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    Daily Devotions - Entries from November 2012

    FriFridayNovNovember30th2012 He's Bringing a New Age
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged Advent Isaiah 0 comments Add comment

    As we prepare to light the first Advent candle this Sunday in church, we remember the wonderful prophecy given to us by Isaiah:


    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.

    7 Of the greatness of his government and peace

        there will be no end.

    He will reign on David’s throne

        and over his kingdom,

    establishing and upholding it

        with justice and righteousness

        from that time on and forever.

    The zeal of the Lord Almighty

        will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

    Our first candle is a candle of prophetic hope. It represents God’s promise to never leave or forsake his people. It reminds us of the great promise, sowed somewhat enigmatically in God’s words to Satan when He told him,

    And I will put enmity

        between you and the woman,

        and between your offspring and hers;

    he will crush your head,

        and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

    It’s a promise that began to take shape in God’s covenant with Abraham, when He promised to bless the entire world through Abraham’s offspring. It’s a promise that matured as God gave Moses the Law, detailing the many ways in which the people were to worship God, providing a pattern of sacrifice that would one day pave the way for God’s ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.

    That sacrifice began with a child, a child born to us in a humble manger, a child who would grow to assume the mantle of Messiah, Savior. The one on whose shoulders the entire salvation of the world would rest. That little baby in the manger scene in your house is the one who “will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.”

    All Isaiah could do was look forward in hope to a day when God would maybe fulfill all these wonderful promises. We, however, have been blessed to know and experience personally the new life and peace that comes from a relationship with Jesus. As you begin your celebration of Christmas this year, take a moment to reflect on the incredible privilege we have to live with such knowledge. The prophecies have come true. How are you living differently as a result?

    ThuThursdayNovNovember29th2012 He's Bringing Peace
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged Advent Isaiah 0 comments Add comment

    Wars, conflicts, battles and fighting seem to be the norm for mankind. There’s no surer sign of our sinful nature than this consistent and continual desire to fight each other. It was as true in Isaiah’s day as it is today. So, when he spoke to the people about a day when all this fighting would end, that was a powerful promise indeed.

    Every warrior’s boot used in battle

                            and every garment rolled in blood

                will be destined for burning,

                            will be fuel for the fire. (Isaiah 9:5)

    Clearly, this moment has not yet come. One day all the weapons of war will be burned up and thrown away, because the Messiah will return, ushering in a time of peace. But in the meantime we continue to live in a fallen world where wars are waged and battles fought. However, while we will celebrate Christmas once again this year knowing that our country still has many enemies, we can be encouraged knowing that we ourselves are no longer enemies of God.

    9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

    (Romans 5:9-11)


    How has Jesus brought peace into your life? Where do you still need his peace?

    WedWednesdayNovNovember28th2012 He's Bringing Freedom
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged Advent Isaiah 0 comments Add comment

    It may be cold and grey today, but cast your mind back to the middle of summer, to Independence Day. Every July 4th we gather together with friends and family to celebrate our hard-fought freedom from the tyranny of oppressive rulers. It’s a wonderful moment where we come together as a country to remember that our independence came at a cost and should never be taken for granted. We give thanks that we live in a free country, with all kinds of incredible rights and privileges.

    As Isaiah looked ahead to the future, he envisioned something similar—a day of great rejoicing over the freedom God would bring to His people:

    For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,

                            you have shattered

                the yoke that burdens them,

                            the bar across their shoulders,

                            the rod of their oppressor. (Isaiah 9:4)

    For four hundred years the people of Israel had lived in Egypt, eventually being forced into slavery. The living conditions were terrible and many people died, until one day God raised up a man who would lead his people out of Egypt, setting them free from “the rod of their oppressor.” His name was Moses and this defining moment in the life of the nation of Israel was called the Exodus. As they finally escaped Pharaoh’s clutches and the Red Sea crashed in around the Egyptian army, the people burst into song. They were filled with joy and thankfulness for the God who had saved them.

    But after they entered the Promised Land they quickly fell into sin, and soon came under the oppressive rule of the Midianites. The people lived in fear, too weak to fight back, to afraid to do anything except hide. But once again God raised up a leader to set His people free. Gideon, the unlikely hero of Israel, followed God’s directions and won a surprising victory over the Midianites, freeing the people once again.

    At the time of Isaiah, the people were staring into the face of another imminent threat. Little did they know that very soon the entire country would be over-run by enemies, and the survivors dragged off into Exile. The story, however, would not end there. For God was preparing to rescue them once again, and would eventually bring them back into the land He had given them.

    But Isaiah looks forward to a day in the future when all kinds of slavery and oppression would be broken. Sin’s power over us would be broken and we would be set free. Isaiah is talking about the arrival of the Messiah, Jesus, and the freedom that we won for us at the cross. So, as we celebrate the arrival of our Messiah at Christmas, we celebrate also the freedom that He brought us.

