What jersey are you wearing?

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Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 9.01.06 AMThis Sunday is the Superbowl when the New England Patriots play the Seattle Seahawks. The players will listen to their coaches and run their plays. They will run for touchdowns in the direction that will give them points. We will be able to tell who is on whose team by their jerseys, and in fact, we will be able to tell who the fans are cheering for by their jerseys. The team colors or team name will be on the jersey to identify everyone.

That’s the picture I get from the verse above in Isaiah. It’s the identification of the “Lord’s team”- God is saying the one will outright say, “I am the Lord’s” and another will write it on their hand, like we might put an Eagles wallpaper on our phone or wear an Eagles jersey showing we “belong” to that team. It is who they will be identified with.

So, heading out of the house today, whose jersey are we wearing? Whose name is written on our hands? Who do we want to win and whose instruction will we be taking to run the plays of life? Who will we score for?

There are only two teams to choose from-God’s or Satan’s. The playbook was written long ago. As you went to school today and respected your teacher that others make fun of or you said a kind word to the classmate who sits alone in lunch, you were running God’s play of “love on another as I have loved you.” If you didn’t talk back to daddy or I and you obeyed us by doing what we asked cleaning up after yourself at a meal, or cleaning your room-you were following the playbook instruction to “obey and honor your parents”. When you choose to stay in and not go to a party because there might be alcohol and/or other drugs at the party, you are running the “bad company corrupts good morals” play.

When we “look like Jesus” where we are and follow his instruction,  then it is His name people will see on yours and my invisible jersey and they will know whose team we are on. Our “plays” and the direction we take, identify whose team we are on. I don’t know who will win this Superbowl, but I can tell you who will win the game of life everlasting. It’s “the Lord’s” team-the jersey we are wearing. Remember to follow the playbook and recruit as many players for this team as you can. Play hard and play well!

Holding a grudge is nothing by comparison…

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Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 12.27.58 PMHave you ever held a grudge against someone? Can you recount any wrongs anyone has done against you in your lifetime?  Do you ever have trouble letting those things “go”?

That is the closest illustration I can come up with for us to begin to comprehend Isaiah’s words above-and I don’t really think it scratches the surface. Isaiah’s words today are describing what God will do for his people, and what He has done for us. He has blotted out our transgressions. He chooses not to remember our sins. He can only do this because of Jesus death for us. This is not new news to you or me.

So, do you think us letting go of a grudge is a good comparison to Jesus dying for a sinner? I don’t, but I can’t think of one. The reason is, there is none. There is no equivalent or even close comparison.

I personally sense that I don’t fully comprehend this-perhaps if I had murdered someone and struggled with forgiveness, I might understand better? How about you? If someone took a punishment for us and went to jail for life in our place, don’t you think we would be forever grateful to that person? Would we love them? How might we show it? Visit them in jail? Now, what if they died for us? How would we feel? Would we be extra kind to their family? Give them money?

It is hard to grasp this. My brain gets it but not my heart. I know I sin daily and God graciously forgives me blotting it out forever, but since my sins don’t “seem” so obvious (like murder, stealing, adultery) I believe I am blind. If I can’t realize my crime, I find it hard to grasp I should be punished, and therefore I can’t comprehend being freed from that punishment.

My point is-loving, understanding, and giving our life to serve our Lord, will always depend first upon a true understanding of sin, and how incredibly awful it is-in all forms. We can’t understand the extent of what has been done for us, until we understand the extent of our sin. The reality is, Isaiah is not just talking about letting “grudges” go-this is completely different. Perhaps today as we read Isaiah’s words, we could meditate and ask God to help us see our sin more clearly, so that we in turn, can see and love our Savior all the more clearly!

Water in the desert…

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Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 9.37.55 AMYou have all had some amazing opportunities at Red Lion that not every person gets while in high school.  A few examples off the top of my head are Jordan playing on the Varsity football team starting his senior year, Miriam taking a dual enrollment math course while in high school or Aaron participating in the “stock market” game in 5th grade. These specific examples are due in part, to some very difficult times the school went through. They were paths we might not have chosen if we had been given the choice,  but God allowed us on those paths. In other words, we can see God’s “hand” in all of it.

