Isaiah 21-22

The Sin of Self-Sufficiency.

“But you never ask for help from the One who did all this. You never considered the One who planned this long ago.” ­– Isaiah 22:11b NLT

The real test of our faith is what we do in times of trouble. How we handle difficulty in our lives is a great revealer of what we believe about God. Our actions and attitudes during the trials of life say a lot about what we think about God. Hopelessness has a way of producing one of two responses: We either despair or become self-indulgent. We give up or we get busy. We throw in the towel or we throw ourselves a party. You see all these responses in the people of Judah as they encounter the armies of Babylon. As the reality of their dilemma sets in, they will respond with inexplicable merriment, trying to drown their sorrows and ignore the truth. But then they will try to take matters into their own hands. Isaiah says, “You run to the armory for your weapons. You inspect the break in the walls of Jerusalem. You store up water in the lower pool. You survey the houses and tear some down for stone to strengthen the walls. Between the city walls, you build a reservoir for water from the old pool. But you never ask for help from the One who did all this. You never considered the One who planned this long ago” (Isaiah 22:8b-11 NLT).

In the face of a crisis, the people will take matters into their own hands. Under the judgment of God, they will turn to their own ingenuity and try to solve their problem on their own, rather than repent and return to Him. Isaiah is warning them about what is going to happen. And in spite of his warnings, they will still refuse to repent. They will stubbornly resist and try to save themselves. Rather than weep and mourn, or show any signs of sorrow or repentance, they would throw a party. In the face of the overwhelming odds, they would rather go out in style, having a party, than admit their need for God. Isn’t that just like us today? In the face of financial difficulties, we would rather buy ourselves more trinkets and toys in an attempt to make us feel better, all the while going deeper into debt and aggravating our problem further. We try to solve our marital problems with money. We try to win over our kids with material things. We try to find joy in the endless pursuit of pleasure. We try to find contentment by consuming more and more.

We would rather work than worship. We would rather feast than repent. We would rather consumer than confess. And like the people of Judah, we never ask for help from the One who did all this. We never consider the One who planned all this. Trials and troubles are a great reminder of our need for God. He uses them to get our attention and draw us back to Him. But instead, we turn everywhere else but to Him. We become self-sufficient, self-indulgent, and self-centered. When we do, we reveal what we really believe about God. We show that we doubt His power, His love, His forgiveness and His ability to save. We show that our God is not who we claim Him to be. He is not in control. He is not all-powerful. He is not someone who cares and who answers our prayers. Otherwise, we would turn to Him. So what do you do in times of trouble? Where do you turn? Self-sufficiency is a sin God’s eyes. He doesn’t want to see how powerful and resourceful you are. He wants to reveal His strength in your weakness. But first we must admit our need for Him. We must confess our own self-sufficiency and our tendency to place our trust in other things. Turn to Him. Trust Him. He is waiting.

Father, the sin of self-sufficiency is hard to see and even harder to admit. I want to believe that I am just being resourceful and using the capabilities You have given me. I am just working hard and being diligent with my talents. But this morning you remind me of just how self-centered I can become. It just reveals my lack of faith in You. I doubt You can help, so I just attempt to help myself. I don’t trust You, so I place my trust elsewhere. Forgive me Lord. Open my eyes and help me see You in the midst of my trials. Help me to turn to You and trust in You in times of trouble. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Isaiah 20

Exposed to the World.

“The Lord told Isaiah son of Amoz, ‘Take off the burlap you have been wearing, and remove your sandals.’ Isaiah did as he was told and walked around naked and barefoot.” ­– Isaiah 20:2 NLT

How far would you go to remain obedient and submissive to God? Are there times when you balk at what the Lord is telling you to do because it either doesn’t make sense or it seems a bit inconvenient? God’s will for us is not always logical and He rarely, if ever, wants to know our opinion as to whether it is something we feel like doing. He wants us to trust Him. He wants us to recognize that He has a very good reason for asking to do what He has commanded – or He never would have done so. Today’s reading is short, but the impact is powerful. Here is Isaiah, God’s prophet, who has been faithfully doing exactly what God has called him to do… tell the people of Israel of the coming judgment of God on themselves and the surrounding nations. Up to this point Isaiah has just had to use his voice and speak the words of God to the people of God. But now, God is going to ask him to do something that seems so illogical, even immoral. It just doesn’t make sense. God tells Isaiah to remove all his clothing and walk around naked – for three years – as a visual illustration of what was going to happen to the nations of Egypt and Ethiopia.