    “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

    TueTuesdayNovNovember27th2012 He's Bringing Joy!
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged Advent Isaiah 0 comments Add comment

    Joy is such a nebulous term. It’s more than being happy, but happiness is part of it. It’s something we’re supposed to be filled with as Christians, and yet it seems to elude us all the time. It’s a word that’s inextricably linked to Christmas, but it’s used by stores and popular culture just as much as it is by the Church. How do we wrap our head around this term?

    For Isaiah, joy was something firmly rooted in the presence of God.

    Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—


    2 The people walking in darkness

        have seen a great light;

    on those living in the land of deep darkness

        a light has dawned.

    3 You have enlarged the nation

        and increased their joy;

    they rejoice before you

        as people rejoice at the harvest,

    as warriors rejoice

        when dividing the plunder. (Isaiah 9:1-3)

    Although disaster was imminent for the Israelites, one day things would be different. God’s message to the people, proclaimed through Isaiah, was that one day their grief would be reversed, the darkness pushed back and a new day would dawn. And this great and glorious day would fill them with incredible joy. This joy carries with it a sense of amazement and celebration at God’s generous provision—of land, food and material possessions.

    Isaiah looks forward to a day when the people will rejoice at the arrival of the Messiah with the same kind of joy that they have when they receive incredible blessings. As we draw near to Christmas, we will be filled with all kinds of emotions as we buy and wrap and give and receive presents. But when you feel that surge of excitement build within you, think of that as a pointer, a glimpse, a reminder of the even greater joy we have now that Isaiah’s prophecy has come true. 

    MonMondayNovNovember26th2012 A Savior is Coming
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged Advent Isaiah 0 comments Add comment

    Christmas Eve is a scant four weeks away. On that night many of us will gather together in darkened churches holding candles and singing Silent Night. It’s a fitting scene, for in that moment we will celebrate the glorious truth that our savior has come, bringing light into the world. It’s what the prophet Isaiah alluded to when he said:

    Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—


    2 The people walking in darkness

        have seen a great light;

    on those living in the land of deep darkness

        a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:1-2)


    We live and eat and work and play in a world where that wonderful moment has already come to pass. The people walking darkness have indeed seen a great light. 700 years after Isaiah wrote these words, Jesus would stand in the middle of Jerusalem and declare,

    12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)


    Nobody likes to think of themselves as living in darkness. It sounds backwards, primitive, archaic. And yet the truth of the matter is that however educated we may be, however successful, profitable, intelligent, beautiful and well-held together we are, if we don’t have Christ, then we are indeed trapped in a deep darkness. A brand new car, a fantastic job, a beautiful spouse and perfect children are wonderful blessings to have, but do absolutely nothing to restore our relationship with God. Without the presence of Jesus in our lives, we’ll drive that beautiful black BMW right into the gates of hell.  

    And yet, a month from now many of us will hold a candle, sing a favorite carol, and then go back to life as usual, as if the light was something nice for Christmas, but of little relevance to the rest of our lives.

    But we’re not there yet. Christmas is four weeks away, and we’re about to enter the four weeks of Advent. So start practicing now. Right in the middle of the hustle and bustle, right in the thick of everything, is the absolute best time to be practicing the basic spiritual disciplines of reading your Bible and praying. A great light has come into our lives. May we order our lives accordingly.

    FriFridayNovNovember23rd2012 God with us
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged Advent Isaiah 0 comments Add comment

    Sometimes we just don’t get it. We may hear the same thing over and over again, but for some reason it just doesn’t sink in. Ahaz was told repeatedly to trust in God. He was given a choice—to trust in himself or trust in the LORD. God even went so far as to explain exactly what the future held for the enemies of Ahaz. Apparently, though, Ahaz was just not getting it. In an incredible sign of grace and patience, God then offered Ahaz one more opportunity to understand:

    Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz,


    “Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”


    But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test.”


    Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

    He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. The LORD will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah—he will bring the king of Assyria.” (Isaiah 7:10-17)

    Now, although we know this prophecy best through its reference to the birth of Jesus Christ, in order for it to have been a sign for Ahaz it must also have referred to a child born at the time of Ahaz. Such a birth would have been a proof of Isaiah’s prophetic credentials and a reminder that God is in control of every aspect of human history. He rules over all earthly kings and leaders, over all governments and all nations. Even without the reference to Jesus, such a prophecy is an encouragement for us at a time of uncertainty. Things may get worse before they get better, but God is working out a plan and we can and must trust in him

    But then we read in Matthew:

    This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about : His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.


    But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”


    All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).


