Get Away from Sloppy Worship

6 A son honors a father,
and a servant honors his master.
But if I’m a father, where is my honor?
Or if I’m a master, where is my respect?
says the Lord of heavenly forces
to you priests who despise my name.
So you say, “How have we despised your name?”
7 By approaching my altar with polluted food.
But you say, “How have we polluted it[b]?”
When you say, “The table of the Lord can be despised.”
8 If you bring a blind animal to sacrifice, isn’t that evil?
If you bring a lame or sick one, isn’t that evil?
Would you bring it to your governor?
Would he be pleased with it or accept you?
says the Lord of heavenly forces. (Malachi 1:6-8, CEB)

The issue with Israel in Malachi was half-hearted worship. It was probably “no-hearted” worship. It was going through the motions.

When I was growing up, my particular church group loved to make fun of more liturgical churches because they repeated “vain words.” There was no heart in their worship.

It’s easy to point the finger the other way. What we need to realize is that is very easy for ANY of us to come with sloppy worship. We come with “polluted food” by our attitudes. We come with “polluted food” by our lack of preparation as we meet the HOLY ONE.

The very things we would not want someone doing if they came to OUR house… we do going into the house of God. We would be appalled with people coming to see us in our home, and then not talking to us. They would talk to everyone else in the house… all the other guests… but not us.

Imagine someone coming to your house (who you invited) and they arrived with fresh flowers… for another guest. Not you. Or, they arrived with wilted flowers.

“Oh, I bought these off a street vendor the other day and had them on my desk. I needed to get rid of them.”

Come to worship. Worship the One who has sought you out. Worship the One who has loved you with an everlasting love. Worship him. Not with your leftovers. Not with last week’s effort. Love him fully. Give him the present of your presence.

You Need a Good Scrubbing

There are times when kids go out to play and you call them in for supper. You look quickly at them as say, “Go wash up.” Mainly, we mean, “Wash your hands.” (Which also means we will check them again when they get to the table and make them REALLY wash their hands.)

Then there are times when the kids are out playing and somehow found the mud pit in the middle of the desert. Your area could be in a drought and somehow those kids came back caked in mud. “Washing up” isn’t the phrase you use at that point.

Reading through the Old Testament prophets is like that second scenario. When I get through these tough words, I realize what I need in the presence of God is not some dainty little “touch up.” I need a good scrubbing. I thought I was doing okay and along comes some wild eyed guy from the Old Testament to wreck my perception!

Malachi is that way. Israel thought they might have a few “quirks” or “issues.” Malachi was there to say, “No… it’s called sin, and you are full of it!”

The way out wasn’t some nice little prayer. The way out was a good scrubbing.

Look, I am sending my messenger who will clear the path before me;
suddenly the Lord whom you are seeking will come to his temple.
The messenger of the covenant in whom you take delight is coming,
says the Lord of heavenly forces.
2 Who can endure the day of his coming?
Who can withstand his appearance?
He is like the refiner’s fire or the cleaner’s soap.
3 He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver.
He will purify the Levites
and refine them like gold and silver.
They will belong to the Lord,
presenting a righteous offering. (Mal. 3:1-3, CEB)

We need to realize there is a thing that is still called sin. God dealing with us is sometimes going to go beyond “brushing ourselves off” like we picked up a little dust from the windy day. We need the get scrubbed down. We need a fire lit to draw out the gross junk that has accumulated.

We too often think we’re doing “okay” when “okay” isn’t God’s best for us. He delivers the extraordinary to our lives… and we just settle in like we’re going for another walk in the park. We still insist on doing things our way, offending God, and then wonder why we just can’t seem to get going in our spiritual lives.

Maybe we don’t need to just “wash up.” Maybe we need a good scrubbing!

Wanting Revival Without Repentance

Our American Christianity has a difficult time reading God into bad news. Bad news is usually “our fault.” It’s not God trying to get our attention. “That is not the God I know.” (Or some similar line.)