Can you imagine the humiliation? Can you begin to comprehend the amount of ridicule and abuse Isaiah had to put up with? It was hard enough just being God’s prophet. Now he was going to have to walk around stark naked for three years as a walking billboard shouting out the coming judgment of God on two pagan nations. But the amazing thing is that nowhere in this passage do you see Isaiah balk at the Lord’s command. He doesn’t argue, rationalize, or bargain with God. He simply does what he is told. No questions asked. No whining. No complaining. The point of this humiliating exercise was to teach the people of Israel and Judah a memorable lesson on putting your trust in something other than God. If you do, it will always leave you exposed, ashamed, and vulnerable. But the more striking message in this story for me is the steadfast and unfailing obedience of Isaiah. This amazing man did what the Lord asked him to do – immediately and obediently. He was God’s vessel to do with as He wished. Isaiah fully believed that God was trustworthy and had a perfectly good reason behind His seemingly illogical request. Obedience to God will not always be logical or necessarily enjoyable. It may seem humiliating from a human perspective. It may appear that God is being unfair or harsh. It would have been easy for Isaiah to ask God to choose another way. He could have argued that to expose himself like that would have been inappropriate. But Isaiah both feared and trusted God. He revered God to much to argue with Him. He loved God too much to doubt Him. He trusted God too much to disobey Him. So for three years Isaiah walked around naked as a living lesson for the people of God. Would I have done that? Would I be willing to do something I saw as humiliating and hurtful to my pride in order to remain obedient to God? Would I “expose” myself to ridicule and laughter for the sake of God? Would I be willing to strip myself of all pretense and the last little vestiges of self-worth and self-sufficiency to do what God wants me to do? These are hard questions to consider. Could God have gotten His point across another way? More than likely. But I think God’s request was as much for Isaiah as it was to illustrate a point to the people of Judah. Isaiah’s job is far from over. He has much more to do and say. Was he going to be faithful to his calling? According to this story, probably so.

Father, this is a hard one. I hate the idea of being exposed and left naked emotionally, let alone physically. Vulnerability is difficult – especially for those of us who are men. Isaiah was already wearing burlap, not exactly the clothing of success and significance. And You asked him to lose that as well. The last little remnant of his pride and protection of his esteem had to be dropped – leaving him exposed to the world. He was Your man – Your spokesperson. Everyone knew he worked for You. Everyone knew he represented You. And He was faithful. He was obedient. He was trustworthy. May I be that kind of man. May I let go of my pride and my need for respect and simply obey You – no matter the cost.  Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Isaiah 18-19

Oh, What A Day That Will Be!

“In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the heart of Egypt, and there will be a monument to the Lord at its border. It will be a sign and a witness that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is worshiped in the land of Egypt. When the people cry to the Lord for help against those who oppress them, he will send them a savior who will rescue them. The Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians. Yes, they will know the Lord and will give their sacrifices and offerings to hi. They will make a vow to the Lord and keep it.” ­– Isaiah 19:19-22 NLT

Read the verses above slowly and carefully. Now think about the modern-day Egypt you know. Think about the recent turmoil, the riots, unrest and the deposition of their president. Recall all the stories from the Bible about Egypt and its treatment of the people of Israel. Their enslavement and abuse of God’s people. Their attempt to recapture them at the Red Sea. The Egyptians and Israelites share a long and not-so-pleasant history together. There were times when Egypt was the place where Israel turned for help and protection. Jesus’ own parents took him there after His birth to protect Him from Herod’s attacks. Egypt was never a place where God was worshiped or even recognized. It was a pagan nation with a multitude of gods. Yet, here we read that a day is coming when God will punish Egypt, then they will turn to the Lord and worship Him.

