Sunday, February 9, 2014

More than Plastic Praise

Sometimes in midst of deep struggles and dark moments, there are rays of light. Slivers of hope that break thru and stir the soul at its depths. It's not that things are better, or simpler, or easier to understand. Sometimes it's the promise, the faith that one day things wont be the way they are right now. I am really enjoying  the "golden egg" moments that are nestled throughout some really harsh circumstances in the book of Isaiah. Things are not good. People are struggling. Kingdoms are falling. Sin has created great suffering. But today does not define what tomorrow will be. God has a plan for the restoration of His people.
In that day you will say, "I will praise you O LORD. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me. Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD is my strength and my song, He has become my salvation... Give thanks to the LORD, call on His name; make known among the nations what He has done and proclaim that His name is exalted. Sing to the LORD for He has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you." Isaiah 12
To offer praise in the middle of pleasure can be easy. Life is good, things are good, praise Jesus, bla bla bla.
But do I chose to praise God when life gets hard and stays that way? Praise should not be circumstantial or environmental. Praise shouldn't be correlated to my mood or my feelings or the the weather. God is worthy of my worship and my praise. Period. Let's be clear. I am not talking fake praise; "it's -6 out, my heating bill was $300 and it's snowing again - praise Jesus". I'm not sure what that's about - but it's not about God. Praising God shouldn't be manufactured, plastic and insincere gratitude.

The more time I spend with God, the greater my understanding becomes of just how amazing He is and how unworthy I am. He has comforted me, there is peace in my soul that defies present circumstance.  He is my salvation, apart from Him I am eternally doomed. I will trust and not be afraid, I can depend fully and completely on Him without fear. The Lord is my strength, so I don't have to be smart enough or brave enough. He and I together will face what I could never face alone. And He is my song; the truth and joy that resonates within me is from Him. He has done glorious things...Great is the Holy One of Israel among you. God's plan for restoration was Jesus. The is a path for restored relationship with my Father. God as active and participating in my life - and that has made all the difference. Praise God!

Friday, February 7, 2014

A leg to stand on...

My morning started early. A cup of hot coffee, a nice little fire and a window to see the sun rise. Mornings always offer such promise. The day is full of possibilities. Before I start my day with Isaiah my heartfelt prayer is this: Soften my heart to you God, teach me Your truth, transform me.

If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.  NIV 

If you do not believe, surely you will not be established.   NKJ

Unless your faith is firm, I cannot make you stand firm. NLT

If you will not believe, you surely will not last.   NASB

If you don't take a stand in faith, you wont have a leg to stand on.  The Message

Isaiah 7 is a tough read. Hard times are coming, but the struggle will serve a purpose - God's purpose, and God will not abandon His people. Isaiah 7:9 doesn't leave much wiggle room - in any translation. In this passage King Ahaz is in a tough place; evil men plot to overthrow the king and ravage the people of Judah. God sends Isaiah with a message than in it's simplest context says, 'listen, be calm and do not fear. There will be some rough times ahead, and it's going to take a a few decades a suffering, but My people will prevail. Trust in Me fully, or you will lose your throne.'  2 Kings and 2 Chronicles lead me to believe that Ahaz had at one time known God, but he was not a man who regularly walked in the presence of God. The King had a choice - trust his friends and his own abilities to get him out of a tight spot, or trust God. God was clear: stand firm with me, obey me, or perish.  God follows up in verse 11 when He instructs Ahaz to ask for a sign, an amazing act of God that only God could fulfill. Ahaz refuses. At first read, it almost sounds like Ahaz' refusal is offered out of faith. In truth, the refusal comes from a place of arrogance, self reliance and pride. Although he uses "bible talk", Ahaz is not seeking to deepen his relationship with God. He is not interested in sign that will ultimately require him to acknowledge the power and authority of God. Yet God does not relent, and the prophetic promise of the Messiah born of a virgin is given.

I don't face evil men that plot to destroy me. I don't lead a kingdom on the verge of complete collapse. But life isn't perfect - it's real. Sometimes there are hard things. Health issues, struggles with or in employment, conflict in my relationships, financial difficulties. Sometimes people let me down. I get discouraged. Worn out. Weary. What do I do in these hard times? Is it easier and safer for me to trust myself and the people around me than it is for me to trust God? Is there purposeful self examination in the midst of my struggle? Do I look with clear eyes at my attitudes, my motives, my behaviors and the status of sin in my life? Do I dress up my pride and self reliance with 'Bible Talk'? Do I remember the promises of God, and claim them as my truth? Do I look past this struggle with eternal perspective?

Do I have a leg to stand on? Yes, and I have a Savior who carries me when I have no strength to walk.
Thank you Lord, for promises fulfilled and for promises yet to come. You are ever faithful!