Devotional on Isaiah

Texas Hill Country – 2006

Free will and accountability
Isaiah 8: No, we’re going to study the Scriptures.
While telling of future events wasn’t the major job of most prophets, it’s the one we immediately think of when we think of the work of the prophets. Actually, these men of God mostly “forth-told” rather than “fore-told.” Even when they speak of the future it’s often spoken of in a conditional way: “If you do this, then that will happen; if you do that, then this will happen.” In fact, a major theme of these men of God is to remind the people of their free will. That doesn’t mean God is helpless, but it does mean, at least in this context, that the Lord allows people the freedom to decide, and then makes them accountable for their decisions. As Isaiah goes about proclaiming what’s coming if these people stay on the road they’re on, people say to him, “When I want to know what’s coming, I’ll go to a fortune teller or hold a séance.” Isaiah says, “If you want to know what’s coming, take a look in the Scriptures.” He isn’t saying that the Scriptures contain some kind of secret road map to the future. Instead, he’s saying that there’s plenty of evidence in the Scriptures that God won’t forever put up with their foolishness. Repeatedly, in the Scriptures, the Lord has warned them and it doesn’t take some supernatural experience to see what’s coming. Talk about a timeless truth, this is one! Today, I don’t need a fortune teller. There’s plenty of information already available to me in the Bible about how God responds to sin and rebellion. If I insist on ignoring God I don’t need a crystal ball to know what’s coming.
Take Away: The Bible is quite clear as to the intentions of the Lord.

Devotional on Isaiah

2006 – Near Hunt, Texas

Dual level preaching
Isaiah 9: For a child has been born — for us! The gift of a son — for us!
Sometimes the prophet does exactly what we generally think of a prophet doing: he speaks of the future. Isaiah says that even when oppressors come and seem to destroy everything that God will have the last word. That Word, Isaiah says, will be in the person of a Child who can rightly be called names like “Strong God” and “Eternal Father.” Have you ever wondered about the state of mind of men like Isaiah when they speak words like this? Does Isaiah see it all: manger, shepherds, and wise men? Or does he scratch his head and wonder why he just said that? I think the answer is somewhere in the middle. I can give a very minor personal example of what I mean. A few weeks ago I was delivering my Sunday morning sermon and found myself emphasizing something that had originally been only a minor part of my sermon. Such an event is hard to describe to people who haven’t preached, but I think most everyone who has carried on spiritual conversations have, at times, experienced something similar. Honestly, as I thought about that sermon and remembered who was in the congregation I had the idea that maybe the Lord wanted to encourage a good person who was going through some challenges in their life. Still it never crossed my mind to “aim” that portion of the sermon at anyone. I was surprised that I had pursued that point as far as I did. A few days later, with no thought of that sermon, I was praying and dealing with what I thought was a totally unrelated issue. Suddenly, the words that I had said on Sunday morning came back to me and I realized that on an entirely different level they were meant for me! At that moment, the “deeper meaning” of what I had said became real to me. I think that prophets like Isaiah operate at that level when they speak of things like those in Isaiah 9. Had you had a frank conversation with Isaiah about his promise of the “gift of a son” I think he would have plugged it into some current situation in his nation. That isn’t to say he was ignorant of there being more than he could grasp, but that, for him, these words applied right then and there. Only as God’s plan is played out does the greater meaning of the old prophet’s words come to light.
Take Away: Even when we think we know what’s going on we’re often surprised to later realize that the Lord was working at levels beyond our grasp.

Devotional on Isaiah

Texas Hill Country – 2006

Looking to the distant future
Isaiah 11: The whole earth will be brimming with knowing God-Alive, a living knowledge of God ocean-deep, ocean-wide.
Isaiah doesn’t spend all his time looking to the future but when he does, he does it big time. He describes not only a 700 year distant future and the coming of the promised Messiah, but an even more distant future, thousands of years ahead. That future is my future too. People generally think that they have to go to the book of Revelation to look forward, but here in Isaiah we are also able to turn to the end of the story. It ends with a world that knows God. That “knowing” is anything but superficial. It’s as deep and wide as the ocean. Here we not only get a profound look forward, but a look backward as well. This is our purpose, God’s intention when he walked with Adam in the Garden. He desires a deep and intimate relationship with human beings who are the crowing act of Creation. Even as Isaiah describes the strong medicine that’s coming to his generation, he gives a glimpse of what that medicine is intended to accomplish. In this case, it’s to move people one step closer to what the Lord created humanity for in the first place.
Take Away: From the beginning our purpose has been to know the Lord and to live in a deep relationship with him.

