Friday, July 31, 2015

Asking for God's Correction

READ Jeremiah 9-10

Jeremiah prays one of the humblest prayers of all the Bible in 10:23-24, “I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps. Correct me, O Lord, but in justice; not in your anger, lest you bring me to nothing.” Listen to each element of this prayer and consider using it in your life.

“The way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.” He begins with the humble admission that he doesn’t know how to direct his own life in a way that honors the Lord. Coupled with what follows he is also admits that he has made wrong choices and has walked a wrong path before the Lord. He openly confesses his own sinful human limitations to the Lord.

Next he asks God to correct him. If we pause there for a moment we have to admit this is a scary thought. Imagine all the ways that he potentially has displeased the Lord and he invites God to correct him. The God of who Scripture reveals is a consuming fire is entreated to bring his correction in the life of his prophet. How terrifyingly traumatic that can be.

But he tempers that request by asking God to correct him in his justice, not his anger, because he knows that God’s anger would literally wipe him out (see v. 25). Jeremiah knows that God is also a God of mercy and grace and he longs for God to deal with him in that way. As the writer of Hebrews shows, God disciplines his children with love (Hebrews 12:5-11). So Jeremiah prays for God’s tough love to be displayed in his own life. How about you? Are you ready and willing?

Prayer: Father, make us willing and eager to receive your divine correction. Open our hearts to confession of our sins and a desire for your discipline of love. Thank you that we know that you have received us in Christ and we will never be cast away. But also direct us in the steps we should go for we are not wise in and of ourselves.

Monday, July 27, 2015

A Primary Way to Pray for Your Pastor

READ Jeremiah 1-2

The beginning of Jeremiah is always a personal encouragement for me. Not because I’m a prophet. I’m not a prophet nor the son of a prophet. But I am a preacher and this passage has parallel truths that are meaningful to God’s preachers today.

First, we see Jeremiah giving an account of his calling from God in 1:4-19. He was not an eager prophet. He tried to beg out of the calling with what many would consider a valid excuse: “Then I said, “ Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” (6)

But God replied, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak.” (7) “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.” (9) God assured Jeremiah that his youthfulness was not a problem because he would tell him what to say and put the right words in his mouth. Finally, God exhorted him, “But you, dress yourself for work; arise, and say to them everything that I command you. Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them.” (17) In other words, God said, “Now get busy doing what I’ve commanded you to do.”

I’m sure you can see the encouragement to preachers today. There is no promise from God that he will miraculously “put his words in our mouths.” But he doesn’t have to do that because he has written his Word down for us. And, just like Jeremiah, he wants us to say what he says in his Word to his people: only what he says but all of what he says. That is the task of the preacher today. I hope you are praying for me, our other pastors and others that you know to fulfill this task.

Prayer: Help me and help my brother preachers to be faithful to your Word. Help us to say only what you have said but also all of what you have said. Help us not to rely on our own cleverness or wisdom but on your power through the Holy Spirit as we prepare and as we preach. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Don't Stop.........Reading!

READ Isaiah 63-64

So often we have a tendency to take breaks in our reading of Scripture where we shouldn’t pause. Many times this is a natural occurrence because of the chapter and verse divisions that, although they are extremely helpful, at times suggest a change in thought. But today the division between Chapter 63 and Chapter 64 is one of those times where there should be a huge sign reading, “Don’t Stop!:”

In 63 Isaiah is pouring out his confession of the sins of his people. In v. 16 he offers this remarkable admission, “For you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.” He says, in essence, we really are your people though we haven’t been acting like it. Then in v. 19 he sums it all up with the depth of their sin, “We have become like those over whom you have never ruled, like those who are not called by your name.”

Now don’t stop!

Go on into Chapter 64 and see what Isaiah begs God to do because of how sinful the people have become. “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence — as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil — to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence!” (1-2) Isaiah asks God to literally split the sky open and show up in all his might and glory as he has done in the past. The chapter (and prayer) ends with this pitiful, plaintiff cry to God, “Will you restrain yourself at these things, O Lord?
Will you keep silent, and afflict us so terribly?” (12)

Oh, how easy it is to jump forward to our day. No, our nation is not God’s chosen people. But it is a nation that has plunged to the depths in its sinfulness before God. Where are God’s people who, like Isaiah, are so burdened about the sin around them that they literally cry out to God and ask him to “rend the heavens and come down.”

