Judgment is Coming

God spoke through Malachi to the people of Israel. He reminds them of his never ending love. And they say. Really?? How have you loved us? Most likely, the people are remembering the many, many years of hardship they have faced. Wars. Defeat. Famine. Loss. Taken exile to a foreign country by an enemy king. What they seemed to have selectively forgotten is that these troubles of were their own doing. Their ancestors had walked away from following God’s commands. They did as they pleased. They stopped obeying God. And this current generation was acting exactly like their ancestors. Disobedient to God.

As God reminded them of their sins, they responded with questions they wanted answered. Their hearts had been hardened to the truth, so God answered their questions and reminded them of how they were dishonoring him.

How have you loved us? In a mocking tone, they asked if God really loved them. In a moment of desperation, someone spoke the quiet words out loud. They didn’t see proof of God’s love, because all they saw was their lives in chaos. After years of being held captive in a foreign country, their families had been allowed to return home. Although they had been living in their ancestry homeland for many years, they were back to their old tricks. Doing their own thing. Giving less than their best to God. And he was calling them out on it. They didn’t feel loved by the One who loved them more than anyone ever could. God reminded them that they were his chosen people. He chose the Jewish nation over all other nations who were at his disposal. He loved them with an undying love. They didn’t feel secure in his love, because they had abandoned him.

How have we ever shown contempt for your name? Actions speak louder than words. It’s true. Israel’s priests were treating God with contempt, and they didn’t even realize it. They didn’t realize they were offending God by giving imperfect offerings to him. They did their work out of duty, not authentic allegiance to God. God knows the difference, in case anyone has forgotten. They weren’t giving of their best when only the best was acceptable. They were just going through the motions and expecting God’s blessings.

How have we defiled the sacrifices? The Israelites knew that when they brought their sacrifices to the temple, they were to bring their best offering. Not second best. Not blemished offerings. Perhaps they had forgotten or just chose to overlook this important fact, but God wanted their full allegiance and obedience. When they brought their sacrifices, God required spotless lambs without blemish. They were to bring the best of their livestock, but they were bringing animals unfit for sacrifice to an Almighty God.

God saw their acts of self righteousness and called them out for it. You’re not giving of your best to me, but yet you want my best. You want my blessings and my mercy and my grace, and yet you halfheartedly bring your sacrifices to me. God reminded them that their earthly rulers wouldn’t accept blemished offerings, so why should he. Yet they begged him for mercy as they brought crippled, stolen and sick animals to sacrifice. Why do they expect God to show them any mercy when they bring tarnished offerings?

How have we wearied you? The Israelites had a warped sense of right and wrong. They lived as though those who did evil were good in God’s eyes. They believed that God approved of wrongdoing. Oh. How self righteous they were. Trying to twist truth for lies. Trying to rewrite definitions of good and evil. And they tried God’s patience with this way of thinking and living. He was tired of the games they were playing.

How can we return when we have never gone away? God reminded the Israelites that they were the ones who had left him. He had not left them. Yet they thought they hadn’t walked away from him. How could they think that? Their years of exile and hardship happened because they disobeyed God. And they didn’t know how to return to him. They thought they had never left him. Unbelievable. Their hearts were so evil that they didn’t know right from wrong. God called them to repentance, and they didn’t believe they needed to repent.

When did we ever cheat you? The Israelites were robbing God, and they didn’t even realize it. They were stealing right from under his nose by withholding their tithes and offerings. And they thought nothing of it. They were required by Jewish law to give their first and best gifts to support the priests in their work. The Levite priests didn’t own land, so they had no way to provide food for their families. The other tribes were to provide out of their abundance for the priests, and yet they weren’t. They were holding back what rightfully belonged to God, and they didn’t even think twice about it.

What have we said against you? The Israelites would speak against God, and once again they weren’t aware they were doing it. How could they be so blind? Their hearts had turned so far from God that they no longer knew when they were sinning against him. They said it was useless to serve God. But they still wanted his favor. They were unwilling to humble themselves in service to God. They had forgotten that the reward for serving God was far greater than the cost. So they chose their own way, and God was calling them on it.