Devotional on Proverbs

2004 – Big Island, Hawaii

Grabbing the gusto, looking to eternity
Proverbs 1: When you grab all you can get, that’s when it happens: the more you get, the less you have.
As I read this passage I can’t help but think of the beer commercial that tells us we only go ’round once in life so we’d better grab all the gusto we can. I actually think there’s some truth to that. Life is a gift of God filled with many wonderful opportunities and blessings. I can’t sit around talking about “pie in the sky” and get the most out of my life. There’s a lot of living to do right now. The wise man of the Proverbs, though, gives me the other side of that coin. If I make my life completely about living in the here and now, ignoring all that is yet to come, well, I’m setting myself up for a great fall. Life is more than “right now.” This life might be considered to be a warm up for eternity. So, grabbing the gusto can make sense, but that approach must be kept on a leash and not allowed to just run wild because there’s much more to our existence than just going ’round once. Or, as Jesus says in Matthew 6:20, “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
Take Away: One way to live the best life possible in the here and now is to live with an eye on eternity.

Devotional on Isaiah

Lost Maples State Park, TX – 2006

Only God can speak of the future with certainty
Isaiah 14: Exactly as I planned, it will happen.
The topic is still the downfall of mighty Babylon. The very subject likely sounds like so much wishful thinking to many. After all, Isaiah is talking about an unstoppable world power that dominates the entire region. Any suggestion that Babylon will come crashing down must be an excursion into fiction. Still, that’s Isaiah’s message. Even though no power on earth can challenge this mighty army, a Power above earth has it in His sights. Now, some have used this passage as a proof that God has either fully mapped out the future or somehow travels through time or even exists in all of time at once. I accept the possibility of the first, but can’t see the “time travel” versions. For one thing, everything we know about God is what he’s told us or shown us about himself. We might read something in the Bible and conclude that God did it, or knew it, because he “looked ahead in time.” However, to do that is to come to our own conclusions, and not because we’ve been given a Biblical insight about God. Well, so much for the “time travel.” The first suggestion is that God mapped it all out. As I said, I believe that’s possible. That is, I believe the Almighty has the power and authority to do just that. The problem for me isn’t in that arena at all. Instead, it’s that such a view destroys the possibility of free will. In other words, God could map everything out, but he can’t plan it all and still grant free will to human beings. That leaves me with a view of God that concludes he “could” have designed a universe in which he could travel through time, but we have no evidence that he did and that he could have written the entirety of Creation out on day one, but he couldn’t have done that and given human beings anything greater than the illusion of free will. So what do I do with a passage in which God says things will happen as he planned? I’ll simply accept it. Babylon has displeased the Almighty who says, “Because you have acted as you have, I’ve decided just how I’m going to do away with you.” Things will happen to Babylon as God has said because God is going to bring it to pass. It’s not because he’s already seen it, looking into the future or because he intended, from the beginning, for Babylon to fail as it will. Rather, it’s God, in Sovereign authority, declaring what he is going to bring to pass.
Take Away: It’s fun to think about the nature of time and the foreknowledge of God, but we’d better not get too theologically invested in our musing.

Devotional on Isaiah

2007 – West side of RMNP – Fairview Curve

Living in the “right now”
Isaiah 43: Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history.
This passage was especially meaningful to me several years ago when I was going through a major change in my life. At the time, I was dealing with some “baggage” from the past even as I prepared to move forward. As I read this portion of Isaiah the Lord seemed to highlight these words. I needed to focus on what God was doing right then and move forward into that. This passage inspired me to look forward with confidence. The Lord was about to do a new thing and he was going to let me be a part of it. How about you? Is there something from your past that needs to be forgotten? If so, let the Lord help you to do that. The place to start is to refuse to keep thinking about it. “Don’t keep going over old history.” Every time it comes to mind, reject it. Then, replace those memories by concentrating on the “new thing” God is doing in you and through you. Live in what God is doing right now rather than in some past disappointment.
Take Away: Is there something from your past that needs to be forgotten?

