What lies ahead?

As we endure lockdown, consider what lies ahead-

“Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth, and no one will even think about the old ones anymore.

Isaiah 65:17

The current crisis helps us see the value of moving on from our current realities to something far better.

Be glad; rejoice forever in my creation! And look! I will create Jerusalem as a place of happiness. Her people will be a source of joy.

Isaiah 65:18

We are driving our current earth to destruction. We will be so grateful to start again. Our current cities destroy the soul. The Jerusalem Jesus creates will be a place of happiness. His people will be joyful in fruitful lives.

I will rejoice over Jerusalem and delight in my people. And the sound of weeping and crying will be heard in it no more.

Isaiah 65:19

Consider a time when, being with Jesus, we will be spared from grief.

In those days people will live in the houses they build and eat the fruit of their own vineyards.

Isaiah 65:21

We can look forward to a time of creativity and rewarding work. Consider how much easier life could be without protecting the fruit of our labour from those who would steal and kill and destroy. Looking at what we have to endure, consider how much easier and more joyful life would be if everyone knew that everyone else would do what was loving and kind?

That is what we have to look forward to!

Arise shine

Any crisis brings about testing as circumstances give us choices between light or darkness, living by the Spirit or living by the sinful nature.

Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth,  

Isaiah 60:2

As Coronavirus unfolds our choices become apparent. The darkness lurking within our culture will be exposed. Fear and self-protection are powerful motivations.

but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you.

Isaiah 60:2

The world has become indifferent to God, but as the darkness envelops it, the light of Jesus on his people will become unmistakable.

If we overcome temptation to darkness, if we cling to Jesus, and live by His Spirit the glory of the Lord will appear over us. Our choices will reflect what is in our hearts. Jesus said,

“… out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

Matthew 12:34

Can we use our time well, to prepare our hearts by feeding on Jesus through word and prayer? A challenge when anxiety drives us to anything but settling down with Jesus.

“Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see.  For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you.

Isaiah 60:1

At some point something will happen that will be the opportunity for us to stand up and act out of our love of Jesus. This is when we could arise so that the light will shine. May we do it well. May our hearts be exposed as full of Jesus.

Arise above fear

Photo by Sammie Vasquez on Unsplash

Coronavirus has brought fear into the open – fear of death, fear for fragile family members, fear of running out of food and supplies, fear of economic hardship, …

Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth,

Isaiah 60:2

The response to Coronavirus is a spreading darkness; dark because fear supresses love. How have we succumbed to this darkness?

but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you.

Isaiah 60:2

The Lord has a totally different perspective. In a world indifferent to God, his glory rises. The Lord will show his glory through his people.

Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see.  For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you.

Isaiah 60:1

Arising so that the light can shine on us is an act of faith. Rather than seeing the glory of the Lord on us, we become overwhelmed by our failures. We have to arise, without knowing what people will see.

We arise when we see and act on the needs set before us. The Bible says,

Let us not become weary in doing good for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people …

Galatians 6:9-10

We may or may not see the glory of the Lord, but that is not the point. The call is to arise in faith and love!

Let us not give into the darkness. Let us arise in love and faith allowing Jesus to shine through us.

Want the height? Go down!

How do we get to heights with God?

“I live in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble.

Isaiah 57:15

Some trust in their approaches to gods through going to spiritual places and performing spiritual exercises, the Lord says that the ones he is looking for are those who fall before him.

In order to go up to him, we must go down before him!

In Jesus’ story of the pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18, the pharisee was confident before God because of his spiritual exercises. The Tax Collector, whose standing in society would be like today’s loan shark, humbled himself before God. It was the tax collector whom Jesus says was made right with God.

Do we trust in our spiritual exercises and developing righteousness to reach the Lord, or do we humble ourselves, and give ourselves to him – maybe through spiritual exercises?

God says, “Rebuild the road! Clear away the rocks and stones so my people can return from captivity.”

Isaiah 57:16

The road to God from captivity is littered with obstacles –things we worship that are not God. In v6 Isaiah had mocked people who worshiped stones. Now, these objects of worship must be cleared from our lives so we can return to the Lord.

The problem with our idols is that we are attached to them. It requires humility to admit they even exist before we can take that step to remove them.

Why all the evil?

Wild animal in dark

Why are God’s people succumbing to spiritual attacks?

… Come, wild animals of the forest! Come and devour my people!

Isaiah 56:9

We have cut down the defences against evil and have become an open target.

For the leaders of my people … are blind and ignorant. They are like silent watchdogs that give no warning.

Isaiah 56:10

Our defencelessness indicates a failure of spiritual leadership. Leaders fear challenging evil because in our day it is considered offensive to challenge behaviour.

Like greedy dogs, they are never satisfied.

Isaiah 56:11

Spiritual greed for numbers to demonstrate fruitfulness overwhelms faithfulness to our Lord and silences our challenge to a culture casting off constraint.

They are ignorant shepherds …

We harden ourselves to silence our guilty consciences by deliberately forgetting what we know of the Bible. We prefer ignorance to a conflicted heart.

… all following their own path and intent on personal gain.

Having hardened ourselves against God and his word we are freed to follow the paths that will give us numerical following, the ‘indication of fruitfulness.’

All this might be expedient in our day, but there are consequences …

Come, wild animals of the field! Come, wild animals of the forest! Come and devour my people!

