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This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow. Isaiah 48:17

paths we choose“I told you so.”

Don’t you hate hearing those words? Perhaps they are the words of a friend or a parent or an employer. You thought you had a better idea. You were warned that your idea wouldn’t work. You went ahead anyway and did what you thought best.

If you had been right you’d be a hero right now. But you weren’t. In fact, your decision has made a huge mess for yourself as well as those around you. Now you have to suffer the consequences. Not only that, your decision is like a pebble dropped into a still pool. The ripple effect with affect your life and the life of others for a long time, maybe eternity. Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.”

Whether your decision was personal (such as family, kids, lifestyle), or career oriented, there’s some good news for you. We human beings tend to make decisions that lean towards our own understanding and comfort level. Our finite minds aren’t always able to grasp the full impact of our decisions.

The good news is that there is redemption available to us. Redemption is defined as “the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil.” The implication is that if you need redeeming it’s because of an action you are responsible for, or an action that is outside your control. In other words, whether the consequences are your fault or the fault of another you have hope.

Each of us have no doubt been told something by a parent or teacher and knowingly taken a different path because it looked better and easier to us. Even worse are those times when we knowingly go against what God has told us to do. We do so either intentionally, or in ignorance because we didn’t check with God before we acted.

We are redeemed. That’s the message God give us in Isaiah 48:17. The prophet reminds us that “This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow.

Another way of stating this verse might be to say this. “I know what’s best for you. I’ll teach you all you need to know. But WHEN you stray from me and take the wrong path, I’ll redeem you. When you focus on your own comfort rather than my glory, I’ll redeem you. When your actions cause turmoil for yourself and those around you, I’ll redeem you.

What a blessed promise we have of redemption through Jesus Christ. He alone frees us from everything that seeks to imprison us.

PRAYER: Father God. There are so many times I see my own comfort. So many times I take the path I think best even though I know it’s the wrong path to take. Thank you for Jesus. Thank you that he alone is my redemption from myself and the evil others plan for me. Amen.


In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s house will be the highest of all— the most important place on earth. It will be raised above the other hills, and people from all over the world will stream there to worship. Micah 4:1

moutainWe’d arrived in the middle of the night at our hotel. Although I grew up in the North woods, I’ve always had a fascination with mountains. From time to time in my travels around home I’d enjoy looking out over an area from some high hills, but the mountains still intrigued me. This would be my first trip into the Rocky Mountains. (start John Denver music here)

As I pulled back the curtains in our room the next morning my view was dominated by a huge rock wall that seemed to tower over everything. The top was covered with snow. I couldn’t wait to begin our ascent!

One of the first things that caught my attention as we headed west was that the mountain, which seemed just a stones through from our hotel was really miles away. As we approached the mountain I saw from the hotel we had to travel through some smaller mountains, the foothills, in order to reach our destination.

The road seemed to be a gradual incline at first, until I looked in the rear view mirror and realized we were much higher than when we started. That mountain was much higher and much more dominant than it first appeared. Our car strained to reach the top, but once we reached the summit, the view was breathtaking!

There are times in our lives when it seems our God is small. There are times when we may seem overwhelmed by the future. There may be times when we question our ability to go on. But our God, the one and only true God is much larger than we can imagine. Just as the large mountain towered above everything around it, our God towers in strength, and power over every other god that others may choose be follow.

Don’t be discouraged by the struggles you face as you make the ascent to the mountain. Sometimes the road is gradual. Sometimes it is steep. But the end result is worth the trip.

PRAYER: Father God. There are times when traveling here in the valley I forget your strength and how you tower over everything in my path. Help me to focus on the end of the journey as I struggle, at times, on the way. Amen.

 

 

 


Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation. Colossians 1:15

mirror mirror 2.2.16Most people don’t like to look in the mirror. Looking in the mirror reveals all of our blemishes, at least in our own eyes. Usually, when we do look we look with a critical eye, wanting to make sure we look our very best. Mirrors don’t hide anything. When you see yourself in the mirror, you see exactly what everyone else sees.

One day, just before Jesus was brutally murdered by an angry mob, Philip, one of his disciples, made a very stunning request. Jesus had just announced that he would be leaving them. I can’t imagine how that made his followers feel. They had lived with him for three years. They had left all they had to follow him. Now he was going to leave. How could they possibly understand?

So, in the midst of this distress, Philip says, “Show us the Father and that will be enough.”

I don’t think we gentile believers can really grasp the significance of that statement. Jehovah God, YHWH, was revered, feared and distant to most Jewish believers. Many saw him as demanding and ready to show his wrath at the drop of a hat.

Jesus had shown them a different vision of the Father’s Kingdom. It was a Kingdom of grace and mercy; of healing and restoration; of forgiveness and hope. Still they didn’t completely understand.