Daddy and I could recount as well times in our lives, where God’s hand has been seen. It is most often seen when looking back at a situation, not necessarily while we were in it. Isaiah apparently agrees with us today. Chapter 41 of Isaiah tells us that “I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.” (v.18) As he continues to describe the landscape, he concludes with the verse above. “…So that all may see and know…” The desert is there on purpose, so we can see God. Think about this illustration we have been given: A spring of water in a dry land. Would you or I notice a spring of water in a beautiful lush forest? No. The contrast is needed-a desert is needed to REALLY appreciate a spring water. No desert-no appreciation or even desire for the water.

Sometimes, God will walk with us hand in hand through a very hard time with part of the purpose being that we may see Him more vividly. That we may clearly see Him at work. That his hand would starkly contrast the situation-and we would love Him all the more for it.

These are the truths we want to set in our heart, so when these times comes, these dry lands-we can remember that God is holding our hand. He is walking through it with us. While we may not be able to clearly see His hand at the time, because it is so VERY dark, His hand is there. Once we are led out by Him, we will be able to look back, and see Him as clear as day!

What really stands forever?

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Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 9.44.35 AMIn answer to Aaron’s question yesterday about some of my favorite songs and singers, along with Phil Collins, would include Foreignor, Tears for Fears, Pat Benatar, Animotion, and I can’t leave Rick Astley out! I bet they are not your favorites, are they? Why not? Because they aren’t the music style now. That style, as well as their hair and clothing style is long gone. It has faded away out of popularity.

This is what happens as time progresses. “Things” fade away, new things are invented, sung, worn and it is not just things-ideas are the same way. New “ideas” like whether it was drugs in the 60’s, living together instead of marrying, or today’s attitude of harmless “hookups”.

Today, Isaiah has something to say about all of this. It does fade. Just like the grass withers and the flower fades-all of the things and ideas that are supposedly “a great idea” fade away too. Unfortunately the consequences of some of those actions don’t fade away.

Isaiah contrasts this to the word of God. Exactly what is he saying? His point is-the truths, the word of God, do not fade. They stand forever. They stand forever true. Just as from day one, it was best to get married and do things in order, as opposed to just “moving in” together, this truth still stands. Just as we are to be filled with the holy spirit, and not with other things (drugs, alcohol, etc.), the Holy Spirit’s guidance will be protective, the others will lead to our demise. The world currently believes we “evolved”…which devalues life and has led to countless deaths via abortion and euthenasia. God, from the beginning, set forth that life is a gift from him, and begins BEFORE conception, because God forms and knows us even before then.

God’s truth will always stand forever. The things of the world will wither and fade. We need to be certain as we make decisions, spend our money, and choose our actions-that we are making them based on the word that stands, not the one that will wither and fade away!

Celebrate Life!

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Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 9.14.35 AMWell, its the big “50” for me today. I read a great article a while ago about birthdays-and that it is important as a believer to celebrate them. The article was not saying we have to have a big party, or lots of gifts, but instead, pointed out that celebrating a birthday is a time to reflect on the fact that God has consciously decided to give you every one of those days. For me, that totals 18,250 days. Many people dread turning 50 or other “milestone” birthdays. I can honestly say I don’t feel that way, I know God has given me breath every one of those days, including today, and for that, I am thankful. I do not ever want to take that for granted.

Hezekiah in Isaiah above seems to feel the same way. Today’s Scripture covers the period in his life where he in fact was NOT going to get another breath, another day. He knew this was the case because Isaiah actually told him that he was going to die. Hezekiah prayed VERY fervently, begging for more days, and God granted this to him. Needless to say, he was thankful.

Very thankful. The verse above is just a portion of his feelings and writings once his life had been extended. He wanted everyone to know how thankful he was.

Like Hezekiah, I want to be thankful today. I am living, as is my family. We don’t need to look very far to see families who have members who were not given as many days of life.

It is just so easy to take our day and life for granted. While I am alive, and I know dad feels the same, each day we are given we hope we are living examples to you three of God’s faithfulness to us-despite all of our failures. God has been faithful. As he gives you another day, while it is hard when you are young, try to remember, it is a gift. The only way you or I will wake up tomorrow is if God decides He wants us to and then gives us the breath to do so. Life is a gift. It is a gift from the Creator. I don’t ever want to take my life and days for granted and I hope you don’t either. Try to remember to thank God daily for it-and pray for those we know that may not get many more days here on earth.

