As You Please

Wednesday, March 05, 2014, 6:09 a.m. – the Lord Jesus put the song in mind, “Only In Him.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Isaiah 58 (NIV).

They Seem Eager

“Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’

Is it possible to seek the Lord, or even to think you are seeking him, but to not really seek him at all? – Apparently so! This passage of scripture gives us a clear picture of those who appear to seek (pursue; run; chase) after God, but it is in appearance (or form) only. They go through the motions of seeking God each day, perhaps even spending time in the reading of the word and in prayer, but it is all empty, because their hearts are far from him. They may even be faithful in church attendance, sing in the praise team, work in the nursery, lead a small group, serve as a deacon, and/or teach a home Bible study, and so they give off the appearance of godliness, but they may still be ones who forsake their Lord and who do not put his word into practice in their daily lives.

They may hope their “good deeds” get them noticed with God, and that he should somehow approve of them because of all their “sacrifices.” Yet, the Lord says that he is not looking for what we are willing to do for him, but he wants our hearts on the altar fully surrendered to him to walk in his ways and in his truth. He wants us to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to him (See 1 Pet. 2:5), and he asks that we be living sacrifices on his altar, holy and pleasing to God, which is our reasonable service of worship to him. We are to no longer be conformed to the pattern (ways) of this sinful world, but we are to be transformed in the renewing of heart and mind – the working of the Spirit of God within us (See Ro. 12:1-2).

As You Please

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?

A lot of people feel that if they go to church, do some type of Christian and/or Community outreach and/or service, spend time reading the word and praying, attend Bible study, and even use their talents and gifts to minister to other people, that God should be pleased with them. Yet, again, what God wants is not what we choose to do for him, thinking we will then be acceptable to him. What he wants is our hearts fully devoted to him, walking in his love and righteousness, forsaking our lives of living for self and sin (See Lu. 9:23-25; Eph. 4:17-24; Gal. 2:20; Ro. 6; 1 Jn. 1-5; Tit. 2:11-14, et al).

I believe that it is culturally acceptable today in the church to separate our service to the Lord from our daily lives, i.e. to practice giving God only certain portions of our lives, time, talents, passion, etc. while basically doing what we please the remainder of the time, which in truth is truly all the time, because we are even deciding what we will do for or give to God. And, I believe this problem stems a lot from how the gospel is taught. In other words, if we teach people that saying a prayer at an altar assures them of heaven, but we fail to teach them that God’s grace teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age (see Tit. 2:11-14); and/or if we teach them that church attendance is somehow proof of our spirituality, then we have enabled those who profess Christ in form or in appearance only to keep on that way, believing that everything is ok because they prayed a prayer and so they have heaven.

Set the Oppressed Free

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

There are many ways in which people can help others be loosed from the chains of injustice and be set free from the yoke of oppression, yet I believe the Lord Jesus would have me talk about this on a spiritual level this morning. A yoke can be a burden, bondage or a hindrance of some kind. Chains can be something which binds, restrains or hampers. A cord can be something that entangles or that constrains us in some way. All of this imagery describes our sinful condition outside of faith and trust in Jesus Christ to deliver us from the bondage to (and control of) sin over our daily lives. We, as humans, are held as prisoners to sin, slaves to unrighteousness, and so we need to be set free. This is why Jesus Christ died on the cross, so we could be free from bondage to sin and self (and self-pleasure).

Yet, much is what is passed off as truth and as the gospel in today’s modern church is nothing more than self-help, feel-good, motivational speeches intended to inspire, give hope (falsely) and help people feel better about themselves, but they do not confront sin, call for repentance, or encourage Spirit-empowered obedience to Christ and to his word.

As well, we should treat others with kindness and compassion, with mercy and forgiveness, and with tenderness and god-like love. We should not be hateful, spiteful or unforgiving towards others, nor should we feel as though we must get even with those who did wrong to us. We must be honest and show integrity in all our dealings with others and in all of our relationships. And we ought to share our food with those who are truly hungry. Yet, not everyone who asks for money is truly hungry, though, and not all of them spend it on food, so we must also exercise godly wisdom and discernment so that we are meeting legitimate needs and we are not helping to enable others to continue in sinful and harmful ways. We should be hospitable and considerate of all who are truly in need. Obviously we can’t meet the needs of all the people of this world, so we must, again, pray for direction and guidance as to what needs God would have us meet. Some may be obvious. Others may not. And, we should care for our own, and should work to meet their legitimate needs (not wants), too.

Away With the Yoke!

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings…

First of all, we individually need to come to the cross of Jesus Christ, by God’s grace, through faith – a faith which submits to the cross of Christ and allows the Spirit of God to transform us in heart and mind away from living for sin and self, and to following after Christ and his righteousness. And, daily we need to walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh, and we need to throw off those things that hinder our walks with the Lord, and that sin which so easily entangles us, so we can run with perseverance the race marked out for us. We can’t help someone else be free if we are still walking in darkness. And, we need to make sure that our all is on the altar, that Christ has our hearts, and that our lives are personally committed, submitted, and surrendered to him to walk in his ways, and that we are not just going through the motions or giving off an appearance of righteousness.

Then, we need to commit ourselves to teaching what is right, to speaking the truth in love, to sharing the full gospel message, and not to espouse “gospel-lite,” which tickles the itching ears of those who want to hear only pleasant things but who do not want to be confronted with their Holy God. Feel-good messages lacking in true understanding of what it means to be saved from our sins and to walk in the Spirit of God and in HIS holiness only serve to keep us under the yoke of slavery, and do nothing to truly set us free. So, instead of doing what pleases us and/or what pleases human flesh, but which still leaves us and/or others under the oppression and weight of sin, we should yield to the power and working of the Holy Spirit of God in our lives, teach what is right, and cooperate with the Spirit’s work in bringing people out from under the chains of sin so that they can walk in freedom!

ONLY IN HIM / An Original Work / February 19, 2014

Based off Isaiah 30

Woe to those who look to man’s help;
Who turn away from Jesus Christ;
Forming an alliance not in step with God;

Making their own plans, and praying not.

Willing not to listen to truth,
They close their ears to what is right.
Pleasing words are all that they’ll hear;
Feel good messages that bring cheer.

Trust in your Lord; turn from your sin.
Put your faith now ONLY IN HIM.
Do not turn to idols. They’ll not satisfy.
Jesus will save you. That’s why He died.

Your Lord will be gracious to you.
He cares all about you, ‘tis true.
He forgives you all of your sin
When you give your life up to Him.

Oh, how truly gracious He’ll be
When you bow to Him on your knees;
Turning now from your sin; walking in his ways.
He’ll lead and guide you all of your days.

Now you will sing praises to Him.
He delivered you from your sin.
You’ll tell others now of His grace,
So they may see Christ face-to-face.