OK, here's the plan (if God is willing):

1) Every day will be a new devotional. I have enough devotionals for every day for three years

2) Also as I can, I'll be posting on my new political blog (see bottom of page).

Some other housecleaning:

A) If you'd like to just get new postings sent to your email, just submit your address in the box on the left just below. There's just one possible downside, though. Occasionally I'll add a music video at the end that's relevant to the devotional, and you won't get them in the email sent to you. If I add a video though, I'll make sure to mention in the posting, so you'll know to come to the site to see it if you'd like.

B) I actually finished writing new blog posting for the TAWG at the end of 2016. So what I'm doing now is at the beginning of every month, I'll move the earliest month from 3 years ago ahead so that a "new" posting appears every day. That's why you won't find any postings for January 2014, for example.

C) When I started this Blog, I was using the 1984 edition of the NIV, and that’s what I linked to on the Biblegateway site. However, in 2011 Zondervan updated its edition and thus reworded a lot of the NIV translation. Therefore, all the links which went to the 1984 edition now redirect to the 2011 edition, which often has slightly different wording. Thus, part of my editing process has been to update my Scripture quotes in my postings. But I might have missed some, in which case you might see my quote in the posting as a little different from what comes up when you click on my citation link, since that redirects to the 2011 edition on the Biblegateway site. It's a good thing that we realize that the work of translation never ends, but it can be a kind of a pain on a site like this. If you see any difference in verbiage between my quote and what shows up as a link on the Biblegateway site, or if you hover over a link and it has "NIV1984" at the end of it, please notify me and I'll correct it.

D) I can't believe I have to say this, but here goes. At the end of every posting is a suggested short prayer that has to do with what we discussed. This is actually what I've prayed when I finished writing it. In no way am I asking you to pray the exact verbiage of my suggested prayer. It's just a springboard for your own prayer, nothing more. Quite frankly, I've never been a fan of praying rote prayers written by someone else. As with everything else I do here, to the degree it helps, great; to the degree it doesn't, chunk it.

As always, thank you so much for reading, even if it's to read one post. God bless.

[Feb 21]--The Agenda

Isaiah 66:18-24

           So now we come to the last words of Isaiah the prophet. Regarding the man, we should note that according to tradition, he was sawn in two by King Manasseh, dying a martyr’s death. He comforted others with his words from the Almighty; we can only hope they were a comfort to him as well.
          If you’re familiar with Isaiah’s work, then you might have missed something from our study: Where’s Jesus? The prophet had a lot to say about the first coming of the Messiah, so why haven’t we looked at that? We’re going to. Over the next week or so we’re going to see what Isaiah and other prophets had to say about the first arrival of the Messiah. But that starts tomorrow.
          Before the prophet left this earth, he had a few more words to say to us about God’s ultimate plan. Lots of people wonder what the Lord's will is for their lives, and a few people actually claim to know it: “God told me to tell you this.  . .” I myself am very careful about phrases like that, since God takes a rather dim view of anyone who speaks in his name who’s not authorized to do so. The Bible’s last verses have a stern warning to anyone who adds to it.
          However, where God makes his agenda and will plain for us from his word, we’re remiss if we don’t tell people about it. You want to know what his will is for your life? I can tell you right now. Listen very carefully, lean down close so I can whisper it in your ear—His will for your life is. . . to glorify his name through your life. What’s his plan for the nations? You guessed it: To glorify his name among all the different peoples, cultures, societies, etc.
          Now, you might be asking, how exactly is he going to work all that out, either in your personal life or on the international scene? Let’s take it on the personal level first. We know he wants to bring glory to his name through your life, and he will, one way or the other. But what about the details? That’s different for every person. Ask for his guidance and wisdom, obey what he’s made clear from his word, seek counsel from godly siblings if you need it, then go forward with what you desire. As long as you keep the “main thing” the “main thing,” you’ll be fine.
          How do we interpret passages like today as far the “big picture” goes? Are they completely fulfilled now by the work of the Church, or will they literally be fulfilled when he returns? Good Christians debate that issue. I have my interpretation of it, but does it really matter? He’s made his ultimate purpose clear. If it is literally fulfilled later, does that let us off the hook from trying to recruit worshippers right here and now? Of course not.
          Jesus' last instructions for us before he returned to his Father leave no wiggle room: “[Go] and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” I don’t care how you interpret the book of Revelation, that’s not rocket science or brain surgery. Someone once said “It’s not the parts of the Bible that are hard to understand that bother me. It’s the parts which are crystal clear which disturb me the most.”
          And based on Isaiah’s very last words to us, I have to present a warning. He describes in dreadful detail what happens to those who end up on the wrong side of history from God’s perspective. If this sounds like a description of Hell, it is. Someone might read this and say “Oh, it’s not talking about eternal torment. It just says that the worms and fire never die.” Let me ask you something. Who’s a better interpreter of Scripture: Some guy with letters behind his name, or Jesus? He quoted these exact verses when describing hell. He wasn’t kidding about it.
          I’m not doing this to depress you. Am I mentioning it to frighten you? Well, that depends. If you don’t belong to Christ, then you should be scared. You have every reason to be scared. Why not do something about it?

Father God, I know what your will is, at least the important parts. It’s not knowledge that’s the problem. It’s doing what I know I need to do, what you’ve made crystal clear. By your grace, I want to do it.

[Feb 20]--What’s Impressive To God?