Devotional on Isaiah

2007 – Dream Lake, RMNP, CO

God keeps his word
Isaiah 44: From the beginning, who else has always announced what’s coming?
These pages of Isaiah are some of the most encouraging in the whole Bible. God has such good news for his people. Salvation is coming to their spiritually dry lives like streams flowing into a parched desert. This promise is so great that people can hardly get their minds and hearts around it. To help them do that, the Lord puts his credentials on display. He says he’s the first and the last and “everything in between.” He’s always trustworthy and he’s the one who can speak about his future actions with absolute certainty. I know some see this passage as ammunition for “God’s knowledge of the future” discussions but it’s more correctly seen as “God keeps his word” material. The Lord isn’t passively watching events unfold and he’s not letting history proceed in whatever direction it happens to find. This God is on purpose in his dealings with Creation. As he speaks to a fallen Israel he has promises to make. Salvation will come because he’ll keep his word. How does God know salvation will come? He knows it because he’s going to do it. Generations later, God’s promise is kept in a stable in Bethlehem.
Take Away: The Lord is the only one who can speak of the future with absolute certainty.

Devotional on Isaiah

2007 – Alberta Falls, RMNP, CO

Preview of the crucifixion
Isaiah 53: It was our sins that did that to him.
The prophet’s description of future events is as powerful a passage as there is in the Bible. His words are so clear that we tend to just “blend” them in with the contemporary accounts from the Gospels of the crucifixion of Jesus as though Isaiah is another Gospel writer. This, though, is an amazing description of an event hundreds of years before it happens. What a picture it is: God’s chosen one, the Savior, being brutalized; ripped and torn and crushed. Isaiah’s description causes us to wince and maybe to turn the page to something else. However, if the picture of horror he paints for us is greatly disturbing, the reason for it is even more disturbing. The Messiah, our Hope, is suffering in this horrible way for our sins: for my sins. As hymn writer John S. B. Monsell put it, “My sins, my sins…oh how sad on Thee they fall.” Isaiah saw it in all its terribleness. He also recognized it for what it was. Our sins, my sins, are the reason for it all.
Take Away: Why did Jesus suffer as he did? For an answer, look in a mirror.

Devotional on Jeremiah

2009 – Endicott Arm, AK

Knowing the future
Jeremiah 25: Once the seventy years is up, I’ll punish the king of Babylon.
It’s pretty clear to me that the prophets like Jeremiah are mostly involved in proclaiming God’s message to their contemporaries. However, once in a while they do what we often associate with the ministry of the prophets: telling the future. This prophecy doesn’t contain hidden terms and double meanings. Instead, it’s a clear statement about the future. God is angry, Jeremiah says, and the new king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, is going to be used to bring judgment on the people of Israel. That judgment will last for seventy years. After that Babylon itself will be judged. In this message Jeremiah’s naming names and setting dates. Some people say this is an example of God seeing the future, but I think it’s better understood as God telling what he’s going to do in the future. After all, if the Almighty says he’s going to do something I can take it to the bank. I think there’s much about the future that hasn’t been foretold because God hasn’t set a specific agenda for it. Mainly, he wants me to trust him and believe that no matter what happens he’ll see me through. I also think that the big themes are already decided; some very specifically and some in more general terms. For instance I believe that Jesus is coming back, the dead will be raised, Judgment day is sure, and everyone will spend forever somewhere as a result of that Judgment. I don’t need to sweat the details any more than Jeremiah has to detail every single event leading up to the judgment of Babylon, over seventy years in the future. He’s given an outline of the future and that’s what he tells. I also have an outline of the future, though it’s not as specific as was Jeremiah’s. My responsibility is to prepare for that future, and to live through the unknown details of every day with an eye toward the known “big day.”
Take Away: We don’t know all the details of the future but we do know about the big stuff – and it’s the big stuff that we’d better get ready for.

