A few years ago I accompanied friends of mine on a trip to Europe. One of our travel group had daily business meetings. The other two of us set off everyday to see what adventure we could find along the route of the nearby rail road line.
One morning we got up and decided we were off to Antrewp. We had heard Antrewp was diamond capital of the world and the city sported a diamond museum. Well woo hoo! Off to Antrewp we went.
When we got off the train we headed out across then city center square toward the massive museum. Huge signs advertised the glorious gems within.
We walked up the building full of excitement. The gate was shut. Hmmm.
We looked at the sign by the gate. Museum closed on Tuesday.
We had completely neglected to check any details. We had not consulted with anyone. No research online. We had barreled forward with our plan but we were stopped at the gate.
The Book of Isaiah tells the story of a prophet shouting out warning signs and warnings. The people don't listen. And so they are shut off and great heartache ensues. The good news is the story didn't end there. The prophet had a message of hope if only the people would listen.
The Book of Isaiah is a massive 66 chapter book split into two sections. The first half is the warnings and promises to the people prior to their caputure. The second half is the message to the people in captivity. I'll cover that second half next week.
Ever notice how the instagram Bible and wall hangings only show the verses of hope? Do you know that they are only hopeful in context of the words of judgment? You don't need a savior if you aren't utterly forsaken.
The people of Israel broke covenant.
Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him. Isaiah 1:4
There was then Judgment and call to action
When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hid my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood! wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. Isaiah 1: 15-17
The prophet Isaiah witnessed God.
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. 6:1
Isaiah encourages me to ground my faith by embracing God as He is. Holy. Mighty. Massive.
The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt. Is. 24:19
Ain't that the truth?! If you watch the news for too long you'll be convinced. The world then is the same as now. In need of a Savior. And Isaiah is one of the best places to hear God's plan for redemption.
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. Is. 9:2
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, MIghty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Is 9:6
For this salvation of Jesus and for the grace bestowed then and now I join in the praise.
Surly God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. Is. 12:2
O Lord, you are my God: I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you hae done marvelous things, things planned long ago. Is. 25:1
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, The Lord is the Rock eternal. Isaiah 26:3-4
The first half of Isaiah leaves the people locked out of their homes, cut off from glory but watching expecting salvation. In minor fashion exactly how we sat outside the diamond museum. Locked out but with a train ticket home. We just had to follow the map.
I've learned my lesson. When traveling I do more research. I try to read the signs. If only we would all try to apply the same words of warning from Isaiah and follow the savior.
Check out The Bible Project's Read Scripture for the first half of Isaiah. This really helped me see the layout of the book. Watch and learn.
Love is patient. Love is kind.
At marriage retreat last weekend I was running through the well known love chapter in the Bible. 1 Corinthians 13 is right up there with John 3:16 for the sheer quantity of times it's included on printed products and memes, wedding invitations and Instagram photos.
This time as I read it I ticked through the list considering if my life included the various aspects of love. It's a good challenge as a marriage, parenting, friendship and internal bitterness checkup.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
I fail on most of these daily. This time though my heart stopped at the "rejoices with the truth" bit and I've been pondering this line all week.
I rejoice a lot. I cheer when my kids smile and when the resident chef makes a delicious dinner. I smile when I cash a paycheck. I rejoice when my team wins.
Problem is I rejoice other times too. I smirk when people I disagree with are caught in a lie. I high five snarky remarks. I don't think that's what the love chapter would call rejoicing with truth.
Then my internal dialogue continued. How do I respond when my spouse tells the truth? When my kids do? When I don't like the truth they speak? Consider.
Me. I have a great idea! Let's (fill in the blank with my random request)
Resident Chef: That won't work today. (Please note he is speaking truth)
Me to child: How was your day? Did you do piano?
Child: cringes. Not yet. (Please note she's speaking truth)
Me: Grrr! Why not?!?
Hmmmm. Not rejoicing. Mostly I rejoice when I like things and I pout when I don't. I'm not even considering the truth. Sigh.
All week I've been wondering what my life would look like if I embraced this rejoicing with truth. If instead of pouting or growling I tried love.
Love says: Thank you for telling me. I can help you with this problem. I'm grateful you trust me. We can fix it. I am so glad I understand better now. I didn't know that part of the story.
No sighs. No pouts. Love looks like grace and rejoices with truth.