Prayer: Oh, God, do it again. As you have done so many times in such marvelous ways, send revival to your people and spiritual awakening to our land. Bring us to the end of ourselves. Manifest your glory in our midst that your people and so many who will come to you may rejoice in you.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Let Your Idols Deliver You

READ Isaiah 57-58

A friend of mine has defined an idol as anything that we would be unwilling to give up for the Lord. In more classic terms and idol is something that we worship or trust in rather than God. So the question for you and me is do we have any idols in our lives today? Idols can be people or material things or positions or reputations or anything that takes first place in our lives away from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Hear God’s Word to the people of Israel who were, amazingly, trusting in idols: “When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you! The wind will carry them all off,
a breath will take them away.” (57:13a) How much more of a direct challenge could God give than to say ok, you want to trust in idols instead of me, then let them take care of you in a time of trouble. We all know how that will turn out don’t we? But yet we are still prone to let other things or people become the objects of our real worship besides God. We are still prone to being breakers of the very first commandment: ““You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)

Seek the Lord with all your heart. Love him with all your heart, soul, strength and mind. Give glory to him above everything or everyone else in your life. Don’t let others take his place in your heart.

Prayer: Father, help us to learn from the instruction of your Word to the people of Israel. Help us not to follow their example and turn our hearts away from you to idols of our own making. Help us to love you and you alone as the source of all we need. Let our worship be pure before you.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Why Do You Pray for Revival?

READ Isaiah 37-38

Why do you pray for revival? Of course, that assumes that you do. But if you do, then why? Is it because you see how bad things are in the world and times are becoming increasingly difficult for you individually? So that you want things to be easier in your life and you want to avoid any suffering or hard times that might come your way because of your faith in Christ. Is that why you pray for revival?

When it’s stated like that I think it becomes rather obvious that this kind of motivation is insufficient and not where our hearts ought to be. But if that is true then what is the proper reason to ask God to send a spiritual awakening and fires of revival in the land? I think Hezekiah captured the essence of a right heart in relation to seeking the Lord for salvation and renewal in 37:20, “So now, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the Lord.”

The glory of God — that’s it — that alone is the primary reason we should want to see God move in great spiritual awakening. As the Psalmist also cried out: “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” (Psalm 85:6) The focus of our desire for revival and spiritual awakening should be on God himself, not on any ease and comfort it might bring to us.

Prayer: Father, help us to get our hearts and our desires in line with your thoughts and your ways. Help us to know with all our beings that you alone are God and you alone deserve the praises of your creation. Help us to see that when you are most glorified in us then we are most blessed in our lives. Please, Lord, revive us again that we may rejoice in you and in you alone.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Love That Wants to Fight...

READ Isaiah 27-28

In the beginning of Chapter 27 Isaiah is prophetically giving us a picture of the future city of God when God’s people will be to him as a “pleasant vineyard” that he tends and cares for in the most intimate of ways. What a precious picture we see of God’s love for us as his eternal family.

“In that day,
 “A pleasant vineyard, sing of it!
 I, the Lord, am its keeper;
every moment I water it.
Lest anyone punish it,
I keep it night and day;
 I have no wrath.
 Would that I had thorns and briers to battle!
I would march against them,
I would burn them up together.
 Or let them lay hold of my protection,
let them make peace with me,
let them make peace with me.” (27:2-5)

God loves us so much that he even expresses the wish that he had “thorns and briers to battle” on our behalf. Of course, that is the future new heaven and new earth that he is describing. Because we know that now there are plenty of briers and thorns. And God allows and enables us to stand strong against them on our behalf. Imagine! A God who loves you so much that he wants to do battle for you. Wow! How can we neglect so great a love?

Prayer: Father, help us to know and rest in your love. Thank you for loving us with an everlasting love that never departs and never diminishes. Help us to love because you first loved us.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Peace Through Trust

READ Isaiah 25-26

“You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.” (26:3)

Peace is often an elusive state of mind. Our world does everything it can to destroy peace. From the seemingly innocuous tv commercials that try to create a lack of satisfaction in you so that you simply must purchase their products to the daily events that scream at us from the media, peace is often obscure. But Isaiah says there is perfect peace for a mind that is “stayed” (fixed) on the Lord. Why? Because that person trusts in the Lord.

So Isaiah then gives this admonition to us: “Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” (26:4) God is trustworthy for all eternity, therefore we should trust in him. And trusting in him leads to peace. First, we have peace with God through trusting in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior (Romans 5:1). Then we have the peace of God when in faithful trust we take all things to him in prayer (Philippians 4:6-7). Jesus said in the upper room, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Prayer: Father, the promise of eternal peace with you in the new Zion is a hope that we look forward to with great anticipation. Your promise is secure. And we thank you, Father, that we can know that peace in large measure even now in the midst of this fallen world through the presence of your Spirit with us. Help us, Lord, to trust you.