Truth vs. Lies

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While a bad movie review is not necessarily a “lie”, it is a case where someone says one thing that I find is not true. This is what is happening today in Isaiah. Someone is saying something that is not true. A messenger for the King of Assyria is telling the people in Jerusalem not to listen to their leader, that their God will not save them-and they would be much better off and all their needs would be met if they did what he said. It was a lie. All of it. God would in fact save them, and He did. It is a good thing they did not listen .

The catch here if you notice is that the messenger appeals to some very real needs of theirs: food and prosperity. He was saying, “Come with us and all will be good.” I am sure there was a strong desire to believe it and follow-because at the moment, things weren’t good for them!

When Satan tries to convince us of an untruth, particularly a lie about God, this is a favorite tool of choice: wants or comforts. He appeals to our desires. He appeals to our desire for acceptance, popularity, money or something else. It will have a strong pull for us. It might sound like it makes sense. How will you know its a lie? How did the people in Jerusalem?

Well, first, he was telling them not to trust in God. (In the previous verse he literally says, “..do not let Hezekiah make you rely on the Lord…) This is a big red flag. If anything goes directly against what God has already promised or says, you can be sure it is not truth. Secondly, the messenger was not a man of God. While certainly not all information from non-believers are lies, we need to be very careful when advice and counsel is given by them. This is especially true when we “desire” something strongly-it can be very tempting to seek counsel that will “agree” with our desire, not just truth and wisdom from God.

To discern any or all of this-we need to know God. We need to know his Truth. We need to be able to distinguish and discern clearly truth from lies. The closer our walk with God, the clearer we will be able to tell a truth from a lie.

Hearing for the first time…

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Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 9.58.21 AMHave any of you seen any of the videos of babies who are deaf having implants put in? The videos capture the first time in their lives that the babies hear, after never having heard before. It is always amazing, and they almost always smile with wonder. It is a beautiful picture and a wonderful thing that modern technology now allows for this. Centuries and centuries of other deaf people never had the hopes of this-outside of a true miracle from hand of God.

That’s what I thought about this morning as I read the Bible today-and specifically the verse above in Isaiah. Lame people walking and those who can’t talk speaking are definitely the same as deaf people hearing. I can try to imagine how amazing all of these things would be, but since I am not deaf, lame or mute-it is hard for me.

The reality is though-I do have a similarity, I just don’t realize it. And so do you. There are things and ways that God created us originally that are now marred. Sickness, accidents, wrong choices-without sin, these would never happen. Isaiah here is talking about the day to come when God will build his final kingdom and destroy all evil- both the physical imperfections as well as our spiritual ones. It is part of the “hope” that we have. Hard to imagine, isn’t it? It is hard to look forward to in some ways because this is all we know and that time seems so far away. Also, the reality is, especially for you all at the beginning of your lives-there are still things on earth here you look forward to: jobs, adventures, spouses and perhaps children just to name a few.

I know this and God knows this-but every now and then, He may still give you or I a glimpse. On a bad day, when you are sad, let it remind you a day is coming when there will be no tears at all. When the day comes when you are discouraged with your own failures, remember that God will be restoring your body and mind to fullness on that future day. When you and I don’t understand why God has allowed something to happen, trust that it is important despite our not understanding-and that one day we will know exactly why.

God has a future for us and our hope in that should be an encouragement to us on the difficult days. Just like if you or I were walking in the desert dying of thirst, the day will come where we will reach a stream of water. It is a promise. Take hold of it and stand on it, even when you can’t see it. God has promised it and all of His promises come true.

Need a helping hand? …or arm?

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Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 8.37.49 AMI saw that Miriam was up quite late last night preparing for her Statistics exam. While I got good grades in school, I always had to work very hard to get them too. I had to put in a lot of hours studying, do all my homework, and take notes in class. Exams were a very stressful time for me-and I am sure you all  feel the same right now. Jordan does not have exams now, but is also working very hard at Liberty, studying long hours, trying to maintain his grades. Schoolwork is not easy.

Right now it is 6:30 in the morning. I thought the Scripture I read was perfect for a day like today-one that possibly is stressful for you all, and many others. While we know exams are not the most important thing in life in the grand scheme of things, that doesn’t mean God doesn’t care about them – about the here and now. In Isaiah today, we read about “waiting for God”-and at that same time, while we are waiting, Isaiah is asking God to be our “arm” every morning, and our salvation in time of trouble.