We want the promises without the pain of getting rid of the junk we have in our lives. Reading through the Book of Joel, it’s obvious we like that last half of the book. Years ago we sang a worship chorus called “Blow the Trumpet in Zion.” We would worship like crazy.

Then, I learned that particular passage we sang was about the Lord coming in judgment. It was a call for the priests to weep between the porch and the altar.

We didn’t care to actually know the context of that song. It was too fun!

As Pentecostals, of course we love the last part of chapter two:

28 After that I will pour out my spirit upon everyone;
your sons and your daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
and your young men will see visions.
29 In those days, I will also pour out my
spirit on the male and female slaves. (Joel 2:28-29, CEB)

What we don’t want is the “crazy talk” of that first chapter! We don’t want to hear about having things “dry up” on us. We don’t want to hear about invading armies that come as acts of judgment.

Nope. Just give me the revival!

Or, we put the need for repentance off on someone else. Generally, it’s, “America needs to repent!”

But this is about the people of God. WE need to repent. WE need to realize we’ve been ignoring the ways of God.

There are tough things ahead if we keep ignoring the ways of God. Yet, God still calls out and gives the opportunity to repent. This isn’t a word you hear enough about: REPENT. It would imply we’ve done something wrong. For you to say that I’ve done something wrong is just mean. Don’t be mean!

But we need repentance. We need to see we’re off course. We need to understand we’re not listening to God very well. And if we don’t recognize it, then the threat of discipline just gets more ominous.

Yet, God still calls out. He asks his people to repent. He wants to restore. That is what the last part of Joel is about! Restoration.

But we need to realize we’ve lost something to understand the joy of having it restored.

There is no prosperity without pain.

There is no revival without repentance.

Keeping It Simple: Just Do What He Says

9 The Lord of heavenly forces proclaims:

Make just and faithful decisions; show kindness and compassion to each other! 10 Don’t oppress the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the poor; don’t plan evil against each other! 11 But they refused to pay attention. They turned a cold shoulder and stopped listening.

12 They steeled their hearts against hearing the Instruction and the words that the Lord of heavenly forces sent by his spirit through the earlier prophets. As a result, the Lord of heavenly forces became enraged. (Zech. 7:9-12, CEB)

Israel’s issue was simple. Keep the instruction of the Lord. And the instruction isn’t that difficult to understand.

— Make just and faithful decisions. Got it.

— Show kindness and compassion to each other. Check.

— Don’t oppress the margins of society. You bet.

The problem was that Israel chose to ignore what was said. They refused to pay attention.

This is our issue. God’s best is in front of us. He wants what is for our good. And we decide… not to pay attention. We know better than God. We’re smarter than his Word. We make all kinds of excuses.

This is not a great position in which to find ourselves. But we seem to be as hard-headed at times as Israel. God isn’t particularly favorable toward those who call themselves his people and they keep ignoring him.

It is simple. Not easy. But simple. And we keep rejecting what is for our good.

Longevity

He who finds a wife finds what is good,
gaining favor from the Lord. (Prov. 18:22, CEB)

I have been at my current church for 14 years. It has been a wonderful journey. I have believed in longevity as a pastor. I about have that down, so I better be learning all that other stuff now!

My wife and I celebrated 24 years of marriage yesterday. As we talked about life we realized there are some FUN things about being together so long. We blurt out the same thought almost at the same time a lot. We think of the same movie line, or some quote, and even if we don’t both say it, we both know we thought it.

There are so many things that are comfortable for us. It’s not a rut. It’s comfort. We are planning ahead to our 25th Anniversary, and it is interesting to think about being able to do something a bit more spontaneous simply because the boys will be all grown and almost out of the house. It’s a good place in life.

For all the talk of “gay marriage,” the Church has lost its voice on heterosexual marriage because we quit preaching on divorce a long time ago. Our mistake back then was probably preaching against divorce rather than FOR marriage. We didn’t instill covenant language. We didn’t instill the beauty of the long haul, or lift it up.

