Sunday, October 30, 2005

TWO BIRDS, ONE STONE


Okay, I confess: "Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned; it's been more than a month since my last blog."

When I started this, I thought, "No problem, I can write something every day. That will be easy." Well, I'll take comfort in the fact that this is not the first time in my life I've been humbled. In fact, being humbled seems to be a predominant theme in my life. Something I should be getting used to by now!

Anyway, as I was thinking about how to keep myself blogging more frequently, this morning I thought, "How could I use this blog to kill two birds with one stone?" That thought is a prominent, recurring theme in my life -- killing two birds (or more) with one stone. It seems I have only a limited number of stones, and an apparently limitless supply of birds.

That's when the idea struck. One of the big birds in my life is the college/career group which my wife and I pastor at our church, Elim EV Free Church of Puyallup, Washington. While we love Elim dearly, I must confess it's not a huge church, like our last church (Community Baptist Church of Alta Loma) in California was -- it's only about 150 people. We have 15 people at a college group meeting, on a very good night. Often it's only 3 or 4.

Despite this we've grown together, laughed together, cried together -- you get the picture. And we've made it a priority to try and figure out what (if anything) God is trying to tell us. And as it turns out, it seems He has tried to tell us a lot.

Through the years we've studied John, Romans, Daniel, Ecclesiastes, Psalms, Thessalonians, and other books of the Bible. Recently, we decided to tackle one of the toughest -- the book of Isaiah.


Why Isaiah? Like Psalms, it is one of the most frequently quoted books by Christ and those who wrote of His life. Hundreds of years before He was born, the person and work of Christ is deeply imbedded in the pages of Isaiah. If you love Jesus, like we do, then it makes trying to get a handle on the book of Isaiah a worthwhile endeavor.

This morning the group is opening chapter 24. We haven't studied each and every chapter specifically, although we've at least overviewed each; and some chapters we have spent more than one session on. So, considering the fact that Isaiah has 66 chapters, we may be there for awhile yet.

There are lots of interesting facts about Isaiah that makes it worthy of study:
  • Isaiah was a friend of power, a cousin of one of Judah's kings. He was a prophet, poet, and politician, considered a giant in his day.
  • Despite the respect Isaiah received, his stature and popularity, he met his end (according to historians, and the Bible alludes to this as well) in a gruesome way ... by being sawn in half.
  • Isaiah didn't speak out, as he was called to speak out, until when, upon reaching a certain point of loss in his life (after his cousin, the king, died) he had a vision wherein he saw God -- and thought he was going to die as a result. In that moment of crisis, he suddenly discovered the power to fulfill his life's calling. It's really when his life got started in earnest.
  • Despite his stature, he humbled himself in amazing ways in order to get God's message across ... including going buck naked for three entire years!!!
  • The book of Isaiah is a microcosm of the entire Bible. Just as the Bible has 66 books, Isaiah has 66 chapters, and is structured very much like the whole Bible -- depicting the fall of humankind from grace (as a result of our sin); the coming of the Messiah as a suffering servant who gave his life to ransom us; and His triumphant return as a conquering king when God ultimately takes over the joint.
  • Isaiah was written during an intense time of national crisis and pressure. The Assyrians were threatening all of the Middle East. Isaiah spoke of the judgment to come, bursting the bubble of false hopes and focusing the attention of those beign judged on their only True Hope for life.
  • Isaiah is a challenging book because of the kaleidoscopic way in which it is written. Isaiah intermingles near-term judgments and prophecies with a long-term telescopic view of how history will be brought to a conclusion, many thousands of years thence. It is sometimes confusing and difficult to know which ... or rather, when ... he is talking about. Understanding the book requires both some bold leaps of faith, and a sense of great humility. As you study Isaiah you do feel a bit as if you are walking amidst a field in which both mines and hidden treasure is buried. You never know exactly which you are digging up.

I'll let that rather eclectic collection of bullet points serve as an introduction to the book of Isaiah, and what I'd like to do next with this blog ... to present some of the "hopefully treasures" which we have uncovered in its pages as we have (so far) navigated the first 23 chapters. It may take awhile to catch up (thus far, we have averaged about a chapter a week, perhaps a little more), and I will also reserve the right to interrupt the study with occasional random thoughts or urgent topics not necessarily related to Isaiah. (For instance, I am currently reading Dark Star Africa, a travel book by Paul Theroux, and I am eager to review it -- from the perspective of both a Christian and an aid worker, both of whom he appears to despise -- though since I'm not quite finished with the book yet, I'll hold off. I also have a couple of movies stored up. And a message I will entitle "What I would like my kids to know about me before I die!")

So, please tune in again (hopefully tomorrow! Lord willing!) when (unless the winds blow another direction) we'll jump into Isaiah in earnest.

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