Can you imagine what this prophecy sounded like to the people of Isaiah’s day? How could they ever imagine Egypt and Assyria, two of their most powerful enemies, turning to God and worshiping Him alone? This prediction from the lips of Isaiah had to have sounded absurd and far-fetched. And it still sounds that way to us today. That a day could be coming when all the nations of the earth bow down and worship God and His Son Jesus Christ is hard to comprehend. It sounds ridiculous. Yet God says “in that day” He will not only chasten Egypt, He will redeem them. He will provide them with a Savior and will bring them into a right relationship with Him. In Isaiah’s day, these nations represented alliances that Egypt made in an attempt to rescue themselves out of trouble. When threatened by an outside force, they would turn to another nation for help. So instead of trusting God, they would place their trust in a nation and its military might. But in these passages God seems to be reminding Israel that the nations should be coming to them for help. They should be turning to Israel’s God for salvation. But because Israel failed to trust in God themselves, the nations failed to see Israel’s God as powerful and worthy of worship. Israel’s lack of faith in God failed to impress the nations. But the day is coming when that will all change. God will get the attention of the nations when His Son returns to mete out God’s judgment. But He will not just rebuke them, He will restore them. God will bring peace to the earth. He will cause warring nations to put down their weapons and lift up their hands in mutual worship of Him. Israel and their former enemies will be co-worshipers of God. Egypt and Assyria, sworn enemies in Isaiah’s day, will become one in their worship of God and His Son Jesus Christ. “For the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will say, ‘Blessed be Egypt, my people. Blessed be Assyria, the land I have made. Blessed be Israel, my special possession” (Isaiah 19:25 NLT). What a day that will be! Unbelievable. Remarkable. Hard to imagine. But well worth waiting for.

Father, there is a great day coming when all things and all nations will be restored. There will be peace in the land. All men will share a common bond in their worship of You. Our enemies will be our brothers. Former foes will be joined by a common love for You. It is hard to imagine, but so exciting to think about. Help me to understand that those countries I view as enemies today will one day have their eyes opened and their hearts turned to You. There is a day coming when there will be no more enemies. There will be no more Al Queda, Iran, China, Cuba, Libya, or North Korea. There is a day coming when peace will reign, Christ will rule, and men will no longer have any reason to call each other enemies. Oh, what a day that will be! Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Isaiah 15-17

What’s It Going To Take?

“Then at last the people will look to their Creator and turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel.” ­– Isaiah 17:7 NLT

We are a stubborn lot, we human beings. We will endure all kinds of pain and suffering in order to have things our own way. We can be, to use a biblical term, stiff-necked when it comes to our autonomy. Self-rule and self-sufficiency are the order of the day, just as they were in Isaiah’s day. It’s not hard to see the stubbornness of the people of God who Isaiah was addressing. The very punishments of God were designed to get their attention and draw them back to Him. But it’s amazing just how much it took to get them to wake up and smell the coffee. It would take demoralizing defeat and deportation to a foreign land to finally get them to sit up and take notice – to recognize their sin and their need for salvation from the hands of God.

In these chapters Isaiah describes the devastation and destruction that is going to come on the Moabites and Syrians, but the northern kingdom of Israel as well. He tells them, “Israel’s glory will grow dim; its robust body will waste away” (Isaiah 17:4 NLT). “Only a few of its people will be left” (Isaiah 17:6 NLT). But God’s ultimate purpose was restorative, not just punitive. He wanted His people to turn back to Him. “Then at last the people will look to their Creator and turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 17:7 NLT). They will finally stop turning to idols for help. They’ll quit giving their devotion and placing their trust in something other than God. It will take devastation and desolation to get them to do this though. God will have to bring them to an end of themselves and prove to them their need for Him. It will not be until they realize that no one or nothing can save them that they finally turn to God for help and hope.

