"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
September 14, 2016
I seldom read the books in the Bible written by the Old Testament prophets. A while back, I saw a scripture verse that was found in Malachi. It had been quite a while since I had read that book, so I began reading it. Then I read it again. There are several scriptures that really stood out to me, so for the next couple weeks or so, I'm going to be writing from Malachi; which is the very last book in the Old Testament. (I use the NLT version for any scriptures I use.)
One thing that stood out to me as I read was the fact that no matter how many generations pass or what the culture is, people have been the same throughout all history. Our lifestyle and circumstances may change, the region of the world in which we live may be different, the century in which we exist varies, but the thinking and sin and questions and all those things that make up the human race has somehow remained unchanged.
Malachi was written around 430 B.C. The purpose of the message that God gave to Israel through this prophet was to confront them with their sins of insincere worship and corruption and to restore their relationship with God.
As I was reading the first couple of chapters, my thought was, "Wow! God could very well be speaking this same message to our generation today!"
Malachi 1:2 says, "'I have always loved you,' says the Lord. But you retort, 'Really? How have you loved us?'"
Doesn't this sound familiar?! God has always love all mankind, from Adam and Eve all the way to our current generation. God created Adam and Eve from the dust of the ground and breathed the breath of life into their nostrils. Jeremiah 1:5 says, "I knew you before I formed you in your mother's womb." That message wasn't only for Jeremiah's benefit, but God could say the very same thing to us today.
Not only does God know each of us before we were formed in our mother's womb, but He sent His only Son to earth, so that He could be crucified and die for our sins. He did that out of His great love. Not because He had to or was obligated in any way, but because He loved us so much that He wanted to offer us eternal life in Heaven with Him. God loves us so much that He wants to spend all eternity with us!
Yet, as Israel was saying back in 430 B.C., many today reject God's love and retort, "Really?! You love us?! How have you loved us?" Men and women become so blinded by sin, so focused on the bad in life, so stressed and overwhelmed by problems and the corruption in the world, that they fail to recognize God's love. They become desensitized to anything that they consider to be spiritual or religious. Even though they may believe that there is a God, they fail to accept His love for themselves, and become indifferent.
God then continues speaking to the priest in verse 6: "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!"
This also sounds familiar in our culture. Pastors and ministers and lay men and women in the church have become so afraid of being labeled as being unloving, unaccepting, intollerant, etc... that they have gone to the extreme of trying to show tolerance and acceptance to all people. In doing so, they've neglected to stay true to the Word of God and have lowered their standards and changed their beliefs in order to try and be inclusive of all people and all lifestyles; which in turn shows contempt for God. They've failed to show God the honor and respect due to Him. We have a generation of people pleasers, instead of holy and godly men and women of God, who will unashamedly stand for truth and righteousness.
Verses 6b-14 says, "But you asked, 'How have we ever shown contempt for your name?' 'You have shown contempt by offering defiled sacrifices on my altar.' Then you asked, 'How have we defiled the sacrifices?' 'You defile them by saying the altar of the Lord deserves no respect. When you give blind animals as sacrifices, isn't that wrong? And isn't it wrong to offer animals that are crippled and diseased? Try giving gifts like that to your governor, and see how pleased he is!' says the Lord of Heaven's Armies. 'Go ahead, beg God to be merciful to you! But when you bring that kind of offering, why should he show you any favor at all?' asks the Lord of Heaven's Armies. 'How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not pleased with you,' says the Lord of Heaven's Armies, 'and I will not accept your offerings. But my name is honored by people of other nations from morning till night. All around the world they offer sweet incense and pure offerings in honor of My name. For My name is great among the nations,' says the Lord of Heaven's Armies. 'But you dishonor My name with your actions. By bringing contemptible food, you are saying it's all right to defile the Lord's table. You say, 'It's too hard to serve the Lord,' and you turn up your noses at My commands,' says the Lord of Heaven's Armies. 'Think of it! Animals that are stolen and crippled and sick are being presented as offerings! Should I accept from you such offerings as these?' asks the Lord. 'Cursed is the cheat who promises to give a fine ram from his flock but then sacrifices a defective one to the Lord. For I am a great king,' says the Lord of Heaven's Armies, 'and My name is feared among the nations!'"
It would be easy to read this passage of scripture and think that it has nothing to do with us today, considering the fact that we no longer are required to offer animals as a sacrifice for atonement. After Jesus gave His life and became the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, the offering of animals for atonement no longer was necessary.
