with his men singing praises to God, God caused the enemy army to become confused and they started fighting each other – killing everybody in their own army.

When God’s people arrived, all the of the enemy soldiers were dead. They won and the only weapon they raised was their trust in God.  It took them three days to gather up all of the supplies and valuables left behind by the dead army.

Wow!  They didn’t even have to use their weapons.

God showed me how this works several years ago when I was concerned about a family situation so I was going to do something about it but I kept forgetting to do it. This was very unlike me – I make lists and it gets done. I realized God was trying to stop me from getting involved. So I stopped and watched and prayed. And prayed some more.

A couple of weeks later I discovered that the issue had been totally resolved. God fixed it. And he accomplished something that I could have never done. I had no idea what he was doing until I found out it was all taken care of.

God is saying to me and you today that there are battles coming our way that he wants to fight for us.  We just need to trust and be still and watch.

Thank you for fighting my battles, Abba Father.