Diminishing God

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“Wherefore, as I live, says the Lord God; surely, because you have defiled My sanctuary with all your detestable things, and with all your abominations, therefore will I also diminish you; neither shall My eye spare, neither will I have any pity.” Ezekiel 5:11

 

How often do we think of desolation of the Temple as coming from within? This is so easy to miss. When thinking about the destruction of the Holy Temple we think about Rome coming in and forcing a pig to be offered to desecrate the Temple. Or maybe we think of the final desecration of the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem before the last days, and an anti-Christ who does the same. But God is telling us in Ezekiel that desecration is closer than we think, that God’s own people desecrate the temple.

Isn’t that a terrible thought? The Jews themselves were guilty of defiling the sanctuary and bringing detestable things within its walls. The Jews themselves, yes, the people of God, were bringing abominations in. Really? Were they bringing pigs and things like that in? No. But they were busy bringing diminished ideas of God inside His own temple.

 

That word for diminished is gara in Hebrew. It means “to clip, diminish, restrain, keep back, withdraw.” Now listen to what Eliphaz said to Job, “Do you hear the secret counsel of God, and limit wisdom to yourself? (Job 15:8) That’s a good question. Do I hear God’s word and then think I can interpret it how I want? Do I really understand everything as I ought? Can I really know it on my own or do I need the Holy Spirit, the forefathers and other believers who have really dug in? Is this a process of becoming or do I know all right now? Can I decide for myself or is this something I live out in the community of believers? Would I really think so highly of myself as to “limit God’s wisdom to my understanding?”

Do I forget that though God comes to us individually and leaves the 99 for the 1 that is lost, the goal is to bring the 100 into the fold? Do I forget that the power of God exists in community, in unity with God and with other believers? Do I forget that I need accountability? Do I forget that I need others to help me see in myself what I’m blind to? Do I forget that the Holy Spirit will never teach me or lead me in a way that is against God’s words?

But that’s what happens when I diminish God and His word. Yes, God comes to people personally, but not for us to be our own people. He comes to us personally so that we can choose to become His people, grafted in as one, grafted in not only with each other, but grafted in with Him. Therefore, we live like Him and love like Him and respond like Him and make much of Him because He becomes our everything and all those who are held so dear to Him become dear to us.

When I think I am the gift of God, I make living about me, not about God and not about His people. I make my goals and my desires more important. I diminish God and make myself a type of god. I think I have the right to point out specks in other people’s eyes and not see the log in my own. (Luke 6:41) I bear fruit of my own liking and not of God, bad fruit instead of good, bad fruit that I somehow convince myself tastes and looks good. (Luke 6:43) I call God, “Lord,” but I don’t treat You as Lord because really I’m my own lord. (Luke 6:46) I hear what You say but I don’t do it because I’ve diminished Your agenda and glorified my own.

When I take care of number 1, you know, me, I desecrate Your Holy Temple because that’s not what You desire. Your command is to love God and to love others. Acts 4:32 expressed true “temple” worship, “and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.” And that’s the truth that doesn’t defile. Everything I have or am is because God has given it to me or in me. The Temple belongs to God. The instruments are His, the design is His, how it works is His idea. My purpose is to fulfill His idea, not mine. My purpose in life is to be fit in like His divine puzzle piece. I don’t even have the ability to fit myself. To think I do is the greatest farce. This is God’s playwright, He wrote it, it’s His, and we’re His players, and that’s the best place to be, looking to Him as Director so we get it right.

Lord, I don’t want to diminish You by having an attitude that I have it all under control or even know what I’m doing. I want to live under Your direction and I want to be sensitive to the direction of those who have heeded before me and along with me. I want to remember that I’m not a lone player and that I don’t get to write the script, or my script, or any one else’s script, but that You are the Script Writer. I don’t want to look clean on the outside and be a nasty cup on the inside because I’m in control. I want You to be in control, because who in the world am I to even think otherwise? I concede. After all, the temple was just a model of something greater. And Jesus, You told us, “something greater than the temple is here.” And I’m more than willing, I’m desperately in need of surrendering to You because the one who created the temple is greater than the temple. I want You to be God. Don’t let me diminish You in my life or in anyone else’s life. Let me let You be God in my life and all those around me. You know, You’re gonna be God because it’s who You are and I or anyone else can’t stop it. But I can keep myself and others from seeing it. Lord, don’t let that happen. I want to see You as You are. And I want to be an instrument that allows others to see You in Your fullness also.

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Our Own Doing

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Photo credit to Amado Roberto Jimenez Abreu, Jr.

 

“And they consider not in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness: now their own doings have beset them about; they are before My face.” Hosea 7:2

 
Truly, there is nothing new under the sun. “The thing that has been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) These stories of the ancients aren’t just stories of them and times long past. These stories are repeats of the hearts of mankind. Read Hosea 7. It’s a story of yesterdays. It’s a story of today. Why? Because the heart of man is unchanging unless it’s made new by surrendering to the Lord who made us.

 
It’s sad. You would have healed Israel. It’s what You wanted to do and were waiting for the opportunity to do. You were inviting them into healing. Imagine that. But they refused to accept that healing Your way. They wanted to do things their own way. They refused healing. Who would do that? Who would refuse healing until it’s too late?

 
I think of some people. I think of my grandfather, my Opa. He had an infection in his leg. He didn’t trust doctors and hospitals. He was told to go to the doctor but he wouldn’t go. Finally, gangrene started to set in. Then he HAD to go. And so did his leg below his knee. Part of his leg had to be amputated because he refused to seek help and healing when he first needed it.

 
He’s not the only one I think of. Jim Henson, that talented puppet maker and puppeteer. He was much more than that to many and well loved. Mr. Henson was sick. Same story in a way as my Opa. Was sick but never went to the doctor for help. By the time he did, his pneumonia was so bad, he couldn’t be helped. He died.

 
Well, this is the story today. It’s a story of letting our sickness keep baking in the oven. But it’s not a story of physical illness. It’s a story about spiritual sickness. It’s a story of iniquity. What does iniquity mean? It’s the Hebrew word avon here. It’s about perversity. It’s taking what God has said is right and good and twisting it into what it is not, and that’s evil. Tied into the word is the understanding that this “perversifying” of God’s ways will receive punishment.

