Publication: Pastoral Letter, September 2011
Dear Friend in Christ:
Time marches on, but before we march with it, a pause would appropriate, to ask ourselves, “Where are we marching?”
Remember the phrase, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get”? The good news is that we are going fast; the bad news is that we are not sure if we are going in the right direction. Mistaken direction on a journey is one problem; in life it is a whole other kind of problem. We do not get “do-overs”. We are making a movie and only get one take.
I often enjoy an automobile trip because it gives me the flexibility that air travel does not (though one does need flexibility with air travel now). Sometimes, I travel by car to an unfamiliar area. My car and I are blessed with GPS; it provides both a map and voice guidance. Before beginning my journey, I enter the address of my destination. Even when I think that I know the route, the voice reminds me to stay on the course.
Life is a journey into the unknown; it drives prognosticators and soothsayers mad. And sometimes, it does the same to regular people who find themselves in unintended and sometimes tragic places. That can be avoided.
The nation of Israel was speeding along to such an unintended tragedy – a terrible holocaust. Jesus offered them guidance that would save many lives, for those who would listen. He offered guidance to His disciples that would continue even after His departure; guidance that remains even now for us_our Guide is the Holy Spirit (see John 14:25-27; John 16:7-15). The Holy Spirit is to us what a GPS is to a vehicle, and whole lot more! He is not only the voice of God to guide, correct, and comfort, He is our source of strength for the journey.
Several weeks ago, I was at Foothills Christians Church in El Cajon, CA, near San Diego, with Pastors Mark and David Hoffman. I ministered alongside with Marc Dupont, a prophetic servant of God. The church was concluding a forty-day prayer vigil and a twenty-one day fast. The gathering’s focused on seeking and hearing from God. During the closing session, the prayer team ministered to over nine hundred people. Reports are still coming in. Many people walked away from the gathering having heard from the Lord.
Many of God’s people are realizing that before we proceed further, we must hear from God. In that regard, let us look at Isaiah 55, one of my favorite chapters.
THE AVAILABILITY OF ABUNDANCE (ISAIAH 55:1-2)
The prophet tells us that God is inviting us to abundance; overflowing satisfaction, peace, and joy are God’s intended destination for us. Life was not meant to end in thirst, dryness, and frustration. That is a sign that one has gotten off course. The invitation is for the thirsty (see John 7:37, 38; Matthew 5:6). Furthermore, it requires no price (that has already been paid).
The Lord asks, “Why are you spending for what doesn’t satisfy when you can eat and drink what is good. Listen carefully and eat what is good and let your soul delight in abundance.” Spiritual drought is a result of failure to listen, and results in unsatisfactory, difficult labor with a poor yield.
I recall my own spiritual drought. During those days, I could not seem to find a message to preach from the Gospel of John, but when the Holy Spirit came in power, I could preach from the index! The problem wasn’t in the situation; it was in me. Thank God, my thirst led to the rivers of water.
The false premise of our consumer society is that something we purchase will satisfy about us. Most of us have storage areas for those things that we bought that failed to satisfy. No, it is not what we purchase that satisfies; it is what He purchased that will, if we pause and listen to Him. He is calling.
THE KEY TO SECURITY (ISAIAH 55:3-5)
Security is a basic human desire, and we seek it in many ways. Again, there is no security apart from the Lord. The Lord says, “Listen to me, and I’ll make a covenant with you as I did with David” (see 2 Samuel 7:1-12; Psalm 89:1-4; Jeremiah 31:31). No security is comparable to the security that comes from listening to the covenant Lord and obeying Him.
At this point, we should note that David wanted to build a house for God, but God wanted to build a house for David; these were two very different houses. David wanted to build a temple, God wanted to build a family for David that would bring forth the Eternal King. David and Solomon’s temple has long been destroyed, but the house the Lord built for David is eternal, secure, and overcoming the gates of Hell!
