RSS

Tag Archives: Isaiah

God Doesn’t Leave Voicemail

Imagine you have a long-distance best friend. Maybe you already do, so it isn’t hard to imagine. Anyway, it’s been a while since your last visit, and your friend decides to give you a call. You don’t answer. They text instead. You don’t respond. After a week goes by, they stalk your Facebook wall to make sure you’re alive. Yep, you posted at work that morning about your delicious breakfast burrito. There are pictures from the last night when you went bowling with some friends. Your friend decides your phone must be broken and posts to your wall an inside joke about a porcupine, knowing you’re the only person who would get it.

No reply.

Months go by. Your friend eventually gives up trying to reach you.

One day you see a porcupine on TV. You remember your friend and decide to give them a call. They don’t answer. You try again but it goes directly to voicemail. As time goes on without reciprocation, you first feel annoyed. Then irritated. You wonder if they are intentionally ignoring you. Maybe they don’t care about you anymore. Maybe they never did.

On the other end of the line, your hurt friend watches their phone ring and wonders if they want to answer after you wouldn’t answer their own calls. After being neglected for long months, why should they pick up where you left off? Why should they still call you a friend?

Credit: Robert S. Digby, Creative Commons (https://flic.kr/p/7rKqYa)

Credit: Robert S. Digby, Creative Commons (https://flic.kr/p/7rKqYa)

In Isaiah 65, the Lord declares curses on his people of Israel who had rebelled against him and served other gods. They abandoned him. They ignored him. So God replies, “I will destine you for the sword, and all of you will fall in the slaughter; for I called but you did not answer, I spoke but you did not listen. You did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me” (v. 12). But for the one who obeys the one true God, he promises to bless them and “the past troubles will be forgotten and hidden from my eyes” (v. 16). He then describes a day of “new heavens and a new earth” when rejoicing will replace all suffering. In that day, he says, “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear” (v. 17, 24).

When times are good, we often let God’s calls go to voicemail. We assume we’re doing fine on our own and that he’ll still be there when we need him. Then a crisis appears, and we wonder why God isn’t answering our cries for help. We ask why God is silent.

Now I don’t want to imply God is a resentful friend harboring old hurts, but why should we expect to hear from him after ignoring his attempts at contact? Is that a healthy relationship? If we’re not listening to his voice in good times, how are we going to receive a word from him when times are hard? God might not be the one who grew distant.

Do you need to apologize and ask forgiveness for ignoring God?

“Please leave a message after the tone.”

Beep.

“Hi, friend. Sorry I’ve been a jerk. I should have returned your calls. Will you forgive me?”

Advertisements
 
1 Comment

Posted by on April 12, 2014 in Other thoughts

 

Tags: , , , , ,

How to Trust

Fear and doubt come naturally to me. I’m well-practiced there. You could say I was born knowing how to fear and doubt. Trust is in a different department, which can’t operate simultaneously. You can only have one or the other, and for me, fear and doubt usually overrules trust after only a short reign. 

This past week, it bothered me that trusting God doesn’t seem to be an attitude that sticks for long. One day, I can be totally devoted to God–fully convinced of his goodness, faithfulness, and love–then I wake up the next morning with fear having crept into my thoughts overnight.

Credit: "Dawn" by dan at freedigitalphotos.net

Credit: “Dawn” by dan at freedigitalphotos.net

When the doubts show their ugly mugs, I have to remind myself to trust God instead. Sometimes this is a minute-by-minute exercise. Doubts say that God is other than the Bible says he is. But if the Bible is right, then I can silence all doubts. The first letter of John says, “God is love” (4:16). “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:18-19).

With my mind focused on God, I have no reason to fear. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” This verse gives me reassurance when I’m feeling afraid since there’s the promise of “perfect peace” for anyone who is steadfastly trusting in God. Verse 26:4 then gives the guarantee for the promise, the reason why trusting God brings peace: “Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.” God dispels fear, like a lamp illuminating darkness, because he is unchanging and immovable. “I AM WHO I AM,” the Lord said to Moses (Exodus 3:14).