 
But this sad and twisted story continues. It’s about falsehood, sheqer, about living a sham, being caught up in deceit and emptiness. It’s about being robbed and spoiled and letting yourself be. And it’s a problem easily fixed except no one will stop to consider their own hearts and consider that God sees and knows what’s going on. No one will stop and consider and say, “Hey, this is wrong. This isn’t what I was created for! This is twisted and warped. This is not what our Creator envisioned for us.”

 
With their mind, will, and emotions; what we call the heart, they only consider their own ways and not the God of their creation. They forget that God has never stopped watching and waiting and inviting them into His healing. But they refuse. Like the song, “I’ll have it my way,” they will find out that if that is their choice, they will have it their way. And if that’s my choice, I WILL have it my way too. Only, having it my way means that my own doings will beset me about. My own doings will surround me and encompass me on every side instead of having healing surround me and encompass me on every side. But yes, it is every man’s choice.
I can choose to make myself temporarily glad, or to make people glad. I can choose to run after whatever I think gives me pleasure. My heart can be like a burning oven. I can pile things into it and wait. I can let the baker who is over me sleep and wake up to this burning, flaming fire in the morning. I can let it get so hot that everything good is burned up in flames. I can be an oven where I don’t follow the baking directions and food doesn’t get turned and burns on one side or just gets scorched altogether. I can let this baker who has no knowledge of baking lead my baking if I want. But then I’m nothing more than a silly dove without heart.

 
I’ve had doves before. They are beautiful birds. I can hear them cooing. But they have no defense. Except by the grace of God, I have no idea how they survive in the wild. They don’t bite or scratch. In self-defense they run and flap their wings. And maybe, when we run to our own strength, we are like that beautiful but silly and defenseless bird. How can something defenseless run to itself or others like it for defense?

 
There is One who could defend His people. That same One can defend any who would turn to Him. Don’t flee from Him. Run to Him. Fly to Him. Destruction is everywhere where He is not. When God says that destruction comes to us because we have transgressed against Him, He’s not cursing us, He’s warning us about the consequences of our choice. When we choose to break away from His authority and His protection and His safety and His presence, we get what lies outside the walls of our Safe Tower. Inside the castle and it’s walls you have the protection of the King, but outside is a different story.

 
God had redeemed Israel and invited them into the castle walls. But they were choosing to delight themselves outside the walls where the enemy lurks. Are we choosing the same? Are lies being spoken about God today? I wonder if even “believers” are spreading some lies about You today by the way we live our lives and act out our faith or rather lack of faith. Do we really cry out unto You with our heart, with our mind, will, emotions, and every part of us? Do we really honor Your ways? Do we live in the strength that You give us or in our own strength?  And when I return, am I really returning to You or just to some of the ways I agree with? And am I getting caught up in rage instead of being caught up in You? What is my joy, who is my driving force, what is my life running after? Is it You and Your delight alone? Or is it something else?

 
You offered healing. You still offer healing today. If you want to know the secret to healing let me share Psalm 37. It starts with trusting in the Lord and following Him in His ways. Trusting in Him means delighting yourself in Him and you’ll see that what He desires becomes your desires and they’ll come to pass before your very eyes. When we trust in Him and delight in Him we also willingly commit our ways to Him. His righteousness starts to shine forth through us. Here we are, trusting and delighting and committing even in the tough stuff and yet we find rest in Him and wait patiently for Him no matter what. We don’t have to be angry, or rage, or fret because we know the experience of being kept in His care, so closely in His castle, that we are no strangers to the King.

 
There is still time to consider with our our will, emotions, and thoughts. There is time to consider You, God. There’s time to consider our own actions and wickedness. There is time to consider and remember, to consider and open our eyes to the truth and act upon it. There is time to consider life outside Your gates versus life in Your presence. And there is time to act. There is time to return. But there will come a day when that time has passed. Let us consider and respond rightly before our healing passes by and we are left where we chose to be, on the side of total destruction, not by Your choice, but by ours.

 
God has always offered healing in Himself. He still does today. He went to the extremes to get us to understand by sending Jesus to show what His desire translated into in a way that we mere humans could grasp. Jesus claimed the words of the prophet Isaiah because He could. Standing in the synagogue He proclaimed, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”  Go on, look back at the heart of God in Isaiah. Compare it to the heart of Jesus. Hear His cry for your healing. Come to the One who would choose to pay the price of your rebellion for you. Come to the One who would rescue someone who owed everything to Him, when He owed nothing to us. This is the love of God demonstrated for us in Christ Jesus. This is the glory of God. Let Him heal you. Return to your Maker. Live in relationship to Him who is the Author of relationship and the Author of life. Or die alone. It’s each man’s choice. May we each choose wisely by choosing life and healing in You, Lord.

Dangerously Safe

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Photo credit to http://7-themes.com

“And let us know, eagerly strive to know the LORD…” Hosea 6:3

How many people really take time to read the prophets or the Old Testament? I just wonder. Paul told Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” Let’s note a couple things before we begin here.

Introductory point number 1: this is not a “man” thing. The word used for man here is “anthropos.” That’s about all humans. So if you are human, this is about you and me. In other words, all Scripture is designed for the growth and good of every human. If you are human, Scripture is for you.

And now on to introductory point number 2: all Scripture is profitable. The Greek for that phrase is “pass graphs theopneustos kai ophelimos.” Translated in the Greek order it says, “Every writing God-breathed and profitable.” This graphe when used in Scripture always means “inspired writings” and if we checked it out, we would see that it refers namely to, drum roll here, the writings of the Old Testament! Think about it, even Jesus quoted Old Testament Scripture. And Paul used the Old Testament to point his brethren to Christ! This is good stuff and necessary stuff for learning about God and Christ and what life as His child ought to look like. It’s not just helpful. It’s about what our service ought to resemble. It’s profitable because it leads us to God if taken in the guidance of His direction and not our own.

So here we are, reading the words of a prophet telling about coming judgment on Israel and Judah because of their unrepentant hearts and lives and attitudes. And I’m saying that this is for us today? I’m saying that every one of us humans can glean something for today from this warning in the past? Yes. Absolutely. Undeniably. Necessarily.