Isaiah 66:1-2

          I remember several years ago when I was a church planter working in Wills Point, Texas. My partner and I visited several pastors of churches in the area, mostly to ensure they weren’t threatened by us in the community. I distinctly recall meeting one pastor, and he was really friendly with us. He took us to the new sanctuary they had just finished constructing, and was obviously very. . . does the word “proud” fit? I’m trying to be charitable here, but there’s no way getting around my conclusion that he was bragging about the magnificence of his new building. And I came close—oh, so very close—to responding by saying “This really is a beautiful building. Too bad it’s all going to be dust and ashes some day.” The missed opportunities!
          I think of that story every time I read today’s passage and others like it. What do I mean by other passages? Well, look at the dedication of the original temple. The builder of the original temple, King Solomon, had no illusions about his magnificent structure: “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!”
          Even during the time of the Old Covenant, during the time when God met people inside of buildings, and you could actually point to a structure and say “That’s the ‘dwelling place,’” the most insightful believers knew that God doesn’t really live inside a building. As Solomon said, the heavens can’t contain him. As Isaiah said in today’s reading, Heaven is his throne, and earth is his footstool. The idea of men building a “house” for God is pretty laughable.
          What about the New Covenant? Does God have a temple today? Of course he does! It’s the Body of Christ collectively and each believer individually. The word “church” in all the New Testament always refers to a group of believers, never to a physical building.
          Now, does this mean that I’m against church buildings, or sanctuaries? No. We have to meet somewhere, and a church building is as good a place as any. I'm not opposed to it.
          But am I in favor of spending a lot of money on a building which will be dust and ashes someday? Well, I can’t find any Scripture against it as such, so I’m not going to judge other believers on stuff which the Spirit failed to mention in his word. But I’m not too comfortable with going overboard with it. Where that line is, is something I’d have to think about.
          I do know this for sure, however. As today’s passage makes clear, God is—and always has been—impressed with things that we aren’t. We’re impressed by an imposing and beautiful building, while he’s impressed with “those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at [his] word.” The nobody, the “has-been” or “never was” can easily be someone who catches his blessed attention. All they have to be is someone who’s humble, contrite (sorry about their sin), and who trembles at his word. And friend, let me tell you something: If someone trembles at God’s word, they won’t tremble at the sight of a building, or much else for that matter.
          I think all of us need to examine our priorities, and reexamine them on a regular basis, especially if we live in a rich country like America. Are my priorities his? Forget a moment about being negative about worship centers. Are you humble? Do you have a keen sense of who God is and who you are in comparison? Are you mourning the sin in your life? Do you tremble at his word?

Well, Father? What about it?

[Feb 19]--Grace and Amnesia

Isaiah 63:7-14

            I thoroughly believe that the cruelest disease in the world is Alzheimer’s. I realize that cancer is a strong contender for that title. But the very thought of losing my memory, my thoughts, my love for my friends and family, my very self slipping away is pretty frightening. I don’t know if my grandfather was actually diagnosed with Alzheimer’s but he did experience dementia to some degree. During my childhood I was raised between my Mom (who was working) and my grandparents who babysat me constantly. Every day I came home and kissed my grandpa who sitting in his chair. Although I was really young, my intuition knew something was wrong  with him. Only later I found out that after I had kissed him and walked out of the room, he asked my grandmother, “Who was that?” with tears rolling down his cheeks.
            Dennis Prager, one of my favorite radio talk show hosts, is frequently pointing out how important keeping memories alive really is. He participates every year in the Passover, a 3000 year old ritual which keeps in the forefront of the minds of the next generation a central event in Jewish history. His contention—and I agree with him—that to lose one’s memory is to lose one’s self.
            That’s the type of amnesia which Isaiah was decrying in today’s passage. He starts out by bringing forward the hero and star of this story: God Almighty. The Lord set his sights on a man and made that man into a nation. He didn’t do this because they deserved it: On the contrary, he did it “according to his compassion and many kindnesses,” certainly not according to how righteous they were. He showered them with blessings, love, forgiveness, mercy, provision, and protection. The picture here is not one of a God who sits up in Heaven merely manipulating events and people—Notice the extremely moving phrase “in all their distress he too was distressed.” When they suffered, he suffered with them. Even before the Incarnation, he was a God who is right here with his people when they’re undergoing hardship; after the coming of Christ, of course, that “nearness” aspect from verse is all the more poignant.
            And what was their reaction to his treatment of them? Gratitude? Obedience? Submission? Trust? Zeal for his glory?
            If you know anything about your Old Testament, you don't even have to read verse 10 to answer that question.
            They rebelled. They complained. They turned to other gods so fast you could barely mark the transition. And notice, once again, the pathos of the verb used here: They grieved him. He wasn’t just a judge who was rendering a verdict. He was a judge and a Father forced to render a verdict on his own child.
            But then, they remembered. They recalled what he had done for them. By his grace, they called back to mind what he'd done in the time of Moses, when their nation had been founded. They thought about the miracles of the Red Sea and how he'd provided for them in the wilderness. But even more than the physical miracles, he'd set his presence among them. That’s what the verse is talking about when it mentions that he had “set his Holy Spirit among them.” Nothing else he did or could have done physically would compare with that.
            What about us? As believers, is it possible for us to have spiritual amnesia? Well, why do you think the Lord instituted communion for us? Because it’s so easy for us to forget.  As we mature as Christians, it’s easy to forget what he saved us from. It’s easy to judge others, because we’ve forgotten what it’s like to be lost.
             So what do you need to remember?

Lord Jesus, as the old hymn goes, may I never outlive my love to Thee. When I start to forget your goodness to me, wake me from my amnesia. Whatever it takes.

[Feb 18]--Salvation

Isaiah 61:10-11

            When I get to Heaven, I actually sort of hope that there’s a way of reviewing our life and see what happened to us “behind the scenes.” There’s so much going on in the spiritual realm that we don’t know anything about. This side of the Great Divide, that’s probably a good thing. If I had any clue about the angelic/demonic struggles going on around me all the time, I’d probably hide under the bed.
            But the one thing I desperately want to see is what happens in the spiritual realm when someone receives Christ for salvation. Think about it, imagine it with me for a moment.
            Elsewhere Isaiah tells us that we’re filthy in God’s sight in our own righteousness. Not just misguided or mistaken. In fact, the verse above says that our “righteous acts” are filthy in his sight. Never mind all the sins in which we participate. The best part of you is filthy in his sight.
            But then that person believes in Jesus. In some mysterious way, the blood which Christ shed on the cross is applied to that person, and he’s forgiven.
            But there’s more to it than that. He does more.
            That’s where today’s passage comes in. Isaiah tells us that he is rejoicing in the Lord because of something God had done for him. The Almighty had come along and “clothed [him] with garments of salvation and arrayed [him] in a robe of his righteousness.”
            See that’s the difference between all the religions of the world and what the Bible presents to us as the Good News. Our first parents sinned, and they tried to cover their nakedness with something that they came up with themselves—fig leaves. Ever since then, everyone has been trying to cover themselves up from the shame. But to God they’re not beautiful garments—we’ve already seen what he thinks of our own righteousness.
            We need an “alien” righteousness, a foreign righteousness, an outside righteousness that doesn’t come from us. That’s what Isaiah is talking about: A “robe of his righteousness.”        
            You see, our salvation is more than just forgiveness. I'm clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. When angels look at me, I suspect they have trouble seeing through the blinding glare. Because I'm covered in the perfect righteousness of Christ.
            Do you see why I’d like to view someone experiencing the moment of belief from the “other side” one day? One moment, the person is covered in filthy, stinking, rotten sinfulness. The next moment, all that is wiped away and the person is covered in head to toe in the glorious righteousness of Christ.
            If you’re reading this and you haven’t experienced this, what are you waiting for? Check this out.
            If you’re reading this and you’re a redeemed child of God, I want you to bask in this glorious truth for a few moments. You're covered in the righteousness of Christ. Forever. All the sins that you’ve ever committed and all that you ever will commit are gone. Forever. When the Father sees you, he sees you through the “rose-colored glasses” of his perfect Son.

