Wednesday, July 29, 2015

THE LORD SPEAKS (PART 3)



Can I pray for you in any way? Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com.

In Christ, Mark
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
** Like posts and send friend requests to the author of The Christian Walk, Mark Cummings on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mark.cummings.733?ref=tn_tnmn
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

(a people) who sit among the graves and spend their nights keeping secret vigil; who eat the flesh of pigs, and whose pots hold broth of impure meat.

Isaiah 65:4

This ends today’s reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

Today we look at the third devotion of a seventeen devotional series titled, The Lord Speaks, as we conclude the study of the Book of Isaiah. Thus far, we have heard the Lord saying this:

“I am forever revealing Myself to everyone, making Myself known and offering eternal life to anyone who would call on My name.”

and

“I despise obstinate people who choose to walk in sin and chase after their will and desires, those who have no problem with provoking Me with their disrespect and disregard.”

So the Lord is always revealing Himself to others but there are those who choose to not receive Him and live in sin, a choice that shows nothing but disrespect and disregard, a choice that provokes the Lord to anger.

Today, we find the Lord continuing to speak about those who choose to live apart from Him and through the practices of the Old Testament Israelites, we find a truth revealed that applied then and now to all non-believers. Before we get to that truth that the Lord is telling us today, let’s look again at verse 4 of Isaiah 65:

(a people) who sit among the graves and spend their nights keeping secret vigil; who eat the flesh of pigs, and whose pots hold broth of impure meat. Isaiah 65:4

The people the Lord is referring to here is, of course, none other than the Israelites, the alleged people of God who were supposed to be giving Him their fullest dedication and devotion, just as He gave them.

But note the problem here. The people were choosing to hang out with the dead instead of the only One, the Lord, who could truly give them life.

You see, the Israelites were spending their nights in secret vigil among the graves, a popular pagan practice known as necromancy. Those who participated in such a ritual hoped to gain some kind of future vision of things to come by summoning the spirits of the dead for guidance and direction. The entire matter was completely prohibited by the Lord and those who would spend time at the graves were considered to be committing unclean acts, unclean being a code word for sinful.

Further, the Israelites were also eating the flesh of pigs, another act of uncleanliness, and in cooking these prohibited meats were also defiling their pots which would end up filled with the broth of the impure meat. It’s not that pigs were the only food the Israelites had to eat. They had plenty of foods to choose from that would have been allowable by the Lord but instead of choosing to be obedient to His commands, they instead chose to sin against Him and dine on illicit meats. Their actions remind us of the couple who brought sin and disobedience into the world in the first place, as Adam and Eve opted to eat fruit forbidden by the Lord and mankind has paid the penalty for their insubordination ever since.

Caught consulting the dead instead of trusting a Lord who was very much alive.

Eating foods that the Lord had strictly banned.

Both were signs that the people of Israel had decided to do whatever they wanted to do, no matter what the Lord has said. The ways of the world had become more attractive to them than the ways of the Lord.

And sadly, just as we saw in yesterday’s devotion, I’m afraid that people today are a lot like the Old Testament Israelites in the way they’re living. For people are still seeking their guidance and direction from all the wrong places, not even seeing the Lord as an option, and they still consistently choose to do what they want to do instead of being obedient to God’s wishes.  

So what’s the message here for today? What is the Lord trying to say to us?

I believe we need to go back to the first item of issue in today’s scripture and then dig just a little deeper within.

For the Israelites, in making it a bigger priority to seek the dead than the Lord who was living, showed us that when we walk apart from the Lord, we are choosing to live nearer to death than life. In other words, walking the path of sinful wickedness that leads to destruction means more than walking the path of righteousness through the Lord, the only path that leads to life, now and forever.

In these words from Isaiah, the Lord is asking us the following question and asking us to evaluate the way we are living:

Are the ways of the world of greater importance to you than My ways?

Pick carefully because you cannot be in the middle. You can’t toe the line between the world and the Lord.

For the Lord, who gives us His fullest devotion, will accept nothing short of our fullest dedication in return. It’s time we all started doing just that or else.

