In preparing spiritually for this piece, I thought the title, “Nunya Business”, had things pretty well sewn up. As is usually the case with me, I get the title first, which prompts article content. Once the title is in place, then God and I begin constructing the article. But, nooooo, not this time! That would make things a little too simple and predictable.
As I was visiting my mother-in-law, still inwardly contemplating how I should proceed in writing, I heard the proverbial “small voice inside” twice interrupt my thoughts saying, “Ask her for a verse.” So, in obedience, I asked my mother-in-law for a verse of Scripture. She immediately responded with Isaiah 43:1-4. Of all the verses she could have chosen! This was the catalyst that started my diligent course of study for this writing. In so doing, I referenced several Bible translations and quickly discovered that various study notes kept referring to this particular passage in Isaiah as a “transitional verse” connected to Isaiah chapter 42. Without a doubt, my next big adventure had begun!
It was easy to understand why Isaiah 43:1-4 was one of those inspiring passages my mother-in-law enjoyed. I did too but, in order to make the study complete, I had to find out why it was considered a “transitional verse passage”. Already knowing my mother-in-law could have suggested a multitude of other Bible verses, and because God had prompted me to ask her for a verse, I had to follow the lead I was being given. So, up to Isaiah 42:23-25 I go and “BAM!” I was at full attention! In all honesty, I entertained the thought, “Maybe I shouldn’t add this to my article; it might scare people away.” However, I knew that if I didn’t include it, I wouldn’t be presenting the whole truth nor would I be obeying Holy Spirit’s leading. Let’s read the referenced passages:
Isaiah 43: 14 1-4 (MSG)
But now, God’s Message,
the God who made you in the first place, Jacob,
the One who got you started, Israel:
“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
The Holy of Israel, your Savior.
I paid a huge price for you:
all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in!
That’s how much you mean to me!
That’s how much I love you!
I’d sell off the whole world to get you back,
trade the creation just for you.
NOW, READ THIS:
Isaiah 42: 23-25 (MSG)
But is anyone out there listening?
Is anyone paying attention to what’s coming?
Who do you think turned Jacob over to the thugs,
let loose the robbers on Israel?
Wasn’t it God himself, this God against whom we’ve sinned—
not doing what he commanded,
not listening to what he said?
Isn’t it God’s anger that’s behind all this,
God’s punishing power?
Their whole world collapsed but they still didn’t get it;
their life is in ruins but they don’t take it to heart.
See what I mean! So, are you sitting a little straighter in your chair? Is your backside smarting just a bit after reading Isaiah 42:23-25? I know mine was! SMACK!
The truth is, that in many pulpits today, verses 23-25 of Isaiah 42 would not be the passage you’d preach if you wanted to keep your pews filled. I think it would be a cold day below the event horizon, before someone could present the message of this passage and expect congregations to be receptive. Herein lays the problem – too many pastors wrestle with keeping attendance numbers up by picking and choosing topics that won’t rock the boat instead of presenting the un-compromised Word of God.
Unfortunately, a large part of the community of Believers will only trust, and welcome, the soothing portions of Scripture; the parts that are easy to discuss, easy to defend and appease the agenda of the majority. Sadly, this caters to a world view that has as its goal to redefine what God has already established as truth. Failure to preach, teach and believe God’s Word, taking a stand against Truth, clears the way for aberrant thoughts followed by perverse behaviors, which soon become the redefined and accepted “new norm.” Christianity was never supposed to support any view that didn’t agree with the Word of God much less promote or participate in it. To do so only helps promote “a theology of hugs and kisses with spiritual gifts galore proclaiming this (new norm) is really what Jesus meant all along.”