Isaiah 56:9

People are suffering and asking why isn’t God stopping it from happening?

Living for praise?

Hands raised in worship

How do we measure praise?

See, my servant will prosper; he will be highly exalted.

Isaiah 52:13

Jesus is the greatest. How did he prosper?

But many were amazed when they saw him. His face was so disfigured he seemed hardly human, and from his appearance, one would scarcely know he was a man.

Isaiah 52:14

I am shocked. Praise is exemplified in this prophecy of Jesus being beaten with a led tipped whip and executed in utter cruelty.

So, where is the prosperity and exaltation? Jesus was pushed to the edge, but not broken. He demonstrated God’s grace was greater than man’s torture and humiliation.

We measure prosperity and exaltation by ‘likes’ and ‘follows’. Jesus measured exaltation from the applause of heaven when he stood firm though all were opposed, and friends hid in silence. He had demonstrated the power of God.

… Kings will stand speechless in his presence. For … they will understand what they had not heard about.

Isaiah 52:15

The world’s exalted will stand speechless before Jesus, understanding that their craving for popularity robbed them of integrity, robbed them of the opportunity to demonstrate faith, and hope and love. As Jesus said,

How can you believe when you accept praise from one another but make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?

John 5:44

Peace in fearful times

Woman sitting in fear

We live in turbulent times with messages of fear. The fruit of these messages is anger, attempts to control people and ultimately, hatred. Jesus speaks into this,

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart.

John 14:27

What a contrast between the messages of fear and the gift of peace. Fear drives us and those around us. Peace is free to live and to extend a hand of love.

And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give.

John 14:27

Those who project the future speak as if they were God. Yet, their view and their authority are limited. Jesus is Lord of all. He may indeed permit terrible times, we must entrust that to him in prayer while we learn to receive his promise of peace.

So don’t be troubled or afraid.

John 14:27

When I allow fear to rise up, I am tempted away from love. It may be that I will sink into depression, or try to take control, or lash out in anger, or spend energy and effort preparing for what in fact will not happen, …

I demonstrate that I am living through Jesus and in the light of his promise when I am free to extend his love and hope to the fearful people around me.

What price peace?

What price for peace? We look back on the way we have hurt people and our insides are churned up. These words can seem merely aspirational –

we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God

Romans 5:1

The impact of my failure is worse than I realise. When I fall short of love other’s get hurt. In their hurt, they fall short of love. The effect cascades. Sin, defined as falling short, has consequences-

the wages of sin is death.

Romans 6:23

Sin cuts us off from God, the source of life, bringing spiritual death.

Our tendency is to blame others. Yet, for all those we blame, there are as many who blame us. We cannot hope to overcome the effects of death till we are right with the source of life for only life can overcome death.

God’s wonderful grace rules … giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 5:21

This grace and peace come when we ask forgiveness from God and receive life through Jesus. Jesus extends this life from us through faith when we who are forgiven extend his forgiveness to those who hurt us and ask forgiveness of those we have hurt.

I want to make light of the hurt I have caused, but I have to remember that paying for it cost Jesus his life.

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.

Romans 5:6

Jesus came to model life

Nativity scene

Jesus was born and lived. What was the purpose?

He is my chosen one, who pleases me. I have put my Spirit upon him. He will bring justice to the nations.

Isaiah 42:1

The Father announces Jesus as the one through whom he will act. That work continues through us as we live by His Spirit.

“Look at my servant, whom I strengthen.

Jesus needed the Father’s strength and the Spirit and as we continue his mission, so do we.

He will not shout or raise his voice in public.

Isaiah 42:2

Jesus’ love and the words his Father gave were enough to fulfil his mission. Are we willing to speak words of love and offer acts of kindness his Spirit prompts us into?

He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle …

Isaiah 42:3

When we are sure of ‘The Agenda’ we crush people. The Father can drive his agenda. Let us watch what he is doing and join him with gracious words and love.

I, the Lord, have called you to demonstrate my righteousness.

Isaiah 42:6

We get caught up with voice and message. The greatest message is simply demonstrating his righteousness as we live out the good he has prepared for us to do.

I will take you by the hand and guard you, and I will give you … as a symbol of my covenant

Such good comes at a personal cost, covered by the Lord himself – At the Cross!

Message of a filled life

Path through wilderness

We live in a spiritual wasteland. The Lord desires to enter it and asks us to participate.

“Clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God!

Isaiah 40:3

Our role is to clear a way through this wilderness and make a straight path for him. Straight paths drive uncompromisingly through the obstacles of our lives.

Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places.

Isaiah 40:4

Our high places of false worship are to be levelled. The valleys of weakness filled in. The Lord prepares us to be the road, through which he reaches others.

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

Isaiah 40:6

Yet, we don’t know the message. Once it was clear, but the barrenness has taken away our self-confidence.

 “Shout that people are like the grass. Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field …  The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.”

Isaiah 40:6-8

Our beauty fades. What a contrast with the glory of the Lord and his word. This glory lives in us as we live out his love through faith. His glory overwhelms our wasteland lives.

… O Jerusalem. Shout, and do not be afraid. Tell the towns of Judah, “Your God is coming!”

Isaiah 40:9

So, the message we proclaim is our testimony of how God has filled us, Christ in us, the hope of glory!