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November 20, 2014

Today you should read: Isaiah 4

A Promise of Restoration

2 But in that day, the branch of the Lord
    will be beautiful and glorious;
the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory
    of all who survive in Israel.
3 All who remain in Zion
    will be a holy people—
those who survive the destruction of Jerusalem
    and are recorded among the living.
4 The Lord will wash the filth from beautiful Zion
    and cleanse Jerusalem of its bloodstains
    with the hot breath of fiery judgment.
5 Then the Lord will provide shade for Mount Zion
    and all who assemble there.
He will provide a canopy of cloud during the day
    and smoke and flaming fire at night,
    covering the glorious land.
6 It will be a shelter from daytime heat
    and a hiding place from storms and rain.

Isaiah is an incredible book of prophecy. The Old Testament is full of stories that point us to Jesus—the book of Isaiah is no exception. The prophecy we see today as we study the six verses of Isaiah 4 point us to the hope we have in our risen savior and His return.

Following the turmoil depicted in the first three chapters, we see in verses 2-3 Jesus “the Branch of the LORD” comes back for His people “those who survive the destruction of Jerusalem and are recorded among the living.”  What an incredible promise for us to hold on to as we go through our day!  Despite all of the problems in the world, God has a solution. He is holy and just and will judge the world “ with the hot breath of fiery judgment.” God will also provide “shade for Mount Zion” or a shelter for us in Christ Jesus. (Psalm 91:1)

In the final verses Isaiah likens this shelter to the pillar of cloud and of fire that lead the Israelites in their exodus from Egypt. (Exodus 13:17-22) The pillar of cloud over the tabernacle was a symbol of God’s favor and presence with the people. Whether cloud or fire, the pillar served as a direct form of guidance from the Lord in a vast, pathless desert. It also served as shade from the incredible heat, protection from dust storms, and as warmth in the fierce cold of night.

The rebellion of God’s people isn’t only an Old Testament issue that has long since passed; we still today live in a society of rebellious people!

Titus 3:3-7

 3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

 

Jesus is our great shelter and the Holy Spirit is our guidance. His sacrifice is what redeems us and His blood is our righteousness. We, His holy people, trust Him because He told us that He is coming back and we look forward to that glorious day, “in that day, the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious.” Be encouraged today that a God who is just and righteous loves you. Be empowered today by His Holy Spirit to share the good news with someone you interact with.

 

Posted by: Alex Boswell, Ministry Intern- Richmond Campus


November 19, 2014

Today you should read: Isaiah 3

Welcome to the study through Isaiah – this will take us through the holidays. It’s a rich book, but one that must be understood in light of prophecy. It’s a prophetic book – in other words, God is using the prophet Isaiah to foretell what will happen to Israel, the coming of a Messiah – Jesus, His death, and more. You must read it with that as a backdrop. Also, remember that prophecy isn’t often segmented like we think it should be. More often than not, it spans many years – even thousands of years in one section.

It’s sufficient to say that God is angry with His people. They continue to turn their backs on Him and worship false idols. God warns them over and over – but they persist. Now it’s judgment time.

…they are doomed! They have brought destruction upon themselves. (v.9b)

Never forget – Sin brings destruction. Everytime. I know we live in a day of grace when it seems like we get by with things – but it’s not true. Our sin has consequences.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Galatians 6:7

Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. James 1:15-16

Sin always has consequences. I know what some of you are thinking… This is too strong Tim – what about grace. I’ll get to that in a minute – but we live in a time where theologians and pastors want to water down God’s judgment. You and I need to understand that sin always has consequences. For many Christians today – the reason that many can sin without giving it a second thought – is because they have forgotten this. Yes – Jesus paid the price for our sin – Yes – we are forgiven of all sin by Him and His death – but we must not forget that our sin had a very high price-tag. And even though you aren’t the one paying for it – you must remember the cost.

We also must be cognizant of the fact that even though grace cleanses and forgives us – it doesn’t always take away the consequences.

Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay. – unknown

Praise God for His Grace and Mercy! Because of God’s love and grace (giving us what we don’t deserve in any way) and mercy (not giving us the penalty we truly deserve) we are forgiven. Praise Him for His kindness.

Tell the godly that all will be well for them. They will enjoy the rich reward they have earned! (v.10)

Praise God today for His grace in your life – take a minute and bask in the goodness of it. Then quickly take a look at your life – is there any sin that you’ve ignored that will reap unfavorable consequences? Confess it – Repent – and Change.

Posted by: Tim Parsons


November 18, 2014

Today you should read: Isaiah 2

“The Lord alone will be exalted in that day,
and the idols will totally disappear.” (v.18)

Today’s passage is a commentary on two types of people, the proud and the humble. As you would suspect, God has two very different messages for each group. For the humble the future is bright. God is taking away the sin, the war, and He will walk close with them. However, the proud will find themselves in a very different scenario. They will fear God’s wrath and will hide from his presence. This day is coming and it is important for each of us to decide which type of person we will be.
With that being said let’s look at the characteristics of both Pride and Humility from this passage.
1. The Proud

The proud are characterized by self worship.

“They bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made” (v.8)

Idol worship is just self worship. Idols are just things we trust in to give us what we want for ourselves.

That’s why when we talk about the idols we struggle with we need to be careful not to talk about them in a victimization type of way. We are not subject to our idols we create them. We must take responsibility and repent from them.
2. The Humble
The humble are characterized by the worship of God and not self.

The humble seek after God and look to learn the ways of God and walk in them (v.3).

Those that are humble are very aware of their imperfection and need for God. Don’t mistake this as a haughty legalism of religion. The humble know their need for God and love the grace and mercy that the cross provides. Their actions are fueled by their love for Christ and their actions toward others are evidence by their hearts (Romans 12:9-21).

So the question today is a very simple one. Which camp do you fall in? Are you proud or humble? Your answer right now is not your greatest concern. It is what you plan on doing in response to your answer that matters. If you find yourself in the camp of the humble then continue to grow in that. If you find yourself dominated by pride then be encouraged by 1 John 1:8-9,
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Posted by: Chad Wiles


November 17, 2014

Today you should read: Isaiah 1

I hate being the bearer of bad news. Many of you can remember the walk of shame into the house when you had a bad report card or failed exam. Or the sting of having to tell someone about the death of a loved one. Or you may remember how anxious you were as you went to confront someone about an issue.

While we all have experienced this at some time or another, none of us knows the weight Isaiah felt when he penned this exhaustive book of scripture. He had the responsibility to proclaim God’s message of disappointment, frustration, and judgment to Israel. These were Isaiah’s people. These were his friends. Yet, now he had to put that aside for the purpose of being God’s prophet in a troubled time.

Here’s some really solid introductory material on the book of Isaiah that I found helpful:

The central theme of the book is God himself, who does all things for his own sake (48:11). Isaiah defines everything else by its relation to God, whether it is rightly adjusted to him as the gloriously central figure in all of reality (45:22–25). God is the Holy One of Israel (1:4), the One who is high and lifted up but who also dwells down among the “contrite and lowly” (57:15), the Sovereign over the whole world (13:1–27:13) whose wrath is fierce (9:12, 17, 21; 10:4) but whose cleansing touch atones for sin (6:7), whose salvation flows in endless supply (12:3), whose gospel is “good news of happiness” (52:7), who is moving history toward the blessing of his people (43:3–7) and the exclusive worship due him (2:2–4). He is the only Savior (43:10–13), and the whole world will know it (49:26). To rest in the promises of this God is his people’s only strength (30:15); to delight themselves in his word is their refreshing feast (55:1–2); to serve his cause is their worthy devotion (ch. 62); but to rebel against him is endless death (66:24).

A microcosm of the book’s message appears in 1:2–2:5. The Lord announces his basic charge against the people: they have received so much privilege from God and ought to be grateful children, but “they have despised the Holy One of Israel” (1:2–4). He describes the purpose of the various judgments they face, namely, to bring them to repentance, or at least to preserve a remnant who will repent (1:5–9). Judah is very diligent to observe the divinely appointed sacrifices, but the people’s hearts are far from God, as their unwillingness to protect their own weakest members exhibits (1:10–20). The Lord called his people to be the embodiment of faithfulness in this world, and yet they are now filled with rampant unfaithfulness at every level (personal, religious, and social); but God intends to purge Zion of its sinful members and set her up as a beacon of light for the whole world. In view of this glorious future, Isaiah’s contemporaries should commit themselves afresh to walking “in the light of the Lord” (1:21–2:5).

