New Name — January 27, 2014 (Monday)

Today’s Verses:

Isaiah 62:1-3

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet,
till her vindication shines out like the dawn,
her salvation like a blazing torch.

The nations will see your vindication,
and all kings your glory;
you will be called by a new name
that the mouth of the LORD will bestow.

You will be a crown of splendor in the LORD’s hand,
a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

The words in this passage are Isaiah’s, a prophet speaking to the people of Judah and Jerusalem between 740 and 680 B.C. Most scholars believe that Zion and Jerusalem refer to the church formed after the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Today’s Questions:

Have you lived through a period in your life that you might describe as “desolate and deserted?” What was your relationship with God like during that time?

What words do people in our culture most associate with the church today?

What do you believe the church could characterize or represent in our culture?

Usually, we know a crown is made for the head of a king. What do you make of Isaiah’s statement that the Israelites would be “a crown of splendor in the LORD’s hand?”

Today’s Prayer:

Father in heaven, thank you for the privilege of being part of your church, the collection of people you hold in your hand like a prized possession. Thank you for the restoration, healing, and light only you can bring to my desolation, broken soul, and dark desires. I wait in anticipation of the day you come again and pray that you find your church standing firm in faith, steadfast in hope, and unyielding in love. Guide my steps for the remainder of my life so that I carry the character and nature you long for your church to embody.

Go A Little Deeper:

Read Matthew 16:18 for Jesus’ promise about the church.

New Way — January 16, 2014 (Thursday)

Today’s Verses:

Isaiah 43:19

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.

The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls
because I provide water in the desert
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
the people I formed for myself
that they may proclaim my praise.

In this passage, the word “new” in Hebrew is “chadash,” which means repair, renew, or restore, and refers to something never before done.

Today’s Questions:

What is the new thing God says he is doing?

Have you been through a season of life that you might describe as a desert or a wasteland? When? What was happening?

As you look back on that season, can you identify a way that was made that led you out of the situation or experience?

Are you in what feels like the desert or a wasteland now? What is your prayer? What is your expectation about finding your way out?

Today’s Prayer:

Oh, Lord, there are days I feel totally hopeless and directionless, like I have lost my way. I don’t know what happens but I wander off and the next thing I know, I can’t find the path back. Father, help me to stay on course. Bring to mind your promises of restoration and repair. Redeem my waywardness and destructive choices. Remind me of the things that pull me away from you and divert my attention from your purposes so that I choose the way you have set before me that leads to life, truth, and wholeness. Remind me, Lord, of the way, the truth, and the life.

Go A Little Deeper:

Review Jesus’ words in John 14:5-7 about “the way” God made for us.

New Covenant — January 11, 2014 (Saturday)

Today’s Verses:

Jeremiah 31:31-34

“The time is coming,” declares the Lord,
“when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah.

It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers
when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord.

“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
after that time,” declares the Lord.

“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God, and they will be my people.

No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord.

“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”

A covenant is a formal agreement between two parties that creates a relationship between them, often founded on promises or mutual obligations. The “old covenant” is also referred to as the Sinaitic covenant, made at Mount Sinai and explained by God to Moses. The old covenant involved the Ten Commandments and the laws governing idols, servants, personal injuries, property, social responsibility, justice and mercy, Sabbath, and festivals. (See Exodus 19-24)

Today’s Questions:

What are the promises that are part of the new covenant referenced in this passage?

I will put my law _______ ____________ _________________.

I will write my law _______ _____________ ________________.

I will be _______________ ____________.

They will be ________ __________________.

They will all ______________ ________.

I will ___________________ _____________ _______________________.

I will remember their ____________ _____ _________.

Which one of these promises feels most meaningful to you in the season you are in right now? Why?

Try to place yourself at this time before Jesus Christ had come and before God’s plan had been fully revealed. What would these promises have meant at that time?

Today’s Prayer:

Father in heaven, thank you for the promises of your presence and forgiveness. Thank you that these promises have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. It is so hard to imagine a world that doesn’t know about your forgiveness and mercy through Christ. But, Lord, I pray that you would embolden me to live more fully in your forgiveness and to live out your purposes. I know sometimes I act as if your new covenant was never announced, as if I am earning my way to you through compliance with the ten commandments. Help me to breathe in your grace and live in your presence.

Go A Little Deeper:

Review Exodus 19:3-24:18 for a description of the “old covenant.”

Daily December Devotional — Day 11

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Today’s Verses:

Isaiah 9:1-7

In the past [the LORD] humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan –

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.

You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.

