Isaiah 47 this AM. In the Old Testament, Babylon is, of course, an actual city-state & a rising & falling empire but it also becomes symbolic of human decadence, of a society given over to self. Chillingly, Babylon’s slogan in Isaiah 47:8,10 is,
“I am, and there is no one else.”
To fully appreciate the audacity of Babylon’s motto, peruse the previous chapters of Isaiah in which God declares emphatically, repeatedly, “I am God, & there is no other.” The thing about God is that, when we insist long & hard enough on having it our way, sometimes He lets us.
We are flagrantly indoctrinated in our worldly culture to live by exactly the same slogan: “I am, & there is no one else.”
I am who I say I am. Don’t tell me what to do. Don’t infringe upon any of my rights. Don’t get in my way. Don’t even get in my selfie.
I am the Great I am.
The juxtaposition of God’s immensity & tenderness in Is 40 is breathtaking. Your God “who has measured the waters in the hollows of His hand” & “marked off the heavens with the span of His hand” protects His flock like a shepherd, carrying His lambs “in the fold of His garment.”
“Do you not know? Have you not heard?” (Is 40:28)
Oh yeah, many of us have heard 1000X what follows those questions but right about now we may be just exactly exhausted, undone & desperate enough to let them sink all the way from our heads to our hearts then to our actual feet:
“The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth. He never becomes faint or weary; there is no limit to His understanding.
He gives strength to the
& strengthens the
Youths may become faint & weary, & young men stumble & fall,
In the Hezekiah saga of Isaiah in my AM reading. Reflecting today on the poetry - and more generally speaking - the art, prose, music and poignant beauty that only emerge when a pen is dipped in the deep inkwell of pain and suffering. How many songs would never have been written?
Isaiah 38 records the poem Hezekiah wrote in the wake of his illness when the Lord had told him to set his house in order because he’d soon die. He wept bitterly & pled for God to change the outcome and God granted him 15 more years. The song he wrote visits the depths & heights.
A few lines…
“In the prime of my life… I am deprived of the rest of my years…I have rolled up my life like a weaver; [God] cuts me off from the loom… I moan like a dove. My eyes grow weak looking upward. Lord, I am oppressed; support me. What can I say? He has spoken to me.
Isaiah 35. Short intro. 3 years ago I took my daughters to Italy on frequent flier miles. I’d traveled 2 Friday-Saturdays a month most of their lives. Wanted to invest the miles back in them through the trip of a lifetime. Saved up for years & we 3 talked that trip up for years.
By the pure grace of God who seemed intent on blessing 3 flawed but thankful women who loved each other madly, the trip not only lived up to our long expectations. It shamelessly exceeded them. 10 days of joy & laughter. And pasta. So much pasta that I dreamed of tortilla chips.
By Day 6, I just wanted to use my teeth to eat but I digress. On to Scripture. You will be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful chapter in Isaiah than 35. It speaks of a day to come when the desert will bloom wildly and rejoice with singing over the glory & splendor of the Lord.
Remembering 9/11. Like all who are old enough to remember, those images are etched inches deep in my mind. That blue sky haunts me. Like a backdrop. Cloudless. Seamless, making the sight clear as crystal. Out of the eerie blue shot the 2nd plane, undeniable, utterly unfathomable.
My phone rang almost immediately. It was KSBJ, the popular Christian contemporary radio station here in Houston. My friend, Susan, the morning DJ, on the other end. “Can you come?” Yes. “Read Scripture to our listeners?” Yes. And that’s all I did that day. 1 verse after another.
We were all in such a state of shock. At 1st there were no explanations.
Terrorism is a terrible word. No one knew where or when it would end.
But there the Scriptures were, in cerulean contrast, on the page where they could always be found. Every syllable in place. Unshaken.
This morning I'd like to talk about being what Paul calls Timothy in 1 Thess 3:2, "God's coworker in the gospel of Christ." Can you imagine? God's coworker?? But, yes, that's what we are when we engage in gospel work. God reminded me of it in my reading in Isaiah 26 this morning:
Is 26:12 says, "Lord, you will establish peace for us, for (here goes->) you have also done all our work for us." Now, beside it, see Paul's words in Col 1:29 in reference to his gospel labors: "For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me."
TOIL. STRUGGLING. ENERGY. POWERFULLY WORKING. This phenomenon I'm about to describe is astonishing to me but it may be so obvious to everyone else that it doesn't seem like a big deal. @MelissaMoore77 & I are just finishing up an enormous project so it's really fresh on my mind.
Came to one of the most gorgeous sections of Scripture in the book of Isaiah. The prophecy comes like a feast in the wilderness to a starving, staggering people because it is preceded by such words of judgment to rebellious nations. I’m just going to read it to you. Is 25:6-10...
