Category Archives: Isaiah

God Bless You…

1
In that day you will sing:
“I will praise you, O Lord!
You were angry with me, but not any more.
Now you comfort me.
2
See, God has come to save me.
I will trust in him and not be afraid.
The Lord God is my strength and my song;
he has given me victory.”
3
With joy you will drink deeply
from the fountain of salvation!
4
In that wonderful day you will sing:
“Thank the Lord! Praise his name!
Isaiah 12 NLT

First Sunday of Advent


he weeks leading up to Christmas are one of the rare times when the hearts of complete strangers are softened by music, lights, food, parties, friends, family…and gifts. Softened enough that what Isaiah says to us may touch them as well. There will never be a better time than Advent to “lift up your voice”…and bless someone.  I’m asking you to be brave enough to respond to the people that cross your path everyday between now and Christmas with a simple no-cost gift of blessing.   Saying God bless You doesn’t come naturally to me so I’ve been sitting here jotting down ideas of ways to fearlessly speak that blessing.   Isaiah’s timeless truth, “do not be afraid,” has finally hit home for me. Most of us find it easy to say Thank You but it’s the first three words of this blessing that make it the gift.  Have courage — speak because you may be the only person they’ll ever hear these words from — God bless you…
 …for your kindness
…for your cheerful greeting
…for ringing that bell
…for opening that door

I’ll practice on you.  God bless you — with opportunities to let your voice be a blessing for others in these days leading up to Christmas.  God bless you — with courage to speak these unfamiliar words of blessing to a stranger, friend or a family member this Christmas.  They may never hear anyone else speak those words to them.  Who knows who else nearby may hear them and be blessed too?  Who knows…as your ears hear your own voice speak them…they may become a blessing for you too.

 

Sunday with John — Need

John 12:37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” [Is 53:1] 39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” [Is 6:10] 41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. 42 Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.  ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
The Sovereign Lord has set guidelines to control what is seen, heard and believed by every heart.  John records some of the most difficult Words in the Bible from Isaiah; that God will withhold Himself from those who’s heart’s desire would only lead them to abuse His Grace. God alone knows exactly who to reveal Himself to.  He alone knows the hearts that have created a lord of their own ideas to give them what they want.  Those hearts are not interested in wanting God who desires to give them what they need “for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
God sets the rules. His heart’s desire is to accept confession and heal but His perfect and timeless knowledge knows the reality of each heart.

What does it say about people?
It’s possible to know the reality of the Lord enough to know what His heart’s desires are, without understanding He knows the truth of what your heart wants and acts accordingly to preserve the integrity of His Grace.

Is there truth here for me?
I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard the phrase “wants versus needs.” Usually it’s been cherry-picking that phrase in relation to accumulating “stuff.”  John and Isaiah have thrown Grace into that picture. Can I accept admitting my need for Jesus is part of the gift of Grace rather than a crutch or weakness?  Can you?  Now I think I see what Isaiah saw; when I confess my need for Jesus, the wants of my heart change and I experience the reality of “the glory that comes from God”…His Grace for my need…Jesus.

Sunday with John – Access

John 7
32 The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him[Jesus]. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him. 33 Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the one who sent me. 34 You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.”35 The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? 36 What did he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me, but you will not find me,’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?”37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. 40 On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”41 Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? 42 Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” 43 Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. 44 Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.  ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
Every day of this Festival there was a ritual water drawing that reminded people how important God’s provision of access to good water had been to their history with Him and that His provision for the survival of their ordinary daily lives still depended on that access.  The “hope” of this week was that God might choose this water offering as a means of access to the Messianic age.  The Festival water was drawn each day from the Pool of Siloam, known as the “well of salvation,” and poured into a bowl that drained onto the altar.a  “On the last and greatest day of the Festival Jesus compared Himself to that water…“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.”  That made Jesus a problem the Pharisees couldn’t ignore. Some remembered Isaiah’s promise when like water poured “…on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants [44:3]…and they were talking!  Some saw beyond the ritual of that poured water flowing through that bowl onto the altar of God for exactly what it was; Jesus was the bowl that promised access to the future Spirit of God.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus’s time of physical accessibility to them is short.  God has sent Him and He is returning to that certain and exclusive place.  That place is a destination even thirsty and curious people will not be able to find without Jesus.