Devotional on Jeremiah

2009 – Brazos Bend State Park – TX

Looking into the future
Jeremiah 43: He’ll set up his throne on the very stones I’ve had buried here.
I don’t believe that the future is mapped out in detail because I firmly believe God has given us the gift, and responsibility, of free will. However, I certainly believe that some things about the future are preordained. It isn’t that the Lord has looked into the future and seen things happening; it’s just that he’s Sovereign and he’s declared he’s going to bring certain things to pass. When the Almighty says he’s going to do something, that’s just as sure as if it already happened. In this passage we find Jeremiah in Egypt. I’m not sure why Johanan and the others brought him along. Apparently, it’s similar to why King Zedekiah kept Jeremiah locked up but couldn’t resist going to him for the latest word from the Lord. Jeremiah’s message to them is unwavering. The Lord said, “Don’t go to Egypt” and they’ve gone to Egypt anyway. The Lord said, “If you go to Egypt you’ll find the death and destruction you’re fleeing.” Now, Jeremiah drives that point home by having some stones laid along the walkway that leads to one of Pharaoh’s palaces. He says that the day’s coming when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon will sit his throne right on top of those stones as he claims the gem of Egypt for Babylon. Again, I don’t see every detail of the future as predetermined. Still, there’s plenty that God has already declared to be certain. For instance, Jesus is coming back, Judgment day is sure, and everyone will spend forever somewhere. I have the freedom to prepare for those certainties or not, as my future isn’t predetermined. By the grace of God that much is up to me and my eternity hangs in the balance based on that decision.
Take Away: Certain things about the future are sure but how I respond to the grace of God in preparing for that future he leaves to me.

Devotional on Ezekiel

2010 – Goose Island State Park, TX

Looking upward, seeing hope
Ezekiel 17: I, God, made the great tree small and the small tree great.
The prophet pictures the monarchy of Judah as a majestic cedar; a strong, enduring fixture on the landscape. Then the imagery changes and Judah is seen as a fruitful vine, not as majestic as before, but now under the dominion of Babylon and transplanted there. Ezekiel says that in rebelling against Babylon this “fruitful vine” will also be uprooted and then allowed to die out. It seems that this is just another gloom and doom message. That’s just what it is until we reach the final paragraph of the chapter. The illustration appears to leave us with a destroyed Judah, with no leadership, rejected by God. Then Ezekiel adds a new dimension to his illustration. Once again we find ourselves looking at a mighty cedar. This time, God, personally, takes a cutting from the very crown of the tree. The great tree will be destroyed, but out of that cutting a new monarchy, a new King, will rise to lead Judah. This new cedar will be the greatest of all. Ezekiel has given us a parable of the Messiah. This Chosen One will rise out of the line of David, but will rule as none of the old line ever ruled. He’ll be King of kings, and Lord of lords.
Take Away: The Lord always keeps his promises.

Devotional on Ezekiel

2011 – Thames Cruise – the actual London Bridge

Gog and Magog
Ezekiel 39: I’ll use them to demonstrate my holiness with all the nations watching.
The prophet has encouraging words for the broken people of God. The Lord will breathe life back into their dry bones and the nation will be brought back from the destruction that has come. It’s at this point that Ezekiel turns his attention to the “distant future” and the mysterious “Gog and Magog.” From what I can tell, the more down to earth commentators think that Ezekiel’s original audience knew just who he was talking about and that this prophecy is much like those given against Egypt, Tyre, Sidon, and other nations in the region. Taken at face value, then, Ezekiel is prophesying that in a more distant future, after the restoration of Israel, another regional power will come against God’s people. When that happens, the Lord will move to defend them and will destroy the invaders. However, there are two things that get the attention of many. First, this nation from “the north” isn’t clearly identified in history. Second, “Magog” is mentioned in a similarly vague way in Genesis and then Gog and Magog make a major appearance in the book of Revelation as part of the wind up of history. If we conclude that the “distant future” Ezekiel’s talking about is still in our future we find ourselves swimming in the deeper waters of prophecy. I hate to disappoint you, but I’m not ready to go there. I think it’s more likely that Ezekiel is talking about a nation well known to him and his listeners and that the distant future isn’t “book of Revelation distant.” I think that when John writes Revelation he’s reminded of Ezekiel’s words: an attack on God’s people by a coalition of enemy forces. He uses that reference to describe the scene of the final battle. To me, the key to the whole passage is God’s promise to defend his people and to “demonstrate his holiness” to the world. That concept plugs into both the Ezekiel and the Revelation prophecies. It also plugs into my life: when everything seems to be against me the Lord knows how to rescue me as one of his people. Rather than getting all mystic about this passage, I’d rather find here yet another promise of God’s faithfulness even in the most difficult of circumstances.
Take Away: Even when it seems everything is falling apart God is still God and God is always faithful to those who trust in him.