“On this mountain the Lord of Armies will prepare for all the peoples a feast of choice meat, a feast with aged wine (it’s been waiting on the Baptists), prime cuts of choice meat, fine vintage wine (we won’t know the difference). On this mountain he will destroy the burial...
shroud, The shroud over all the peoples, the sheet covering all the nations (picture the nations personified & covered like dead bodies & God removing the sheet to bring back to life those who trusted Him); He will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe away the tears...
Isaiah 16 this AM. Verses 9-10 reminded me of something I learned & dearly loved while writing Chasing Vines. The people of God (by the direction & delight of God) rejoiced exuberantly, loudly—shouting & singing & stomping—as they harvested the fruit of their co-labors with God.
You see, there’s nothing wrong with—indeed everything right with—rejoicing over fruitfulness. We’re meant to shout & sing & celebrate when God blesses the work of our hands. But what was different in their culture is that their celebrations had no celebrities. It was God & group.
Our culture prizes individualism and independence as the highest of values & these values are virtually as treasured among us in our believing world as they are in the outside world. We don’t know God’s thoughts on these strangest of days for the church. But I wonder if He has...
Challenging some willing souls to memorize Ephesians 2. Why? 1) It’s clear gospel. A masterpiece penned so beautifully-dare I say rhythmically-that parts read like poetry. 2) We’re losing our ability to concentrate in this avalanche of chaos. If we don’t push back, it’ll bury us.
Few of us saw all this upheaval & isolation lasting this long. We were understandably consumed by it & we submerged ourselves in it. But this chaos isn’t going to end soon. Yes, must be informed but that’s not what’s happening here. We’re being CONformed to this unhinged culture.
If we have the same fears,
the same fights,
the same hate,
the same misery,
the same side-taking,
the same near-sightedness, madness, chaos and the same banner-waving over mere humans who cannot save,
where on earth is our witness?
Isaiah 11 today. Even in the first 39 chapters themed by prophecies of judgment, devastation and inevitable captivity for the ancient people of God over their unwillingness to repent, there are these glimpses of a future so gorgeous and unfathomable, they take your breath away.->
“The wolf will dwell with the lamb & the leopard will lie down with the goat. The calf, the young lion & the fattened calf will be together & a child will lead them... An infant will play beside the cobra’s pit & a toddler will put his hand into a snake’s den. They will not harm
or destroy each other on my entire holy mountain for the land will be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the sea is filled with water...& His resting place will be glorious.” The enmity that burgeoned from sin in the Garden & from soil cursed with thorn & thistle will end.
A few verses from my AM Scripture reading in Isaiah 8:
“For this is what the Lord said to me with great power to keep me from going the way of this people:
Do not call everything a conspiracy these people say is a conspiracy.
Do not fear what they fear; do not be terrified->
“You are to regard only the Lord of Armies as holy. Only He should be feared; only He should be held in awe.” (vv11-13)
“Go to God’s instruction and testimony!” (v20)
I don’t care what side of the political aisle, what side of a pulpit, what side of a movement or what side of a family it is on. Finding then fanning the flame of people’s fears THEN presenting as the deliverer from those fears is the most effective manipulation tactic on earth.
I shall rejoice in the Lord today though this life is full of woe. I shall sing of His goodness though the dark is my fierce foe. I shall lift my face toward heaven for my Savior sits enthroned. And I shall think on how the feast draws nigh & bake, yes, Saints,
a buttermilk pie.
Prepared and about to put it in the oven. That’s a little bit of nutmeg sprinkled on top. I most often leave it entirely off but today I sprinkled the least little bit. I don’t like the nutmeg to bully the butter, vanilla and buttermilk into the background.
Ok y’all, so the pie still has about 25 minutes to go but the crust is as dark as I want it to get. So a little trick is to take a piece of aluminum foil, fold it and cut a half-circle out of it then open it and lay what’s left over the pie.
Sometimes in my morning devotions, as I jot down notes or intercessions in my journal, I’m caught by the sight of the aging hand holding the pen & tears fill my eyes. I started this practice at 18. The Lord has carried me so long. Younger servant, God will be so faithful to you.
Live it out with Him. The whole thing. The beautiful & the disastrous. The worst decisions I’d make were after 18, of course, but, because it was the way I met with God to start each day, I just kept on. And He never forsook me. Always walked me to repentance. Always restored me.
Jesus has only gotten dearer to me. That’s the thing I want to say to you. He will only get dearer to you. You fear you will lose interest in the gospel. In the Bible. You don’t know how on earth you’ll keep your fervor for the rest of your life. But, you see, that’s the miracle.
The more I study the letters of the apostle Paul and commit sections to memory, the more convinced I become that we (at least in my tradition) have woefully underestimated and undervalued the Holy Spirit. I think this error explains much of our lovelessness & disunity. Because...
the truth is, we are fully capable of loving people who are very different from us. My guess is, we do it all the time. We have generous margin for loving people who do not know Christ. The peculiar irony is that we tolerate little difference in one another in the family of God.
