Fasting 

Isaiah 58:6
Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?”

In one of His longest recorded sermons, Jesus spoke of 3 spiritual exercises that every believer should be practicing. He spoke of giving, praying and fasting. Fasting is the practice of giving up food for a period of time in order to learn to deny ourselves and to devote more attention to the things of God. Sadly, instead of viewing fasting as a way to draw near to God the people in Isaiah’s day were treating it as a religious responsibility. It was almost as though it was part of their checklist. They felt that fasting itself made them spiritual and they saw little need for their lives to be affected by their professed relationship with God. Isaiah declares that a real fast will will give evidence of a transformed life.

William Booth was the man behind the Salvation Army. About one hundred years ago he was asked what he thought were the greatest dangers the church was facing in the years ahead. His response is quite intriguing. He said:

“The chief danger that confronts the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, heaven without hell.”

In other words he spoke of a form of Christianity that has little impact upon the way a person lives their life. He foresaw churches filled with people who raise their hands in worship, drop checks in the offering box and perhaps even sign up for ministry opportunities yet they fail to allow the Spirit of God and the Word of God to transform their lives.

Instead of emphasizing religious duties we should be seeking to become like Jesus in every possible way. A real commitment to Christ will show itself in a life that is changed.

Jim

 

House Of Prayer 

Isaiah 56:7
“For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

Isaiah foresaw a day when people from all nations would be adopted into the family of God. He saw salvation reaching beyond the borders of Israel to the uttermost parts of the earth. Seven hundred years later Jesus entered into the temple and saw the outer courts turned into a marketplace. Instead of people being encouraged to to come to God they were being hindered. The religious leaders for the sake of financial gain and status among the people were actually keeping people from the Lord. At some point a sign was placed on the entrance of the temple warning Gentiles not to enter under the threat of death. When Jesus saw the actions of the leaders He was outraged. He began to overturn the tables and drive out those who were buying and selling. It was at that point that He quoted from this passage,

“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

It is worth noting that Jesus was enraged when people stood in the way of others coming to God. We know it is the desire of God for all men everywhere to be saved. We know that a person is saved when they put trust in Christ as their savior and we know that people come to trust Christ through the witness of others. We should be seeking to live lives that properly represent Christ so that others will be drawn to Him rather than repelled from Him.

Jim

 

Beautiful Feet 

Isaiah 52:7
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, Who proclaims peace, Who brings glad tidings of good things, Who proclaims salvation, Who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

It seems as though people have always had “bucket lists.” In ancient times a man put together a list of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was like a travel guide for the wealthy, of things needed to be seen before they died. Things have not changed much. People still have their wish lists of the sites they hope to see before they are too old to enjoy them. Of all the beautiful things we could see I don’t imagine anything more amazing than seeing a person who has come to our rescue. Imagine being abandoned on a remote island and seeing a Helicopter, or being held captive by an assailant and seeing the prison doors burst open and police have come or being under siege by an enemy and the cavalry has appeared. Of all the beautiful sites their are to see none can compare to seeing the one who has come to set us free.

Isaiah speaks of the beauty of one who will go forth with the message of hope for a lost world. The person who will risk their own comfort in order to bring the message of salvation to others. Think back to the one who shared Christ with you. How thankful are you that they were willing to risk relationship to bring you the message of Christ. Paul spoke of being in debt to the whole world because of what Christ had done for him. He felt the only way to pay the debt was to tell everyone he could about the salvation that was found in Jesus.

I think it is time we saw ourselves as those who have been given the key to rescue men and women from captivity. We need to be willing to take risks and bring the message of Christ to others. Once a person receives Christ they will see the beauty in the message we declare.

Jim

 

Filters 

Isaiah 51:6
“Lift up your eyes to the heavens, And look on the earth beneath. For the heavens will vanish away like smoke, The earth will grow old like a garment, and those who dwell in it will die in like manner; but My salvation will be forever, And My righteousness will not be abolished.”

We use filters every day to keep things pure. A coffee filter keeps the grinds out of the cup, an air filter helps to eliminate dirt and pollens from the air and a water filter keeps harmful impurities out of our drinking water. Isaiah suggests that it is a good idea for us to have a filter for our eyes. He declares that we should look up at the heavens and down upon the earth. The purpose of his “eye filter” is to help us see the difference between the temporal and the eternal. Too often we get fixated upon things that will not last while ignoring the eternal. Jesus echoed the words of Isaiah when He said; “Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will by no means pass away.” Peter wrote that the heavens will melt with a fervent heat and John spoke of a new heaven and earth replacing the one we live in.

