‘They tell the prophets, “Don’t tell us what is right. Tell us nice things. Tell us lies. Forget all this gloom. Get off your narrow path. Stop telling us about your ‘Holy One of Israel.’” (Isaiah 30:10-11 NLT).

September 18, 2018

WE CAN’T STOP TELLING OTHERS ABOUT JESUS
The Lord told Isaiah that the people of Judah would be known for rebelling against Him, telling the prophets to stop preaching about the coming judgment and the Messiah. In their rebellion against God, it seemed they could no longer tolerate sound teaching, especially anything about the “Holy One of Israel.”

There are many today who would silence the preaching of God’s Word, especially any mention of the Holy One, Jesus Christ. In some settings, the preacher is actually allowed to pray publicly, but asked not to say the name of Jesus. Yet, there remains a people in the earth who have given their hearts to Christ, who love to hear the name of Jesus and the preaching of His Word.

Besides it isn’t really preaching if we don’t preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. As the apostle Paul said, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). And later he said, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16).

When our preaching team prepares sermons, we always ask ourselves, “Are we preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ?” Otherwise, we are just saying “nice things” that have no power. We cannot stop telling others about the Holy One, Jesus Christ!

“But you are a tower of refuge to the poor, O Lord, a tower of refuge to the needy in distress. You are a refuge from the storm and a shelter from the heat” (Isaiah 25:4 NLT).

September 17, 2018

THE LORD IS A TOWER OF REFUGE FROM THE STORM
In the midst of Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the nations, he makes this declaration concerning the Lord. The Lord is a strong tower of refuge and a shelter for the poor and distressed. As we consider the aftermath of Hurricane Florence on Eastern NC, may we take encouragement from Isaiah’s words. Many have lost homes and possessions, but the Lord is a refuge to the poor. Many are getting up this day and feeling discouraged. But the Lord is a shelter from the muggy heat and distress that follows a storm..

Let us offer help and serve those who are in need in the name of Jesus. And let us also make sure to pray for them and offer this word from Isaiah to them, that the Lord is a strong tower and refuge from the storm!

“The Lord held out his hand over the sea and shook the kingdoms of the earth” (Isaiah 23:11 NLT).

September 16, 2018

EVEN THE WINDS AND THE WAVES OBEY HIM
Isaiah prophesied the destruction of the seaport city of ancient Tyre. He spoke of God’s power over land and sea. In the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, we are thankful for God’s protection. We are reminded of what the disciples of Jesus said of Him after He calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee, “Even the winds and the sea obey Him” (Matt. 8:27).

Thank you Lord for your protection and care. Now, empower us to help our neighbors throughout Eastern NC who have been hurt by the storm. Amen.

“In that day Egypt and Assyria will be connected by a highway. The Egyptians and Assyrians will move freely between their lands, and they will both worship God. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth” (Isaiah 19:23-24 NLT).

September 15, 2018

A BLESSING IN THE MIDST OF THE EARTH
The Lord spoke through Isaiah concerning a day when the rivalry between Egypt and Assyria would end, and Israel would no longer be the battleground between them. This must have been an astounding prophecy for that time. For Egypt and Assyria had been sworn enemies and Israel suffered between them in a brutal tug-of-war. Yet, the Lord said a day was coming when a “highway” would connect them.

There have been partial fulfillments of this prophecy since Isaiah’s time. Under Cyrus, the Persian king, there was peace between the three. And again, under Alexander, the three were under one banner for a brief time. But then, after Alexander’s death, his empire was divided into four. The Ptolemaic Empire was over Egypt and the Seleucid Empire was over what was formerly Assyria. Again, the land of Israel was the battleground between them until the time of Roman rule, when peace once again prevailed for a time.

Perhaps it was the Roman period that Isaiah foresaw. For it was during that time that Christ came and the “blessed” message of the cross was carried on Roman “highways” throughout the empire and beyond. Yet, surely there is a Day coming when the ultimate fulfillment will take place.

“Then at last the people will look to their Creator and turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel. They will no longer look to their idols for help or worship what their own hands have made.” (Isaiah 17:7-8 NLT).

September 14, 2018

WHAT WILL IT TAKE FOR US TO LOOK TO THE LORD?
The prophet Isaiah received this word from the Lord concerning the people of Israel. They had lowered their eyes from the Creator to the creation, looking to their idols for help and worshiping the work of their own hands. As a result, a day was coming when their cities would fall, their crops fail, and the glory of Israel grow dim. Yet in that day, the people would pull their eyes off of their idols and look again to the Lord.

