Sometimes we need a word from the Lord. Let me rephrase and take you out of the equation. I don't want to assume that you need one, but I surely need a word from God. I spend a lot of time in the Bible, because that is what we are to do as believers. It also gives us life and purpose. And I believe that it is God's inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word. Every time that I dive into it, I am receiving a powerful word from Him. But every once in awhile, I want to...I need to hear something that ministers directly to the core of my heart.
As I was studying for a sermon I was getting ready to preach I had one of these moments. I was searching through the minor prophets (the series we are in right now is called Prophet:Unknown), and had just finished Zechariah and prayed this prayer before I got to Malachi. To this point God, I have learned a lot, read a lot, but I desperately needed something to reach into my heart and stir me in my inner being. Trying to be as vulnerable as I can be, without seeming insincere, I was at the point of tears in desperation for a word, as I turn to Malachi chapter 1 and I read, "The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi. 'I have loved you,' says the Lord."
I paused. I sat there as this Word pierces my heart. I wept. I thought about this powerful, yet simplistic statement: I have loved you. Let that sink in for a moment. The Lord loves YOU! This is the Word.
The passage continues, "Yet you say, 'In what way have You loved us?'"
I was at first offended at the voice of the Israelites saying this. But as I sat there, I realized I say the same thing, but maybe in a slightly different way. I know I have thought, "God do you really love me?" Have you ever felt this way before? Or maybe the situation/circumstance you are in might make it seem that He doesn't love you. If God really loved me, why am I having to deal with this? Why did this have to happen to me? Why was this allowed? Why? Why? Why?
His answer stays the same: I have loved you. And it is a true statement. Let me demonstrate what God showed me in the moments that followed:
In Genesis, He loved us by sending us a ram in the thicket to take our place.
In Exodus, He delivered us from the hand of our enemy.
In Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, He gave us the law that lights our path so we don't stumble over sin.
In Joshua, He went before us in battle and paved a way.
In Judges, He heard our cry and rescued us time and time again.
In Ruth, He redeemed us.
In 1 Samuel, He exalted us and anointed us.
In 2 Samuel, He forgave and restored our lives.
In 1 and 2 Kings and in 1 and 2 Chronicles, He was faithful to His promise when He shouldn't have been.
In Ezra, He provided a way to meet with Him again.
In Nehemiah, He rebuilt our lives from the ashes.
In Esther, He saved us for such a time as this.
In Job, He believes in us and doubled our blessing.
In Psalm, He allows us to be real before His throne.
In Proverbs, He grants us wisdom to live a successful life.
In Ecclesiastes, He gives our meaningless life, meaning.
In Song of Solomon, He demonstrates the love of a groom.
In Isaiah, He cleanses us to be used by Him.
In Jeremiah, He formed us and gave us purpose.
In Lamentations, He weeps over us in His great love.
In Ezekiel, He showed us the greatest revelation of who He is.
In Daniel, He walks with us in the fire and dark places of life.
In Hosea, He loves us even when we prostitute ourselves to this world.
In Joel, He poured out His Spirit on us.
In Amos, He loves us by being just, but equally merciful.
In Obadiah, He resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.
In Jonah, for God so loved the World.
In Micah, He loves us greater than any other God could.
In Nahum, He is a stronghold for us in troubled times.
In Habakkuk, He works for us even when we don't see it.
In Zephaniah, He hides us and protects us from the awful day of the Lord.
In Haggai, He fills His house with His glory.
In Zechariah, He loves us when we don't have the might or the power.
And here in Malachi he screams, "See, I Have Loved You! I Do Love You! I Will Always Love You!"
And if this isn't enough. If everything He has done to this point wasn't enough, let's turn to Malachi chapter 3 which says, "'And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,' says the Lord of hosts."
Instead of getting angry with their response, God turns and gives them one more way, the greatest way, to show His great and endless love for them and for us.
God Sent His Son.
I am loved.
You are loved.
We are loved.
As I have mentioned before, I love to see new places. I love to view the world. The incredible landscape that God has designed. You would think in that context, running would be a perfect fit for me. I do love all of those things, I just prefer to view it from my car window. Anybody with me?! Running seems pointless. I take off and run to what end? Where am I going? Why am I going there? I guess I need a purpose in my running. Running while playing high school sports was fun and made sense. Whether it was football or basketball, there was a since of purpose. I need to get down the floor to defend another player. The ball is caught and needs to make it passed the goal line. Far too often in life, it seems that we do things with no purpose.
"Everyone else is doing it."
"This is what's supposed to be done."
In all of our striving, let's pause for a moment and decide the 'why' behind what we are striving for. I would hate to get to the end of my life and realize that I did a lot, but nothing was of much value. Peter Drucker, who for 10 years had a regular column in the Wall Street Journal, authored several books, and advised the executives of businesses such as GM, General Electric, IBM, and Salvation Army, said, "There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all." Let's live with intentionality. Let's run with purpose.
Leading up to 2 Samuel 18, we see Absolom, David's son, take over the kingdom and David leaving his throne. In chapter 18 we see Absolom being killed in brutal fashion. But, because of the son's death, salvation is brought to the people. This sounds very much like the gospel story. Please don't confuse a man such as Absolom with Christ, but the similarities are such that I have to share what is taught here: The son has died and with it, brings salvation to the people.
We see a man in verse 19 of the chapter named Ahimaaz (gesundheit!). He says to Joab, "Let me run now and take the news to the king." He was eager to share the news of victory! I want to run and share the news that the death of the King's son has brought salvation. Here is a run I could get behind. In the middle of our various runs for various reasons, all of them worthy causes I'm sure, don't forget that the greatest run is that of sharing the news that Jesus died for the world's salvation!
Joab responds, "Not today, you shall share it another day." How often do we do this. I would love to share with my friends and neighbors about the love of Jesus...tomorrow! I'll do it tomorrow! But not Ahimaaz (God bless you!). He responds, "Come what may, I want to run!" