Friday, April 29, 2011

Jeremiah Chapters 19-21

19:5 - I have never thought about this before today, but this verse seems to imply that God cannot even fathom evil...even God is shocked by the vile creativity of the fallen. Human beings have taken the creative powers that God granted them when He made them in His image and twisted them into the ability to create evil. Don't forget that the sick and twisted things in this world are not the creations of God...they are the foul fruits of men.

19:9 - God knows that when he allows His people to come under siege that their selfish sinfulness will show through...even when facing off against the consequences that their disgusting actions have brought upon them, the people will exhibit self-serving behavior beyond imagination - they will begin to devour one another.

19:10-11 - Jeremiah uses a powerful object illustration. He buys a piece of pottery, brings the Jewish leaders outside with him and smashed it to smithereens on the ground. Imagine the shock as they see the prophet of God hurl the pottery to the ground in front of them without a word. I imagine that he then looks them each in the eye and says you and the rest of the people of God will be shattered like this pot for from will be beyond repair. Fortunately the things that are beyond repair for men are well within the redeeming powers of God, and eventually God will rebuild His people.

20:2 - Where did we ever get the idea that God wants us to be happy? Where did Christians ever come up with the false theology that if they believe in God life will go smoothly and they will be successful? I don't really see that in scripture. God doesn't want us to be blindly happy...He wants us to find joy in faithfulness and hope in trusting Him. Every time I read scripture about people who are absolutely committed to the way of God, their lives are generally harder from a worldly standpoint. Jeremiah is one of the least "successful" ministers of all time, yet he is also one of the most faithful. What do you think that means?

20:9 - If we allow the word of God to sink into our hearts and minds, it is like a fire burning within us that cannot be contained. It is a fire that burns through us and cleanses destroys the lies and selfishness within us. In Luke chapter 24, two disciples of Jesus are unable to see him because of their confusion and sorrow at his death on the cross. When Jesus tells them how the scriptures prophesied that the Messiah would have to suffer and die, it says that they began to feel the truth from the Word burning within them. Their fears and sorrow were burned away and they were able to see that the man speaking to them was Jesus. The Word is powerful and active in our lives if we allow it to be.

20:13 - Jeremiah goes back and forth between complaining to God about the treatment that he is receiving from his fellow Hebrews and praising God. Even in difficult times, he finds a way to praise God. I see this as a sign of true faith. Am I able to praise God in times of trouble?

20:18 - Just because he trusts in God and remains faithful does not make his difficult task any easy...he still has questions and doubts...that doesn't negate his belief.

21:2 - The leaders of Israel come to Jeremiah hoping for a positive sign (Pretty funny after they have been mocking and beating him for the things he has to say)...they hope that God will deal with them according to the goodness of God (Which is REALLY good!), but instead God deals with them according to their own corruption (Which is not good for them). Fortunately for us, in Jesus, God dealt with every human that has ever existed according to His own goodness granting us salvation that would have been impossible on our own merits.

21:14 - God punishes according to the fruit of their lives - the outcomes of their the agricultural imagery used by Jeremiah, all the fruit that is rotten will be burned up by the wrath and judgment of God to make way for new plants with good fruit. When we were in the redwood forests north of San Francisco, we were told that natural fires are good for forest ecosystems, because they allow the nutrients to be replenished in the soil so that the plants grow back even stronger after the blaze. This reminds me of 2 Peter chapter three where the judgment of the Lord is described as coming in fire in the end. Yet it also says that the earth will be remade and all the works of the earth will be revealed...the good will remain and the evil will be burned away. Live everyday to bring righteousness to the world because it is lasting...the evil deeds of man are simply fuel for the fires of judgment.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Jeremiah Chapters 16-18

16:11-13 - Most of chapter 16 sounds pretty brutal and cruel, with no hope on the horizon. These are the kind of passages that non-Christians like to bring up to discredit that God is a "God of love." Yet we find out as we keep reading why the wrath of God is burning so hot - the people have rejected their creator...their king...their God. The chosen people of God who are supposed to be a light to the world leading all people to Him, have instead chosen to emit more vile, sinful, evil into the world and that cannot stand. God in His infinite goodness cannot allow evil to go unchecked in the world, especially int he lives of those who know better!