Isn’t that just like mankind? We have to reach a point where we don’t have another trick up our sleeve, when we don’t have a solution to our problems or a way to get ourselves out of hot water that we finally turn to God. It may take an illness, a financial collapse, our spouse walking out on us, the death of a loved one, or the loss of our job before we finally stop relying on ourselves and start turning to God. Am I saying that God causes illness, makes our finances fail, or prompts our wife to walk out on us? No. But in His sovereign will, God can and does use these circumstances of life to get our attention. He allows the events of life – sometimes the results of our own sinful decisions or just the natural fallout of living in a fallen world – to get our attention and show us our need for Him. He is always calling us back to dependency on Him and non-self-sufficiency. He wants us to want Him. If it takes a failure to improve our faith – so be it. But what will it take for you? How long will you ignore God and live according to your own will? How long will you do things your way instead of His? How long will you devote your time, attention and resources to things other than Him before You realize that “you have turned from the God that can save you. You have forgotten the Rock who can hide you”? (Isaiah 7:10 NLT). God is calling? Are you listening? God is ready to save you and restore you? Are you ready?

Father, You are always out to restore Your people. You want us to rely on and trust in You. But we are stubborn. We are so prone to put our trust and hope in anything and everything but You. It seems that it takes some kind of collapse to get our attention. We have to fail before we realize just how much we need You. Our prayer lives tend to get stronger in times of need. Our spiritual vision improves during times of difficulty. Help us to learn to seek You without the aid of discipline. Help us to learn to turn to You without having to suffer first. Continue to soften our stubborn hearts and prune us of pride. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Isaiah 13-14

He Has A Plan.

“I have a plan for the whole earth, a hand of judgment upon all the nation. The Lord of Heaven’s Armies has spoken – who can change his plans? When his hand is raised, who can stop him?” ­– Isaiah 14:26-27 NLT

There are times when things seem so out of control. A quick glance of the newspaper, a scan of the evening news, and you begin to sense that the world is coming off its hinges. Wars, genocide, riots, rebellions, tsunamis, earthquakes, tornadoes, recessions, depressions, poverty…the list goes on and on. In the face of all this uncertainty and sin, it could be easy to feel like God has either lost control of thing or is distracted and disinterested in things here on earth. But Isaiah is a reminder that God is always in full control of things on this planet. He is deeply interested and heavily involved in all that is going on around us. From our perspective, things may look bleak, but God has a different view of things. He is not limited by time and space. He knows how the story ends.

In Isaiah’s day, it would have been easy for the people of God to lose hope as they looked around them. The Babylonians, Assyrians, Philistines, and others were all jockeying for power and position, and little Israel was caught in the middle. Yet God was using these nations to accomplish His divine plan. He was even using them to bring judgment on Israel. He was using these armies to carry out His anger and accomplish His wrath (Isaiah 13:3, 5). While we may feel like the wicked and the evil get away with murder (sometimes literally), God is never out of control. He always judges justly and fairly. It may not happen in our lifetime or according to our desires, but God can and does deal with injustice. He did it in Isaiah’s day and He will do it in the future. And in the midst of it all, He would continue to show mercy on those He had chosen. “But the Lord will have mercy on the descendants of Jacob. He will choose Israel as his special people once again” (Isaiah 14:1 NLT). God had used Babylon to discipline Israel. But the day came when He restored Israel to their land and punished Babylon for their sins. It was all part of His plan, and NOTHING or NO ONE can do anything to alter that plan. It cannot be delayed, derailed or destroyed. “The Lord of Heavens Armies has sworn this oath: ‘It will all happen as I have planned. It will be as I have decided” (Isaiah 14:24 NLT).

In the book of Isaiah we have a picture of God’s plan lived out to perfection – in the past. But we also have a prediction of God’s plan yet to happen – in the future. It is designed to give us hope and confidence. We can trust Him, because He has never failed to accomplish His will or implement His plan. There is much that has yet to happen. There are still promises God has yet to fulfill. But rest assured. He will do what He has planned. It will be just as He has decided.

Father, no matter what I see happening around me, keep me confident in the fact that You are in control and You are not done yet. You have a plan and You are working that plan. Everything You have promised will take place. Everything You have planned will come about just as You determined. At no point are You out of control or wringing Your hands in despair. I can rest in You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Kings 16-17

They Would Not Listen.