Lord Jesus, to say I’m not worthy of this is. . . well, that’s really the point, isn’t it? Now that I’m covered, I want to please you more and more. By your grace, change me please to be what I am.

[Feb 17]--Intervention

Isaiah 59:15-21

            Boy, the Bible can get pretty depressing at times, can’t it? Someone might try to claim that the Bible is filled with “fairy tales,” but I think a lot of people have it turned around. Anyone who believes that humanity is basically good and that sin is no big deal are indulging in a fairy tale which is far more delusional than anything Disney ever presented. The Bible is starkly honest, to the point of bluntness, about our dire situation.
            But there’s a reason why the term “Gospel” means “good news.” First you have to confront the bad news, then you’re ready for the second half. The Bible doesn’t present us as being left on our own in the mess we created.
            In America we value our independence: In fact, that’s the name of our founding document, the public declaration of which we celebrate in July every year. We tell stories about someone pulling themselves up “by their own bootstraps.” That might be admirable in the business or political world, but in the spiritual realm, it’s disaster.
            Have you heard the saying “If you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself”? That pretty much sums up today’s reading, doesn’t it? If the Lord had waited for us to solve our problem ourselves, he would've waited forever. We were in a “worst case scenario,” and there was no way we could ever pull ourselves out of it. All the religions in the world, all the philosophers in history, all the great thinkers could never taken us one inch out of our dilemma.
            So he had to intervene. Now, we need to think carefully here. By all appearances, today’s reading is mainly talking about the second appearance of Jesus, not his first. Isaiah had plenty to say about his first arrival, which we’ll see in a few days, but this passage is referring to when he returns.
            But the principle still remains, since you can’t have his 2nd coming without his first. But when the Lord has finally had enough of earth’s rebellion, he'll come back and set up his kingdom for all to see. We can have all types of disagreements over the details, but that’s way beyond the purview of this devotional.
            This is a picture of the Lord dressed for combat. He’s going to war here, and you can pity his enemies. The image seems to be the same as that of Revelation 19. This is not a humble carpenter who’s meekly submitting to a horrible death. He’s coming to kick. . . well, you know, and to take names.
            And what will be the result of this? All the world will follow him and obey him and “fear” him. Just remember that “fear” in the Old Testament, as regards to fearing God, is not talking about being afraid of him. It’s mainly talking about a reverent worship, shorthand for having a right relationship with him.
            Who will be involved in this? People all over the world, from every tribe and community and nation, will see what God has done and worship him.
            “The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins.” That’s the key. He’s coming in power and glory for those who turn away from doing things their way towards doing things his way. And my friend, you’re either in one group—his enemies, or you’re in the second group—his redeemed children.
            The interesting thing is that’s already started in a sense. Yes, I think he will come again in power and glory, but I also think that this was started in his first coming. He saw our plight and knew that if he didn’t intervene, we were sunk. He came down and conquered the spiritual forces arrayed against us, and he offers each of us a choice. Which group will we be in? It all starts with restoring the broken relationship we have with him. Once we step into this “covenant” he’s referring to, then his Spirit will live within us, and his word will be on our lips.
            You don’t have to wait for him to come on the clouds for this to happen, at least in your personal life. You can have his Spirit right now. You can have a right relationship with him right now. Do you have it? If not, why not?

Lord Jesus, I long for the day  when I see you face to face. I can’t wait to see every knee bow down before you and acknowledge you as Lord. But until then, I will drink of your Spirit and have your word on my lips. I’m not waiting.

[Feb 16]--Consequences

Isaiah 59:1-14

            I don’t know who it was who first presented this concept to me, but I certainly can’t claim credit: One of the surest marks of a more mature Christian versus a less mature Christian is how seriously they view sin. What’s their reaction to the ongoing sin in their own life? Do they laugh it off? Do they flirt with it like an ex-girlfriend with whom they might want to get back together someday? Or do they treat it like a mortal enemy? I’m a comic book geek, but I recognize that most people aren’t, so I won’t use examples like Superman and Lex Luthor, or Batman and the Joker.
            How’s about this one—The hardcore Israelis and the hardcore Palestinians. Think about what those two groups think of one another. Do they trade any love notes with each other? Dear reader, those guys are BFF’s with each other compared to how we’re to regard sin.
            Why? Why is this so important? Isaiah (with the Spirit directing him) gives us several reasons.
·         First and foremost, it separates us from God. If you’re not a believer in Christ, then this final separation from the Lord will be in a place called Hell. If you are a believer, then you need to know that sin will keep you from experiencing joy, peace, a sense of purpose in Christ, assurance of salvation, and a host of other wonderful benefits of being a child of God.
·         Second, sin tends to spread. I always wonder whenever I hear doctors talk about a “malignant” tumor. Is there a “benevolent” kind? I know, I know. There are good reasons they have for using that terminology.
But sin, like cancer, doesn’t keep to itself. It starts off with a separation from God, then that effect will work itself out into things like your tongue. For example, have you ever spoken a lie or a malicious rumor and think to yourself “Where did that come from?” Well, Jesus said that “the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” If there’s sin that’s not dealt with in a decisive way, then that will spread to other areas of your life.
·         Third, the spreading doesn’t stop with individuals. It never ceases to amaze me when people lament about the state of society. Certainly there’s injustice in this world. There’s racism, legal injustice, crime and other horrible things which people do to one another. But they’re just symptoms of a much greater and deadlier disease. People are separated from God, and this state will work itself out into public injustice. If people aren’t right with the Lord, then of course eventually that will be demonstrated publically.
·         And finally it ends in darkness. People stumble around and trip over things and hurt themselves and others because they can’t see what’s right in front of them. And that darkness—if the sin issue is not solved—will become eternal. As in never ending. Ever.

But thank God, the message of the Bible doesn’t end on this sour note. The One who created us and who revealed himself to Abraham didn’t leave us in this sorry state. We could never do anything about this, but he did. And that’s what we’ll talk about tomorrow.