16:15 - And as always, in the midst of judgment there is a future hope. God's motivation for fighting back against evil and for punishing His people is always love. He promises that just as He brought His people out of Egypt, He will again bring them out of the enslavement they will soon find themselves in. God always brings redemption out of suffering. Jesus himself cried out to God - "Why have you forsaken me?" God allowed Jesus to be punished for the sins of the world so that Jesus could be glorified in the resurrection and so that we could be redeemed. God allows His people to experience the consequences of their actions with the end goal of bringing the people back to Him.

16:18 - Hypocrisy and unrighteousness are serious business for God, especially when it comes from the lives of people who cal themselves God-fearers. Because when believers live anti-God lives, the image of God and name of God that is reflect in their belief claims in ruined. What we really need is less people calling themselves Christians and more people living as Christ in this world.

17:5 - How much do you and I need to learn this truth? How much does every human being that walks the face of this earth need to understand this fact? When you place you trust in flesh: human strength, human wisdom, human accomplishment, become cursed by being totally dependent on a source of strength that actually has no real power. Oh the frailty of man!

17:7ff - Yet on the other hand, if we truly put our trust in God and stand firm in the faith, there is no season of life - good or bad - in which we cannot bear good fruit.

17:9-10 - The human heart is deceptive...the human nature is selfish and twisted...why do we so often give in to the evil desires of our hearts? This reminds me of the struggle that Paul describes in Romans chapter 7 - he says, "I keep on doing what I do not want to do because of the sinful human nature that is within me!" Don't we all? It makes no sense that we continually seek out the things that are going to destroy us and have destroyed us and many others before us in the past! It is so frustrating. But God can see inside the hearts and the mind of all people...and through the redemptive work of the cross and the power of the Holy Spirit we are offered a chance to be transformed by the renewing of our minds...a step by step process where we join in with God and make out thoughts obedient to Jesus Christ! Thank you God for saving us from ourselves.

17:27 - The Sabbath is vitally important because it is a show of respect for and dependence on God. It is the very lack of dependence the Israelites had that led them to worship false idols (The same goes for us too). They believed they no longer needed God because they had other pagans gods to worship...we sometimes allow ourselves to believe we don't really "need" God because of a steady job, food in the pantry, great success, etc. The people are warned that if nothing changes in their attitude towards depending n God that there will be consequences...and the same goes for us once again.

18:7-8 - God is the creator...He is the potter. As the potter, He has every right to destroy and remake His creation when it is flawed and corrupt. He breaks the wet clay down - destroys it - and reshapes it to fit the mold that He originally intended...and when that happens the reshaping will end and the pot will be able to be hardened by the dire of the Spirit and used as it was always meant to be used.

18:11 - Again, the purpose of the remaking/discipline/the disaster that is soon to be upon them, is to bring the people back around to right living with God.

18:23 - Jeremiah's anger boils over...the people of God attack him from all sides because he is speaking the words of God. It is shocking and vile and Jeremiah demands justice. I am glad that God is the one who is going to be determining the justice in the end, because human beings would totally screw it up. Notice at the end of Jeremiah's speech there is no future hope of redemption or plan to bring these people back to him...he is just vengeful. God's anger is always focused on bringing His people back in the end...I'm glad He is the one in charge!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Jeremiah Chapters 13-15

13:7 and 11 - God has always used creative teaching moments to drive home points to his people. This should really inspire parents and leaders of any sort to get creative in the ways that they communicate truth to the people who follow them. In this instance, God tells Jeremiah to bury some underwear in the mud of the river and leave it there for a while. When Jeremiah comes back to get it, the cloth is rotten and useless. God says the point is that His people are supposed to cling to Him as underwear clings to the body - they are supposed to hold tight to their God. Yet because of the sin they have allowed into their society, they have become utterly rotten and they have lost the ability to cling to God...they have become useless. We need to remember that as sin rots us from the inside it becomes harder and harder for us to turn to God and hold to God and rely on Him. The longer we let unchecked sin run wild in our lives, the harder it is connect with God.

13:27 - Do you ever spend time thinking about the fact that God sees everything you do - seriously? I don't think about that very often, but I think I should. It really drives home the reality that you are not alone...there is never a time where you can sin when "nobody knows about it." There are no hidden sins before God. He knows all the vile and evil things that are done in our lives and in our hearts. Let this knowledge drive you to seek righteousness and do everything you can to be clean before God.

