The Plight of the Prophet

I can only imagine the high and low Isaiah must have felt at his commissioning.

So often, we focus on the first half of this chapter, Isaiah 6, in which Isaiah sees a marvelous vision of the throne room of heaven.  “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of his robe filled the temple…” We see where Isaiah gets wrecked in a good way with God, and experiences the unwarranted favor of the Lord, a measure of grace that is beyond his time.

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Then God asks, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”  How could Isaiah not jump at the chance?  After having such a life changing revelation of the holy power and yet grace of God, how could he not commit his life to the work of the Lord?  And his reply confirms it, “Here I am! Send me.”  In a place of total humility and surrender because of what he witnessed, he commits everything, not knowing what he signed up for.

God must have known just how difficult Isaiah’s task would be emotionally.  He must have known that Isaiah was going to need a reference point to hold onto, which is why Isaiah must have been commissioned in such a bold fashion.

I have been meditating and chewing on the commissioning of Isaiah for a few weeks, and I thought there was a glimmer of hope in God’s words:

Go, and say this to the people: “Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.” Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.

Then [Isaiah] said, “How long, O Lord?”

And [God] said, “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, and the Lord removes people far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump.  (Isaiah 6:9-13)

When I first read the, “lest they see with their eyes… and turn and be healed,” part, I thought there was a glimmer of hope.  I thought God was saying to keep proclaiming this message so maybe, just maybe, they would turn from their wicked ways and seek God again.  I thought it was the unrelenting nature of God. But as I delved into the Hebrew text and studied it as best I can, that is not what God asked of Isaiah.  Here is the best Megan paraphrase based on my study of the text:

Go and say this to Israel: “You listen with your ears and not your heart.  You see with your eyes, and not your inner man.” I want you to continue to tell them this until they are callous, blind, deaf, indignant, and unresponsive.  If you don’t, they will turn and be healed… I want you to keep saying this message until everything is utterly destroyed, burned away, removed, and forsaken.  When I have finished, all that will remain is a stump, a holy seed for me to replant and regrow.

Do you see the hopelessness in Isaiah’s commission?  God is basically asking, commanding, Isaiah to preach a message in which nobody will hear.  Isaiah is prophesying to Israel through the Assyrian invasion, through the time when God is allowing Israel to be utterly destroyed for their wickedness and whoring after other gods. God is so done with Israel’s unfaithfulness, that He doesn’t want them to repent.  God will always come to the rescue of the repentant heart, so He wants to make them dull and callous to the truth.  Yet, He still wants truth to be preached knowing that it will not be received! All to weed out the remnant of Israel that will faithfully seek God and be replanted, the holy seed.

I can just picture the devastation of God’s request.  I can just imagine the agony of preaching to a people you love and watching them continue to run away from God.  It is heart shattering.  And it must have been in these low moments, that Isaiah remembered his throne room experience.  He must have remembered the holiness of the Lord, the majesty and splendor.  He must have remembered how utterly ruined he felt as the angel touched a coal to his lips.  He must have remembered the extreme measure of grace he was given, and out of a love and obedience to the holy God, he found the strength to continue.

We live in a world of people calloused to the word of God.  We are commanded to continue to preach, to love, to minister, to share the truth of God to a people who may or may not turn to God.  Still, we must never give up.  We must keep preaching, keep fighting, keep interceding, until nothing is left in the world.  We must persevere with Christ until the world is utterly destroyed and the return of the Lord is imminent. And what is our strength? Remembering who God is and where His grace has brought us.  Grace empowers us to live a holy life surrendered to God, especially when the task is daunting and heart shattering.

Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet, but I am sure Isaiah had his share of weeping, too.  Perhaps this is the plight of the prophet, the mouthpieces of the Lord, to see the destruction of mankind, yet feeling powerless to remove it. If God told you to preach something, proclaim His truth even though it wouldn’t be heard, would you endure the heart ache?