    When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-25)

    This, of course, takes the prophecy to a whole new level. The promise of God’s presence with us stretches back to the Garden of Eden, where God walked with Adam in a world without sin. It’s a promise that was renewed in the covenant with Abraham, and re-affirmed in the promises made to Moses. It’s a promise sealed in the Law and pictured beautifully in the Tabernacle. It’s a promise made to Joshua and David. It’s a promise made over and over again in the prophets, until it bursts into glorious reality in the birth of Jesus. Immanuel—God with us. It’s a promise that will one day be fully realized when God establishes the new heaven and the new earth, restoring everything that once was lost.

    And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. (Revelation 21:3)

    That’s a promise I can’t wait to be fulfilled.

    ThuThursdayNovNovember22nd2012 A Thanksgiving Psalm
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged Psalms Thanksgiving 0 comments Add comment

    A psalm for Thanksgiving Day. Read, reflect and join with David in declaring God’s praises today.

    Psa. 103:1    Praise the LORD, my soul;

                            all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

    2          Praise the LORD, my soul,

                            and forget not all his benefits—

    3          who forgives all your sins

                            and heals all your diseases,

    4          who redeems your life from the pit

                            and crowns you with love and compassion,

    5          who satisfies your desires with good things

                            so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

    6          The LORD works righteousness

                            and justice for all the oppressed.

    7          He made known his ways to Moses,

                            his deeds to the people of Israel:

    8          The LORD is compassionate and gracious,

                            slow to anger, abounding in love.

    9          He will not always accuse,

                            nor will he harbor his anger forever;

    10       he does not treat us as our sins deserve

                            or repay us according to our iniquities.

    11       For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

                            so great is his love for those who fear him;

    12       as far as the east is from the west,

                            so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

    13       As a father has compassion on his children,

                            so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;

    14       for he knows how we are formed,

                            he remembers that we are dust.

    15       The life of mortals is like grass,

                            they flourish like a flower of the field;

    16       the wind blows over it and it is gone,

                            and its place remembers it no more.

    17       But from everlasting to everlasting

                            the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,

                            and his righteousness with their children’s children—

    18       with those who keep his covenant

                            and remember to obey his precepts.

    19       The LORD has established his throne in heaven,

                            and his kingdom rules over all.

    20       Praise the LORD, you his angels,

                            you mighty ones who do his bidding,

                            who obey his word.

    21       Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts,

                            you his servants who do his will.

    22       Praise the LORD, all his works

                            everywhere in his dominion.

                Praise the LORD, my soul.

    WedWednesdayNovNovember21st2012 If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged Advent Isaiah 0 comments Add comment

    Of course, even with the promise of God’s presence with us, we still worry. We still doubt. The stresses keep coming and the fears pile up all around us. It’s because we don’t know for sure what is going to happen and we’re not sure we’re going to like what the future holds in store for us. In this unique situation with Ahaz, God chose to reveal exactly what would happen. He showed Ahaz the future. But would it make a difference?

    Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah’s son have plotted your ruin, saying,

    “Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it.”

    Yet this is what the Sovereign LORD says:


     “ ‘It will not take place,

                it will not happen,

    for the head of Aram is Damascus,

                and the head of Damascus is only Rezin.

    Within sixty-five years

                Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people.

    The head of Ephraim is Samaria,

                and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah’s son.

    If you do not stand firm in your faith,

                you will not stand at all.’ ” (Isaiah 7:5-9)

    This is a pretty detailed exposition of what was about to happen. The “smoldering stubs of firewood” would be put out forever. Whatever the evil kings had planned to do, God was opposed to it—“It will not take place, it will not happen.” God reaffirms his plan to keep these enemies at bay, and to destroy them. The question then becomes—will Ahaz trust God or not?

    “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” The problem is not that we don’t know the future. The problem is that we struggle to maintain faith in God. And if we cannot stand firm in our faith, like Ahaz we will not stand at all.

    And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.


    These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.


    Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 11:32-12:3)

    TueTuesdayNovNovember20th2012 Keep calm and carry on
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged Advent Isaiah 0 comments Add comment

    It’s one thing to say I shouldn’t be afraid, but it’s another thing entirely to actually live that way. What basis do I have for not letting my heart be troubled? How can I trust God when I am surrounded by people who oppose me?

    Then the LORD said to Isaiah, “Go out, you and your son Shear-jashub, to meet Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Launderer’s Field.


    Say to him, ‘Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood—because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah. (Isaiah 7:3-4)

    The LORD’s words to Ahaz are straight-forward—“Do not be afraid.” No complicated battle plans. No intricate strategies. Just a command to stay calm and not lose heart. Look at the way God describes his opponents—mere smoldering stubs. Their power has gone out from them completely. Their ability to do any real damage has gone. Their fiery flame has died down to a mere glowing ember. The LORD assured Ahaz that his opponents were simply not worthy of his fear.

    Now, things probably didn’t seem that clear cut to Ahaz, as two armies descended on his city. But God was presenting Ahaz with a stark choice—trust in himself or trust in God. What would he do?

