Posted in Acts, Isaiah, Mark, Matthew, Philippians, Proverbs, Romans, Titus

Getting Back on the Wall

“No longer will they call you Deserted, or name you Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah (My delight is in her)…for the Lord will take delight in you.” Isaiah 62:4

Yesterday we gave several ways those God genuinely sets on the wall (in a place of authority to pray) fall off of it. Today we look at how to get back on it. “A righteous man falls seven times, and rises again.” (Proverbs 24:16)

  1. Accept your calling. Romans 11:29 tells us that God’s “gifts and call are irrevocable.” Just because you don’t like the place God has given you, or feel like you’ve failed at it, doesn’t mean you get a new call. Our lives won’t work until we embrace God’s plan and flow with it. “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” (Acts 26:14)
  2. Forgive as you stand praying. “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive your transgressions.” (Mark 11:25) If we insist on justice, eventually God will have to give us the justice we want for others. (See Matthew 7:1-4) We don’t need someone to be sorry for us to forgive them. If we do, forgiveness will always be difficult. Here’s why – let’s say someone does say they’re sorry for the way they’ve treated you. How will you know if they’re really sorry? And even if they appear to be sorry, are they sorry enough? If they’re sorry enough, will that for sure mean they’ll never do it again? All we need to forgive is to remember that the greatest injustice didn’t happen to me; it happened to Jesus. The truly innocent Lamb of God died in my place – that’s injustice. Part of my worship is to lay my injustices at the foot of the cross and freely forgive those who hurt me. This is part of what it means to know Jesus “in the fellowship of His suffering.” (Philippians 3:10)
  3. Embrace your identity. The strength to stay on the wall is not in seeing your prayers answered; it’s in the fact that God’s delight is in you. We are favored sons and daughters not because of our works, but because of His great mercy toward us in Christ. (Titus 3:5-6) We don’t gain favor by praying; we pray from His favor. Our great reward is not in what He does for us, but in our relationship with Him. Until we grasp this reality it will always be hard to stay on the wall.
Posted in Hosea, Isaiah, Revelation

Falling Off the Wall

“The prophet is considered a fool, the inspired man a maniac. The prophet, along with my God, is the watchman over Ephraim, yet snares await him on all his paths, and hostility in the house of his God.” Hosea 9:7-8

Even though God sets people on the wall (Isaiah 62:6-7) to align with His purposes and to pray for His will to be done on earth, it’s easy to fall off the wall. Here are five reasons why people who are genuinely called to watch over the church in prayer, fall from the ministry God set them in:

  1. Self-doubt. Watchmen have prophetic experiences to inspire them to pray, but because everyone doesn’t experience the same things they do, they are called “maniacs;” or in our day, made out to be “weird.” It’s easy to question whether God really did speak and to question why He would tell you and not everyone. “Who do I think I am?” is often an accusing thought. 
  2. Rejection. “Hostility in the house of God” means everyone doesn’t appreciate your intensity. Sometimes church leaders feel threatened by people’s “revelations” and seek to shut watchmen down. 
  3. Suspicion. Revelation 12:10 tells us that Satan is “the accuser of the brethren.” He will mimic prophetic experiences (He disguises himself as an angel of light) to watchmen that sow suspicions in their hearts about leaders and churches. He uses things that have actually happened and were actually said to make the case that God is against His own church because of their many sins. 
  4. Discouragement. In a pragmatic world that supremely values action, it can seem like prayer is a waste of time. When Mary poured precious perfume on Jesus, the church leadership said, “Why this waste?” (Matthew 26:8) Needs will always exist and there will always be time to do practical things after prayer, but please know that the highest calling is to “waste” time worshiping Jesus. 
  5. Depression. In a place of intercession God shares some of His burden with us. We see clearly how wide the gap is between how things are and how they should be. Our burden must be prayed back to God because the government is on Jesus’ shoulders, not ours. (Isaiah 9:6) The enemy would have us be self-proclaimed martyrs who are carrying everyone’s burdens for them.
Posted in Isaiah, Matthew, Psalms

Set on the Wall

“I have set watchmen on your walls, oh Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give Him no rest until He establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.” Isaiah 62:6-7

Why does God set people on the wall to ask Him to do what He already said He wants to do? He wants His church to agree on earth with His purposes as free moral agents, so that we share with Him in every victory that is won. We cannot bring His kingdom without Him, and He won’t bring His kingdom without us wanting it, and asking for it.