OK, we should know what’s the truth, right? It’s supposed to be build upon Truth’s foundation, which is the Word of God. Let’s start by establishing some truth: God is the same yesterday, today and forever, Hebrews 13:8. God’s Word is consistent and never changes Matthew 5:18. As we grow in our faith, it is the Believer who changes in direct proportion to their acquisition, understanding of, and submission to God’s Word, 2 Peter 3:18; 2 Peter 1:3-11; Hebrews 5:12-14 and 1 Corinthians 3:1-3. God is a loving Father who will not hesitate to correct the ones He loves, Hebrews 12:6; Proverbs 3:12; Revelation 3:19. How about this, God will only go so far in allowing individuals, identified as His, to continue in a pattern of rebellion refusing to listen and/or obey His Word before the consequences of their choices are suffered, Romans 1:28; Jeremiah 6:30. Let me propose this, like any parent when it comes to certain children, God will keep the door open until the child is ready to do what is right. Isn’t that the message we want to hear? Yes, but is that the whole truth? Isaiah shows us that our admission through the open door of Truth, gaining entrance to God, our Kingdom inheritance and His blessings, requires a conscious decision on our part. We need to do something and it begins with believing God’s Word followed with obedient action stepping through the door with Holy Spirit leading the way. So for those that say there is no cover charge into this party, I would disagree, if you get my drift.
Many secular and non-secular forums tout, “Your behavior will determine your consequences.” I have seen and heard many “life coaches”, dressed as pastors give us good wholesome advice on living in today’s world but no practical advice on how to apply God’s eternal Truths in real life situations. Somehow the statement, “Just do as Jesus did and all with be well” or “Love God and everything will fall into place;” loses its intended effect when the “how to’s” aren’t taught or demonstrated. While at the core, this advice may be true, rarely will you hear that God demonstrates His great love for us, at times, by removing His protection as a result of our choices. However, If he does remove His hand from you; someone may quick to point it out, it is only for a short time not understanding what is actually occurring in your life. Some may even sooth your ears you by saying that He loves you so much he can’t help himself from providing His love to you and can’t bear to see you in pain. Then paint our Heavenly Father as a grandfatherly sort, always picking us up. “There, there now come here I will make it all better.” This mindset trivializes the gift of repentance with an “I will always be saved by God” attitude. When patterns repeat in the future many are quick to say Christianity in its true sense doesn’t work, when in fact no one gave you the proper advice or the truth to begin with.
If we refuse to live in, be guided by and act in the Truth, growth doesn’t come. Without spiritual growth, we are as a Child of God but not the Sons of God we are meant to be. Let’s look at Galatians 3:25-27:
“But now you have arrived at your destination: By faith in Christ you are in direct relationship with God. Your baptism in Christ was not just washing you up for a fresh start. It also involved dressing you in an adult faith wardrobe—Christ’s life, the fulfillment of God’s original promise.” The Message Bible (MSG)
I have some experience with the softening of God’s message by a slight twist, hopefully you will be able to follow my reasoning here. I am drawing a comparison from personal experience with how our topic can be realized over time. I have over 20 years in recovery from drugs, alcohol and relationships. As a long time member of the 12 Step Programs there is a great emphasis on spirituality and the use of the following comforting, inclusive terminology “a god as you understand him.” Similarly, like many ministries, that start out plum with God, founders of the 12 step program, applied biblically based principles. In an effort, not to frighten away newcomers the “god language” was made generic to ensure attraction over promotion was achieved. I understand that mentality. Quite frankly I would have turned around and walked out the door if God was thrown in my face the moment I walked through the door. However, like everything else in this world, a casual “god as you understand him” attitude over time trumps a relationship with the God of Abraham, Jacob and Isaac. As the generic perspective requires no personal responsibility or accountability. Look at the Pro Choice movement; removing personal responsibility and accountability for ones choices, without resulting consequences, doesn’t promote life but death. Likewise, this phrase this phrase, can have the same effect.
