Stones

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“The Lord sent a word against Jacob,

and it fell on Israel;

and all the people knew it—

Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria—

but in pride and arrogance of heart they said:

“The bricks have fallen,

but we will build with dressed stones;

the sycamores have been cut down,

but we will put cedars in their place.”

So the Lord raised adversaries against them,

and stirred up their enemies,

the Arameans on the east and the Philistines on the west,

and they devoured Israel with open mouth.

For all this his anger has not turned away;

his hand is stretched out still.

The people did not turn to him who struck them,

or seek the Lord of hosts.

So the Lord cut off from Israel head and tail,

palm branch and reed in one day—

elders and dignitaries are the head,

and prophets who teach lies are the tail;

for those who led this people led them astray,

and those who were led by them were left in confusion.

That is why the Lord did not have pity on their young people,

or compassion on their orphans and widows;

for everyone was godless and an evildoer,

and every mouth spoke folly.

For all this his anger has not turned away;

his hand is stretched out still. “ Isaiah 9.8-17 (NRSV)

“Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”

It was a popular saying when I was young, but by the time I had entered high school, the educators were already talking about how untrue this saying was. Words do hurt us. In fact, sometimes the wounds they leave can continue to bleed years after the words were said… long after any physical wounds could have healed.

Sticks and stones do not just harm though, they are used to build. The proud Israelite leaders claimed that if their buildings were destroyed they would simply rebuild with even better materials. They boasted as if the oncoming judgment would simply be doing them a favor, allowing them to start over fresh without carrying the baggage of the past. I have heard this spoken among new church leaders (of which I am a supporter myself).

Some have the impression that if we could just wipe the slate clean, we could start over and do it better this time. They sometimes neglect to see that the problems we face do not find their root in “church traditions”, but rather somewhere even deeper, in our own sinful nature itself. Just as in marriages, it is not the couples who do not have conflict with one another who succeed, it is those who know how to have healthy conflict that allows them somehow to come out closer to Christ after the heated discussion about the color of the carpet.

Churches are just slightly bigger family systems. If you want to know how to lead a family well, find yourself a good church. If you want to see how to lead a family poorly, find an unhealthy church. None are perfect, and all have family dynamics, just like our own families.

God knows this, and that is why, instead of building things Himself, God instead sent prophets with words. He knew His words would outlast any building we might put up to honor Him. God knew that those words would do more for shaping our lives than anything physical He could do for us. And so it is this Advent and Christmas season that we remember the greatest gift God gave to us was not words carved in stone, but a Word made flesh. Jesus is the Word that speaks the words of life. He is the greatest embodiment of God ever given to the world. It is this Word that not only saves us and guides us, but that will truly judge us in the end as well.

  • How does God speak to you?
  • What has God spoken to you?
  • How do you see the blessings and judgment of God in your life reflected in Jesus Himself?

Word of God speak

would you pour down like rain

washing my eyes to see

your majesty

Wednesday December 14, 2016

Deep

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“9 But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.

The people who walked in darkness

have seen a great light;

those who lived in a land of deep darkness—

on them light has shined.

You have multiplied the nation,

you have increased its joy;

they rejoice before you

as with joy at the harvest,

as people exult when dividing plunder.

For the yoke of their burden,

and the bar across their shoulders,

the rod of their oppressor,

you have broken as on the day of Midian.

For all the boots of the tramping warriors

and all the garments rolled in blood

shall be burned as fuel for the fire.

For a child has been born for us,

a son given to us;

authority rests upon his shoulders;

and he is named

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

His authority shall grow continually,

and there shall be endless peace

for the throne of David and his kingdom.

He will establish and uphold it

with justice and with righteousness

from this time onward and forevermore.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. “ Isaiah 9.1-7 (NRSV)

One of my favorite verses from the Psalms speaks of deep calling out to deep. It describes one of my favorite things about God. He is not afraid to go into the depths of the darkness around me, and in me, to find me. When He does find me, He pours into me light, goodness, and mercy out of His depths… and the only thing deeper than the darkness in our world, is the depths of God’s goodness.

The names given to Jesus, his titles are not flimsy titles. They carry a depth that goes far beyond President or CEO. Whose strength is deep enough to bear our burdens… to truly be an authority in our lives that we can trust? For a child has been for us, a son given to us; authority rests on his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!

His authority will continually grow and everywhere his authority touches there will be endless peace. Justice and righteousness find their home in Christ. Until we put ourselves under His authority, we will not even know what real peace feels like. This tiny child holds the whole world in His hands, and in the depths of those hands we have never been safer.

  • Where have you experienced deep darkness in your life?
  • When have you seen the light of God shining in or around you?
  • What burdens do you carry today that you can give over to the authority of Jesus?

Wonderful, merciful Savior

Precious Redeemer and friend

Who would have thought that a lamb could

Rescue the souls of men

Tuesday December 13, 2016