“Powering Up God’s Way” (Isaiah 40:27-31)

What kinds of strength or power does the world recognize and reward?

  • Physical power
  • Military power
  • Athletic power
  • Persuasive power
  • Glamorous power
  • Attractive power
  • Prestigious power
  • Seductive power
  • Intimidating power
  • Charismatic power
  • Racial/ ethnic power
  • Sizable power
  • Political power
  • Financial power
  • Intellectual power
  • Social power
  • Manipulative power
  • ???

Some of these powers are intrinsically good and helpful. Some of these powers are intrinsically evil and harmful. Some of these powers are neutral – the way we use them determines their morality.

God’s power is incomparably greater than every conceivable form of human power, but human powers are more tangible and more sensory, aren’t  they? Because God’s power functions subversively we can miss it, especially when we feel powerless in this world.

Isaiah wrote this prophecy to exiles, people whose nation had been swallowed up by the dominant empire of that day – Babylon. From Israel’s desolate and conquered perspective God was disregarding their troubles and ignoring their rights (Isaiah 40:27).

It’s easy to read God that way when our faith is in a weakened condition.

In the passage, God argues otherwise. Isaiah 40:28 says God is Almighty whether we see it or not. God’s resources are never exhausted. God’s perceptiveness never dims.

Isaiah 40:29 is one of the most encouraging verses in the Bible. According to this verse, we qualify for God’s strength when we own our weakness! This reminds me of the first three steps in the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

BRILLIANT!!! We own our weakness, we choose to believe in God, and we entrust ourselves to God.

Isaiah 40:30 gives us valuable information about people who epitomize humanity at its dynamic peak. That strength eventually declines. At our very best and even with our technologically advanced powers, we cannot compete with God’s power.

Isaiah 40:31 continues that line of reasoning by presenting the alternative. “But those who wait on (hope in, trust in) the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not get weary. They will walk and not faint.”

What does it mean to wait on the Lord? We identify primarily with passive waiting, like standing in line or being put on hold. But “wait” in verse 31 refers to active waiting. We entrust ourselves to God moment by moment, wrapping ourselves around God and tenaciously leaning against the wind into the solid hope that God is still faithful to His promises and is still capable, no matter what powers in this life have destabilized us or enfeebled us.

People who live in such intentional and trusting hope “gain new strength.” This means far more than God supplying a boost or a power surge to what we already have going for us. Rather, we come to an end of ourselves and we exchange our failing strength for God’s sustainable power (verses 29 and 30).

God’s strength manifests itself in three scenarios. In the first scenario we soar high on wings like eagles. There are seasons in life when we are effortlessly and transcendently gliding. In this scenario it is all good.

In the second scenario we run without getting weary. There are seasons when life is challenging and there is resistance (like hills during a marathon), but we are making progress. We hit our pace and keep moving. In this scenario it is not all good but we are okay.

In the third scenario we walk without fainting. There are seasons when life stinks, when faith wobbles, when we are disillusioned or discouraged or deflated, and the best we can manage is to shuffle one 5,000 pound leg forward and then move the other leg in generally the same direction or in no direction we can detect. In this scenario it is not all good and we are not okay but by God’s grace we are still standing. Success is defined as not totally shutting down and giving up.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could choose which scenario or season characterizes us? The faith journey does not work that way. We do, however, get to choose the source of our strength. We do not have to settle for human strength or power that is ultimately inadequate. We can own our weakness and exchange our ebbing strength for God’s strength.

God most emphatically demonstrates divine strength in the weakness of the crucified Christ. On the cross, worldly powers were broken from the top down and humble love secured our redemption from the bottom up. God offers us that kind of strength.

Are you soaring? Are you running? Are you walking? Are you collapsing? In the grace of the Gospel we come as we are, not as we should be.

May you and I exchange our powerlessness for God’s enduring and adaptable strength.

Grace and peace,

Rick Jordan (www.rickcarlajordan.com, rickjordankcmo@gmail.com)

 

Romans 12:1-2 Part 1

“Therefore, in response to all of these mercies God has shown you, I beg you, brothers and sisters, to make a decisive once-and-for-all dedication of your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and devoted and acceptable to God. This response is your only reasonable act of worship. Stop mindlessly living in conformity to the customs of the prevailing culture around you, but by the new ideals that shape your minds continue to let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will find and follow God’s good, well-pleasing, and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2)

Have you ever found yourself on both sides of a conflict or a competition, where it became necessary for you to once-and-for-all declare which side you are on? We can be guilty of dual spiritual allegiance. We try to follow Christ while also pleasing the world, which is like trying to take off in two directions at once. In Romans 12:1-2, God is telling us to decisively choose the One Who pours out mercy on us constantly. We know verse one contains a decisive command because the image in verse one has us climbing onto a sacrificial altar AND STAYING THERE.

There is no getting around the reality that faith in Christ is radical and extreme, but relationship with Christ is worth whatever our faith costs us. If we are spiritually climbing onto this altar and staying there, it can only mean we have FOR SURE chosen Christ, the same Christ Who in the ultimate act of mercy sacrificed Himself all the way for us.

When we stay on the altar of devotion to Christ, peer pressure loses its power over us because what’s happening up there on the altar is a better life in every way.

When we stay on this altar of devotion to Christ, materialism loses its power over us because what’s happening up there on the altar is a better life in every way.

When we stay on this altar of devotion to Christ, obsession and addiction lose their power over us because what’s happening up there on the altar is a better life in every way.

Faith exercises:

  1. How has God had mercy on you? How does God have mercy on you? Make a list. See if you can come up with at least a dozen ways God has been merciful to you. Examples – Did God wake you up this morning? Did God keep your heart beating all day? Did God provide food for you to eat, clothing for you to wear, shelter, transportation, friends, oxygen? Acts 17:28 says, “In Him we live and move and have our being.” Fact is, God does sustain us. Every moment we have is a gift.
  2. What are we doing with these gifts of mercy? In light of God’s mercies, we are given three commands. 1) We offer ourselves to God as living sacrifices. Because we are so grateful to Jesus for having mercy on us, we offer everything about ourselves to Jesus, letting Him be completely in charge of us. 2) We stop going along with whatever the world says and we stop letting the world around us drag us down. 3) We allow God to miraculously replace our stinking thinking with a renewed mind that willingly gravitates toward God thoughts. These thoughts help us love people around us and be a blessing to people around us. When we are obeying these three commands, we are making ourselves available for God to bring out God’s very best in us, which beats anything we can come up with on our own. Only God knows who your best “you” is, and only God knows how to get you there.

Grace and peace to you as you study these verses, pray these verses, and obey these verses.

Rick Jordan (www.rickcarlajordan.com, rickjordankcmo@gmail.com)

 

“Beyond”

I posted another original song on my YouTube channel. The song is based on Psalm 121 and is called “Beyond.” You can find it here – https://youtu.be/_9fGb0mOZd8.

You can also check out my YouTube channel for more songs here – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfmKSgzM6LKsI2wAqH8R_ZA/featured.

I am booking living room concerts, church concerts, or concerts in other venues. Please contact me at rickjordankcmo@gmail.com. 

Grace and peace,

Rick Jordan (www.rickcarlajordan.com)