There are two main thoughts I want to leave with you today:

1) Maybe God is calling you to be an Isaiah in someone’s life. Is it time for you to share the message of salvation with a friend or family member? Is it time to have that tough, confrontational conversation that you’ve avoided? Step across the line as the Holy Spirit leads. The time may be now.

2) Maybe you’re the recipient of the hard words. Have you been disobedient? Are you straying from your First Love? Do what Isaiah was telling Israel to do: repent and fall into the arms of grace.

What did God teach you in Isaiah’s first chapter? Share your thoughts in the comments section below! Blessings, dear friends.

Posted by: Todd Thomas


November 15, 2014

Today you should read: Titus 3

Titus 3 reveals one of the clearest pictures of what God does in the doctrine of salvation.

First, we see our desperate need for salvation in the first place. Titus 3:4-5a says

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness,

A lot of people don’t believe that they need to be saved from their sins or try to get saved by the wrong things. Those who don’t believe that they need salvation usually don’t believe in sin or that their sin is bad enough for God to punish. As long as we’re not committing mass genocide, we should be good. Others who recognized that they need to be saved from their sins usually try to obtain it in the wrong ways. Some try through religion, through good works and others believe everyone is going to get saved and it’s just one big religion and god anyways. However, just like this verse says, we can’t be saved by our own righteousness but only through His righteousness and that’s when His grace, goodness and loving kindness appears to us through the proclamation of the Gospel. He saves us. We can’t save ourselves.

So what happens when God does save us through the believing power of Jesus? Titus 5b-7 explains.

but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

First God regenerates us, (v. 5b) which is when God gives us a new heart and new life in Jesus. Your old sinful self becomes a new creation in Christ. As C.S. Lewis once said “Christians are not just nice people, they are: or are supposed to be new people.”

Second, God justifies us (v. 7) which is when Jesus took our place in the wrath and punishment of God. Where at one time we were guilty of sinning before a Holy God, He now sees Jesus’ righteousness instead of our unrighteousness.

Third, He sanctifies us (v.5b renewal of the Holy Spirit) which is the continual process of us being set apart from the world for God’s purpose and will through the Holy Spirit He has given us when first accepting Christ. This is also how we will persevere as Christians and shows us that God is not done with us when first just saving us but is continuing to make us more like Him.

Lastly, we are glorified (v. 7b become heirs) which is the promise that we will be everything God intended us to be before sin came into the world and into our lives. We will have a glorified body like Jesus’ resurrected body that will be immune to sin, disease, and decay. It will be glorious, powerful and spiritual.

Now all of these big words and this theology doesn’t really matter unless you live it out like v. 8 says.

The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people

Regeneration doesn’t matter unless you’re living out your new life in Christ in front of others. Justification doesn’t matter unless you continue to trust in how God looks at you and forgives you unlike the world. Sanctification doesn’t matter unless you are making every effort along with God’s grace, to grow to be more like Him and glorification doesn’t matter unless you’re living a life that’s looking forward to a time and place with no sin or suffering. Devote your self to the good works that God has give you in salvation instead of just reading about it in theology books.

Posted by: Erik Koliser


November 14, 2014

Today you should read: Titus 2:9-15

“Then they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive in every way.” Titus 2:10

This is the starting point for the rest of today’s passage. Verses 11-15 tell us of God’s grace revealed to us in salvation through Jesus. It tells us of how we are cleansed from sin, freed from its power and made to be a people for God. This passage is chalk full of some great truths that I encourage you to meditate on and pray through. What I want to hit on are verses 10 and 15. In verse 10 Paul talks about making the teaching of God attractive and in verse 15 he tells us to teach these things (all these truths we just read). So here is what I think we need to walk away with today:

Does my life make Jesus look good?

We don’t need to market or package Jesus any differently than He is to make Him more palatable for those around us. Sadly many churches are doing just that and it is distorting the gospel and making Jesus into someone He is not. We do, however, need to live a life that makes our Savior look good. We need to live in such a way that people notice a difference and want what we have. If we live a life that looks the same as everyone else then people will see no need to “add Jesus” to their lives. And the opposite is true as well. If we go out on the corner with a megaphone telling everyone to “turn or burn” we will turn people off to Jesus. But if we live our life believing the truths from today’s passage and then lovingly share them with others then we “make teaching about God our Savior attractive in every way”.

Posted by: Robbie Byrd


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