In this heaven and hell are alike: both seek agreement on earth from human beings so they can bring their purposes to pass on the earth. “I thought God was sovereign,” you may argue. He absolutely is. The only reason it is like this is because He planned it to be this way. “Our God is in heaven, He does whatever pleases Him.” (Psalm 115:3) This necessary agreement by earth is what pleases Him.

If hell can get people to live in fear, anger, pride, greed, and lust then this darkness will be increased by demons who will dwell in these strongholds. The Father allows it because He has chosen to not force Himself, or His ways on us.

But listen to the promise heaven gives: “I tell you that if two of you agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in My Name, there I am.” (Matthew 18:19-20) When we agree together for the beauty and purposes of heaven to be manifested and ask the Father for this, Jesus Himself will come and establish on earth what we have agreed on.

Our text makes it clear we must persist in our asking and expect a progressive answer as we “give Him no rest” until He has done all He has promised. Some of the greatest heroes of the church are the prayer warriors. Their primary labor is not horizontal but vertical, where God has set them on the wall for this purpose. Without prayer, what we do horizontally as a church will have little lasting effect.

Posted in Isaiah, Psalms

Standing Firm in Your Faith

“If you don’t stand firm in your faith, you won’t stand at all.” Isaiah 7:9

The words of the text above came to my mind unbidden in June of 2012. Weeks earlier I had received a letter from a lawyer threatening a lawsuit against our church because of some changes we made at our school. I did everything I could to get them to drop it, including begging God to intervene on our behalf, but it was all to no avail. The lawsuit was filed anyway and fear gripped my heart.

As I considered the possible devastation a lawsuit could have on our church, the sentence above came to me. Was this a Scripture? I went to my concordance and found it. The context was a warning to King Ahaz who had two armies mounted against him which had caused his heart to be “shaken as trees of the field are shaken by the wind.” (Isaiah 7:2) The same Holy Spirit who was warning him many years ago was now warning me.

It was game time. I talked about trusting God all the time, I’m a preacher after all, but now it was time to actually believe like a Christian should. God didn’t tell me how the lawsuit would end, He just warned me that if I gave into the fear speaking to me, it would not go well.

A believer’s main job is to believe. Are you facing something right now that is filling you with fear? This is not the time to abandon your faith; it’s time to practice it. Tell God you trust Him, speak to the mountain you’re facing, and live in the freedom Christ paid for even while the circumstances are unchanged.

That’s what I did. Months later I received an email that said the lawsuit was dropped, but the greater miracle was that it wasn’t even that big of a relief. I had found rest in God and knew it would be okay, whatever happened.

Why not give God your fears today and claim Psalm 34:4 for your life, “I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.”

Posted in 2Corinthians, Isaiah

Glowing in the Dark

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” 2Corinthians 3:18

My little brother, Jimmy, and I (8 and 10 at the time) were so excited about the Glo-Balls someone gave us that we immediately scampered into our downstairs closet after freeing them from the package. What a horrible disappointment! These balls didn’t glow – alright, maybe a little – but certainly not what was promised on the box.

Apparently our disappointment was obvious because we were quickly informed that we had missed a step in the process. First, you have to hold balls near a light source because the balls weren’t lights themselves; they only had the capacity to absorb light. We kind of resented an additional step, but I remember holding that ball close to a light bulb willing it to absorb. The second time in the closet was thrilling! Now the balls were brilliant and really did appear like lights in the darkness.

We are not the source of light, but we can absorb light and then carry Him every day into this dark world. Isaiah 60:1-3 describes this beautifully: “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; but the Lord will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”

Every time we look up and behold God’s presence we glow a little more. Just like those balls we eventually fade if we don’t continue to expose ourselves to His presence. But when we do behold Him, even if dimly as in a mirror (their mirrors were made of brass), we go from glory to glory, and many will be drawn to the Lord and His ways through us. Being His witness is simply glowing in the dark.

Posted in Hebrews, Isaiah, Psalms

Laying a Solid Foundation

“Let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works…” Hebrews 6:1

On August 1, 2007 a bridge in Minneapolis that crossed the Mississippi river collapsed killing 13 and injuring 145. The irony was that work was being done on the bridge at the time of the collapse; but it was the wrong work. One article summed up the types of things that were being done: “The construction taking place in the weeks prior to the collapse included replacing lighting, and guard rails. At the time of the collapse, four of the eight lanes were closed for resurfacing.” Because the foundational work was left undone, all the other work proved to be in vain. This is how it is in a Christianity that lacks repentance. It doesn’t matter how much we do, if we haven’t really repented and aren’t living a life of repentance, all our works are dead in God’s sight.

Hebrews 3:7-8; 3:15 and 4:7 all say the same thing: “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” Repentance is not possible until God speaks to us. He can speak through His word as we read it, or through a preacher at church, or by a dream or vision in the night, or through an honest friend, or in difficult circumstances.  God has lots of ways to speak to us when He wants to get our attention.

When God speaks we need to agree with Him. David said, “Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak.” (Psalm 51:4) When we agree with what God says we justify Him; when we defend ourselves by making excuses for what we did, we justify ourselves. Hardening your heart toward God can actually mean softening your heart toward you by giving yourself unwarranted and unsanctified mercy for evil you have said, thought, or done. “It wasn’t that bad,” “he had it coming,” “I only spoke the truth,” “I was tired,” “Yeah, but she did that wrong thing first,” are just a few excuses that quickly come into our hearts when we seek to justify ourselves.

Let’s not live resurfacing the bridge when what it needs is foundation work. Rather, let’s each take time to seek our hearts and fully repent. Isaiah 30:15 gives the blessing that will result, “In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength.”

Posted in 2Corinthians, Isaiah, Romans

The Righteousness of God

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes; first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” Romans 1:16-17

The good news (gospel) is that a righteousness from God is available to us today because of what Christ did on the cross. This righteousness cannot be earned but only embraced through faith; it is God’s gift to those who will receive it. God is so holy that even our seemingly righteous acts appear like filthy rags to Him, (Isaiah 64:6) so He sent His Son to do for us, what we could not do for ourselves. “God made Him who had not sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2Corinthians 5:21)

God’s Spirit made this passage in Romans come alive to a young, miserable monk named Martin Luther while studying in Wittenburg, Germany in 1513-1515. Here are his words about the experience:

“I sought day and night to make out the meaning of Paul; and at last I came to apprehend it thus: Through the gospel is revealed the righteousness which availeth with God – a righteousness by which God, in His mercy and compassion, justifieth us; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’ Straightway I felt as if I were born anew. It was as if I had found the door of Paradise thrown wide open. Now I saw the Scriptures altogether in a new light – I ran through their whole contents as far as my memory would serve, and compared them, and found that this righteousness was really that by which God makes us righteous, because everything else in Scripture agreed thereunto so well. The expression, ‘the righteousness of God,’ which I so much hated before, now became dear and precious – my darling and comforting word.”

No religious effort or philosophical ideal can produce what God Himself has done for us in Christ. In Him we are righteous! Embrace it, speak it, and walk it out because this simple truth has the power to save everyone who believes.

Posted in Colossians, Hebrews, Isaiah

Living from God’s Presence 

“There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own works, just as God did from His. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest…” Hebrews 4:9-11

At the beginning of 2015, I felt the Lord highlight this Scripture with a stream of thoughts about its application in my life. I’m a list person, so God seems to speak to me in lists!

  1. I want you to do less and accomplish more.
  2. I want you to speak less and say more.
  3. I want you to rationalize less and risk more.

I am still unpacking exactly how to live these three phrases out, but I’d love to give a few thoughts on each one that may serve to inspire your journey as well.

  1. “Do less and accomplish more.” This was a call to stop striving in my own power usually motivated by the fear of not being good enough. Jesus was good enough and He is our Sabbath rest. In the Old Covenant they rested on a day; in the New Covenant we are called to rest in a Person. (Colossians 2:16-17) Remember: God can accomplish more in a moment than man, apart from God, can accomplish in a lifetime.
  2. “Speak less and say more.” Our life’s posture should be listening before speaking. Many words of our own will dilute the power of a few words inspired by God. Isaiah 50:4 is a goal for me: “The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen…” We live in a culture that is worn out by many words. One “word” that is actually from God has the power to sustain the weary.
  3. “Rationalize less and risk more.” We are living as the beloved, not as those trying to earn love. This is a safe place. Yet the kingdom can only advance by acts of faith, so someone has to step out of their comfort zone and take a risk when they feel God might be speaking. We were created to live hosting His Presence. The more we practice living out of this place, the better we will be at it and the more of the beauty and power of heaven will be released on earth through regular people like you and me.
Posted in Isaiah, John, Romans

The Shame Chain

“Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” John 8:11

Caught in the act of lust and the betrayal of adultery. Guilt and shame increase as those around pick up the stones of judgment. The holy Son of God up close with a sinner caught in a shameful, sinful act. How does God see the act and how does He see the person?

In my study this week I was reviewing statistics about pornography in the church. 50% of men struggle and 20% of women which is 9% better than those outside the church. The enemy is using our cultural infatuation with sex to erode the moral courage of the people of God.

One statistic I hadn’t seen before was that 90% of Christians who struggle in this area feel shame whenever they try to come into God’s presence. No wonder the problem is so entrenched! If all I think God is saying to me is “go and sin no more,” I am stuck in my shame. If I feel dirty I will eventually return to dirt no matter how hard I try to avoid it.

The power to “go and sin no more” is in hearing “neither do I condemn you.” The one Person who has the right to judge you has chosen to die for your sin so that your judgment can be removed. Listen to His heart for you: “Neither do I condemn you.” He has given us the “gift of righteousness and of the abundance of His grace so that we can reign in this life through Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:17)

Let Him wash away the shame chain that keeps you going back to the mud. You are a beloved child of God, not a slave to lust. Arise and shine for you Light has come! (Isaiah 60:1)

Posted in Isaiah, John, Romans

Resurrection Righteousness

“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” Romans 3:21-22

The historical event of the resurrection has established a heavenly reality for all who are willing to believe. God is offering the gift of right standing (righteousness) with Him, when we trust Christ.

When we owe a speeding ticket, we are not in right standing with the law until it is paid. If we don’t pay our electric bill, we are no longer in right standing with the electric company until we remit the amount owed. If someone makes a payment on my behalf, I gain right standing even though I wasn’t the one who settled the account. This is the gospel. God has paid for my sins, so right standing is available to me.

What must I be willing to believe to access this heavenly reality?

  1. That I am guilty before a holy God and am unable to make things right on my own. Isaiah says that even our righteous acts are as filthy rags in God’s sight. (Isaiah 64:6) We may feel righteous by comparison to others, but God doesn’t compare us with other people. He views us through His own perfection. 
  2. That God made payment for my guilt by dying for my sins. The cross is the greatest display of God’s holiness, and of God’s love. God’s justice demanded payment for sin while God’s love provided that payment on my behalf.
  3. That I must make it personal by receiving the gift of righteousness. The gospel will not affect me until I believe it. All who reject, or ignore Christ, will one day find themselves accountable to God for all their sins. But the only sin that condemns us is an unwillingness to accept the Spirit’s invitation to believe in Jesus. (See John 16:7-9)

Those who do believe can join in the ancient hymn with great joy, “My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ Name. On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand.”