Well, it is morning right now for us and you may feel “in trouble” or in a time of “distress”. I pray He will be your ‘arm’. An arm can accomplish things. It can help someone. I pray He will be your help today in all the work, whatever it is, that you have to do. I pray that He will be your salvation in time of trouble. Some other translations put this; “Save us when we’re in trouble”. It is the idea of helping us out when things seem to go wrong.

I pray you will find God to be your arm of help today if you are in an exam and perhaps find you missed studying one thing, or have momentarily forgotten something you studied. I pray God will help you in that time and bring you peace. Seek Him. Ask for help when you need it. He will be there in times of trouble-whether it is exams, or other areas of life. Isaiah called out to Him, and we should too. God is there for us in these times. Seek Him and you will find Him.

Rahab the hippo

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Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 10.08.37 AMRahab. Does that name ring a bell? It is in today’s verse from Isaiah. Originally I read this verse, and was thinking God was showing us today how we all often seek help from a source that is worthless and empty instead of from God. But then I saw “Rahab” and thought, what is that? What does she have to do with worthless help? Why does it refer to her as “sitting still”?

When you read Rahab, were you thinking of the prostitute who helped the Israelites in the day of Joshua? The one who hid the spies of Israel, helped them escape and is counted as an important woman of faith? I was. Well, this Rahab is not that Rahab. I only knew because I questioned it…which led me to read the footnotes. Here is who (or what) the Rahab in this verse is talking about (according to my the Life Application Bible):

Rahab was a mythological female sea monster associated with Leviathan. It was a name associated with Egypt where hippopotamuses, perhaps a likeness to Rahab, sat on the Nile River and did nothing.” Who would have thought??? I certainly never heard of such a “creature”, did you?

My point is, as we read the Bible, read closely. Study God’s Word. Study it to the point  where as you read, notice when something doesn’t “make sense”. Then pursue that. Reread it, see if your Bible has notes or insights. Ask someone, who you know to be a solid student of the Word, what it means. This is how the Holy Spirit teaches us. I believe He “catches our eye” on certain portions of Scripture, certain verses just for us, just for that day. This is what Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do-and this is one way He does it.
Yes, I think there is something for us to learn today about seeking help from the wrong places, as the Israelites sought Egypt’s help instead of Gods. But maybe today, God is also teaching us to study His Word-to study it so well, we are don’t miss the Holy Spirit’s teaching when He is pointing something out to us. Even if it is the name Rahab-which is referring to a mythological creature “hippo-like” habits l-and not the great woman of God we are familiar with!

Is life good?

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Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 8.44.53 AMThink about the times you have eaten so much you are stuffed. The concept of being “stuffed” after eating always reminds me of one of my language “faux pas” in German. In English we say we are “stuffed” or “full” when we can’t eat another bite. The German word for full is “voll”, but if you use the word “full” in German to say “I am full”… it means “I am pregnant”! You can imagine how that went over the first time I said to a German friend that “I am full”! Instead, in German, to say you are full in terms of food, you say you are “satt” or you are “satisfied”. I am guessing this may also be the term used in Greek, based on today’s verse in Hosea.

God is describing His people yet again, and saying that He fed them. He “fed” them plenty so they were “satisfied”. I think in our terms, we would say they were “full”-but he wasn’t just speaking in terms of food (although I do believe this is included.) God had provided for His people all the food they needed, but also everything else. He had given them the promised land, comfort and prosperous lives. The result? They forgot Him. They became proud and just forgot and abandoned the God who put them where they were. In their comfort, they saw no “need” for God, and quickly dropped Him out of the picture.

I see this to be so easy to do. When do we communicate the most with God? When do we seek Him? When do you pray the most? When we are in need, when we are hurting, when things are going terribly wrong, right? What about those other times? What about when things are not going bad? What about when all our needs are met and we are living a life of comfort, when “Life is good”? We forget… at least I am sure I do. My walk slips a little, my time spent with God slips a little. I forget my Provider.

How about you? Where are you right now? Are things going well amongst you and your friends? In basketball? In school? At work? Has this caused you to “skip” your time reading the Bible? Prayer time? I believe this happens to all of us when life is comfortable, and the more we are aware of it, the more we can make a conscious effort to NOT forget our God. Create habits. Give thanks EVERY DAY for the provisions He has given. Write down 3 things daily you are thankful to God for. These type actions and habits daily will help us be sure not to forget Him whether we are in a season of comfort or not. May we never be so “satt”  or be so happy that “life is good” that we forget our God!