Wednesday, August 31, 2005

For a memorial and a sign: Is 55:12-13

For you will go out with joy and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thorn bush the cypress will come up, and instead of the nettle the myrtle will come up, and it will be a memorial to the LORD, for an everlasting sign which will not be cut off.” (Isaiah 55:12-13)
If your life were a garden, what would it look like? Would it resemble a well-watered garden full of beautiful flowers and ripe produce, or would it be overgrown with weeds that choke out all other plants? Is your garden full of thorns and nettles; plants that are not only worthless to the farmer but are also capable of hurting those who draw near? Apart from Christ, we are nigh unto hopelessness to produce any useful fruit of our own, but Jesus wants to change all that. Jesus wants to transform our lives so that, instead of weeds, our lives will produce a garden full of the fruit of the Spirit. Such a transformation is not usually instantaneous, but rather is the result of a life spent in fellowship with the Father. While it may take some time, if we are faithful to keep pulling weeds, planting good seed, and watering the seed then, in time, our lives will yield a harvest. “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows -- how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head.” (Mark 4:26-28).

This transformation of our lives is not solely for our own benefit, but it is also to be unto God as a memorial and a sign. It is God’s intention that our changes lives testify to the world of God and His unlimited power. God wants our lives to be a memorial of Him. The term for “memorial” can also be translated as “a name”. It speaks of an identifying mark, a mark of individuality. God wants to show the world that He is not just another god, or one of many gods, but that He is the God. He is the God of gods, King of Kings, creator of heaven and earth, and ruler over all He has made. When God does in our lives what no one else can do, then He demonstrates that He alone is God. God’s work in our lives is also for a sign to the world. The term for “sign” could also be translated as “flag”. God’s work in our lives is as a flag or banner over us by which other may come to understand the nature of God. “He has brought me to his banquet hall, and his banner over me is love.” (Song of Solomon 2:4) By observing God’s goodness towards us, the world will come to know that God is a god of Love.

While there are aspects of our walk with God that are very private, there are other aspects that are meant to be seen by those around us. God does not intend that we should live our lives in secret or hidden in a corner somewhere. He wants us to shine before men, to live our lives “out loud,” that all may see and all may know. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

David Robison

Monday, August 29, 2005

God's word will not return empty: Is 55:10-11

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)
Have you ever known anyone who could talk and talk and talk and never really say anything? God is not like that. When God speaks, He speaks with a purpose. Every word spoken by God is spoken to accomplish some purpose of His. When God speaks, things happen. The Bible speaks in many places of the power of the word of God, here are just a few.

‘Is not My word like fire?’ declares the LORD, ‘and like a hammer which shatters a rock?’” (Jeremiah 23:29) This scripture reminds us that the word of God is able to break even the hardest hearts of stone.

The voice of the LORD makes the deer to calve and strips the forests bare.” (Psalms 29:9) The voice of the Lord is able to make the deer to give birth. Spiritually, God’s word also is able to cause us to give birth to the things of the spirit in our own lives. God’s word is also able to strip us bare of our outward attempts to appear righteous before God, separating vain religion from genuine love for God.

The word of truth, the gospel which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing.” (Colossians 1:5-6) We are evidence that the word of God is not powerless, but able to change us and cause us to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God.

So why does God need to remind us that His word is able to perform that for which it was sent? The reason is that sometimes, from our perspective, there can be a long time between the word of God going forth and the actual appearing of the purposes for which it was sent. Sometimes God speaks, and then we must wait for the fulfillment of what was spoken. Consider Joseph. He received a promise from God that his parents and his brothers would all bow before him. Shortly after receiving this word, he was sold as a slave to Potiphar and, later, thrown into jail for a crime he did not commit. “He sent a man before them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave. They afflicted his feet with fetters,
He himself was laid in irons; until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him.” (Psalms 105:17-19) Joseph had received the word of God, yet it would take many years for that word to come to pass. In the meantime, “the word of God tested him.” He was tested by the word to see if he would remain faithful and he would continue to believe the word even if he could not see any evidence of its fulfillment.