    The LORD’s words to Ahaz recall God’s words to Joshua as he prepared to enter the promised land.

    No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.

    “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

    (Joshua 1:5-9)

    Our basis for standing firm is not the promise that everything is going to go smoothly in life, but the promise of God’s presence with us, no matter what. He will never leave us nor forsake us. That’s the promise he made to Joshua, the promise he made to Ahaz through Isaiah, the promise that was revealed in Jesus, and the promise that lives on today through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

    Wherever you go, and whatever you do this week, “do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you.”

    MonMondayNovNovember19th2012 Hearts shaken by the wind
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged Advent Isaiah 0 comments Add comment

    Christmas is quickly approaching, and as we draw near to this significant moment in the church calendar it is helpful for us to pause and consider what it is we are celebrating, and why. While such discussions are usually rooted in the gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus, if we are to grasp the full impact of that event we have to go back further in the history of Israel and consider what was prophesied some 700 years earlier. We have to look at the Book of Isaiah.

    Last week we considered Isaiah’s dramatic, and humbling, encounter with God. It was a moment that shook Isaiah to the core, a defining moment that solidified his faith in God and reaffirmed his call to prophetic ministry.

    This week we consider the practical outworking of that encounter, as Isaiah prophesies to Ahaz, the king of Judah.

    When Ahaz son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem, but they could not overpower it.


    Now the house of David was told, “Aram has allied itself with Ephraim”; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind. (Isaiah 7:1-2)

    It’s safe to say that Ahaz was afraid. Or, as the text says, “shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.” While we can look back through the lens of history and see that he had no reason to be afraid, from a purely human perspective it made sense for him to feel that way. Both the king of Aram and the king of Israel (the Northern Kingdom), were attacking Judah. How could he face such a significant challenge? What should he do next?

    We’ll explore what God was preparing to do as we continue our study this week, but for now, pause to reflect on your own reactions to challenges and opposition. How do you respond to uncertainty, and even danger, in your own life? Where do you turn for encouragement and help?

    As we look ahead to the rest of this Thanksgiving week, what situations are you facing? How are you going to get through them?


    “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

    FriFridayNovNovember16th2012 Judgment
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged Advent Isaiah 0 comments Add comment

    What is your only comfort in life and death?


    That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven: in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.


    Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

    (Question 1, from The Heidelberg Catechism)

    The uncertainty of this world can cause us great amounts of anxiety. We don’t even know what’s going to happen tonight, let alone tomorrow. We live on a knife-edge, constantly teetering on the brink of ruin and collapse. And although much of the suffering we endure in this world comes about as a result of sin, the Bible also makes clear that God does at time punish us directly. As Isaiah considered the call which God had placed on his life, he asked an honest question. How long would such “hardening” take place in the lives of his countrymen? How long would he have to preach such a terrible message of judgment?

    Then I said, “For how long, Lord?”


                And he answered:


                “Until the cities lie ruined

                            and without inhabitant,

                until the houses are left deserted

                            and the fields ruined and ravaged,

                until the LORD has sent everyone far away

                            and the land is utterly forsaken.

                And though a tenth remains in the land,

                            it will again be laid waste.

                But as the terebinth and oak

                            leave stumps when they are cut down,

                            so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.”

    (Isaiah 6:11-13)

    This was most likely not the response Isaiah was looking for. The total destruction of his people and his country was a horrifying prospect to consider. And yet, this is indeed the message that Isaiah boldly proclaimed, not because he reveled in it, but because he had complete and total faith in the God he served.

    We don’t like to talk about judgment, especially at this time of year, but the reality is that God’s holiness is often revealed in judgment. But more specifically, it is because of God’s coming judgment on the world that Christmas matters at all. Without a holy God who has promised to judge the evil and sin of this world, “the little Lord Jesus” is completely irrelevant.

    But He’s not. He’s absolute essential. For one day we will each of us stand before the Holy One of Israel, the Lord Almighty, and be called to account for our sin. And in that moment we need Jesus to intercede on our behalf. My only comfort in this world is that I belong completely to Him, to that baby, to that crucified King. He alone is worthy of my praise, and in Him alone will I put my trust. 

    ThuThursdayNovNovember15th2012 Hardened hearts
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged Advent Isaiah 0 comments Add comment

    Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”


                And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”


    He said, “Go and tell this people:


     “ ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;

                be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’

    Make the heart of this people calloused;

                make their ears dull

                and close their eyes.

    Otherwise they might see with their eyes,

                hear with their ears,

                understand with their hearts,

    and turn and be healed.”

