ABC 2016

Prayer for 2016:
  1. Available.
    • Accessible.
    • Approachable.
    • Amiable.
    • Accountable.
  2. Bible basics.
    • Bible building blocks.
    • Back to the Bible.
  3. Communication.
    • Community.
  4. Direction.
    • Discipline.
    • Discipleship.
  5. Encounter.
    • Experience.
    • Evangelize.
  6. Friendship.
    • Fellowship.
    • Freedom.
  7. Grace.
    • Generosity.
    • Gentleness.
    • Goodness.


Ten Life Lessons from Isaiah for 2016

For about six months in 2015, I preached through the first 28 chapters of Isaiah in 23 sermons: West Loop sermons from Isaiah. Here are some life lessons that we can draw out and apply:
  1. Grace: The grace of God (Isa 1:18; 5:4).
  2. Stupidity: The stupidity of man (Isa 1:3; 28:23-29).
  3. Hypocrisy: The fake Christian life (Isa 1:13; 29:13).
  4. Authenticity: The real Christian life (Isa 2:5, 3; 7:4; 8:12b-13).
  5. Disillusionment: The sure disappointment (Isa 2:22; 22:8-11; 31:1).
  6. Calling/Theophany: The call and the vision (Isa 6:1, 5, 8).
  7. Faith: The challenge (Isa 7:9b; 26:4).
  8. Wonder: The perennial solution (Isa 9:6; Isa 26:3).
  9. Security: The eternal kingdom (Isa 11:6-9; 25:6-8; 26:19; 28:16).
  10. Certainty: The only salvation (Isa 12:2; 25:9).


Praise God As Long As I Live (Psalm 146)

"I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live" (Ps 146:2, NIV).

Psalm 1 began with "Blessed is the man" (Ps 1:1) and ends with "Blessed be the Lord" in the last five psalms--Psalm 146-150--the endless Hallelujah. In these psalms there is no reference to personal need and no petition. All is focused on God. All is praise, which aptly conclude the Psalms, as all five psalms begin and end with "Praise the Lord" (Hallelujah!). In early Jewish tradition an established practice is to recite these five psalms, together with Psalm 145 as part of the daily morning liturgy. Notice the step by step progression in this praise. It begins with the individual (Ps 146:1), involves the community (Ps 147:1,12), extends to heaven and earth (Ps 148:1,7) and to a people committed to mission (Ps 149) until everything that has breath praises the Lord (Ps 150:6).

Psalm 146 expresses individual praise.
  1. The praise of God (1-2).
  2. The power of God (3-6).
  3. The provision of God (7-10).
I. The Praise of God (146:1-2)

The act of praising the Lord is lifelong: "all my life" and "as long as I live." The Lord is worthy of the praise of the whole person and the whole life.

II. The Power of God (146:3-6)

Ps 146:3-4 guard the praise of God negatively, because all human objects of trust, whether outstanding or ordinary lack ability, continuance and reliability. In mortal man there is no salvation (Ps 146:3; 118:8; Isa 2:22; 31:1). A truly blessed, happy and joyful person is simply a person who adheres to the principle of trusting and hoping in God rather than in human leaders (Ps 20:7). The Lord can be trusted because of his infinite power as Maker of heaven and earth and his faithful character (Ps 146:6; 115:15; Rev 14:7).

III. The Provision of God (146:7-10)

The psalmist then considered the various ways in which God's concern is expressed as provision for His people: He provides justice, food, liberty/freedom, healing, restoration, protection, care and moral justice (Ps 146:7-9).


Praise God (Psalm 150)

Praise God:
  1. Everywhere (Ps 150:1).
  2. For Everything (Ps 150:2).
  3. In Every Way (Ps 150:3-5).
  4. By Everyone (Ps 150:6).


Unacceptable Worship (Isaiah 29:1-14 questions)

Isaiah 29 (1–4, 5-8, 9-14)
  1. [1-4] Note the opening word (Isa 29:1; 28:1). What does Ariel (Jerusalem) think will protect her (Isa 29:1)? What would God do (Isa 29:2-3)? What were they doing (Isa 29:4; 8:19)? Why? Were they genuinely worshiping God?
  2. [5-8] What will God do with Jerusalem's enemies (Isa 29:5)? How does God compare with the nations fighting against Ariel (Isa 29:5-8; 40:15-17)?
  3. [9-14] What similarities do you see in 29:9-14 and 28:7-13? How is it that the people have blinded themselves (Isa 29:9), yet God blinds them (Isa 29:10; 6:9-10)? Which comes first? Why would God blind us (Rom 8:6-7)? When does reading the Bible become unintelligible (Isa 29:11-12)?
  4. When does worship lose its sense of wonder (Isa 29:13; Mt 15:8–9)? Can God be controlled by our worship of Him? Is worship utilitarian? Do you think God should bless you when you obey Him? How does one truly worship God (Ps 51:16-17)? What is ironic about Isa 29:14? Compare to Isa 29:2-3; 28:21.


God's Power on God's Terms (Isaiah 29; Ray Ortland)

Isaiah 29

"The Lord says: 'These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from meTheir worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught'" (Isa 29:13, NIV).

[Oswalt, John N. Isaiah: The New Application Commentary. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 2003. Isaiah: God Saves Sinners by Raymond C Ortlund Jr.]

Do you think you have God figured out? Did you know that your greatest breakthrough might be when you hit a brick wall? Did you know that the most constructive thing that might happen to you is when your world falls apart? Sometimes we Christians need that, because we think we have God figured out.

Do you think that you should be able to explain everything as a believer? We do know something about God, because he has revealed himself to us. But imperceptibly, unintentionally, we can slide into the feeling that if we know God at all, we should be able to explain everything. But the fact is, we can't explain everything. Sometimes God doesn't make sense, to us.

Does God confound you and you're OK with not being in control? When God surprises you so that you can't see through what God is doing in your life into the reason behind it, when he becomes opaque and mysterious, you are seeing something. You are seeing that God is God and you are not God. You are encountering him at a new level of profundity. You are discovering what it means to trust God and surrender to God rather than control him. If God never shocked you, you wouldn't really know him, because you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between your notions of God and the reality of God.


Isaiah preaching schedule Jan-Feb 2016

Over the years, Isaiah has come to be known as "the prince of the prophets." Isaiah is like a modern symphony, with themes appearing and reappearing in fascinating harmony. The book of Isaiah seems to address at least two, and perhaps three different historical settings:
  1. 1-39 (740-700 B.C.): Isaiah's own times.
  2. 40-55 (585-540 B.C.): Judean exiles in Babylon.
  3. 56-66 (539 B.C. onwards): Reflecting on conditions in Judah after the return from exile.
Tentative Plan and Dates for Isaiah Sermons in 2016:
  • Isaiah 29 (1/10/16): Hypocrisy Hidden by Heeding Human Rules. Hypocrisy, heeding rules and hiding from God. Enforcing rules blind you to God and his word. Bad leadership emphasizes obeying human rules and tradition. (Link - Bad Leaders Produce Hypocritical Worship.)
  • Isaiah 30 (1/17/16): God Waits Though Man Rejects Repentance and Rest. God graciously waits for us to repent and rest in him. (Link - God Graciously Waits.)