God’s word will never fall short; it will never fail in the purpose for which it was sent. Circumstances may seem contrary to the word, but it is God’s word that will prevail, not our circumstances. What God is looking for is our faith. Will we believe His word, even when it tests us over time? If God has spoken to you, never let go, but hold fast to what He has spoken. In time, He will bring it to pass. Nothing is able to resist the word of the Lord.

David Robison

Friday, August 26, 2005

For My thoughts are not your thoughts: Is 55:8-9

“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
We all have a mental image of what God is like. This image is formed from many sources, such as, our parents, our friends, our schooling, and even the media. While we all have our own image of God, the question we must ask ourselves is, is that image correct? Can we come to know God by our own searching and by our own powers of reasoning? The scriptures say no! “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” (1 Corinthians 1:21) God has chosen to hide Himself from man’s wisdom. Man, by his own mental efforts, cannot come to know God. So how are we to know God? “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” (Matthew 11:27) The only way to know God is to allow the Son to reveal Him to us. As we grow in relationship with the Son, He will progressively reveal to us the Father. Knowing God takes time, it takes time in His presence and time in His word. Knowing God also requires us to be open to the teaching of the Holy Spirit. We must be willing to let Him tell us what the Father is like, even if it contradicts our preconceived notions of Him. We must admit to ourselves that we do not yet know the Father perfectly and that there is much more of God yet to be revealed. We must be willing to accept His testimony of Himself, not our best guesses. The knowledge of God must become our chief goal and our primary objective. There is nothing that can compare with the prize of knowing Him. “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10-11)

David Robison

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Seek the Lord while He may be found: Is 55:6-7

Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:6-7)
Here is God’s heart towards mankind, He is eagerly waiting to have compassion on all who would turn to Him and to abundantly pardon their sins. God is like the father of the prodigal son. After the son came to his senses, he decided to return to his father and to ask for his forgiveness. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20) It is apparent that the father was watching for his son, watching and waiting for his son to return, ready to forgive all of his transgressions. Our heavenly Father is ready and waiting to pour out His compassion and mercy upon us, we just need to return. Here are four things we need to do in our return to the Father.

Seek: We need to seek the Lord. “For he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6) Seeking the Lord is an act of faith. We cannot seek the Lord if we doubt His existence. Seeking the Lord is also an act of expectancy. When we seek the Lord we should expect to find Him, and to be rewarded by Him for our seeking. Whether we are seeking Him for forgiveness, healing, or direction, we should seek Him expecting to receive. It is not enough to “go through the motions.” Performing religious traditions will not get the job done. If we want to receive from the Lord, then we must seek Him in faith and expectancy.

Call: We need to call on the Lord. “And he called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Those who led the way were sternly telling him to be quiet; but he kept crying out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ ” (Luke 18:38-39) When blind Bartimaeus heard that Jesus was passing by he was not shy about calling out to him. Even when others rebuked him and told him to keep silent, be was not dissuaded, he just called out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Bartimaeus’ hope was not on the crowd. He knew that there was only one person who could heal him and he would settle for nothing less that an audience with Jesus. As he called out in faith, Jesus heard him and healed him according to his faith. We will not call out to the Lord if we are concerned with the crowd around us. If we are worried about what people will think, then our faith will be nullified. We need to call out in faith to the only one who can help us, and He will grant us our requests.

