Running & Walking While Waiting

Those who know me well know that my favorite chapter of the entire amazing Bible is Isaiah 40. In these 31 verses, we go from prophetic time travel to a moment of intimate tenderness, from the overwhelming view from outer space to the super-personal love of God, and we end up rising on wings like eagles.

Amazing right?

But what has me “chewing the mental cud” today is a little observation from the end of Isaiah’s prophecy. It’s funny — I’ve preached on Isaiah 40:27-31 before, taught it in bible studies, and dwelt upon it in devotions but I never noticed this one thing.

Isaiah is talking about waiting on the LORD and how God will give you the strength you need to wait. But it wasn’t until this week that I realized something else from this passage (and about half a dozen other sections I’ve studied int he past two weeks). It is very important to keep moving about our daily lives while we wait on God — while we wait for unanswered prayers, His direction, or rescue from a circumstance. Whenever we stop and focus on ourselves and our problems, we lose sight of who God is and what He has done for us in the past. And we cannot pay attention to His promises for the future because we are stuck in the present, focused on ourselves, and lost in a sea of thought, emotions and upsets.

Here’s how Isaiah puts it:

27. Why do you say, Jacob,
Why do you say, Israel,
“The Lord is not aware of what is happening to me, (my way is hidden from the Lord)
My God is not concerned with my vindication”? (and from my God my justice passes away) (NET Bible translation)

Why has God ignored me? Am I so small and insignificant that God cannot see me? Does my life mean nothing to God??? The heart’s reactions during times of stress and “silence” can be so powerful, can’t they? When we pray for things and nothing seems to happen right away — or for some time — it is easy to think that God is simply ignoring us or, even worse, that we have somehow fallen between the cosmic cracks of life and He cannot see us!

Or we might think that, maybe, God has too much on His plate and my troubles aren’t worth His time! Maybe He’s too tired with dealing with people that He has taken a cat nap! Is God asleep? Oh, NO!

28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is an eternal God,
the creator of the whole earth. (“from the ends of the earth,” meaning the extremity or entire)
He does not get tired or weary;
there is no limit to his wisdom.

My dear restless heart… remembering the big picture is essential when you turn inward on yourself, mentally and emotionally. Who is God? Who am I in relation to Him? What can He do? Focus on these questions and do not let them go until you have answers to each! Here, Isaiah reminds the people of Israel that God is eternal. He doesn’t die. He hasn’t died! We humans cannot kill Him! He is always present.

Isaiah also reminds his readers that God created everything (and, thus, has more power than anything), and he doesn’t wear out and get tired. Oh, and as for His ability to answer our issues? His wisdom is adequate for every situation of our lives. “There is no limit to His wisdom,” Isaiah says. No limit! There is no situation for which God cannot present the right answer.

The availability of God’s wisdom is even more present in this day and age after the Cross of Jesus. Paul writes, “For the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the things of a man except the manʼs spirit within him? So too, no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things that are freely given to us by God (1 Cor. 2:10-12).” God has revealed His wisdom to us through His Spirit within us, an open channel for every situation of our lives. Cool, right?

Isaiah 40 is great because it zooms in and out of the celestial scene several times — from the maxi to the mini. It goes from God’s eternal nature, His role as the Creator, and His ever-sufficient wisdom to the personal love of God for His human creation.

29 He gives strength to those who are tired;
to the ones who lack power, he gives renewed energy.

Here is a real kicker: the same Big God, with eternal existence, unlimited power, no fatigue and all-sufficient wisdom — this amazing deity — is benevolent, kind, loving and full of grace towards humans. He gives His strength to the weary and powerless. To restless hearts. To ragamuffins. To those who want to give up.

30 Even youths get tired and weary;
even strong young men clumsily stumble. (literally: stumbling they stumble; added emphasis on their absolute failure)

Even those who seem like they are in their prime of life — the young and strong, the “bulletproof” — even they have to take a nap. They have to sleep. They get groggy and heavy-eyed. They cannot always lift that 60-pound bag of garden soil. They who should have full control of their hand-eye coordination and peak muscle control trip over rocks and stub their toes. They will stumble. It is a guarantee! Can you count on them? Nope.