Lord Jesus, you could have left us in this mess. We deserve it, and we put ourselves here in the first place. But you didn’t. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

[Feb 15]--Priorities

Isaiah 58:1-10

            If you’re really in love with someone (like your girlfriend/boyfriend or spouse), then don’t you want to know them? Wouldn’t you be interested in what they like and dislike? Wouldn’t you care to know what their priorities in life are?
            That’s one of the main purposes of the Law, by the way, and a good way of applying it to our lives as N.T. believers. By reading the Torah (the books of Moses), you can see for yourself what God’s priorities are. If you’re going to be a follower of Jesus, I'd think this would be important.
            That’s why passages like today are important. They show God’s priorities. He values some things over other things.
            Taken on the face of it, it looks like God values taking care of people over ritual. Imagine an observant Jew of Isaiah’s time. He fasts when it’s time to fast, and he’s careful to follow the rules down to the smallest detail. He tithes scrupulously. He goes to corporate worship on a regular basis. But the Lord says that the “fast” which really impresses him is taking the chains of oppression off of hurting people. He says that the “fast” that he really wants to see is giving to the poor and other needy.
            Now, we need to be cautious. What’s my key word in studying Scripture? I have three words which really help me keep perspective and steer clear of fuzzy thinking: context, context, and context. The rest of the Bible has listed rituals which the Almighty God of Israel instituted. He gave Moses the fast days. He gave Moses instructions on tithing. He gave the rules concerning the Sabbath. Is God contradicting himself here? We might disagree about how (or if) N.T. believers are expected to do things like tithing or observing the Sabbath. But these are Old Testament believers. They were still under the Mosaic Law. There'd been no word that the Lord was abrogating his earlier instructions.
            So what are we to make of this? Although God might consider religious ritual and public observance to be less important than how we deal with people made in his image, that doesn’t mean they aren’t important at all and that you shouldn’t observe them.
            Let’s take church attendance as an example. We’re commanded by the writer of Hebrews (a N.T. writer) to gather together on a regular basis as a local body of believers to encourage and challenge each other. Now, let’s say that on my way to church I see someone on the side of the road who has a flat tire. Which is more important to God: That I make it to church on time, or that I help that person in the name of Christ?
            Let’s take another example, one which might hit closer to home than my “church or flat tire” example, one which you’re unlikely to encounter anyway. Lots of professing believers would never consider missing a Sunday church service or even a Wednesday night prayer meeting, but they think nothing of being rude to their server in a restaurant or to the guy trying to get into their lane.
            Now again, please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that church attendance or giving to the church isn’t important. I don’t say that, and God doesn’t say that. But just like the Israelites in today’s reading, our attendance to ritual might be overshadowed by how we treat people who are made in our Creator’s image.
            Let me be perfectly frank here. If you go to a restaurant for Sunday lunch right after a worship service, and you don’t overtip and are not especially kind to your server, something is desperately wrong.
            Your Lord has priorities. He thinks some things are more important than others. Are you getting in sync?

Father, I want to be. I desperately want to be. Where your thoughts are different from my thoughts and your ways different from my ways, it’s me that needs to change. Please help.

[Feb 14]--Paradox and Peace

Isaiah 57:15 -21

            I apologize if you’re sick of hearing about this, but I have to assume that there are some folks just joining us. I love what I call “tension” verses and passages. These are verses that contain within them a perfect balance for us as believers. Martin Luther compared humanity to a drunk man on a horse, who falls off one side, brushes himself off, gets back on the horse determined not to fall off that side again, who then proceeds to fall off the other side. A perfect example of this is Psalm 127:1: “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.” To those who trust in their own building activities and guarding efforts, the psalmist tells us that it’s all useless unless the Lord is behind it. But to anyone who just wants to sit back and “let God take care of it,” this verse reminds us that he has to bless the work that we do. He won’t build your house for you, and he expects that you’ll put guards in place.
            Today’s passage contains one of the most profound and moving verses I’ve ever read in the Bible. There’s a tension between believers of different stripes, and this verse can remedy much of that. Look at how the Lord is described in the first half: He is the “high and exalted One. . .whose name is holy.” What does the word “holy” mean? It means “separate,” or “different.” When we call him the Holy One, we mean that he’s utterly unique in the universe. There is nothing like him in all creation. He's different from us and everything else you can imagine. He’s not your buddy. He’s not your pal. He’s not a peer. He's so high and exalted that there are angels flying around the throne who dare not look directly at his face.
            Quite frankly, American Christians are just about the only ones in the world who’ve seriously needed this corrective. In fact, most people throughout history—believers or pagan—would not need to be convinced that the Lord of the universe is holy and unique and can’t be approached any old way we please. It’s wouldn’t shock them at all that the Creator of everything is the high and exalted One. But the second half of the verse would be a shock to them. He lives in a high and holy place, but he has another dwelling as well. He also lives and indwells the person who's “contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” For someone who acknowledges their sin and utter moral bankruptcy before him, he’s right there. If we’re “lowly” enough to recognize that he’s God and we’re not, then he’s right there. If we belong to him, and we feel crushed by the burdens of life, then he’s right there: As close as a heartbeat, as close as the breath on our lips.
            Of course, the full paradox and seeming contradiction was made flesh and dwelt among us. One of Jesus’ names is Immanuel, remember? Within that one name—meaning “God with us,” is contained all the mystery of what we’re talking about. He’s God—with all that entails—but he’s God with us. He identified with us as sinners, he lived among us for 33 years and experienced all that we experience (without sin): loneliness, fear, hunger, thirst, anger, frustration, pain, tiredness, humiliation, etc. And he identifies with us still, even at this very moment.
            But again, we must not take this mercy and grace and “with us”-ness for granted. He offers us peace, but if we reject it, there’s no other source out there. People often wonder why world peace seems so elusive. The answer’s pretty simple, and it’s strongly hinted at in the last verse of today’s reading: “There is no peace. . . for the wicked.” Where people are doing things God’s way, there’s going to be as much peace as we can find in this world. As long as there are people out there who insist on doing things their own way instead of his, there won’t be any lasting peace. So if you’re waiting and yearning for world peace, you’re going to have to keep waiting until our Lord returns and sets up a Kingdom in which his word is obeyed eagerly and without question.
            Until that happens, we’re going to have to concentrate on doing things his way in our personal lives and in our families and in our churches. And we can add to that peace by calling upon people to submit to him in faith and obedience. Wherever the Prince of Peace reigns in undisputed authority, you’ll see what you’re yearning to see. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Lord Jesus, I can’t bring peace to the world, but I can bring peace to my life and home. It starts by doing things your way. Pretty easy to say, rough to do. But by your grace, I want to see it.