Forsake: We need to forsake our sins and our evil thoughts. “For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries.” (1 Peter 4:3) It is time to be done with sin. Before we were saved, we were slaves of sin, but now that we have been redeemed, we are freed from our bondages to sin. We no longer have to sin. We may still sin, but we do not have to sin. It is time that we relinquish the deeds of the past and to begin to practice the deeds of righteousness instead. If need be, we must be willing to give up our previous behaviors, ways of thinking, and even relationships. All that would hinder our walk with the Lord must be left behind. We are journeying forward with the Lord. We have no time for the dissipation of the past. “More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8)

Return: We must return to the Lord. “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.” (John 7:37) Thinking about returning to the Lord is not enough. We can talk about seeking the Lord, but talk is cheap. All our best intentions fall short if we fail to act upon them. We need to make a conscious effort to return to the Lord, to seek Him, call upon Him, and to turn from the things that are offensive to Him. Until we actually do these things, the words of God will remain nothing but unfulfilled promises. Let us not talk about seeking the Father, let us actually seek Him and find Him.

David Robison

Saturday, August 20, 2005

A witness to the people: Is 55:4-5

"Behold, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. Behold, you will call a nation you do not know, and a nation which knows you not will run to you, because of the LORD your God, even the Holy One of Israel; for He has glorified you." (Isaiah 55:4-5)
We have been called to be witnesses. Jesus, just before He ascended into heaven, told His disciples, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." (Acts 1:8) Being a witness is more than just telling people the plan of salvation. Being a witness is giving testimony to what we have seen, heard, and experienced. It is not enough to simply give people information, but we are to share with them our life experiences with Jesus. John put it this way, “What was from the beginning, what we have heard , what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life -- what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:1, 3) We cannot witness to what we do not have. People do not need what we know but what we have. Before we can witness to the power of God, we need to experience it ourselves. Before we can testify to the love of God, we need to have believed and known it for ourselves. Do you want to be a witness? Press into God and get something from Him and then go tell someone else. In doing this you will be a faithful witness of God.

David Robison

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Come to the table of the Lord: Is 55:1-3

"Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance. Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, according to the faithful mercies shown to David.” (Isaiah 55:1-3)
What are the things that are important to you? For what do you strive and work all day long? Here are a couple of exercises that will help you identify those things. First, look at your schedule. Where do you spend most of your time? What are the things you make time for and what things you don’t have time for? Secondly, look at your checkbook. Where do you spend your money? Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) Where are your treasures? Where is your heart? We may delude ourselves thinking that the things of the Kingdom are what’s most important to us, but our schedules and checkbooks show us what we really value. Jesus wants us to partake of the things if the Kingdom. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) Jesus has prepared a table for us and He wants us to eat of His bounty. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.” (Psalms 23:5) So why do so many of us find ourselves starving? Why do we spend so much of our time, money, and energy on things that do not satisfy? What are the keys to partaking of the provision of the Lord? This passage shows us three.

Key 1: Come. Many times, we fail to enjoy the bountiful feast of the Lord because we fail to come to the table. While the Father wants to give us the Kingdom, He is not going to chase us down and force it down our throats. Jesus spoke to the people saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.” (John 7:37) Jesus wants to give us a drink, He wants to feed us, but we must be willing to come to Him and, when we do come, He doesn’t want us to be in a hurry. The banquet table of the Lord is not like a drive-up window where you drive up, order what you want, and speed away. Jesus not only wants us to come to the table but He also wants us to eat at the table and to enjoy His provision in His presence. We must take the time to sit at the table and enjoy His blessings.

Key 2: Listen. Jesus has thing to tell us, things about Himself and things about us. Jesus promised that He would guide us, saying, “Your ears will hear a word behind you, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right or to the left.” (Isaiah 30:21) We need only to take the time to listen. It is so easy for me to spend my time in prayer reciting my wants and desires to the Lord. I can get so consumed with what I want that I sometimes forget to listen to what He wants to say. Jesus wants to speak, but we must listen. God wants to reveal the things of the Kingdom to us. “ ‘Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.’ For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10) Let God reveal Himself to you. Let Him show you what He was done for you and what He still has in store for you. If we will listen to Him, we will find that His words are life!