The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says, “The day of judgment is coming, burning like a furnace. On that day the arrogant and the wicked will be burned up like straw. They will be consumed—roots, branches, and all. But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture. Malachi 4:1-2


The Israelites had most likely been back home for one hundred years after their seventy years of exile in Babylon. One hundred years of sliding back into their old ways of disobeying God. Oh. People. How easy it is to forget God’s love when you’re focused only on yourselves. On self love. How easy it is to forget God’s goodness when you think being good is good enough. How easy it is to block out God’s voice when we hear him speaking words we don’t want to hear. To shrug off the touch of God’s nudge when he’s moving us in a direction we don’t want to go.

And then God offered mercy to those who feared him and honored his name.

God had shown the Israelites in so many different ways how wide and deep his love was for them. But they forgot. They forgot all the miracles and rescues and provision and forgiveness he had given to them each time they turned away and then crawled back in repentance. They had once again turned their heads and their hearts to their own leanings. And they weren’t leaning toward God. They were once again leaning in direct opposition to God’s commands. God never stopped loving them or showing proof of his love. They just weren’t looking for it, so over time they were blinded and their hearts were hardened against God.

And what they forgot was brought to their attention by God. Oh. He never misses a thing. He called them out on their bad behavior.

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says to the priests: “A son honors his father, and a servant respects his master. If I am your father and master, where are the honor and respect I deserve? You have shown contempt for my name! “But you ask, ‘How have we ever shown contempt for your name?’ Malachi 1:6

Time and time again, the Jewish people expected good things from God, yet they’re not obeying him. Again. They’re giving of themselves halfheartedly. John writes in Revelation3:15-16 that you either hot or cold. If you’re lukewarm, God will reject you. God requires our best. When we give him only half of our allegiance, it’s basically no allegiance. When we write our own rules and live our own lives, and do our own thing without regard for God’s will and God’s commands, we’re disobeying him. We’re saying our ways are better than God’s ways.

The Israelites lived their lives as if they were better than God. They did what they wanted. They gave the sacrifices they wanted to give, not what God required. They did things their way not God’s way, because God’s way demanded too much of them. For many years later, the Jewish nation was still doing this to God. They were still giving their half best, or even less than half. And their lives were miserable.

I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! Revelation 3:15-16

Here we are today doing the same thing. We say we love God, yet we live in ways that dishonor his name. Without a second thought, we live for ourselves. We’re not loyal to God. But we expect all his mercy and grace when we’re in desperate need of a miracle. We’ve left God behind. And we wonder why our world is in such a state of disarray. We wonder why groups are working to destroy nations with high inflation, food shortages, unnecessary wars, and manmade disasters. We don’t even consider that we act spitefully against God. We don’t realize that we have wearied God to the point of exhaustion. We don’t understand that God’s patience won’t last forever. The clock is ticking, and Jesus will return whether we’re ready or not. Whether we believe or not. There is a price to pay for our selfishness and pride.

We’ve forsaken God. We’ve run as far from God’s love as we can get. But yet. He still loves us. When we ask how God can love us when we’re going through intense suffering, we’ve forgotten that he’s right there with us in that suffering. We forget that he knows all about our pain. We don’t understand that we’ve robbed God. When we fail to give him our tithes and offerings. When we offer him less than our best. When we ignore the needs of others, we are ignoring God’s commands.

We expect God to treat us well. To treat us as if we are his prized possession. And we are just that to him. We are his prized possession. We just don’t act like it. Yet we continue to do what pleases ourselves instead of what pleases God. We prize ourselves more than we prize God.

Those who have accepted him as Lord and Savior of their life are children of God. Only children of God will have eternal life with him. It’s not too late to turn to God in repentance. It’s not too late to ask forgiveness of our sins. To fall on our knees and bow in submission to God Almighty. Let’s not wait another day. While it is still today, there is time for repentance. Shall we pray.