Our big date last night to celebrate our anniversary was a trip to the ball game. My wife REALLY loves me to do that for me! On the big scoreboards they had a video of a couple who were at the ballpark celebrating their sixtieth anniversary. The whole ballpark erupted in cheers when they saw the scoreboards. THAT is worth celebrating.

I am FOR marriage. I am for God’s best in marriage. I am for the long haul. And I am so deeply grateful for the partner God has given me for this incredible journey.

(NOTE: the picture below is NOT me and my wife!)   😉

This picture is NOT me and my wife

Refusing God’s Best

We are the human race and it is our demise that we keep thinking WE know better than God. We keep contorting our philosophies and theologies to what brings comfort to us.

The short work of Haggai has a phrase repeated that needs to be shouted to us once again, especially as the people of God:

So now, this is what the Lord of heavenly forces says:
Take your ways to heart.
(Haggai 1:5, CEB)

As the NIV puts it: “Give careful thought to your ways.”

For Israel, it was the time when they returned to Jerusalem for the purpose of rebuilding the House of the Lord. They had laid the foundation, but then dropped the work. They got consumed with their own stuff. They needed housing… then, they needed nice housing… you know the drill. It happens to the best of us.

Yet, they just didn’t seem to have enough. They were planting, but the crops weren’t producing. They worked harder, but less production resulted.

Take your ways to heart.

They were ignoring God’s best for their misconstrued definitions of what they thought was best for themselves.

We are constantly in that dilemma. We argue and contort and whine and cry and think we know what God wants. Sometimes, we are at least honest enough to say, “I don’t care what God wants. I want what I want!”

Too often, in the name of our own convenience, our own desires, our own selfishness, we think we know God’s best for us. Yet, we too often are guilty of stopping to ask. We know the reason: we may not like the answer.

But what is it we really want then? And at that point, should we keep up the charade by calling ourselves the people of God?

May we truly give up our own agendas and get back to finding out, “What IS God’s best for us?”

The Response of Silence

As I have been on this Blog Tour with the Common English Bible, I have enjoyed some of the interesting choices in translation. The past few days I have been in the Old Testament, so I am finding a few more word choices that intrigue me.

I am reading Tozer’s classic The Pursuit of God and the current chapter is on the Voice of God. (Which, by the way, HAS to be better than that show “The Voice.”) One of the verses Tozer references is Psalm 46:10.

Here again we find some interesting word choices:

NIV:
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

NET Bible:
He says, 33 “Stop your striving and recognize 34 that I am God!
I will be exalted 35 over 36 the nations! I will be exalted over 37 the earth!”

CEB:
“That’s enough! Now know that I am God!
I am exalted among all nations; I am exalted throughout the world!

The reference of “that’s enough!” takes us back to the previous verses. It is referencing the nations who rage. The psalmist is talking about God stepping in to stop the violence.

That’s enough! Now know that I am God!”

There are times that should be our only response. Silence.

We come to the realization that God has truly stepped in. The HOLY has arrived, and our useless struggles are nothing. Our problem is we seem to want to talk through everything. We don’t “talk through” as in vocalizing to solve a problem. We talk through, as in, we don’t shut up.

God shows up, and we just keep on yacking!

To which we need to say sometimes, “THAT’S ENOUGH!”

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The Righteous Shall Live By…

This is one of those times when comparing translations has a bit of a jolt for me.

I am in Habakkuk for this Sunday’s message, so I run into Hab. 2:4. I usually use the NIV and the CEB. I am also using Logos to do some exegetical work, though I’m just not a Hebrew scholar.

