Isaiah 47. Only God is Holy.

Because of the importance of Israel and its people, and my personal love for The Land, I’m inviting you to join me through the key Old Testament book of Isaiah.  Each day I’m posting some simple thoughts about this complex prophet.

Isaiah 47.

Here’s a simple reminder that self-centeredness leads to calamity. The warning of this chapter is to the “great” Babylon. God is a holy God. He sits on the throne of Heaven. When we as individuals, or as nations, dethrone Him in exchange for the things we deem for our pleasure, it is not a good thing.

“Our Redeemer—the Lord Almighty is his name— is the Holy One of Israel.” (v4, NIV).

Only God is holy. Only the triune God, only Jesus, only the Holy Spirit sits on Heaven’s throne.

“You have trusted in your wickedness and have said, ‘No one sees me. Your wisdom and knowledge mislead you when you say to yourself, ‘I am, and there is none besides me.’” (v10, NIV). How many people believe they are above the law? How many believe they are more important than God?

We cannot say “I Am.” That is something only God can say. I can say “I am nothing,” because that is true. Without Jesus, without the Holy Spirit, I am nothing. We are nothing. Once again, we are reminded why the Jewish leaders falsely called Jesus a blasphemer for He dared to say “I am.”

And yet, He was the “I Am!” And He is! And He is to come again! Only He is Holy!

And Babylon? It’s been gone for centuries and centuries.  And dare we say the same will happen to us here in America if we continue to choose to put any political agenda above the trust that we proclaimed in God at the outset of this nation’s founding?

My heart grieves for the next generations.  There is a warning for us in the Old Testament, many years before Isaiah. “After a while, the people of Joshua’s generation died, and the next generation did not know the Lord or any of the things he had done for Israel.” (Judges 2:10, CEV). Those immediately following the generation of the great leader, Joshua, completely turned their backs on God! These are the children of the father who boldly proclaimed, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15, NIV). It doesn’t take much. In fact, all it takes is apathy.

And yet, my heart also has hope because of the remnant few who put their trust in Jesus. Keep trusting, keep worshipping. Watch what God can do with a small group who are faithful.

Here is how Paul sees it: “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.” (Ephesians 3:20-21, MSG).

Let’s all take Isaiah’s warning to heart. Do not trust in yourself. Do not let your self-centeredness lead to your calamity. Let us all be obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit — to the leading of God — today.

If you’re new to this journey through Isaiah, you can start here.

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

Advent Day 10, the Gift of knowing how much Christ loves us

December 10

The Gift of knowing how much Christ loves us

Parents and their younger children often play the “How Much Love?” game.  You know how it goes.  It usually starts with mom or dad looking at their child and saying, “I love you.”  And the child looks up with big inquiring eyes, “How much do you love me?”  The game continues with the parent comparing the amount of their love with the number of stars in the sky or grains of sand on the beach or “to the moon and back.”   In the recent Disney movie, Tangled, Rapunzel’s step-mother says “I love you very much dear.”  To which Rapunzel replies: “I love you more.”  And to finish the game, her mother says “I love you most.”

In Ephesians 3, Paul suggests a box of love with unlimited proportions.  I pray that you and all God’s holy people will have the power to understand the greatness of Christ’s love—how wide and how long and how high and how deep that love is. Christ’s love is greater than anyone can ever know, but I pray that you will be able to know that love. Then you can be filled with the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:18-19 NCV.

It is an amount of love that you just cannot get your hands around.  It is reminiscent of Romans 8:35 where Paul asks “Who can separate us from the love of Christ?”  And then he gives us the answer, in Romans 8:39, in a long list that includes “nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

How much does Christ love us?  He loves us more… he loves us most.  He loves us bigger than the biggest box…

If Buzz Lightyear was to answer the question, he would say “to infinity and beyond…” And that still would not be a box that could contain God’s love.

And that’s an awesome, incredible gift!

So, open your arms wide and receive today’s gift, the Gift of knowing how much Christ loves you!

Father God, thank you for loving me with an immeasurable amount of love.  May I remember today, and every day, especially when I’m not feeling loved, that you love me more than I can comprehend.  Let me receive your great love today!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Advent Day 8, the gift of Boldness and Confident Access

December 8

The Gift of Boldness and Confident Access

Think back to elementary school.  Did you ever get called up to the teacher’s desk for a one-on-one meeting?  Not a disciplinary confrontation, mind you, just a “please come here I want to talk with you” meeting.  Generally, there were two opposite responses from the room full of pupils.  One student would sheepishly approach the front of the classroom, head hanging low, feet shuffling along, fearful.  Another student would stride confidently, chin up, eyes fixed on the teacher’s eyes. The first lacked confidence, the second acted boldly.