14:14 - The false prophets are telling the people exactly what they want to hear. What they don't understand is that they are actually helping to destroy the people by making them feel better, while simultaneously bringing the wrath of God upon themselves for lying in His name. And these things go on in churches today don't they? There are pastors who are much more focused on keeping people happy than they are about calling their people to righteousness. We offer ourselves excuses for living the way our culture tells us to live by minimizing the difficulty of a life lived to honor God. No good can come of this.

14:21 - I found it interesting that the people plead with God to show them mercy for His name's sake...honestly, they hit the nail right on the head. If you think about it, God is the one who is ultimately shamed by this entire process of disciplining His people. He is absolutely humiliated. The God who created the universe with a word, chooses a specific group of people to be His priest-nation in the world - to be a light to all nations - and they reject Him! His own people turn away from Him! Other nations are allowed to come in and conquer them and those people think their false gods are more powerful than the only God. God is disgraced, yet He loves His people so much that He is willing to go through that humiliation...willing to punish the people He loves, so that they will return to Him.

15:4 - So what did Manasseh do? He was one of the kings who led his people in the worship of idols and false gods...he took part in child sacrifice...he basically taught his people to hate the Word of God. And though he repented towards the end of his life, the consequences of his actions were far reaching. Just because we are forgiven for our sins does not mean that the vile legacy of our sinful choices does not continue on.

15:6 - God says, "ENOUGH! I have relented again and again. I have called you back to me. I have warned you. I have showed you more mercy than you deserved, and you still continue to turn away from your God. To deny your covenant relationship. So the time has come...I will pour out my wrath and discipline upon you in the hopes that you will finally get the picture and come back to me."

15:10 - This reminds me a lot of Job 3:1-26. Jeremiah is cursing the very day that he was born. He is throwing a little pity party for himself. He tells God, "I wish I had never been born if this is all you have for me...everyone I know id totally against me!" He and Job both could not see God's overall plan through the horrible circumstances they were experiencing. We must remember when times are tough that although we may not understand what God is doing...He knows what He is doing.

15:19 - God answers back to Jeremiah: "Stay true to me...speak the words that I have put inside of you...and I will protect you." Even when it seems like the whole world is turned against us, our number one priority has got to be staying true to God and the work that He is doing though our lives.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Jeremiah Chapters 10-12

10:2 - Again and again God has warned His people that they are not supposed to get caught up in the things that the world gets caught up in. They are not to buy in to the worldview of the pagan people round them and worry about what people who deny God worry about. These warning still stand for us today. Whenever you see people who allow their political, cultural, selfish leanings shape their faith - you see a distorted, twisted and non-Christian brand of Christianity. That does not bode well for life.

10:6-10 - In a stark contrast to the idols described in the verses that come before (v. 3-5), Jeremiah points out the amazing and unchanging nature of God. The other idols are lifeless...they are dead (trees cut down and carved into "gods")...they are unable to move...they are false. Our God is a living God...our God is an everlasting God - which one will you worship? Will you choose to worship money...meaningless material possessions...the adoration of others - these things are not worthy of your worship. You are a worshipper, created by the one and only God to worship Him...don't waste your precious time and worship on anything else.

11:8 - Over and over God gives His people warnings...He calls His people back to Him, but instead of listening to their creator, they choose to listen to the selfishness and evil within them. This is another form of idolatry, it is called self-worship. How well does that usually work out for us? We should each know exactly how screwed up and unworthy of worship we are personally!

11:14 - This reminds me of a Francis Chan teaching I heard a couple of weeks back. He said a man was leaving his wife and kids, and he wanted Francis to pray that he would be able to have a great new start on his new life (If you know anything about Francis Chan...he is probably the last person you would ever want to make this kind of request to). Francis told him to his face that there was no way he would pray a prayer like that. He told him it would be wasting his prayer because the man had chosen to reject everything that he knew was right from God and serve himself. Maybe the reason that we sometimes don't hear from God is that we have unresolved sin and rebellion in our hearts.

12:1 - Jeremiah puts a question before God that has been echoed by people since the beginning of sin. Why does it seem like the evil people in the world prosper? The interesting part about this passage is that God doesn't even really answer his question (It reminds me a lot of the way Jesus answered questions in the NT, which makes sense, since Jesus is God!)...God says back to him in verse 5 - it's really only gonna get worse from here, so you better get ready to keep pushing through. Wow - thanks for the comforting words God. When you look at the words of Jesus in the New Testament, there are no promises that life is gonna get easier when you follow him. In fact, he says that following him is actually gonna make life harder - "people will hate you because of me." Sometimes it seems that the evil people of the world are more successful here because they are taking the easy road...they are living for the here and now, serving themselves, and short-sighted. The only way that believers can deal with the brutality and fallenness of this world is by understanding that there is a deeper reality at play. The evil who find success in their rejection of God's way and the destruction of others, will find that they are lining up a great deal of destruction for themselves when the end comes. God's justice may not always be met out in this life, but it will be met out.

12:8 - God is still answering Jeremiah back when he says that the people of His inheritance have disgraced Him...He even says that He "hates" them, which is one of those verses that makes Christians very squirmy. God hates people?! I thought God was love? Well, in the Hebrew train of thought, hate is not the opposite of love. Do you know what the opposite of love is? It is indifference. When you don't love someone, you are indifferent to what they do and how their lives turn out. God, out of His unfailing love for His people, hates the evil within His people and willing to act to do something about it. That is love.

12:16 - I have lost count of them by now, but this is another verse in the Old Testament that references God's salvation plan for the entire world. Christians need to put an end to the thought that the God of the Old Testament is mean and angry and the God of the New Testament is Jesus. God, as Jeremiah told us, is everlasting. He is unchanging. The same God has existed for all time. He has always had a salvation plan for all the people of the world...He just chose to use a specific people-group (The Jews) to bring that plan to fruition.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Jeremiah Chapter 7-9

7:5-7 - One of the most important aspects of worshipping God is often forgotten: we must live lives of worship all the time. You can't just show up to praise God at church after a week of living totally for yourself and expect to experience anything authentic. Jeremiah tells us that the most important part of worshipping God comes in the form of serving others, loving the unlovable, fighting injustice,helping those in need. We must remember that if our heart condition in everyday life is terrible, our praise of God will be meaningless.

7:11 - This is much like the quote Jesus makes in the temple courtyard when he starts driving out the merchants and money-changes who are charging exorbitant prices to Jewish pilgrims coming t worship. We make mockery of churches services and praise times when we enter into them with selfish motives. Are we only attending church for what "we get out of it"? Do we get upset when we don't sing the songs that are our favorites? We should be reveling in the fact that we get to gather together with fellow believers and cry out to our God as a community. It is not about has always been a bout Him.

7:27 - Heartbreaking. Jeremiah is told by God that his ministry is going to be fruitless. Yet even in the face of such harsh truth, Jeremiah continues to serve God and teach boldly. He serves as an excellent example for me to keep pushing forward even when it doesn't seem like nothing ever changes in the lives of teenage Christians (It doesn't always feel that way, but some days...ugh). I have not been called to success, I have been called to honor God with my life and invite students to join me as I chase after Jesus.

7:31 - This may help to explain to you why God is so angry with His people! Sacrificing their children to fire!? I have to say, there are two options here from the commentaries I have read in the past: they may have simply passed their children quickly through fire or over fire in a pagan cleansing ritual, or they may have literally been putting their children on burning altars as sacrifices to false gods. Either way this is sinful and rebellious, but slaughtering your children (Themselves holy gifts from God and signs that He allows us to participate in creation with Him!) would explain alot about the punishment that God pours out on His people. He is just, and He cannot stand by and allow this to go on unchecked! We should feel the same way that God does about the atrocities going on in this world.

8:7 - This was pretty shocking and painful to me - animals instinctively know how to live as they were created to live. They know how to survive...they know how to function as God made them to function. The freedom that God offers us is is a sign that He loves us so much that He does not want to force us to love Him back - He makes it our choice. This is one of the many things that sets us apart from the animals. Yet the dangerous side of freedom of choice is that human beings can choose to deny their instinct to connect with their Creator God (That I believe exists in every one of us) to chase after other, meaningless, things.

