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.
God has a message
to be spoken throughout the world. He speaks it in many ways. Through nature, through circumstance, and through people. And it could be possible that He is desiring to speak through you.
It need not be fancy
or complicated to be from God. In fact, He will give you whatever you need to speak it We not only hear this through Jeremiah, but it was also Jesus' message to His disciples. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Matthew 10:20
We need only be willing
Because of the grace of God, who first sought out our hearts, who saved us by His grace, we too should want others to know the same... simply out of our gratefulness. This is His touch on our lives.
Will you open your mouth today?
Even just to speak an encouraging word to another... even just to tell someone that you are praying for them... that God is on their side? God tells us not to be afraid. He will rescue us from the fear of whatever holds us back. Will you trust Him in this?
Who doesn't love new things?
Just the smell of new leather... a new pair of shoes, a new purse; better yet, a new car! You open the door and that crisp new leather smell invites you in. (not that I have a new car with new leather seats... I wish) I admit, I love new things!
They give us a temporary thrill.
LIke when I get something new to wear, I set it out for the next day and can't wait to get dressed and find someplace to go to show it off. And I forget about all the other clothes that still hang in my closet, crying... "Wait, wear me!"
But soon the newness fades.
The leather smell wears off and the car gets dirty. The new outfit ends up in the hamper, becoming part of the laundry you dread doing and soon, the thrill is gone.
But God says...
He's not done with creation. In fact, He's creating all the time... doing a new thing. And one day, He's going to create a new heaven and a new earth. But this one will not lose it's new smell, nor will it get dirty and end up in the hamper. In fact, we won't even remember doing laundry when we live in the new heaven and the new earth. Because the former things will not come to mind.
And those of us who have suffered loss...
the loss of a child, either by miscarriage or death, will suffer no more. Because the Lord PROMISES... Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days... Isaiah 65: 20 NIV. This has surely comforted my formerly wounded heart!
Let us HOPE in the Lord!
For He knows how much we like new things. He likes new things too. Remember, we were created in His image. That's why He has a plan of restoration and beauty... to make all things NEW.
For as the days of a tree,
so will be the days of My people;
My chosen ones will long enjoy
the work of their hands.
They will not labor in vain,
nor will they bear children
doomed to misfortune;
for they will be a people
blessed by the Lord,
they and their descendants with them.
Before they call I will answer;
while they are still speaking I will hear.
Isaiah 65:22-24 NIV
Fasting... that's a tricky topic.
Some say it's not still something God requires. Some say it never was... only optional. Still others avoid the topic all together because it's just too uncomfortable.
I know I did for many years.
I mean, who really wants to be uncomfortable? Why should I feel hunger pangs when there's plenty of food in the pantry? But if I do consider it, isn't there maybe some underlying hope that I just might shed a few pounds while I'm at it? Or that somehow I might seem a little more special... you know earn a few more spiritual points somewhere in heaven?
I've heard the complelling argument
that Jesus never gave the option, 'If you fast,' but rather instructed, 'When you fast,' in Matthew 6:16-17. And I've heard many amazing stories of spiritual breakthroughs people have had during their fasting. But it's just never fully propelled me into a successful fast of my own.
Which makes me consider
as I do many concepts of faith that are hard to grasp... this must be something really powerful in the spirit realm if the enemy is that intent on distracting me from the truth. So I have to say when I read what Isaiah spoke to the church leaders about it, I got smacked boldly in the face!
They were doing it wrong.
It's not that they weren't fasting. It's not that they weren't seeking God's wisdom. It's that while they were fasting and seeking God, they were also quarrelling and being oppressive to the people in their perish. Maybe it's because they were cranky and hungry... but still, they were not acting as God would have them, so they missed out on what He had FOR them.
The power of fasting
These are the notes I took from Isaiah 58:4-9. If we will humble ourselves and trust God in this time of fasting, these are the things we can expect:
The Lord will guide you always;
He will satisfy your needs
in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Isaiah 58:11 NIV
Will you consider a fast today?
Think of all the Lord will do for you! Think of all the Lord can do through you!
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.