Stop. Look. Remember.

I’ve always had a sense of wonder at the universe and creation. I could fall asleep (and have) gazing at the billions of stars on a clear night.  I could stare at them for hours in complete wonder at the burning balls of gas that twinkle and shine and exist for no purpose other than to point to their creator.  I could watch the sun set on a flat horizon for days, amazed by the splendor of its painter.  I could rest on a beach with my toes in the edge of the water and watch the waves come in with serene ferocity.  I could even stare at the mountains, especially when they are capped with snow, amazed at how they command my attention. In all of it, I am drawn to the Creator God, the God of the Universe, Yahweh.

As I stepped out of the grocery store this morning, my eyes were immediately drawn to the splendor of Pike’s Peak.  It had crisp lines of white snow and then black and brown earth.  It contrasted the brightness of the clear blue sky.  And I paused to just soak it in and thank God for its beauty.  So many times I take this beauty for granted.  I “see” it every day as I’ve lived in this gorgeous city for the last 3 years.  But I don’t always see it.  Sometimes I forget it is even there.  Sometimes I go about my day doing my own thing, and I forget about the beauty of creation around me.  And as I stood there in the grocery store parking lot just pausing to view creation, I was amazed at how it commanded attention, how it screamed, “Look at me! Look at how beautifully I am created! Isn’t my Creator wonderful?” And I thought, how could I forget you were here?

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This morning’s view from the Mesa Overlook.  Look at that white cap mountain! It was captivating! #NoFilter

In Psalm 78, the writer says this of Israel:

“They forgot what he had done—the great wonders he had shown them, the miracles he did for their ancestors on the plain of Zoan in the land of Egypt… They did not remember his power and how he rescued them from their enemies. They did not remember his miraculous signs in Egypt, his wonders on the plain of Zoan (11-12; 42-43 NLT, emphasis added)

This psalm is historical in nature as the writer is urging his listeners to learn from their past as he recounts the mighty works of God and the forgetful responses of the Israelites. It is so easy to look back and call Israel foolish for how they abandon and forget God, but it is equally easy to fall into the same trap.  How many times do we forget about God just like I forget about the mountains?  How many times do we get wrapped up in church culture and the good Christian checklist that we subconsciously have and forget God? How many times do we get caught up in doing the Christian thing that we forget about the One we are actually supposed to be seeking?  Or how many times do we do our own thing in the craziness of life and forget to even give God attention at all?

Sometimes God is in the routine and the business and you know He is with you, and then all of a sudden, like a beautiful mountain scene commanding your attention, God says, “Look at me! Pause and rest and look at me! Look how I am active in your life!  Look how I love you! I want to be deep and intentional with you today.”

Sometimes God pulls us out of the chaos that squanders our time with Him, pulls us out of the disobedience, out of the cycle of living by the world and says, “Look at me! I am still here!  Why don’t you look to me anymore? Look how I love you!  I long to spend time with you!” He commands out attention.

Don’t forget God.  Don’t forget His miracles.  Don’t forget how He has picked you up and chosen you. Don’t forget how He loves you.  Don’t forget about the miracle of life that He has given you.  Don’t forget how He shows up and has shown up in your life.  Maybe you don’t see Him now, but look for Him, seek Him, and remember who He has always been because that is who He will always be.

Sometimes we have to pause and remember who God is and what He has done.  Sometimes we need to pause and remember to look at the mountain and see the one who created it.  I don’t want to forget God and all He has done, and I am so grateful every time He commands my attention and draws me deeper. God is commanding your attention today and saying, “Pause and look at me! Let me share my heart with you! Remember me!”

 

Fan Girl Praise

My husband and I have had the privilege of attending the Denver Comic Con the last two years to celebrate our anniversary.  We are just that adorably geeky!  We are even planning on going this year, and we are excited! Because of these cons, we have decorated our bedroom with signatures of all the famous people we have met.  We call it Nerdvannah.  Hands down, my favorite actor we have met was Cary Elwes.

