Friday, February 29, 2008

God's Restoration and God's Renewal: The Difference

Isaiah 34-35, as a unit, is a coin with two sides....a battery with two teminals. Is. 34 talks about God's retribution (-), and Is. 35 talks about God's restoration (+). And this restoration will be a perfect completion to his 1) kingdom, 2) people, and 3) the earth. And though that is great, I am struck by the fact that this restoration is still "one day." In other words, it is eventual. Which means, it ain't happened yet! Bummer, huh?

So what do we do in the meantime while we are livng in what I call the "Valley of the In-Between?" Answer: Let God renew us! Paul makes a strong case for renewal in the here-and-now in 2 Corinthians 4 when he says "though our outward man is perishing, our inward man is renewed day by day." This renewal is inward, and it is daily. I find it intriguing that Paul is not promising outward and lasting quick fixes now, but instead inner resiliance, and that even on an "as-needed" basis. (Reminds me of the passage where God promised Paul that his "grace was sufficient.")

So there it is -- Restoration one day, renewal today! The difference is all in the timing...the "when." So let's fix our eyes on the inside...let's make sure we are looking at what matters most during our time on earth: a rightly renewed heart!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

God's a Great Farmer (Isaiah 28:23-29)

Three verbs tell us how we should appraoch this first WOW passage -- "listen" ... "hear" ... "pay attention." Here's why: Isaiah is laying out for us God's real intent in plowing -- fruit! (29:24-26) If we aren't listening we could miss this and think God was simply enjoying the act of digging for digging's sake! :) Not at all! He digs so that he can plant so that he can grow so that he can reap. It's all about the fruit at the end, not the digging at the beginning.

In fact, this is the theme of all these veses! When he talks about the "cartwheel over the cummin" (29:27) or the "grain being ground" (29:28) or the "threshing with a sledge" (29:27), it's for the purpose of bread! Yep, good ole' bread! That's the positive side of farming! Does it entail negative asects? Yes -- digging, threshing, grinding, etc. But the end product is enjoyable, beneficial, and profitable.

Such is God's chastening and training! In the short run, painful; but in the long run, profitable. God isn't just a good parent, he's a great farmer!

Jeremiah's Positive Side to God's Discipline

As I was meditating on the five WOW passages in Isaiah 28-33, God's Spirit brought a verse from Jeremiah to mind that also speaks of God's positive intent even in the middle of seemingly negative discipline/training -- Jeremiah 29:11!

"For I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

WOW! And though too many people have used that verse out of context for their own selfish plans and profit (sing kum-ba-yah everyone), it does nonetheless give us great insight into God's intent for his people, the nation of Israel: The real goal of their captivity, both in the BC time and in the "soon-to-be" time, is positive! Yes, God fully intends to bring them to the final posession of a land that will one day be fully restored to its full fertility and into a community of worshippers whose vision is singularly fixed on Jehovah -- that's awesome! That's the chastening character of our God as it should wholly be seen -- positive, not punitive. Sure, it's not always evidenced immediately, but it is always fullfilled eventually.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

God's Discipline is His Delight

The main chapters in view for March 2 are Isaiah 28-33, all of which begin with "Woe" except for one (ch. 32). I call them the 5 "Woes," for they talk about the chastening/discipline God is bringing upon the nation and city because of their sin. Yet, in the middle of these chapters that have definite punitive overtones, Isaiah leaves us with 5 "Wows" -- passages that tell us of God's positive intent in the discipline. It's like God, in the middle of our waywardness, says to us, "You'll thank me for this one day." (reminiscent of when our parents often said similar things to us) :) God is so committed to our holiness/sanctification that even in his training (i.e., discipline, chastening), he makes sure to tell us it is, in the end, for our good.