    (Isaiah 6:8-10)


    We often hear the first few verses of this passage used to encourage people to engage in global missions, but that’s not quite what’s happening in the original context. The Lord asks Isaiah to serve as His prophet, speaking His words of judgment on a people who have abandoned their covenant with God. Isaiah is asked to preach to people who are, at least in name, already followers of God, part of the chosen nation of Israel, but they have wandered away from the truth, and will be punished as a result.

    The judgment on the people is to become what they worship. Whereas the right worship of God would have led them to life, their preference for idolatry has led them instead towards death. Just as their idols are in fact deaf, dumb and blind, so too will they now become deaf, dumb and blind.


    Jesus uses this passage in the parable of the sower to pronounce a similar judgment on the people of His time. Just as in Isaiah’s day, many would reject His words, choosing instead to harden their hearts in the pursuit of the idols of their hearts.

    As we creep closer to the Holiday season, Satan will use every marketing ploy in the book to try and sidetrack us from the pursuit of the gospel. Every shiny new toy, gadget, and great deal will promise us what only God can deliver. How will we stand firm against these lies and resist the deadening effects of this advertising blitz?

    WedWednesdayNovNovember14th2012 At just the right time
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged Advent Isaiah 0 comments Add comment

    The bad news for us is that there is no such thing as “good enough” in God’s economy. We’re either holy, or we’re not. And the Bible is clear about which side of that equation we’re on.

    All of us have become like one who is unclean,

        and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;

    we all shrivel up like a leaf,

        and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

    (Isaiah 64:6)

    However, this bad news is what makes Christmas so incredible. Without God’s intervention in our lives, “our sins sweep us away.” And as Isaiah stood there before God, prepared to be swept away, an incredible thing happened.

    Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:6-7)

    At just the right time, God reached out to Isaiah and cleansed him of his guilt and sin. Not because of anything inherent in Isaiah himself, not because of anything Isaiah did or said, but as an act of love born out of God’s nature—a moment of grace embedded in the middle of the Old Testament.

    In a similar way, that baby we see lying in a manger at Christmas is God’s answer to our filthy rags. One day that little baby will grow up and willingly go to the cross, taking on our uncleanness, so that we, too, can be in the presence of the Holy Lord Almighty. At just the right time, God reached out to us, to cleanse us and make us new—a moment of grace that has changed us forever. That’s the best present we could ever get.

    TueTuesdayNovNovember13th2012 Holy, holy, holy
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged Advent Isaiah 0 comments Add comment

    Aside from a Christmas tree, the most prevalent image at this time of year is a baby in a manger. Christmas Jesus is so radically removed from Easter Jesus that it’s sometimes hard to connect the two together as being the same person. Christmas Jesus is sweet, quiet, placid, tranquil, adorable, angelic, and in many respects, controllable. We can wrap our minds around Christmas Jesus as easily as we can wrap our arms around a newborn baby.

    However, although He was indeed fully human, Jesus was also fully God, and we would do well to remind ourselves of that at this time of year. Isaiah’s vision of God is a beautiful, if perhaps also overwhelming, picture of the Lord whom we claim to serve.

    In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:


     “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;

                the whole earth is full of his glory.”


    At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.


     “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”

    (Isaia 6:1-3)


    Isaiah’s vision is, in some respects, terrifying. This is no baby in a manger, but a mighty and powerful king whose presence fills the temple. He is surrounded by seraphim, heavenly creatures almost impossible to describe, who proclaim God’s absolute and total holiness. Not only is the temple filled with His presence, but “the whole earth is full of his glory.” The temple fills with smoke and the foundations tremble and shake, reminiscent of God’s appearance to Moses on Mount Sinai.

    Isaiah is struck to the core. His cries of anguish express a heartfelt and genuine fear for his life. Compared to the absolute purity of God, Isaiah is painfully aware of his own filthiness. In the presence of God, Isaiah realizes just how pitiful he really is.

    How often do we gaze upon God with that same kind of fear and uncertainty? We are experts at coming up with excuses for ourselves. With years of practice behind us, we have perfected the art of self-delusion, convincing ourselves that we’re really not that bad after all.

    A moment with Isaiah should serve as a reality check on our self-righteousness. Apart from the blood of Christ we should all be crying out, “Woe to me!” for we, too, are men and women of unclean lips.  How does this passage impact your understanding of Christmas? Who is it that we’re waiting for?

    MonMondayNovNovember12th2012 Waiting
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged Advent Isaiah 0 comments Add comment

    The egg nog lattes are almost here, stores are already pushing their Christmas displays, and if you haven’t started thinking about your gift lists yet, you will be now. Christmas is a mere six weeks away, and I can feel the anxiety rising already.

    Ready or not, we are entering a time of anticipation, of waiting, of expectation. The days will be counted down for us in newspapers, websites, coffee shops and department stores. If even atheists look forward to Christmas, then what’s so special about this season for us as Christians?

