Daily Devotion: Isaiah 9

…”But in the future he will bring honor to the way of the sea, to the land east of the Jordan, and to Galilee of the nations. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; a light has dawned on those living in the land of darkness. You have enlarged the nation and increased its joy. The people have rejoiced before you as they rejoice at harvest time and as they rejoice when dividing spoils. For you have shattered their oppressive yoke and the rod on their shoulders, the staff of their oppressor, just as you did on the day of Midian. For every trampling boot of battle and the bloodied garments of war will be burned as fuel for the fire. For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever. The zeal of the Lord of Armies will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:1–7, CSB)

“The people walking in darkness” calls the readers attention back to the previous chapter where the people are roaming the land dejected and hungry. They look to the sky and curse God. They look at the problems all around them and curse their leaders. They see the earth and they give up.

But these people consumed by darkness have now “seen a great light” out of Galilee. The people rejoice over the miraculous provision supplied by God. The only thing Isaiah can compare it to is the supernatural way that God saved his people through Gideon in Judges 7:25.

There is no longer any need for war uniforms. The memories of these bloody times are burned in the fire.

All because a child has been born. He is wonderful, mighty, eternal, and peaceful. He is a counselor, father, royalty, and God.

His rule is established immediately and forever.

This is done for the glory and satisfaction of God.


I can’t help but focus on these royal titles given to the Messiah. Each one is something that we need. Especially if our life resonates with the people in this story who are suffering and depressed. We need a counsellor with unique wisdom to speak into our life. But we don’t just need a listening ear and kind advice, we need someone with abundant power to change my situation – change my heart. His work in my life is timeless.

Charlottesville

I recently self-diagnosed myself with “caring fatigue.” It started in July of last year with two names: Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Even living in China at the time, I wasn’t far enough away from the videos of these men being shot and killed. Their deaths and the conversations surrounding their deaths caught my attention.

So I started to look for context outside of my white/evangelical/Southern Baptist box. I listened carefully to Christian brothers and sisters of color. Their stories of hurt and racism made the years of silence from my churches deafening.

Why had my Christian leaders pointed me to people all over the world who were hurting and needed the gospel but neglected to point me to the pain within my own country. And I’m not just talking about people of color, but also the many disaffected groups within American society. Opium epidemics, meth addictions, broken families, human trafficking, urban poverty, rural poverty, neglected children, mass incarceration, abortion rates, corrosive politics…the well-practiced church productions that I attended on Sundays did not reflect the messy, broken world everyone lived in the rest of the week.

Feeling the need to fix all these problems led to my “caring fatigue” diagnosis. But I know that I cannot fix these problems. There is only one savior of the world, and it isn’t me. But I can listen, learn, and live like I really care about people around me.

I can stand up and call evil by name. The actions of ethnic nationalists and racial supremacists this last week is evil. Brother pastors you must call it by name from the pulpit. Brother and sister Christians, you must genuinely care about everyone around you. Get involved in one another’s messed up lives. Build up one another in the church and get outside the church walls with your knowledge of God and the Bible.

Many of these men hold to the ideology of “blood and soil,” emphasizing a persons heritage and land. There is only one person’s blood that matters to me. The blood that Jesus shed in his death for all people (Romans 5:9; Ephesians 1:7; Revelation 1:5). The blood that brings me back into a face to face relationship with God (Revelation 22:4). The only soil that matters is not the soil of this world – broken and cursed by the sins of humanity (Gensesis 3:17-19). I long for the soil of the new earth, remade by God (Revelation 21:1-5). That’s where my citizenship is (Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 11:13-16).

Here are resources and people to listen to if you want to learn more…

Faithfully Magazine – http://faithfullymagazine.com

Be the Bridge – https://beabridgebuilder.com

Ekemini Uwan – http://www.sistamatictheology.com

Kyle James Howard – https://kylejhoward.com

Christena Cleveland – http://www.christenacleveland.com

Truth’s Table (podcast) – https://goo.gl/UtS7tC

Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission – http://erlc.com

Hillbilly Elegy – JD Vance

 

 

 

Daily Devotion: Isaiah 8

Human nature demands that we address what’s right in front of us. We live for the here and now. Even if we are future minded in our planning, it is only for a sense of control over present circumstances. We are temporal beings, existing in time. And we are sensing beings, only able to understand what we can see and touch in the moment. This is why it is so difficult to trust God’s timing in our life. Working by his clock is difficult. But God exists apart from time. His planning is perfect, and he is not swayed by current events.