But people dishonor the altar of the Lord and often show disrespect in other ways. Often, men and women will half-heartedly commit themselves to the Lord. They want to remain just close enough to God to assure an eternity in heaven, but not fully surrender their lives to Him. They want to have God's ear when times are hard and they are desperate; but not have an ongoing, thriving relationship where prayer is a way of every day life. Basically, they refuse to fully offer their lives as a sacrifice to God.
God tells the people, "Go give the governor one of your sick, diseased animals as a gift, and see what his response would be!" If we were going to meet someone of great importance, whom we had a lot of respect for, would we go to Dollar Tree and buy them the cheapest gift we could find to give to them? Would we mow the yard and get dusty and stinky with sweat, and then jump into the car and go meet them without first showering and putting on our best clothes? If we were farmers and this person of notoriety and respect asked to buy one of our animals, would we give them our skinniest, sickliest one? No! We would offer them the best that we have, and would conduct ourselves in a respectful manner.
Yet, so many don't treat God with that same sense of respect and honor. More times than not, we tend to show more respect and honor to those men and women whom we admire than we do for God. We will make time to do the things that we want to do, but give God our leftover time; expecting Him to be happy with that.
Just as God spoke to Israel and said, "You say, 'It's too hard to serve the Lord' and turn up your noses at my commands;" don't many say the same today? "God expects too much!" "It's just too hard to live for the Lord!" "Life is just too hard!" "God just puts too many temptations in front of me!" "I just can't give this up and live for the Lord!" "If God really wanted me to serve Him, then He would make things easier." "God knows that I love Him; I just can't commit my whole life to Him!" So many people today have that same attitude that Israel had back in Malachi's day! They make excuses on why it's too hard to serve the Lord and disregard His commands.
Then we wonder why we don't experience the favor of God! We want God to open up the heavens and pour great blessing and favor down upon us, without us having to do anything in return. If we want to experience the blessing and favor of God, then we have to surrender our lives fully and completely to Him. We can't have it both ways; living life as we please and half-heartedly living for the Lord, and expecting Him to show us favor and heap blessings upon us.
Revelations 3:15, 16 says, "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!"
I envision lukewarm people as those who go through life trying to live with one foot on each side of the fence; they try to keep one foot in the spiritual world because they want to go to heaven, yet they also keep one foot in the world and live to please their flesh and not ever fully surrender their heart to the Lord. God says in these scriptures, make up your mind!! Either be hot or cold!! If your lukewarm, you have no place in my kingdom and I'll spit you out.
It's time that people make a choice and stand by it; either choose a holy life for God, or choose a life of sin. It's miserable trying to please both God and ungodly friends. It's not the will of God that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance! But the choice is every individual person's to make.
I believe that God is looking for people who will honor and respect and show a holy reverence for Him. He's looking for people who will stop making excuses, asking how God has ever loved them or saying that it's too hard to serve Him, who will stand up and be strong in their faith. God is looking for men and women who will stop compromising their beliefs and will live fully by His Word.
It's time that christians stop being wishy-washy, stop trying to please the world, stop trying to be people pleasers, stop giving into temptations to sin, stop making excuses -- and stand up as godly, God-fearing men and women of God!
The last time we gave our puppy a new toy, he took it and ran to his 'safe' couch. He seems to think of the couch like kids have a 'safe' spot when they play tag. I came over to see if he would like to play fetch with his new toy, but he growled at me! He was very protective of his new toy, and seemed terrified and angry that I might take it back away from him. But I was the one that gave it to him. And he should know by now that I'll never take any toy from him except to play fetch.
God gives us everything good that we have. But we often get angry and defensive if He asks for a small portion of it back. Loretta and I have learned to give back easily in some ways. But it is still difficult to give our time. We have so many other things to do, or to watch on TV, and naps to take, and so on. Those other things can become too important to go tend the yard or clean the church. It is something we really need to work on.
1 bag mixed lettuce
1 can dark red beans
1 red onion, chopped (optional)
1-2 tomatoes, chopped
1 lb. ground beef
1-2 avocado, chopped
1 pkg. burrito seasoning
Brown ground beef; drain. Mix meat with burrito seasoning and red beans. In a large bowl layer lettuce, onion, meat mixture, tomatoes, avocado, and Fritos. Mix equal amounts of Ranch and Italian dressings together, and add to salad.
The giant in front of you is never bigger than the God inside of you! - unknown
We love you!
Loretta & Jon