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More Of God’s Ways

Isaiah 55:1 "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;  and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!  Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.  2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?  Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.  3 Give ear and come to me;  hear me, that your soul may live.  I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.  4 See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander of the peoples.  5 Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations that do not know you will hasten to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor."  6 Seek the LORD while he may be found;  call on him while he is near.  7 Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts.  Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.  8 "For [KI1] my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD.  9 "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:  It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.  12 You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace;  the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.  13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.  This will be for the LORD's renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed."

1.  The Invitation – vs. 1-3a

This is the nature of the gospel.  Before it is anything else it is that.  People have all the freedom in the world to say “yes” or “no”.  God will never violate that  freedom.

It is an invitation for everyone.  No one is excluded.  No one is preferred.

It is an invitation without strings attached.

You are not expected to bring  gift or a present.  It is a powerful thing when we as individuals or a church body do things without looking for a return.s

Ø      To the thirsty – One of the major prerequisites for finding reality in your relationship with God.  Probably it is something that we drift in and out of – there are thirsty times and there are seasons of refreshing.  The longer that a person goes without water, the greater the thirst.  Ultimately people return to the water – the only thing that can truly satisfy a person’s thirst.  You can dress it up and make it taste better but the ingredients that you add only increase your thirst.  When people get thirsty enough they always come back to the water.

How is thirst increased in a person?  What can we do as a church to make people thirsty for God?

·         It is increased primarily by the Spirit of God at work in a person’s life.

·         It is increased as other people portray God positively in their lives.

Christians Can Afford Good Reputations

Dave counsels every year at high school camp.  Tom doesn't allow his kids to attend.

Dave teaches an Adult Sunday school class.  Tom doesn't go to Sunday school.

Dave directs the choir.  Tom doesn't know a single hymn.

Dave chairs the worship committee.  Tom hasn't been inside a church since infancy.

Dave reads his Bible every day.  Tom doesn't own one.

Dave has a grocery bill that's marked "90 days overdue."  Tom owns the grocery store.

Dave invited Tom to an evangelistic crusade.  Tom stayed home and watched television reruns.

See:  Prov 22:1

·         It is increased as people tire of life’s repetitive ways. (Quest For Adventure that abounds today)

The doctrine of justification by faith (a Biblical truth, and a blessed relief from sterile legalism and unavailing self-effort) has in our times fallen into evil company and has been interpreted by many in such a manner as actually to bar men from the knowledge of God.  The whole transaction of religious conversion has been made mechanical and spiritless.  Faith may now be exercised without a jar to the moral life and without embarrassment to the Adamic ego.  Christ may be "received" without creating any special love for Him in the soul of the receiver.  The man is "saved", but he is not hungry or thirsty after God.  In fact, he is specifically taught to be satisfied and encouraged to be content with little.  The modern scientist has lost God amid the wonders of His world; we Christians are in real danger of losing God amid the wonders of His Word.


            ... A. W. Tozer (1897-1963), The Pursuit of God

Ø      To the poor – There are many things in this world that the poor cannot enjoy.  I believe at times, our compassion for the poor is no more than a desire to help us to feel better about our affluence.  And with all the good intentions in the world our burden for the poor would lift if we could elevate them socio-economically.  While Jesus had compassion on them, he also said that the poor would always be with us.  He charged us with the responsibility of helping the poor as individuals in the book of James.  The greatest concern that Jesus had for the poor was their salvation.  You can make a poor man rich and his soul can be impoverished.  You can find the rich who are soul depleted.  All the money in the world can never satisfy the spiritual need of the human heart.

There is one thing that I do have a burden for relative to church ministry.  That is that a lack of finances would never be a barrier for the gospel to be presented to people.  The gospel is for all men regardless of what they have or do not have.  I appreciate the ministry of Bar None camp.  Everyone goes who wants to go whether they are able or not.

Some people wouldn’t attend certain affairs or functions because the price would be too great.

Ø      To the dissatisfied – Someone has said that dissatisfaction is a one word definition of motivation.  There are very few things that will motivate people to change like this.

