Thursday, July 29, 2010

Do not be afraid


In the midst of great turmoil there is great blessing.


God is speaking.
Words of comfort in a dark time...

Isaiah 44
1 “But now, listen to me, Jacob my servant,
Israel my chosen one.
2 The Lord who made you and helps you says:
Do not be afraid, O Jacob, my servant,
O dear Israel,[a] my chosen one.
3 For I will pour out water to quench your thirst
and to irrigate your parched fields.
And I will pour out my Spirit on your descendants,
and my blessing on your children.
4 They will thrive like watered grass,
like willows on a riverbank.
5 Some will proudly claim, ‘I belong to the Lord.’
Others will say, ‘I am a descendant of Jacob.’
Some will write the Lord’s name on their hands
and will take the name of Israel as their own.”

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The grass withers and the flowers fade


“Shout that people are like the grass.
Their beauty fades as quickly
as the flowers in a field.
7 The grass withers and the flowers fade
beneath the breath of the Lord.
And so it is with people.
8 The grass withers and the flowers fade,
but the word of our God stands forever.”

I'm 60 years old today

Things are very similar to when I was 30.
My plans had fallen apart.
My world had fallen apart.
The career I had dedicated myself to had blown up in our faces.
Our girls were little, and we wanted Patti to be a stay at home Mom.
We were in financial uncertainty as we left what we knew and launched something new and untested.
The economy was terrible, and the new career I had chosen - real estate sales - was in severe decline.

When I was 40, I was feeling no pain.
We had just bought a huge new house, and felt like we were on top of the world.
We had just become millionaires, owning 12 houses in Seattle.
Our girls were going into high school and middle school, and we were Oh-So-Proud of them.
Patti had managed to be a stay at home Mom, and we were reaping the rewards.
I threw a party with 125 guests.
I even hired a band to celebrate the auspicious occasion.
The next day I remember thinking, “I have a thousand acquaintences, but very few close friends.”

When I was 50, I owned a prosperous business.
For months, the members of the business put together a wonderful book, with a letter or note from each person.
It was heartwarming, and I have read it over many times since.
Both of our girls had graduated from college, and had married wonderful guys.
I was a multimillionaire, with confidence and great hope.
We had sponsered a Bible Study at our house for 5 years, and those 5 couples were our best friends.

Today I am 60.
The economy is in shambles.
The great Obama recession gets worse with every new trillion of deficit spending he throws away. Its all just printed money, so who cares, right?
We were to have retired two years ago.
Instead we are broke.
And deeply in debt.
I am doing real estate again. Trying to learn how it works in the age of the internet and social media.

My wife has stuck with me.
Our kids have wonderful marriages.
We have 4 beautiful grandchildren.

Our church has had some major transitions. Every one we used to be friends with have left. The average age has dropped by 20 years, even as we have gotten older.
I think my birthday party will just be my wife and I.
And I am thinking, “I have a few dozen acquaintences, and perhaps no close friends.”

And we are trying to rebuild.

I wonder what 70 will be like?
(Do I really want to know?)

Comfort

This passage has four separate meanings:

Isaiah 40
Comfort for God’s People

1 “Comfort, comfort my people,”
says your God.
2 “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.
Tell her that her sad days are gone
and her sins are pardoned.
Yes, the Lord has punished her twice over
for all her sins.”

3 Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting,
“Clear the way through the wilderness
for the Lord!
Make a straight highway through the wasteland
for our God!
4 Fill in the valleys,
and level the mountains and hills.
Straighten the curves,
and smooth out the rough places.
5 Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
The Lord has spoken!”[a]

6 A voice said, “Shout!”
I asked, “What should I shout?”

“Shout that people are like the grass.
Their beauty fades as quickly
as the flowers in a field.
7 The grass withers and the flowers fade
beneath the breath of the Lord.
And so it is with people.
8 The grass withers and the flowers fade,
but the word of our God stands forever.”

9 O Zion, messenger of good news,
shout from the mountaintops!
Shout it louder, O Jerusalem.[b]
Shout, and do not be afraid.
Tell the towns of Judah,
“Your God is coming!”
10 Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power.
He will rule with a powerful arm.
See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.
11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd.
He will carry the lambs in his arms,
holding them close to his heart.
He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young."