Typically, when you stand in line to meet any of the actors at comic con, they are standing or sitting behind a table next to a staff person who collects the money and asks if there are any special requests for the signature and basically gets everything set up for the celebrity to sign and say hello. That is what usually happens.  Not Cary.  With every other actor, you are lined up in front of the table and you can see how the celebrity interacts with each of the fans. Not Cary.

Cary’s line went all the way up to a curtain. Perhaps he was protecting himself and keeping people from snapping illegal photos, but that isn’t how it seemed.  When we finally were let behind the curtain, we were met with the same staff person that orders all the details.  We handed her our “As You Wish” book for Cary to sign, and she placed it further down the table.  By this time, my eyes were communicating to my brain that Cary is not where he belongs; he is not behind the table. Where is Cary? Only then did I realize a man standing beside me, and it quickly registered as he turned toward me that standing directly in front of me is the one and only Cary Elwes.  And as he looked into my eyes and reached for my hand, he said, “Hello! it is a pleasure to meet you. What is your name?” You heard it, ladies.  I have looked into the eyes and shook the hand of Wesley! He was so sincere and genuine as he met his fans, and he was extremely intentional.  As my husband and I left the curtain, I was clutching the book with joy, and I must have had the stupidest grin on my face because my insides were bursting.

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So, lets walk through this again, only this time, I’m going to tell you what is happening in the fan girl brain.

First you are standing in line.  You always have this sense of expectancy, but with Cary being behind the curtain, the expectancy was elevated. You begin thinking, “I’m going to meet Cary Elwes! Me.  I’m going to meet him. He may never remember my name, but I will soon be able to say that I have met him! This is the best day of my life.  It doesn’t get better than this.  It will never get better than this.  I can die happy after I meet Cary.  My life will be complete. Now don’t you freak out in there.  He is still a person, so treat him like any other individual. But I am meeting Cary Elwes.” Obviously some of that is an exaggeration, but that is what expectant minds do.  The fan girl imagines meeting their idol and tries to figure out how to control the swooning.

Then you finally are let behind the curtain, and the moment comes where you find out if you are a fainter, screamer, or calm one about meeting your idol. Everything in you wants to shout with joy, hug the person, or totally fan girl freak out, but something also makes you freeze inside and lose all ability to speak to the person. You have no thoughts.  You are frozen in time and suppressing every desire to scream. Luckily for me, my husband is much more calm, cool, and collected and could think of something to say besides, “Hi! I’m Megan.”

Then the unfortunate moment to move on comes, and you exit with your new prized possession in hand.  All reverence and respect and suppression is now thrown out the window.  Whether you squeal, scream, faint, or burst with smiles, you are thinking, “I just met Cary Elwes.”  This time it is one of ecstatic amazement rather than expectation.  You are thinking, “I just met Cary…. Elwes.” After you say that to yourself a few times and let it sink in, you start calling him by the roles he has played.  “I just met Cary Elwes, the one and only Wesley from Princess Bride, the one and only Pierre Despereaux from Psych, the one and only Robin Hood from Robin Hood Men in Tights…. I just met Cary Elwes!!!” And with a wide-eyed grin, you are filled with joy that oozes out of you uncontrollably.

Sometimes, God wants us to give a fan girl praise for Him.  If we are having any kind of quality time with God, we should be expectant that we get to meet with Him.  We should be expectant that He will show up because He promises that He will be found whenever we seek Him.  We should be excited to meet Him.  And when we do meet Him, there should be that reverence and respect and sincerity. That is good and important, but what we often miss, is the fan girl rejoicing after we have met with Him.  We should leave our time with God thinking, “I just met with God.  I just met with God.  I just met with the one who holds the entire universe in His hands.  I just met with Jesus, the one who died and rose again!  I just met with the one who heals the sick and paints the sunrise each morning.  I just met with the Redeemer, the Deliverer, the Rock of Ages.  I just met with the Provider…” I could go all day.  And in that fan girl rejoicing and declaring who He is that you just met in your quiet time, an unspeakable joy begins to ooze out!

Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I say it again: Rejoice!” The Greek word for rejoice here is an exuberant praise, a hailing, like you might for a king. Rejoicing looks a lot like a fan girl.  It looks like an overwhelming joy and awe in realizing who you have just met with, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  And when you rejoice, your life is filled with joy.

Let out a fan girl praise to God today!

Trust and Obey

Life gets busy.  We slack on the things we need to do.  We make time for the things we want to do.  Or maybe I am alone in this selfish cycle of putting my pleasures before what is needing to be done.

As I sat down in my planning period to try and focus on God, these were the things running through my heart.  I’ve been running nowhere all week, staying busy with things that aren’t important, especially Facebook.  I haven’t been sleeping enough or well, and as a result of these combined forces, my intimate time with God has become less and less.  I hate when I do that.  It just leaves me with this deep longing for Him that feels hard to fill. Of course, when I put away the striving and just quiet myself, He shows up right there in the midst.

Today I was reading in Numbers 20 where Moses and Aaron are instructed to speak to the rock and to tell water to come forth from it, but instead, Moses struck the rock, and he was punished for it.  In Exodus 17, God told Moses to strike the rock.  In this passage, Moses was told to speak to the rock. When God rebuked and disciplined them, He said, “Because you did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them!” (Num. 20:12 NLT) As I read that, I felt like God said to me, “All disobedience stems from a lack of trust.”

I began to think about that and go through the 10 commandments.  If we put other idols before God, we are not trusting that He is who He said He is, the One true God, the I Am.  If we curse Him or use His name in vain, we do not trust that He is holy and to be revered.  If we covet, steal, or fail to follow the sabbath, we do not trust that God provides all we need.  If we murder, we are not trusting God’s justice.  Every disobedience can point to a way that we are not trusting God’s goodness, holiness, faithfulness, justice, peace…

And as I thought on that, I realized that when I fail to slip away with God because I am tired or because I don’t feel like I can engage with Him, when I fail to wake up because I didn’t get enough sleep, I am failing to trust that He is my source of strength or that He is able to redeem that time. When I choose to do what is on my agenda before what is on God’s agenda, I am saying I don’t trust Him enough to meet me and help me accomplish everything else.

Today I will choose to “trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus then to trust and obey.”

Levitical Ponderings

As I am reading Leviticus, I see there are 5 sacrifices that God instructed for his people: burnt offering, peace offering, grain offering, sin offering, and guilt offering. We still depend on these sacrifices today! Before you virtually stone me for some kind of false doctrine, no, I am not talking about literally slaughtering animals and burning them on an altar before God.I’m saying that each of these laws of sacrifice have been replaced in the new covenant and are still being fulfilled today.

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The first three sacrifices that God lays out to Moses are sacrifices of worship, thanksgiving, and consecration to God. They were to be burned on the altar as, “a special gift, a pleasing aroma to the Lord.” In previous years, God really highlighted this portion to me, challenging me to ask of myself, “Is my aroma of worship pleasing to the Lord?” As I look at these acts of worship, I am reminded what Paul says in Romans 12, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.”(12:1 NIV). We, our bodies, hearts, and minds, have replaced these three sacrifices; our lives are to be an aroma of worship to God.

The last two sacrifices are the sin offering and the guilt offering. These were not sacrifices of worship, but of repentance and atonement. They are what made the Israelites right before God. These were to be burned outside the city, and they would purify them from their sinful nature as well as their sinful actions. These sacrifices are summed up and forever completed under the blood Jesus shed on the cross. What I find completely fascinating to really bridge the gap and seal the deal that Jesus was our sin and guilt offering is that he was crucified outside the city. God completely fulfilled the law when Jesus died, but having overcome death, his sacrifice was once and for all.