Ø      To the underprivileged, malnourished soul -

2.  The Illustration – vs. 3b-5.

In his invitation to a life that would be fulfilling and satisfying, God speaks through Isaiah to offer a wonderful example of what He can do when He has a "living sacrifice" to work with.  Many of us are not nearly so pliable in God’s hands as we might think by times.  Rather than cooperate we resist God’s working. 

The Christian way is different:  harder, and easier.  Christ says "Give me All.  I don't want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work:  I want You.  I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it.  No half-measures are any good.  I don't want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down.  I don't want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked -- the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself:  my own will shall become yours."

n      C. S. Lewis

I have a sign in the mirror of my room I see it every morning in my groggy condition, when I first wake up: WHAT HAVE YOU GOT GOING TODAY, GOD? I'D LIKE TO BE A PART OF IT. THANKS FOR LOVING ME.

   I have to find my place in God's plans, rather than make my own little plans and then ask God to support them: "Come on, God, give me an A in this course. Come on, God, do this for me." Instead, I pray, "What have you got going today, God? You love this world. You loved this world into life. You created this world. We're all yours. What's my part in the drama? What part do you want me to play? I will play any part you say. Want me to be a success? I'll be a success for you. Want me to be a failure? I'll fail for you. Whatever you want."

   That's the condition of successful prayer.

   -- John Powell, "Prayer as Surrender," Preaching Today, Tape No. 108.

ISA 29:16 You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay!    Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, "He did not make me"?  Can the pot say of the potter, "He knows nothing"?

ISA 45:9 "Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground.  Does the clay say to the potter, `What are you making?'

  Does your work say, `He has no hands'?

 Romans 8:21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?

He is saying to us, “If you don’t trust me then look at David.  -  Just take a look at the kinds of things I do with people.”

I preach this today because there are most likely many of you here today who wonder if your life makes any kind of measurable difference at all.  If you have that desire within you then most likely it is so to a greater degree than you can imagine.  I am burdened today for those who go week after week without contributing anything deliberately to the cause of Christ.  For those whose cause is their own concerns and interests.

But let’s look together at what God does with available people.

Ø      Witness [KI2] -  First of all, God made him a witness.  David it would seem, was relatively unconscious of the fact that divine destiny was upon him.  And why not because people opposed him or tried to misdirect him along the way.

n      His Father – Didn’t put him in the parade because he could not see the potential in his own son.

n      His Brother – Was shamed by David’s courage because it reminded of the personal lack in his own life.

n      Saul – Was willing to let a boy do the work of a true king and placated himself by trying to offer him his own armor which in effect would have been a detriment to him.  People need the privilege of fighting their own battles – especially difficult for parents to let their children do that.

We can serve God effectively in many ways.  He can make a witness out of the rocks and the trees.  He can use us in whatever way He might see fit if we are truly available to Him.

1.      We become witnesses in God’s economy when we do something that is clearly representative of God’s greatness and power.  The things that we can do in our own strength bear witness to that – the things that the church undertakes that are beyond it’s scope are the things that bear witness to God alone.  I pray that God would help us to be able to undertake some tasks and projects that He would lay before us that would clearly be beyond our abilities.

2.      Other times we become witnesses when our everyday conduct sets us apart from what is normal. 

The little boy was caught swearing by his teacher.

"Jeffrey," she said, "you shouldn't use that kind of language.

Where did you hear it?"

"My daddy said it." he responded.

"Well, that doesn't matter," she explained, "you don't know what it


"I do, too." Jeffrey corrected.  "It means the car won't start."

When we react and respond as earthly beings and we do what is normal, routine, natural then we have no impact for the Kingdom.  It is when we do what takes us the 2nd mile that we become impacting people.

MT 5:14 "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. [15] Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. [16] In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

PHP 2:14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, [15] so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.

3.      When we do not do what the natural thing would be to do.  There are times in our failures when people would be tempted to pat us on the back as if to console us by saying that “Anyone would respond that way.”  Really that is about the worst thing that we could do for each other.  God is not handing our awards for us as we behave the way any other citizen of planet earth would behave.  It is when we live kingdom values in this present world that we become powerful as servants of Christ.

