He was found

They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul. All who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, were to be put to death, whether small or great, man or woman. They took an oath to the Lord with loud acclamation, with shouting and with trumpets and horns. All Juda rejoiced about the oath because they had sworn it wholeheartedly. They sought God eagerly, and he was found by them. So the Lord gave them rest on every side.

2 Chronicles 15:12-15 (NIV)

I am amazed at the intensity with which Judah swore their oath to seek God. We’re not used to such excitement when it comes to commitment. Most people are consider themselves committed if they’re only five minutes late for church instead of fifteen and then are upset if someone happens to mention their perpetual tardiness. Be glad you weren’t in Judah at the time this covenant was made. You’d have been put to death.

A little much, you think? Perhaps. Or perhaps not. While the penalty for not taking the oath was great, the reward for taking it was even greater. And he was found by them. So the Lord gave them rest on every side.

We have a bad habit of looking at our faith as deeply personal. It is, don’t get me wrong, but it is not just for us as individuals. Our faith and our commitment to the the Lord is also for the entire body and the entire body is to reach a lost and dying world. When Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross, it was for you and it was for me. But it was also for the church—his bride. His death was meant to bind us all together like Judah’s covenant united them.

While death may not be a bit of an extreme punishment for a lack of commitment these days, we have somehow lost our connection to each other and forgotten the great importance of community and sharing a common covenant. We can all take an oath as individuals and experience a certain amount of peace, but look at the effects Judah’s nationwide oath had on the people—rest on every side. And that rest lasted as long as they kept the oath.

If the church—not just a church, but The Church—would stand up and make a serious covenant not only to seek God with all their heart and soul, but to keep each other accountable to it, imagine the effect it would have on our nation. If God is not found where we are, maybe we’re not seeking Him as eagerly as we thought. But if we would all join together as Judah did in that time of rejoicing over a renewed covenant, perhaps we’d find God along with our rest.

Read: 2 Chronicles 13-16, John 14

The one

Jesus was a storyteller. He liked to get his message across using stories that related to people where they were at. In Luke 15, he tells three stories one after the other. Since most of our Bibles have headings before each story, we have a tendency to pull them apart and use them as stand-alone tales. But I think Jesus told them together for a reason.

The first story is of the lost sheep. The shepherd leaves the ninety-nine who are safe and accounted for to find the one which was lost.

I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over the one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Luke 15:7 (NIV)

The next story is of a woman who has ten coins, but loses one. She turns her house upside down to find that one lost coin.

And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.” In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

Luke 15:9-10 (NIV)

The last story is perhaps the most referenced parable Jesus ever told—that of the prodigal son. A son asks his father for his inheritance and gets it. Immediately, he leaves his father’s house and squanders all of his money on debauchery. He returns home in utter humiliation.

But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

Luke 15:22-24 (NIV)

There are three types of people Jesus addresses with these three stories.

  1. The wanderer. This person is completely unaware of their drifting. One moment they are with the flock and the next, lost and alone. They wander away not knowing any better. But God still chases after the one.
  2. The neglectful. This person, like the coin, is lost through neglect or carelessness. They stop paying attention to where they are going and, like the sheep in the previous story, find themselves lost and nowhere near the rest of the group. But God still chases after the one.
  3. The prodigal. This person knows exactly what they’re doing, and they leave anyway. They’ve made themselves to believe that life is better on the other side and they squander the riches they’ve been given. But God still chases after the one.

I’m not sure that Jesus could have reached any more people with a fourth story. In one way or another, we can all find ourselves in at least one, if not all, of these parables.

Maybe you’ve wandered away because your faith is still new and you just don’t know any better or your roots weren’t deep enough to keep you close to God. Maybe you’ve neglected your faith and have found yourself out of touch with the Lord. Or maybe you made the choice to walk away. But no matter what situation you may find yourself in, God wants you back. He always wants you back. To Him you are the one.

Read: 1 Samuel 17-18, Luke 15:1-10

Lay ’em down

Forbes magazine recently called the Needtobreathe the most popular band you’ve never heard of. (If you’ve never heard of them, find their music and listen to all of it.) Today’s reading reminded me of a song from their album The Outsiders, Lay’ Em Down. The bridge goes like this:

We’re all tied to the same old failings
Finding shelter in things we know
We’re all dirty like corrupted small towns
We’ll bring our troubles
Bring our troubles
And lay ’em down

Now you may say, that’s not me, I’m not dirty or corrupted, but in some way or another, we all are. We all fail. We all have troubles. But it doesn’t have to end there.

I took my troubles to the Lord;
I cried out to him, and he answered my prayer.

Psalm 120:1 (NLT)

From hangnails to hangovers to hangups, God wants us to lay all of our troubles at His feet. He’s the God of the great, big stuff, but He’s also the God of the tiny, little things, too. Look at it this way, if He cared enough to make fleas and amoebas, he really does care about the tiny little things. He cared that I had a splinter in my finger that was making work uncomfortable and he cares that you feel alone, without anyone to lean on.

In trouble—every trouble, big or small—we should be looking to God.

I look up to the mountains—
does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made the heavens and the earth!

Psalm 121:1-2 (NLT)

Whether you are a saint or a sinner, lost or found, rich or poor, bring your troubles. Come lay ’em down. God wants them so you don’t have to bear them.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 120-123, 1 Corinthians 6

Whole and Willing

And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.

1 Chronicles 28:9 (ESV)

As one of his last acts as king of Israel, David urges his son to follow in his father’s footsteps. God knew David’s heart and David’s heart was in the right place.

I often have to take a look at my own heart. When I wake up Sunday mornings, more often than not, I’m looking forward to an afternoon nap more than I am to the church service that comes first. Where is my heart?

When I stand on the stage, am I giving God my whole heart or just a part of it? Am I serving with a willing mind or is it wandering, trying to make it through the service?

Church aside, where are my heart and mind through the week? Does God have my whole heart all the time? With a willing mind, do I read His Word and pay attention to His teachings?

I take no small amount of encouragement in the second part of this verse, “If you seek him, he will be found by you.” God doesn’t play games with our hearts or minds. He is always faithful and sure. He will not leave us or forsake us even if we don’t approach Him wholeheartedly or completely willingly. He meets us where we are so long as we take that step. Jeremiah 29:14 says, “I will be found by you, declares the Lord.”

When I think of us searching for God, I think of playing hide and seek with a kid. We’re the one seeking and God is the kid hiding in plain sight, breathing heavy, talking the whole time, impossible to miss.

God wants us to find Him. And, when we know that God wants to be found, it makes it easier to search for him with all of our hearts and with a willing mind.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Chronicles 28-29; John 11:47-57