Key 3: Eat. The food is free! You do not have to pay to enjoy the table of the Lord, Jesus already paid the price. The good things of the Lord are not just for someone else but they are also for you. It is easy to believe that someone else will receive from the Lord, but God wants to give to you as well. You may have been a sinner, there may be things in the past that you are not proud of, but none of these things disqualify you from the table of the Lord. Sometimes we don’t eat because we don’t understand what God is doing. Peter has this problem when God showed him a large sheet full of “unclean animals.” God told peter to “Rise, kill, and eat” but Peter’s response to the Lord was, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” (Acts 10:14) We must not allow our sense of self-righteousness to keep us from partaking of the new thing that God is doing. It may be different, it may be out of our comfort zone, but if it’s God, then it is going to be great! Don’t be shy, take a big portion, and as the Lord said, “delight yourself in abundance!”

David Robison

Monday, August 15, 2005

An inheritance of victory: Is 54:17

" 'No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their vindication is from Me,' declares the LORD." (Isaiah 54:17)
There are few things more glorious than victory. As sons and daughters of the King of Kings, we have an inheritance of victory. We are destined to overcome, to stand sure in the face of battle and judgment. Victory is our calling and our destiny.

While victories are won on the battlefield, it is the Lord that fights for us. He is our defense and our offence in the battles of life. When the Egyptians pursued the Israelites into the dried up Red sea, Moses encouraged the people saying, "Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent." (Exodus 14:13-14) The Egyptians fought with the Israelites and were soundly defeated without any Israelite having to lift a sword. They merely stood still and watched God defeat their enemy.

Paul also reminds us that much of our warfare is learning to stand in faith against the schemes of the enemy. "Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm." (Ephesians 6:11-13) God has promised to fight for us, He just asks us to be ready to stand. We need to cloth ourselves with Jesus, to put on His armor, and to learn to stand in faith. If the Devil can shake us from our peace and confidence in Jesus, then he can get us on the run. But if we learn to stand in faith, then there is nothing he can do to harm us. A lot of the scheming of the Devil is to try and get us to believe a lie; God does not like me; there is no way out of this. These are lies and, if we refuse to believe them, they will have no power over us. "Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by your opponents -- which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God." (Philippians 1:27-28)

Fear not! God is on your side! You are more than a conqueror! You are destined for victory!

David Robison

Sunday, August 14, 2005

A warrior's divine calling: Is 54:16

"Behold, I Myself have created the smith who blows the fire of coals and brings out a weapon for its work; and I have created the destroyer to ruin." (Isaiah 54:16)
As I read this verse it struck me that both the warrior and those who invent weapons of war both share in a device calling. This is not to say that their work is always noble or holy, but that their calling is divine. For sure, some have misused their calling to achieve their own desires, for example when Saddam Hussein used nerve gas against his own people. However, there have been others who have fought for noble causes, such as the establishment of freedom, liberty, and peace. I grew up as a pacifist, largely because of the influence of the Christian church my family was a part of. As I grew up, however, I began to understand that God will and has used war as a way of establishing His purposes in the earth, and that those who answer a calling to defend their nation and to extend peace and liberty throughout the world do indeed share in a divine call.

David Robison

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

No grandson's in the Lord: Is 54:13

"All your sons will be taught of the LORD; and the well-being of your sons will be great." (Isaiah 54:13)
There comes a time when our children must find their own relationship with the Lord. Children are inherently born with an innate knowledge of God and, as they grow, they enjoy a relationship with God that is based upon child-like faith. "Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all." (Luke 18:16-17) For each of us, however, there comes a time when we must choose to follow God for ourselves. The faith of our parents will not be enough, we will need our own faith. Our parents may know the Lord, but we must know Him for ourselves. It reminds me of the woman Jesus met at the well. She went and told everyone in her city about Jesus and how He had told her everything she had ever done. Later, after Jesus spent some days in that city, the other people cane to a knowledge of Jesus. They said to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world." (John 4:42)

The promise of this verse is that God desires to reveal Himself to all mankind, even to our children. God is not hiding Himself, but He is readily found by all who seek Him. The promises of the scripture are not just for ourselves, but also for our children. "For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself." (Acts 2:39) As a parent, it can be hard to trust the Lord with our children's salvation. So often I want to jump in and "give God a hand." In those times, this scripture gives me comfort. For as much as I desire my children to follow the Lord, He desires it even more so. God is committed to the spiritual well being of our children. He is always watching our for them and, even when the are out of our sight, they are never out of God's sight.