In Isaiah 8 the nation is worried about the strength of their enemies, so they start making worldly alliances. The Lord would have them trust in the slow and steady pace of his care…

…these people have rejected the slowly flowing waters of Shiloah… (8:6)

They are worried about the future, and they feel like the Lord is not listening, so they consult mediums and spirits of the dead. But Isaiah points to the testimony of his life and children as signs of God speaking to the people (8:18). Then in 8:20 he has this great call to where the answers to their questions can be found…

To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, there will be no dawn (hope/enlightenment) for them. (8:20)

We need to be slow to approach other people to strengthen us when we are doubting. Let’s first go to God as our refuge.

We need to seek the Word of God before we look for clever advice from others.

Do the next thing

Sometimes it’s crazy hard to know if we are making the right decisions in ministry. We feel a world of possibilities, but we also fear missing God’s “call” or “perfect will.” Why do we doubt that the God who bent history towards our salvation, made our dry bones come alive, and placed his spirit within us is going to let us ruin everything? Yes, the Christian life requires daily obedience to God’s way of life, loyalty to our heavenly Father, and care for others. But we also have to make decisions. If these former things are in line – if our footing is solid – why should we doubt the next step?

This poem is a quiet reminder of genuine ministry. I can picture the faithful pastor in this poem – who is fittingly anonymous. He spends one day after another studying the word, delivering his message, and caring for his people. Most often it was a thankless task, but now, standing before his Saviour and seeing his God, it was infinitely worth it.


From an old English parsonage down by the sea
There came in the twilight a message to me;
Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,
Hath, it seems to me, teaching from Heaven.
And on through the doors the quiet words ring
Like a low inspiration: “DO THE NEXT THING.”

Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, and guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrows, child of the King,
Thrust them with Jesus, do the next thing.

Do it immediately, do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand
Who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
Leave all results, do the next thing.

Looking for Jesus, ever serener,
Working or suffering, be thy demeanor;
In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
The light of His countenance be thy psalm,
Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing.
Then, as He beckons thee, do the next thing.

(Unknown Author)

Daily Devotion: Isaiah 7

There is no such thing as Christian cowardice. Christ secured courage for all believers. We do not fear men who can only harm the body. We do not fear spirits who have been given an expiration date. We do not fear want of food or shelter because God promises to meet our needs. We do not fear death because Jesus gives us life.  

In Isaiah 7, Ahaz is afraid. Aram and Israel have decided to attack Jerusalem. As they advance into Ephraim, the “house of David” is afraid, all the “hearts of his people trembled like trees shaking in the wind.” So the Lord sends an encourager, Isaiah, with this message: “Calm down and be quiet. Don’t be afraid or cowardly.” There are 4 things that we and Ahaz must stand firm in…

Stand firm in your identity. Repeatedly, Ahaz is reminded that he is part of the House of David. Those great promises that were delivered to David still apply to him. The king can rest assured that God still knows who he’s dealing with and he will not forget David, the man after God’s own heart. Christians, we are now called sons and daughters of God. Worthy of his name and his inheritance. He will not forget Jesus in whom our identity is now grounded. We have been grafted into the family vine. Stand courageously in your new identity. (7:2, 13)

This is what the Lord God says: It will not happen; it will not occur. (Is 7:7)

Stand firm in the Word of God. Isaiah serves as the voice of truth in order to destroy doubt. We need to listen to people who speak the truth in love to us. No matter how many times we read the truths of scripture, we still need our community to speak the truth to us and affirm us. Sometimes I don’t feel like God has anything to say to me that I haven’t already heard. Then a brother pastor who I respect will bring me a word of truth or encouragement that jump starts my heart. We need people like Isaiah who can look at our situation and say, “You know that thing your worrying about? It’s completely wrongheaded to worry about that. Here’s why…” We are meant to be agents of affirming God’s Word to one another. 

If you do not stand firm in your faith, then you will not stand at all. (Is 7:9)

Stand firm in your faith. God is not telling him to stand firm in positive thinking. Faith is so much more than that. Because God has proven himself faithful to us, we can follow his commands for our life in faith. He gives us no reason to doubt that his way is the right way and his time is the right time. That is unbelief. We must remain steadfast in our obedience to a God-centered life. 

See, the virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Emmanuel. (Is 7:14)

Stand firm in God’s Promises. God has given sufficient signs of his providence before, but he offers one more. The promise he gives here was most likely to a young girl in the assembly. And it was a promise of extended peace. Ahaz could see in his mind the years of peace promised from that day until the promised child’s adolescence. And this would be a sign that a God was with his people. The peace was not permanent, however. The rest of the chapter shows that great suffering is coming to the land. But seeing God keep his promise would serve to grow their faith so that when things grew worse in the future they could trust God to be faithful once more. 

Later, Matthew identifies this promised child in Isaiah 7:14 as applying to Messiah. Jesus was also a promised child. His life should also give us courage to face the hard times even as we wait for him. We long for eternal peace and freedom from fear. We long to not only have “God with us” but see him face to face. 

How do you need to be reminded of the courage that you have in Christ?

Like Isaiah, who are you being called to encourage today?

Daily Devotion: Isaiah 6

I no longer see Isaiah 6 as a call to gospel missions. I’ve heard it preached this way for years. It’s tempting. The call from God is clear and powerful. “Who should I send? Who will go for us?” To which Isaiah replies, “Here I am. Send me.” I’m not saying that God is not calling Isaiah to a mission here. He is. But it is not a gospel mission. Just look at what Isaiah is to go and say to the people…

Keep listening, but do not understand;

keep looking, but do not perceive.

Make the minds of these people dull;

deafen their ears and blind their eyes;

otherwise they might see with their eyes

and hear with their ears,

understand with their minds,

turn back, and be healed. (Is 6:9-10 CSB)

This is not good news for the people of God. This is a condemnation of their hearts and minds. God has given them time to respond and follow his lead for their lives. But they have consistently rejected his design. As God declared in Hosea, “You are not my people.” Isaiah’s mission is a preparation for dead hearts to beat again. He preaches deafness and blindness. It paints a hopeless situation for the people. But there is hope in Isaiah 6. 

There is hope for those willing to follow God. He will cleanse them from their sin and give them an opportunity to follow him in obedience. Isaiah’s people were a lost cause, but the prophet was ready to follow God. The same occurs for many individuals during this time. Then, as now, the way to destruction is wide and the way to life is narrow. If we confess our sins he is quick to forgive our sins. If we seek to follow him, he will give us purpose. That doesn’t mean the job will be easy. Look at Isaiah’s message. It was not happily received by the masses. 

There is hope through the Holy Seed. While Israel remains unfaithful there will be one who is faithful. While the land is destroyed because of the unrighteousness people there, there will be one who makes all things new in the world by his righteousness. Isaiah was not commissioned for a preaching the gospel because the good news had not been revealed yet. A time of trial and judgment was coming and destruction was assured for many, but out of that remnant would be one who would endure to fulfill the promises of God. 

Daily Devotion: Isaiah 5:16

The Lord of Armies is exalted by his justice, and the holy God shows he is holy through his righteousness.

I was blown away by this verse today. What exalts or causes worship of YHWH is his justice. God is just because he is objective. He is outside of the failures of man and can look at our actions and speak to them. Though so many speak against God because of the presence of evil in the world, God promises that he will bring justice, and he will receive worship from it.

God will show his holiness and purity through his righteousness. This righteousness may be the correct and intentional actions he wills through history, or this may be the righteous judgment that he brings on the wicked.

This is a humbling and comforting word for me. It is humbling because the otherness of God makes me feel so small which in turn makes me feel even more undeserving of the grace he shows me. But I am also comforted because I don’t have to win everyone over to the worship of God. He will do this on his own. while I must continue to fight for justice, I do not have to fix all the problems of the world. The Lord will be worshipped because of his ultimate, final justice.

Daily Devotion: Isaiah 4

4:1 | This is the concluding verse for 3:16-26 showing the emptiness of beauty in finery in the Day of the Lord. Women are desperate for relationship and children so much that they seize men together (Gn 30:23; Is 54:4; Lk 1:25).

4:2-6 | Here’s some much needed hope in the first 4 chapters of Isaiah.

On that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious. The Branch, the Root, the Messiah. He is no longer a mystery. His glory is known by the people in Jerusalem, and he is beautiful.

Written in the book of life. This is our great hope. This is the reason for running the Christian race with endurance, so that we may arrive before the Lord and hear our name called (Ex 32:32; Ps 69:28; 139:16; Lk 10:20; Ac 13:48). The righteous long for the day when the books are opened (Dn 7:10; Rv 20:12).

When the Lord has washed away the filth…and cleansed the bloodguilt. In 1:15, all God can see is their blood covered hands. No matter what they tried to bring to the Lord it was never adequate. It is only through the work of the Lord himself that our guilt and offensiveness.

After the people are cleansed the spirit of the Lord will come and live among men giving comfort and guidance.


Father, thank you for faithfully preserving your branch through the years. What a testimony to your sovereignty! Jesus, you are beautiful and glorious. You are the culmination of the line of promise. Spirit, thank you for your sheltering and illuminating presence in us.

7 Qualities of a Faithful Father

I’ve been thinking a lot about fatherhood lately and my responsibilities as a father. My boys are growing up fast, and with every new stage I am stunned by the simple truth that they will grow up and be adults one day. Will they be ready? What principles of God-centered manhood do I emphasize? Are these even evident in my own life? I’ve also been a foster dad for the last 3 years. Have these kids seen God reflected in my words and actions? On this Father’s Day, I’ve been reflecting on a passage that has gained new meaning for me since becoming a father – the sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis 22. I want to point out 7 Qualities of a Faithful Father from this text.

22:1-2 | Faithful fathers will be tested

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham! ” “Here I am,” he answered. “Take your son,” he said, “your only son Isaac, whom you love, go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”

No softballs here. Your life as a father is not marked by ease and peace. And if everything is going well like it was for Abraham, you better expect some testing. The milestones in your life will be the tests of faith that come your way. God wants to use these to show your God mirroring character to the world around you. Testing keeps us humble and it tempers and refines us for greater responsibility in the kingdom of God. God promises that we can bear it if we maintain strength in our love for him as our heavenly father.

Dt 8:2 | Remember that the Lord your God led you on the entire journey these 40 years in the wilderness, so that he might humble you and test you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.

1 Cor 10:13 | No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide a way out so that you may be able to bear it.

Js 1:12 | Blessed is the one who endures trials, because when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

1 Pt 1:6-7 | You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith – more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire – may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

22:3-6 | Faithful fathers are quick to obey

So Abraham got up early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took with him two of his young men and his son Isaac. He split wood for a burnt offering and set out to go to the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go over there to worship; then we’ll come back to you.” Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac. In his hand he took the fire and the knife, and the two of them walked on together.

Abraham did not take a few days to think about it. He didn’t consult his circle of friends. He might not have even talked to his wife! The Lord’s command was clear and he did not hesitate to obey. There are so many spectators and commentators in the church today. People like to comment on the quality of the work being done, the kind of work that needs to be done, the number of people working, where we should be working, why it isn’t working here or there. But we need more people to get up and get on the field. If God calls your number, you get in the game. If God is calling out an area of disobedience in your life, shut it down and cut it off. Cast aside every weight to run the race with endurance.

22:7-8 | Faithful fathers listen and answer tough questions

Then Isaac spoke to his father Abraham and said, “My father.” And he replied, “Here I am, my son.” Isaac said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” Then the two of them walked on together.

Fathers, pay attention to your kids! Get the screens out of your face and give your kids full attention. The way you spend your time teaches them what’s important. From about age 2-6 my father was going back to school to get his college degree and after that my mom did as well. This instilled a love of books and learning. We had several bookcases full of textbooks on biology, astronomy, and history. I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to read the big books like dad.

Use any opportunity they give you to answer the questions that they have. Shepherd their hearts with the truth of God and his word. Abraham’s declaration that the Lord would provide the offering was the answer to Isaac’s question, but when the Lord really did provide, it must have grown little Isaac’s trust in God.

22:9-10 | Faithful fathers believe in God even unto death

When they arrived at the place that God had told him about, Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood. He bound his son Isaac and placed him on the altar on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son.

