Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wells of Refreshment: Isaiah 12

Isaiah 12 You1 will say uin that day:
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
for though you were angry with me,
vyour anger turned away,
that you might comfort me.
“Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for wthe Lord God2 is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation.”
xWith joy you3 will draw water from the wells of salvation. yAnd you will say in that day:z“Give thanks to the Lord,
call upon his name,
amake known his deeds among the peoples,
proclaim bthat his name is exalted.
c“Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
let this be made known4 in all the earth.
Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
for great din your5 midst is ethe Holy One of Israel.”

What can I say about the Book of Isaiah? It is supernatural  refreshment- the most anointed book in the Bible in my humble opinion. I have written extensively from Isaiah (example here) and I always refer to Ray Ortlund's commentary on this book. It is the best Bible commentary I have ever read.

Here is an example of what the entire commentary is like:

"Self salvation makes a lot of sense, until you try it. No one anywhere, even under ideal conditions, has ever figured out how to live well without God... even if you are (on a beautiful beach or resort) you will still need God. And being there without God would be hell. And being here, or anywhere with God can be heaven.""Never outgrow the humility of brokenness before God. In becoming a Christian, you admit that your whole life has been wrong. As you grow in Christ, never leave that realism behind. Your failure is God's opportunity. Your sin is God's moment.""The crisis of life is over. We find rest, not because we can cope with our attackers but because we are at peace with God.""And that startling sense of our  acceptance in Christ is how we become the trusting people we should be, the broken people we should be, and the renewed people we should be. That's when nothing can hold us back from the newness of life, not even our own second-rate repentance." 
So this passage is easy for me to write about- God is beautifully good, I am so thankful for that, I need to be MORE obedient in proclaiming that.



Verse 1 is a story... God was mad, but His anger turned away and He comforted me.

I don't know why people get upset at an angry God. His is a righteous anger. He is not petty. I know I grieve the Holy Spirit. I know I sin. I know when I drop the ball.

But He forgives over and over and over and over- I LOVE verse 3:

With joy you will draw water from wells of salvation. 

These are DEEP wells of grace.

Make known His deeds.... SING praises to Him. These are appropriate responses of worship.

And the hope in Him is so positive:

In this short passage we have-

Double joy and double thanks.

Can we just pause right now and thank Him for a glorious salvation based on His forgiveness?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Trusting God While Life is Good - Ecclesiastes 12

12 Remember also your Creator in vthe days of your youth, before wthe evil days come and the years draw near of whichxyou will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; before ythe sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and zthose who look through the windows are dimmed, and athe doors on the street are shut—when bthe sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all cthe daughters of song are brought low—they are afraid also of what is high, and dterrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along,1 and desire fails, because man is going to his eeternal fhome, and the gmourners go about the streets— before the silver cord is snapped, or hthe golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is ishattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and jthe dust returns to the earth as it was, and kthe spirit returns to God lwho gave it. mVanity2 of vanities, says nthe Preacher; all is vanity.

Besides being wise, nthe Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging omany proverbs with great care. 10 nThe Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth.
11 pThe words of the wise are like goads, and like qnails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are rgiven by sone Shepherd. 12 My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making umany books there is no end, and vmuch study is a weariness of the flesh.
13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. wFear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.314 For xGod will bring every deed into judgment, with4 every secret thing, whether good or evil.

There are times when I think this may be the most majestic, poignant chapter in the entire Old Testament.

This past Sunday was commencement at our school. I was on the platform shaking hands, hugging necks- the smiling graduates had diplomas in hand and big changes ahead.

A high school senior is a special time. These young men and women look so handsome. Their eyes are bright. Their bodies are lean and healthy.

But as a soon to be 49 year old... I know just a little of what is coming. And I know how fast it will come and go.

My inner man has had one of the more remarkable experiences in my entire life. I have found myself wrestling with thoughts and feelings that have visited before..but never taken residence.

In God's providence, He has allowed a late spring cold which has held on long enough to cause a number of sleepless nights and even a low grade fever.

So as I am saying..."Congratulations! ...I'm proud of you...I'm going to miss you....You DID it!..I love you, you are going to do great things.....way to go....." I feel this odd juxtaposition.

They are full of energy....I am worn out
They seem so young...I feel old
They seem so excited and vibrant...and I am heavy with life.

I came home and slept. Weary inside and out.

But the neat thing is- I never feel abandoned by God. In my lows, sometimes it even seems like a mild depression, I have always been able to call out to my Father. I was in bed, body aches, and just whispered in my head."Thank you Lord for loving me. Thank you for caring for me. I wait on you to pick me back up and get me going. I can't do this without you."

So what does this have to do with Ecclesiastes 12? Everything.