Our next Advent gift is found in Ephesians 3:12, the gift of boldness! 

In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. (Ephesians 3:12 NIV).  The word “confidence” can be translated “boldness” or even “cheerful courage.”

Someone once asked the question “What was the difference between the disciple Peter at Passover and Peter at Pentecost?”  It was 50 days… and there was a 180 degree change in Peter.  Recall at Passover, Peter was afraid, he acted cowardly, even lying to a young girl about his connection with Jesus.  At Pentecost, in Acts 2, he boldly proclaimed the Gospel on the steps of the Temple for all in Jerusalem to hear.  And over 3,000 responded to his sermon and were baptized that day!   What was the difference?  He was filled with the Holy Spirit!   

Jesus, through His Holy Spirit, gives us boldness to proclaim the Gospel… and also to approach the Father in Heaven to ask Him for whatever we need. 

Why can we do that?  In the old days, man needed a mediator to go between him and Holy God.  No longer, thanks to the grace of Jesus!  You may recall that the moment Jesus died, the Holy of Holies in the Temple became accessible to everyone. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.  Matthew 27:51 (NIV).  We now have access to the throne of God, and today’s scripture says we can have “confident access” (Ephesians 3:12 NASB). 

So, ask.  Receive.  And boldly proclaim, with confidence.   And we have such confidence, because, as the writer of Hebrews notes in Hebrews 10:23,  “He who promised is faithful.”

Be encouraged to use this great gift this Advent, the gift of being able to go directly to the LORD of Lords, the King of kings. 

Father God, we are grateful for this gift of being able to pray directly to you.  Thank you, Jesus, for tearing the veil away from the Holy of Holies.  Holy Spirit, give us the boldness to proclaim the love of the Gospel.  For your glory.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.


(c) 2011. Rich Ronald

Advent Day 7, the Gift of Ministry

December 7th

The Gift of Ministry

One of the things that is fascinating about being a Believer is that God calls each of us to act. And He does so through our spiritual wiring… once we bow the knee to Jesus there is something that prods us along to engage others in care, compassion and service.  The next Advent gift is found in Ephesians 3:7… the gift of ministry. 

This is my life work: helping people understand and respond to this Message. It came as a sheer gift to me, a real surprise, God handling all the details. When it came to presenting the Message to people who had no background in God’s way, I was the least qualified of any of the available Christians. God saw to it that I was equipped, but you can be sure that it had nothing to do with my natural abilities. (Ephesians 3:7-8 The Message)

Do you know that every believer is a minister?  On the letterhead at the first church where I served, it listed all the staff pastors.  But at the top of the list it said “Ministers, Every Member.” If you were an active part of the congregation you were expected to also be a minister.  Not in a vocational position, but in the day to day community life of the Fellowship.

That’s truly how it is.  Paul says if you are Gentile, or non Gentile, Christian or Jew, if you partake of the promises in Christ Jesus, if you have received His grace, you are a minister… one who God will use for His Kingdom purposes.

Can people come to know Jesus in a tattoo parlor?  There is a ministry in St. Louis that focuses just on that group.   How about motorcycle gangs?  I passed a guy on a Harley recently that had a “Bikers For Christ” patch on the back of his leather jacket.  There is a Christian legal group for attorneys, there is a Christian Medical and Dental Association, there are professional sports ministries, Christian pilots, Mothers of Preschoolers… you name it, whatever the group of people, there are Believers who are ministering to one another.  And most are doing so without an ordained, pulpit pounding, seminary trained “professional minister” at the head of the organization.  And that’s the way God wants it. 

It’s a gift to be able to minister to one another with His grace.  Every Believer has been given the ability — by the power of the Holy Spirit — to listen, to pray, to encourage, to minister.

God has uniquely equipped you to minister to your neighbor.  Scripture says that one of primary reasons we go through trials and difficulties is so that we can encourage others when we get to the other side of that challenge.  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NIV)

May God continue to give you grace and blessing as you minister to one another.  So, receive this gift and use it often, the gift of ministering to one another.

Father God, thank you for the gift of ministry. May the Holy Spirit lead me to minister to those who need to see your love, grace and compassion.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


(c) 2011. Rich Ronald