If we are in different camps of Christianity, one another’s mistakes are permanent. On record. We save screenshots & time them for reposting “gotchas.” Apologies aren’t enough. We’re all deeply flawed. How will we ever grow if there is no safety to make mistakes & get past them?
Keith told me a story tonight I’ve heard 1000X & hope to hear 1000 more. Wade fishing off the Chandeleur Islands. He’d anchored his boat on a sandbar, hopped out chest-deep. Commenced casting. He’s a great outdoorsman all around but there’s no finer saltwater fisherman on earth.
Now my man does not exaggerate a story even when it would improve it no small measure. This 1 needs no improvement. It is perfect. Short. To the point &, when he tells it, he looks off into the distance & props both his hands, scarred from years of hooks & fins, low on his waist.
And he settles in. Don’t rush him. His face is weathered from so many years in the sun and, as he tells the story, the lines around his eyes widen just enough to let you catch thin strips of white hidden in the brown folds. He was casting a red shrimp-tail jig for trout and reds.
We older servants of God are watching you younger servants come to the same inevitable realizations: It’s all so much harder than you pictured. And you thought, if you served faithfully, everything would go smoothly. It didn’t. You’re realizing people are impossible to please. ->
You actually thought Christians would act like Christians & many of them decidedly did not. People have let you down and, worst of all, you have let yourself down & you have no idea how to navigate the future. If any of this describes you, bless your God. You are right on track.
Things are going just as Jesus said they would. Problem is, many if not most of us were trained by a fusion of biblical Christianity & American ideology. I love my country but recognizing the conflation is critical for the church to prosper within it. Jesus said it would be HARD.
Challenging days for those who speak, teach or preach. We’re trying hard to serve you faithfully straight to camera in virtually empty rooms and sanctuaries but I just have to say this AM that I miss you so much- your faces, the sounds of Bible pages turning -that my heart aches.
Just want you to know that nothing replaces actual you. It’s an honor to serve you any way I can. But I miss your face, your warmth and the sounds of your praises when we worship God in the same room. Let’s hold tight to our Bibles and to one another during this time of testing.
I just sorta wanna feel depressed about this this morning but I’m not going to. Gonna try to count it all joy.
“As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest & then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.” And so the gorgeous book of Daniel ends. An old man now, body, if like ours, bent & sore, bearing the wear & tear of life in whirlwind & storm.
“Go on living.” Mind you, these words of Godspeed are said to him by a heavenly being hovering over the Tigris River, a being dressed like a priest in linen wearing a belt of gold, face shining like lightning, eyes like flaming torches. Daniel had collapsed facedown at the sight.
He’d had to be brought back to his feet by the glorious being. “Daniel, you are a man treasured by God. Understand the words that I am saying to you. Stand on your feet.” And he had. Shaking like a leaf. “Don’t be afraid, Daniel.” (Dan 10) He’d told him of the conflicts to come.
Maybe I’m just sitting where I can’t see this thing very well but, from where I’m sitting, from what I’m hearing, I don’t think many people are thriving right now. God is faithful. He’ll bring us through but, as He does, let’s remember that nearly everyone’s having a hard time.
Those who annoy you are struggling. That person who constantly triggers you is struggling. That individual who insists on competing with you is struggling. Hateful people are deeply injured somewhere & presently scared half to death. Everybody’s trying to cope with vulnerability.
This is how the enemy of our soul works: he batters us when we’re down. Fights dirty. Goes for the places we’re most vulnerable. He accuses us when we’re already feeling like failures. Bludgeons us where we’re already bruised. Knows what we fear most & threatens it relentlessly.
Of the mysteries I long to see revealed when we’re gathered around the throne beholding the Lamb of God, 1 of my top 5 is how people who truly love Jesus, serve Him tirelessly, love His church & study Scripture diligently can see things so differently. But by then we’ll all be 1.
We will love each other so much then. I want to get a jump on it and love well now. I don’t know if we will have the capability of going, “man, I really couldn’t stand you back then but I like you now” and laugh or not but I look so forward to sitting at the table with you.
A year or so ago, a man on here who’d been so critical and absolutely driven me crazy passed out while preaching a sermon at his church 1 Sunday. Rushed to ICU. They thought he might die. My heart broke. I sobbed, face to the floor, crying out for his life & family. I knew then->
If you’re gonna let a little name-calling keep you from standing up for what you believe according to the Word of God is gospel truth, you ain’t ready. White supremacy has held tight in much of the church for so long because the racists outlasted the anti racists.
They’re going to call you a Marxist, a liberal (their worst possible derision) & a leftist. They’re going to make fun of your “wokeness” & they’re going to say you’ve departed all faithfulness to the Scriptures. If you teach or preach, they’ll say you are a false teacher/prophet.
And they do this because it is effective. There will be people who believe them. And this is why it has worked for generations. The names in the name-calling may be different but the fear it triggers is the same. No servant of God wants to be seen as unfaithful. So we tone down.