God is worthy of trust. We do not need to fear because we know God loves us and he will never change. He promises it. He says he will never abandon us. He will do anything for those he loves, even sacrifice his son Jesus to rescue us from death.

As you think on where Christmas started, with a baby “wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger,” remember that God loves you as much as he did on that night in Bethlehem when he gave the greatest gift the world has ever seen. Then let God silence your fears and doubts.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 24, 2013 in Other thoughts

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

“Here I Am”

After my boss told me about the company layoffs, I realized that I have the time to write this post. For one reason or another, I made other priorities. But now that excuse is no longer valid.

My job required frequent reading and study of the Bible. Some months back, I can’t remember exactly when, I came across Isaiah’s call to be a prophet. Recorded in Isaiah 6, the prophet has a vision of God’s throne. Isaiah is overwhelmed by his unworthiness to be in the presence of God. One of the creatures worshiping the Lord purifies Isaiah with a coal from God’s altar, thus making the prophet able to stand before God’s throne without guilt. Then in verse 8, God speaks from his throne, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”

Isaiah volunteers without hesitation, like a child eager to please his father. “Here I am! Send me.”

For the child, any opportunity to work with his father feels like a special mission just for him. It is an honor. Isaiah doesn’t know the job description yet. All he knows is that God has accepted him, and now he will take any task from his Father.

As I read this scene, it reminded me of God’s call to Samuel. He responded in a similar way even before he realized he had heard God’s voice. In 1 Samuel 3, the boy runs to his guardian, Eli, crying, “Here I am!” Confused, Eli sends the boy away. This happens twice more before Eli guesses that the Lord is the one speaking. Samuel had mistaken the voice, but he still had the right response. He got up from bed every time to obey the call. He came to Eli ready for whatever the priest had to tell him.

“Here I am.” These three words stuck with me ever since. Recently, I decided to see where else it appears in the Bible. It turns out that Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, and lesser-known Ananias all used this simple prayer. In each case, these words mean more than, “I’m listening.” Three short words succinctly express a willingness to hear God and a submission to his direction. These are words of obedience and service. The longer version would be: “Here I am, ready and willing. What do you desire or request? Say the word. Everything I am is yours.”

This prayer is not for the faint of heart. Abraham was told to sacrifice his heir and beloved son (Gen. 22:1-2).

Jacob was sent to his homeland, which he had fled in order to escape his brother’s vengeance (Gen. 31:11, 13). Later in his life, Jacob prayed this after hearing that his son Joseph was alive and a ruler of Egypt. God tells him to not be afraid to go to Egypt, where he would die and his descendants later became a nation in slavery (Gen. 46:2-3). Several generations later, Moses prays the same way when God calls to him out of a burning bush, and God sends him into Egypt to free his people. When David’s son Absalom rebels against him, David is forced to

A reminder I made for myself

A reminder I made for myself

retreat from Jerusalem. But he trusts God’s judgment and tells his priest, “If I find favor in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me back and let me see both it and his dwelling place. But if he says, ‘I have no pleasure in you,’ behold, here I am, let him do to me what seems good to him” (2 Sam. 15:25-26, emphasis added). Finally, there’s Ananias: the disciple in Damascus whom God chose to visit Saul of Tarsus, the Jewish militant arresting Christians (Acts 9:10-12). Ananias essentially says to God, “Are you kidding me?”

With these “encouraging” stories to guide me, I decided to take up the challenge. I re-evaluated my life and asked where God wanted me to go next. I prayed, “Here I am.” Pretty soon, God presented me with the opportunity to be a small group leader with students at my alma mater. The offer took me by surprise, and I had to stop and ask if it was really God’s voice. Sure, I had said the prayer, but this wasn’t the response I had expected.

Then this past week, my boss told me the bad news. Another surprise. Several positions, including mine, had to be cut from the company budget. Suddenly, I didn’t have work the next day. One phone call, and I had 40 extra hours of free time each week.

So here I am, Lord. Say the word.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on October 8, 2013 in Other thoughts

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,