For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
you have shattered the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.

Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.

He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.

The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

In Matthew 4:13-16, Matthew references the second verse of this passage in Isaiah. Matthew describes that after hearing that John the Baptist, his cousin, was put into prison, Jesus went to Capernaum, which was “by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali – to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah…” Matthew goes on to quote Isaiah 9:2 with minor variations, demonstrating that Jesus was the one to whom Isaiah 9:1-7 was referring. Joseph and Mary, faithful adherents to the law, would have known these verses in Isaiah well.

Today’s Questions:

What is the impact on the people when the light dawns according to verses 3-4?

Their nation is ______________________.

Their joy is __________________________.

Their yoke that burdened them is ________________________.

The warrior’s equipment is destined for _____________________.

What words come to mind as you read the names by which Jesus will be called?

  • Wonderful Counselor
  • Mighty God
  • Everlasting Father
  • Prince of Peace

How might referring to Jesus by these names as you pray this week impact your relationship with him and your ability to endure the circumstances in which you find yourself?

Today’s Prayer:

Everlasting Father, thank you that the promise spoken by Isaiah was true. Thank you that you invited all the nations into relationship with you, through Jesus. Thank you for joy and for shattering our slavery to sin. Thank you for the peace that you bring and will bring. Father, I am holding onto other promises you have made in your Word — that Jesus will come again and will wipe every tear and eradicate all mourning and death. Remind me of these things, Father. Help me keep my eyes fixed on what you have promised.

Life This Week

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I want to be less self-centered this week. I want to be Christ-centered and other-centered. You know how sometimes you do things for other people and you view them as a departure from what you had planned or expected that day? You had a list of agenda items and that one act of service threw you off, and you feel a little less accomplished for the day? Serving that person was an interruption. I think maybe we’ve got this whole thing backwards, like the agenda is the departure and interruption, not the other way around. Perhaps “I am a servant” is the answer to that ubiquitous question, “What do you do?” rather than the answer to “What are your hobbies?”

God is very clear in Isaiah 58:6-7 that fasting from our own agendas and plans so we have room to serve is what he considers obedience. He is also very clear that what comes from this serving is freedom and light instead of the night and darkness slavery to our agendas brings.

“…[I]f you spend yourselves in behalf of
the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the
noonday.”  (Isaiah 58:10)

Here’s what I’m doing this week to refocus and stay centered on what God has for me:

I’m wearing a servant’s towel. I’m shifting my whole view so that my job is servant. In everything, what if I were servant instead of achiever/accomplisher?

I’m spending myself. I’m not a half-way kind of person typically. But, I must say that I tend to stop short of spending myself fully. I hold some back. What if I instead believed God’s word and spent myself on behalf of the hungry?

I’m singing “Overwhelmed” out loud to God. This song by Big Daddy Weave has captured me. And I’m singing it.

I’m praying for someone. I don’t mean in my alone time (which I will also do), but I mean if someone needs prayer, in faith and with their permission, I’m praying with them right then and there, whether I’ve got the right words or not.

What does your week look like?

Could you change your answer to “What do you do?”

Life This Week

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Yesterday, I got rear ended in my car for the second time in two weeks.  This time, I was on the highway with my daughter and dog.  We are not injured, but now the car is no longer drivable.  The police came, a tow truck came, and my dad and stepmom came to give us their car to use for the week.  It all turned out and life will go on.  A question keeps coming into my brain: how can this same accident happen twice in two weeks?  I want to figure out the meaning, the reason, the lesson, the opportunity.  It would all be a little easier if the accidents were my fault.  Then, I could come up with an answer.  But, this is one question (among many) to which I really just don’t know the answer.  I just don’t know.  I have a feeling, I will carry this “I don’t know” into my week whether I intend to or not.  So, I’ll intend to.  Here’s what I’m doing this week.

I’m releasing my “I don’t knows” to God.  There are so many things I don’t know, though I act like and think like I know more than I do most of the time.  I don’t knows make me nervous, though.  What’s ahead?  I don’t know.  What’s next?  I don’t know.  Who will be there?  I don’t know.  What will happen?  I don’t know.  This week, I’m going to try a little experiment: when I don’t know something, I’ll just acknowledge it and release it to God, who does know.  I wonder if this might create some space in my heart and mind.

I’m thanking God for his protection.  The thing about car accidents and illnesses that happen to us is that we don’t know they are coming, what the impact will be, or how things will turn out.  This time, all is well and I’m thankful God protected me and my daughter.

I’m resting in God’s words in Isaiah 55:9-10:  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

 What does your week look like?