There is a daily sacrifice that must happen in us. We must choose to put fuel on the fires of our worship, on the altar of our heart (just like the priests had to daily put wood on the fire of the alter for the fire was to never go out). This fuel is the word of God. We have to also sacrifice of our desires and selfish nature every day. And we have to acknowledge and embrace the work of the cross by making Jesus Lord, by choosing to surrender to His way of living and not our own. When we daily do this, the law is fulfilled in the new covenant and we are positioned to hear from God and to know God more intimately.

Yep, Leviticus can be hard to read, but it can also be so beautiful and powerful.

Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust

I don’t want to be one of those people who write out a list of impossible resolutions that never happen. I don’t want to be one of those people who make a list of generic things they want to change at some point in the next span of 365 days which they have never changed before. I don’t want to be one of those people who write a blog about all they are going to change and then find themselves in the same place a month later. But guess what… I’m going to be one of those people for a moment.

My parents were visiting for Christmas and New Years, and they left this morning.  I love them dearly and wish they could have stayed longer, but it was good and necessary to find some quiet space in our tiny apartment again this morning.  There have been lots of changes God has made in my life in the last few months.  He has begun speaking a new destiny and purpose over me, and He has helped me to eat healthy and get healthy.  As we rode out the 2016 landing pattern, I began to think about how I want to make these a part of my every day life and what other changes I should make. So in the quiet of the morning, I wrote a few goals into my journal that need to become routine and habitual.

  1. Start my day with God not Facebook: I have a tendency to “wake up” by scrolling through Facebook.  I don’t want my day to start there.  I want it to start in the Word of God with an ear tuned to Holy Spirit.
  2. Make time for Holy Spirit Listening and Learning Time: There are things I feel God instructing me to do that take time and sacrifice, and I need to stop pushing it aside saying “I just don’t have time,” and simply obey.  I must make time.
  3. Spend time with Stephen (my husband) and not with my iPhone: I also have a tendency to neglect my husband, especially when we watch TV, to play games and scroll Facebook some more. This is the key to an unhealthy marriage, and I need to break that habit.  I want my husband to know I love him because I cherish my time with him, not just because I say the words.
  4. Make time for Daily Cardio and Strength Training: I discovered Christian Zumba on YouTube, and I need to utilize it for my health.  God already began the transformation by giving me the strength and desire to go (mostly) paleo, but I want to kick it up a notch and pursue a full healthy lifestyle.  The gym is hard to get to, but I need to try to commit to strength training at least three times a day.
  5. Spend my “free time” constructively: Instead of wasting the day away playing games, scrolling Facebook, and binge watching Netflix, I need to transfer my inflow to podcasts, sermons, books, writing, song writing, piano practice, etc.

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As you look at making goals and resolutions for the new year, and as you ask God what those changes should be, I want to leave you with a nugget that God recently highlighted for me.

Yesterday, during church, the pastor was reading the story of Abraham being tested. God had promised Abraham a biological son through Sarah.  It was so beyond impossible by worldly medical standards.  They were old!  But God in his miraculous power made a way, and they conceived and bore a son named Isaac.  God wanted to test Abraham’s faith, and He told Abraham to sacrifice his son.  When they reached the mountain where they would climb and make the sacrifice, Abraham turns to his servants and says, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” (Genesis 22:5)

Did you see it? Did you catch the nuance of faith in what he said?

We (Abraham and Isaac) will worship and then we will come back to you.

Abraham didn’t say that they would go worship and he would return.  He said we, a pronoun that implies himself and at least one other in the party (Isaac).  Although God is telling Abraham to kill his son on an altar, Abraham had the faith, while walking in obedience, that God would either spare his son or resurrect his son and that no matter what Isaac would return with him. That. Is incredible. Faith. And if we take it a step further, Abraham had to put his son on the altar and raise the knife before the salvation appeared. He never swayed from obedience.  He never delayed in obedience hoping God would relent. He stepped out in complete faith that God’s promise would still come to pass.

