Lifting My Head

October 31, 2018

Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Psalm 24:7

God speaks to His people and joyfully commands them to lift their heads. He has gone out to battle on their behalf and has come back victorious.

Have you been shamed? No matter what the context, the experience is gut wrenching. Every part of your being feels it. Your emotions plummet. Your mind runs tapes of the accusations. Your body language turns inward.

I recall when Joseph told the cupbearer, who was falsely accused, that Pharaoh would lift up his head in three days. The Hebrew idiom paints a beautiful picture. It is when the one shrunken in shame is restored to his position of power. It’s used other places in scripture that expand its beauty.

King David, betrayed by his son Absalom, on the run with just the clothes on his back, turns to God for vindication. He climbed the Mount of Olives, covered up his head, wept, and said, “You, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.” Psalm 3:3 As king, he could have formed an army, or at least a posse, to get back his throne. He abandoned all ideas of conniving, of battling, and of manipulating. He recognized that God was his rescuer.

Who has stripped you of your honor? How long have you been brought low? Have you accepted your fate and given up all hope of restoration? Perhaps you even abandoned prayer.

I hope you’re not a fighter who has vowed to take revenge and battle it out. Perhaps you intend to get back what you’ve lost no matter who has to pay. You’ve turned aside from God as your Redeemer and have taken up your own cause.

The hardest thing for any of us to do when betrayed is to wait on God to move. He always will. We just don’t know when. In the meantime, the waiting is never wasted. God draws near, comforts, teaches us what He suffered under the same circumstances.  He pours out treasure upon treasure that is only found in the darkness. He is, and will be, the lifter of our heads.

Satan offered you a way out of waiting when he offered you the kingdoms of the world in exchange for worship. Thank you for not caving. Everything would have been lost. So teach me to wait! Amen

God’s Deaf Ear

October 26, 2018

You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, “Why?” It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her.  Malachi 2:13-14

The Jewish women, discarded by their husbands in favor of foreign women, were weeping at the altar. The men had regarded them as worthless.  As covenant partners, the women had been spurned. The men’s hearts were calloused toward the most important person in their lives.  But ironically, the men then went to the same altar to make their sacrifices to God. God’s response was clear.  Their offerings were unacceptable.

Shouldn’t it have been obvious to the husbands why God turned a deaf ear? It wasn’t. Incredulously, they asked, “Why?”

One Puritan commentator puts it sharply.

  • “She whom you wronged was the companion of those earlier and brighter days, when in the bloom of her young beauty she left her father’s house and shared your early struggles, and rejoiced in your later success; cheering you in its trials by her gentle ministry; and now, when the bloom of her youth has faded and the friends of her youth have gone, when her father and mother whom she left for you are in the grave, then you cruelly cast her off as a worn-out, worthless thing, and insult her holiest affections by putting an idolater and a heathen in her place.”

Altars, both public and private, are still being flooded with the tears of those betrayed. Many Christian men and women despise their covenant partners daily. Once outside their home, they are courteous and respectful to others.  They present one face to the public and another to their family.  No one would guess that this ‘nice person’ could be so cruel to the one who should get their very best. The truth is ~ “who you are at home is who you are!”

If one could discern the thoughts of many in the pew, one would hear the same question posed by the Jewish men.  “God, why are you silent toward me? What have I done?”  The answer is sitting next to them.  The weary and sad countenance of their mate tells the story.  May the sound of weeping at the altar come from those who have finally heard the voice of God calling them to repent and reconcile.

You are My Father. You are the One who instituted the most sacred of covenants.  Marriage.  Show me how to honor my husband the way You honor me daily in your Covenant relationship with me. Amen

No Respector of Persons

October 25, 2018

As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the LORD cut off from the tents of Jacob everyone who awakes and answers. Malachi 2:12

God is never so impressed with someone’s stature in life that He is willing to remove the laws of sowing and reaping.  The reference to ‘everyone who awakes and answers’ is speaking to the teacher and the student, the preacher and the parishioner, the priest and the common man.  The message is clear ~ whoever sins against God, regardless of their position, will bear the pain of broken fellowship and painful consequences until there is repentance.

This is good news and bad news.

It is bad news for he who has achieved notoriety. Anyone who has felt the applause of men and lived for a time in the spotlight will tell you that great favor can be an opiate. It distorts reality.  It deceives a man into believing that he is different from everyone else. He assumes that he is set apart for greatness and exempt from the rules of everyone else.  The man will begin to get careless.  His morality will slip.  His sterling character qualities will tarnish. His house will erode and what once looked pristine will bear signs of peeling paint and miserable faces.