Devotional on Daniel

2011 – Windsor Castle, UK

Take your pick
Daniel 4: Make a clean break with your sins…quit your wicked life…then you will continue to have a good life.
Nebuchadnezzar’s been dreaming again. This time he dreams of a larger-than-life tree that commands the landscape and provides for all around it. In the dream God orders the tree to be cut down but the stump be saved. Nebuchadnezzar wants to know the meaning of the dream and Daniel comes through for him. The king’s “statue” dream was about his kingdom. His “tree” dream is about him personally. The Lord’s weary of Nebuchadnezzar’s ignoring him. When there are miraculous events that declare God Almighty to him Nebuchadnezzar gives God lip service, but goes on living his own way. This time, the Lord will touch his life directly to humble him enough that he’ll stop merely declaring the Lord to be God but will start acting as though he believes it. After explaining the dream to Nebuchadnezzar Daniel pleads with him to respond now and avoid the reality of what he’s dreamed. In other words, through the dream and Daniel’s interpretation of it Nebuchadnezzar is being given a choice. If he continues as he is the dream will become reality. If he repents right now and changes his ways he can continue “to have a good life.” I see this as an example of the openness of God. Nebuchadnezzar’s future isn’t already set, but based on how he responds to this warning, it’s already known. If he heeds this warning from God things will go one way. If he ignores it, things will go the other. In this I see the Lord as knowing, not just one set future, but all possible futures. In this application we see God not only warning Nebuchadnezzar, but offering him a much more desirable alternative. Still, the Lord won’t negate his free will…the ball is in Nebuchadnezzar’s court.
Take Away: The Lord has granted us free will, but he holds us accountable for our exercise of that free will.

Devotional on Daniel

2011 – Paris – Notre-Dame Cathedral

The bottom line on the bottom line
Daniel 7: The Old One sat down.
The Book of Daniel is clearly divided into two parts. The first half recounts for us stories of God’s empowerment of and protection over the Hebrews who were taken into Babylon. The second half contains Daniel’s reports of his visions and dreams concerning the future. I think anyone will agree that the stories are more fun than the visions. However, we find in these six chapters of Daniel Old Testament writing that reminds us of the Book of Revelation. In fact, it’s likely that the writer of Revelation borrows some of his imagery from these visions. When Daniel is tossed into the den of lions we read about it as a very personal account of faith and deliverance. Now, his visions of the flow of history are so broad in scope as to take our breath away. He sees kingdoms rise and fall as bewildering history unfolds before him. Theologically, I firmly believe the Lord has granted us free will and, because of that, the future isn’t predetermined in detail. However, I also believe that God is ushering the human race to a future he’s already declared. In other words, I’m free to cooperate with God or not. Because of that, my future isn’t predestined. The big picture, though, is known to God because he’s already determined to bring it to pass. When the Almighty decides to do something, well, he doesn’t have to see the future to state that it will happen. In this specific vision, Daniel sees a series of future kingdoms appear, flourish, and then give way to the next. At one point he notes that in the midst of all the rising and falling that there’s a fiery throne and on that throne sits the Ancient of Days. I love that picture. Kingdoms rise and fall, human history marches through time, and in the midst of it all we see God in his glory and authority. I don’t claim to have all that great a handle on prophecy but I think I have this one figured out. Through it all, in it all, above it all: God is.
Take Away: Everything else gives way. God remains.

