‘Tis a Mystery Indeed

(2 Peter 3: 8-10, NLT)  8 But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. 9 The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. 10 But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief.

I heard a lot of “hell, fire, and brimstone” preaching when I was growing up.  If you don’t know what that is, it’s basically a lot of hollering and spitting about God’s anger and wrath toward the sinner — about how we are running out of time and living on the edge, knocking on the gates of hell.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I have heard some wonderful sermons on sin and repentance in my life, and it is important to understand the repercussions of sin and how God feels about it.  Hell is real.  God does hate sin.  But even more than God hates sin, He loves us — and He is patient and kind for the sake of the world — for us.  It is His desire for all to be welcomed into His heavenly presence on that day when we will all face Him.  Why does God get so angry about sin?  Because of His great love for us.  He desires our love and adoration.  He longs to be in communion with us, and that sin is a wedge that we continually drive between Him and us.  No wonder He gets angry!  That must be so frustrating…

Yet His patience never ends.  He doesn’t give up on us.  He doesn’t turn His back to us or shut down.  We don’t get the cold shoulder.  No.  He patiently, and lovingly, waits.  He extends to us the courtesy of choice — even though we don’t deserve it.  He looks on us through eyes of compassion and His spirit continually reaches out to our hearts in every way — through the love and kindness of others, through healing and grace, through provision and blessing, and even through divine encounters with His own Holy Spirit.  He is constantly seeking us out — drawing us to Him.  And we are the prodigals.  All of us.  We come dragging down the road in our tattered garments — our filthy rags — and He welcomes us like royalty.  When we are weak and wallowing in sin, He waits with clean garments of praise and the oil of gladness, ready to cleanse and clothe us as His sons and daughters — making us joint heirs with Jesus. 

But know this, and never forget, that even in all of His patience and graciousness, there will come a day when God will have to judge us according to our choices.  It is an appointed day, and it’s timing is a mystery to all.  Do not mistake God’s kindness for weakness.  His judgement will not waver or change.  Yes, He is patient…but time is ticking. 

For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night.  (1 Thessalonians 5:2)

This is why it is so important not to take advantage of God’s patience.  We don’t know that appointed hour when He is coming back for us.  Therefore, we must be ready…

So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return.  (Matthew 25:13)

And really, that is all He wants from us — for us to keep our hearts pure, and for us to willingly remove that wedge of sin that has been driven between Him and us.  He wants us to choose the eternal life that He sacrificed so greatly to give to us.  It’s life or death, friends.  What do you choose today?

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, simply put…I don’t want to be caught unaware.  Help me to never take advantage of Your patience and grace, but to instead be vigilant with my choices.  I choose You, God, today and every day.  I want to live for You, having full confidence that when the day of judgement does come, I have nothing to fear.  Amen.

“Let the Ruins Come to Life”

(Amos 9:11, NLT) “In that day I will restore the fallen house of David.  I will repair its damaged walls.  From the ruins I will rebuild it and restore its former glory.”

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Ruins…crumbling stone, splintered wood, shattered glass, smoldering ash, scattered debris…they’re all images that come to mind when I think of ruins.  In my mind I see greatness that once was, now broken and defeated by time, defeat, and neglect. 

We all go through periods in our lives where we feel the weight of our choices and sins.  We have battles that we lose, and we take big hits in life that damage our walls and weaken our foundations.  Unfortunately for some of us, the foundations and walls eventually give way under the pressure we’ve created, and everything comes crashing down around us in great heaps of unrecognizable rubble.  With one wrong decision, everything we worked so hard to build is reduced to mere garbage — something to be cleared away and forgotten. 

If this is you right now, I want to tell you…don’t give up on your dreams just because you made a mess of things.  Maybe you feel like a pile of junk right now.  Sin tends to do that to us, doesn’t it?  Especially when we are so obviously broken.  There is no more hiding the cracks and smudges behind spackle and paint.  When you’ve gone so far, when things seem to be broken beyond repair, and it’s all just out there for all the world to see your ruins, there is nothing left to do except to either walk away…tail tucked, shoulders slumped…or stand tall and prepare to do some work.  Let me encourage you today, go for the latter.  Square those shoulders and lift your hands to heaven in surrender. 

We are all God’s children, loved and adored equally.  Just as He dotes on and blesses the righteous, He wants to pour out every bit of grace that it takes to restore the former glory of your life.    God the Father has promised to never leave your side…and He won’t.  As much as God adored King David, even when he had adultery and murder in his heart, don’t you know that God loves YOU just as much?  Whatever you have done, whatever you have said, no matter the magnitude of how any of it has affected your life, God’s grace is BIGGER…and He will bring you up out of the ashes…He will rebuild what you have lost.  You have simply to humble yourself at His feet, just as David did. 