I heard a story about two friends walking into a shopping mall. By the front door stood a shabbily dressed woman holding a sign. The sign said "Please help, my baby is sick. We need money for the doctor." The first friend pulled out a $10 bill and pressed it to the woman's hand. As the friends walked away the second friend laughed and said "Oh man! You got scammed! I know her and she has no kids!"
The first man smiled and replied "Wonderful! I'm so glad there is no sick baby!"
I want to see the truth and rejoice with the truth. Truth is on my bad days God loves me. In the midst of my failures He extends grace. When I seek help He extends his hand. He rejoices when I confess. Cheers when I come home.
Knowing why they trusted God, they knew why the known facts were never all the facts. - OS Guinness. Today try planting your feet on eternal truth. Then try responding with grace to the truths of your friends and family. Let me know what you think in the comments. How do you respond to truth? I'm trying today.
Wall of Faith: Nicole
My husband and I have been married for 22 1/2 years, and have been dating for 25. We are both passionate people (read that as we can be stubborn and bit fiery), and as a result, we have a few tips we’d like to share that have worked for us to protect our marriage and make it better every day.
Tip #1- Establish and Maintain Points of Contact
So, that sounds like a business term, but what we’re talking about is making sure you check in with or check on spouse each day at various times. I am asleep when Jason leaves early in the morning for work, but he still kisses me goodbye even though I’m unaware. The second point of contact is usually a brief Skype message in the morning or around lunch. We just see how each other’s day is going and stuff like that. Later in the afternoon we check in again, through text or Skype so I know when to expect him to be home from work. Another fun thing we do is greet each other at the door when the other gets home. Sounds cheesy but it’s a great way to make someone feel loved and welcome- trust me, you should try it! It has the tendency to set a great tone for the rest of the evening. The last point of contact we make sure to have is that we make an effort to go to bed at the same time, and we say good night and kiss each other before falling asleep.
Tip #2- Know Your Spouse’s Love Language (and your own)
The 5 Love Languages is a fantastically helpful book written by Gary Chapman. By taking a quiz, you learn what your primary love language is; words of affirmation, physical touch, quality time, acts of service or receiving gifts. Understanding the way your spouse receives love is a game changer. If your spouses doesn’t care much about receiving gifts, then giving them presents repeatedly to show them love may not translate. However, if their love language is words of affirmation and you write them a letter saying how much you appreciate them and what you love about them, it will stick with them and they will honestly feel loved. I laugh because Jason and I used to shower each other with gifts, and it turns out receiving gifts is the lowest scoring language for both of us. It is much more satisfying when you get loved the way you understand it the best.
Tip #3- Don’t Go to Bed Angry
Hard lesson learned early on in our marriage here. I guess I am what you call an aggressive peacemaker (how’s that for an oxymoron?) - if there’s a conflict, I want it resolved and I want it resolved NOW, at any cost. I don’t recall specifically when I introduced Jason to my philosophy, but it was probably late at night after an argument. Imagine my surprise when Jason didn’t share my philosophy on not letting the sun set on your anger. Over the years we have learned from our mistakes and have come to a reasonable solution. If it is late and we have a disagreement, we stay awake and work it out. We have tried putting a hold on arguments and gone to sleep, setting a time the next day to work on it, but that’s not a favorite way of dealing with it. We both seem to function better the next day on less sleep and more peace, rather than the flip side of that equation.
Tip #4- Don’t Spend Time Alone with Members of the Opposite Sex
I figure this tip might be controversial to some, but this is what Jason and I have decided on for us. We don’t go out to lunch alone with a member of the opposite, we don’t travel alone with a member of the opposite sex, and we even make an effort to not individually text friends of the opposite sex. We try to use a group text including the friends’ spouse so there is no question of what is going on. It’s not always practical, but we do our best to follow this tip. Protecting a marriage is serious business, and we feel that this is an important step to take in doing so.
Tip #5 Communication and Fighting Fair
I’ll let you in on a secret: we only figured out these marriage tips because we have fought, argued, disagreed, misunderstood, assumed, blamed, shut down, complained, cried, questioned and listened. It all boils down to communicating, people! If there’s a complaint in your marriage, find the root. The argument about doing dishes or never getting out the door on time isn’t really about either of those things. Every problem has a root, and if you can get to that root you solve a WHOLE bunch of other problems along with the original surface issue.
A necessity for your marriage toolbox is also the ability to fight fair. Les and Leslie Parrott’s book,”The Good Fight”, is an excellent resource. The book uses a simple acronym to show what a good fight looks like: C.O.R.E.= Cooperation means fighting for a win-win, Ownership means owning your piece of the conflict pie, Respect means steering clear of belittling and Empathy means putting yourself in your partner’s shoes. Jason in particular likes Gary Smaller’s fast food drive thru method for communicating — basically, if you are capable of going to a drive thru and placing your order and the employee repeats your order back to you (and it’s correct), then when you get to the window and they give you want you ordered, you are capable of communicating clearly with your spouse!
We hope this list has encouraged you, but remember these things are what Jason and I have decided work best for us. There are couples that work different shifts and it’s not feasible to go to bed at the same time, and there are couples who can’t Skype or text at work, so do the best you can. Come up with what works for you! The important thing is to invest in each other, learn how best to express love to your spouse by understanding their love language, safeguard yourself from spending time alone with members of the opposite sex, and communicate! Oh, and learn to fight fair. We’re rooting for you!
Top Five Ways to Protect Your Marriage
My husband and I spent the weekend at our church's annual marriage retreat. We spent the weekend watching the ocean, eating, laughing and learning. Mostly we paused. Retreat is a time to step out of our crazy schedule and remember. Oh yes. I know you. I picked you. I love you. We spend time watching other couples. Hearing their stories. Knowing their stories. It helps me to watch those around me. Sometimes that can reflect where I am. The whole weekend is an investment. It takes time to know my relationship matters as more than just a household partnership.
The Song of Solomon. Oh Lordy. Sex. Marriage. Love. Touchy topics there. No pun intended. My ten–year-old, my mother and my husband all read my blog. This post makes me want to hide in the closet or turn pink. And for that very reason I love the book of Song of Songs. For the truth is that those hide and blush or strip and shock reactions are not what God intended. Sex is a gift. Romance is a beautiful picture. Both are holy. And fun. God created sex in all its measure. Partly for creating children for sure. But partly for binding hearts, healing pain, comforting and enjoying each other.
My beloved is radiant and ruddy, outstanding among ten thousand. Song of Solomon 5:10
The Song of Solomon is a book of poetry that describes the emotional and physical attraction between an engaged couple. It's full of steamy scenes and weighty emotion. Through the years, this book has been banned, edited, misunderstood, skipped over and explained away. But it's a powerful book.
Hudson Taylor, the great missionary, says Song of Solomon is all about union and communion.
Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love. Song of Solomon 2:4
Song of Solomon reminds me that God is all about relationship. He's comfortable with emotion. He doesn't want stale or boring to be words that describe our human relationships or our relationship with him.
Song of Solomon also runs straight into the bedroom. Lots of people want faith in God to be a part of their lives but they build a brick wall around their sexuality and post signs that say "Not Welcome". "Not Here". "You don't know what you are talking about". I think people are scared if they agree to let God be God of everything, including their sexuality, that they will lose out. Truth is Song of Solomon makes it very clear that God's isn't out to wreck anything. He's out to save everything. Including our identities, expressions, relationships and sexuality.
OS Guiness in the book Fool's Talk describes the way that our problems start when we begin to suspect God of wrongdoing and our views as correct.
"On the one hand, for each of us, sin is the claim to the right to myself, and so to my way of seeing things, which - far more than class, gender, race and generation - is the ultimate source of human relativity. On the other hand, sin is the deliberate repudiation of God and the truth of his way of seeing things. If my way of seeing things is decisive, anyone who differs from me is wrong by definition - including God. No, especially God, because his way of seeing things is more powerful and therefore more threatening than anyone else's. His word, our interference."
When we cheapen sex to a visual or a one night stand or refuse to seek God's guidance in all areas of our sexuality, we cheapen the gift. It's like drive-by faith. Sunday morning confessions that mean nothing on Monday. A marriage is supposed to be a way to live out the picture of the gospel. And so the Song of Songs encourages me. The faith is supposed to be deep and fun and joyful and life long. It's supposed to be emotional and passionate. To know and be known.
My beloved spoke and said to me, "Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, come with me." Song of Solomon 2:10
The Song of Solomon challenges the idea that God's view of sex is boring, wrong, outdated, restrictive or wrong. Read the book. It's beautiful. It's a gift. I'd challenge you to shift your heart. Invite Him in to shape and guide your relationships and your sexuality. You can trust him.
Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Song of Solomon 8:6
Date your Spouse! Need ideas? Check out the Date Box.
New Spring Church has a full list of devotionals HERE.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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