What does it say about people?
What thirsty people need is a willingness to accept the water…and drink! 

Is there truth here for me?
I think Jesus could add “I am the bowl” to His identity statements.  Jesus is the “bowl” that directs the living water drawn from God’s own heart to the Holy Spirit. “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” Ezekiel 36:25-27 NIV

a Water Libation Ceremony

 

Exodus [The Road Out] — The Rock

Exodus 33:18 Moses said, “I pray thee, show me thy glory.” 19 And he[the Lord] said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face; for man shall not see me and live.”

“Rock of ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee”

21 And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand upon the rock; 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; 23 then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.”

The old hymn, Rock of Ages, is what inspired my painting.  God chose to reveal the truth of His moral code, written from His heart on a surface physically made by His own hand.  Can you imagine the Lord of all Creation busily speaking every perfect thing into reality; and yet purposefully carving broken fissures and clefts into that solid, immovable mass of rock and calling it “good?” 

We don’t have those stone tablets but we still have the ten truths for life that were on them.  Can you imagine the permanence of God’s message as much more than two [or four] lost tablets but a message from the stone itself?  Those Words have never been lost!  Instead they have become a good and perfect place to hide as the Lord of all Creation passes by to reveal Himself amid the broken fissures and clefts. It’s a very different solid, permanent and immovable place of safety from which to witness the Glory we cannot bear to see — THE Rock.

Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.
Isaiah 26:4

 

Wednesday with John – The Celebration

John 2:1-12 The Wedding at Cana
1 On the third day THERE WAS A MARRIAGE at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there;
JESUS also was invited to the marriage, WITH HIS DISCIPLES.
3 When THE WINE GAVE OUT, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”
4 And JESUS SAID to her, “O woman, what have you to do with me? MY HOUR HAS NOT YET COME.”
5 His mother said to THE SERVANTS,  “Do whatever he tells you.”
6 Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.
7 Jesus said to them, “FILL THE JARS WITH WATER.” And they filled them to the brim.
8 He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to THE STEWARD of the feast.” So they took it.
9 When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and DID NOT KNOW where it came from (though THE SERVANTS who had drawn the water KNEW), the steward of the feast called the bridegroom
10 and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but YOU HAVE KEPT THE GOOD WINE UNTIL NOW.
11 This, the first of HIS SIGNS, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and MANIFESTED HIS GLORY; and HIS DISCIPLES BELIEVED in him.
12 After this HE WENT down to Caper′na-um, WITH HIS MOTHER AND HIS BROTHERS AND HIS DISCIPLES; and there they stayed for a few days.

 

What is the general theme of the passage?
The wedding is an allegory of faith.  Jesus does this first sign to give us a picture of the difference between attending a ceremony as a guest and becoming a participant in a lifelong “feast of the best of meats and the finest of wines.” [Isaiah 25:6 NLT]

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus’s purpose is to move His people from a ritual to relationship; to celebrate the perfect wedding and lasting relationship of the Groom and His bride.

What does it say about people?
People cannot always meet their own needs. Mary wants to organize Jesus, Jesus is reluctant, the guests are oblivious, the steward is confused, the servants were an unwitting part of the sign that convinced the disciples of their belief.  The wine was the Sign proving He could overcome all those human obstacles to rituals and relationships.

Is there truth here for me?
I am all the things I wrote about “those” people but nothing can limit  glory being manifested better, than when Jesus turns the basic elements of a ceremony into a celebration. I was happy to be a guest at the ceremony for a long time before I realized I have been identified  as the “bride” and that God’s rejoicing. Me too!