We build things; God builds people. Things pass away, but His family endures and prospers. His intent has always been to propagate life through family; natural, and spiritual Our heritage is not things, but sons and daughters. David’s greatest eternal honor is that the Son of God was called “The Son of David”.
Security lies, not in what we do for God, but what He has done for us. Listening to Him allows us to receive what He is doing for us. And, it is what He does for us that draws others to the Light and to His abundance. His mercy adorns us. We are bright in dark times, stable amid instability! Praise God!
In Isaiah 61, the Messiah is prophesied to “give beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” Those that He would so adorn would “be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” In other words, He gives glory to His people so that He will be glorified in them before the world.
In John 17:22, Jesus prays, saying to the Father, “The glory which you gave me, I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one.” The shared radiance of God’s grace unifies and reveals God’s glory to the world.
Of course, we need to continually bear in mind that what He does for us is not for us only; it is for the world. We are told in numerous places that Israel was chosen to be a light to the Gentiles (see Isaiah 42:6). When Israel forgot its mission, it lost its light.
THE WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY (ISAIAH 55:6-9)
“Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.” There is both a promise and an important implication. The promise is that He is available to us if we seek Him now. Abundant life is near if we listen. The implication is that He will not always be available if we ignore His call.
The Lord is in control of the times and seasons; He is Sovereign. We do not seek Him at our leisure, but in His time. Seasons pass; the time to listen and prepare for the future is now (see Proverbs 6:6-11). Amos 8:11-12 warned Israel that the time would come when they would seek but not find the word of the Lord. There is an invitation to mercy, but it has a date on it.
If we seek the Lord when He calls, He will abundantly pardon. His purpose is not retribution but redemption. He loves us and wants to restore wasted years. The key is turning from our own way to His. “Let the wicked forsake his way and his thoughts,” is not simply a reference to obvious sin. It is a reference to going our own way that leads to destruction (see Isaiah 53:6; Proverbs 14:12).
There are many “good people” who do good things, but miss the highway of God. They refuse to listen; they are too involved to hear the Map-Maker who sees the end from the beginning (see Isaiah 46:9-10). They have turned off the GPS while in unknown territory. It is time to turn it back on! (see Isaiah 30:21).
THE PROMISE OF JOY (ISAIAH 55:10-13)
People love joy, they spend, and strive to find it. The Lord promises that if we listen to Him, He will give joy in abundance (see Psalm 126:5-6). He promised to send His Word down upon us like rain that waters the earth and gives seed to the sower and bread to the eater. His Word will not return empty, but accomplish its purpose – it shall prosper. Notice, “You shall go out with joy and be led forth with peace.” Nature will cooperate, frustration will disappear. You will be characterized by joy and peace.
The Lord says, “You shall go out with joy and be led forth with peace.” Do you see the mission in that statement? Joy and peace will lead us out to the world that is in great need of joy and peace. But we cannot preach it successfully unless we possess it. But if we possess joy and peace, they affect others. Joy and peace are “infectious”; that is, they are influential . People notice when we are adorned with salvation (see Isaiah 12:3-6).
Isaiah’s prophetic words are profoundly relevant to us, as much as they were to Israel. The call is still there for us to enjoy the blessing of our God, if we will cease from our own way and listen for His voice. “Be still and know that I am God” remains the Word of God for us.
Ours is a society that is consumed with activity and short on listening. If we listen, unimaginable blessings will flow, our testimony will increase, and the great attraction will not be our buildings and programs…it will be God’s people. The world may not want more religion, but many do want real joy and peace. Joy and peace will be our strength (see Isaiah 40:31).
P.S. Could I ask you to please continue to remember CSM in your prayers and in your giving during September and throughout the remainder of the year? Your support is vital as we continue to declare the prophetic word of the Lord in this generation. You also help us support other ministries and causes, including the Hidden Treasures Costa Rica Children’s Home. Thanks!
Scripture Reference: John, Isaiah, Matthew, 2 Samuel, Psalms, Jeremiah, Proverbs, Amos