Isaiah58-60 WestLoop Why How What. "They will call you the City of the Lord, and Zion of the Holy One of Israel" (Isa 60:14b, NLT). "For the Lord will be your everlasting light. Your days of mourning will come to an end" (Isa 60:20b, NLT).

"In the old order of creation, life was governed rigidly by night and day and unpredictably by the fitfulness of sun and moon. But in the new order of salvation, the ruling principle is the changeless presence of the Lord." Alec Motyer.

Isaiah 60 may be the (best Old Testament) picture of the world to come, i.e., of ultimate reality.

Revelation 21 draws freely for its picture of the radiant city from heaven. Isaiah 56-66 primarily addresses the dispersed Israelites who have returned to Jerusalem from Babylon. But the description in Isaiah 60 point far beyond the return from exile. The walls are not going to be built by Jews but by foreigners, and the gates of the city will ever be open. It is an idealised Jerusalem that is depicted--one that speaks of the eschatological days of redemption and bliss.

Questions: Does God see you the way you might try to appear to other people? Do you live freely without trying to be something other than who you truly are on the inside?

What the sin is: Trying to manipulate and control God and others to get what we want is in essence the sin of the religious person (including Christians). Seeing the problem in others and in the church rather than in ourselves (Isa 59:2).

Empty ritual and formalism: In Isaiah 58, God exposed the emptiness of two religious rituals that were practiced in Isaiah's day: fasting (58:3-6) and Sabbath keeping (58:13-14). Both of these are expressions of not doing things. In fasting, you don't eat. In Sabbath keeping, you don't work. Isaiah shows us that what we don't do isn't enough to make us right before God. Our walk with God shouldn't only be defined by what we don't do. What do we do for the LORD?

"For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us. Our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities:13 rebellion and treachery against the Lord, turning our backs on our God, inciting revolt and oppression, uttering lies our hearts have conceived" (Isa 59:12-13).

"Consider it pure joy (all joy, great joy), my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance (patience, endurance, steadfastness). 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature (perfect) and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:2-4).

James tells us that trials are beneficial and that suffering may be good for us; it can help us to become who we truly would like to be: mature, "perfect," complete and whole, not lacking anything (Ps 23:1). I pray that this may be the attitude we embrace as we begin the new year.

As we begin 2017 it may be good to express the Why, How and What of our church, West Loop Church:

  • The WHY of West Loop is to always declare grace (Ac 20:24), rest (Mt 11:28) and freedom (Gal 5:1).
  • The HOW is through Scripture (2 Tim 3:16) and life together (1 Jn 1:3), i.e. through Bible study and community.
  • The WHAT is to give generously of our life, time and money--all of our resources (Dt 6:5; Lev 19:18; 2 Cor 5:15).