I wonder how are decision making might change if we kept in mind that much of what we are living for will not last. So much energy is spent trying to gain things that are passing while we neglect the things that are eternal. Jesus exhorted us not to waste our lives storing up treasures on earth but to live for His kingdom and store up treasures in heaven. The Bible explains that when we use our time, talents and treasures to invest in the spreading of the gospel or assisting others in growing in Christ, we are in fact investing in the eternal.

As you go about your day look for ways to invest in the kingdom of God.

Jim

 

Inscribed 

Isaiah 49:16
“See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.”

Back in the stone ages, when I was in middle school, it was common for the guys who “liked” a girl to write her name on their notebook or on the side of their shoe. I remember liking a girl named Carol, but being afraid to really admit it, so I wrote her name on the soul of my shoe. It didn’t take long before her name wore off (and the relationship didn’t last much longer than that). I am so glad when I read that God has inscribed our names upon the palm of His hand. What a beautiful description this is of the love He has for us. The word “inscribed” in its noun form means lawgiver. It speaks of the one who inscribed His word on tablets of stone. His love for us is as unchanging as His word.

Jesus declared that though heaven and earth will pass away, His word will never fail. There is no force in heaven or on earth that is powerful enough to break the promises of God, and the same is true of His love for us. Our names are permanently inscribed in the palm of His hand where He can see them and show them off to others.

Take comfort this morning in immeasurable love of God.

Jim

 

Life, What Does It Offer? 

Isaiah 48:18-19
“Oh, that you had heeded My commandments!
Then your peace would have been like a river,
And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.
Your descendants also would have been like the sand,
And the offspring of your body like the grains of sand;
His name would not have been cut off
Nor destroyed from before Me.”


The Word of God is given to the child of God as a light to guide us through life’s darkness. Whatever we are facing, we should learn to look to the Bible for guidance. Isaiah details some of the benefits of living life like that.

First, he declares, this will lead to having peace like a river. Rivers have a constant flow that keeps the water fresh. A life lived in accordance with the teaching of Scripture, will be flowing with peace, even in the most difficult times. Jesus spoke of this peace being unlike anything the world could ever provide (John 14:27). In contrast, Isaiah writes,

Isaiah 48:22 “There is no peace,” says the Lord, “for the wicked.”

Second, Isaiah declares, a life lived in accordance with the ways of God will experience righteousness like the waves of the sea. Waves are an interesting phenomenon, they are created by storms; the larger the storm the larger the wave. Waves also develop by traveling over great distances. Strong winds, and lots of time, are what make waves bigger and better. In the same way, God will use the difficulties of life, and the time we spend walking with Him, to produce righteousness in us. This is only true, however, when we use the time to apply the Word of God. I remember hearing, as a kid, “Practice makes perfect.” As time went on, I also learned that practicing something incorrectly only makes it more difficult to re-learn correctly, later. In our trying times, we want to look to the Lord, and do things His way.

Finally, Isaiah speaks of the impact this will have on the next generation. He speaks of our offspring and our descendants being positively impacted by Our right living. I don’t think the impact our lifestyle has on the next generation could ever be overstated. If we want to see our children and grandchildren love, honor, and follow Jesus, we must set the pattern for them.

Remember, no matter what the past looks like, it is not to late for you to commit to Christ and live for His glory.

Pastor Jim

 

Plan Ahead 

Isaiah 47:1
“Come down and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon;
Sit on the ground without a throne,
O daughter of the Chaldeans!
For you shall no more be called
Tender and delicate.”

Sitting in the dust, like wearing sackcloth or throwing dirt in the air was a sign of mourning. It was not uncommon in the ancient world for a person stricken with grief to express it outwardly. Those who lost a loved one, or were burdened by personal sin were easily identifiable to the people around them.

At the time Isaiah is writing Babylon was on its way to becoming the most powerful and wealthiest nation of that era. They will soon topple Assyria and spread their empire from Iraq to Egypt. While on the rise it is often difficult to see our need for Christ so Isaiah takes them to the future when their nation, like all nations before them would fall. He describes a coming time when their mothers, wives and children will become captives and their land destroyed.

It seems that today a great emphasis is placed on planning ahead. I recently saw an advertisement for retirement planning that used blocks to show the value of starting now and setting a little aside each month for the future. While I am certain there is wisdom in planning for retirement their is even greater wisdom in planning for eternity. The first step involves turning to the Lord and away from a lifestyle that is unacceptable to Him.

How sad for the Babylonians who ignored the warnings of the word and continued on a path that led to their own destruction.

Jim