8:21 - Jeremiah is grieving because f the broken relationship between the daughter of Zion (Israel) and the Lord. Have you ever seen a family torn apart by childhood rebellion? It is a painful thing to watch! When a child rejects their parents and makes destructive choices, they endanger their lives and wound their parents. When the parents out of their love for the child choose to punish them in hopes that they will get the message and change their ways - the child is wounded. This is what is going on with God and His people and it is hard for Jeremiah to watch. He knows that God must punish them, bu that doesn't change the hurt involved.

9:7 - Tough love - it is all that God has left at this point. He tried to calling His people to Him, He tried making a covenant with them, he tried to draw them to Him through blessings, land, worship, but they still rejected Him. Now He has to allow His children to go through punishment in the hope that they will return to Him.

9:23-24 - The only legitimate thing that any of us have to boast about in this world is the fact that God is unconditionally in love with us and that we have come to an understanding of that love and have given our lives to Him. Who cares how much money you make? How athletic you are? How beautiful or handsome you are? Who cares hoe successful your kids are at the things they try? All that is meaningless in comparison to finally coming to a knowledge of God that drives you to love like H loves and seek righteousness and justice in the world. Boast in the goodness of God, not the frailty of man!

9:24 - How on earth can God be describes as full of "Steadfast love" after reading the chapters we read today? Three full chapters of threats and promised destruction - that doesn't sound like love. But if you look closely you know it is spoken out of love...everything God is allowing to happen to His people is part of His plan to bring them back to Him. He never gives up on His people - NEVER! That is love.

9:25 - This is a really good reminder for us: physical works and religious practices mean nothing compared to the condition of your heart. You can't attend enough church services, small groups, retreats, service projects, etc. to make yourself right with God. What matters is the circumcision of the heart...humility before God...allowing ourselves to be transformed by His truth.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Jeremiah Chapters 4-6

4:2 - If we try every day to reflect the character of God into the world - truth, justice, righteousness - people will literally see God through our lives and the world will be blessed. God will be honored. So we must understand that we strive to live righteously, not to save ourselves - we can't do that...we can't earn is freely given. We live righteously because of the love that God has poured out on us...we want to worship Him and bring God the glory in this world.

4:18 - The people of Jerusalem are living through the consequences of their choices and actions. God is allowing them to experience the pain and the suffering that their choices bring so that they might return to Him. That is always the motivation of God's bring bring the people back to Him.

4:22 - Unfortunately, I feel like this I am better at being "evil" - better at being selfish. There are times when I feel like the struggle is for me to do right and the wrong just comes more easily. Tim Davis sent me an e-mail with this story in it recently: One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, "My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. "One is Evil - It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego."The other is Good - It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, honesty, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?" The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed." I think the struggle for righteous or unrighteous living is won by whichever nature within me I am feeding.

5:3 - God brings punishment to provide a path for redemption and repentance, but unfortunately some refuse to accept it. Some people are so hard-headed that they continue in their sinfulness despite the consequences. You can only hope they get the message before they have to be brought to rock-bottom.

5:19 - The people invited the invasion of foreign armies upon themselves - they chose to reject God and worship foreign "gods" in the land that God had given them and Jeremiah tells them that they will becomes slaves to in those foreign lands they so want to be like. When we invite evil into our life, thinking we have the freedom to choose whatever we want, that evil has a way of becoming our master and destroying any freedom we had.

5:30-31 - "Appalling/Horrible" - these are the words used by Jeremiah to describe an environment where religious leaders are focused on what THEY want instead of focusing on what God wants. As a church leader myself, I must be very careful to try to remove my own motives from the leadership equation. I need to be asking, "What is God's plan for my ministry?"

6:19 - The only thing that comes from rejecting the Word of God is disaster. When we reject God we welcome hell into the earth and into our lives.

6:20 - Very important point here: it isn't the sacrifices themselves that God wants. What does He care about incense or animal blood? God wants His people to live is a state of worship...He wants His people to be humble before their God...He wants His people to glorify His name by living righteous lives in the world.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Jeremiah Chapters 1-3

1:5 - God's call on the life of Jeremiah highlights God's foreknowledge of everyone. How incredible is it to understand that the God who created everything knows you personally? He has always known you. And just like with Jeremiah - God has a plan for you...a mission for you to live out in this world. Th question is: will you, like Jeremiah, answer the call?

