Imagine that someone you deeply love was harmed in such a way that criminal charges were pressed against the offender. And you chose to go to court in support of your loved one.
As you sat in the courtroom, you listened to the defense attorney plead with the judge that his client had done a lot of good things in life and was really a good person. He reasoned that, surely all those good things out weighed this one bad thing, so that no punishment should be given.
Wouldn't you be outraged? Wouldn't you be looking up at the judge hoping he wouldn't buy that crazy reasoning. I mean, if that were the case, where is the justice?
But isn't that the same reasoning of the world today?
Don't people walk around from day to day, putting off any greater concept of God and salvation because they think all their 'good' acts out weigh their 'bad' ones?
Funny how we think the world is so much worse than in years past, but listening to Malachi, it doesn't really seem so. I mean, we are justifying our sin just as they did in his day.
But thankfully we serve a God of justice! A judge who cannot bear to listen to that rediculous reasoning. Our God requires a just punishment for every crime committed. He will stand for nothing less.
But amazingly, in His compassion, He decided to pay the penalty Himself.
It's just as if the judge deciding your loved one's case had risen from his place, seated higher than the rest of the courtroom, stepped down from the judge's seat, and took the criminal's place. And then he let the officers of the court handcuff him and take him away to be sentenced, serving the punishment in the place of that criminal.
And that person who had formerly been charged with a crime got to freely walk out of the courtroom.
Can you imagine that?
I wonder how long they would be grateful for being set free?
I wonder how long they would be relieved of their burden?
I wonder how often they would think about the judge?
I wonder how I consider myself in this scene...
Am I the judge?
Am I the jury?
Am I the offended?
Am I the offender?
And where is the justice?
This is TRUTH. Take some time today to reflect upon the grace of God and what He has done for us. Try to reflect upon how you might feel walking out of the courtroom after this trial.
"I the Lord do not change"
"Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty
“On the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty, “they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.
Malachi 3:6, 7, 17-18
Oh to rekindle our love for God.
Oh to just seek Him, desire Him, understand Him, and serve Him. Why does my heart constantly battle against this? I am such a prideful being, always wanting my own way.
Yet now, I have fallen in love again...
with the writings of the Old Testament. The book of Nehemiah has captured my heart. At first I was inspired by the spiritual warfare the people faced in re-building the wall around Jerusalem.
But now, as I read of Ezra, the priest standing before the people to read the Book of the Law to them... and the Levites' desire to help them find true meaning...
and the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law; and the people stood in their place. So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave sense, and helped them to understand the reading.
And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law.
Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them.
Nehemiah 8:7-12 NKJV
These lovely people...
had hearts to return to God. They had been in exile, scattered in foreign lands, far from their heritage. But once they were united together and the word of God was spoken over them... and explained to them, they wept. Not because it was condemning, but because it pierced their hearts as a sword, dividing soul and spirit, discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
Lord, rekindle my love.
Never let us wander far from You. Pierce our hearts for what is dear to You. Give us understanding of Your Word as You did in the days of Nehemiah, that we would understand this kind of joy. That we would be filled with it as our strength.
Have you been frustrated lately?
Feel like you're spinning your wheels and getting nowhere? Like you had this great inspired idea to serve God, but everything you put your hand to lately comes to a screeching halt, or falls flat. Well, if you were inspired to do the will of God, most likely you're exactly where you need to be.
So don't stop working at it!
In fact, you should send up a prayer to God, buckle down and keep at it. Those frustrations you're dealing with are most likely telling you that you are in the middle of something great!
Believe me, I know exactly how you feel! Because just this morning, once again, I begged God to let me go or give me a sign. You see, for so long I've wanted to serve Him. But try after try, many of the things I work on don't seem to take off like I imagine. The dreams in my heart are bigger than the reality I experience. So why does He allow this passion to continue? Why did He make me a dreamer, if I can't have the "secret sauce" to make it work?
So this was where He led me.
I opened to the daily reading and began in the book of Ezra. Cyrus, the king of Persia was inspired to send exiles to Jerusalem to rebuild God's temple... and he didn't even worship God. But after they arrived and laid the foundation, they met up with some opposition.
When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the Lord, the God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, “Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.”
But Zerubbabel, Joshua and the rest of the heads of the families of Israel answered, “You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us.”
Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. They bribed officials to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia.
Ezra 4:1-5 NIV
Just like you and me, all these Israelites wanted to do was build something for God. They weren't looking for trouble. They were minding their own business. But the enemy... our enemy satan, did not want the presence of God to return to the land. So he stirred up the hearts of men to oppose them.