I am so glad that we have a God that cares so much that He will use whatever it takes to draw us back to Him. I am also so glad that You are not a sissy God and You do not pamper to our whims. I am glad that You are strong enough to save. I am glad that You are to be feared above all gods. I am glad that You don’t just tell us not to sweat the little stuff, but You tell us the same about the big and terrible stuff because You have it all under control. The problem is when I’m not under Your control in the midst of that stuff.

And that’s what happened with Israel and Judah and that’s what can happen with me or any other of us human beings. You were pronouncing judgment and warning of what was to come but You were also inviting Israel and Judah to avoid the judgment and come back to You. “Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for He has torn, and He will heal us; He has smitten, and He will bind us up. After two days will He revive us: in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight.”

I looked at some of these Hebrew words yesterday. That word torn or taraph is pretty rough. It’s scary. It’s like a lion coming and plucking me to pieces and devouring me. It’s ravenous and rending and tearing. Not a friendly picture. That’s an awfully scary picture of You, God. And then there’s that word smitten or nakah about striking and wounding or killing or punishing or murder and slaughter. Can You be scary like that? Yes. Yes. Yes.
It’s so profitable to read this and think about this and remember this. The God who created everything out of nothing by no effort but the effort of Your will and voice, is a scary God.

You are a God to be feared. 1 Chronicles 16:25 reminds us “For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised: He also is to be feared above all gods.” Psalm 76:7 reminds us, “You, even You, are to be feared: and who may stand in Your sight when once You are angry?” The next verse continues, “You did cause judgment to be heard from heaven; the earth feared, and was still…” In the same chapter we are warned, “Vow, and pay unto the LORD your God: let all that be round about Him bring presents unto Him that ought to be feared.” In another Psalm, “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about Him.” And “For the LORD is great, and greatly to be praised: He is to be feared above all gods.” Wait. We already heard that. But maybe we need to hear it again because it’s so important to get and understand and live out in our lives, I mean, if we want life at all.

I think of a conversation in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe between Lucy and the beavers about Aslan the Lion. “Lucy: Is he…safe? Mr. Beaver: Safe? Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Of course he isn’t safe…but…he’s GOOD…He’s the King.” Why would a good king devour and destroy? For the good of His kingdom and the good of His people. So that His kingdom would be good for all of His children and not just some. So that He can care for all of His children. Yes, the King would be brutal to anything and anyone that would harm those under his care. And the truth about this King and only this King is that only He can heal the torn and bind up the smitten. If the White Witch would turn to His care, she would receive it. But the choice is hers. She can defy and receive His judgment against one who would not run into His arms, or she can return and let Him be the King He already is and love and care for her.

If we rebel, we suffer the consequences of that rebellion. It’s our choice. But if we repent, and return, He will revive us. Even should we have been dead to You and Your ways, You have the power to raise us up from the dead so that we can live for real. Living in Your sight doesn’t just mean where You can see us. It means living in Your presence. Having this fierce and fearful King standing guard over us and advocating for us and loving us. See, perfect love in Him casts out all fear. You don’t stop being a fearful God, but Your fearfulness becomes our delight because no longer is that fierceness directed at us as we attempt to damage Your kingdom, but that fierceness is now directed for us and against our foes.

It makes me think of some of my favorite words from Scripture as shared from the Complete Jewish Bible, “For You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in distress, a shelter from the storm, shade from the heat…”See! This is our God! We waited for Him to save us. This is ADONAI; we put our hope in Him. We are full of joy, so glad He saved us!” (Isaiah 25) But we can’t be healed or bound up or revived or raised up if we won’t return. It’s only in the returning and following that we will actually come to know, really know You Lord. And in the true knowing, we are nourished. Only in You is there profit for us. Like Paul said, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

Jonathan Edwards told us what a scary place it was to be in the hands of an angry God. But I’m telling You what a dangerously safe place to willingly put Yourself into the hands of this fierce and lovingly loyal God. Here is One who is faithful and merciful beyond compare. He owes us nothing, yet He sacrifices His Son on the cross for your sins and mine that we might escape His wrath and instead become His and shine forth His glory throughout this earth He created. We were not created to shine our own lights. We were created to shine with the fierceness of His love. He’s still not a safe God but I will be forever safe in His hands. And honestly, my life in You Lord, won’t be safe either, at least not on this earth. But I will be forever safe in You, for You have me. And I am FEARFULLY and WONDERFULLY made. Does my soul know that? Do I live like that. Because if I did, then I would live my life with the same fearless abandonment as You Jesus, or as that fellow human Paul, or Mary, or Esther…

What if we remembered what kind of God You really are? What if we left off with this idea of false safety and this little safe god and started remembering and honoring You for the God You really are? What if I really understood that You are fearful and that in You I have nothing to fear? What if I lived like that? Would I be afraid to reach out to hurting and empty people? Would I be afraid of losing my life or leaving my family or being ridiculed or being persecuted? Would first world problems really matter so much? Would I step out of my comfort zone? Would I detest being comfortable while others aren’t? Would I care enough to show it by my giving and my going? What would my life look like if I really understood the power and awe and fearfulness of You and realized that all of that was behind me, under me, all around me, and in me compelling me to share You with the world? What if this is what humanity was created for, to get that and to live it out by returning to You and living in You and being blessed in You by knowing You and sharing that knowledge? What if we were created to subdue the world with the the love and knowledge and fear of You that leads to abundant life for all? I would strive for that, no matter what it takes. And I will.

A No-Brainer

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Photo credit to Doug Gochenour.

“Woe to her who is rebellious and defiled, the oppressing city!  She listens to no voice; she accepts no correction.  She does not trust in the Lord; she does not draw near to her God.”  (Zephaniah 3:1-2)

Zephaniah was known as the “fiercest of prophets.”  Imagine hearing him make these declarations before you.  Read all of his words, given by God, in Scripture.  He held nothing back.  But it seems that there was a reason for Zephaniah holding nothing back.  That “oppressing city” and its people were holding nothing back either.  It seems as though they were holding nothing back from themselves and it was causing havoc.