1:7/8 - This is a great verse for Christians of any age, but I think it could really give confidence to young believers. Your usefulness to God is not based on how old you are, or how long you have been a Christian, or whether or not you have all the answers...all that matters is that you choose to trust God and live to serve Him. He will give you what you need to be His missionaries in this world...all you need to do is live by faith.

1:18/19 - Do you understand what these verses are saying to us? God is telling Jeremiah that his ministry will never be successful. He is telling Jeremiah that he will be a prophet who is rejected and depressing is that? Sometimes God calls us to difficult tasks - Jeremiah is called to live a counter-cultural life, and he will never see the fruit of the seeds that he plants. Do you and I have the faith to live counter-culturally, even if we never see the results of our faithfulness? Can we have an eternal view and trust that God will use our lives to the benefit of His kingdom even if we can't see it?

2:5 - God, through Jeremiah, is questioning His people - what have you found wrong in me? Why have you turned away from me? Was my love to perfect? Was the freedom and hope that I offered too fulfilling? God is brokenhearted that His people seek to find their value in the worthless things of the world, when He is offering meaning and love on an immeasurable scale. Why do you think we do it? Why do we turn from God to things that we know will eventually leave us empty?

2:11 - God is shocked to see that the pagan nations around Israel who worship non-existent gods have more faith than His people. All around the world, there were people who created their own gods of wood and stone, who would not forsake their gods no matter what. And Israel, the only nation connected to the one and only true God - they keep turning away from Him!

2:13 - When believers, who have been plugged into the Truth, turn away from God - they reject life-giving reality for the broken systems and gods of this world who offer them nothing but temporary pleasure. Everything this world has to offer will leave us thirsting for matter how much we drink, we will never be quenched. Drink deep the living water...drink deep the presence of God.

2:22 - We cannot save ourselves. No matter how good we are - no matter how hard we try - we cannot save ourselves. (Romans 3:12) There is no one good, not even one. We are in desperate need of saving and fortunately we have a God who offered Himself as a merciful Savior.

3:6-10 - This passage describes how God's people continually turn from Him and offer themselves to pagan rituals and false gods. The two nations of God's people, Israel and Judah, actually lead each other astray and encourage one another in their debauchery. They see the sins of the other and allow that to give them licence to sin themselves. It is easy to look back at these Old Testament passages with judgement and question how they could ever allow themselves to fall so far, but I wonder if we as Christians today do the same thing. We may not be running off into the hills to participate in pagan cult orgies, but we buy into the false gods of this culture don't we? Do we give ourselves licence to prostitute ourselves to the ways of the world? Do we fail to live out the way of Jesus because it is too "radical" or too "weird" or because none of the other Christians we know live like that? Do we sit idly aside as we watch generation after generation of our children offered up as sacrifices to the belief systems of our culture? Competition. Success. Achievement. Wealth. Power. Sex. Money. Self.

3:12 - Always, God offers a way for His people to return to Him. Always, God offers forgiveness and mercy after discipline. He is so much more compassionate than I believe I would be in the face of adultery.

3:17 - In book after book of the Old Testament, we see that God's plan has always been for the whole world to come to know Him. His people exist to guide the nations of the world to Him. This is still our mission today...believers should see every day as a mission to show people the way to God through their faith lived out.

3:22/23 - God offers a free return to those who have rejected Him...God offers hope. The temptations of this world are vast and attractive, but they are all a delusion. The things of this world offer us nothing in the end, but emptiness and guilt. Does money offer us eternal worth? Sex? These things offer only momentary distractions from the serious issue...the sense of disconnectedness within us. We were made to be connected to our creator God and our salvation...our purpose...our meaning can only be found in Him.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Isaiah Chapters 64-66

64:1-6 - The people are crying out to God, asking Him to act. They wonder why God is not moving...why God is not saving them from their enemies. They say, "God, please tear open the heavens and come down to earth and bring your justice!" The only problems is, they don't really want justice...because if God brought His justice, they would be destroyed along with the rest of the world. The people of Israel are crying out for God to do something, but it is their own rebellion that is keeping Him away. The people are going through all the religious rituals, but they are doing them for the sole purpose of getting God to do what they is not about worship. I think this happens in churches today - people pray and go to church sometimes expecting those things to work as a magical formula for living an "easy" life. That attitude is just as unacceptable to God now as it was then...