(Psalm 51: 10-12, NLT) 

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God.

    Renew a loyal spirit within me.

11 Do not banish me from your presence,

    and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,

    and make me willing to obey you.

When we confess and humbly bow before the throne of grace, our God will restore…every time.  His grace never runs out, His love never fails, and His kindness is what will lead us into repentance each time that we fall.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank You for your endless love and grace.  I know that when I come to You with a broken and injured spirit, no matter the cause or sin, You will respond to my humility and regret with healing and restoration.  Because of Your love, I am whole.  Because of Your grace, I am made new.  Amen.

“You Make Beautiful Things”

(Psalm 51: 15-17, NLT)

15 Unseal my lips, O Lord,

    that my mouth may praise you.

16 You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.

    You do not want a burnt offering.

17 The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.

    You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

Kintsukuroi

Sin is never without damages.  It divides, diminishes, and defaces the beauty of being in right relationship with God.  It’s funny almost, how we always respond to things that are broken and damaged.  We try to fix them by doing things.  We drop a vase — we tack it back together with super glue.  We get into a fender-bender — we replace the bumper.  We hurt someone that we love — we attempt to make amends with words, deeds and gifts.  We sin against God — we pray more, make promises to Him, do some good deeds.  We try to make it all better by taking action, but it never does seem quite the same as it once was.  We attempt damage control, quickly scrambling to “clean up” and hide all traces of wrongdoing, yet in all of our doing and fixing we are missing the point! 

When sin leads to brokenness, which it always will, it is not up to us to go about “fixing” anything.  There is nothing that we can physically do to mend the hurts that result from our transgressions.  We can’t make it go away.  We can’t make any reparations that will lead us into grace, because grace is not our responsibility.  Our responsibility is to stop trying to sweep the broken pieces under the rug, and instead be humble enough to hold them up and say, “God, I did this.  I’m truly sorry.  And now, I need You to mend it and make it beautiful again.”    

And then…He will.

For in your brokenness, true repentance is found.  And in your repentance there is healing and restoration.  What once was may never look quite the same again, but instead of it being pieced together by our own shame — a crude attempt to replicate God’s handiwork — it becomes something quite lovelier than we could ever imagine.  Because God doesn’t use super glue.  He takes our broken hearts and lives, and He pours His love into the cracks, filling every empty space with grace and healing.  He repairs us with gold.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, help me to always have the courage and humility to bring to You the fragments of what my sin leaves behind in its aftermath.  I know that when I come to You with a truly repentant heart, You will answer my cries and open my mouth to praise You again.  Amen.

Stop Yelling Already!

(Psalm 34:15) The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right; his ears are open to their cries for help.

I have this student at school who yells…a lot.  He has so much built up frustration, because of circumstances in his life that he cannot help, and his immediate response to anything he does not like is to bark out insults, and/or snide retorts.  He often throws and kicks things across the room in rage-induced tantrums, and he will even turn and destroy the items and classwork of his peers.  This child yells more than he speaks at a normal volume, and as aggravating as it is, I find myself feeling sad for him because I can’t imagine spending my days like that.  He just cannot seem to consistently make the right choices.  When he yells all day long, his teachers stop hearing his words, because the only thing we can hear is the noise he creates.    

Much like my little buddy who screams 24-7, we sometimes get caught up in a negative loop of sin and foolish decision making.  Our lives become a chaotic fusion of failures and selfishness, and there just isn’t any room for righteousness in that kind of mix.  We push God out of our lives a little more with every hidden transgression…every ignored disgrace.  It’s as if  we are yelling insults in the face of God, and after a while there is only so much He will tolerate.  Eventually we are just noise.

On the flip side, there is a certain confidence that comes from personal and spiritual righteousness.  When we are operating in love and humility, when we are in right relationship with our Heavenly Father, when we have made an effort to remove sin from our lives to the best of our abilities, we can be sure that our cries for help will be heard. 

We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but he is ready to hear those who worship him and do his will. (John 9:31)

More than anything, I want to be sure that God hears my words…not just the noise that I am creating.  Like the song that says, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me,” I want to walk in the confidence of knowing that the eyes of God are watching over me. 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I understand that sin is a problem that I must face every day of my life.  Help me to deal with my failures as they come, rather than allowing them to compile into a nasty heap. May my life be pleasing sight to Your eyes and my voice a glorious sound to Your ears.  Amen.

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