Who was that oppressing city?  It was Judah and Jerusalem.  What was her problem?  She was rebellious and defiled. That was the root of the problem. What does it mean to be rebellious?  Well, Noah Webster, back in 1828, defined a rebel as “One who revolts from the government to which he owes allegiance, either by openly renouncing the authority of that government, or by taking arms and openly opposing it. A rebel differs from an enemy, as the latter is one who does not owe allegiance to the government which he attacks.”  Jerusalem existed because God created her.  He called Abram out of Ur and made Himself a people, a nation.  But this nation named Israel, first through the tribes of Israel and then through the tribes of Judah abandoned the God who created them.  They were God’s people who had turned against the God who had formed them.

Zephaniah tells of the heart of the people that is bringing God’s judgment on them.  They were disobedient, unresponsive to God, unbelieving, and impenitent.  Their leaders and judges were greedy for self gain, not righteousness.   Those who were supposed to be prophets didn’t take it seriously and they were treacherous and served lies.  The priests violated the sacrifices.  They all acted as though God was not there, as though You would not act, as though they were in control.  Yet, there You were the whole time. 

Oh, yeah, bad Israel, bad Judah, right?  How foolish can they be?  But what about the application to us in the rest of the world?  Do I resemble this kind of thinking before You, God?  Because the message doesn’t just talk about Judah and Jerusalem.  Zephaniah tells of the destruction of the wicked Gentiles.  Why?  I’m pretty sure since we all started out from the same roots in the garden that all men really have the same opportunity to know the God who created them, who formed them.  And we, just like Jerusalem will be held responsible for our own rebellion against You.  And the good news is that You have a heart to convert many in those remaining nations because You formed them too.  And the good news for Israel is that You have a heart to restore them.  More good news is that Christ will be returning and there will be even greater rejoicing! God will be in our midst.   He will gather those who mourn for what lacks in Him, He will deal with our oppressors, He will save the lame and gather the outcast and bring us in and gather us together in Him.

But let’s go back to the bad news.  “She listens to no voice; she accepts no correction.  She does not trust in the Lord; she does not draw near to her God.”  It’s not about listening to just any voice.  It’s not even about listening to her voice.  It’s all about listening to God’s voice.  And listening, Hebraicly, meant acting upon that listening.  That’s the point here.  She doesn’t listen and when she doesn’t act on that correction, it shows she isn’t acting upon that listening.  And why do You correct us?  I mean who likes correction?   Even Paul said, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”    Now isn’t it interesting the in Zephaniah, God makes reference to healing the lame?  And here, Paul continues the thought about discipline by saying, “Lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.” (Hebrews 12:12,13)  Being able to submit to correction brings healing.  A refusal to be corrected by God brings further disjointedness and pain and suffering, not only for ourselves, but for those under our influence.

Why wouldn’t we accept correction?  Why wouldn’t we listen to Your voice, God?  Because we don’t trust You.  We trust our own way.  We ask the questions for the answers we want to receive and we avoid asking the questions that might reveal the truth.  Or, we ask questions and don’t stop to listen to the answers.  Or we ask questions without really meaning to ever listen to an answer.  Our answer is already sufficient in our own minds.  We would rather choose to believe lies and falsehoods because we like the idea of the response we can have.  We can feed our feelings, our egos, our pockets, our lusts, and write everything else off because we can have what we want the way we want, or so we think. 

Well, that’s true.  I can choose to have what I want.  I can choose to be a rebel against the God who formed me, just like Israel.  I can choose to design my own reality and my own truth or lack thereof.  I can live by it.  But then too, I shall die by it.  I shall die in the emptiness of that “reality” when all along, there was a True Reality, the I AM, the Ever Existent One, who would have taken me under His wings and brought me into His wonderful presence into eternity through Jesus Christ, but I wanted my own way, my own choice, my own voice, more.  What a tragedy!  You know what?  Rebellion is not worth it.  It’s not as great as everyone in the world makes it out to be.  It’s lonely and painful and empty and eternal.

I’ve thought about eternity a long time ago.  Like, what would make me good enough that God would accept me into His eternal glory?  And I realized that there is nothing in me that is that wonderful and that good.  But I listened to Him.  And He reminded me of Jesus and how He, as God and man, offered Himself in my place to fulfill the glory and righteousness of God and make a way for rebellious men and women to return to Him.  So, accept my correction, because Christ accepted my punishment for me and for you.  I trust in Him because He gave His life for me who didn’t deserve it.  I’ll draw near to Him because He drew near to me when I was still rebellious.  He deserves my allegiance.  I don’t deserve Him.  But He gave Himself for me.

I don’t care if you are black or white or brown or pink or gay or straight or whatever or whoever.  Not listening to God’s voice, which we can verify from spending time in His word, leads to woe for any of us.  Sure, you can rebel and choose to live your own way, whatever that is, but be ready for your lameness to get worse.  If you want healing, listen to the One who can bring it.  Pledge your allegiance to Him with Your whole life and all your attitudes and all your actions and all your thoughts.  Why?  Because when  He exults over You, His precious treasure, with loud singing, you don’t want to miss it.  It’s our choice.  I can choose screaming and gnashing of teeth, or I can choose rejoicing and gladness forevermore.  To me it’s a no-brainer but maybe that’s the problem, we’re not really using our brains fully and examining all the evidence.

 

Consider Your Ways

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“Thus says the Lord of hosts; “Consider your ways.”  Haggai 1:7

This is pretty potent advice here.  It seems like you can take it or leave it for whatever you think it’s worth.  But I’m pretty sure that when God says something, it’s not just advice; it’s a command.  And I’m pretty sure that in honoring that command, one finds fulfillment, completion, satisfaction, blessing, and a real relationship with God Himself.  Which would mean, that not honoring that command, or throwing the “advice” to the side and doing your own thing, would lead to unfulfillment, incompleteness, dissatisfaction, cursing, and a lack of a relationship with God. 

Actually, verse 7 is the second time that God asked the people of Israel to consider her ways.  In verse 5, we hear, “Now therefore thus says the Lord of hosts; ‘Consider your ways.’”  That’s twice in a really short time so maybe it is imperative that the people of Israel and we consider our ways after all.  The Compete Jewish Bible, written from a Jewish Messianic viewpoint, puts it this way, “Think about your life!”  Were they?  Are we?  Am I?  And when they did, do we find them doing something about it?  When I do, is there something that I do about it?