Someone has said that true worship is pulling our affections off our idols and putting them on God. The Israelites of Isaiah’s day had broken the first two commandments of the Decalogue. They had put other gods before the Lord and they had made and worshiped graven images. The Lord would not allow His chosen people to continue in this way. His discipline was sending first the Assyrians, and later the Babylonians, to help Israel remember their God.

What will it take for us to pull our affections off of our material manmade stuff and put them on God? Will it take another event like 9/11 or the devastation of a hurricane to pull our eyes off of the temporal to consider the eternal? The word that the Lord gave Isaiah for his people is just as true for us today, as it was for them.

“Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11 NLT).

September 13, 2018

PAUL’S FINAL INSTRUCTIONS TO THE CORINTHIANS
Paul’s final instructions in his second letter to the Corinthians sought to correct the disharmony he had heard about. They were not submissive to his authority, they were spiritually immature, they struggled with grumbling and gossip. In this condition, the God of love and peace would refuse to be manifest in their midst.

When a church is marked by such things as the one in Corinth, the word, “Ichabod” (Hebrew: “No glory”), may as well be written over it. For the glory of God will not reside in such a gathering. It “grieves” (Eph. 4:30) the Spirit of God when His people are not acting in unity and love.

Remember how the Lord Jesus warned the church of Ephesus to repent or He would “remove their lampstand” (Rev. 2:5)? The lampstand is symbolic of God’s presence and glory, which is like a beacon of light that attracts people to Him.

Church, do you want the God of love and peace to shine His glorious light down upon you? Then, “Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace.”

“For I am afraid that when I come I won’t like what I find, and you won’t like my response. I am afraid that I will find quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorderly behavior.” (2 Corinthians 12:20 NLT).

September 12, 2018

PAUL’S CONCERN. GOD’S CONCERN.
Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians expressed his concern and desire for the church he had planted there. He was planning to visit them for the third time, but he had heard many worrisome things about how they had not given up their “old sins.” He didn’t want his future visit to be one of difficult discipline, but of joyful reunion. Because he loved them like a father, he was ready to do either, but preferred the latter.

I think we see something of the Father’s heart in Paul’s parental care for the Corinthians. I wonder. If we would receive a letter from Jesus today, would it express similar concern? Would Jesus warn us that he is coming soon, expressing His concern that He won’t like what He finds?

“For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10 NLT).

September 11, 2018

CHRIST’S STRENGTH IN MY WEAKNESS
Paul told the Corinthians that he had learned to glory in his weaknesses, for it was in weakness that he had experienced the power of Christ at work in and through him. He had learned that real strength comes out of weakness which, distrustful of itself, gives itself up to God.

The weak learn to lean on God. Just as the Israelites in the wilderness learned to gather enough manna for the day, so we can learn to depend on Christ’s power for the troubles of today. The Lord will empower us to face each day when we call on Him, for the Scripture says, “As thy days, so shall thy strength be” (Deut. 33:25).

Do you own the strength and resources to accomplish the dreams God has given you? Then, your dreams are too small and your labors are too self-dependent. Yet God calls us to things too big for us to do without Him.

Paul’s pedigree was admitting his weakness and reliance on Christ’s power. He never claimed to be a hero. He lifted up Christ as the Hero!

Do you feel weak today? Don’t see it as an excuse for inaction, but as the perfect opportunity to call on Christ’s power!

“Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28 NLT).

September 10, 2018

THE PASTOR’S BURDEN
After listing many of the trials and tribulations he had endured as a church planter, the apostle Paul named the one constant concern that weighed on him–– his burden for the churches. Certainly, the Spirit of the Lord strengthened Paul to carry this burden, yet it was the Lord that gave it to him in the first place.

Just as Jesus had told Peter, “If you love me, feed my sheep.” So, Paul keenly felt this same calling.

It was the apostle Peter who wrote this instruction to pastors: “Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you” (1 Peter 5:2). Paul felt this pastor’s burden. And so does every pastor today that is called of God and seeks to please Him by caring for His sheep.

“Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous” (2 Corinthians 9:11 NLT).

September 7, 2018

LIVING THE LIFE OF THE OPEN HAND
Why does God give us surplus? Is it so that we can store it up, depending on the surplus, rather than God? Certainly not! Why then? Paul taught the wealthy Corinthians that God had enriched them so they could always be generous, living a lifestyle of continuous generosity. God’s generosity should create generosity in us!

The greatest generosity is found in God, who freely gave us His Son as payment for our sins. The gospel is God’s generosity on display. As Paul wrote to the Romans, “Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?” (Rom. 8:32).

God’s surplus is for our generosity. As Jesus said, “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matt. 10:8). This is the life of the open hand–– one hand open to God freely receiving, the other hand open to others freely giving.