The Best News Ever!

I love it when I read a very familiar scripture and discover something new about it. Also, context is everything!!! Really. There are verses that are inspiring by themselves, but it’s amazing — and a little scary — how often a verse by itself gets misunderstood because the context around it is entirely ignored.

One of these verses, for me personally, has been Isaiah 55:8-9. It reads:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
and your ways are not My ways.”
This is the Lord’s declaration.
“For as heaven is higher than earth,
so My ways are higher than your ways,
and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

This verse is often used to respond to the hurt or confusion that can come from not understanding what God is doing in someone’s life. Something unpleasant or uncomfortable happens in a believer’s life and it’s said, “Well, God’s ways aren’t our ways, so we don’t always understand what He’s doing. His ways are higher than our ways, so what He’s doing must be better than what we wish would happen instead.” Sometimes it can come off as a kind of a shrug and “Oh well” in the face of someone’s pain.

It’s not that the above statement is false, because it isn’t. God’s wisdom and design IS beyond our capacity for understanding. But the above statement is not an accurate interpretation of Isaiah 55:8-9; it’s incomplete. There’s more to the story, and as is often the case, it’s the best part of the story!

Here is the whole chapter:

“Come, everyone who is thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you without money,
come, buy, and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost!
Why do you spend money on what is not food,
and your wages on what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
and you will enjoy the choicest of foods.
Pay attention and come to Me;
listen, so that you will live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
the promises assured to David.
Since I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples,
so you will summon a nation you do not know,
and nations who do not know you will run to you.
For the Lord your God,
even the Holy One of Israel,
has glorified you.”

Seek the Lord while He may be found;
call to Him while He is near.
Let the wicked one abandon his way
and the sinful one his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord,
so He may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for He will freely forgive.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
and your ways are not My ways.”
This is the Lord’s declaration.
“For as heaven is higher than earth,
so My ways are higher than your ways,
and My thoughts than your thoughts.
For just as rain and snow fall from heaven
and do not return there
without saturating the earth
and making it germinate and sprout,
and providing seed to sow
and food to eat,
so My word that comes from My mouth
will not return to Me empty,
but it will accomplish what I please
and will prosper in what I send it to do.”

You will indeed go out with joy
and be peacefully guided;
the mountains and the hills will break into singing before you,
and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush, a cypress will come up,
and instead of the brier, a myrtle will come up;
it will make a name for Yahweh
as an everlasting sign that will not be destroyed.

Did you see what I saw? Just before He explains that His ways are above our ways, what does He say?

Let the wicked one abandon his way
and the sinful one his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord,
so He may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for He will freely forgive.

He will freely forgive any ‘wicked one’ or ‘sinful one’ who abandons his way and returns to the Lord!

The reason He explains, in the very next paragraph, that His ways are higher than our ways is because we would not behave this way toward anyone who was wicked toward us! Would I? If someone murdered my son, would I ‘freely forgive’? Most definitely not. Even as followers of Christ, it takes a tremendous act of surrender to the power of the Holy Spirit before we can forgive something like that! And this is why God is telling us His ways are higher.

He’s not saying, “Now, now, I know better than you so just stop your complaining and deal with it.”

He’s not saying, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, so don’t even bother trying to figure them out.” *

He’s not saying, “Your pain is invalid because I know what I’m doing and if you knew what I was doing, it wouldn’t hurt.” **

This passage is not intended to be a slap in the face for questioning the works of God’s hand in our lives. This passage is comfort and reassurance. “You would not freely forgive the kind of atrocities that I forgive, but that is because My ways are higher than yours; my thoughts are kinder and more compassionate; long-suffering and peace-making.”

What I learn about God when I read this chapter, is that He is compassionate and tender toward our lack of understanding. Our pain is valid and it hurts Him too; His response to it is, “I know this hurts; I know this isn’t the way you would do things, but the way I’m doing it is even better — please trust Me because you will see…soon you will see…It is very good.” In short, we benefit from the fact that His thoughts are not our thoughts!

God tells us that no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived the things that God has prepared for those who love Him — they are more wonderful than the most wonderful thing I could imagine. (Eek! That makes me so giddy!!!)

And if you’re not one who loves Him yet, the whole of Isaiah 55 is for YOU. So read it again. The promises at the end are for anyone who puts their trust in God’s saving power and chooses to love Him. See, it really is good news. :) The best, actually.

 

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*There’s scripture that actually says the opposite! If we seek Him, we will find Him; He reveals great mysteries and hidden truths through His Spirit inside us! And more!

**People really think this! But don’t you know that Jesus knew FULL WELL what was happening on the cross, why it was necessary, and it STILL hurt like crazy??

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When I Feel Desperate Without Vision…You Wrap Around Me Like A Winter Coat

From a non-Christian’s perspective:

+ I have a diabolical plan to convert as many people to “my religion” as possible, so I can move up in the pyramid scheme of Christianity.
+ I’m manipulative and sneaky, and everyone around me is being slowly brainwashed as I subject them to my “religious drivel”. 
+ I’m a tryant-in-training, with a long-term goal of taking away everyone’s freedom and forcing them to obey rigid rules and regulations.
 
What’s really happening:
+ I believe Hell is real and I cry sometimes, thinking about the reality that not all of my friends and loved ones will be in Heaven with me. I can’t even walk into a Starbucks without being aware of the fact that every single one of those people will end up in Heaven or Hell. Everyone has an eternal destination.
+ I’m terrified of pushing someone even further from the life-saving truth, so I post Bible verses and inspirational quotes in the hopes that the Holy Spirit will move on their behalf and help them to see the reality of a Creator who loves us.
+ I’m learning to be like Jesus, with a long-term goal of freeing people from Satan’s deception so they can experience the joy that comes from “reading the manual” of life, as God wrote it. And I screw up royally sometimes.
 
I’m realizing that I’m a closet-evangelist. I don’t like Bible-thumpers and I don’t want to be a Bible-thumper, but in recent days, it’s becoming clear to me that no matter how honest, sincere, and loving I am in the sharing of my beliefs, 
+ there will be people who perceive me as a Bible-thumper, even a hateful, racist, bigoted one
+ there will be people who disagree with me
+ there will be people who (thankfully) love me in spite of disagreeing with me
+ there will be people who suddenly decide to hate me
+ there will be people who twist what I say to make it sound as hateful as possible
+ there will be people who try to use scripture against me, but use it incorrectly and then refuse to be enlightened on its contextual meaning. 
 
Jesus said the world will hate His followers, because the world hates HIM. And that helps. It prepares me for the sting of harsh words, for the sucker-punch of lies being told about me, for the pain of losing friends. 
 
But nothing soothes more than this: every hateful word, every rebuttal, every attack is a radar reading — it says I’m being heard. It means that someone else out there is quietly taking it all in and God is working in that person. And ultimately, all the hate that people think I’m spewing, that usually gets turned back on me? It gets turned into love: one more person who discovers the love that God has had for them all along. It turns into joy: angels rejoice every time someone decides to trust Jesus. It turns into freedom: one less person that Satan gets to destroy. 
 
I will not give up in sharing my faith, because in due time, I will reap a harvest. People will know the truth and the truth will set them free. The numbers I reach will be a pittance compared to people like Paul and Mother Theresa, but it will be more than none and that is enough to keep me going. Because Hell is real and I don’t want anyone I love to go there. I don’t even want my enemies to go there. ♥
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What can I do with my obsession?
With the things I cannot see
Is there madness in my being?
Is it wind that blows the trees?
Sometimes You’re further than the moon
Sometimes You’re closer than my skin
And You surround me like a winter fog
You’ve come and burned me with a kiss
And my heart burns for You
And my heart burns
And I’m so filthy with my sin
I carry pride like a disease
You know I’m stubborn God and I’m longing
to be close
You burn me deeper than I know
I feel lonely without hope
I feel desperate without vision
You wrap around me like a winter coat
You come and free me like a bird
And my heart burns for You
And my heart burns for You

Jealous of God’s Ears

Every Sunday is a heavenly experience, literally. Can you imagine what it will be like to sing praises to God with EVERY SINGLE FOLLOWER OF CHRIST THAT HAS EVER EXISTED? Can you imagine what that will sound like? God gets to hear it every Sunday, as people all over the world gather together and worship Him through song.

You would think it sounds chaotic and noisy, but I have a hunch it’s a multi-dimensional, harmonious sound, something we can’t even FATHOM on this side of Heaven; and certainly something our current ears would be incapable of processing correctly.

There are two things about Christian culture today that make me very sad: division and apathy toward Heaven. Randy Alcorn pegged it in his book when he said that Satan can’t rob us of our joy, so his method is to make us ignorant and apathetic. Are you looking forward to Heaven? If the answer is no, then you’re probably not fully grasping what Heaven is like. I vehemently recommend reading Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven. It literally changed my life.

Every Sunday whets my appetite for Heaven, the presence of God, fellowship with believers, and the new, sin-free Earth. It’s going to be indescribable. ^_^