“But the Israelites would not listen. They were as stubborn as their ancestors who had refused to believe in the Lord their God.” ­– 2 Kings 17:14 NLT

The 17th chapter of 2 Kings contains a summary of all that had happened to the nation of Israel since the split of the kingdom after Solomon’s reign. It covers the time all the way up to the defeat of the northern kingdom by Assyria and their deportation. And it sums up their circumstances quite succinctly. They refused to listen to God. They refused to obey God. They refused to believe God. They rejected His commands and despised all His warnings of coming judgment. Instead of worshiping God, they worshiped worthless idols – man-made creations that could do nothing for them. They were the chosen people of God who refused to believe in and trust God. So their fate was sealed. Their destiny was determined by their callous treatment of God.

How many lessons are there in these passages for us to learn? Or will we simply look at the people of Israel, shake our heads, and wonder how they could have turned their backs on God so easily? The truth is, we treat God with the same degree of disrespect and disbelief every day. We doubt His Word. We disobey His commands. We turn to other gods instead of Him. We place our trust in other things besides Him. We regularly show Him disrespect, stubbornly resisting His will because we think we know better. Like the Israelites, we can become cocky and complacent, resting on our relationship as His children, confident that we are safe because we are saved. We have our ticket stamped and our place in His kingdom secured, so we think we can make our obedience optional. We treat His grace, mercy and forgiveness flippantly, living lives of our own choosing, highly confident that He loves us and would never forsake us. And He does and He won’t. But that does not mean God will not discipline us. He loves us too much to allow us to live in disobedience. He cares too much for us to allow us to live in disbelief and indifference to His revealed will. We are His representatives on this planet. We are His hands and feet. We are to be a living testimony of His power to the lost world around us. When we claim the name of Christ, but live in disobedience to God, we mock the very name of God and take the sacrifice of Christ’s death lightly. Like Ahaz, we can make the worship of God all about us. Ahaz took the bronze altar from the Temple and began to use it for His own personal worship. He replaced God’s will with his own. He made worship all about him and not about God. Worship became a tool to get what he wanted. It self-focused, rather than God-focused. And we run the same risk today. When we begin to care more about what we want than what God wants, we are headed for trouble. When we begin to listen to our own desires instead of God’s commands, we are on shaky ground. When we doubt God but trust in ourselves, we can and should expect the discipline of God. He loves us, but He will not allow us to dishonor His name and disrespect His will. God will not be mocked. He is calling us to obey Him. Not so He will love us more, but out of love for all He has done for us. He is calling us to honor Him with our actions, not so He will be impressed with our obedience, but as proof of our belief in Him. Are you listening? Do you hear Him? Will you obey Him?

Father, sometimes we are hard of hearing. You are speaking to us through Your Word, but we refuse to listen. We hear, but we don’t want to obey. We think our way is better. We think our will is more important than Yours. Open our ears and help us hear, but also give us the determination to obey You. You know best. You have our best interest at heart. May we trust You more and more.  Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Chronicles 28

Where Do You Turn In Times of Trouble?

“Even during this time of trouble, King Ahaz continued to reject the Lord.” ­– 2 Chronicles 28:22 NLT

When trouble comes, where do you turn? When difficulty shows up in your life, where do you look for answers? For Ahaz, the king of Judah, he looked anywhere and to anyone other than God. Even though most of his problems were directly related to his own rebellion against God, he just kept turning his attention elsewhere for a solution. It never seemed to cross his mind that the best solution might come in the form of repentance. He had led his people into all kinds of idolatry, including the worship of Baal, and had even practiced child sacrifice, offering up some of his own children on pagan altars in an attempt to appease the gods. As as result of his various sins, God brought punishment on Ahaz and the nation of Judah in the form of attacks by other nations. His own people were sent into exile. The northern kingdom attacked and took plunder and many of the people of Judah as slaves. But instead of turning to the Lord for help and asking for forgiveness, Ahaz turned to the king of Assyria. He makes a pact with King Tiglath-pileser of Assyria to help him fight against Edom. But instead of providing aid, King Tiglath-pileser attacks Judah. He looted the temple, the royal palace and the homes of the wealthiest people. We are told that “The Lord was humbling Judah because of King Ahaz of Judah, for he had encouraged his people to sin and had been utterly unfaithful to the Lord” (2 Chronicles 28:19 NLT).