My experience has been that saying Jesus Christ is your God and Savior, during a meeting, will cause many to squirm uncomfortably in their chairs. I have as well before I understood what I was doing so not to rock the boat. You might even be pulled aside, after the meeting, by a well meaning soul in authority to enlighten you on your need to be considerate of others. Somehow speaking about Jesus as Savior and God as Father is deemed unacceptable but you can reference a “god as you understand him” as long as he is called by another name. Frank would be perfectly fine. Attendees have referenced their guru, a course of miracles, the use of, and belief in, crystals or other objects or gods and, for good measure, bash the “church”, which I myself have done. No one blinks an eye. This is a thin line, since the are many who practice Judaism in the rooms as well.
Behavior is not judged, you receive suggestions. Behavior vehemently warned about as destructive to our lives in the Bible, is not confronted but pointed out to possibly be the root cause of your dilemma. So while you are no longer traveling 100 mph toward the cliff, you are now approaching at a measly 10 mph, in hopes that you will see the cliff in front of you and change direction. If you do not learn “how to” change direction, well meaning participants will sweetly smile and wave as you plummet over the precipice. In summary they will state as so did I, “We did our part its too bad they did get it in time.” That seems crass, but apart from don’t drink and go to meetings, learning how to set boundaries and take care of one self, the only way to get to heart of the issue is the hope that you work with a sponsor who is not afraid to set you straight. That was actually how I found Christ again, so there is always a way.
BUT, please explain to me how we can discourage youthful immorality, marital infidelity, destructive patterns of behavior, because it fails to meet a standard, and at the same time publicly embrace deviant behaviors flaunted in our faces that violate the same standard? To uphold God’s Truth is considered intolerant with an overwhelming need for chastisement. After all, who are we to judge? Who made us the standard bearer or gave us the inside track on Truth for an individual? How can we say a certain lifestyle or behavior is not blessed by God?
However, there is much hope expressed that once the pain is unbearable, one will realize that their behavior is the cause of the pain and not your attitude towards God. Instead of addressing the sin, many have become creative in devising better ways to live in or with sin. Don’t get me wrong all of these things I have learned over the years have helped me immensely, but at some point we need to be told, for healing to come, we might want to remove the spike lodged in our forehead instead of taking an aspirin for the pain.
I love what one of my friends says when you ask her a tough question that could spark a wild debate. She says, “”What does the Bible say?” “If that is what the Bible states, then that is what I believe.” Sort of puts a period at the end of the sentence wouldn’t you say? I cannot stress enough that if we do not stand firm on the Truth of God and His Word, then we enable a lie to stand unchallenged. In the end you will become a politician instead of a prophet. Capish!!? So which are you? Can you talk to someone about verse 42 23-25 or can you only talk about verse 43: 1-4. In light of the condition of the Church today, it’s a fair question and each one of us need to prayerfully consider where we stand in light of these passages.
As my relationship with God deepened, I had a true desire to be holy as He is holy. That meant no compromise so I found I had to leave the “12 Step” programs behind. My “God language” could not be squelched; I had to speak and live God’s Truth. Far too many of the people I encountered were choosing to live a softer easier path, which is another device Satan uses to keep us apart from God Thomas Brooks points out in his book, “Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices”
- Device # 9 Present The Soul, The Crosses, Losses, Reproaches, Sorrows And Suffering Of Those Who Walk In The Way Of Holiness.
- An easier softer path. A little less holy means a little less pain and a few more compromises.
When we start encouraging people to take a deeper look into their heart or present something they don’t want to be true or challenge them to consider whether or not God blesses them in their sin, someone usually gets upset. Then they wonder why they continually experience failure.
Can serving God really be simple? Yes! We say that, but are we guilty of praying to God yet remain a servant to sin? There is an underlying hope that you will achieve a good life through changed behavior. It is true that if you practice new behavior your life will change, but is that the end of the matter. I would say it is only a step in the right direction. In the 12 step world, step 11 states that we:
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.
