Patterns from the Passages

 

I noticed a particular pattern today that I want to share with you.

In Isaiah 43-45, the pattern is found in what God is saying to the nation of Israel.

  1. First, God says to Israel, “I will restore you.”
  2. Second, God says to Israel, “I am able to restore you.”
  3. Third, God says to Israel, “I need wholehearted restoration from you.”

In Isaiah 43, notice the following:

  1. “I will restore you” – Verses 1-2, 5-7, 14b
  2. “I am able to restore you” – Verses 3, 11-14a, 15
  3. “I need wholehearted restoration from you” – Verses 22-24

In Isaiah 44, notice the following:

  1. “I will restore you” – Verses 3-4, 21b-22a, 26b-28
  2. “I am able to restore you” – Verses 2a, 6-7, 8b
  3. “I need wholehearted restoration from you” – Verses 9-17 (especially 14, 16-17), 22b

In Isaiah 45, notice the following:

  1. “I will restore you” – Verses 2-3a, 5b
  2. “I am able to restore you” – Verses 5a, 6b, 7b, 8, 11-13, 17-18
  3. “I need wholehearted restoration from you” – Verses 20-22, 25

God is able to restore you, spiritually. He will, if you will do your part. Won’t you make the simple switch? Won’t you be restored by Him today?

 

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How One Person Affects the World

I truly believe that any human being, including you, can affect the whole, entire world. Here’s how.

My wife and I recently returned to Denver from a family vacation at Lake Tahoe. We had expected to land 20 minutes earlier than we did, due to inclement weather. Still, it was a good, regular flight in the end. After our plane parked on the tarmac, we waited for all the people to file out. We knew our time would be extended due to the fact that we were sitting in the very back of the plane. To pass the time, I figured I’d do what was best—daydream by looking out the window. When I did, I saw something rather rare. The plane next to us had police cars with their lights lit up on both sides. Near the middle of this plane, was a full military color guard holding flags that were raised and blowing in the wind. About the time I saw this sight, I heard the flight attendant say, “They’re taking one of the bodies back to their family.”

Jessica and I can easily get to Aurora in less than 30 minutes from where we live. Obviously, this tragedy hit very close to home. As Jessica and I made our way to the baggage claim, my mind was consumed with the thoughts that come from seeing a sight like this. Once we got to the conveyor belt, something was not right. No baggage was on any conveyor belt we passed, and the same was true for the one on which our bags were supposed to come out. The digital prompter was showing a long list of flights that still had baggage yet to arrive. Wondering what could be causing the delay, I came to two potential conclusions:

  1. This slowdown in operations has been caused by the inclement weather delays, and the subsequent backup of flights.
  2. This slowdown in operations has been caused by what is happening on the tarmac, out of respect for the one being transported and the military guard present.

This second potential conclusion was what caused the following line of reasoning: “Wow. One person affects 12 people, and those 12 families are going to be affected for a long time. Obviously, this one person’s actions has affected more than just these 12 families because—if these bags are being delayed out of respect for the one being transported—then everyone in this airport is not getting their bags as early as they otherwise may have had them. What if I had been in a rush to get my bags today? What if I had been in a rush to get my bags because I needed what was inside them? What if what was inside my bags was something that would vastly increase my chances of getting hired in a new global outreach company? What if I was unable to hold a successful job interview with this global outreach company, all because I did not get my bags on time? What if getting my bags just a few moments later was what kept me from making that job interview on time, reducing my hopes of getting that job even more as a result? What if getting that job would have allowed me to make a brilliant breakthrough in helping thousands of people across the globe, over the next 50 years of my career? What if I was able to help establish a system whereby that company would continue to impact the world for the many years to come after I am dead and gone? Wow. All of that could have been prevented by one person’s choice to affect 12 people in the first place.”

I truly believe that the divine being, God, can affect the whole, entire world. Here’s how.

Jesus appointed 12 men to be His apostles (Matthew 10:1-4). He commissioned these men to go out into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Matthew 28:18-20).

I believe it is time we stop thinking that one person cannot make any difference in this world. I believe we should all make the simple switch to do all that we can to not only believe that this is true, but also to utilize the opportunity God has given us to make it happen. Most importantly, I believe it is time each of us consider the power that dwells within the One divine God to make all the difference in our own lives.

“I came that they may have life, and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

Truth to the Trickers

 

“And they sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any’ (Matthew 22:16).

 

Waiting on the World to Change

My brother-in-law has always been one of my favorite speakers and Bible teachers, ever since I heard him for the first time. Today, his streak continued. (Btw, you can check out his blog here).

Today’s discussion was about the conversion Paul experienced, from Saul to Paul…or at least, what we commonly consider to be the mere conversion of Saul to Paul (Acts 8-9). We think of Paul as a guy who was bad, and then became good. While this isn’t necessarily wrong, this is not all.

Think about it. Paul had been a guy so wrapped up in his Jewish heritage to the point that he hated these barbarian people, known as the Gentiles. All who were not Jewish were worthy of death. This Jesus he had heard about, was scum enough to not only associate with these people, but embrace them. Paul thought that putting these people to death was his God-given purpose and mission in life. Paul thought he was doing the will of God.

Now…consider your life.

What changes have occurred in the last year of your life? Much can happen in so little time.

Was there anything that happened that made you realize, “Wait, is what I’m doing really God’s will at all?” Or even, “Is what I’m doing more of my preference than what He wants for my life?”

Consider your simple switch:

  1. What if all of those things you thought were giving you your purpose, ultimately don’t lead to anything?
  2. What if your ambitions are really not what is best for your life, or even for the lives of others?

The Unmatched Comfort Of God

In light of the recent tragedy…Preacher Pollard says it all well.