It is good news for any who believe the truth that God is just.  He rewards the man or woman in obscurity that chooses to do the righteous thing without achieving the recognition of anyone.  That person can also know firsthand the pleasure of feeling one’s favor on his back; the warmth of Abba’s smile. While he may have to live in this world for a time and deal with the inequities of the class distinction, he is also invited to live within the reality of God’s kingdom where the foot of the cross is on level ground.

If I am God’s child, regardless of who I am here, I will respond to God’s chastening and make my way home.  J. Vernon McGee says it well, “A true child of God will not continue to live in sin. That is the reason the prodigal son down there in the pigpen finally came to himself and said, “I will arise and go to my father…” (Luke 15:18). He was a son and not a pig.  He had the nature of his father.  Only pigs love the pigpen.  A son will wake up and get out of there.”

I stand before You as a solitary woman. You do not know me as anyone’s wife, mother, friend, or daughter. I am simply a woman that You love. I take responsibility for my actions and the contents of my heart. Amen

The Pain Of Disharmony

October 24, 2018

Judah has broken faith. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah is marrying the daughter of a foreign god. Malachi 2:11

The men in Israel are doing it again.  Throughout history, they spurned God’s instructions on the issue of marriage.  He warned them of the pain they would suffer if they married outside of their faith.  Their spirit would never be at rest. Their homes would be a place where the worship of two gods collided.  Husbands and wives would be at odds over nearly every decision.  Nonetheless, the Jewish men in Malachi’s day discarded their Jewish wives in order to marry the foreigners who had captured their senses.

I don’t have to tell many of you what life is like in the home where a believer has walked down the aisle to unite with an unbeliever.  Though they went through the motions of lighting a unity candle, oneness has eluded them on many issues, the most important ones being issues of faith.  Unless God is merciful and that unbeliever comes to Christ, the pain in their home will be great.

How can one person who loves God more than anything in this world make critical decisions with someone whose priorities exclude God?  While one person prays to discern God’s will, the other bends to serve his flesh.  He will be more likely to pursue courses of action that further his career or cater to his senses.  He can’t help it.  He has no power inside to change his desires or harness his selfishness.

The voices of marital partners – pleading with each other to attend church and raise children God’s way – can be heard across our land.   The pain of disharmony is what causes many to cry themselves to sleep. The friction is unbearable but, nonetheless, for the many of God’s children living in at atmosphere of friction, God is giving grace by drawing close to the believing spouse 

God is not an ogre when He entrusts us with His precepts. Our flesh hates rules and upon hearing them, we desire to break them.  Satan has fooled us into believing that spurning rules brings great reward.  There can be euphoria when you feel like you’ve won against restrictions but God reminds us today that rules protect us from pain and make us free to soar on the narrow way.  They highlight the pathway that says, “Way to Internal Prosperity.”

Oh Father, many who read this are living in disharmony. They feel that it is too late. Wrap them in Your arms of comfort. May Your Spirit live powerfully in them – wooing their unbelieving partners to find You. You are merciful and long to write another ending to our stories. Amen

Perverted Faith Is Passed On

October 23, 2018

 But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble. Malachi 2:8

The priests in Malachi’s day modified the Word of God.  They compromised His standards and led people to believe that God would be content with less.  They accepted imperfect sacrifices.  They turned a blind eye when worshippers approached the temple with the blind and the lame headed for the altar. God’s grief was evident when He told them to close the temple doors!  How long did He suffer watching this parade before His patience ran out.  If we go by history, it was a long time.  How God longs to bless.  

Every person is a teacher.  My faith affects others whether or not I intentionally try and I perpetuate the essence of my own brand of faith.  If I am theologically sound and have a heart alive to God, my faith will be contagious.  I pass on a legacy that time cannot erode because truth stands. If I modify the counsel of God however, I pass on corrupted faith. For instance, when any one aspect of God’s character is preached to the exclusion of all others, faith is perverted.  I asked the Holy Spirit this morning to show me some of the ways His Word can be modified. What came to me surprised me.  

  • If I become obsessed with God’s holiness but forget that the radical love of Jesus made it possible for me to approach His Father with confidence, then I pasS on self-condemnation.
  • If I become obsessed with sin and repentance without framing it with the colors of grace and forgiveness, then I pass on pervasive shame.
  • If I embrace the friendship of God but fail to understand His righteousness, then I pass on the message that the cross of His Son was but a casual thing.

We all have the same Bible.  Why might a person read of God’s holiness but fail to notice the greater message of love and redemption? It’s about flawed eyesight. Our own stories of pain blind us to the whole Gospel.  Those raised in an atmosphere of condemnation will likely be the ones to see God as condemning. His holiness will be their focus to the exclusion of love.  Those raised in an atmosphere of permissiveness will be tempted to preach various distortions of grace.  His love will be their focus to the exclusion of holiness.