[Feb 13]--Foreigners and Outsiders

            As I write this, a debate has been raging for years about the effects of illegal immigration on our country. There are people on both extremes of the political spectrum who disagree with others about how to deal with the problem, or even the extent of the danger. For example, the editors of the Wall Street Journal opinion page (usually on the conservative side) favor some type of immigration reform by which illegal immigrants can become legalized and get on the path to citizenship. Other hard-core conservative elements vehemently oppose what they call “amnesty” for illegal immigrants, claiming that they take jobs away from citizens and keep wages low.
            Every nation in history that has some prosperity has had immigrants attempt to make a good living within its borders. And just as frequently, those immigrants have been treated less than kindly. Double-standards before the law or even outright persecution is the norm rather than tolerance.
            Obviously every nation must have control over its borders, but the Lord never ever ever sanctioned or condoned poor treatment of immigrants within the borders of Israel. On the contrary, he repeated warned his people that he had special concern for the “foreigner,” another term for immigrant. Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t think that these verses are telling us to throw open our borders to anyone who wants to come in. But it does tell us that God condemns any persecution or double-standard, which was (and is) the norm.
            So why do I bring it up, then? Because that “alien,” the foreigner that Isaiah is talking about? That’s you and me. Unless you’re Jewish, then God took you as a “wild” (non-native) olive branch and grafted you into the “vine” of his Kingdom.
            Now again, we need understanding. Right here and now, Gentiles are not “grafted” into God’s Kingdom by observing the Sabbath and other Mosaic laws. We’re saved by placing our faith in the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus). So what is the passage saying?
            According to the Law given to Moses, certain foreigners, while not mistreated, were still forbidden from fully participating in the worship at the Tabernacle (and later the Temple). The same went for eunuchs. But God here says that his ultimate plan will be for the door to be opened for anyone to enter. I personally think that there’s a “now and not yet” aspect to this, just like with a lot of predictions. I believe that God was announcing during the time of Isaiah that the doors were opened for anyone who was willing to do things “God’s way” during that time. If someone joined the Lord's people and expressed that solidarity by following the Law of Moses, then he'd accept him. No national or racial or ethnic background could keep someone out of the Kingdom if they were willing to do things God’s way.
            The complete fulfillment was brought by the Messiah, and the same principle still applies, actually more than ever. In Christ, there’s no Jew or Gentile, man or woman, slave or free. Your skin pigmentation or national background didn’t matter to God during the time of Isaiah, so it matters even less now. The only requirement, just like then, was that you get in by doing things God’s way. We’re brought in by simply placing our faith in Jesus.
            One of the reasons why this is so important is that we sometimes need a reminder that it’s always been the Lord's ultimate plan to bring in people from all types of backgrounds into his redeemed family. Does the phrase in vs. 7 “house of prayer for all nations” sound familiar at all? It should. Jesus quoted this phrase as he drove the money changers out of the temple area of the Gentiles. The temple of his time had an open courtyard which was supposed to be for Gentile worshipers to come and make sacrifices and learn about the God of Israel. But the temple leaders had turned it into a marketplace, making it virtually impossible for Gentiles to worship the one true God in the one place officially set aside for them. That’s what made Jesus so angry that—for the only time in his earthly life—he resorted to physical violence. You want to make Jesus angry? Get between him and an outsider who’s seeking him out.
            So are you in tune with God’s heart? Are you looking for opportunities to share his love with an “outsider”? He wants that person not to perish, but to come to repentance. Are you in sync with that? Why not?

Yes, Father, I want to be in sync with your heart. I want to bring people into your Kingdom, both here and across the world. Pour me out, break me in half, whatever it takes.

[Feb 12]--Ways and Thoughts

Isaiah 55:8-13

            What’s the root of all of our problems? That’s one of the big questions that philosophy and religion try to address. Well, if you’ve been reading this blog, then you know my answer, which I think jibes with the Bible’s answer: sin. Remember the definition? Any lack of conformity to the expressed will of God. That’s where all our problems come from. No matter what problem you can think of—physical, spiritual, mental, social, governmental, environmental, etc.-- you can trace it back to sin.
            But now that I think about it, if we dig a little deeper, we find that there’s a root even underneath this root. At the heart of any sin is one insidious thought: I know better than God does.  He tells me to do X, but I know better than he does, so I do Y instead. Our first parents bought into this, and we’ve been following their pattern ever since.
            Today’s passage provides a great corrective to that. We think we know which way to go in life. We have our own plans, our agenda, our schemes, our task list. But his ways are higher than our ways. How much higher? Well, how much higher are the heavens than the earth? Infinitely. No measurement is possible. That’s how much.
            And our thoughts versus his thoughts? We think we have it all covered. We have all the answers. We think we’ve figured it out, at least what we need to know. No, we haven’t. His thoughts are higher than ours, times infinity.
            Why is this important? Well, as I pointed out, it’s the root of every sinful thought and action. But there’s more to this. Perhaps like the exiles addressed here, you’ve gone through a massive tragedy in life. Or maybe not even a tragedy, maybe just a huge obstacle in the road. When times are really tough, it’s easy to get mad at God or blame him. But he knows what he’s doing. He really does.
            Then he gives us some insight into his word and how it operates. The reason this is linked to the verses above is because God’s word is his main method of expressing his will to us. He predicted that Israel would be restored in his timing, and he asked his people to trust him in the meantime. And they needed to know something about God and his word which would bring them to the other side of this hardship: God’s word never fails to deliver on its purpose.
            Imagine a rain storm. Rain falls out of a cloud and lands on the ground. It doesn’t stop mid-air and return back to the cloud. No, it hits the ground and produces an effect—watering the earth. In the same way, God’s word does not return to him empty, but always accomplishes the purpose for which he sent it. His message of judgment on sinners will accomplish what he sends it to do: Either it’ll bring them to repentance, or it’ll serve as an accuser when they stand before the Throne. When he sends the Good News about Jesus to someone, it’ll bring them to salvation, or again it’ll be their accuser some day.
            And his words of comfort, if you’ll listen to them, will accomplish what he sent them to do as well. Hear some of them right now, straight from God’s lips: He knows what he’s doing. You don’t know what he’s doing, but that doesn’t mean a thing. His ways are (infinitely) higher than your way of doing things, and his thoughts are (infinitely) higher than yours.
            And as the rest of the passage makes clear, once we accept this and see it in action, real blessing will be ours. To some degree we’ll see it in this world, and to the fullest degree we’ll see it in the next. Just trust. And obey.