So what did Ahaz do? He offered up sacrifices to the gods of Assyria. His logic was the if their gods had given the Assyrians victory over Judah, then they must be more powerful than the God of Judah. He even shut the doors of the Temple so no one could worship there. In other words, he made it impossible for the people of Judah to worship Yahweh at all. Instead, he set up pagan altars and shrines all over Jerusalem – the city of God. The result? He incurred the wrath of God. Rather than repent, he rebelled even further, causing God to punish he and the people to an even greater degree. How stubborn can you get? How stupid can one person be? But before I judge, I had better take a long look at my own life and examine how many times I have turned to something or someone else instead of the Lord when I have encountered trouble in my life. It is so easy to see Ahaz’s sin, but overlook our own. Yet each of us is guilty of refusing God’s discipline in our lives by trying to escape it by looking for solutions that don’t include repentance and confession. We turn to the gods of this world for deliverance – money, banking, investments, hard work, self-help books, and an assorted escape mechanisms such as pleasure, entertainment, sex, drugs and alcohol. We sacrifice our kids on the altars of sports, the arts, and education. We sacrifice our marriages on the altars of success and achievement. Yet as we see throughout the stories of the kings of Judah and Israel, God is calling us to turn back to Him. He pleads with us to repent and return. He alone can provide solutions to our problems and forgiveness for our sins. He wants us to admit that we have sinned. He wants us to confess that we have rejected Him. He wants us to return to Him and accept His offer of forgiveness and love. So where will you turn today? Who will you look to when things go poorly? Will you look up? Will you turn to God? Difficulties and trials can either turn us to God or away from Him. They can wreak havoc on our faith or cause it to grow. They can drive us to the Lord or away from Him. They can and should reveal our weakness and our need for God. Use today’s troubles to turn you back to God. He is ready, willing and able to help.

Father, forgive me for the many times I have turned to someone or something else instead of You. Instead of seeing trials as a tool in Your hands to turn me back to You, I tend to try and find a way out them. I turn to other things to solve my problems. I fail to see You in them and refuse to let them turn me back to You. Open my eyes so that the difficulties of life might be opportunities to see You more clearly. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Micah 5-7

What Does God Want From You?

“No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” ­– Micah 6:8 NLT

It’s really pretty simple. God’s will for you and me is not some complex, hard to figure out, mysterious thing. It is not a riddle to solve or quest to pursue. It does not involve sacrifices, rituals, or religious observances to ascertain. God’s will, what He wants from us is fairly basic. He states it right here in this message from the prophet Micah. And it consists of three things: To do what is right. To love mercy. And to walk humbly with Him.

Right in the middle of all the prophesies of coming judgment and future restoration, God delivers a message to His people stating His expectations or desires concerning their behavior. He has listed all their sins. He has warned of coming punishment. Then He tells them what He wants from them. And it is really fairly simple. First, He wants them to do what is right – to live together justly or righteously. What does that mean? Well, take a look at how they WERE living. God accuses them of dishonesty in their business dealings, of greed and avarice that caused them to cheat one another, of corruption and graft, extortion, violence, lying and a long list of other unjust behaviors. They were daily violating a good portion of the Ten Commandments. Do not lie, do not cheat, do not steal, do not covet, do not bear false witness, etc. God wanted them to do what is right in relationship with one another. He wanted them to live in harmony and peace, to treat one another with dignity and respect. But they were doing just the opposite.

Then God tells them He wants them to love mercy. That word “mercy” has to do with a certain kind of zeal or love shown to another person that shows up in kindness, goodness, and faithfulness. God wanted them to be zealous for mercy. They loved to receive it, but weren’t so good at extending it. God wanted to see His people zealous for and excited about showing mercy to one another. But again, they were doing just the opposite. They were taking advantage of one another. They were abusing one another. There was no mercy being extended or shown.