Devotional on Daniel

2011 – Paris – around the city – Eiffel Tower lit up

The unseen part of life
Daniel 10: I was waylaid by the angel-prince of the kingdom of Persia.
In general, I’m not a mystic person. That is, I don’t see the devil behind every bad thing that happens and I don’t think most of the events of life are being orchestrated by God. Still, I do believe there’s an entire part of our existence that’s very real yet mostly unseen. That isn’t really much of a stretch for us anyway. For instance, a person born blind can be fully convinced of the reality of color even though he’s never seen it. However, in that case the blind person has plenty of people around him who do see so he has an abundance of input concerning what is personally beyond his grasp. When it comes to the spiritual dimension there’s much less reliable information. We end up in passages like this one receiving just a fleeting glimpse of events beyond our normal sight. Even then, the purpose of the passage isn’t to explain all this anyway, so I have to tread very carefully here. Daniel has an encounter with a messenger of God, an angel. Others sense this being’s presence, but can’t see it. They flee. Daniel though, sees and faints at the sight! The angel is there to talk about future events, but in passing mentions that he was delayed by another angel for three weeks and also mentions he has to go back to fight against that same being when he’s finished with Daniel. I know that better educated people than I have worked through this passage, coming to various conclusions about the part of existence we cannot see (or concluded that this passage has nothing to do with that). For me, I accept the fact that there are realities that I can’t see. While I don’t think I go around with a little devil on one shoulder and a little angel on the other, I do believe that this part of existence is just as real as the coffee cup sitting here on the table. I also believe that there are times when the unseen is very close by and having a direct influence over me and what’s happening in my life. Finally, I realize that I am, in general, blind to all of this. I have to trust the Holy Spirit, who can see it all and who was sent to be my Guide to help me navigate through the unseen part of life.
Take Away: We should be thankful for the guidance of the Holy Spirit who sees what we cannot see and helps us avoid that which would do us harm.

Devotional on Daniel

2011 – Paris – Versailles – Orangerie

The big picture
Daniel 12: It will be a time of trouble, the worst trouble the world has ever seen.
Imagine the second part of Daniel as a mural done by a master artist depicting the rise and fall of kingdoms through history. As we examine the mural we see mighty nations rise, then divide, and then fall to some new world power. Some folks have patiently examined Daniel’s “mural,” attaching labels to the various kingdoms he describes. Those folks might be right and they might be wrong. Frankly, for me to attempt this is a waste of time. The least of those who seriously attempt to match nations up with Daniel’s vision is superior to me. I get lost in it all fairly soon. I do come away from Daniel’s sweeping picture with certain impressions. For one thing, I’m reminded that, even though I firmly believe human beings have free will, there’s an overarching flow of human history that’s firmly in the hands of God. Second, even though it seems some things happen outside of God’s providence, I’m reminded that the Lord remains Sovereign over all. Whether or not I think God is orchestrating, down to some detail, the flow of events I need to remember that nothing’s happening on the world stage that he isn’t at least allowing to happen. Finally, I see that there’s an end to the story. Things won’t forever continue as they are. Daniel sums it up with a description of everything coming to a head with “the worst trouble the world has ever seen.” The Lord isn’t a bystander to human history. He’s ushering us along to some specific events and, ultimately, to a specific conclusion. As I watch the world news and see the clashes of world powers, it’s good to remember that nothing that happens is a surprise to God. That may not be a very complete view of the nature of prophecy, but it’s not a bad place to start and, while I may not understand the specifics, I do get the big picture.
Take Away: There’s an overarching flow of human history that’s firmly in the hands of the Lord.

Devotional on Jonah

2013 – Shenandoah National Park, VA – Skyline Drive

The God of whatever happens
Jonah 3: God…did change his mind about them.
What an interesting statement! God intends to do one thing, but then, in response to what they do, he changes his mind and does something else. This view of God challenges our thinking about who he is and how he works in this world. The Lord’s willing to be influenced by what we say and do. Of course, in this case, this is what he wanted to have happen. Had God only wanted to destroy them we’d have no story of Jonah and the big fish. Instead, we’d have another Sodom and Gomorrah story about fire and brimstone wiping out a sinful city. The reluctant prophet is sent on this mission exactly because God wants their lives to change. This is a classic Old Testament prophet situation. The prophet says, “If you do this, God’s going to do that…if you do that, God’s going to do this.” The Lord’s message to Nineveh is that, because of their sin, destruction is coming. However, even though it’s unspoken, they’re also being given a choice. If sin is bringing destruction, repentance will bring life. When the people of Nineveh make the right choice God is happy to change his mind. This kind of thinking opens up all kinds of possibilities for us. When I pray, asking for God’s intervention in some matter, I’m not just going through a spiritual discipline. Rather, I’m actually being allowed to influence God! My standing in this world is much more than my traveling some predetermined path to some predetermined conclusion. I’m a partner with God who’s allowing me to work with him in changing the world. Here’s a view of a God who’s never at a loss; who always knows what he’ll do in response to what I do of my own free will. Such a view doesn’t make God less. Instead, it makes him more. He’s God whatever happens.
Take Away: As his people we’re partners with the Lord who allows us to work with him in changing the world.