Heavenly Father, we’ve fallen so far from your grace by our selfish acts. We’ve ignored your tender loving kindness far too long, yet we demand that you treat us well. We think only of ourselves in this life and not in our eternal life. As we bow in humble repentance, we ask you will hear our prayer. Forgive us of our sins. Shower us with your continual love as we seek to serve you first. Help us to cast aside our sinful ways and serve you only, as you are the only God. Heal our hurts and restore us to your good graces. Remove our arrogance and fill us with humility that only seeks your favor, and not the favor of others. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Repercussions

He walked into my office and chatted for ninety minutes. Yes. Ninety minutes. I lost an hour and a half talking to the big boss one morning at work. And he told me a story I’ll never forget. His friend in Florida, a minister by the way, was driving and hit a thirteen year old girl who was riding her bike. Instead of stopping, he drove away. It was a hit and run. And then he proceeded to drive an hour away to get his car repaired. The young girl is now in intensive care. He was apprehended and arrested. The fate of each of these individuals is in limbo.

The man telling me the story asked why. Why would someone do this? Just drive away? It’s a question for the ages. But it’s not the first time something like this has happened. And it most likely won’t be the last. But it still is a very haunting question. What makes someone do the unthinkable? Was he so panicked that he wasn’t thinking straight? Did he know what he hit? Was he intoxicated? Or unknowingly cognitively impaired? Or was he just paralyzed with fear? It was an accident. Now it’s a crime scene.

I don’t know what I would do in that situation. I hope that common sense would set in and I would stop to help the girl. After all, it’s another human being. But we never know how we will respond until the moment is upon us. And we may do the unthinkable, just as this man did. I’m sure he’s having many regrets as his liberty has been cut short. His twilight years may now be spent behind bars. His retirement savings may be used to pay for legal counsel. His aging wife will be alone. What was he thinking? We ask.


But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. Look down and have mercy on me. Give your strength to your servant; save me, the son of your servant. Psalms 86:15-16


As I was talking to the man, he mentioned that his wife was raised as a Communist. But then she decided to research and study Christianity. She decided that it wasn’t worth pursuing. And as she heard the story of this minister, she asked how a Christian could do such a thing. If that’s the way Christians act, she wants no part of Christianity. I told him that I was a Christian. He quickly assured me that he was, too. I wanted to ask for his definition of being a Christian, but decided that was a conversation for another day.

I went on to tell him that as humans, we all make mistakes. Some mistakes have serious consequences. We don’t always choose to do the right thing. Christian or not. Our mistakes don’t have to define us, but they sure can leave their mark on our lives and on others. Should someone who makes a mistake be punished for the rest of their life? I guess it depends on the severity of the situation.

We’re told it’s not our place to judge. Christian or not. And rightly so. Some mistakes are public knowledge. Others are private and never disclosed. Only God knows our intentions, and he will judge accordingly. Of course, remorse and repentance is always the path to take. We would ask for the same benefit of the doubt if the shoe were on the other foot.

As Christians, we know that God will be with us in our moments of mistakes. He’ll forgive our sins. We should learn and grow from each lesson in our lives. If we learned a valuable lesson and changed our ways after every mistake we make, our lives would be so changed that others would see the difference. But we’re human. We’re always prone to mistakes. We’ll never be perfect. It’s the long road of obedience to God’s commands that usher us forward into each new trial and test. Wisdom comes from learning from our past experiences and obeying God. Let’s show grace to others in their time of need and uncertainty. But let’s also consider others above ourselves and do the right thing. Regardless of the consequences.

Dirty Hands

He walked into my office and introduced himself. He shook my hand. I knew he would do that. He seems the friendly type. But what he didn’t know was that I had eaten crackers earlier and had licked the salt off my fingers. He also didn’t know that I had washed them afterwards. He didn’t know what my hands had touched, yet he reached for my hand with eagerness. He accepted my handshake regardless of what my hands had previously been doing. No questions asked. He assumed my hands were a safe place.

I think about that. How often do I reach for a hand not knowing where it has been. Not knowing what hurt it has felt. Not knowing what trouble has reached out to place a scar on that skin. Do I reach for the hand with eagerness or reservations? Do I wonder what that hand has held in the past? Oh. I may know of the troubles, but do I ignore them or face them? I want to look them in the eye and offer hope. I may not know that the hand has recently wiped tears from the eyes of its owner. I may not know that the hand has recently held the hand of a lover or of an abuser. I may not know that the hand has been bruised so often by stains of addiction or has been grasped in praise of great accomplishments. But does it matter? Does it matter what the hand has done? Is it not still worthy to be touched? To be held?