As you meditate on this verse and story, and as you begin to think about the changes you want to make in 2017, this is what I want to leave you with:  Your obedient sacrifice will never negate God’s promises.

What is God asking you to place on the altar? Do you have the faith to trust God through the sacrifice? Sometimes the dreams He places in you are put on the altar and are seemingly dead, but if that dream was a promise from God, He is faithful to resurrect and make it happen.  Obey and seek God first, and let your heart be filled with faith in Him.

God’s Thoughts: How Vast and Powerful

I can’t tell you what Pastor was preaching on when he read Jeremiah 29:11, for at the moment I heard the New King James translation of this verse, I was flooded with questions, wonder, and curiosity. God has been taking me on a journey to discover his thoughts toward me.  This translation of Jeremiah 29:11 reads, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” I began to see this verse in a different light than just “God has eternal purposes for our lives.”

Although this verse was originally written to God’s children, Israel, in exile, it still has eternal truth in our lives today.  Being grafted into the promises of Israel, we too can cling to this promise about God’s plans, purposes, and thoughts toward us. Though we may experience spiritual bondage and exiled separation from God, He has a plan of deliverance! As Paul puts it in Romans 8, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” So, no matter where you are at, no matter how difficult and lost you may feel, you are not out of God’s deliverance! He has a firmly established plan and purpose that only He could think up for you, and for me!

This word “thought” in Jeremiah 29 has also been translated as purpose and plan. It is a device or invention of God’s mind that He has resolved to accomplish.  It is something He has set in motion and firmly established for His children. In Psalm 139, David compares God’s thoughts to grains of sand, “How precious to me are your thoughts, Oh God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.” So, God thinks billions of billions of thoughts toward us every day. In fact, a conservative estimate of all the sand on earth would put God’s thoughts at close to a trillion per second for every second of your life! And each thought is not just a whimsical thought, but it is all part of His plan for our lives, which He has firmly established and resolved to accomplish in us.

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A paraphrased sketch of this powerful verse taken from my journal

Now Jeremiah describes these thoughts with a very powerful Hebrew word: shalom. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace (thoughts of Shalom) and not of evil…” We often hear shalom and think of the Hebrew greeting and peace.  It is so much more than that.  Shalom is the wholeness of God.  Shalom speaks to being whole and healed in the physical body.  Shalom speaks of being whole in the mind, which is where we get the idea of peace.  Shalom is being at peace in our covenant relationship with God.  Shalom is being content in God. Shalom is being safe and secure.

So if we were to put all of that into this verse, it would say, “For I know the plans, purposes, decrees, and thoughts that I think and speak and firmly establish over you, declares the Lord. And these thoughts will bring you to a place of peace and rest in me, to a place of healing, prosperity, and wholeness, to a place of peace and contentment, to a place where everything I have designed for you in your body, mind, and soul can actually happen. These thoughts are not going to destroy you; they are not going to bring wickedness, pain, hurt, anxiety, or stress upon you. These thoughts are instead going to give you a future and a hope, something to look forward to with expectation.”

The promise doesn’t end there, though.  God goes on to say that when we begin to see his shalom invading our lives, we will turn toward Him and seek after Him. The more we seek Him, the more we will find Him.

When God starts speaking His thoughts toward you, it is powerful.  He is speaking to the whole of what He created you to be.  Just as He spoke at creation and it became, when God begins to speak out His thoughts toward you, it will be a firmly established promise for you. Write it down and declare it, and see that thought begin to become your identity because these billions of thoughts that He thinks per second are designed to bring you into the fullness of who God created you to be.

Don’t believe me? Ask God to speak out His thoughts toward you and see how it brings you into the fullness of Shalom in your body, mind, soul, and identity.  I’ve only begun this journey with Him.