Devotional on Micah

2013 – North Carolina

Back to the future
Micah 5: Bethlehem…from you will come the leader who will shepherd-rule Israel.
It becomes quite clear to anyone who reads through the Old Testament prophets that speaking of future events is not their job one. Most often they focus on current events, calling people to a genuine walk with God and to living just lives as his people. However, once in a while, they’re given pretty specific insights into God’s plans. You might say that they get a glimpse of the future – not as though the future is out there to be seen if you just know how, but that the Lord shares some specific part of his intentions. As Micah describes God’s plan to remake his people he gets a glimpse of the coming shepherd-leader and realizes he will come from David’s home town of Bethlehem. In the years to come, that little revelation will grow large in the minds of God’s people. And well it should, this is something concrete, a test to be applied in identifying the Messiah. Meanwhile, Micah doesn’t dwell on this juicy bit of revelation and moves on to describe the ministry of the One sent from God. Clearly, there’s a lot to think about as I read things like this but today I’m simply reminded that God doesn’t do stuff by accident. In this passage, we find the Lord planning 700 years into the future where he intends to do something connected to an event just as distant in the past. That is, he plans for the Messiah to be born in the town where the greatest King of Israel’s history was born. The Lord not only has specific plans for the future but he also has the heart of a poet in those plans.
Take Away: The Lord doesn’t do things by accident.

Devotional on Malachi

2014 – Arches National Park, Utah

The curtain falls, but Act II is about to begin
Malachi 4: Remember and keep the revelation I gave through my servant Moses.
Did Malachi understand that these words were to become, for Christians across the ages, the closing words of the Old Testament? It’s highly unlikely. However, I believe God, the Holy Spirit knew it. The last two paragraphs of Malachi are an excellent ending for the Old Testament. For those of that day, still living under the Law, one of the last words is “remember.” They’re to keep the “rules and procedures for right living” given them by Moses. If they do that they’ll have done what the Lord requires of them. However, there’s another last word. It’s, “also look ahead.” The Lord isn’t finished working out redemption for them and all that has happened thus far has prepared the way for the really big deal that’s yet to come. As the curtain’s falling on this, the first act we’re told that the next act is going to be both interesting and surprising. They’ll know it’s starting when Elijah shows up to usher it in. For the people of Israel, that’s a long 400 years distant in the future. As for me, all I have to do is turn the page to see what has, up to now, been the black and white picture of God’s salvation plan displayed in living color.
Take Away: Even to this day we are wise to obediently remember what the Lord has told us while at the same time look forward to what he has promised us.

Devotional on Luke

2014 – Riding the Anacortes Ferry to Friday Harbor, WA

Pay attention

Luke 21: I’m not just saying this for some future generation, but for this one, too.

Jesus’ description of future events is sobering. He describes false teachers, betrayal, wars, earthquakes, persecution, destruction, and other huge events. Since I know that some of this already happened I’m tempted to think I’m clear of at least some of the things our Lord describes. Then I run head long into Jesus’ declaration that these words are for all of his followers. He says that coming big events are obvious to those who pay attention even as the coming of summer is forecast by the budding of the trees. Our Lord wants his followers to pay attention, not so much to specific things, like the rise of a false Messiah, but to the general flow of things. After all, a person who watches just one tree as a predictor of summer might or might not see new leaves. However, one who watches an entire forest will see proof abundant that things are changing. On one hand, I think it’s a mistake to list a few “signs” and focus in on just them. After all, one might have misread the meaning of the passage in the first place. However, if I pay attention I might just see that big things are brewing. At that time, I don’t have to be afraid, according to Jesus, but I do want to be sure I’m ready for what I believe is coming.

Take Away: Even if I miss some of the signs I’ll be okay if I stay ready.

Pastor Scott's Pages