Isaiah 7-8

“And you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it. It is the LORD of hosts whom you should reguard as holy. And He shall be your fear. And He shall be your dread.” (8:12-13)
Times are lookin’ real tough. Two massive kingdoms are at Judah’s doorstep ready to attack, but God says, “Take care and be calm, have no fear and no not be faint hearted.” (7:4)

The whole next section predicts the fall of both these kingdoms, soon! God is still in control. He has the final say about everything.

Right about now, I’m feeling real bad for Turkey. They’ve been at the center, of every empire in history, starting with the Hittites. They don’t get a break. Ever. Just this week there have been 2 major bombings in Istanbul! We think life is unsettling here, think about our brothers and sisters in Turkey! They are the land of all those first churches Paul was writing to. We are constantly benefiting from the believers who lived in Turkey.

God says to them, the same thing He says to us: “Don’t be afraid. I love you. I am in control. I am the only One to fear. The death ‘they’ wage against you has already been defeated by Me.”

When life overwhelms, search out the promises of God. Remember He who loves us and is the only One to fear.

Also, today, be sure to pray for Turkey.

-Bethany

Isaiah 5-6

The imagery in these chapters is beautiful. And chilling.

This is not the first (and far from the last) time Israel’s relationship with God is a symbol for everyone’s relationship with God. The behavior of mankind doesn’t seem to change much; Isaiah points out a few tendencies:

Those who focus their attention on dead-end financial gain (5:8-10).

Those who escape life by pleasure. Endlessly drinking, partying, without a thought of who God is and what he’s doing.

Those who are well aware of their sin, dragging it around with them everywhere, ignoring God’s extension of freedom.

Which tendency do you have?

I’m prone to ignore suffering. Turn the music up louder. Invite more people over. (Eat more snacks.) The latter part of that verse on escapism stings: “they never think about the Lord or notice what he’s doing”.  I’m learning you can’t properly acknowledge who God is without acknowledging suffering. God does his most vivid, brilliant handiwork in the face of hardship. Ignoring it makes the gospel irrelevant. The mourning comes before the joy.

Being familiar with what road you go down in moments of unhealth is important. Take time today and process this with God.

 

Isaiah 3-4

Let me put your mind at ease: most of Isaiah has already been fulfilled. He’s not an “end times” prophet it a doomsday way. He predicts the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC, exile, the rise of new kingdoms, the return of exile, and the coming of Jesus! Then, also describes the coming eternal kingdom, which we have already begun to taste, and it is delicious.

For every institution God must tear down, He also rebuilds something glorious. This is an “every man for himself”, women reduced to sex objects, backwards, perverted, idolatrous, dangerous society, which has spiraled in to famine and economic ruin. It is to be burned down and replaced by a new city marked by descriptors such as:

Shelter. Shade. Refuge. Protection.

“In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious.” (4:2)

Have you ever had God take something from you, making you really mad, then get embarrassed when hindsight proves that thing toxic? I’ve had that happen kind of a lot. My heart really hurriedly attaches to things and people. 

Once when I was little, I locked eyes with a teddy bear in Fred Meyer and carried it around the store for the duration of my mom’s shopping trip. In that time, I gave my heart to that bear in a Calvin and Hobbs imaginated lifetime of adventure way. When it was time to go, and mom said to put the bear back, I was devastated and started to cry hysterically. This was about to be the deepest tragedy of my young life. My mom eventually caved, to the disapproval of my sisters, and childhood was saved. 

I have just begun to realize, I’ve loved like that ever since. But the story usually doesn’t end with a flabbergasted and compassionate mom halting an emotional train wreck. “How do you already love that bear so much??” No, instead I’ve had to mourn seasons and friendships I would have held on to forever if given the power.  

Now, as I look back, I am incredibly thankful for all the things God has removed from my clutches. The season of life I’m in now, my career with YWAM, my current friendships and even my singleness, are all things I wouldn’t go back and trade with something I “lost”.

God is so smart about us and the best designs for our lives (it’s like He created us or something). As much as it hurts, I am learning to trust Him when it’s time to give things up.

Is there something you need to let go of? Maybe a refuge awaits you on the other side.

-Bethany

Isaiah Overview & 1-2

This morning we are starting the book of Isaiah. This book is poetic, beautiful, intense and at times confusing. I know we just got done reading Matthew, so the surprise is kind of ruined, but Isaiah is the biggest arrow we have pointing towards the coming of a Messiah. When Jesus starts his ministry, he quotes it constantly. The major themes are God’s holiness, a gospel of grace and Messianic hope.

I’m counting on Bethany to keep us up to speed on the historical context as we go, but take time and watch this video to get a general overview:

I loved this verse today:

“Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.” (1:17)

Learn to do good. Because it’s not a natural tendency for us. Seek justice. Because our world is buried in corruption. Help. Defend. Fight. All verbs! There is work to do out there. There is a season for everything, that I know. Don’t get bogged down because you’re not simultaneously opening a children’s home, advocating for refugees and feeding the homeless (actually now that I write that, I realize my sister has done all that at the same time, but never mind her). But do stay in conversation with God about these things and keep an open, convicted heart about what he’s putting in front of you right now.