Father God, I do trust you. Not nearly as enough, not nearly as much as I should. By your grace, I want to.

[Feb 11]--Open Invitation

Isaiah 55:1-7

            Have you ever seen a crowd at a “Black Friday” or “Fourth of July” sale? It’s a madhouse, a MADHOUSE I tell you! Quite frankly, you couldn’t pay me enough money to try to go in a store during one of those “prime” shopping days. Why? Because a lot of people are on the lookout for a great bargain, and those days seem to be a great time to get one.

            It’s especially true if people think they’re getting something for nothing: “Buy one, get one free” and people will buy an item they normally wouldn’t.

            But when it comes to salvation, a lot of people around the world think they have to earn a right relationship with God. In fact, that’s a pretty fair summary of the world’s religions: “Do this, and you’ll be accepted.”

            I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m a big fan of talk radio. Two of my favorite hosts are Michael Medved and Dennis Prager. Both of them are practicing, observant  Jews. They try to keep the Mosaic Law as best they can. Although they both have a lot of respect for Christians, they have a huge difference in theology with us. They don’t believe in the N.T., and they don’t accept Jesus as the Messiah, nor do they accept the simple message of the Good News. They only take the O.T. as authoritative, especially the Torah.

            But the concept of salvation by grace through faith is not something original with the coming of Jesus. As Paul firmly stated, we’re the spiritual heirs of Abraham. He was counted as righteous just by believing what God told him, just as we are.

            And nowhere is the Good News for Old Covenant believers more clearly stated than in today’s passage. The world offers, and religion offers, and the Enemy offers peace with the Almighty. “Do this, and you’ll be fine. Pray these prayers in a certain way, be a good person, give money to the poor, don’t harm other people, don’t cheat on your spouse, etc., and you’ll probably make it in.”

            But the Lord, speaking through his servant Isaiah, offers an invitation to everyone who’s listening. Normally wine and milk were pretty expensive. If you had no money, then you had nothing to offer. And in God’s economy, we’re all bankrupt. Totally and completely. We can never make up for the bad we’ve done. But he comes along and he says “I know you have no money. I know that you’re spiritually bankrupt. But you don’t have to pay for it. I’m offering it for free. Just accept it, and it’s yours.” You bring nothing to this transaction except your sin and your need.

            You’re dying of thirst. You’re dying, period. If you’ll listen to him, you’ll live. And more than that, you’ll “delight in the richest of fare.” If you’ll come to him, you won’t just be treated better than you deserve; you’ll be treated far better than you ever dreamed.

            But the open invitation is not open forever. Take a close look at the last two verses in today’s reading. You must “[seek] the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” There'll come a day when the door is shut. And none of us know when that will happen.

            And there's one more thing I have to point out, otherwise I’d be remiss. In this passage, you might get the impression from vss. 1-2 that this is “easy believism”—Just pray a prayer, accept God’s free gift, and then you can live life as you please. Um, no. You have to forsake your “wicked ways,” and your “wicked thoughts.” Does this mean he demands that you “clean up” your life before you come to him? Of course not! You do the coming, he does the cleaning. But part of the process of coming is the acknowledgement that you’re accepting him as your boss. From now on, you’re committing yourself to doing things his way, not yours. It’s a change in direction for your life. If you’d like to read some more to clear up any confusion, you can see it here.

            If you’re reading this and are already a believer, then hopefully this is a great reminder of what he’s done for you. Any such reminder should engender gratitude and a recommitment of yourself to be a more pleasing and obedient child.

            If you’re not a believer, or if you’re not sure, then please read this. Furthermore, I want to point you to the grand and glorious promise in the last words of today’s verses. They are for you! “[Turn] to the Lord, and he will have mercy on [you], and to our God, for he will freely pardon.” Yes, no matter what it is.

Father God, you've done so much more for me than I deserve, so much more than I could've imagined. I’ve said it before, but I want to say it again now: We’re doing things your way from now on.

[Feb 10]--Forgotten

Isaiah 49:13-16

            All right, I have a confession to make. When the Lord was handing out short-term memory, I think I was in line for something else. As I write this, I currently have a smartphone which is specifically designed for people like me. It makes it easy for me to make a quick voice memo, schedule an appointment with someone, make a task list, etc. Otherwise, I'd be lost. LOST, I tell you. I can remember things like what happened when the X-Men encountered Magneto for the first time in the comic books, and I can remember some of the best lines from movies, but I can very easily forget to call my Mom back after she leaves a voicemail. Yes, I’ve done that.
            Now I know that—assuming that your theology is correct—you believe in the omniscience of the Almighty. That means he knows everything that ever was and is and ever will be about everything in all of creation. He knows how many atoms make up a hair on my head, and he knows the exact orbit of the Alpha Centauri binary star system.
            You also know, or should, that the only thing that could be said to be forgotten by God are our sins. Once we believe in Christ, our sins are covered by his blood and forgiven and forgotten, never to be brought against us again.
            But in your heart, where no one else can hear it, do you think you’re forgotten by him? Or rather, do you feel like you’re forgotten by him? Do you feel like he’s abandoned you? Like he doesn’t really know about what you’re going through, or doesn’t care?
            Sure, he cares about the movements of nations and presidents and kings and tyrants. Certainly he’s totally involved in an epic war with Satan for the souls of men. But does he really care about the problems in my marriage? Does he really care that I’ve been unemployed for so long? Does he really care about the out-of-control child in my house?
            Yes. Yes, he does. Today’s passage was written with you in mind. When the Holy Spirit was inspiring Isaiah to write these words, he was writing them for you. Specifically.
            Of course, he was writing them first to the exiles of Israel. They'd been invaded by a foreign power and ground into dust. His armies had sacked their homes, murdered thousands of people, and now was forcibly hauling them into another country. Just like you, they would've found it easy to feel like the God of Israel had forgotten, or that he didn’t care.
            In this passage, the Lord argues from the lesser to the greater. Consider a mother with her child. As Dave Barry once said, fathers and mothers are very different in the way they regard children. A mother tends to know everything about her kids: How they’re doing in school, how many pairs of underwear they have left in a drawer, who they like and want to go out with, their hopes and dreams and fears, etc. A father, on the other hand, is vaguely aware that there are some short people who live in the same house with him.
            But every once in a while we hear of an exception. I live in Texas, and a few years ago it seemed like there was a rash of mothers who were in such a hurry to get to where they were going that they did the unthinkable. I remember one in particular: She completely forgot about the child in the back seat behind her. She left her child in the car, and found him later cooked in the heat.
            But why did that make news? Because it’s rare. The vast vast vast majority of mothers are thinking about their children all the time and are always concerned about their safety. But God here says “Even if she were to forget, I would never forget about you.
            He says that he's engraved the names of his beloved people on the palms of his hands. I tend to make a quick note on my phone to remember it later. But he says he's engraved my name on his hand. This isn’t for his sake, because he'd never forget me with or without it. It’s not for his sake—It’s for mine. He wants me to know that I'm always on his mind, always in his thoughts, always under his watchful care.
And if you’re one of his children, the same goes for you.