Here are the five WOWs:

1. Isaiah 28:23-29
2. Isaiah 29:22-24
3. Isaiah 30:15-26
4. Isaiah 31:4-5
5. Isaiah 33:20-24

Exploring each of these 'WOW' passages would be a worthwhile study/discussion for any small group, but for now, here's a general sense of them all: God, even in the middle of perceived punishment, is actually perfecting us. His discipline is truly productive, not punitive. As stated in a previous blog, these 5 passges really resonate with the same themes as we find in the latter portions of Hebrews 12.

It's as if God is saying through Isaiah, "I know this hurts right now, but you'll be glad one day." (Or somthing to that effect.) That's the delight of our Heavenly Daddy -- to discipline (i.e., train) us in a way that prepares us for what's coming up. He's thinking way in advance, and getting us ready! He's the perfect parent, eh? Hallelujah!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

God is a Disciplining Daddy

As I pull together my thoughts/notes for Sunday, March 2 (Isaiah 28-33 and God's chastening nature), it is accompanied by a glaring passage in Hebrews 12 that echoes and reinforces what Isaiah is saying: God always brings out the best in his kids! Sure, in the moment it doesn't seem like he's trying to bring out the best in us, but it really is his end goal! He hasn; forgotten about us and he isn't mad at us; he is simply producing in us what is needed most: the character of Christ. In fact, that kind of "discipline" is proof-positive we are his kids!

Here's a thought...Know why he is intent on bringing out the best in us? So that we can be most used for his ultimate and sovereign purpose! So even in his chastening nature, God is eyeing the future and working towards his goal of ultimate glory!

God's Soverienty - It's Not About Us!

Often we like God's Sovereignty when it makes sense to us...when it makes my life "work out" or look better. But that is really not the filter to use when trying to get a grasp on God's sovereignty, for it leaves us as the end goal...that's a shallow Christian and a small god. God is seeking a host of nations worshipping him, and one day that will happen. That's what he's up to in history! All of his actions lead to that! If my life doesn't always make sense now but it leads to that eventual goal, so be it! Remember Hebrews 11? The writer (Timothy I think) there said "they all died not having yet received the promise" (paraphrase). WOW! The best lens through which to see God's sovereignty in its fullest sense is the overall purpose of a gathering of nations worshipping the one and only true God! That puts my comfort or discomfort in a whole new light, and rightly so! It's really not about me or's all about God!

God's Sovereignty - Rick Davis Style

I was struck last night (at our event "Marriage: Unplugged") by the number of times Rick, our Featured Mobilizer this month for missions, encouraged us to "let God be God." Granted -- God isn't waiting on our permission or approval (duh!)...but it's just our human way of saying, "Be okay with the fact that God is beyond us!" Rick and Nikky came face to face with this on several occassions (infertility, moving to Laos, & her mother, to name a few) and it was encouraging to hear him simply tell of his unwavering trust in a Sovereign God! To me, Rick really portrays what it means to simply trust, much like what God (through Isaiah) was commanding Ahaz to do in Is. 7 -- have faith!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

God's Sovereignty

The focus of this week's message was/is the sovereign nature of God, and all I can say is WOW! (By the way, don't expect me to cover it in a week!) :)

Anyway, amazing, eh? We say we have choice, and it certainly appears that we do. But as A.W. Tozer said, and I paraphrase, "The (ocean) liner of God's purposes has already set its destination" (from Knowledge of the Holy). As a survey of the 10 nations in Isaiah 13-27 shows, God's purposes prevail over the course of time, in spite of mankind, and God is proven to be independently and absolutely in control. Truth is, he is even bringing those nations to that Day when all nations will worship him. So his sovereignty has an ultimate purpose -- God's glory!

Romans 9-11 brings this out in a stunningly clear way as well...enjoy those tension-filled passages! Did we choose? Did God already decide? Can we ever figure it out? I'm left hilariously glad and wonderfully happy that my God is "unfigure-outable." Unmanageable. Beyond understanding. Sovereign!

To all my Arminian friends, the appearance of your choice is a nice thing to watch. To all my Calvinites, your "irresistable" decisions are fun to follow. To all of us, enjoy an unmanageable God!