Now, I’ve been heading backwards from the New Testament or New Covenant.  First was Malachi, then Zechariah, and now Haggai.  We’re in Darius’ reign and we’re still under Zerubbabel, and Joshua, the high priest.  And people were living again in Jerusalem during the captivity but they were fixing up their own houses and leaving the House of God in ruin.  Lord, You even say that the people were saying, “It’s not time to  rebuild the Lord’s house.”  But it was time to build their own houses. 

That makes me think about the condition of the Lord’s House at that time.  Because You pose a question, “Is it time for you to live in your own paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?”  I wonder if the paneling in the House of God was broken down and rotting and being uncared for?  It seems so.  Think about it.  The House of the Lord, is where God would come meet with His people.  It’s where His presence appeared.  But no one was giving that the time of day.  They were taking care of their own lives, their own houses, their own families, and seeking the will and presence of God had become less important.  I suppose it was glorifying themselves before glorifying the Lord.  “Let me get my house in line before I think about You, Lord.”  And You, had a problem with that thinking, Lord.  Rightly so.

Stop and think about what that attitude was producing, that attitude of providing for self and leaving your God out of the picture.  They were sowing much, but getting little back in the harvest.  They ate but were never satisfied.  They drank but were never satisfied.  They provided their own clothes but weren’t satisfied.  They earned money but it never sustained.  It was like putting it into a bag with holes.  Think it over.  Think it all over.  It’s the same today for some of us.  We have high expectations but it comes to nothing.  We try to bring it home only to see it  blown away like “dust in the wind.”  Why?  “Because My house lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house.” (slightly paraphrased)

But the truth of the matter is that we aren’t in charge of our lives.  We don’t have what it takes to build our own houses sufficiently.  God, in His sovereignty created the heavens above us and the earth and designed it to bring forth produce in it’s season and in His season.  He is the Master of everything and by His command was everything made.  Now here’s the truth.  Back in the very beginning of what we know, God created.  And Jesus was part of it.  Jesus is the very image of the Word of God and how we see it all come together, from Genesis to Revelation.  “He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”  (John 1:2-5)  Now if all life comes from Him, how can we live apart from Him?  How can we ever think that we are sufficient to build our own houses and neglect Him?

Paul reminds us that we are not “sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant…”  (2 Corinthians 3:5,6)  It’s not about me.  It’s all about God.  We keep having pounded into our minds that it’s all about us, but it’s not.  It’s all about the One who created us and gives all things to us.  So what can we do about it?

We do like the Israelites.  The change our focus and get it back on You, Lord.  We do what You ask us to rebuild Your house and to shine Your glory into the world around us.  We look to You first and let You look to our needs.  We go up into the hills and we bring work and build Your house, so You can take pleasure in us taking pleasure in You.  Then You are glorified.  The truth is, we can try to care for ourselves, but we are insufficient.  You know our needs better than we do. 

Do I feel like I’m working hard and sowing much but reaping little?  Consider my life.  There’s a lot to consider, day by day, and moment by moment.  Consider “the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much better than they?”  (Matthew 6:26)  Consider if things I try to do seem to be all futile efforts.  Is it just because I am giving from me? My way?  What if I reconsidered and went to God first to give of what You give me.  Maybe that’s what Paul is talking about in 2 Corinthians 9?  “Here’s the point: he who plants sparingly also harvest sparingly.”  It’s not just about planting.  It’s about planting in You, Lord, and for You.  If I plant for myself, my harvest will all be for myself, and that’s not a harvest You bless.  You bless those who plant for You and toward the needs of others.  That’s a harvest after Your own heart, and You bless the planter in You.  “Each should give according to what he has decided in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. Moreover, God has the power to provide you with every gracious gift in abundance, so that always in every way you will have all you need yourselves and be able to provide abundantly for every good cause…”  I’m not rich by my country’s standards but I know this, that every time I step out for God’s glory to help meet the needs of others, every time I choose to step out to build His house first before mine, He provides way beyond what I have.  I don’t even know how it will be harvested but I know that He’s provided for me to be a part of the sowing.  And since nothing He does returns void, I can know that He will bless the harvest in HIs time. 

I can feed myself gluttonously on all kinds of food.  But there is only one food that will satisfy.  “For the bread of God is He which came down from heaven, and gives life unto the world.” (John 6:33)  Jesus is the only bread that satisfies.  He said, “I am the bread of life: he that comes to me shall never hunger; and he that believes in me shall never thirst.”  He’s the living bread that came down for us.  And if you are thirsty, He says, “Come unto me, and drink.” (John 7:37)  Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman at the well, hold true for us today also.  “if you knew the gift of God, and who it is that says to you,’ Give me to drink; you would have asked of him, and he would have given you living water.”  Why?  “Because “he that believes on [Jesus], as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:38)

Really, it all boils down to the character of God.  God, You flow out in love over all people.  You do good because You are good.  You love because You are love.  You give because You are generosity.  You provide because You are Provision.  I can’t help but thinking about the word, “fulness”.  The people were taking care of themselves but it led to emptiness and being unfulfilled.  But in You, You bring fulness into our lives.  All things are Yours, and in Jesus, You provide them to us, the called out ones, His body, Your body, and fill us with the fullness of Him that fills everything from even before the time of creation as we know it. (Ephesians 1:22,23)  And when we turn our focus off of ourselves and our provision and put it back on You, we experience “the riches of [Your] glory, [and are] strengthened with might by [Your] Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in [our] hearts by faith; that [we] being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of christ, which passes knowledge, that [we] might be filled with all the fulness of God.”  (Ephesians 3:16-19)  Why?  “Till we all come in the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ…” (Ephesians 4:13)

This is what glorifies God.  This is what pleases Him beyond words.  “For it pleased the Father that in Him [Christ] should all fulness dwell…” (Colossians 1:19)  We only find our completeness in Christ.  We will only find true fulfillment in Him.  He’s the piece that fills everything up.  He’s the piece that brings everything together in God again.  And what a shame to ignore Him.  What a shame to leave His house, His presence abandoned.  I don’t want to be apart from You.  I don’t want to do things my own way.  I’m absolutely prone to error.  I have no idea how to even satisfy myself.  But in You my joy can become full.  I can choose to be full of myself, or I can choose to be full of You.  That means that I need to be concerned about Your glory above mine.  So let me be more concerned with building Your house and let You take care of building mine.  May I continually consider my ways and line then up in and with You.