Father, thank you. I hear your voice right now, telling me “I’m here.”

[Feb 09]--A Few More Thoughts On Sovereignty

            I promise that this will be the last entry on the issue of sovereignty for a while. I hope I haven't A)  bored you, or B) Initiated an unhealthy appetite for chasing theological “rabbit trails” or debates which don’t have a practical purpose.
            Why should you care about this subject? Well, first and foremost because the Bible talks about it so often. If the Holy Spirit thinks it’s worthy of our attention, then that should be enough for us. Second, we should care because a proper understanding of this topic should produce some good effects in our personal walk with Christ, namely praise and comfort.
            But we really need to have some clear thinking about this. It’s easy to get bogged down in misunderstandings about what Scripture really teaches.
            Now let’s get to what we can learn from today’s passage.
            Isaiah, speaking on God’s behalf, tells us that the Lord will raise up a ruler named Cyrus who will become the new 900-lb gorilla in the Middle East. No one will be able to stop him, and he will take everything within his sight. From the “behind-the-curtain” viewpoint here we can see that it’s the Lord who’s enabling him to do all these things. The Psalmist tells us that it’s the Almighty who raises up one man over another and puts him in authority over others. Then when the Lord is done with him, that man gets removed and replaced.
            But why? Why does he do this? Is he just a disinterested “Prime Mover” who manipulates people and nations like chess pieces? NO!!! He has two main reasons for this:
A)    For the sake of his people. He says so explicitly in vs 4: “For the sake of Jacob my servant, of Israel my chosen” he’s doing all these things.
B)    More importantly, he is doing this for the glory of his Name. He is doing this so that Cyrus might eventually “know that [he is] the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons [him] by name,” so that “from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting people may know there is none besides me. I am the Lord, and there is no other.

               But here’s where it gets tricky. Understanding that God is in charge doesn’t mean that we understand what he’s doing or why he’s doing it. In fact, quite the opposite: What he’s doing might make absolutely no sense to us. Bad things happen to God’s people, and innocent people suffer. But he is in charge of the bad things as well as in charge of the good things—He creates light and darkness, prosperity and disaster.
            Now, let's focus on 9-12. It sounds like he’s some tyrannical ruler or dictator up on a throne, and if you dare to ask him about what’s going on, then he thunders “HOW DARE YOU QUESTION ME!!!!” and sends  a lightning bolt to turn you into a smoldering heap of ashes. That’s not the point here at all.
            Is it wrong to question God? Well, if so, then a lot of our Scripture needs to be excised. The Psalms are filled with passages which angrily question or even accuse God. But they end up with declarations of trust that God is good and in charge, and eventually he'll vindicate those who trust him. But vss. 9-12 are directed towards who pridefully and arrogantly accuse God, who think they know better than he does. Um, no, you don’t. As Lewis pointed out, you get your intellect and reasoning power from him to begin with, so you can’t be right and he wrong any more than water can flow uphill.
            If today’s passage was the only thing we had from the Bible, then the Tyrannical picture might have a point. But this is our Father we’re talking about. The One who sent his only Son to die in our place, who's loved us with an everlasting love, who's redeemed us and adopted us into his family, and who's made us co-heirs with Christ.
            So what’s the point of all this? Once again, let’s make the main thing the main thing: Trust in him, no matter how the circumstances look. Praise him because he really does know what he’s doing, and he really is in charge. And eventually you’ll see it.

Father God, I trust you, I really do. Please help me to trust you more.

[Feb 08]--Block Head

Isaiah 44:6-20

             I know I’ve discussed this subject quite a bit recently, but today’s passage is too good to pass up, plus it has some points we haven’t considered before.

            There are two parallel themes in the latter part of Isaiah’s book, aside from the overriding  arch of “God is coming to save you.” The first theme is God’s sovereignty, the fact that God is in charge of everything and everyone, from the largest nation down to the smallest child. Exactly how this works in conjunction with man’s will and choices is a mystery which the Bible doesn’t explain thoroughly.

            The other theme—which actually builds upon the first—is the futility of trusting in and worshipping idols. It actually makes sense: Why would you worship idols instead of the true living God who's sovereign?

            But Isaiah wants to illustrate for us just how foolish this is, particularly in today’s passage. In fact I know of no better place in Scripture that illustrates the stark contrast.

            See the would-be idolater in action. He goes out to a forest to pick out the best tree. He takes an axe to it and chops it down. He hauls the fallen tree back to his house.

            Here’s where it gets funny. Part of the wood he uses for kindling. He throws it into the fireplace or stove. He lights it. Then he can sit down for a while and say “Boy, that fire really is great on this cold day.”

            Then he takes the rest of the wood, cuts a figure out of it, cuts a face onto it, decorates it as best as he can, sets it on a platform in his house and bows down to it.  One half of the wood is burning in the fire place, while the other half is his god to whom he bows and prays and sacrifices.

            It’s a block of wood. It can’t see you or hear you or think any thoughts whatsoever. It certainly can’t provide the rain or sunshine or harvest that you need. It can’t keep you healthy or enemy armies away from your door. It can’t provide children or fertile soil.

            It’s a block of wood.

            And even worse, it’s a lie. You believe in it, and pray to it, and sacrifice to it, all the while thinking it can save you. It can’t.

            Only the real, true, living God can do that. He’s the One who provides the children, the sun, the rain, health, etc. The armies of the nations might rage and plot and march, but they’re nothing compared to the Lord of Heaven. And he'll take care of his people and protect them from any real harm.

            But before we leave this poor fool, let’s spend just a moment more on idol worship. I’m pretty sure there are no blocks of wood in your home before whom you bow and pray. But what about money? You know, Paul said that greed is idolatry, not once but twice. Or how about putting your trust in your saving account to keep you safe? Solomon warned us a long time ago that riches can fly away in an instant. Or maybe you look to a certain politician to provide what we need? David in the Psalms has a word for us here: “Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.”