Finally, God tells them that He wants them to walk humbly before Him. He wants them to live their daily lives with a sense of humility and lowliness. He wants them to eliminate their pride and replace it with an understanding of who they are in comparison to Him. They are nothing without Him. They are weak and He is strong. They are only His people because He chose to make them so. They bring no value to the table. There is nothing inherently special about them. So as they live their lives, they are to constantly remember that all they have is the result of God, not themselves. Their wealth, treasures, talents, and resources are all the result of a kind, generous, loving God. To walk humbly before Him is to live with a sense of dependence and awareness of your need. It is a life of submission to His will. But instead, they had become arrogant, boastful, prideful, self-sufficient and self-willed. They did what was right in their own eyes. They walked before God with a sense of self-confidence. They did the things they did to one another with a degree of pride and arrogance, as if God would not do anything about it.

God’s desires for us are highly practical, not religious and ethereal. He wants us to treat one another fairly and justly. He wants us to love showing mercy to others – especially those in need, the helpless, hopeless, and oppressed. And He wants us to live our lives with a sense of humility – unimpressed with ourselves, our accomplishments, or our possessions. This is our calling. This is who God has called each of us as Christ-followers to be. This is how He desires for each of us to live our lives. Doing the right thing, extending mercy, and living with humility. What a difference our lives would make in this world if we did what God desired for us to do. And He has made it possible for us to pull it off because He has placed His Spirit within us. He has given us His Word to direct us. And He gave His Son as a living example of what that kind of life looks like. To live like Christ is to live out these three things as He did. Take a look at His life. Examine how He did what was right, showed mercy, and lived humbly. That is what He is calling us to do. It is practical, everyday stuff. But it is potentially life-changing and world-impacting.

Father, like the Israelites, many of us are too busy doing just the opposite of what You want. We have lost sight of the goal. We are ignoring Your will for our lives. Bring us back to the basics. Give us a desire to do what is right, to love mercy and to walk humbly before You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Micah 1-4

But That’s Not The Kind of God I Worship!

“‘Don’t say such things,’ the people respond. ‘Don’t prophesy like that. Such disasters will never come our way!'” ­– Micah 2:6 NLT

Too many today have a one-dimensional view of God. They want to see Him as loving and kind, gracious and forgiving. He is like the kindly old grandfather who excuses all the faults of his grandchildren and doles out gifts and words of exhortation. This perspective has caused many t0 reject the God of the Old Testament because He comes across as angry, violent, vindictive, judgmental, harsh, demanding, and somewhat bloodthirsty. They have a hard time reconciling the God pictured in the Old Testament with the kind, gracious and merciful God of the New Testament who sent His own Son to die on the cross as payment for the sins of all mankind. The Old Testament is full of prophesies of doom and gloom, while the New Testament is all about the Good News.

Yet in the book of Micah you find these two aspects of God’s personality revealed side by side. You clearly see the God of judgment, warning His people of the punishment He is about to bring on them for their sin and rebellion. “Look! The Lord is coming! He leaves His throne in heaven and tramples the heights of the earth” (Micah 1:3 NLT). He was coming to judge and to punish. Why? “Because of the rebellion of Israel – yes, the sins of the whole nation” (Micah 1:5 NLT). Then Micah spends seven chapters listing out their various sins: Fraud (2:2), theft (2:8), greed (2:9), debauchery (2:11), oppression (3:3), hypocrisy (3:4), heresy (3:5), injustice (3:9), extortion and lying (6:12), and murder (7:2). Just to name a few!

And just like today, the people of God didn’t want to hear what Micah had to say. At least not the negative part. “‘Don’t say such things,’ the people respond. ‘Don’t prophesy like that. Such disasters will never come our way!'” (Micah 2:6 NLT). They were God’s chosen people. Their God loved them. He would never let anything like that happen to them. But Micah warns them, “Should you talk that way, O family of Israel? Will the Lord’s Spirit have patience with such behavior?” (Micah 2:7 NLT). These people only wanted to hear good news. They wanted their prophets and preachers to give them messages that were easy on the ears and less convicting to their spirits. Micah sarcastically accuses them: “Suppose a prophet full of lies would say to you, ‘I’ll preach to you the joys of wine and alcohol!’ That’s just the kind of prophet you would like!” (Micah 2:11 NLT). In other words, they would love to be told that their sinful actions and attitudes were perfectly fine, that God was pleased with them, that they didn’t need to change.