31 But those who wait for the Lordʼs help find renewed strength;

The Hebrew word for “wait” here is qawah, the word for “to hope in” or “wait for” or “look for.” It is a word for faithful anticipation, or a faith that waits. Faith is never meant to be passive. It is always an action.

they rise up as if they had eaglesʼ wings, (literally: they rise up on wings like eagles)

This is a flowery description of emotional bliss; to be lifted on the wings of such majestic birds is an emotional feeling of strength. God cares about our emotions! He will gladly give us emotional satisfaction when we need a pick-me-up.

they run without growing weary,
they walk without getting tired.

Here is something new I noticed in this Hebrew poetic parallelism — Run and walk are the two main means of moving forward. The idea of waiting in faithful hope is not one of sitting on the sidelines or stopping all activity. Instead, it is a conscious, mental, emotional and willful choice to hope in God while going about everyday life, or moving forward in your life. Don’t stop to read the tea leaves or set out your fleece. Keep going! Do life! Live! And God will provide you the emotional and physical strength to keep on living.

I think it might be possible — if a stretch — to compare “run” to a busy life and “walk” to a normal or mundane life. I like this comparison because it would show that God’s strength is good enough for the busiest person as well as the steady person. You can be busy and not wear out. You can do the routine things of your life as well!

My dear restless heart, God hasn’t ignored you. He sees you. He wants you to trust Him and hopefully wait in His action while you live your normal life. And while you look for His answer, He promises that you will be given His emotional and physical strength in order to overcome your weariness and heartache. But you need to trust Him.

Be God’s!

 

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Headlines: The Bible & Our World Today

Over the past few days, several headlines have come across the news wire that seemed to be perfect blog fodder. As each showed up on Yahoo, Google, newspapers, etc. I said to myself, “I need to write on that.” But every time I disciplined myself to pen a word or two, another headline came to my attention!

Each thing that grabbed my attention reflects how our society is either moving away from or, surprisingly, towards biblical commands and principles. So I’m going to comment on each, but only briefly. Consider this a “ripped from the headlines” kind of segment.

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Stephen Curry’s wife sparks Twitter debate with comments about modesty

In case you don’t follow professional basketball (I don’t regularly), Steph Curry is the best player in the game right now. League MVP and all-everything, his wife, Ayesha Curry, caused a firestorm on Twitter Saturday night after posting two comments about the lack of modesty in women’s fashion. Here were her comments:

“Everyone’s into barely wearing clothes these days huh? Not my style. I like to keep the good stuff covered up for the one who matters.”

And,

“Just looking at the latest fashion trends. I’ll take classy over trendy any day of the week.”

A number of women on Twitter immediately jumped all over her comments. “Who’s everyone? What’s wrong with not being covered up? Are you saying you’re better than women who show off their figures?” one woman posted.

Curry stuck to her position on modesty. Other women came to her defense.

The Bible defends modest apparel for women. In 1 Timothy, Paul writes, “women are to dress themselves in modest clothing, with decency and good sense, not with elaborate hairstyles, gold, pearls, or expensive apparel, but with good works, as is proper for women who affirm that they worship God.” (1 Tim. 2:9-10)  The same sentiment is reflected in 1 Peter 3:3-4.

Remarkably, our society wants both gender neutrality and gender sexualization. Often, women of celebrity choose to wear less while the world applauds, while on other hand some women want to dress like men and men want to dress like women! We want to destroy gender and exploit it at the same time.

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Headline #2

AP Poll: Ecology, religion a natural mix for some Americans

The story here is one I’ve been following for some time. Younger Americans care about environmental issues more than their parents and grandparents. Even more, younger Christians are speaking out on environmental issues in vastly increasing numbers compared to older generations.

“The AP-NORC and Yale analysis of Americans’ environmental attitudes identified nine distinct segments of the U.S. population, each with a different relationship with the environment. Members of one group, called the “Religious Greens,” are among those most likely to attend church at least once a week. A majority of this group trusts their religious beliefs over scientific explanations when the two conflict.

At the same time, 9 in 10 of them believe global warming is happening, and 7 in 10 believe the environmental crisis is more serious than most people think.

They are among the most likely of the nine groups to support environmentally friendly policies, too.

Despite their views, just 2 in 10 of this highly spiritual group call themselves environmentalists.