    As we prepare to enter this season of Advent, we should do so with a very specific expectation in mind. Imbedded in the history, poetry and prophecy of the Old Testament is the growing promise of a coming King—someone who will make take the sinful, broken world we live in and fix it once and for all. It’s a promise that builds slowly, but steadily gains momentum until the day Jesus bursts on the scene.

    As we prepare for Christmas this year, we’ll be spending the next seven weeks examining key passages from the Book of Isaiah. Although we have the great privilege of living two thousand years after the birth of Christ, in a world that has been changed forever by His life, death and resurrection, Isaiah was a man who lived and wrote seven hundred years before Jesus was even born. Isaiah lived with a hope that he never saw fulfilled. He lived in the expectation of a coming King, but never saw Him arrive.

    So today we begin with a brief foray into Isaiah 2, which in some respects sets the tone for the entire series. Then, starting tomorrow we’ll move into a closer study of Isaiah 6 as we prepare to worship God this coming Sunday.

    This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:


    In the last days


    the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established

                as the highest of the mountains;

    it will be exalted above the hills,

                and all nations will stream to it.


    Many peoples will come and say,


     “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,

                to the temple of the God of Jacob.

    He will teach us his ways,

                so that we may walk in his paths.”

    The law will go out from Zion,

                the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

    He will judge between the nations

                and will settle disputes for many peoples.

    They will beat their swords into plowshares

                and their spears into pruning hooks.

    Nation will not take up sword against nation,

                nor will they train for war anymore.


    Come, descendants of Jacob,

                let us walk in the light of the LORD.

    (Isaiah 2:1-5)

    How has this prophecy already been fulfilled?

    In what ways do we find ourselves still waiting for its fulfillment?

    What is your prayer for Advent this year?

    FriFridayNovNovember9th2012 Rise, let us go!
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged All In 0 comments Add comment

    When the time came for Jesus to go to his death, there was no hesitation. Strengthened through His time of prayer, Jesus willingly embraced the moment He had been dreading most.


    Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” (Matthew 26:45-46)

    Jesus doesn’t flee. Jesus doesn’t fight. He simply calls His disciples to His side and steps into the next chapter of His story. “Rise, let us go!” His overwhelming sorrow and pain has turned into a steely resolve to face whatever is to come with a boldness and confidence we can barely understand.

    Jesus gave it all. Every moment of His life was lived in perfect obedience to His Heavenly Father, but not for His benefit, for ours. For yours and mine.

    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17)

    We have been given the single greatest gift we could ever receive. Should our lives not reflect that same kind of sacrificial generosity out into the world?

    ThuThursdayNovNovember8th2012 "Your will be done"
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged All In Prayer 0 comments Add comment

    Jesus begins His prayer in the Garden with a request that God take the cup from him, crying out, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” But as the evening progresses His prayer shifts, and, as if sensing that His Father has said no, Jesus now prays:

    “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42)

    This is not a last ditch effort to win God’s favor. It’s a statement of absolute faith and trust in His Father’s perfect plan. In fact, Jesus prays this exact prayer twice (Matthew 26:44).

    If you’ve been in the Church for any amount of time you’re probably used to hearing a lot of conversations about God’s will. College students want to know what God’s will is for their lives. Should I do this job or that job? Should I live in this town or that town? Should I marry this person or that person? When we don’t know what to pray for, we simply pray for God’s will to be done.

    But do we know what we’re asking for? The model for our prayers is Jesus, and in His case God’s will involved His crucifixion, death and burial. That’s a path that few of us are looking to follow. The point is that when we are praying for God’s will to be done, we are releasing all control over our lives and giving it to God. We are giving Him the reins and asking Him to lead the way from here on out.

    We should be prepared, therefore, for life to take some unexpected twists and turns as He leads us into places we never expected to go, relationships we never intended to have and experiences we may have hoped to avoid at all costs. And ultimately, however wonderful and blessed our lives may be here on earth, God’s will involves us passing away into death. All of us.

    The good news is that we need not fear any of this, because Jesus promised to never leave us or forsake us. He has given us the Holy Spirit as our comforter and guide, and He will equip us thoroughly for whatever tasks lie ahead. Praying for God’s will to be done in my life is a solemn, holy prayer. As we prepare to commit our lives to Him, may we do so in the confidence that He loves us deeply and will hold our hand every step of the way. 

    WedWednesdayNovNovember7th2012 Be on your guard
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged All In 0 comments Add comment

    When my wife and I were first married we would sometimes take turns praying together at night. This worked well enough when I was the one praying out loud, but every time my wife started to pray, I would fall asleep. This had nothing to do with the length of her prayers—I just happen to fall asleep really quickly. If my head is on a pillow, I’m out cold. It’s a gift if you’re traveling on an airplane, but can create some challenging moments in a brand-new marriage.