David Robison

Monday, August 08, 2005

A new marriage, a new covenant: Is 54:4-10

" 'For the LORD has called you, like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, even like a wife of one's youth when she is rejected,' says your God. 'For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you.' " (Isaiah 54:6-7)
God is calling out to all those who have failed in the walk with God. God entered into a covenant relationship with the people Israel through the laws and commandments given by Moses. God referred to His new relationship with Israel as a marriage, He was the husband and they were the bride. In the covenant God promised to be their God and to prolong their days if they would keep His commandments. "All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to give to your forefathers." (Deuteronomy 8:1) However, Israel could not keep their promise. They, along with the rest of mankind, failed to keep the laws of God. They failed to keep their marriage covenants with God. Because they broke their covenant and because of their continual sin, God divorced them. "Thus says the LORD, 'Where is the certificate of divorce by which I have sent your mother away? Or to whom of My creditors did I sell you? Behold, you were sold for your iniquities, and for your transgressions your mother was sent away.' " (Isaiah 50:1)

Though God divorced His people, He still loved them. Therefore, He set out to establish a new covenant and to invite all mankind into a new marriage relationship with Himself. This new marriage, unlike the former, would not be based upon the ability of His bride to keep their promises but upon the ability of God to keep His promises. This marriage would be based upon God's promises. "But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises." (Hebrews 8:6) Consider some of the promises that God makes in this passage of scripture.
  • You will not be put to shame, you will not be disgraced (vs 4).
  • You will not remember your past shame and reproach (vs 4).
  • God's everlasting compassion and lovingkindness will be yours (vs 8).
  • God will not be angry with us or rebuke us again (vs 9).
  • God's lovingkindness will not be removed from us, nor will His covenant of peace (vs 10).
We are called into relationship with God, not based upon our own works, but based upon the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Our assurance in our relationship with God is based upon His promises, and His ability to keep them. What we could not do, God has done for us. Thanks be to God!

David Robison

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Not a time to be tentative: Is 54:2-3

"Enlarge the place of your tent; stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not; lengthen your cords and strengthen your pegs. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left. And your descendants will possess nations and will resettle the desolate cities." (Isaiah 54:2-3)
This word is not for the tentative! The command to stretch out is given without any regard to caution or care. God commands us to "spare not!" We are to give ourselves whole heartedly to the expansion of the Kingdom. We are not to hold back but to move forward with an almost reckless abandonment.

God does not want us to withdraw from His attempts to stretch us. God stretches us that we might grow in Him. His desire is that we never stop stretching and growing in Him. There are no "time outs" in this walk. There are no vacations from the Lord. We should always be pressing in, reaching for the higher calling. This is not a time to be couscous.

The call to stretch out is not only a personal calling but also a corporate calling. We have been called together as the church that we might extend His kingdom. The gifts and the blessings of God are not for us alone, but they are to be shared with those around us that they to may come under the shadow of His tent of covering. In the story of Jesus feeding the 5000, Jesus broke the bread and gave it to His disciples. They understood that the miracle bread they received from the Lord was not for them alone, but for the people. They did not horde the bread but rather gave it away to the crowd. "Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed them, and broke them, and kept giving them to the disciples to set before the people. And they all ate and were satisfied; and the broken pieces which they had left over were picked up, twelve baskets full." (Luke 9:16-17) God does not want us to become inward focuses but rather outward focused. We must not sit in our churches and wait for the sinners and the needy to come in. We must take the gospel to them. We need to leave the confines of our comfortable Christianity to go to the world with the message of hope and life.

David Robison