For just as a young man marries a maiden,
so your sons will marry you;
and just as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,
so your God will rejoice over you.
Isaiah 62:5 ISV

Merry Christmas from Shirle, 2021

God is still offering this world His annual reminder to celebrate Christ’s   birth, even disguised by what we call the chaos of Christmas.  This year in the midst of my very different kind of personal chaos I have been reminded that first Christmas was disguised by chaos too!  People lived in a world where harsh circumstances became the evidence they mistakenly used to form their judgments about God and each other.  They lived as separate pieces of chaos with no connection to one another.  Sound familiar?  But…then The Gift of Connection happened.

 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder and his name will be called  “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

Jesus is The Gift of Connection!  He is the real Gift sent to us with God’s divine expectations…hoping we would recognize…and receive…the one Gift that could reclaim chaos.  The Gift that could connect old Words and Light to overcome darkness. The Gift that would find, and custom-fit, the unrelated shapes, mismatched patterns and varied colors of chaos together to become a perfectly designed whole cloth; every piece connected in just the right spot, at just the right time to become part of something eye catching and unique.

This Christmas, 2021, God still persists in reminding the world he chooses to make whole cloth from pieces of chaos so the world might see how the many parts of His Body and His church can fit together to become proof that His character and promises are made visible by The Gift of Connection and His perfection. Amen!

“All the persons of faith I know are sinners, doubters, uneven performers. We are secure not because we are sure of ourselves but because we trust that God is sure of us.” ― Eugene Peterson 

Birth of Faith

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.


Every year during December we see the signs of Christmas around us, wreathes, trees, lights and baubles. Advent encourages us to watch for another kind of sign.  A sign from the Lord himself that leads us to the cradle again this year to give our own witness to the birth of Christ.  Information is one gift the Bible has given us.  It paints a vivid picture of the perfect and glorious outcome of that journey of the pregnant virgin and that carpenter to that first cradle and the finally the Birth of Faith, Jesus. That’s what I give thanks for but I believe I may have overlooked another reality to be thankful for.  It’s the reality of their tough circumstances and simple obedience that ultimately led to another kind of birth, the birth of my faith.  This year I want to imagine and give thanks for their long, hard days on dusty roads and the fatigue, discomfort and inconvenience of travel.  I want to appreciate the reality of the relief and gratitude they felt sinking into a pile of smelly straw in a barn at the end of their journey.  It was not a perfect situation but they would become part of a perfect plan.  I want to be grateful for that too.  That pregnant virgin and that carpenter have walked through the words of the prophets, through history, into Bethlehem and now into my life this year to become the Lord’s sign for me of the reality that the Birth of Faith can happen in the most unusual places and circumstances.

Originally posted November 30, 2015

 

Come and See

NASB John 1: 35–39 As John the Baptist stood there with two of his disciples, Jesus passed and John stared hard at him and said: “Look, there is the Lamb of God.” Hearing this, the two disciples followed Jesus, and Jesus turned around, saw them following, and said, “What do you want?” “Rabbi [which means “teacher”], where do you live?” “Come and see,” he replied. So they went and saw where he lived and they stayed with him the rest of the day. It was about the tenth hour.

§§§

There’s no simpler or more effective way to tell people about Jesus than to invite them using His own words…“come and see.”  They are gentle words with a mystery about them. That invitation to a one-on-one engagement with Jesus is what makes that relationship a “personal” and effective one.   “Come and see” for yourself.

NASB Isaiah 32:18 Then my people will live in a peaceful habitation, And in secure dwellings and in undisturbed resting places;

ESV Speaking for Itself

Isaiah 29:16
You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?

Isaiah 45:9
“Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’?

Isaiah 64:8
But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.

Job 10:8-12
Your hands fashioned and made me, and now you have destroyed me altogether. Remember that you have made me like clay; and will you return me to the dust?

Jeremiah 18:2-6
“Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

Romans 9:20-22
But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?

2 Corinthians 4:7
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

2 Timothy 2:20
Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable.