Monday, January 20, 2014

Isaiah 40

A while ago, I started doing my Celtic Daily Prayer book with The Captain. It's not really daily anymore since I'm all the way over here in Hattiesburg, but we do it when we can. Last night one of the Bible passages it had us read was the end of Isaiah 40. On my own I've been reading through Isaiah, and today happened to be the day for Isaiah 40.

Now, I understand why the Celtic Daily Prayer book keeps things short. They're short little readings and then you have three selections of the Bible, so having one of those three selections be a whole chapter would be a little much. But the chapter is so good and so powerful. It's all marked up in my Bible now and lots of it has been reproduced in my prayer journal. The chapter is called Comfort for God's People, and that's exactly what it is. It's an assurance of God's power, authority, and care. If y'all don't mind, I'd like to go through it all again.

1Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

And that's verse 1. Already we're into it.

2Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, and her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins.

God really does care about hard work. He's not going to toss us away once we've done our job, so to speak. Not at all.

3A voice of one calling: "In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. 4Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. 5And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken."

I'm going to be honest here. I'm no deep theologian and I'm not really smart enough to understand every bit of this passage. I don't know exactly what this means, but it looks to me like we're going to get to see God's glory one day. God's glory. And we won't die from the beauty and the glory because we will have no sin in us!

6A voice says, "Cry out." And I said, "What shall I cry?"

"All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. 7The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. 8The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever."

What I had never noticed before is that people are basically grass here. We wither and fall just like flowers, but the word of God will last for eternity. God's word is true and constant and eternal, just like God himself.

9You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, "Here is your God!" 10See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.

Don't be afraid to spread good news! Shout it so all can hear! After all, it is good news. And it's news for everyone.

11He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.

Remember when I contemplated an aspect of God every day? Shepherd was one of them, and here we have another comparison of God to a shepherd. Can you imagine being gathered up in God's arms and carried close to his heart? It's like the ultimate hug -- from the God of the universe!

12Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? 13Who has understood the mind of the Lord, or instructed him as his counselor? 14Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding?

I'm reminded of my favoritest favorite part of Job here, when God's all, "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?" (Job 38:4). This reinforces God's authority and his ability to comfort us. Sometimes we think, "What could God know about what I'm going through? He's never had to live here, he's never been depressed, he's never been scared." But he created us. Not only that, but he experienced it all firsthand through Jesus. God does not need to be instructed or enlightened or taught. He knows.

15Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust. 16Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires, nor its animals enough for burnt offerings. 17Before him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by him as worthless and less than nothing.

So God was just like, "Who are you to question my knowledge?" and now we're all like, "Crap, who are we to even be noticed by you." We're tiny little nobodies. Our countries are tiny little nowheres compared to him and the sum total of all his creation. And yet...he still cares for each and every one of us.

18To whom, then, will you compare God? What image will you compare him to? 19As for an idol, a craftsman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and fashions silver chains for it. 20A man too poor to present such an offering selects wood that will not rot. He looks for a skilled craftsman to set up an idol that will not topple.

God is incomparable. No on cast him, no one overlaid him with gold, no one fashioned silver chains for him, no one selected material for him, no one hired anyone else to do any of those things.

21Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded?

God's been trying to tell us for a long time.

22He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers.

Yeah, we're that insignificant.

He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.

Now that's what I call a pillow fort.

23He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. 24No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.

It's kind of scary when you think about just how tiny we grasshoppers are, and just how easy it would be for us to just disappear.

25"To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?" says the Holy One. 26Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.

I'm sure you've tried counting the stars before. First of all, oftentimes we can't even see all the stars. There's either too many other lights or too many clouds, plus we can't even see all of the stars at the same time of the year. Even if we were to find the perfect stargazing time, I guarantee you that you would miss a few stars or count one too many times. But God knows them all by name, and never ever passes over one of them.

27Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, "My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God"?

You might think, "Well, because you're the God of the universe and you're probably too busy counting your stars," but that's not true.

28Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the Everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.

Basically, there's no way you'll ever be able to understand the understanding of God.

29He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Thank you, Lord.

--Dexter

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Sharing God's Word

So you know how when you graduate, a ton of people give you books about following God or making your way in the world or learning how to continue in God's word when you go off into the big scary world? Well I received, along with many other books, Follow Me by David Platt. I've been (inconsistently) reading a little bit each day, and today's pages were a major slap in the face for me.

When it comes to sharing God's word and love, I've always kind of believed that it's okay to not actually verbally do so. I've never been good at speaking, in public or in private. But my ballet school taught me how to say important things with dance, and that is something I've treasured for many years now. I decided that it was okay not to speak about God when I could just dance about him. Of course, the obvious problem here is that I can't just break out in a dance any time I feel like it. But maybe I still don't have to start every conversation with, "Have you heard about Jesus?" Instead, I thought I could live the life God commands, so to speak, and then open up my mouth when the opportunity arises.

Now, this philosophy sounds outright stupid when I write it out like this. I swear it made more sense in my head. Or maybe it really is just stupid, because this is what David Platt says,

"There's some truth here: we want the character of Christ to be clear in our actions. At the same time, when Jesus told his disciples that they would receive his Spirit and be his witnesses in the world, he wasn't just calling them to be nice to the people around them. Whether in a courtroom or any other circumstance, the basic function of a witness is to speak. . . . But, you might think, it's not that easy to start speaking about Jesus to the person sitting next to me at a coffee shop. We all have fears that quickly rise to the surface - the fear of offending someone, the fear of saying the wrong thing, the fear of being rejected, or even just the fear of initiating an awkward conversation. Yet such fears are only a sign that we are forgetting who we are. We are followers of Christ who have been crucified with him: we no longer live, but Christ lives in us."

Now, this takes on a whole nother meaning when said to someone with social anxiety. It's gotten to where at school I won't leave me room if at all possible, causing me to skip meals almost every day. But being in my room is no better, because I have a roommate. Her presence prevents me from eating the food I keep in my dorm and makes me feel continually nervous and on edge. Nothing against her -- it's entirely my problem. And now that I'm home, things have only gotten a little better. I still don't leave me room sometimes for fear of running into my own family. I've panicked several times in public when there's a large crowd, dragging The Captain away from situations that he doesn't mind at all.

And I'm supposed to talk to those people?

Yes. Yes, Dexter, you are.

But I have been forgetting who I am. I've got the freaking God of the universe with me. He's not going to abandon me and throw me to the wolves. If I'm so afraid of a negative response, then where exactly is my faith in the God of the universe? Yeah, maybe I will get a negative response, but God's still there. I still belong to him.

All I can do is remember who I am and who He is and pray for the courage to go on. Or at least the courage to step outside my bedroom.

--Dexter

PS. Btws, Happy New Year :)