Demographically, the Religious Greens tend to be young — a majority of them are under age 45 — and 6 in 10 of them are female, more than in any other group. Seventeen percent are black and 22 percent are Hispanic, making them among the most diverse groups identified in the analysis.”

The bottom line is that younger Christians are awake to the need to care for the amazing creation that God entrusted to mankind. As one Christian said in the article, the environment is not a political issue, it is a moral issue.

I grew up in a land between the “slash and burn ’cause its all going to burn anyway” and the “save the rainforest” nations. My folks recycled cans and newspaper when it became available in their neighborhood but, the best I can tell, don’t consider the environment to be a pressing issue in our country today.

The Bible makes three things very clear.

  1. God created all things and, after He created them, deemed them “good.” (Genesis 1)
  2. God gave Adam the responsibility to “rule over” creation as, essentially, His vice-regent. President of the planet, so to speak. (Genesis 2)
  3. God continually renews, refreshes, provides for, and otherwise cares for His Creation, bearing the ultimate responsibility for it. (Psalm 104 is my favorite passage on this.)

God will make all things new one day. A new earth (Isa 65:17, Rev 21:1). Will this be a new face to Planet Earth or a whole new planet? No idea. But Adam and his descendants never had their responsibility to rule this current earth revoked. Mankind isn’t off the hook! And even today the human race has the greatest effect on our planet’s appearance and function. So why shouldn’t those who claim to follow the Creator care for His Creation? Just wondering…

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Headline #3

The New York Daily News ran this headline, “God Isn’t Fixing This” on its front page in response to last week’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, CA. The sub-headline was: “As latest batch of innocent Americans are left lying in pools of blood, cowards who could truly end gun scourge continue to hide behind meaningless platitudes.”

On the front page, the Daily News also posted the “prayerful” responses of four Republican leaders to the shooting as proof that the GOP is sheltering serial killers, or something. Actually, the activist newspaper has been calling for stricter gun control for years and this latest shooting brought out a wave of editing emotion. Its point is: Prayer doesn’t stop gun violence. Do something!

You may wonder, Where does the Bible fit into all of this? There were no guns in Jesus’ day, nor were crossbows outlawed by the apostles. So does God want us to take people’s guns away or what?

At the heart of the whole issue, I think, is another, more important issue. S-I-N. God fixes hearts. If every heart is fixed, there would be no more violence. No more guns, grenades, crossbows or fouls in basketball. But mankind, as a whole, is in revolt against God. This is step one in the Gospel message. We need a Savior!

King David looked at the world around him in 1000 B.C. and wrote:

“There is no one who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on the human race to see if there is one who is wise, one who seeks God.
All have turned away; all alike have become corrupt.
There is no one who does good, not even one.” (Psalm 14:1-3)

Saint Paul looked at the world around him in 55 A.D. and wrote,

“both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin, as it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one.
There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned away; all alike have become useless.”

I’d personally love to see all weapons off the streets. That would satisfy a part of my desire to see a safer world. And politicians are obligated by civic duty to try and protect the people the best they can.

But even if all pea shooters, poison dart guns and gunpowder instruments were removed, man would still carve sticks into spears and throw rocks at people tied up next to a wall. We’d still seek to kill because sin is constantly calling us to seek one’s self at the expense of others. It is calling us to give in to our anger at our fellow man and to strike before we’re struck.

God calls for the opposite. Seek others before yourself. Deny anger that is ungodly and seek peace with all men. Let yourself be struck for righteousness sake. Look at Jesus Christ and follow Him.

The heart of the issue is the heart. Until that changes, nothing will change — guns, politics or crossbows.

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So there it is — straight from the headlines. When you look at the news do you see the “big picture” of God, the wayward world, and sin? Or are you fixated on the “smaller picture” of emotions and reactions? Whenever I get caught up in the emotion of the here and now (which is powerful) I often forget about the bigger picture. I forget that there is a sinful world rebelling against a good and holy God. I forget that sin and evil may have been judged but we have to wait for their final demise. I also forget that God will give evildoers what they deserve and they will meet a most ungodly fate in this life.

