The Stand

This is what the Lord God says: It will not happen; it will not occur. The head of Aram is Damascus, the head of Damascus is Rezin (within 65 years Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people), the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you do not stand firm in your faith, then you will not stand at all. – Isaiah 7:7-9

As the enemies of Judah assembled their forces upon hearing of the death of King Uzziah, Isaiah (God’s prophet) entered the Temple to pray. He certainly hoped (and expected) God to deliver His people, but instead was confronted by a vision of God’s holiness that resulted in his own heartfelt conviction over personal and corporate sin. Instead of immediate deliverance, God informed Isaiah that Judah would ultimately be ransacked and that many people would die, but that due to His covenant promise, the nation would ultimately be restored. Having encountered God, Isaiah was then instructed to preach this prophetical message of God’s judgment to the citizens of Judah, along with some added encouragement in the future arrival of God’s own anointed One, the Messiah.

At a time when it was easier to just “go along with the crowd,” Isaiah was called to take a stand. God had called him. Isaiah had agreed to be sent. God’s message had been received. It was Isaiah’s job to deliver it with clarity, understanding and accepting that it might not be appreciated.

No matter the consequences, God still expects His truth to be proclaimed and, for the modern “prophet,” nothing has changed.

If I speak what is false, I must answer for it; if truth, it will answer for me. – Thomas Fuller

Performance Review

So the one who boasts must boast in the Lord. For it is not the one commending himself who is approved, but the one the Lord commends. – 2 Corinthians 10:17-18

Each year in the business and nonprofit world (and to an increasing degree in local church life), an employee approaches that dreaded moment called the “performance review.” This should be a constructive experience for everyone involved, a time for honest evaluation and encouragement of all parties.

There should also be no surprises. If a person is not performing up to the standards expressed by supervision, he or she should not hear it for the first time at an annual review. Each employee should know up front what the goals are, what basic behaviors are expected, and how he or she is performing. Likewise, the supervisor (particularly in Christian ministry) should not be “ambushed” by a disgruntled co-laborer simply because the opportunity is given.

At the end of this earthly life each Christ-follower will also receive a “performance review” (of sorts). The Lord will examine us in the area of growth and obedience to His express will. We will not be able to claim that we were ignorant of His expectations, because they have all been provided within the words of Scripture. We may cry that we failed (or did not have time) to learn His instructions, but that will be no excuse when we stand before His all-knowing gaze. Our only remedy will be the grace He has extended and our only response thanksgiving and worship to the glory of His name.

Remember, O my soul, the fig tree was charged, not with bearing noxious fruit, but no fruit. – Thomas Fuller

Recommended By Grace

If boasting is necessary, I will boast about my weaknesses. – 2 Corinthians 11:30

The Apostle Paul had been slandered by some members of the church in Corinth and in writing to them decided to remind them of his credentials as an apostle. Considering his personal history (as an oppressor), I imagine it must have been a reluctant exercise; therefore, when considering his greatest achievements, Paul settled upon an unlikely subject, his weaknesses.

Paul considered his faults as something to brag about because they proved the existence of God’s power and presence in and through his life. He knew that apart from Christ’s redemptive work, he would be lost. Any authority that Paul might claim to possess in speaking to the church as he did came as an outcome of grace. Paul’s résumé was not littered with his achievements, but rather was a list of the lives changed and churches established by the powerful presence of God as He worked through Paul’s unworthy life.

Like Paul, we who serve Christ’s church should never feel the need to justify our ministry before others. If God accomplishes anything through us it is simply a testament to His power for His glory and that is the greatest recommendation we could ever receive.

Grace puts its hand on the boasting mouth, and shuts it once for all. – Charles Spurgeon

Satisfaction Guaranteed

Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say “and to seeds,” as though referring to many, but referring to one, and to your seed, who is Christ. – Galatians 3:16

It appears from Paul’s letter to the church at Galatia that they were being drawn back into an old covenant approach that ran counter to the new covenant message that Jesus had established (and Paul preached). Paul’s clear counter-message was simple, “We are saved by grace through faith alone; not by works.” A new non-Jewish (Gentile) believer was not required to keep any part of the Law in order to become a Christ-follower.

To make his point clearer, Paul referenced Abraham (Israel’s covenant hope) who had received his promise from God 430 years before the law was ever given to Moses on Mt. Sinai. In other words, God reckoned Abraham’s faith as righteousness, not his works, and God honors all the covenants He makes.

Now, if Abraham’s covenant was based on faith, then what about ours? Well, Christ, as the “seed of Abraham” is our Covenant-keeper and He completely fulfilled every requirement that the Mosaic Law set forth when He sacrificed Himself. Now, by believing the gospel (that He died and rose again for your law-breaking attitudes and actions), Jesus’ work on the cross and intercession in heaven satisfies God’s requirements for your own holiness forever.

Were I asked to focus the New Testament message in three words, my proposal would be “adoption through propitiation,” and I do not expect ever to meet a richer or more pregnant summary of the gospel than that. – J. I. Packer

Perfected Peace

You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in You. – Isaiah 26:3

The mind is a constant source of anxieties and worries. You name it, we can obsess over it. I have even known people who worry because it seems that there is nothing to worry about!

Paul taught us that we are transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12). This renewing can only come through a steady diet of God’s Word (as found in the Scriptures), coupled with the revelatory teaching of the indwelling Holy Spirit. We have all heard the old adage concerning computers, “garbage in, garbage out.” The opposing corollary is just as true when it comes to spiritual wisdom and a worldview that honors God. It is, “truth in, truth out.”

