Malachi

Tuesday Devotional: Malachi 2

bible Read Malachi 2

Malachi 2:16 (NKJV, emphasis added)

 16 “For the Lord God of Israel says
That He hates divorce,
For it covers one’s garment with violence,”
Says the Lord of hosts.
“Therefore take heed to your spirit,
That you do not deal treacherously.”

 Malachi 2:16 (NIV)

 16 “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty.

So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.

 Malachi 2:9

“…you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.”

 Teachers, Pastors, Priests, Christians: you are to follow the commands and words of our Lord without partiality.  The words of God are being changed, being softened and manipulated to speak to us in a way we feel we ought to be spoken to.  Both versions of Malachi 2:16 proclaim that divorce is wrong.  If we are to place our hopes in the words of our Lord and Savior promising everlasting life and peace from our strife in this world we are to hear the words of our Lord and God as He has said them without partialityThe nature of sin is to question God’s words, contemplate His motives and intentions and conclude that God could never be that strict and that uptight about how we ought to live.  We are merely human, right?  But He means what He says.  His words are strict to our sinful ears because His ways are higher than our ways. He is Holy and we are not.  His words are as uptight as they sound because the way of Jesus is a narrow gate that few enter because of the costly sacrifice and complete denial of self that following Jesus into eternal fellowship with the Father requires.

2 Timothy 4:3-4

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

 Be shrewd as a serpent and gentle as a dove, Christian.  Our Heavenly Father demands that we be Holy as He is Holy.  The sin within us will always seek partiality concerning God’s Holy words.  It will always endeavor to weaken the sting of His rebuke in order to massage our weary soul from its burdensome struggle for Holy perfection and encourage us to seek the desires of our heart.  God is love, right?  And the gospel of Jesus is forgiveness and grace, right?  Yes on both counts.  But Jesus is still the narrow gate that came preaching repentance of sin and complete transformation in his image.  Holiness.  Righteousness.  Obedience to the Father.  Let the words of God sting you.  Let them stab you.  Let them cut you to the heart as a double-edged sword.  Protect and cultivate a relationship with our Lord that welcomes the sting of Holiness and the demands of it on our life.  The sting of God’s Holy words and the self-sacrifice of our sinfulness for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus is nothing compared to the sting of eternal separation from God that Jesus came to save us from.

 

 

The Impossible Religion: Trust

trust

source

This reflection series,  “The Impossible Religion,” reveals five specific problems that people have with the gospel of Jesus. These impossibilities arise when Christianity is a religion to achieve, rather than simply the “good news” of grace and redemption that will naturally transform us. Christianity outside of Christ’s redemption is in fact impossible, but with God nothing is impossible. For the next five weeks, we’ll go through Scriptures from five different areas of the Bible in order to confront these impossibilities:

Impossible Trust (Malachi 3)

In studying the Bible with people of various levels of faith, I encounter various levels of opposition to the Gospel and to God.  One of the main reasons people resist the Gospel is that they don’t trust God, and thus don’t trust the Gospel.

The Bible is clear about what God desires, and what he desires is echoed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  He is not interested in a two-hour block of your Sunday schedule to accommodate worship, fellowship and Bible study.  He wants everything.  When most people hear that, their eyes widen in suspicious disbelief.  This is an understandable reaction to such a request. To feel this initially is not wrong by any means.

Imagine yourself walking down the street. A stranger approaches you and says, “I want everything you own right now! I want your family, your possessions, your dreams, your deepest thoughts, your time, everything!”  Our natural reaction to that person would be similar if someone were trying to rob us in broad daylight.  Interestingly, robbery is what God is charging us with in Malachi 3.  Where we feel that God is demanding everything, leaving us with nothing of our own, God views our stubbornness to give back what was his in the first place as equally unjust.  However, only one of these perspectives views the other as a stranger and not an ally.  We view God as a mysterious figure demanding more than we want to give him, but he views us as children whom he has provided for who refuse to acknowledge his provision.

We humans are extremely protective beings.  We know what belongs to us and we know what we have to do to protect our possessions.  We also know that it is wrong for someone to take something that does not belong to them.

The reaction to God’s demand for “everything” is determined by whether we view God as friend or foe. The more we come to see God as he truly is, as a friend and not a foe, the more willingly and naturally we will allow him access to all of our belongings without hesitation or suspicion.

We don’t trust strangers because we know nothing about them, or about their interests and intentions. With this perception of God, the suspicious reaction to the request for “everything” is then quite natural.  To react otherwise would be naïve and dangerous and rather unnatural.  One of the first lessons that parents teach their children about going out in public is, “Don’t talk to strangers!”  Is this because our parents want us to grow to be anti-social and reclusive?  Hopefully not.  On the contrary, it is to protect us from being harmed. It is no surprise that we instinctively react with suspicion when we read that to follow Jesus means to deny ourselves and find ourselves in him alone by committing everything to him.