Not Repeating the Past

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Photo credit to Psyche Angelik Mendoza Villacillo-Zuhura

“The burden of the word of the Lord in the land of Hadrach, and Damascus shall be the rest thereof: when the eyes of man, as of all the tribes of Israel shall be toward the Lord.”  Zechariah 9:1

What do a burden, a tribute, and a song have in common?  A lot more than one would think here.  Because I’m reading this verse that starts, “The burden of the word of the Lord,” and I’m asking, what does it mean that the word of the Lord is called a burden?  That’s pretty heavy stuff isn’t it?  No pun intended there.  Isn’t a burden a heavy thing, a heavy load to bear?  And if the word of the Lord is such a heavy load, how can one bear it?

Maybe I read to much into things, or maybe the problem is we don’t read enough into things.  But when I stopped to ask about this word “burden” represented by the Hebrew word massa, more than leading to meaning a burden or tribute, it’s also singing.  Now how does that come together?  And the origin of the word itself comes from the word nasal which means to lift.  But these definitions don’t clear everything up for me.

If I hop around Scripture looking and asking, I find massa being used of an ass lying under his burden.  Actually, it’s the ass of an enemy struggling under his burden, and then being encouraged to help the ass for the enemy’s sake despite his hatred of you.  I find massa when the tent of meeting is being readied to travel and the “sons of Kohath shall come to bear it: but they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die.  These things are the burden of the sons of Kohath…” (Numbers 4:15)  Aaron and his sons, the priests, were to take the Kohathites in to perform their service of carrying things by appointing them personally to each of the holy items that had already been covered to do his service and to care for his burden and live.  (Numbers 4:19)  And then there were the Gershonites who carried the things like the curtains and hangings of the tabernacle.  It was their service and burden.  Were these things too hard?  Were these things a chore and drudgery?  Isn’t that what we think of burdens today?  Or does this concept of a burden in Your word, Lord, mean something more?

It’s not that it’s a light thing either.  Definitely, a burden is attached to some weightiness.  Here is Moses in the wilderness and the people of Israel are complaining about manna, manna, manna.  I mean, here’s God’s provision.  They are living and not dying.  Their clothes aren’t even wearing out.  They have water in the desert.  They are safe.  “All we get to eat is manna!”  And the manna falls and they gather it to eat and what is their response?  They are weeping and not for joy.  They are weeping with ungratefulness and complaining hearts.  They are weeping for what they want and not what God wants.  And Moses comes to You Lord and says, “Why have You afflicted your servant?  And why haven’t I found favor in Your sight, that You lay the burden of all this people upon me?  Have I conceived all this people?  Have I begotten them, that You should say unto me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nursing father bears the sucking child, unto the land which You swear unto their fathers?  Where should I have flesh to give unto all this people?  For they weep unto me, saying, ‘Give us flesh, that we may eat.’  I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me.”  (Numbers 11: 11-14) 

Moses was so right.  This was all too “kabed” for him.  It was not intended for him to handle what the people were looking to him to handle.  It was not for You, Lord, to be asked to handle things according to the people’s will either.  Kabed means “to be heavy, weighty with respect.”  But that weight of glory was supposed to be being placed on the Lord, not on their own desires and their own hearts, nor on a man (no matter how great before God) named Moses. 

So Lord, You answer Moses.  And You tell him to gather 70 of the elders and You will take of the spirit that is upon Moses and share it with these 70 elders so that Moses will not be alone, so that Moses will have other men to help him.  So these men and Moses will all bear the burden of the people together.  And I wonder if You did that because You were teaching Moses something about himself by giving him what he “thought” he needed.  Because wasn’t that the same thing the people were doing?  And after You square Moses away, You square the people away.  You are going to give them what they asked for and more.  The meat was coming.  And Moses seems to doubt how You could do that.  Why do I say Moses seems to doubt You?  It sounds like Your words I hear.  “And the Lord said unto Moses, ‘Is the Lord’s hand waxed short?  You shall see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not.’”  Let’s keep meditating on all these things.  Hold on to it, like Mary, and hide it in our hearts for You to bring together, Lord.  In Deuteronomy, Moses shares, “How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance, and your burden, and your strife?” while speaking to the people.  This is over this same situation of the appointing of the 70 leaders, just another perspective.  Who’s cumbrance, burden, and strife was the problem?  Let’s just meditate on that.

And if this hasn’t gotten weighty enough to think about, it’s expressed as song twice in 1 Chronicles 15:22.  “And Chenaniah, chief of the Levites, was for song: he instructed about the song, because he was skillful.” How can it be a burden and a song? Well, I do suppose a song is a type of tribute to God.  Now I see how it can be a song and a tribute, but relating those with the burden… I’m still searching.

How about a tribute?  We have that represented in 2 Chronicles 17:11 where some of the Philistines brought Jehoshaphat all kinds of tribute like silver.  And the Arabians brought flocks, rams, and goats.  Again, how do these three words- burden, tribute, and song come together in nasah?  It brings me back to Moses and another incident.

In Deuteronomy 6:16, Moses is warning the people by bringing up an incident in the past.  “You shall not test the Lord your God, as you tested Him in Massah.”  Why is there a place named Massah, like the root of the word nasal?  Exodus 17:7 tells us, “And he called the name of the place Massah, and Maribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us, or not?’” Paul reminds his readers of this time in his letter to the Hebrews.  He warns them not to harden their hearts as at this time when the people provoked God and put God to the proof even after seeing His miraculous care and provision.  The author of some of the Psalms looks back at that day.  It seems it had nothing to do with Your desire but all to do with their own lust and desire.  The author accuses them of turning back and limiting You.  Actually, it’s pretty strong stuff.  They “lusted exceedingly.”  Maybe this story can help bring it all together. 

“You shall not test the Lord your God as you tested in Massah.”  God, You say don’t do it.  I’m not to test You.  No one is.  How do I worship You properly?  How do I understand what to do and what not to do?  Is the burden of the word of the Lord to understand and serve in that right understanding?  What does Your history teach?  Could this be about You testing our faithfulness?  Could life be a test of that designed for us?  I mean, after all, You inherently are faithful.  You can’t be unfaithful.  To test Your faithfulness is to cast doubt on You and to say You are not faithful.  Who are we or the Israelites to say that?  To say, “You aren’t doing right by us.  You aren’t meeting my needs.  This isn’t how it should be happening in my life,” are all hardened hearts wanting their own way and not Yours.  They’re all saying, “I know better than You, Lord.  Straighten up Your act and get right according to me.”  Really?  Yes.  How sad.  And I’ve been guilty of that, of testing You because I’ve been one of those complainers who asked You to change the situation instead of asking You to change my heart. 

What if a burden is a test?  Sure, it carries weight, it’s heavy, it’s hard.  Isn’t that how tests are designed?  Aren’t they designed to be the proof of our true capabilities whether in math or science or welding, or in this case, our trust and submission to You, God?  I mean, what was really happening at Massah?  “God, You’re not taking care of us.  Neither are You, Moses.  You guys are impotent.  You’re indifferent to our needs.  We don’t want to follow You because You don’t listen and do what we say.  If You want us to follow You, prove Yourself to us and prove You care for us our way!”  But it was never and never will be about You following our will.  If faith is dependent upon You doing things for me, then that’s not faith at all.  You are God, not a genie.  What an insult.  Like You don’t know how to care best for Your own people, Your own creation?  Really?  Like You are under anyone’s control?  Like the created can control the Creator?  Are we kidding ourselves.  And the One who is Good, needs to be told what is good?

The burden of the word of the Lord, then, maybe, is to see You for who You are and to act accordingly based on that knowledge and experience.  To carry the burden any other way is “rebellious disobedience, a refusal to accept the character of God as the basis of obedience.” (Skip Moen)

God gives us every evidence of His goodness.  To rebel and disobey in the face of it is sin.  To say God does not care is to ignore evidence and commit sin.  God cares.  You manifest as You see fit.  It’s not our decision.  it is Your choice how to show it.  All we need to know is that You care.  I don’t tell You what to do.  I‘m Your servant.  I don’t deserve consideration but I’m blessed that You consider me.  If I think I deserve more, I better look back at history.  I can also learn that it’s dangerous to question God. I mean, You have no requirement or duty to act on my behalf and yet, You choose to.  That’s all because of Your faithfulness.  My appropriate service is gratitude.  “Gratitude is the basis of faith, but gratitude arises from who [You are}, not what [You do].”  And the truth is, Jesus didn’t die for my sins.  That was secondary.  Jesus died for the love and obedience of the Father because He wanted to be all about Him.  My forgiveness, the death of my sins through His sacrifice, is a byproduct of His obedience.  He trusted the character of You, Heavenly Father, so much, that He went to the cross as my sacrifice.  I can place my sins on him as I place my trust in a God who is faithful and worthy of being trusted.

The burden of the world of the Lord is the truth of who You are.  It’s heavy because You are heavy.  Your holiness is described as a weighty thing.  You are worthy of tribute.  Anything I have, anything I do, You deserve presented back to You because it all came from You in the first place.  And when I start seeing the weightiness of who You are, how can I help but burst out in songs of praise and worship and adoration and thankfulness. 

“The burden of the word of the Lord in the land of Hadrach, and Damascus shall be the rest thereof: when the eyes of man, as of all the tribes of Israel shall be toward the Lord.”  My eyes can be on myself, like the eyes of the Israelites at Massah.  Or my eyes can be reminded to be on you because only in You will I find that rest.  Only in You will I be consoled as You care for me as Your own bride.  Only in You will I find my true rest as You give me a home and an identity and a purpose and You abide with me and I abide with You.  Finally, when You are in control, what work do I have left other than to walk in Your ways and enjoy the blessing of Your presence?  I can carry Your burden and be defeated under it.  Or I can let You carry Your burden and be blessed as You hold the load for me and I follow in obedience and love and adoration and awe.  The choice is mine, the burden and work is Yours.  That’s faith.  That’s trust.  That’s how not to repeat the past but how to learn from it.

More Than Robots and Rubber Bracelets

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Photo credit to redrocketmedia.

“…And this shall come to pass, if you will diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God.” Zechariah 6:15

Here You are, Lord, in the middle of telling Your plans to Zechariah.  You are telling him Your immediate plans as well as plans for the future good of all people in the One who is the BRANCH and who will inhabit and rule from Your ultimate temple as King of Kings and High Priest eternal.  But You give a warning to Zechariah for the people of Israel.  “…And this shall come to pass, IF you will DILIGENTLY OBEY the voice of the Lord your God.”  And if they didn’t obey?

What’s the idea of having to obey You?  That’s such a hard concept for people today.  Submission, what a tough idea.  Servant, who wants to be a servant?  But over and over again throughout the Old Testament, or should I call it the First Testament, because it’s still relevant and not outdated, You emphasize the importance and necessity of obedience. 

“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 28:1)  Why would You set Israel above the other nations if they faithfully obey You and do what You desire?  Is it so You can show what good little robots they are?  I don’t think so.  Obedience to You shows our alignment with You.  If we love someone, I mean really love them, we care about what they care about.  We care about what’s on the heart of the one we love.  We desire to do things that bring them joy.  We understand their feelings.  And when we know that someone else loves us, truly loves us, we know that their heart is for us.  You know when someone adores You.  You know when someone wants to protect You.  You know when someone truly cares for You by the things they do.  And You know if they don’t care as much as they ought.  You know if some of their love or all of their love is lacking by their actions and attitudes.  And those actions and attitudes rub off on the people around you that look up to you or that stand in the background and mock you.  And since You, Lord, love Your people so much to go to such extremes to show it, faithful obedience is the least we could give back to show the measure of our love for You.  Because it matters.  The nations are watching and if we say You are the True God and then don’t treat You like the True God You are, we make a mockery of our relationship and who will be drawn to a relationship like that?

“And He said, ‘If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the LORD, am your healer.’” (Exodus 15:26)  You want Your people to earnestly heed Your voice.  It’s one thing to hear, but it’s a totally different thing to hear and do, to hear and care enough to act upon what we hear.  I have to heed Your voice and do what pleases You; I have to give ear to You and complete that action by keeping and doing what You say.  Does that mean I’ll never be sick?  No.  It meant for the people of God that they would not be plagued with the diseases that came as a judgment for denying You and worshipping false gods. 