Perfect peace is the supernatural result of our own daily, practical choice of mentally depending on Christ’s sovereign plans and purposes in every area of our lives. We discover those plans and purposes in the pages of our Bibles. Encounter His truth every day and build your life on what you learn, then your trust in God will grow and our peace will be perfected.

God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself because it is not there. There is no such thing. – C.S. Lewis

A Friend of Truth

Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? – Galatians 4:16

Within the church at Galatia, there arose a sect that successfully drew many into its net. This group was known as the “Judaizers” and they sought to bring the Old Testament laws back into the new church. In short, this “cult” believed that you could not be a follower of Christ unless you also agreed to abide by the current restrictions established by those who followed Judaism. Of course, this would have been difficult for the Gentiles.

The apostle Paul strongly opposed this divisive group and, in an effort to draw the church back, gave a sharp rebuke of its teachings and leaders. Apparently, some did not like what he said. Yet, no matter how much the Judaizers disliked the apostle’s message, to be his enemy was to be an enemy of God’s truth.

Any Christ-follower can face the same prospect. You don’t have to be an “Apostle” to find yourself in the crosshairs of those who do not adhere to biblical teaching. If you consistently live, speak, or teach God’s Word, there will always be those who refuse to accept it. They may not like you for it. Teach it anyway. No matter the consequences, it is always better to be a friend of God than an enemy of the truth.

If I speak what is false, I must answer for it; if truth, it will answer for me. – Thomas Fuller

For Those Who Follow

Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good,” for he thought: There will be peace and security during my lifetime. – Isaiah 39:8

Hezekiah, king of Judah, became very sick and asked for God’s healing. Once healed, he entertained visitors from the kingdom of Babylon and pridefully revealed to them all the treasures of his palace. Isaiah, the prophet of God, informed Hezekiah that his error in judgment would result in the Babylonian capture of Judah and 70 years of captivity.

Naturally, one might think that the king would have been grieved over such news, but he was not. When Hezekiah heard of the coming disaster, he selfishly viewed it as “good” because it meant that he, at least personally, would know peace and security the rest of his life. Even though the consequences of his actions were disastrous for the people and country that he governed, he could “live with it” because he would not be directly affected.

Every decision has a consequence. What we decide to do today may affect generations to come; therefore, let us not be like Hezekiah. Let us choose a path that will glorify God, not self. Our personal peace and safety may not always be God’s purpose and as leaders we must be willing to do whatever is necessary to remain in obedience to Christ, if not for ourselves, at least for those who follow.

The chief occupational hazard of leadership is pride. – John Stott

Our Duty is Our Delight

How can I repay the LORD for all the good He has done for me? – Psalms 116:12

Even though David had a special relationship with God, he never knew the conversion experience shared by those who believe in Christ. The shepherd boy (who would also be psalmist and king) understood the necessary anointing of his Creator, but never the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. In spite of all this, David still expressed a deep obligation to his Maker and Protector, the great I AM (YHWH).

With that in mind, how obligated should those of us be who have been blessed to receive eternal salvation, transformation, abundant life, a calling, and a purpose? How shall we repay the Lord all the good he has done for us?

Let us worship the Lord (acknowledge His worth) and fulfill our vows in the presence of His people. Today (and every day) may our lives proclaim His presence in the midst of a world that knows Him not.

We fear not God because of any compulsion; our faith is no fetter, our profession is no bondage, we are not dragged to holiness, nor driven to duty. No, our piety is our pleasure, our hope is our happiness, our duty is our delight. – Charles Spurgeon

We Are The Body

I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, and I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations, this is what God the Lord says, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and its offspring, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it: to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon and those who dwell in darkness from the prison. – Isaiah 42:5-7

Isaiah began his prophetic journey as a “man of unclean lips.” When he “saw the Lord, high and lifted up” Isaiah was immediately confronted by his own unworthiness, yet still gave his life as a “living sacrifice.”

I don’t know about you, but every once in a while, I stop and reflect on who I used to be and who I am today. Often, in trying to help others, I have been led to share my own story of failure, grace, redemption, forgiveness, and growth in Christ. Recognition of God’s unlimited grace and calling upon my life have also led me to offer ever-increasing praise and thanksgiving to the One who makes me worthy. I often realize that I have never been up to any responsibility I have been given in the Lord’s service and I am always finding myself hopeful that in the days to come I can be made more into the image of My Savior.

We may live in different places and serve in different ways, but Jesus Christ is at work in us all. Let us continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. We are the Body.

God’s work is performed through a God-guided network of individuals who are willing to swim the currents of His will. – Lawrence Kimbrough

New is Normal

Behold, I am going to do something new, now it will spring up; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert. – Isaiah 43:19

To a nation that had known nothing but bad news and despair, Isaiah’s words from the Lord must have felt like a cool breeze on a hot day. As with Israel, “life” for us all can get a bit overwhelming, and the promise of a new day is all the hope we have. The assurance we have from the Scriptures (that God is sovereignly at work) is often all that makes the trials worthwhile or, at least, endurable.

Even though the Lord may be doing “something new,” there will always be those who struggle to see it. Some are simply blinded by their fear. Like a kid on a roller coaster, they tightly shut their eyes against what they perceive to be an impossible, frightening turn. No matter how much we may try to convince them that it is safe and fun, they just refuse to trust, at least until we arrive. Of course, then like the rest of us, they get back in line because they cannot wait to ride again!

According to the apostle Paul, we who believe are being transformed (changed) with ever-increasing glory into the likeness of our Savior, Jesus Christ. This can only mean that “new” is a normal occurrence for a child of God. May we not only be aware of it, but also expectantly embrace it today and all the days to come.

The prospects are bright as the promises of God. – Adoniram Judson