64:7 - So what does true worship look like? True worship is to call on depend on hold on to Him/cling to seek Him because He is God and you need Him, not because you need something else. That is worship as described in this verse - how does it compare to the lifestyle of worship that you live?

65:2 - "I spread out my hands" - This means that God is inviting His people to Him...He is there waiting for them to come to Him. It is an answer to chapter 64, in which the people are wondering where God is. He is saying, "I am here and I have always been here. Nothing has changed about me - you are the ones who turned away." Instead of turning to God in humility, they continue to try to use pagan rituals as a means of getting what they want out of God. We all need to take time to consider why we do what we do when it comes to our relationship with God. Do we pray and study the bible to drink in the presence of God, or do we do it in an effort to get what we want?

65:10 - Isaiah always does a good job of sprinkling in some hope when things are looking really bleak in his writings...even in the midst of judgement there is light at the end of the tunnel - there is hope. God promises that there will always be a remnant, and these remnant of His people are those who sought Him. Did you read that - they sought HIM...they didn't seek what they wanted...they didn't seek blessings...they didn't try to manipulate God...they didn't chase after the things of this world...the remnant of God's people are those who seek Him because of who He is. We need to make sure we do the same.

65:17/25 - Isaiah paints a beautiful picture of future hope for us...of what will be in eternity, but also of what can be right now if people choose to live in God's way. Just as we brought hell crashing to earth in the garden when we chose to sin...just as I have chosen to rebel against God in my life and brought the consequences of those actions into the world around me...we can choose to bring heaven to earth. We as the people of God can choose to bring a new reality to bear in the world. Yes, there will one day be a new creation forged by God...but right now believers can forge a new reality by living to worship and honor God.

66:1 - When heaven is your throne and earth is just a footstool for you, you're kind of a big deal right? God is immense and uncontainable...God cannot be contained within the boundaries of the creation that He made, right? That makes sense. So how could we ever even think that we could make a house for God? God doesn't dwell in churches...we cannot lock Him in the boxes we make whether physical or theological. This is part of the problem we have with living out true worship...too often we have a much to insignificant view of God...we think we can do things to control Him, but that is absurd!

66:3ff - All these rituals that are described here are not in an of themselves evil. When Isaiah says - killing an ox is just as bad as murdering somebody, it sounds a little shocking! Does that mean God wants us all to be Vegan? (Check out Acts 10 all you meat lovers) No - what it means is that God doesn't want anything to do with religious practices that self-centered and selfish. What disgusts God is when somebody pretends to worship Him in order to get what they want in the end. God simply wants His people to humbly love Him...that's seek Him and to love Him and all the rest will fall into place.

66:19 - That "sign" that Isaiah talks about here was hung on a tree outside of Jerusalem about 2,000 years ago. That sing for all the world to see...the sign of God's glory and love walking amongst us, was Jesus. And now what this world needs is for people like you and me to live out their faiths on a daily basis and to continue to show that sign to the world through our own lives.

66:19ff - Once again, we see God's heart for the entire world. Isaiah says that God will send His sign, Jesus, into all the world and that people from every corner of the globe will come to Him. It says that God will make even non-Israelite people into His priests (Priesthood of all believers anyone?). God's plan has always been to bring everyone to Him.

66:24 - Now I have to say, this seems like kind of a downer way to end the book when you had just been talking about Jesus and the hope for all humanity. I mean it basically reads like...Jesus is coming, there is hope for everyone, and you can now go out and see the dead bodies of everyone who has rebelled...uhh...what? Why does Isaiah end his book like this? I think it is because he wanted to leave his audience with the understanding that they need to get serious about the sin in their lives. Remember, this prophecy was given because the people of God were turning away from Him and they were about to be conquered in an effort to bring them back into relationship with God. Isaiah is saying - you need to get your lives and your faith in order. He doesn't want to end the book on a hopeful note, because he doesn't want to allow that hopefulness to keep people from getting serious about their sin issues. Doesn't that make sense in some ways? I have seen people who call themselves Christians who believe they can live however they want and do whatever they want because they have the sacrifice of Jesus to take away their sins. I know thinking like that is sick, twisted and wrong (and you could argue that they don't really believe if they can live like that), but it also highlights the importance of understanding that God is still God and sin is still sin...and we should do everything we can to offer ourselves as sacrifice pleasing to God day in and day out.