Preacherpollard's Blog

Neal Pollard

Our community is experiencing unspeakable grief.  A young man became a hardened, merciless killer overnight in our city, killing at least a dozen and injuring several dozen more.  Grief and confusion abound.  People are struggling for answers.

It is transparently clear that this exemplifies a symptom of sin-sickness in society, but that observation will not bring back a single victim or undo this horrific crime.  What we have right now is an opportunity to share with the fearful and hurting the God of all comfort.

Paul so describes Him in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7. In those few verses alone, Paul uses the word comfort 10 times. Look at the different ways Paul assures us of God’s comfort, which will help us in traumatic circumstances like these.

God’s comfort is comprehensive (3).  Apart from Him, man is ultimately comfortless. He is the God of all grace (Rom. 15:5), but…

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How You Can Start a Movement

For whatever reason, I keep finding inspiration for blog posts whenever my wife and I go to the amusement park in Denver. This time, I was inspired by gum. Well, really—the inspiration came from what my wife had to say about gum.

At this amusement park, there is a water ride that we experienced. The line leading up to this ride is a long, winding, concrete path that is decorated to look like the middle of a wilderness. There are large boulders everywhere, and a particular heavy cluster of them in one particular spot. One particular boulder within this cluster stands right next to the path, likely seven feet in height. To look at this rock, is strangely amusing, and yet disgusting, all at the same time. Why?

The rock is covered from top to bottom with all sorts of different colors and flavors of gum.

As if that were not enough, there is also one particular roller coaster ride at this amusement park with a similar fate. The platform where people board is built about 15 feet off the ground. When looking over the side onto the pavement, everyone can see where everyone has spat their gum onto the pavement. Again, strangely amusing, yet—an entirely disgusting display of “artwork.”

Taking all of this in, my wife said, “It probably just took one person to get everyone else to do that.”

Her statement reminded me of this video. Before reading further, please watch the short presentation to get a better feel for the application I’d like to make.

When we consider the book of Philemon, Paul is urging this idea of ‘starting a movement.’ If you thought one person couldn’t change the whole world, maybe you should take a second look at all the elements that are both included and implied in this short book.

Paul is embracing Philemon as an equal, making an appeal to him in love and with respect to receive Onesimus back as a brother in Christ (10-11). He shows Philemon how to receive Onesimus back by pointing to himself as the example; Philemon can see from Paul, the leader, that he must embrace Onesimus as a brother in the Lord (16). Philemon can see that Paul has accepted him as an equal, and now Philemon is encouraged to be Paul’s “first follower” (i.e. the first to start receiving those who make the change to follow God).

Oddly enough, we have no idea whether Philemon received Onesimus back or ignored Paul/Onesimus altogether. In any case, however, the key question is stated: “Will you be start this movement in your life today?”

Getting back to Bible basics involves remembering that Paul made a change to follow Jesus after he A) had been struck blind on the road to Damascus and B) had heard the full gospel from Ananias (Acts 9). If Ananias was the first ‘lone nut’ by which this movement of change began, then Paul is the first follower of the lone nut. He is calling his friends, Philemon and Onesimus, to join him. Now, you must consider your response…your simple switch. Will you join these useful, beloved brethren, and follow Jesus Christ?

If you are sitting on the fence, debating whether you should join the movement, feeling useless or unprofitable—fear not.

Paul killed Christians—but he made a change to follow Jesus.

Onesimus likely did wrong to Philemon (18)—but he made a change to follow Jesus.

You have made some mistakes in your life, just as I have—but you and I can change to follow Jesus.

Will you make the change to follow Jesus?

“Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, since I know that you will do even more than what I say” (Philemon 21).

The Story of the Servant King

“Author Philip Yancey adapts a parable by Christian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard that helps us understand how God attempts to save us while respecting our freedom. It’s a parable of a king who loves a humble maiden:

The king was like no other king. Statesmen trembled before his power. No one dared breathe a word against him, for he had the strength to crush all opponents. And yet this mighty king was melted by love for a humble maiden.

How could he declare his love for her? In an odd sort of way, his very kingliness tied his hands. If he brought her to the palace and crowned her head with jewels and clothed her body in royal robes, she would surely not resist—no one dared resist him. But would she love him?

She would say she loved him, of course, but would she truly? Or would she live with him in fear, nursing a private grief for the life she now left behind? Would she be happy at his side? How could he know?

If he rode up to her forest cottage in his royal carriage, with an armed escort waving bright banners, that too would overwhelm her. He did not want a cringing subject. He wanted a lover, an equal. He wanted her to forget that he was a king and she a humble maiden and to let shared love cross over the gulf between them. ‘For it is only in love that the unequal can be made equal,’ concluded Kierkegaard.

This is exactly the problem God has in his pursuit of you and me—if he overwhelms us with his power we may not be free to love him (love and power are often inversely related). And even if we retain our freedom, we may not love him but merely love what he gives us. What can God do? Here’s what the king did:

The king, convinced he could not elevate the maiden without crushing her freedom, resolved to descend. He clothed himself as a beggar and approached her cottage incognito, with a worn cloak fluttering loosely about him. It was no mere disguise, but a new identity he took on. He renounced the throne to win her hand.

This is exactly what God did to win you and me! He descended to the human level—in fact to one of the lowest social levels possible—to that of a servant. Paul describes Christ’s sacrifice this way in his letter to the Philippians (2:5-8):

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! (qtd in Geisler 379-80).”

Quoted Source:

Geisler, Norman L., and Frank Turek. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an AtheistWheaton: Crossway Books, 2004. Print.

Original Source:

Yancey, Philip. Disappointment with God. New York: Harper Collins, 1988. 109-110. Print.