1. This is much needed comfort and encouragement for a people who have had lots of prophecy of impending punishment.
2. It is the passage that John the Baptist quoted, explaining his mission in life - to prepare the way for the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
3. It is prophecy of what is still to come
4. It is a wonderful devotional passage for us right now...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Song of Deliverance



Psalm 76
For the choir director: A psalm of Asaph. A song to be accompanied by stringed instruments.


1 God is honored in Judah;
his name is great in Israel.
2 Jerusalem[a] is where he lives;
Mount Zion is his home.
3 There he has broken the fiery arrows of the enemy,
the shields and swords and weapons of war.Interlude

4 You are glorious and more majestic
than the everlasting mountains.[b]
5 Our boldest enemies have been plundered.
They lie before us in the sleep of death.
No warrior could lift a hand against us.
6 At the blast of your breath, O God of Jacob,
their horses and chariots lay still.

7 No wonder you are greatly feared!
Who can stand before you when your anger explodes?
8 From heaven you sentenced your enemies;
the earth trembled and stood silent before you.
9 You stand up to judge those who do evil, O God,
and to rescue the oppressed of the earth.Interlude
10 Human defiance only enhances your glory,
for you use it as a weapon.[c]

11 Make vows to the Lord your God, and keep them.
Let everyone bring tribute to the Awesome One.
12 For he breaks the pride of princes,
and the kings of the earth fear him.

Don't share your password, dob, ss# with strangers...

Hezzie has dodged two bullets.

The Assyrians were at his gates, threatening to flatten the city and make them all slaves.
He called out to God with a desperation we can only imagine!
God sent a miraculous, unbelievable rescue, and Hezzie and his subjects were safe.

Hezzie got sick.
Sick to death, the prophet said.
Hezzie got down on his knees, and pled for his life.
He was restored to health.

He was feeling grand.
Rather invulnerable, in fact.

Then he got the email.
"Your bank is doing an audit.
Go here to comply." (And of course, you need your password, dob, ss# so we know it is really you)
He quickly and eagerly supplied it all.
And then his bank account got cleaned out.

Although that happens a lot today, you might be surprised to learn it happened 3000 years ago...

Isaiah 39
Envoys from Babylon

1 "Soon after this, Merodach-baladan son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent Hezekiah his best wishes and a gift. He had heard that Hezekiah had been very sick and that he had recovered. 2 Hezekiah was delighted with the Babylonian envoys and showed them everything in his treasure-houses—the silver, the gold, the spices, and the aromatic oils. He also took them to see his armory and showed them everything in his royal treasuries! There was nothing in his palace or kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them.

3 Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah and asked him, “What did those men want? Where were they from?”

Hezekiah replied, “They came from the distant land of Babylon.”

4 “What did they see in your palace?” asked Isaiah.

“They saw everything,” Hezekiah replied. “I showed them everything I own—all my royal treasuries.”

5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Listen to this message from the Lord of Heaven’s Armies: 6 ‘The time is coming when everything in your palace—all the treasures stored up by your ancestors until now—will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left,’ says the Lord. 7 ‘Some of your very own sons will be taken away into exile. They will become eunuchs who will serve in the palace of Babylon’s king.’”

8 Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “This message you have given me from the Lord is good.” For the king was thinking, “At least there will be peace and security during my lifetime.”

OK.
Let me just say it.

Hezzie was an IDIOT!!!

Lament of a dying man!

After this amazing
astonishing
incredible
victory over the greatest empire in the world...

Hezekiah's own life crumbles away before his eyes.

Isaiah 38
Hezekiah’s Sickness and Recovery

1 About that time Hezekiah became deathly ill, and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to visit him. He gave the king this message: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Set your affairs in order, for you are going to die. You will not recover from this illness.’”

2 When Hezekiah heard this, he turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, 3 “Remember, O Lord, how I have always been faithful to you and have served you single-mindedly, always doing what pleases you.” Then he broke down and wept bitterly.

4 Then this message came to Isaiah from the Lord: 5 “Go back to Hezekiah and tell him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your ancestor David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will add fifteen years to your life, 6 and I will rescue you and this city from the king of Assyria. Yes, I will defend this city.

7 “‘And this is the sign from the Lord to prove that he will do as he promised: 8 I will cause the sun’s shadow to move ten steps backward on the sundial[h] of Ahaz!’” So the shadow on the sundial moved backward ten steps.