Also, we’re not suppose to fight these things alone. Find out what your church is involved in and jump in. There’s no asterisk on this verse, we are all called to this. If you’re at home, buried alive in small children and laundry, set an alarm on your phone and commit to praying for a few things or people every day. If you’re in a really busy season of work and life, consider financially supporting a missionary you know who is out there on the front lines. If you’re in a really hard season of grief and mourning….this…doesn’t apply to you and you’re doing great.

God calls us to action. What is he specifically calling you in to? Take time today to pray and listen.

 

Matthew 27-28

What can I say? These chapters capture the most important events of human history.

Think of the mockery, the sarcasm, the disappointment, the disgust of Jesus dying under the label: King of the Jews. The Romans begrudgingly tolerated this racial group. The religious leaders raged against Jesus receiving this title. His followers watched their leader die in horror. What was heaven doing?

The Jews. A stiff-necked people. “Who kill the prophets and stone those sent to them.” Their long awaited Messiah. The fulfillment of promises made to Adam, Eve, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, etc. etc. etc. Here dies The Answer, murdered by the people He loves and came to save. He is their King. He has been crucified. 

Heaven knew how the story would end, but in those horrible moments leading up to Jesus’ final breath, did their jaws hang open? Did they make a sound? Did they shout for their Lord? The sky was dark for 3 hours.

Then…

BOOM!

EARTHQUAKE!

RIP!

“Behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” (27:51)

There is no list that can fully contain all the implications of that moment, and the moments to follow. A couple days later an angel charges down, pops open the tomb and makes the most exciting announcement ever: “He is not here, for He has risen, as He said.” (28:6)

At the close of the book, Jesus says all authority has been given to Him (Daniel 7:13-14; Philippians 2:9-11). He has more than earned the right to instruct us, boss us around, even. So what does He say?

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (28:19-20)

Is that too much to ask? Nah. I’m in. Especially since He said He’d be with me to the end.

How do you make disciples? What are the implications of Jesus being King?

-Bethany

PS. We’re taking requests/suggestions for the next book. What would you like to study next?

Matthew 25-26

I grew up going to church and spent a significant amount of time in youth group. Youth group is a really challenging area of ministry. You’re trying to convince middle schoolers who are parched for approval into thinking outside themselves and believing the gospel. If you are involved in youth ministry right now, GOD BLESS YOU, because wow, 12 year olds are really different these days. And have Snapchat. Anyway! Something I remember being really suspicious about when I was in youth group was how easy they made Christianity seem. “Free gift” was a classic phrase. “All you have to do is believe that Jesus died for your sins” was a selling point.

When I started reading the Bible, I felt a little misled. Jesus said something about selling everything we own, Paul’s all extreme about everything and the term “dying to self” was brought up a lot. “Count the cost of following me”, Jesus warns.

I love the illustration about the bridesmaids in chapter 25 today. My commentary says “on the wedding day, the bridegroom went to the bride’s house  for the ceremony; then the bride and groom, along with a great procession, returned to the groom’s house, where a feast took place, often lasting a full week”. The bridesmaids were hoping to join in on the feast, but when the groom didn’t arrive on time, half of them were out of oil and missed out on the wedding feast.

This parable teaches us that spiritual preparation cannot be bought or borrowed at the last minute. Our relationship with God is our responsibility. He gives us everything we need to be in relationship with him, and is eagerly waiting.

I really like when Jesus sets boundaries with us. He is days away from literally laying down his life for us, and yet he says “you have a part in this too”. He pursues us, gently tugs at our hearts, relentlessly loves us and faithfully (yet unnecessarily) proves himself. But he wants us to be all in. He doesn’t want a lukewarm, indifferent, coat-tail-riding effort.

So, which type of bridesmaid (or man) are you? Are you putting your relationship with God on the back burner, planning to get to it later? Or are you actively preparing for Jesus’s return? What does that even look like?

 

-Carly

Matthew 23-24

Everyone hates religious piety, and we’d love to cheer on Jesus with every “woe” jab he takes at the Pharisees, but unfortunately these woe-ful attributes are deeply familiar. 

“So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (23:28)

“First clean the inside…that the outside also maybe clean” (23:26)

I think I’m pretty aware of my shortcomings, bit unfortunately for all of you, there’s still more. It can take a long time to root out heart issues. It’s easier to dust our shoulders off and keep limping along. This is not what God wants for us. In fact, staying superficial is detrimental to others and He hates that

I think it’s time to take the time to root out heart issues. Just look at 24. The times draw nigh! It’s tempting to just buckle up hunker down, and wait for Jesus to come back, but where’s the fun in that? 

Jesus wants fullness and health for all of us. Being a bunch of pretenders is yuck. You know what happens right before “the end”?

“The gospel will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (24:14)

Well, what are we waiting for?? Let’s do it!

-Bethany