Remember also your Creator in vthe days of your youth, before wthe evil days come and the years draw near of whichxyou will say, “I have no pleasure in them”
The question is 'why' should we remember God when fresh and green in our youth. I believe there are many great reasons. God's way is the best way- His design is how we function best. I have always been intrigued with the truth of Romans 6.
21 wBut what fruit were you getting at that time from the things xof which you are now ashamed? yFor the end of those things is death
What benefit have I ever received from walking outside the ways of God? NONE. Freedom became slavery. Fun became regret. Self rule turned into selfishness. And a wake of destruction was always left in the ruins of poor decisions.

But there is an even greater reason to begin early. God is rich in relationship and His faithfulness is established firmly in our minds over decades and not days. Seeing Him come through in the small things...before mortgages and marriage. Before the darker days draw nigh.

Now, let's talk about us older folks. We have before us a template of what will happen as we move through the marathon of life...though none are guaranteed another breath.

William Shakespeare expressed this soberly in the Seven Ages of Man.

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players,
They have their exits and entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,    

Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
Then, the whining schoolboy with his satchel      
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,

Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,      
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden, and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
 Even in the cannon's mouth
And then the justice   
In fair round belly, with good capon lined.

Full of wise saws, and modern instances,

And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts

Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon
With spectacles on nose, and pouch on side,
His youthful hose well sav'd, a world too wide,
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again towards childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion

Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

This is where we get the saying: Man once-baby twice
sans means 'without'

The question is: How can we keep joyful and hopeful with such a sad reality awaiting us?

And the only answer is the GOSPEL and its promise of new life in Christ.

I have written on this before, but our philosophy of death will impact how we live our life.

Here is an example link:
The Ignominious End 

Look how this passage speaks of this end- beautiful imagery:

before the silver cord is snapped, or hthe golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is ishattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and jthe dust returns to the earth as it was, and kthe spirit returns to God lwho gave it. 

Get to know God well.. in the good times.. in the spring of life.

This is a message that we can all relate to!

There is a lot more in this passage. My favorite piece deals with the weariness that comes from studying, implying that the Words of God are enough.

I'm hoping that since I am at the end of school, I can get things wrapped up - learn from my mistakes- remember the things I have done well, and spend the summer preparing to get better.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Knowledge, Wisdom, and Righteousness Come Through Discipline: Proverbs 12

This is part of a series where I am blogging on all of the chapter 12's in the Bible in 2012.

For my full devotional on all of the chapters in Proverbs, click here: PROVERBS

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but he who zhates reproof is astupid.

Let's investigate discipline for a minute- this is the root of discipleship. The gospel is great news of grace- but the fruit of grace is restraint and respect of God-ordained boundaries. A key fruit of sanctification is discipline and we learn discipline by being disciplined. The earlier this starts, the easier it is to become a habit.

Our culture of ease and comfort is less disciplined. I remember clearly looking over some of my grandfather's handwriting and noticed how clear and clean it was- those things were drilled in those days. Even though I have greatly grown in self discipline over my adult life, I do not consider myself a disciplined person. Part of that is never being in the military and being in a culture that loves luxury.

A good spring cleaning is a good place to start. When we had our home on the market last April, we had to keep it it 'spit shine' shape everyday- and it helped all of us to do so.

A key to discipline is the diligence to DO IT NOW. It also, for someone like me, takes help. I need someone to help me in the areas that I need to grow.

I love verse 3- "No one is established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous will never be moved."

In our fast paced, instant society- we admire the energy packed rise of the ruthless. I see it in coaching all the time. We are so hungry to win and win now, that we take the fast track- not realizing that the energy from what I call 'the black hat' sometimes has a quick rise and sudden fall.

Doing it right sometimes means slow and steady- but the roots are deep and the fruit comes for a long time. A great Biblical analogy is the root of Jesse- if you cut it down, the bud will show and the tree will regrow.

There is a lot about speech in this chapter as well: our words are to be true and few. We must be willing to hold secrets- that is an area I have progressed in, but we all need to get better in this society of whispers and innuendo.

Now the HARD part about discipline.
Deceit is in the heart of fthose who devise evil,
but those who plan peace have joy.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
but a wise man listens to advice.

Discipline begins with a willingness to hold to a healthy skepticism of self. Discipline also means correction. 

Our 'default mode' is not good. Left alone man will spiral downward to the music of their own foolish thinking.

And when we correct that- it usually creates immediate pushback.

NO LIKES THE PAIN of consequences... but consequences are usually the only impetus for a change of behavior.

In my job I try over and over to correct by words, to reason, to warn- but most of the time the student continues to follow the path until there is some pain. 

Finally, it takes help. My wife and I have developed a discipline of exercise at 5AM- but it took both of us to make it a regular habit. We help each other when one doesn't feel like getting it done. Once we establish a routine, then it becomes habit.

Employ someone to help you in the areas that you desire more self-control.