Many people have self-created ideas of God, perhaps formulated from their experiences of “Church” and “Christians.”  Perhaps they have mistakenly followed the path of least resistance that, to our current culture, is the online landscape of blogs and websites where everyone is an authority.  Perhaps they read one passage of the Bible dealing with gardens, snakes, sacrifices, etc. and concluded that Christianity was not for them.  Regardless of the influence, everyone has an idea of God that leads each person to relate to God in different ways.  The danger or our self-created ideas that come only from experience is that in forming them we often disregard the source of our understanding of God’s character.

In the Bible, one finds the uncompromised nature of God. With this portrait of God one can confidently and fairly arrive at the truest picture of who God, and not others, says he is.  Unfortunately, to do so leads down the undesirable path of actually sitting down and reading the Bible, which is long and often difficult to understand.  However, it is only by this method that one can finally meet the “stranger” personally and understand his interests and intentions.

By reading the scriptures we can come to realize the identity of this stranger who requests “everything,” and what he wants to do with our “everything.” What we find might surprise some.  The reality laid out in the Bible is that this stranger is no stranger at all.  He is a father who has known us longer than we have even considered him.  He always has our best interests in mind.  He specifically designed every aspect of our characters.  He is a father that delights in us and delights in our existence, and always desires to give us more.

In Malachi 3 we learn that God does not want to take from us, but rather desires to give us more than we ask for.  In fact, we learn in this passage that he actually wants to shock us with how much he plans to give us.   We read that he simply wants us to test this promise and then experience the realities of the promise fulfilled.  God doesn’t need your money for himself.  He doesn’t need money.  He doesn’t need your time because he is bored or lonely.  He doesn’t need your dreams because he wants to deprive us of satisfaction. The only reason he desires everything from you is because only when he has full access to your heart will he be able to release the potential of your existence that he created from the beginning.  Only upon receiving your “everything” will he know that you trust him with “anything.”

We are like an addict who feels totally fulfilled, yet to the outside is completely in need of care, incapable of helping ourselves efficiently.  God wants us to be free to experience a life of pure satisfaction that we cannot possibly fathom given our current state.  In the gospels, Jesus echoes this promise when he tells the disciples that none who left everything would not receive one hundred times more in return.

Jesus told his disciples that he does not give as the world gives.  So to understand God’s promise as a guarantee of financial or material exchange is to completely misunderstand the teaching.  What Jesus promises us is that when we give him access to our entire being, he will unleash desires of the heart that go beyond a one hundred dollar bill in the wallet.  He will release desires of the heart that we try each day of our life to satisfy.  He is the bank that we deposit our life savings in, that promises to yield an interest that is unparalleled and unfathomable.  He is the promise that will always be fulfilled.  What we learn from Malachi 3 is that it is up to us to test him on this radical promise.

Tuesday Devotional: Malachi 1

Read Malachi 1:6-14bible

Most of the “religion” found today is purely an illusion, something man has created in order to serve himself.  Religion, for some, is a means to get what you want in life.  For others, it is a guideline of how to do the “right” things in this world.  Some use it as a standard of judgment and legislation that can control the good and bad of this world beyond the powers of our political and judicial systems.  Religion to many people has nothing to do with God and has everything to do with themselves.  It is a means to retaining control of their own lives, and being served and rewarded in the process.  Only when looking at the words of the Lord will one begin to notice the horrifying hypocrisies and delusions that religion in our world has often demonstrated and promoted.  To many believers in religion, God is no more real than Santa Claus or the legends of Genies in Lamps.  He is an image of hope or an encouraging figure of goodness and power that we all wish were true but, due to his radical claims, can’t possibly be.

Although religious people spend hours worshiping this God, they remain unchanged as a result of a complete lack of faith.  If God is God, he has to be understood and approached as God.  If God is God, we are nothing compared to him.  If God is God, we cannot escape him.  He is everywhere and knows everything.  If God is God, without him we have nothing and deserve nothing.  If God is God, he knows what is best for us better than we ever could ourselves.  If God is God, his words are stone and will last beyond our final breaths in this world.  If God is God, he deserves all that we have without any compromise or bargaining.  The truth is, many people have never genuinely approached God in these ways.  For many, God has less value to them than their boss, their family, their president, their celebrities of pop-culture, and ultimately themselves.  In many ways, God comes last.  God is the scramble for a few loose coins in the pockets of those caught off guard by the incoming offering basket on Sunday at church.  He is an afterthought. An inconvenience.  A burden.  In ignorance of the Word, one can maintain this position of complacency and disrespect.  But in the presence of his Word, this position is unacceptable and inexcusable.  God cannot be God while allowing us to reduce him to an insignificant figure standing in our over-powering shadows.  If he is God, we are always and ever in his shadow, and cannot see the realities of this world in any other way.