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

PS: Please share this with anyone you feel might be blessed by it.

Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

THE LORD SPEAKS (PART 2)



Can I pray for you in any way? Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com.

In Christ, Mark
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
** Like posts and send friend requests to the author of The Christian Walk, Mark Cummings on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mark.cummings.733?ref=tn_tnmn
** Become a Follower of The Christian Walk at http://the-christian-walk.blogspot.com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

All day long I have held out My hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations—a people who continually provoke Me to My very face, offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on altars of brick.

Isaiah 65:2-3

This ends today’s reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

How does the Lord view the people of the world when He evaluates them today? What would He say about the way we’re living?

This question is at the heart of the second devotion in this seventeen part series, The Lord Speaks, as The Christian Walk Ministry finishes the study of the Book of Isaiah.

So what view did the Lord have of the Israelites in the time of Isaiah?

He tells us as He speaks in verses 2 and 3 of Isaiah 65. Look again at His words here:

All day long I have held out My hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations—a people who continually provoke Me to My very face, offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on altars of brick.  Isaiah 65:2-3

It isn’t exactly a glowing assessment, is it?

Frankly, it’s a failing grade on the marking scale of obedience to the Lord that they are to serve willingly and willfully. They have flunked the test administered by their Maker and Master.

Where were they going wrong? The Lord details the errors of their ways as follows:

1. They were an obstinate people.

Obstinate is just a fancy word for being stubborn. In other places in the scriptures, you will find the Lord using the word “stiff-necked” to describe His people and it was true. For over and over again in the Old Testament, we find the Israelites choosing to violate God’s commandments, particularly when it came to their worship practices. They lived among pagan communities that worshiped many different gods and idols, and the people of God found themselves tempted into adopting those practices themselves. God sent consequences onto His people on more than one occasion and, after they had repented and changed their ways, He restored them to His favor.  But then, they would backslide right back into the old habits that got them in trouble in the first place. Indeed, they were an obstinate people.

2. They worshiped in ways that angered the Lord.

False worship is really no worship at all.

That’s the way the Lord sees it and we need to see it the same way.

All the Israelites accomplished through offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on brick altars, both pagan rituals, was provoking the Lord they should have been fearfully obeying.

Only a fool would intentionally do something that they knew would incite the Lord’s wrath and we can definitely say that the people of Israel were fools. They knew they weren’t supposed to do the things they did but they did them anyways.

Did I mention they were stubborn?

3. They walked in ways that weren’t good.

This is biblical code for simply saying they walked the path of sinfulness. For there are only two paths we can travel in life. One is the narrow path of righteousness that leads to life today and for all eternity, the path that Jesus told us to travel, the path that we enter through Him and a life modeled after Him. The other path is the wide path to death and annihilation and the scriptures tell us that many will travel it (Matthew 7:13-14).

It’s this wide path to destruction that the Israelites were walking on. We know it because the Lord tells us that they were walking in ways that weren’t good.

4. They pursued their own imaginations.

We have no idea what was in the imaginations of the people of God but we know that the Lord wasn’t present there. Had they had Him in mind, they would not have exercised lifestyles marked by wickedness and actions that made them His enemies.

If only the Israelites had made the Lord their number one priority, their sole treasure and object of focus. Their story would have been so much different.

Friends, let’s go back to the opening questions for the world in the here and now.

How does the Lord view the people of the world when He evaluates them today? What would He say about the way we’re living?

I hate to say it but I believe He might see a people much like the Old Testament Israelites of more than 2,000 years ago, a people who are obstinate, worshiping things that anger Him, walking in ways that aren’t good and pleasing in His sight, and pursuing their own imaginations.

We had better wake up. For the Lord has spoken and here’s what He had to say to the Israelites of old and to us today:

“I despise obstinate people who choose to walk in sin and chase after their will and desires, those who have no problem with provoking Me with their disrespect and disregard.”

Are we listening?

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

PS: Please share this with anyone you feel might be blessed by it.

Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com

Monday, July 27, 2015

THE LORD SPEAKS (PART 1)



Can I pray for you in any way? Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com.