But God was not pleased. He was angry and had run out of patience. His holiness demanded that He mete out justice. He must do the right thing. He cannot leave sin unpunished. He cannot simply overlook it. So judgment was non-optional. But at the same time, Micah gives us a glimpse of the love and mercy of God at the very same time He is warning about the coming wrath and judgment of God. He reminds them of God’s promise. “Someday, O Israel, I will gather you; I will gather the remnant who are left. I will bring you together again like sheep in a pen, like a flock in its pasture” (Micah 2:12 NLT). He tells them, “Your King will lead you; the Lord himself will guide you” (Micah 2:13b). God is both just and loving. He is holy and merciful. He is consistent in every way. Part of our problem is that we do not fully understand the nature of God. We gravitate to the more kind and loving version we find in the New Testament. But in doing so, we create a version of God that is incomplete and imperfect. Micah tries to show a comprehensive and complete image of God. Without His wrath, His love loses its power. Without His justice looming over us, demanding that right be done and sin be punished, His grace becomes cheap and disposable. We wrestle with some of the aspects of God’s character because they seem harsh and contradictory. But Micah reminds us, “…they do not know the Lord’s thoughts or understand his plan” (Micah 4:12 NLT). His punishment seems harsh and hard to understand. But if we only focus there we fail to understand that His punishment is coupled with mercy. He not only rebukes, He restores and redeems. He punishes, but then He prospers. He disciplines out of love. He rebukes because He has to. He redeems because He wants to. That is the kind of God I worship. He is not fickle, weak-willed, easy on sin, or harsh without a reason. God has a reason for everything He does – including bring punishment and blessing. Because He has a plan and a purpose behind it all.

Father, help us to grow in our understanding of you. Keep us from viewing You one-dimensionally and trying to paint a portrait of You that fits what we want from a god. May we grow to appreciate the fulness of Your character and understand more fully the richness of Your grace and mercy. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Isaiah 10-12

The King Is In the House!

“Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot – yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” ­– Isaiah 11:1-2 NLT

What a wonderful chapter. Right in the middle of all the warnings of coming judgment God provides a glimpse into the future. He tells the people of God what is going to happen to them because of their sin and rebellion. They will be cut down, but they will not be cut off. A remnant will survive and return and a ruler will rise up. From the stump that is left after Israel is cut down will come a Branch, a ruler, who will reign in righteousness. For once, the people of God will be led by a King who loves and obeys God completely. What we have described here is the reign of Christ in His millennial kingdom. This will take place after His second coming, when He returns to Jerusalem, defeats the enemies of God and sets up His throne in the city of God. This period will be one of peace and prosperity. Isaiah describes an idyllic setting where creation is restored to its original state with the animosity between animals removed and the fallen nature of the world corrected. The Messiah, Jesus Christ, will rule with wisdom and understanding. He will administer justice and treat the people fairly. Righteousness and truth will characterize His kingdom and His reign. Jerusalem and Israel will be the center of the world’s attention. Jews scattered all over the world will return to live in the land. Gentiles will be drawn like moths to a flame. That day will be a great and glorious day, and it is as real as today is. It will take place because God has promised it. And in that day, men will sing praises to God for His incredible faithfulness and forgiveness. And because we can count on this day taking place, we can even praise God now. It is as good as done. “With joy you will drink deeply from the fountain of salvation!” (Isaiah 12:3 NLT). So why shouldn’t we praise Him now for what He is going to do? Why wouldn’t we thank Him now for what He has promised is going to happen? It has not happened yet, but it will.

Father, I want to learn to praise You before the fact, not after. I want to learn to thank You even before I have the answer or have seen the solution. Because You are always faithful and Your answers are always right. Your promises always come true. I can always count on You. So when I read about what is to come, I can praise You now as if it has already taken place. Because I know it will.  Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men