    Needless to say, I can relate to the problems Peter, James and John had as they tried to stay awake with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

    Then [Jesus] returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” (Matthew 26:40-41)

    Without coffee, chocolate, or energy drinks the disciples were understandably quite tired. Then again, these were their final moments with Jesus. Jesus had predicted his death many times to the disciples, and although they never understood the full extent of what this meant, they got enough to be upset. As we read last week:

    From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” (Matthew 16:21-22)

    When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. 23 They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief. (Matthew 17:22-23)

    And yet in the actual moment before his arrest their good intentions were not enough, and they succumbed to sleep, leaving Jesus utterly alone. Of course, we would never do the same thing, right?

    Sadly, yes. Jesus is not asking me to stay up late with Him, but He has given me a myriad of other tasks to complete which I struggle with all the time. I hate to admit it, but my physical body, with all its faults and failures, has a powerful influence on my spiritual life. A simple thing like not eating lunch can turn me into a beast all afternoon. A sore knee or a tweaked nerve in my neck is enough to distract me from my spiritual disciplines and keep me from praying for others.

    These things shouldn’t take us by surprise, and yet they do. Jesus said “the Spirit is willing, but the body is weak” and yet we act surprised when we find ourselves falling asleep. We have been called to complete an incredible mission as we serve with God in the expansion of His Kingdom. Our bodies are going to fail us. That’s inevitable. But don’t let that derail your faith and slow you down. As long as you have breath in your lungs Jesus has a plan for you life, and if you keep your ears open and remain alert to his calling He will keep pulling you forward.

    “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” (1 Cor. 16:13)

    TueTuesdayNovNovember6th2012 Familiar with suffering
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged All In Prayer 0 comments Add comment

    Before you do anything else today, stop to pray. Pray for the election to go smoothly. Pray for your candidates to win, but more importantly, pray for your candidates to be saved. Pray for the Spirit to move in their lives to reveal truth and soften their hearts to be led by God. Pray for God’s will to be done in and through their work of governing, wherever they may serve. Pray that the losers would be gracious in defeat and pray for the winners to be humble in victory. Most importantly, pray for believers to focus their hearts and minds on the mission that God has called each and every one of us to be intimately and actively involved in—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. May we never lose sight of that goal in the midst of political debate and argument.

    If God is good, then how come He let Hurricane Sandy smash into the East Coast last week, killing so many people and causing so much destruction and despair? If He is really in control, why would He allow so much suffering? These kinds of questions come up whenever there is a major catastrophe or natural disaster, and reflect the kind of real emotional anguish we experience during such times.

    Many theologians have weighed in on this issue over the years. The British author C. S. Lewis famously noted that our very outrage at evil is a sign that we believe in absolute right and wrong; that we are comparing the way things are with the way things should be. But from where do we possibly get an awareness of the way things should be? There has to be a God, because otherwise it would be hard to declare anything objectively good or bad. Without a belief in God, what basis do we have for believing that people should not suffer?

    But perhaps a more concrete response to the kind of suffering that tragedies bring into our lives is found in the life of Jesus, and specifically in the final hours before His death. Here we have a record of Jesus, God incarnated in human flesh, suffering incredible pain and anguish.

    Then [Jesus] said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:38-39)

    The shortest verse in the Bible declares that “Jesus wept” at the tomb of his friend Lazarus. But in the moments before His own betrayal He wasn’t just a little bit sad, his soul was “overwhelmed with sorrow.” He was inundated with grief, “to the point of death.” Jesus couldn’t even stand up, but “fell with his face to the ground.” The path ahead for Him made no earthly sense. He knew that He face imminent death; a slow, painful, drawn out death. And even though He knew why this had to happen, and what God would do afterwards, death is still death; something to be avoided at all costs.

    There may be an infinite array of causes for our pain, but the suffering we go through, the emotional torture and choking depression, is pretty much universal. And Jesus knows this pain, not just in a vague, abstract kind of way, but in a very real and personal manner.

    I will never be able to “solve” the problem of Hurricane Sandy. I don’t know all the specific reasons for why God would allow that to happen or why He would allow so many people to go through this period of suffering. But I am comforted by the fact that God is intimately aware of our pain, and can therefore meet us in the middle of our heartache as a result.

    The Bible says of the Messiah:

    He was despised and rejected by men,

        a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.

    Like one from whom men hide their faces

        he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

    Surely he took up our infirmities

        and carried our sorrows,

    yet we considered him stricken by God,

        smitten by him, and afflicted.

    But he was pierced for our transgressions,

        he was crushed for our iniquities;

    the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,

        and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:3-5)

    Familiar with suffering, doubled over in pain, Jesus turned to His Father for help. May we, too, learn to take our pain to God and trust Him and His perfect plans, even when they don’t seem to make sense.

