All can be “well” and we can STILL be blind

One of the common mistakes we make in diagnosing current times is “how things are going.” If things are going reasonable “well” for us, we can’t see what might wrong beneath the surface, or care to explore that beneath the surface.

In the U.S., we can say, “Hey, the economy is humming along (for us saying it, of course), so what could possibly be wrong?”

Spiritually, we can say, “Look at our church! It’s growing! We bring in awesome speakers and have a great band!”

For us, all can seem “well”… and we can be blind. This is Israel’s case in Isaiah (and in many of the other prophetic books). Prophetic words calling “doom” on Israel didn’t always come in “down” economic times. They often came in GOOD economic times.

So, when Isaiah comes along preaching hypocrisy, they’re looking at him and asking, “What are you smoking?”

We, today in the American Church, are struggling. We may see verses from Isaiah and put them out there with the thought of, “Well, that’s for the OTHER part of the church!” (It can be a “liberal” Christian putting it out and digging at the “conservatives” or vice versa.)

Here is the problem: these words are for the AMERICAN church. Not just one segment. Friends, WE are in trouble… and are still struggling with spiritual blindness.

20 Woe to those who call evil good
    and good evil,
who put darkness for light
    and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
    and sweet for bitter.

21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes
    and clever in their own sight. (Isa. 5:20-21, NIV)

Continue reading “All can be “well” and we can STILL be blind”

You are thirsty. Come here.

There is a spiritual thirst. There is a spiritual hunger. I long for my life, and the life of my church, to reflect the position of spiritual travelers who have simply found fresh water and good bread. We journey together. Let this be place of refreshing. A place to settle in and ask questions. A place to explore. A chance for a weary soul to realize what real water can taste like. Lord, let us be this place!

Let the thirsty come. For the thirsty, please don’t delay. Hear the great invitation.

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
    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 spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
    my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
    a ruler and commander of the peoples.
Surely you will summon nations you know not,
    and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel,
    for he has endowed you with splendor.”

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near. (Isa. 55:1-6)

Praying to see what is new

Our church is moving into a critical time. The transitions are huge. We desperately need to hear the voice of the Lord. We are preparing our hearts to listen even more intently.

A couple of verses this morning drew my attention as I read again through Isaiah:

From now on I will tell you of new things,
    of hidden things unknown to you. (Isa. 48:6b)

This is what the Lord says—
    your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
    who teaches you what is best for you,
    who directs you in the way you should go.” (Isa. 48:17)

I pray for listening ears in the life of our church. I ask for boldness in our spirits as we step into uncharted waters! HE knows the way!

Advent and worship

Isaiah 1:10-20 can be a reminder… SHOULD be a reminder of HOW we come before the Lord.

In all honesty, I think we need to evaluate our worship in this light. There are times I think the American evangelical church just comes with noise and thinks it’s worship. Are we coming with our hearts and lives ready to HEAR from heaven… and then respond?

12 When you come to appear before me,
    who has asked this of you,
    this trampling of my courts?
13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
    Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
    I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.
14 Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals
    I hate with all my being.
They have become a burden to me;
    I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you spread out your hands in prayer,
    I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers,
    I am not listening.

Your hands are full of blood!

16 Wash and make yourselves clean.
    Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
    stop doing wrong.
17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
    Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
    plead the case of the widow. (Isaiah 1:12-17)

Praying the impossibilities into possibilities

A few days ago I was meditating on the Isaiah 2 text for the first Sunday of Advent. The challenge from the Spirit when I woke up that morning was this: pray differently.

One of the texts for next Sunday is Isaiah 11:1-10. It seems I am still being stirred by the Spirit to pray differently. It is to pray the impossible prayers. It is to see the impossible and realize that God just may make it possible.

In our world where powerful people, greed, big bucks, etc., rule the day, the Lord invites us to look to the One who will not be swayed by big buck contributions. When the temptation is to turn our gaze on the wealthy and the beautiful and the fabulously talented… the Lord asks us to see what he sees: the needy. The poor.

In this world when the Middle East broods over civil war within Islamic tribes, and then seethes over conflict between Israel and the rest of the Middle East… when China and North Korea posture themselves in violent ways, choosing to ignore the rest of the world… when it simply seems that there is no way people with opposite views can get get together…

The Lord invites us to pray differently. For the day when the lion lays down with the lamb. When the leopard and goat get along. A time of peace. 

Again, as Pentecostals and evangelicals, we have theologies that tempt us to say, “This is for the sweet by and by.” But I think we need to hear a greater invitation. An invitation to get our eyes on the One who can speak and peace comes upon the waters.

And today… again… pray differently.

 

Preparation in Advent is more than individual effort

16     Wash! Be clean!
Remove your ugly deeds from my sight.
Put an end to such evil;
17     learn to do good.
Seek justice:
help the oppressed;
defend the orphan;
plead for the widow.

18 Come now, and let’s settle this,
says the Lord.
Though your sins are like scarlet,
they will be white as snow.
If they are red as crimson,
they will become like wool.
19 If you agree and obey,
you will eat the best food of the land.
20 But if you refuse and rebel,
you will be devoured by the sword.
The Lord has said this. (Isa. 1:16-20)

Salvation isn’t just about the individual. When we quote the verse about sins being like scarlet, but they can be white as snow… it’s about the community. God is addressing Israel.

Beyond that verse is the context. God is calling Israel back to faithfulness in their world. It is a matter of getting back to what the heart of Law asked for: to do right, to seek justice, to defend the oppressed.

I will not draw this out and ask how “America” is doing. That’s just not the right parallel, in my opinion. But for the people of God, how are we doing?

In this season of Advent, it is a good time to reflect on doing justice (which is far beyond the very narrow legal term we have made it today). How are we doing when it comes to the edges of our world?

The King came the first time to live out the example of how the Kingdom really should operate. He took in the margins. He cared for people at the edges.

Are we living in the example of our King? The Kingdom isn’t just about God taking care of my individual sins. It is about me living in this world in the power of the Spirit.