Hezekiah’s Poem of Praise

9 When King Hezekiah was well again, he wrote this poem:

10 I said, “In the prime of my life,
must I now enter the place of the dead?[i]
Am I to be robbed of the rest of my years?”
11 I said, “Never again will I see the Lord God
while still in the land of the living.
Never again will I see my friends
or be with those who live in this world.
12 My life has been blown away
like a shepherd’s tent in a storm.
It has been cut short,
as when a weaver cuts cloth from a loom.
Suddenly, my life was over.
13 I waited patiently all night,
but I was torn apart as though by lions.
Suddenly, my life was over.
14 Delirious, I chattered like a swallow or a crane,
and then I moaned like a mourning dove.
My eyes grew tired of looking to heaven for help.
I am in trouble, Lord. Help me!”

15 But what could I say?
For he himself sent this sickness.
Now I will walk humbly throughout my years
because of this anguish I have felt.
16 Lord, your discipline is good,
for it leads to life and health.
You restore my health
and allow me to live!
17 Yes, this anguish was good for me,
for you have rescued me from death
and forgiven all my sins.
18 For the dead[j] cannot praise you;
they cannot raise their voices in praise.
Those who go down to the grave
can no longer hope in your faithfulness.
19 Only the living can praise you as I do today.
Each generation tells of your faithfulness to the next.
20 Think of it—the Lord is ready to heal me!
I will sing his praises with instruments
every day of my life
in the Temple of the Lord.

21 Isaiah had said to Hezekiah’s servants, “Make an ointment from figs and spread it over the boil, and Hezekiah will recover.”

22 And Hezekiah had asked, “What sign will prove that I will go to the Temple of the Lord?”

Hezekiah's lament of the dying turned into the praise of a grateful heart.

19 Only the living can praise you as I do today.
Each generation tells of your faithfulness to the next.
20 Think of it—the Lord is ready to heal me!
I will sing his praises with instruments
every day of my life
in the Temple of the Lord.

Lord - may my life be a praise to you today!!!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

GOD ALMIGHTY

God Almighty.

GOD ALMIGHTY...

Humans have laughed, ridiculed, demeaned.
In human arrogance professors have defied and belittled.
Coworkers patronize and put down.

But in the end, it is GOD ALMIGHTY...

Isaiah Predicts Judah’s Deliverance

21 "Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent this message to Hezekiah: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Because you prayed about King Sennacherib of Assyria, 22 the Lord has spoken this word against him:

“The virgin daughter of Zion
despises you and laughs at you.
The daughter of Jerusalem
shakes her head in derision as you flee.

23 “Whom have you been defying and ridiculing?
Against whom did you raise your voice?
At whom did you look with such haughty eyes?
It was the Holy One of Israel!
24 By your messengers you have defied the Lord.
You have said, ‘With my many chariots
I have conquered the highest mountains—
yes, the remotest peaks of Lebanon.
I have cut down its tallest cedars
and its finest cypress trees.
I have reached its farthest heights
and explored its deepest forests.
25 I have dug wells in many foreign lands[e]
and refreshed myself with their water.
With the sole of my foot,
I stopped up all the rivers of Egypt!’

26 “But have you not heard?
I decided this long ago.
Long ago I planned it,
and now I am making it happen.
I planned for you to crush fortified cities
into heaps of rubble.
27 That is why their people have so little power
and are so frightened and confused.
They are as weak as grass,
as easily trampled as tender green shoots.
They are like grass sprouting on a housetop,
scorched[f] before it can grow lush and tall.

28 “But I know you well—
where you stay
and when you come and go.
I know the way you have raged against me.
29 And because of your raging against me
and your arrogance, which I have heard for myself,
I will put my hook in your nose
and my bit in your mouth.
I will make you return
by the same road on which you came.”

30 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Here is the proof that what I say is true:

“This year you will eat only what grows up by itself,
and next year you will eat what springs up from that.
But in the third year you will plant crops and harvest them;
you will tend vineyards and eat their fruit.
31 And you who are left in Judah,
who have escaped the ravages of the siege,
will put roots down in your own soil
and grow up and flourish.
32 For a remnant of my people will spread out from Jerusalem,
a group of survivors from Mount Zion.
The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies
will make this happen!

