Tear your heart out

Hearing stories of the war and destruction that make up a lot of the Old Testament, many people who don’t know God are eager to paint Him as a tyrant. A big bully who destroyed entire nations (and even the earth once) on a whim. What they fail to see are the dire warnings that preceded all of that. Every time. Before death and destruction came warnings from men of God pleading with the nations to turn from their wicked ways and return to the Lord. God wanted to show mercy, but because man always seems to know better…

That is why the Lord says, “Turn to me now, while there is still time! Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief; tear your hearts.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful. He is not easily angered. He is filled with kindness and is eager not to punish you.

Joel 2:12-13 (NLT)

Does that sound like a tyrant to you? If God is eager not to punish you, why then do we make him the villain of the story?

Because we don’t want to have to name the real villain. You. Me.

If God is truly gracious and merciful like He says He is, that would mean that we are the true bullies. We taunt God with our hearts and our love and then withhold them from Him. Put yourself in His place. You’ve created something so that you’d have companionship. You give that creation free will so that they will love you because they want to, not because they have to. You give them everything they could possibly need. And yet they still turn away from you. Again. And again. You must punish their evil deeds, but you don’t really want to, so you give a warning. And another warning. All with the hope that they will turn back to you and you won’t have to punish them. They come back for a little while. And then they leave again.

Be honest, how many opportunities would you give your creation to return?

God has given us infinite opportunities to return to Him. He doesn’t want to punish us. He wants to love us. He wants to shower us with His grace and mercy, but we have to put ourselves in a position to receive it.

We must tear our hearts. Our minds and our attitudes must be changed, our old patterns destroyed and replaced with a new way of thinking. Until we rend our old, stony hearts and allow God to replace that ugly mess, we cannot expect to experience all the goodness that He has planned for us.

So don’t be afraid to tear your heart out because God has a new one waiting for you.

Daily Bible reading: Joel 1-3, Revelation 4

Burn it

Israel is a bit of a broken record. Over and over and over again they turn from God, cry out to God, turn from God, cry out to God. It starts to get a little tiresome as we read through the Old Testament, don’t you think?

For those few obedient people, God gives some interesting instructions. But they aren’t only to test the loyalty and faith of the few. There is purpose behind these requests.

That night the Lord said to Gideon, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one that is seven years old. Pull down your father’s altar to Baal, and cut down the Asherah pole standing beside it. Then build and altar to the Lord your God here on this hilltop sanctuary, laying the stones carefully. Sacrifice the bull as a burnt offering on the altar, using as fuel the wood of the Asherah pole you cut down.”

Judges 6:25-26 (NLT)

God could have just told Gideon to build an altar and sacrifice the bull. Surely that would have been sufficient. But the sacrifice wasn’t the only thing God wanted Gideon to accomplish.

By tearing down the altar to Baal and building one to God, a challenge was issued. In the next few verses, we see the people of the tribe incensed over the fact that their altar had been torn down. They were out for blood until Gideon’s father, Joash told the people to let Baal worry about his own altar. Isn’t the god powerful enough to take care of his own place of worship?

By burning the Asherah pole (Asherah was thought to be and was worshipped as the Canaanite creator-god, El’s, wife or consort), Gideon ensured that, once delivered from the Midianites, his people would not easily be able to return to their pagan worship.

Turning from sin wasn’t good enough. We know that after reading so many accounts of Israel’s inability to remain faithful to the one God who had delivered them from slavery. The same principle applies to us. Turning from sin often isn’t enough. After all, it was tempting enough in the first place to draw us in. By simply turning away from it, how can we be sure that we won’t be tempted by it again in the future?

The best thing we can do is take a page out of Gideon’s book. Don’t just turn from sin, tear it down. Burn it. Do whatever we have to in order to rid ourselves not only of the sin, but the temptation to return to it.

Daily Bible reading: Judges 6-7, Luke 8:1-21

Turn

In the last year or so, Christianity has come under severe attack in the western world. While I don’t make little of those who have given their lives for the Gospel in other countries, in many ways, the attack on Christianity in North America is far worse than in the countries where people die for their faith.

The attack in many eastern countries is overt – Christians know they’re under attack. What makes it worse in North America is that the attack is often coming from within and we don’t even see it.

There is epidemic in the Church of Christians modifying their beliefs because the Truth of the Bible makes them – and others – uncomfortable. We’ve turned Christianity into gourmet coffee and warm, fuzzy feelings.

Jesus didn’t preach comfort. In fact, in Matthew 4:1, Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted there by the Devil. We comfortable Christians like to look at temptation itself as a sin. It’s not. It’s a test. It’s a challenge. It’s a place to prove your faith. To believe that walk with God is a walk free of temptation is ignorant as well as fatal to your faith.

Of course we can pray that God will help us to avoid temptation (Matthew 6:13), but if you’re never tempted, you’ll never be tried and never have the opportunity to strengthen your faith.

We embrace sin with the mantra, “I was born this way.” Of course you were! We all were! But that doesn’t mean we have to live that way.

From then on, Jesus began to preach, “Turn from you sins and turn to God, because the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”

Matthew 4:17 (NLT)

How can we, as the Church, help to save a world from sin when we ourselves embrace it?

This year, I’d love to see the Church stand up and speak the Truth and speak it loudly. Like, the disciples when Jesus called them, we need to drop what we’re doing and follow the only One who can lead us from temptation. We need to stop making room for excuses and start preaching the Good News about the Kingdom. Jesus’ example is rather simple – preach the Good News and heal all the sick. Crowds followed.

Turn from you sins and turn to God, because the Kingdom of Heaven is near.

Daily Bible reading: Genesis 9-11, Matthew 4

Turn away

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.

Job 1:1 (ESV)

Let’s face it. The temptation to sin is nearly constant. We are perpetually being bombarded with opportunity to do the things that God has called us to refrain from. So how do we stay blameless like Job?

Take a look at the same verse in different translation.

A man name Job lived in the land of Uz. He was an honest and innocent man; he honored God and stayed away from evil.

Job 1:1 (NCV)

The theory is simple – honour God. It may not be as easy in practice.

How do we stay away from evil? Honour God. If you are honouring God, there is no room for evil.

As you go about your day, keep this in mind. When temptation comes, ask the simple question, “Will this honour God?”.

Daily Bible reading: Job 1-3; Acts 7:1-19