That new hand I shake may have just held a newborn babe. Or it may have stirred a pot of stew. Perhaps that hand has reached in the dirt to plant a seed. Or held a sign in protest. That hand may have been raised in pledge to a waving flag. Reached for a handout or given one. But what if that hand has beaten another? Or forced its plans on weaker ones? What if that hand has stolen out of greed? Or just been handed a pink slip? One never knows what the other hand has done. Do we turn it away out of fear? Or do we reach out with a promise of redemption and acceptance?


Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly. John 7:24


How often does someone reach for my hand and wonder what sins are staining it? They may be unaware that my hand is struggling to hold too tightly to my never ending wants. Or that my hands have allowed a new opportunity to slip through my fingers. They may not know that my hand has reached out in a sympathetic hug. Or a congratulatory shake. Perhaps my hand has recently received a stinging slap of rejection. Or has given one. Perhaps my hand could use a soft squeeze of forgiveness. Will they accept me for who I am? Or will they have expectations that I can’t meet?

How often do I pull my hand back from the one reaching out in need? Suppose the hand reaches out in acceptance and faith. Perhaps it’s time to reach for the needy hand and fill it. Or return a favor given in love. Instead of judging the hand grasping for yours, extend an offer of support and friendship. That’s what I would hope would be extended to me. Can’t I do that for the next hand reaching out to me?

Interview of a Lifetime

Interviews are painful.  I get nervous. Sweaty palms. Dry throat.  Beating heart.  I wear my best clothes. Wanting to impress. Hoping I’m not overdressed or underdressed.

I prepare for each interview.  I study the company’s website, trying to familiarize myself with their business.  I review my resume so I can respond to their questions about my work history.  I read and re-read the job description, so I can be prepared to discuss how my experience and qualifications would match the position they’re looking to fill.  I even study interview questions and prepare my answers ahead of time.  I think of questions to ask a potential employer.  Oh.  I want to be prepared.

Days before the interview, I’ll drive by the office.  I don’t want to be surprised to learn on the interview day about unexpected construction delays or street closures.  I want to be prepared.  I want to be familiar with my surroundings.

Multiple interviews in one day. Multiple people in the interview.  Taking turns asking questions.  Feeling me out.  Would I be a good fit?  Do I pass the test?  Am I the right person for the job?

They see my qualifications. They read my resume. Would I fit in their organization?

It seems that I get tripped up by at least one question in every interview.  I walk away feeling like a failure.  Wanting to kick myself.  Thinking that’s the only question the interviewer will focus on.  Because it’s for sure the only one I can remember.

Sometimes I get called for a second or third interview.  I’ve even had to complete fake assignments while at the interview.  They’re testing me.  Can I really perform the job?  Am I telling the truth?  Do my actions match my words?


I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Jesus Christ, is calling us.  Philippians 3:14


I’m in training right now for the interview of a lifetime.  Oh.  It’s not really an interview.  It’s a judgment.  One day I’ll stand in front of God my Maker.  My Heavenly Father.  My Creator.  The King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Every day is a test.  Really.  It’s moment by moment.  I’ve made the decision to be a follower of Christ.  So the question is this.  Do I live like a follower of Christ?  Do my actions, my words, my thoughts reflect the attitude of Christ?

When my heart beats for the last time and I stand before God, will I pass the final test?  What will my judgment be?  Oh.  I’m not good enough.  But I try.  I do my best.  I mean well.  I study the Bible.  I pray.  I try to be kind.  and patient.  I try to show God’s love to others.  I tithe.  I give offerings to needy causes.  But am I doing all that God requires of me?

Some days, all I can think of is that one sin.  Why did I say those words to her?  Why did I have such a bad attitude?  Why did I eat like a glutton?  Why can’t I just be perfect?

There is one I will stand in front of one day.  He has seen all I have done. He has heard every word I’ve spoken.  He’s known my unspoken thoughts.  He reads my intentions.  He won’t have to ask any questions about my performance.  He will already know.  He will be my judge.

Will he offer eternal life or cast me to the depths of hell?

Have I repented of my sins?  Have I prepared for the big day?  Oh.  I know I need to be prepared.  The results are for eternity.