RO 12:17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. [18] If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. [19] Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. [20] On the contrary:

  "If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

21  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."

4.      We become witnesses when we retell to others what we have seen ourselves and what is undeniable in our own lives.  We live in a world ready to accept that a person might have seen a flying saucer but skeptical of people who bear witness to a personal experience with God.  Our behavior makes the contact plausible or laughable.

AC 4:13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. [14] But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. [15] So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. [16] "What are we going to do with these men?" they asked. "Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. [17] But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name."

AC 4:18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. [19] But Peter and John replied, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. [20] For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."

5.      We become witnesses in the course of everyday living. 

1TH 4:11 Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, [12] so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

It was through a very natural course of events that David was propelled into the life that he lead.  Had he not been available on the hillsides then he would never have sat on the throne.



Isaiah cites David as an example of God’s ways of dealing with His people.  He raised David to prominence by giving him something far bigger than he was.  It was a decision made in a moment of time.  Only people of character can do that.  It’s like the opportunities that we have every day to stand for Christ.  If you do not dare to speak his name freely in this free country then you will never find the courage to do so should we lose the freedom that we have.  If we cannot talk of Christ when we have nothing to lose but dignity or reputation or the wounding of personal pride at someone else’s jesting, then we will never speak of him when we have everything to lose.

He refused to step ahead of God’s timing as he knew that he was to become the King and yet refused to harm God’s rejected servant.


He was a man after God’s heart and in the final analysis remained that regardless of the mess that David had made of his life.

Ø      Leader – Certainly he was a reluctant leader.  Leadership is a very difficult thing.  People who lead are people who are frequently shot at.  More leaders in the church are killed by friendly fire than by any clearly identifiable enemy.  Whenever you step forward to lead you might just as well count on the fact that someone is going to make you their personal target.  It is true no matter where and what you may lead.

We are much more geared toward evaluating what others are doing rather than doing ourselves.  The process of David’s development is an interesting one.

He was given many tasks to do. 1 Samuel 18:1  Forever work gravitates to competent people.  That is a very natural thing.  It can also be a curse because capable people wind up being overloaded.

He did them well.  Success followed David in whatever area of endeavor he found himself involved in. (18:5)

He was loved for his leadership. (18:5b, 13, 16)The people loved him and the officers did as well.  Jonathan, Saul’s own son loved him. (18:1) It is an interesting thing that the extreme love that David experienced from the people was not an instrument of instruction.  It was from another place, another person that he learned the craft of leadership.

Others were threatened by his leadership.  King Saul was very insecure about his own relationship to the kingdom. (15:24-26,  “I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them.)

He knew that he was on the way out and this made matters much worse.  It is many times the case that we are better trained by hardship and adversity than by ease and convenience.  It is those people who hurt and abuse us who become our greatest teachers when our spirits can remain right.  They teach us things that we never forget.

The U.S. Marine Corps prides themselves on producing soldiers that are a cut above the rest.  They do that by taking young men and pushing them beyond their own limits.  That is something that we rarely do to ourselves.  When we submit ourselves to authority for the purpose of personal growth and development that things begin to happen.

How’s your leadership training going?

In the most personally demanding time of his own life, he was given a group of extremely needy people to care for and to lead.

Sometimes we are more prone to err as we receive the counsel of those that we love rather than those who do not love us.  There were two opportunities that the cave clan advocated that David kill Saul.  He had the clear opportunity to do it and yet he remained true to his principles.

One acid test of the ministry that we have is the leadership that we inspire and produce.  Just a reminder for you that the position that you now hold in the church is your opportunity to train someone else.  Don’t do it alone – whatever it is, have someone else do it with you.  Our church will most likely be best represented by the leaders that we grow.

Samuel Logan Brengle was one of the truly great leaders of the Salvation Army.  A man of scholarship as well as of singular spiritual power, he outlined the road to spiritual authority and leadership in challenging words:

It is not won by promotion, but by many prayers and tears.  It is attained by confessions of sin, and much heart-searching and humbling before God; by self-surrender, a courageous sacrifice of every idol, a bold, deathless, uncompromising and uncomplaining embracing of the cross, and by an eternal, unfaltering looking unto Jesus crucified. It is not gained by seeking great things for ourselves, but rather, like Paul, by counting those things that are gain to us as loss for Christ.  That is a great price, but it must be unflinchingly paid by him who would be not merely a nominal but a real spiritual leader of men, a leader whose power is recognized and felt in heaven, on earth and in hell.