NIV:

4 “See, the enemy is puffed up;
his desires are not upright—
but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness

CEB:

4 Some people’s desires are truly audacious;
they don’t do the right thing.
But the righteous person will live honestly.

NET Bible notes:

Or “loyalty”; or “integrity.” The Hebrew word אֱמוּנָה (’emunah) has traditionally been translated “faith,” but the term nowhere else refers to “belief” as such. When used of human character and conduct it carries the notion of “honesty, integrity, reliability, faithfulness.” The antecedent of the suffix has been understood in different ways. It could refer to God’s faithfulness, but in this case one would expect a first person suffix (the original form of the LXX has “my faithfulness” here). Others understand the “vision” to be the antecedent. In this case the reliability of the prophecy is in view. For a statement of this view, see J. J. M. Roberts, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (OTL), 111-12. The present translation assumes that the preceding word “[the person of] integrity” is the antecedent. In this case the Lord is assuring Habakkuk that those who are truly innocent will be preserved through the coming oppression and judgment by their godly lifestyle, for God ultimately rewards this type of conduct. In contrast to these innocent people, those with impure desires (epitomized by the greedy Babylonians; see v. 5) will not be able to withstand God’s judgment (v. 4a).

This is one of those times I love Bible study… and get frustrated because I don’t know enough Hebrew… AND I need to get my message done!

Scared Spitless

That means really scared.

Habakkuk had that experience. His small book is look inside his prayer journal. At first, he seems pretty ferocious. He’s upset with God. The wicked are getting away with murder, blah, blah, blah.

“I’m just going to give God a piece of my mind and see what he does with that!”

2 Lord, how long will I call for help and you not listen?
I cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you don’t deliver us.
(Hab. 1:2, CEB)

“So, there! Take that!”

God seems unfazed. Imagine that. We wag our tiny little fingers at him and “rage” at him in our pipsqueak voices… (Come on, even Charlton Heston’s voice sounds like some tiny little mouse from God’s vantage point. Admit it.)

Habakkuk is just so enraged. And God let’s Habakkuk know he’s got this one.

His answer?

5 Look among the nations and watch!
Be astonished and stare
because something is happening in your days
that you wouldn’t believe even if told.
(Hab. 1:5, CEB)

Translation: “Shut up and watch something.”

Does Habakkuk learn? Not yet. He rages on in the latter part of Chapter 1.

Then, in Hab. 2:2-3, God shows up.

“Habakkuk, just watch.”

Whatever Habakkuk witnessed in a vision was enough. In fact, it buckled his knees.

16 I hear and my insides tremble.
My lips quiver at the sound.
Rottenness enters my bones.
I tremble while I stand,
(Hab. 3:16, CEB)

This isn’t the warm and fuzzies. God showed up and let Habakkuk know what was about to happen and it scared Habakkuk spitless.

There are times we need to have THAT feeling come over us. There are times we need the realization that the warm fuzzies is not the entirety of God. We think WE see injustice? When God shows up and gives us HIS view, we need a sense of fear and trembling.

God is ready to do amazing things. But “amazing” isn’t going to necessarily be in our definition. But whatever God does, when he shows up, have a glass of water close by. You just might need it.

Do We Have What It Takes?

5 Those who put their strength in you are truly happy;
pilgrimage is in their hearts.
6 As they pass through the Baca Valley,
they make it a spring of water.
Yes, the early rain covers it with blessings.
7 They go from strength to strength,
until they see the supreme God in Zion.
(Psalm 84:5-7, CEB)

Life simply overwhelms us. The pace of life crushes us at times. The worry of finances. The concern over time. We rush to make things happen.

Do we have it in us to take up a passionate pursuit of the Holy One anymore? Are we so tired, so busy, so overtaken by… life…  we just can’t breathe?

We need prophetic words like those of A.W. Tozer to somehow reach deep down into our spirits and call us upward once again. We need to break away from the mundane all around us and take up the hot pursuit of the Holy One. We need to bust away from mediocrity all around us.

It will require a determined heart and more than a little courage to wrench ourselves loose from the grip of our times and return to biblical ways. But it can be done. Every now and then in the past Christians have had to do it. (Tozer, The Pursuit of God)

Do we have what it takes?

 

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