Today, for a brief twenty minutes, the sun made its appearance in the middle of the Montana winter. Coming from Florida, the concept of not seeing the sun for several months has been a very bitter reality; when the thing that you’ve taken advantage of (and, in reality, taken for granted) is stripped from you, it’s a hard pill to swallow. So, you can only imagine my joy today when I looked outside the window and saw my dear old friend’s rays piercing through the grey.
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This past Wednesday, I had the pleasure of accompanying my girls to their youth group here in town for the first time. I’ve been teaching a few of my girls how to play guitar, as well as doing some voice lessons whenever time permits, and one of my girls has been practicing hard so that she can play on her worship team when she returns home. In order to prepare, we decided to let her lead worship at youth group (myself and one of my coworkers accompanying). Usually, I do not work on Wednesday nights, so it was a real treat to be able to go and experience their youth group.
The youth pastor preached an incredibly convicting message, one that was so simple yet so heart breaking. He began by sharing his love story with his wife, and threw in a little twist – he told us that while he was dedicated to his wife while he was physically with her during the week, he had other girls that he also loved whenever he wasn’t with his wife. (I have to note that this is NOT true, he said this to make a point!) As he started saying this, all of us in the youth group started shifting in our seats, becoming angry and so shocked by his confession. One young man in the crowd called him out on this, saying how completely wrong this was, and the youth pastor “justified” his actions – saying how devoted he was whenever he was in his wife’s presence.
Then, he brought his point home: Why do we get so offended and upset about adultery in marriage, yet we do the SAME THING to God and don’t even think twice about it. We are devoted to Him on Wednesdays and Sundays, yet the rest of the week we act like we don’t even know Him by our actions. We blatantly sin against Him, and don’t even bat our eyes. We essentially look the same as the world, except we pray at night and attend church each week. In the name of tolerance, we mimic the world and don’t even stop to think about how this affects the Father’s heart.
By this point, it was taking everything in me to hold back the tears that were filling my eyes. While I don’t commit the sins that we deem as being “really, really wrong” in the church (getting drunk, sexual immorality, etc), I am guilty of pride, idolatry, doubt, and a myriad of “socially acceptable” sins. I go to others for advice and counsel before God. I believe my college education provided me with all the knowledge I need to excel in my field of work. I do not guard my mouth, and speak words meant to puff myself up rather than edify others. I allow my insecurities to cause me to strive for the praise and approval of others rather than keeping my eyes fixed on the only One whose acceptance matters. I am guilty of breaking God’s heart, and I don’t even care to realize that I’m doing it.
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In the Old Testament, you can find the story of King Hezekiah. He was the son of King Ahaz, and “he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (2 Chron. 28:1). Hezekiah grew up watching his father look to everything else but God to find peace and prosperity for the kingdom of Judah. He watched his father make countless idols, worship and sacrifice everything he had to these false gods in hopes that the kingdom could prosper once again. Scripture tells us that the worse the circumstances became, “in the time of his distress he became yet more faithless to the Lord.” He kept striving for peace, looking everywhere except up. This was the atmosphere that Hezekiah was raised in – turmoil, unrest, and violence. However, he was able to recognize his father’s folly and remember the faith of his forefathers. The first thing he did when he took the throne was to enter the temple, restore the order of the priests, and cleanse the Lord’s house from all that had been defiled.
He called the Levites (those set apart to serve the Lord by caring for His house and being the “go between” for the Israelites and the Lord) to himself and charged them with a beautiful and convicting message: “My sons, do not now be negligent, for the Lord has chosen you to stand in His presence, to minister to Him and to be His ministers and make offerings to Him.” (2 Chron. 29:11)
The New Testament tells us that we are the ministers of the Gospel, the royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:9). We then have this same charge spoken to us: do not be negligent, for the Lord has chosen us! People everywhere are literally dying; we have the light that can save them, and yet we have the audacity to spend our days striving and seeking after them same things that the world is? That’s like knowing the right answer on a test, yet circling a different option! That’s complete foolishness, and it is at the expense of people’s souls! Why are we hiding our light under a basket and living as though we won’t answer to the Lord? Why are we breaking the Father’s heart and being unfaithful to Him?
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There is great darkness in this world. Death, famine, natural disasters, broken hearts, and fractured families. Friends, we have the light! We have the answer! It is our job to shine like the sun and pierce through the darkness! In this world where everything is grey and people reject the notion of absolute truth, it is our job to shine through the grey and reveal the Light. In our distress, may we not become faithless to the Lord. We cannot be negligent, for we have been chosen to stand in His presence.
“…that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” (Phil. 2:15)