Don't take a position of leadership in church unless you are prepared to be honest,

pure, and loving in your lifestyle. Leadership is a privilege, and with privilege comes responsibility.  God holds teachers of His truth doubly responsible because we who lead are in a position where we can either draw people toward Christ or drive them away from Him.

This is illustrated in the life of the famous author Mark Twain. Church leaders were largely to blame for his becoming hostile to the Bible and the Christian faith.  As he grew up, he knew elders and deacons who owned slaves and abused them.  He heard men using foul language and saw them practice dishonesty during the week after speaking piously in church on Sunday.  He listened to ministers use the Bible to justify slavery.  Although he saw genuine love for the Lord Jesus in some people, including his mother and his wife, he was so disturbed by the bad teaching and poor example of church leaders that he became bitter toward the things of God.

Indeed, it is a privilege to be an elder, a deacon, a Sunday school teacher, or a Bible club leader.  But it is also an awesome responsibility.  Let's make sure we attract people to the Savior rather than turn them away.

See:  Luke 17:1; 1 Tim 3:1-15; James 3:1

One of the greatest indicators of spiritual maturity is the way that you respond when you discover that the church is not perfect and the way that you respond to your leaders when they fail to live up to your expectations.  Believe it or not, there will be times when you will be disappointed, you may even be wronged.

Regardless of whether or not leadership assumes responsibility, we are still responsible to act as we should.

Ø      Commander – David ultimately was thrust into the role that was an affront to his nature.  He was the doer.  When others had stood at the edge of the battlefield he was the one who walked on to face the challenge.  He was the shepherd, living much of the time with the sheep.  He became a military commander, a warrior.  This ultimately prevented him from being the king who would orchestrate the building of the Lord’s temple.  Even though he was a man after God’s heart this prevented him from becoming the architect and builder of the house of God.  There would have been nothing that would have pleased David more than being able to construct the temple of God.  His artistic heart would have loved the opportunity to express itself in such a task and yet by God’s will he was denied that pleasure.

There are times when commanders have to make some very difficult decisions and the consequences that come with those decisions.  That is because they see a greater picture than others see at times.  The soldier on the front is consumed with the task that he is assigned to complete but often has little awareness of the way that the battle may be going over all.  While he is succeeding at his task the war may in fact be being lost elsewhere and over all.

3.  The Exhortation – vs. 6-7

Ø      Don’t miss the opportunity -  It will not always be there.  Did you ever stop to think that you may not have the opportunity again to accept Christ for one reason or another?  We’ve heard that message before but it remains true.  The longer in this life we refuse to seek Him the less the likelihood that we ever will.  We may not have the time to utter a prayer.  We may lose whatever little sensitivity that might remain.  Our desire for God may degenerate into nothing more than a desire to avoid what we have spent a lifetime earning.  We may be embracing false hope.  Again, it will never be our good ness that will get us to heaven and when we fly that flag it is an abomination to God.  When we dare to stand our righteousness next to His holiness and claim that we are good people it is a ridiculous thing.

Ø      Different way of life.  We are clearly called to change our ways when we come to Christ.  We cannot hold on to the old and hope to be unspoiled and new.  There will be changes in store when we come to Christ.  Some of it may be a little difficult at times.  He deals with our “will’s” and our “won’ts” and our “can’ts”

Ø      Different way of thinking. 

Our actions proceed from our thoughts.  The way we see things or the way we think about things determines what we will do and that in turn determines what we will get.  Thoughts – actions – results.  Getting results that you don’t like in your life – you need to go two steps back and evaluate the way you think about things and life and people because that is where the problem is.  Our actions are merely the result of the way we think about life in gerneral.

JOB 24:15 The eye of the adulterer watches for dusk; he thinks, `No eye will see me,' and he keeps his face concealed.