33 “And this is what the Lord says about the king of Assyria:

“‘His armies will not enter Jerusalem.
They will not even shoot an arrow at it.
They will not march outside its gates with their shields
nor build banks of earth against its walls.
34 The king will return to his own country
by the same road on which he came.
He will not enter this city,’
says the Lord.
35 ‘For my own honor and for the sake of my servant David,
I will defend this city and protect it.’”

36 That night the angel of the Lord went out to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. When the surviving Assyrians[g] woke up the next morning, they found corpses everywhere. 37 Then King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and returned to his own land. He went home to his capital of Nineveh and stayed there.

38 One day while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with their swords. They then escaped to the land of Ararat, and another son, Esarhaddon, became the next king of Assyria."

The king who seemed unstoppable was destroyed.
The little kingdom who seemed doomed was rescued.

Why?

Because GOD ALMIGHTY stepped in.

The ONLY defense!

The people of Judah were stuck.

The world empire of the time was at their door.
The diplomatic envoy had threatened them, warned them and intimidated them. They were humiliated and distraught.

They couldn't fight. In fact, as part of the war of intimidation, the Assyrian secretary of state had said that upon surrender his king would donate 2000 horses - IF THE KING OF JUDAH COULD FIND ENOUGH PEOPLE TO RIDE THEM!

Talk about an insult!

He was very specific and clear about religion. DO NOT think your little god can save you! All the nations we have crushed cried out to their gods. NONE of their gods saved them. How do you think your situation is any different?

Isaiah 37
Hezekiah Seeks the Lord’s Help

1 "When King Hezekiah heard their report, he tore his clothes and put on burlap and went into the Temple of the Lord. 2 And he sent Eliakim the palace administrator, Shebna the court secretary, and the leading priests, all dressed in burlap, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. 3 They told him, “This is what King Hezekiah says: Today is a day of trouble, insults, and disgrace. It is like when a child is ready to be born, but the mother has no strength to deliver the baby."

The only "out", the only defense King Hezekiah could hope for, was that the blasphemy and insults of God Almighty had been heard in heaven, and God would defend Judah to defend His great name!

4 "But perhaps the Lord your God has heard the Assyrian chief of staff,[a] sent by the king to defy the living God, and will punish him for his words. Oh, pray for those of us who are left!”

Isaiah comes back strong. Like a true prophet!!

5 "After King Hezekiah’s officials delivered the king’s message to Isaiah, 6 the prophet replied, “Say to your master, ‘This is what the Lord says: Do not be disturbed by this blasphemous speech against me from the Assyrian king’s messengers. 7 Listen! I myself will move against him,[b] and the king will receive a message that he is needed at home. So he will return to his land, where I will have him killed with a sword.’”

8 Meanwhile, the Assyrian chief of staff left Jerusalem and went to consult the king of Assyria, who had left Lachish and was attacking Libnah.

9 Soon afterward King Sennacherib received word that King Tirhakah of Ethiopia[c] was leading an army to fight against him. Before leaving to meet the attack, he sent messengers back to Hezekiah in Jerusalem with this message:

10 “This message is for King Hezekiah of Judah. Don’t let your God, in whom you trust, deceive you with promises that Jerusalem will not be captured by the king of Assyria. 11 You know perfectly well what the kings of Assyria have done wherever they have gone. They have completely destroyed everyone who stood in their way! Why should you be any different? 12 Have the gods of other nations rescued them—such nations as Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Tel-assar? My predecessors destroyed them all! 13 What happened to the king of Hamath and the king of Arpad? What happened to the kings of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah?”

OK, Hezzie. I am leaving your area for now.

But do not think for a moment that your god delivered you. I WILL BE BACK!!

14 "After Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it, he went up to the Lord’s Temple and spread it out before the Lord. 15 And Hezekiah prayed this prayer before the Lord: 16 “O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth. 17 Bend down, O Lord, and listen! Open your eyes, O Lord, and see! Listen to Sennacherib’s words of defiance against the living God.

18 “It is true, Lord, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed all these nations. 19 And they have thrown the gods of these nations into the fire and burned them. But of course the Assyrians could destroy them! They were not gods at all—only idols of wood and stone shaped by human hands. 20 Now, O Lord our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, O Lord, are God.[d]”

Oh Lord, he prayed.