When Philip made his request I envision Jesus turning to him and looking him square in the eyes. Maybe he placed his hands on Philip’s shoulders to make sure he had all his attention. Then he said (my paraphrase), “Philip. Look at me. When we look at me you see the Father”.

When he said that to Philip I can imagine Philip looking into Jesus’ eyes and seeing the woman caught in adultery who left pardoned rather than condemned; of him healing the blind man and delivering him from his spiritual and physical darkness; of him returning a now breathing young man to his mother, who celebrated his new life.

Some see God as being an angry task master intent on making our lives miserable. I don’t. I see a loving father who earnestly desires for us to come to him for healing, encouragement, guidance and protection. When I see God I see Jesus hanging on a cross for my sin. When I see God, I see an empty tomb and realize that everything I fear, even death, has been defeated.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus. I bow before you in awe at who you are. Thank you for revealing to me the great love and patience your Father has for me. Forgive me for the times I’ve doubted and rebelled. Help me to live and love the way you showed us to live and love. Amen.


peace on earthSuddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” Luke 2:13-14

I heard the bells on Christmas day, Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet, their words repeat, Peace on earth, goodwill to men

I thought how, as the day had come, The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along in unbroken song, Peace on earth, goodwill to men

The Christmas season always has a bit of a romantic, nostalgia to it. I love the atmosphere artists and musicians have portrayed of warm cozy fires, family celebrations and kisses under the mistletoe. Traditionally Christmas, followed by New Years, is a time of new beginnings and hope.

And in despair I bowed my head, There is no peace on earth, I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song, Of peace on earth, goodwill to men

Reality hits hard. We’ve lost a sense of innocence and security over the years. That truth has come harshly in the past couple weeks with the tragedy in Paris, San Bernadino and London. School shootings have become so common place that if we aren’t careful, we see them as the norm. Families are in trouble. The economy is in trouble. It seems like everyone either has cancer or knows someone being attacked by this disease. It’s no wonder it’s easy to get discouraged by what we see and hear daily on the news and in our circles.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep, God is not dead, nor doth He sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth, goodwill to men.

A recent headline in an Los Angeles paper screamed, GOD CAN’T FIX THIS! It’s easy to understand the author’s frustration. The fact of the matter is, God didn’t break it. We did. The Psalmist expresses similar feelings in several places in the Psalms. My favorite is Psalm 13:1-2 where he pleads with a seemingly absent God. “O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?” And we echo the question? How Long?

While we may never be able to understand why God allows tragedies in our lives, I’m reminded of what the Apostle Peter said just after many of Jesus’ followers left him. Jesus asks, “Will you leave too?” Peter’s response is classic. He says “Where else do we go?” In other words, what other choice do we have.

Throughout history man has found new ways to destroy the peace Jesus came to give us. But too often we fail to realize that inner peace is available to us now through faith in Christ. Can God ‘fix this?’ Yes, some day every knee shall bow. Every single knee of every religion, every ethnic group, every denomination, every political party. Every knee will acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord.

PRAYER: Lord, there are so many times when I get discouraged by what I see around me. Fear and doubt set in assisted by anger. Help me to move on knowing you are with me and will strengthen me no matter how bad the battle becomes. In Jesus name, Amen.


“And if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.” 1 Kings 3:14

“Why can’t you be more like…”

Remember how much you hated hearing that? Maybe it was comparing you to a sibling, a relative or the class valedictorian. It’s fun to compare ourselves to others when we have better gifts and skills. It’s not so much fun to be compared to someone who obviously has their life together better than you do. What would it be like to be compared to someone who lived a life that was below your standards? How would it feel to not only be compared to them, but encouraged to be like them!

That was the situation Solomon found himself in. His father, King David had just died and the kingdom was now securely in Solomon’s hands. God came to him and offered him whatever he wanted and Solomon wisely chose wisdom.

Then, God says to Solomon, (look out, here comes a personal paraphrase), “Ok Solomon, here’s the deal. I want to bless you more than you can imagine because I love you and you love me. So, what I want you to do is to follow the example of your father, David. He was a man after my own heart who followed all my rules.”

I have to wonder if Solomon didn’t take a momentary double-take on that.

“Wait! Like my father David? Most Holy God, do you remember how his affair with mom and how he killed her first husband? Do you remember when his daughter was raped by his son and he did nothing about it? Do you remember how he constantly did his own thing and had to come to you time and again, repent and ask you to forgive him? Wait. That’s it isn’t it God. Dad made plenty of mistakes but he always came back to you. I get it now.”

Maybe it didn’t happen that way for Solomon, but it certainly does for me. If you feel like a failure. If you wonder if you’ll ever get it right? Remember there are many examples in the Bible of men and women who failed miserably and yet, they were used mightily by God.

PRAYER: Lord, I’m constantly reminded by others and my own conscience of my failures. I’m weak, stubborn, rebellious and selfish at times. Yet, even then, I love you. Thank you for always waiting with open arms to welcome me home. Amen.

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