Here we come to the heart of the story. The deep faith of Abraham. Faith that challenges me. The methodical nature of the narrative comes to a climax here. What was Abraham thinking in this moment? Thankfully we have scripture to illuminate the situation…

Js 2:20-24 | Senseless person! Are you willing to learn that faith without works is useless? Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works in offering Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was made complete, and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

Hb 11:17-19 | By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac. He received the promises and yet he was offering his one and only son, the one to whom it had been said, Your offspring will be called through Isaac. He considered God to be able even to raise someone from the dead; therefore, he received him back, figuratively speaking.

22:11-12 | Faithful fathers listen to the Lord

But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” He replied, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not lay a hand on the boy or do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your only son from me.”

This is the second time that Abraham was quick to listen to the Lord. He was listening for his name to be called, and he recognizes the voice of the Lord. His response of “Here I am” is not just a “What do you want?” response. His words show the posture of his heart. He is ready and waiting to hear the commands of the Lord. This is the heart of a man in relationship with God. Put this in contrast with Genesis 3:8-9 when God comes to call on Adam and he is hiding.

22:13-14 | Faithful fathers gratefully worship

Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught in the thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it as a burnt offering in place of his son. And Abraham named that place The Lord Will Provide, so today it is said: “It will be provided on the Lord’s mountain.”

Fathers, picture your child as Isaac on that altar. Feel the relief and emotions that must have flooded Abraham when another sacrifice was provided in place of his son. That is the gospel message. Jesus has taken our place as the atoning sacrifice. Every day we now live in worship of this once and for all sacrifice given on our behalf. The gratitude and love from our redemption must be visible to our children. Model grateful worship in your life.

22:15-19 | Faithful fathers impact the nations

Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn,” this is the Lord’s declaration: “Because you have done this thing and have not withheld your only son, I will indeed bless you and make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your offspring will possess the city gates of their enemies. And all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring because you have obeyed my command.” Abraham went back to his young men, and they got up and went together to Beer-sheba. And Abraham settled in Beer-sheba.

When we walk in willing obedience with the Lord, he will give us significance in our fatherhood. God used Abraham’s faith to bless the nations. Follow God’s lead in faithful fatherhood and let him use you to bless the nations.

Now go back through the passage and look at the ways that God is Abraham and Jesus is Isaac.  Think about the steps you need to take to be a faithful father like Abraham. How can we better parent in light of our faithful Heavenly Father?

Daily Devotion: Isaiah 3

The Lord God is about to remove … every kind of security.

3:1-12 | What do I take security in? Here are a few: money in the bank, health and happiness in my family, knowing that my parents and grandparents support me, having older men that I can go to for counsel, books full of answers to hard questions. Without these I would feel much less confident day to day. In Isaiah 3, God begins to remove anything and everything that the people and the leaders take comfort in. They have looked to these things before God. In the process, they have “spoken and acted against the Lord, defying his glorious presence” (3:8).

Tell the righteous that it will go well for them. Those who remain faithful to God have nothing to fear. Not because their lives will be easier, but because their hope is in something greater than food and water and leaders. “They will eat the fruit of their [righteous] labor” maybe not in this life but the next.

3:13-15 | Above all the chaos the Lord has been sitting and watching the scurrying of his people until he stands to quiet the madness. He stands to judge the people, but the charges are brought against the elders and the people. These men were supposed to be wise husbandry men tending to the vineyard of the Lord. Vineyards are so beautiful and orderly. The have row after row of vines growing on well spaced trellises. You can walk up and down the rows following individual vines and watching the progress of each vine producing flowers and fruit. The vinedresser must take time to remove damaged or diseased plants so that more useful fruit is produced. But the leaders have not tended the vineyard of the Lord. They have devastated it. They have taken what they needed and left everything in ruin. They continue to extort anything they can from an already poor people. They have taken the fruit, cut off the leaves, and chopped down the vine.


Father, help me to be cautious in leadership knowing that you hold leaders to a higher standard. Thank you Jesus for being the restored vine of the people of God. Thank you for grafting me into the true vine. Spirit, help me to remain righteous in a world full of false securities. Help me to abide in Christ. Show me what needs to be pruned away to produce more productive fruit for the Lord’s vineyard.