It is my prayer that you and I will both start seeing the world through some slight shadow of God’s eyes, and that we will turn our hope of salvation to Him, not just eternal salvation but a betterment of things in the here and now. And that we will both do whatever is possible to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who has come to fix broken and wayward hearts so that they may be right, just and holy.

Be God’s!

 

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Hezekiah: Another Real Biblical King

I wonder when, if ever, skeptics will cease to question the reality of people and events mentioned in the Old Testament. After all, science keeps verifying the biblical text, leading agnostic and atheistic scholars to go from, “He was most likely made up long after the fact,” to now go, “Well, he existed back then, but…”

He existed! So much for the Bible being a work of fiction! My faith in God is not based upon but it certainly is bolstered by archaeological discoveries. From fossilized tropical plants discovered in Scandinavia (evidence of the pre-flo0d earth) to the identification of ancient Israelite house in Egypt (Jacob’s descendants), science keeps uncovering and marveling at the true nature of the people and places of the Old Testament. Can archaeology prove miracles? No. Then again, in the same way, science cannot disprove the existence of a Creator God. It simply cannot!

The topic of science and the bible is on my mind today because of the announcement of another biblical discovery.

“Rare Mark from Biblical King’s Seal Found in Jerusalem”

“Israeli archaeologists have discovered a mark from the seal of biblical King Hezekiah, who helped build Jerusalem into an ancient metropolis.

“The circular inscription, on a piece of clay less than a centimetre (0.4 inches) long, may very well have been made by the king himself,” said Eilat Mazar of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University who directed the excavation where it was uncovered.

2015-12-02T154807Z_1_LYNXMPEBB10TT_RTROPTP_2_ISRAEL-ARCHAEOLOGY-JERUSALEM

Hezekiah ruled in the last half of the 700’s B.C. and was one of Judah’s most powerful and influential kings. He was also a godly king, and he reigned during a difficult time of Judah’s history. It was during his rule that Assyria, the barbarian bullies of the Middle East, destroyed the Northern Kingdom and either carried away, enslaved or killed the populous. Sennacherib, the most famous Assyrian king, besieged Jerusalem before a miracle forced his army to retreat (2 Kings 19:34-36).

The discovery of a seal by Hezekiah isn’t the first evidence of the biblical king. In fact, Hezekiah is the most-documented king of Israel.The siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib was documented by the Assyrians. To prepare for the battle, Hezekiah did two things:

  1. he fortified the walls of Jerusalem, and
  2. he redirected the fresh water supply into the city walls so that it was available for his citizens during a siege.

The biblical accounts can be found in 2 Kings 20:20 and 2 Chronicles 32:1-5.

3622125215_1d7d91dbcd_zArchaeology has shown that the first work was pretty remarkable. The king expanded the walls to be 15 feet wide, and they still run under apartment buildings and streets in the Old City.

Hezekiah's Tunnel, tb11070561asr

The second public work is a thing of magnificence. A tunnel was dug through the rock below Jerusalem’s southeastern edge, channeling water from the Gihon spring into the Pool of Siloam.

When archaeologists discovered Hezekiah’s tunnel, they found an official inscription carved on the wall where the tunnel diggers met — most likely to commemorate its completion. The Hebrew language has been dated to the time of Hezekiah.

Both public works are still on display in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Other seals have been discovered from Hezekiah’s reign. This most recent discovery was the first mention of a king of Israel unearthed in a “scientific excavation,” that is, an archaeological dig funded by an academic institution and highly monitored by the national Antiquities Authority.

There have been more than a dozen monarchs of Israel identified through non-government-supervised archaeological digs or in artifacts obtained on the antiquities black market. In the Southern Kingdom of Judah, seals from Jotham, Ahaz (Hezekiah’s father) and Manasseh have been discovered. David was mentioned in an inscription from Tel Dan. Solomon’s mighty building projects have been unearthed and they match the biblical accounts. In the Northern Kingdom, Jehu was mentioned on an Assyrian obelisk and a seal might be from evil queen Jezebel.

I guess that if there is a bottom line to today’s news it is this: don’t listen to academic and archaeological skeptics who refuse to believe evidence that is in their hands or before their eyes. So much physical and historical evidence has been uncovered in regards to the Old Testament.