We are terrified!

Our only defense...

Our ONLY defense, is if you step in with your might and power.

Please Lord?

P-L-E-A-S-E-???

Diplomacy, Negotiation and Sacrilege!



Everything Isaiah warned about is now coming true.

The mightiest army on earth is at the gates.
They would prefer to defeat, enslave, scatter and tax the people without bloodshed.
However, they are perfectly able and willing to crush the little kingdom of Judah and take whatever they want.
It is the mighty empire of Iraq (Assyria) vs the tiny little country of Judah.
So here is some of the most one sided negotiation you will ever hear! It is laced with threats, bullying and lots of sacrilege...

Isaiah 36
Assyria Invades Judah

1 "In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign,[b] King Sennacherib of Assyria came to attack the fortified towns of Judah and conquered them. 2 Then the king of Assyria sent his chief of staff[c] from Lachish with a huge army to confront King Hezekiah in Jerusalem. The Assyrians took up a position beside the aqueduct that feeds water into the upper pool, near the road leading to the field where cloth is washed.[d]

3 These are the officials who went out to meet with them: Eliakim son of Hilkiah, the palace administrator; Shebna the court secretary; and Joah son of Asaph, the royal historian.

Sennacherib Threatens Jerusalem

4 Then the Assyrian king’s chief of staff told them to give this message to Hezekiah:

“This is what the great king of Assyria says: What are you trusting in that makes you so confident? 5 Do you think that mere words can substitute for military skill and strength? Who are you counting on, that you have rebelled against me? 6 On Egypt? If you lean on Egypt, it will be like a reed that splinters beneath your weight and pierces your hand. Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, is completely unreliable!
7 “But perhaps you will say to me, ‘We are trusting in the Lord our God!’ But isn’t he the one who was insulted by Hezekiah? Didn’t Hezekiah tear down his shrines and altars and make everyone in Judah and Jerusalem worship only at the altar here in Jerusalem?
8 “I’ll tell you what! Strike a bargain with my master, the king of Assyria. I will give you 2,000 horses if you can find that many men to ride on them! 9 With your tiny army, how can you think of challenging even the weakest contingent of my master’s troops, even with the help of Egypt’s chariots and charioteers? 10 What’s more, do you think we have invaded your land without the Lord’s direction? The Lord himself told us, ‘Attack this land and destroy it!’”

11 Then Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah said to the Assyrian chief of staff, “Please speak to us in Aramaic, for we understand it well. Don’t speak in Hebrew,[e] for the people on the wall will hear.”

12 But Sennacherib’s chief of staff replied, “Do you think my master sent this message only to you and your master? He wants all the people to hear it, for when we put this city under siege, they will suffer along with you. They will be so hungry and thirsty that they will eat their own dung and drink their own urine.”

13 Then the chief of staff stood and shouted in Hebrew to the people on the wall, “Listen to this message from the great king of Assyria! 14 This is what the king says: Don’t let Hezekiah deceive you. He will never be able to rescue you. 15 Don’t let him fool you into trusting in the Lord by saying, ‘The Lord will surely rescue us. This city will never fall into the hands of the Assyrian king!’

16 “Don’t listen to Hezekiah! These are the terms the king of Assyria is offering: Make peace with me—open the gates and come out. Then each of you can continue eating from your own grapevine and fig tree and drinking from your own well. 17 Then I will arrange to take you to another land like this one—a land of grain and new wine, bread and vineyards.

18 “Don’t let Hezekiah mislead you by saying, ‘The Lord will rescue us!’ Have the gods of any other nations ever saved their people from the king of Assyria? 19 What happened to the gods of Hamath and Arpad? And what about the gods of Sepharvaim? Did any god rescue Samaria from my power? 20 What god of any nation has ever been able to save its people from my power? So what makes you think that the Lord can rescue Jerusalem from me?”

21 But the people were silent and did not utter a word because Hezekiah had commanded them, “Do not answer him.”

22 Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah, the palace administrator; Shebna the court secretary; and Joah son of Asaph, the royal historian, went back to Hezekiah. They tore their clothes in despair, and they went in to see the king and told him what the Assyrian chief of staff had said."

This was a no win situation for the king and the people of Judah...