            But your response to that might be “Of course I don’t trust in politicians or anyone else. I trust myself. I can figure things out for myself.” Again, Solomon (pretty famous for his wisdom) has a word for you too: “Those who trust in themselves are fools.”

            That’s the problem with idols, whether they’re a block of wood or money or a politician or our own judgment. Sooner or later they all topple and fall down.

But if you actually go back to the psalm I quoted above, you’ll see that David provides the sweet alternative to stupid idol worship: “Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.”

The sovereign God or an idol of some variety. Your choice.

Father God, I choose you. Right here and now, I choose you. When fears and doubts come, please confirm me in that choice. By your grace.

[Feb 07]--Why Was I Saved?

Isaiah 43:22-28

            Have you ever pondered this? If someone asked you this question, what would you answer? Why did God go through all that he did in order to redeem you? Why did he send his only Son? Why did the Son undergo all that he did? What motivated him?
            Well, the most obvious answer is something like “love,” or “mercy” or “compassion.” And that’s not a bad or wrong answer. After all, the most famous verse of the Bible tells us that the reason why God sent his only Son was because of his love for us. His word tells us that he doesn’t want anyone to perish, but for all to come to repentance. Why? Because he knows exactly how bad Hell really will be.
            But I think there’s another answer to that question which most believers never consider.
            It’s the natural bent of mankind, and especially in this me-centered culture, to either tacitly or explicitly act as if “it’s all about me.” We live in a free market system which caters to our every need or desire, and that’s not a terrible thing in itself. But I really believe we need some correction on this.
            It’s not all about me. Or you.
            I try to be open to different methods of sharing the Good News with people who need Jesus. The Prodigal Son in Jesus’ story didn’t come back to his father out of some high-minded motives. He came back because he was hungry. And I don’t think it’s wrong to appeal to people’s self-interest in presenting their need for Christ.
            But as we mature, spiritually and in other ways, we learn that it’s not all about me. Yes, God loves me and doesn’t want me to spend eternity in Hell. But is that the only—or even primary—reason why he saved me?
            Look at verse 25 in today’s passage. Why exactly does he say here that he’s going to save Israel? Because of their innate goodness? Because they deserve it? Oh please. Or maybe it was because he was feeling sorry for them and didn’t want to see them suffer, as well-deserving as they were? There are other passages in which he talks about that motivation, but not here.
            No, he said that he was going to blot out their transgression and forgive them for his own sake. What does that mean? Well, that means that it was for his own benefit in some form or fashion. What could he gain from our salvation? Our benefit is pretty obvious, but what does he get out of it?
            In a word: Glory. Or here’s two: Honor. When we get up to Heaven, each one of us will be an everlasting “trophy,” an eternal testimony to how powerful and gracious and merciful and patient and loving he is. We'll sing about his wonderful and wondrous salvation, but our entire being will be a forever song to add to the choir that surrounds his throne.
            He didn’t have to, you know. He'll also get glory from his judgment. If he wants to, he'll be able to point to every person in Hell and say “THAT’S how much I hate sin. THAT shows how holy and righteous I am.” But he's also chosen to glorify his Name by redeeming lost sinners. He'll be able to point to me and say “THAT”S how merciful and full of grace I am.”
            So how does this affect me in the here and now? Well, first and foremost we need a reminder every now and again (or maybe oftener) about whom this is really all about. I wasn't saved primarily for my own sake. All honor and glory and praise and thanksgiving belongs to him.

Father, what else can I say? I think I’ll imitate Job for a while.

[Feb 06]--The Forward Look

Isaiah 43:14-19

            As I’ve mentioned before, the last 27 chapters are mainly written to God’s people in exile, in order to give them hope in the midst of utter despair. He promises that he will pay the Babylonians back for what they’ve done, and he'll intervene at the promised time on their behalf.

            But in the context of this, he lays out an astonishing statement, which contains a great principle which we’d do well to heed.

            Let me ask you a question: What’s the greatest miracle that the Lord has ever performed? Or actually, let me rephrase that: What’s the most spectacular miracle that God has ever performed for a public audience? I mean, I'd submit that the Resurrection of Christ has the most far-reaching effects, and every person who’s saved is incredible work of God in the spiritual realm.

            But in the physical realm, you’d have to say it’s the parting of the Red Sea. The Ten Plagues were incredible, but someone could possibly chalk those up to a string of coincidences. Elijah did some incredible feats, but nothing on that scale. Our Lord raised Lazarus (and others, and himself) from the dead, but the witnesses to those events certainly didn’t number in the millions. I mean, you see an immense sea in front of you, and the Egyptian army behind. You see Moses raise his arms, and the Sea parts before you. You and your family and millions of others cross over on dry land—you don’t even get your feet wet! And then you cheer as the Army of Pharaoh tries to follow you and the grand climax.

            But what does God say about that here? “Fuggheddaboutit!!! You ain’t seen nothing yet! What I have planned for you in the future is so wonderful, so awe-inspiring, so grand and glorious, that the parting of the Red Sea doesn’t even deserve to be compared to it!”

            How do we interpret this?

            Well, as always we need to be careful to maintain balance. It is true that we tend to suffer from selective amnesia when it comes to God. Quite frankly, there were times in which the Israelites needed to be reminded of what the Lord had done for them in the past. He'd done so much for them, and they regularly spat in his face: complaining, arguing, accusing God and Moses of the worst of motives. Remembering how God has brought us thus far is a great cure for ingratitude, or at least it should be.

            But there are times in which we're so caught in what our Savior has done for us in the past that we totally miss what he’s going to do for us in the future, and what he’s doing for us right now, right this second. The writer of Lamentations told us that the demonstrations of his goodness and mercy and love are new every morning. We don’t have to look backwards to see his goodness. It’s right in front of us, and we can see it if we look.

            But there’s another principle to this which we need to let sink in: For God’s children, the best is yet to come. This is the exact opposite of Satan—he’ll offer his “best” up front, and it’s only later that you read the “fine print” which is not so appealing. But in stark contrast, our Father always saves his best for last. Just like with his Son, it’s only at the last part of the wedding that the best wine is brought out.

            Yes, we need to remember his goodness which he’s shown to us in the past. We always need to be grateful. And we need to recognize that if he never did another good thing for us ever, it'd be far better than we deserve. But we don’t need to hang on to the past. He has so much better in store for us. In fact, that’s an order. Not from me. From him.

Father, is this something we need to work on? Am I hanging on to what you’ve done for me in the past? Am I missing what you have for me right here and now?