In Christ, Mark
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
** Like posts and send friend requests to the author of The Christian Walk, Mark Cummings on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mark.cummings.733?ref=tn_tnmn
** Become a Follower of The Christian Walk at http://the-christian-walk.blogspot.com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

“I revealed myself to those who did not ask for Me; I was found by those who did not seek Me. To a nation that did not call on My name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’”

Isaiah 65:1

This ends today’s reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

It’s been a great journey.

Last August, I started to write from the Book of Isaiah and nearly a year later, I am ready to come down the homestretch and finish with a seventeen part series titled “The Lord Speaks,” drawn from the last two chapters of the book. As the series title indicates, this book named after one of Israel’s most prominent prophets, ends with the Lord having the last say on a variety of topics. Today, in part 1, we find the Lord reminding us that He is always revealing Himself to creation, even when His creation is necessarily looking for Him. Look at today’s scripture verse, the opening words to Isaiah 65:

“I revealed myself to those who did not ask for Me; I was found by those who did not seek Me. To a nation that did not call on My name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’”  Isaiah 65:1

Note here that in the Old Testament period of this book, it was believed that only the Israelites, also referred to as the Jews, were entitled to a special, exclusive relationship with God and thus gain His salvation. Anyone who was not a Jew and outside of the Jewish inner society circle was considered a Gentile, one unclean and unworthy of receiving anything from God. God solely favored the Israelites and one else. They were considered His people and He their God.

This is why this single verse from Isaiah 65 had to raise a few Israelite eyebrows because when the Lord speaks here, He’s not speaking about them but rather the Gentiles, the non-Jews who were considered outsiders with God and without hope.

As we find prophesied, God would reveal Himself to the Gentiles, even though they did not ask for Him, seek Him, or call on His name. God didn’t need an invitation to reveal His glory to anyone and there was a day ahead where He would swing open the gates of eternity for all to have the chance to dwell with Him forever through His Son Jesus, the coming Savior. One’s religious social status, whether Jew or Gentile, had no bearing on finding salvation. All one had to do was profess Jesus as their Lord and Savior and believe that He was resurrected from the dead. The Apostle Paul would say as much and use these words from Isaiah too:

What does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in Him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:8-13

The good news from the Old Testament was that salvation was coming to all people out of love from the Lord who was, is, and is the Lord of all. The Gentiles were certainly not considered God’s people at the time nor were they seeking God but they would one day have as much right to the kingdom of heaven as their Jewish counterparts.

But how can we see this speaking to us today, some two to three thousand years later?

Well, I think it’s simple for although salvation has been offered to all people since Jesus’ death and subsequent resurrection, there still are so many people who are not asking for Him or seeking Him. Yet, although they fail to call on the name of Jesus, He is still revealing Himself to Him each and every day with the hope that they will have a change of heart, receiving and accepting His salvation offer.

That’s where Christians all around the world come into play today, Christians called by Jesus to make disciples, baptize them, and teach them to obey all He has commanded (Matthew 28:18-20). These workers in life’s harvest field are to reap a bounty of souls, helping others to hear the good news of salvation through Jesus, and through their work, revealing Jesus to those who still have not come to Him, those who were just as lacking in their knowledge and faith in God and His Son as the Gentiles of the Old Testament days.

Friends, the Lord speaks to us today and has a simple message, reminding us that He is forever revealing Himself to everyone, making Himself known and offering eternal life to anyone who would call on His name.

If you’re not a Christian, today is the day you can change your life forever. All you need to do is confess and repent of your sins and accept Jesus as your personal Savior, knowing that He died to pay the price for your sins to save you. From that point on, as a Christian, you are then to strive to live as Jesus did in all that you do.  

If you’re a Christian, then you are to be partnering with Jesus in carrying out His Great Commission and bringing the message of eternal life through Him to all you meet. In other words, you are to be aggressively helping others to have the same eternal hope that you have in Christ.  

There is no greater gift you can give anyone than that.

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

PS: Please share this with anyone you feel might be blessed by it.

Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com