May I never read one verse of the Holy Scriptures without embracing the whole counsel of the Word. I can be sure of one thing ~ at least one of my views today is distorted because I am imperfect, jaded by sin.  Each day, His face should be clearer.  “Be thou my vision”, indeed.

I want to see You as You really are, Jesus. No distortions.  Amen

When My Advice Is Unwelcome

October 22, 2018

“For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction–because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty.” Malachi 2:7

It should be the natural outcome ~ A man or woman who walks with God should be perceived as God’s messenger.  They should be known as someone reliable to speak God’s mind, someone whose wisdom is sought after because of its invaluable nature.

Though God’s children are to die to self, we can be sloppy in confession and choose to live in the flesh.  Others see us as people who are argumentative and love to be right and who are also immovable in our beliefs.  (Often our beliefs are not theological tenets, they are preferences.)  When others experience us as a  ‘know it all’, we have ceased to be God’s spokesmen even though our basic message may be right. Our flesh has altered their perception of the Gospel.

You know how hard it is to find someone who knows the mind of God.  Take a moment and take stock of those around you. If you needed wisdom, who would you call?  At the thought of some, you might put up your hand and stop yourself.  “Boy, don’t call him.  He’ll sermonize and tell you everything he knows.”  Or, “Ask her? I can’t hear God through her judgmental attitude.”

The focus of this devotional is not to throw stones.  It’s to gain enlightenment so that personal change is possible.  I ask myself some tough questions.  1.) Do other believers enjoy being in my presence? 2.) Am I experienced by them as someone who will sit on my thoughts until the Holy Spirit prompts me to speak? 3.) Do people consistently call me to ask for ‘my take on things’?

Or, am I one who speaks up without ever being asked? Perhaps I’m rarely asked because of how I come across. If so, there are some things about myself I need to face.  Jesus, the Messenger of His Father, walked in perfect balance.  He was silent before His accusers yet was also able to be eloquent before crowds and kings when He knew it was right to deliver a message. He didn’t make speeches to feed his wounded ego.  He lived to please the Father and self-interest was absent.  

Needs of any kind shouldn’t drive my choices except my need to live for Christ.  People will be free to need me when matters are weighty.  They will have a hunch that He has put some of the secrets of the kingdom in my repertoire of knowledge.

If others perceive me negatively, make me open to the truth about myself. Amen

Looking Back Is Sometimes Necessary

October 19, 2018

He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin. Malachi 2:6

Looking back is meant to be instructive. I can see how far I’ve come from what I was like before.  Hopefully, I am no longer the person I used to be if I was far from God.  But it can also work the other way.  Perhaps I once worshipped but have now abandoned God’s ways. If I’m willing to look back, it will be painful but corrective. I will be reminded again of how true and simple it was supposed to be between me and God. 

Levi, himself, one of the twelve sons of Jacob, was a murderer.  A true scoundrel!  He nearly forfeited his inheritance.  But a hundred and fifty years later, his descendants had changed.  With Moses on Mt. Sinai, the children of Israel feared their leader was dead so they defected by begging Aaron to build a god to worship.  The golden calf was made but the Levites fought to preserve the Mosaic Law in the face of idolatry.  While everyone else danced around a golden cow, they held fast. 

 Just before the Israelites entered the promised land, Moses lay dying.  He gathered the children of Israel around him to prophesy about their future.  The twelve sons who had gathered around Jacob were now nearly a million strong. The tribe of Levi continued to set themselves apart from their spiritual father, Levi.  They still treasured God’s law. Moses’ last prophecy confirmed that ‘the [tribe of Levi] would teach Jacob Your judgements and Israel your Torah.’  Deuteronomy 33:9  And, from the tribe of Levi, by the way, came spiritual giants like Miriam, Ezekiel, even John the Baptist.

But like our spiritual journeys, the long pathway of the Levites had some twists and turns from unrighteous Levi, to the faithful priests in Moses’ time, to the disobedient priests to whom Malachi is addressing.  They no longer treasured the Torah. They no longer taught it but perverted temple practices instead.  How far they had strayed.  Malachi’s words from God called them back to their beginnings when they walked with Him in peace and uprightness.  

Are you far from God today?  Was your faith once true and on fire?  Perhaps others see you living the ‘form’ of the Christian life but you know your heart is lifeless compared the warmth of your spiritual beginnings.  

Show me where it all went wrong, Lord.  Teach and restore Your children.  Amen