And that's exactly what happens to us when we decide to 'build' something for God. Maybe it's a website. Maybe it's an act of service. Maybe it's an offering you have to give, or an inspired idea that you believe will encourage others. If it continues to burn a hole in your gut and you cannot imagine NOT doing it... then yes, it's most likely God inspiring you forward. And you, my friend, can expect frustration in the middle of your inspiration.
But I don't want to discourage you.
Because those enemies are never as great as our God. Nor are they a match for whatever He has inspired you to do. They are just a roadblock causing you to detour and find a new way.
Think of it this way, if you were driving somewhere important and just had to get there, no roadblock would keep you from your destination. You'd get out your GPS and find a new way around it. Well, do the same in this situation! Get out your Guided Prayer System and put it to good use!
Look! Here's a prayer of David we can use, already written out for us, straight from the book of Psalms:
Answer me quickly, Lord;
my spirit fails.
Do not hide Your face from me
or I will be like those
who go down to the pit.
Let the morning bring me
word of Your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in You.
Show me the way I should go,
for to You I entrust my life.
Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,
for I hide myself in You.
Teach me to do Your will,
for You are my God;
may Your good Spirit
lead me on level ground.
Psalm 143:7-10 NIV
If we magnify our God more than our problem, He will lead us around the roadblock and guide us to our destination. Surely, if we do not give up, one day we will find our inspiration fulfilled to giving Him all the glory!
I have been absent
from this place for a short while. It has not been for lack of loving the Lord's Word. Rather it has been because of it.
In fact, this past week, all the reading has been pretty intense. A great deal of prophecy, jumping back and forth between Jeremiah and Ezekiel, all telling of the disaster about to befall Israel and Judah because of their hardened and rebellious hearts. And this is a posture I do not wish to adopt.
So how do we get there?
Well, one certain way is in the course of religion. I'm not talking about believing in the Gospel and following the Christian life. I'm specifically calling out the practice of religion... the strict devotion to one specific way of doing things, based on a belief, that does not deviate and becomes repetitious.
And some of us can live our Christian life this way filled with the proper feeling. But often times, the repetition becomes the religion... becomes our god... becomes our center of worship... rather than God, Himself.
And that's where I was.
I would get up each day and still enjoy my daily reading from God's Word, but I began to feel so pressured to post something by a specific time because I had other tasks on my to-do list, that it frustrated me... and resentment set in. It became part of a 'have to,' rather than a worshipful 'want to.'
I wonder if that's what happened to the elders and priests of Ezekiel's day? Because I doubt we are so far removed from these people that we cannot relate. I mean, do you think they simply got lost in the day to day routine of it all. Maybe it caused boredom and they lost the wonder and awe of who God really is. So they allowed their heart's peripheral vision to wander a bit.
It's not like they...
dragged idols into the temple on day one. Most likely it was little by little. First they decided to get out of the temple to pray... go for a walk, clear their head. And they saw the shrines and temples of other gods in the hills with flowers and plants on the altar, so they brought back the same to God.
And little by little, their worship became like those around them... until their worship was no longer centered around God. And like the Lord spoke to Ezekiel, they never considered that God could see what they were doing in the dark.
So let us stop periodically.
Let us not lose our awe and wonder of the greatness of our God. Let us not get trapped in the rituals and religions that cause us to keep repeating the motions, forgetting who it is the worship is about. And if it feels less than authentic, chances are it is. God won't be mad if you just stop doing it. He'd rather that, than a half-hearted attempt.
God is looking for whole hearted worship, lacking ritual, lacking routine. Rather He wants an honest connection where we bring everything to Him. Otherwise, He will withdraw from the worship all together... as He did from the temple of Israel. And what a devastating day that must have been.
Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
for He is our God
and we are the people of His pasture,
the flock under His care.
O, the burden to be a prophet!
Can you imagine? The Lord comes to you... tells you what to speak. And then, emphasizes, "Do not omit a word." Because, of course, all that God says is important, and you don't get editing rights.
And if you're Jeremiah, you don't get happy news to speak, either. It's all talk of disaster and destruction because the people have been far from God for so long.
Then God follows up with, "Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from their evil ways." (v.3) Now that's not the most encouraging way to be sent off on mission, but Jeremiah goes anyway. After all, he's been at this for 23 years.
Let us never complain about our jobs, if we take into consideration the calling of a prophet like Jeremiah. This is truly a heart of compassion... truly a faithful, persistent and patient calling that is steadfast and true to God. Even in the threat of death.
from my heart...
I write as an overflow... an expression of my true love for God and with a deep desire to encourage others in their day to day lives. For we can only find peace, joy, and satisfaction when we yield to the One who yielded His life for us.