I must clarify that in many groups I have heard and seen the steps altered to read, God and we understood God. This seems innocent enough to prevent offense. But if one can take liberty with this, which defines the essence of God as being Abba Father what else? However, It was because of the true intention of this step that I eventually had to cut my ties with the 12 step program that had played a major part in saving my life. I did what this step had intended from the beginning, finding Jesus again after all these years through some of the people I met there. My loving Savior, willingly showed me that my identity needed to be based on Him and not some “generic” Higher Power. This realization could bristle a few feathers in an organization that saves so many lives but, is the goal a better life or a better eternity? You tell me. Where would Truth and love be if it is the former? If you simply call out to some “higher power”, I can say with 100% certainty, a power of questionable origin will answer in some form or fashion depending on your slant. I would rather converse with a real God embracing His Words of Truth with confidence knowing “He traded creation for you [me] what are you [am I] trading for Him?”
The rooms of recovery saved my life I cannot state that enough, but over the years this underlying view of a generic God is occurring in the rooms and when the world changes its views, those views enter the rooms and our churches as well.
Over the past few weeks, I have been reviewing tapes of a guest speaker in our home group. During one particular session, he made the statement, “God corrects the ones He loves.” I thought that was a great observation and a Truth I had come to understand about the five layers of God’s love. Then, out of the blue, I was presented with Isaiah 43:1-4, which came at the same time I was reading still reading the aforementioned book by Thomas Brooks. Satan’s Device # 8 states, “Present The Souls Outward Mercies That Men Enjoy And Outward Miseries They Are Freed From While They Have Walked In Sin”. Here is a reference that supports the guest speaker’s statement. I will paraphrase, “it expertly showed that you should be thankful you are under the discipline of God; for if God should remove His hand from you, trouble may lie ahead for you come judgment day because you practice rebellion. God’s afflictions are the inlets into the soul. Without the pruning, you will not grow. The heavens opened for Stephen as the final rocks were thrown. When did God appear to Jacob? God appeared during his troubles and his pillows were of stone. When did David understand his relationship with God? When he failed the most and cried out to Him.”
To put that in context, if no one tells you about that side of God, who will know what to do when correction comes.
The more we yearn and build a relationship with God, the more He reveals to us. The more we postpone the process, the less we receive and what could have been a pleasant process becomes confused. When we try to capture our own happiness, our attempts are usually based upon comparison. Knowing what exists on the inside of us, we waste efforts comparing ourselves with what can be outwardly seen in others. We hope in vain that if you can just be like them, the void in our heart will be filled and all will be well. Oh the time and effort we would save if we would just turn our attentions to establishing, building and maintaining a deeply intimate relationship with God. In His presence, the attractions of the world grow surprisingly dim. You may be able to quote Scripture verbatim; you may practice God’s principles in all your affairs even adding a few of your own for good measure, BUT the bottom line is: “Do you know Him and does He know you?”
Point to Ponder: If all you do is commune with God but never enact your faith applying Truth to a situation, how will you ever learn to walk with God? Risking failure and possible correction is far better than playing it safe. To have tried and failed implies you actually believed something enough to become engaged.
Riddle me this Batman; At the risk of causing upset; if your ship seems to always be on smooth waters, have you considered the fact that you just might be parked in the marina? Could it be that you are a little child pretending to be a skipper on a grand voyage at sea? I would venture to say that more ships are damaged while anchored in port during a storm than would have had they been at sea during the same storm. Satan desires to keep you moored in the marina, which gives him an opportunity to create a storm with the potential to inflict damage even though you haven’t moved an inch from the dock! At least on the high sea, even though you risk getting battered, you have a fighting chance while learning how to navigate with the direction of the wind.
Preferring to hear only the “feel good” messages of God’s love will result in having to reject the wholeness of His Word and its Truth. If you do, expect problems and don’t be surprised when correction comes. Simply receive the correction, repent and thank God, that He loves you enough to bring correction. Learning to receive correction is a sign of spiritual maturity while the immature walk away. When we, as the Church, can embrace the whole message of the Bible, and not just the parts that suit our needs, growth occurs and unity can be achieved. Until then, many will prefer to remain as Children of God instead of becoming the Sons of God who walk in faith and do great exploits in His Name.
Keep it coming Father, I Love You