Prov. 23:7  “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

LK 8:16 "No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. [17] For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. [18] Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him."

1CO 3:18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a "fool" so that he may become wise.

1CO 8:1 Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. [2] The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. [3] But the man who loves God is known by God.

Gal. 6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. [2] Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. [3] If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. [4] Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, [5] for each one should carry his own load.

4.  The Explanation – vs. 8-11

Make special note of the word like.  God's thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are they even like ours.  We aren't even in the same neighborhood.  We're thinking, Preserve the body; He's thinking, save the soul.  We dream of a pay raise.  He dreams of raising the dead.  We avoid pain and seek peace.  God uses pain to bring peace. "I'm going to live before I die" we resolve. "Die, so you can live", he instructs.  We love what rusts.  He loves what endures.

We rejoice at our successes.  He rejoices at our confessions.  We show our children the Nike star with the million-dollar smile and say, "Be like Mike".  God points to the crucified carpenter with bloody lips and a torn side and says, "Be like Christ".

Our thoughts are not like God's thoughts. Our ways are not like his ways.  He has a different agenda.  He dwells in a different dimension.  He lives on another plane.  And that plane is named in the first phrase of the Lord's prayer, "Our father who is in heaven"

By Max Lucado

The Great House of God

Ø      We think differently than God does.  We do not understand what he has in mind.  We will never totally understand it because we are the ones who have the limited picture and the limited vision.

The Rose

It's only a tiny rosebud...

A flower of God's design;

But I cannot unfold the petals

With these clumsy hands of mine.

The secret of unfolding flowers

Is not known to such as I...

The flower God opens so sweetly

In my hands would fade and die.

If I cannot unfold a rosebud,

 This flower of God's design,

Then how can I think I have wisdom

To unfold this life of mine?

So I'll trust him for his leading

Each moment of every day,

And I'll look to Him for His guidance

Each step of the pilgrim way.

For the pathway that lies before me

My Heavenly Father knows...

I'll trust Him to unfold the moment

Just as He unfolds the rose.

Ø      We do things differently than God does.  The way that we do things is rarely the way that God would do them.  Ill. Mike Emberley – stay home from church

Ø      His purpose will never be thwarted. 

5.  The Expectation – vs. 12-13

These things we can expect

Ø      Joy – It is a choice that we make and the strength of the Christian.

Ø      Peace – It is a mindset that we have relative to our world around us.

Ø      Harmony – It is a result of our actions.

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 [KI1]That means that invariably God will do things differently than we would do them.  Most of us have a problem with that.  It is a problem on a human level.  We have to deliberately get our heads around the idea God will do things differently than we will.  This is true without exception.

It is also true then that in order for a person to thrive in relationship to God it will be necessary for him/her to accept that God will do it differently.  We cannot predict the way that He will choose to work.  We will never get it right simply because He does it differently.

It is also true that our ways are not necessarily right or wrong when we see their difference.  They are merely different.  What a great realization this is when it comes to interpersonal relationship things.  As a pastor I will give leadership to this church that will represent a different way of doing things than you might do if you were in my position.  That is not necessarily right or wrong it is only different.

It is also true that the different ways that we operate are not necessarily better than the way that someone else might do it. – Just different once again.

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 [KI2]  We become witnesses in God’s economy when we do something that is clearly representative of God’s greatness and power.

Other times we become witnesses when our conduct sets us apart from what is normal.  When we do not do what the natural thing would be to do.  There are times in our failures when people would be tempted to pat us on the back as if to console us by saying that “Anyone would respond that way.”  Really that is about the worst thing that we could do for each other.  God is not handing our awards for us as we behave the way any other citizen of planet earth would behave.  It is when we live kingdom values in this present world that we become powerful as servants of Christ.

We become witnesses when we retell to others what we have seen ourselves and what is undeniable in our own lives.  We live in a world ready to accept that a person might have seen a flying saucer but skeptical of people who bear witness to a personal experience with God.  Our behavior makes the contact plausible or laughable.

It was through a very natural course of events that David was propelled into the life that he lead.  Had he not been available on the hillsides then he would never have sat on the throne.

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