    MonMondayNovNovember5th2012 Pray
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged All In Prayer 0 comments Add comment

    How much of your “devotional time” every day is spent in prayer?

    Reading a devotional is an easy way to start thinking about God, but does it always lead us to connect with God?

    How much of our spiritual food is ingested second-hand, via a radio show, devotional book, or sermon, as opposed to directly from God Himself through the Bible and prayer?

    When Jesus faced the most difficult and overwhelming challenge of his life, He prayed.

    Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. (Matthew 26:26-37)

    Jesus left the comforting presence of other people and the noise of the city in order to find a place where he could focus on prayer. The temptation was there to stay in the room and talk it through more with the disciples. The option was open to stay up all night debating the pros and cons with his closest friends, trying to find a way out of the problem. But instead Jesus chose to invest that time in conversation with the only person who could actually help Him in that moment—His Heavenly Father.

    Perhaps the most under-used resource available to us as Christian is prayer. One of the most incredible blessings of the cross is that we now have free and open access to our Father in Heaven. You and I can talk with God. What a remarkable truth to claim!

    And yet, all too often, we stay silent instead. The lines are open, but nobody is calling in. We spend more time talking about our problems than praying about them. We invest more effort in explaining our prayer requests to someone else than we do in asking God for help. So, as we continue our series this week I encourage you to set aside more time each day for prayer. Make a commitment to talk less and pray more. Instead of telling someone you’ll be praying for them, just do it right then and there. May we all start to take the incredible blessing and privilege of prayer far more seriously this week.

    FriFridayNovNovember2nd2012 The Son of Man is going to come
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged All In 0 comments Add comment

    For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.

     “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

    (Matthew 16:27-28)

    Although Jesus calls us to take up our cross and follow Him, we don’t have to if we don’t want to. We can choose the path of least resistance, settle in to a comfortable existence, and go about our business as usual. We can devote ourselves to growing perfect children and climbing the corporate ladder if that’s what we want to do. We can even show up to church, participate in a committee here and there, and all the time still ignore Jesus’ more radical and absolute call on our lives. Jesus didn’t force His disciples to follow Him, and He’s not forcing you to do anything either. There is a way to be a Christian in this world while all the time avoiding the sacrifice inherent in “losing” our lives to follow Jesus.

    But here’s the problem. Jesus is coming back. And on that Day our actions will be judged by these criteria. Did we follow Jesus to the cross, sacrificing everything in order to do His will? Or did we listen to our hearts, fixing our eyes on everything this world has to offer, consumed with a desire, not for blatant sin or rebellion, but for “moderation” and “balance.” What will Jesus say when we talk proudly of our middle-of-the-road faith?

    These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

    (Revelation 3:14-18)

    Jesus humbled himself, took on human flesh, and dwelt among us. He took on the form of a servant, obedient to the will of His Father, even dying on a cross. But as a result,


    God exalted him to the highest place

        and gave him the name that is above every name,

    that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

        in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

    and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,

        to the glory of God the Father.

    (Philippians 2:9-11)

    May we who claim to be followers of Jesus follow Jesus’ model, humbly taking up our cross and following Him to the grave, that God may give us eternal life. 

    ThuThursdayNovNovember1st2012 Gain the world and forfeit your soul
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged All In 0 comments Add comment

    What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

    (Matthew 16:26)

    There’s a famous German legend about a man named Faust who yearned for more knowledge, wisdom, power and experience than the world could currently offer him. As a result he reached out to the Devil, who granted him his request, but at the cost of his soul. Although he enjoyed earthly success and pleasure for a time, Faust literally traded his eternal soul for that temporary privilege.

    Setting aside the theological problems with such an arrangement, the story gives us a powerful illustration of Jesus’s conversation with the disciples. It is possible for us to become so consumed with the day-to-day stuff of life that we lose sight of the fact that this short life is but a mere precursor for the even greater glories that lie ahead for us in Heaven.

    Probably few of us have the opportunity or resources to strive for gaining “the whole world,” but we do strive every day for all sorts of smaller goals. We pursue bigger homes, fatter bank accounts, larger retirements, more successful business enterprises, higher-scoring children, more outstanding athletic achievements, thinner, more sculpted bodies, younger partners, shinier electronic devices, faster cars, and higher definition televisions, computers and tablets. We may find some temporary satisfaction in these areas, but at what cost—to our finances, our friends, our families and our faith?

    Jesus gave everything in order to save our souls. He followed the path that God laid before Him and went to the cross so that we might gain eternal life and be restored in our relationship with God. Our foolish pursuits of earthly wisdom, fame, and fortune seem embarrassingly greedy and self-centered when set against the humble self-sacrificial love of Christ. Our desires need to be re-cast in light of God’s plans and purposes for life this side of Heaven. What are you pursuing and why? What is it costing you to achieve those goals? How can you realign those goals around the command to love God and love others? 

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