“But if you truly obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.” (Exodus 23:22)  The Angel of the Lord went before Israel in the wilderness.  In trust and commitment, they were warned to “truly obey his voice and do”.  Trusting is following through with doing.  And God always makes good on His promises.  Trusting and obeying and acting upon that trust leads to You standing in for us against our enemies.  You become our number one Advocate.  You even stand in for those who stand in for Your own.  But if I want You to stand in for me, I am called to stand in for You.

I wear a little black rubber bracelet that says, “He who belongs to God hears what God says…” (John 8:47)  And that’s not just about hearing Jesus speak and walking away.  It’s about being changed by his thoughts.  It’s about agreeing with His thinking.  It’s about finally understanding and desiring things God’s way instead of our own and seeing how much better it is not just for us, but for the world.

“But you shall serve the Lord your God, and He will bless your bread and your water; and I will remove sickness from your midst.”  (Exodus 23:25)  Pride is a terrible thing.  Pride will keep us from the truth, just like it did for the people in John 8:47 that Jesus was speaking with.  Wanting to be on top and not willing to humble yourself to serve sets us against You, Lord, because here You are, God and Creator of the universe and every person.  You are the highest and the mightiest and the smartest and yet You humbled Yourself to come as Jesus, as a baby birthed through that inglorious method that all babies are born through.  You humbled Yourself to become a man, yet God, and serve those You created.  It’s the most glorious thing ever!  And it’s love beyond measure.  So is it so much to ask that kind of service of us back to You and to those around us?  I’d say pride is a major sickness that would be removed with that type of service.  Maybe we’d all be healthier for it in other ways too.

The other day, I heard someone share the Gospel, the good news of how we can not only know God but be His.  And it centered around the doctrine of believing that Jesus is God, that He came to earth to be the sacrifice for our sins, that He died on the cross to pay our penalty, and that he rose again to give us new life.  That’s all absolutely true.  And we must believe that to be saved and to be His.  But unless we believe and obey that belief, it’s nothing but doctrine.  When You said, “If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out…” in Leviticus 26:3, You were telling us that actions must follow our belief.  Doctrine is just doctrine unless I let it change my life.  Doctrine is just doctrine unless I commit to act upon it with all of my being.  I must trust and obey or I don’t really trust at all.  I must believe and confess and then live in that belief, in the fellowship of what You have done for me.  I cannot trust and my life not be changed.  I cannot trust and my attitude not be changed. 

“Then it shall come about, because you listen to these judgments and keep and do them, that the Lord your God will keep with you His covenant and His lovingkindness which He swore to your forefathers.” (Deuteronomy 7:12)  Is this really sounding like God rewarding us for our good works?  I don’t think so.  This sounds to me like God rewarding us with a close relationship with Him.  It sounds like the more I lean my ear into You, Lord, and listen and agree with You and act upon that agreement, that our relationship deepens and I get to experience and see and revel in Your lovingkindness which You have just been waiting for me to experience along with You.  Is obedience so tough?  I mean, if the reward is a deep, personal, generous relationship with You, Lord, well then, I so much want to obey You no matter the cost.  It certainly seems more worthwhile to obey You than not to.

I could keep sharing Scripture after Scripture.  But I’m so happy that I’m sharing this one, “It shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul…” (Deuteronomy 11:13)  Do I get that?  It’s about true love for You God and true love is exhibited by what we do and how we serve the one we love.  True love is love that gives our whole heart and soul.  I mean, how is that too much to ask from us?  You’ve shown every evidence that You have given Your whole heart and soul for our benefit?  Who am I to refuse that and mock the love You’ve shown?

The truth is, I can choose to ignore Your love and withhold my love from You.  You warned against that.  “Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and you turn aside, and serve other gods and worship them…” (Deuteronomy 11:16)  We’re all going to worship something.  We’re all going to cleave to something.  Everyone is diligent about something, it’s just not always the right something.  And what we choose to cling to, well, we’re going to lead others to cling to it too, whether it leads them to life or to death.  Are we willing to take on the responsibility of leading others to death?

But what if I choose to diligently keep all You say, and what if I choose to do it, and love You, Lord, and walk in all Your ways, and cleave to You like I’m glued, because I want LIFE and I want to lead others to true life?  When the disciples saw Jesus calm the sea, they marveled, asking “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!”  The winds and sea have to obey because they are just matter and You are in charge of matter.  But You give me a choice to obey.  I think it’s a much more marvelous thing for a man or woman to choose to obey than for the winds or sea to calm.  I don’t think the angels in heaven marveled as much that day at the calming of the winds and sea as they do every time one sinner obeys and turns in love away from his old life and into Your new life. 

I mean, even demons obey you.  The people were all amazed again at how you commanded unclean spirits and they obeyed.  “What new doctrine is this?”  But it’s not a teaching.  It’s You, it’s Your life, it’s life in You.  And if a demon who won’t love You has to obey You, why would I, who can love You, choose not to?  See, it’s a way more amazing thing for me to choose to love You back than for a demon to flee.  I can run to You; he must run from You.  I can abide in You.  I can receive more than I ever imagined in You because I can become Your very own beloved, Your precious child and faithful servant.

Peter and the other apostles made that choice.  They came to their very own conclusion that, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)  That means obeying God rather than ourselves, too, because we are only mere men. 

And we’re not alone when we commit to You because You give us the Holy Spirit to be our resident witness within each of us that obey You.  We’re all going to serve somebody.  We’re all going to yield to something or someone to obey, either sin or death, or obedience that leads to righteousness. (Romans 6:16)  What will it be?  Or rather, who will it be?

I want to commit to love the author of my eternal salvation who was made perfect and complete before us all through His obedience to You.  I want to obey Him in love, that I may be part of Him.  I want to love You so much, that I obey You, that I love Your ways, even if they are hard, and even if no one around me gets it.  I want to press forward for You no matter how difficult, because You are worth so much more than I have to give and yet You still love and delight in my giving of myself.  I want to obey You because I appreciate You so much.  I want to obey You because I adore You and I am so grateful that You adored me first.