Know this: in its pages the Bible claims to be the word of God, truthful and just. If God says that something happened, then it happened. I love that science is giving us a greater understanding of the “hows” and “whats” of biblical people and events. It makes the events even more real-to-life.

So enjoy every moment in which scientists have no choice but to admit that the Bible was right — even if they don’t believe in its Author!

Be God’s.

 

A Cool Link:

50 Old Testament Figures Confirmed by Archaeology

 

 

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The Thing About Timing…

Jim lives in Pittsburgh and Sally lives in Chicago. Both Jim and Sally want to drive to St. Louis, which is 260 miles away from Chicago and 460 miles away from Pittsburgh. If Jim and Sally leave at the same time but Jim travels 60 miles per hour and Sally drives 30 miles per hour, who will reach St. Louis first?

Do you remember those old math problems that introduced scenarios like this one? I always hated these problems when I was in elementary school. I could’ve cared less who got there first. I just wanted to know what they were going to do once they got there! Do Jim and Sally know each other? Will they randomly meet? Why is Sally driving so slow? Does she have car problems? Is she one of those annoying drivers who stops up traffic on a two-lane highway because she’s preoccupied with talking on her phone?

But I digress. The purpose of the question was to get students to think about the logistics of timing. How do speed and distance interrelate? I’ll tell you this, though: everywhere I drive these days I’m still reminded of the importance of timing — especially when I traverse a busy parking lot.

If I hit my brake one time more than usual, I could either hit a car backing up or miss it! It’s all timing. When I put my truck into reverse and inch out of my own parking space, will there be a family walking out from beside the vehicle next to me? Will there be a car emerging into my field of view?

If you think about it, timing is essential to life on planet earth. It is timing that leads two people to the same place at the same time to meet. It is timing that leads to human conception and birth. It is timing that either leads us to places of safety or to an accident. (God’s providence plays a major role in all this, too, as He works through divine timing…)

Timing has been on the forefront of my mind over the past month as several personal and family incidents have rattled me. Last month I narrowly missed losing my life in a highway incident when an 18-wheeler suddenly stopped in front of me on the interstate in a rainstorm. I was pulling a 6,000-pound trailer and traveling 55 miles per hour when I threw on my brakes and watched in slow-motion horror as my weighty truck/trailer combo slid towards the back of the big rig. With a heavy trailer I needed three times the stopping distance and I didn’t have it. So I quickly glanced around me and instantly decided that hitting a highway sign would be better than getting sandwiched between my trailer and the truck. I also feared my trailer would flip, taking me with it down the highway embankment. By God’s grace and protection I managed to slide by the big rig and miss the sign. Had I not seen the trailer in front of me two one-hundredths of a second later than I did, I would have smashed into the back of the 18-wheeler and likely died a violent death. But I didn’t. Timing!

Last week my dad got into an auto accident in Houston. He was rear-ended by a speeding car and got sandwiched between that car and the vehicle in front of him. He’s all right, thank the Lord, but was shaken and sore. The thing is, he’s mad at himself because had he not delayed his trip by shopping at a few stores he wouldn’t have been in that particular accident.

I’m pretty bad at timing in other areas of my life. Take phone calls, for example. I can never seem to call someone when it is a good time to talk. Never! They are usually in the midst of something or on the phone with someone else. So I pretty much have given up on making unsolicited phone calls. Sorry, folks! I also have bad timing when it comes to connecting with people in-person.

Wanna have lunch this week? Oh, you’re busy? All week? Wanna get together for a beer and a burger? Oh really? Something every night this week? I see…

Timing is not my best friend! Unless I’m on the Interstate in a rainstorm, that is. Maybe people just wanna avoid me for some reason (begin the paranoia now…).

There are a lot of theological and spiritual aspects to timing, I’m sure, but right now my mind is transfixed on the experiential element and not the reasons why. I believe that God is sovereign and that He often changes timing to protect and/or benefit His children. He loves them, so why wouldn’t He?

Ah, yes, timing. It is the action of taking action, from the tiniest tap of a brake to a magnitude of avoiding a highway crash. God is there in the midst of it all and, for that, I am thankful. He has His own timing, too, you know? And it’s better than ours! Perfect, even. I’m even more thankful for that.

Be God’s!

 

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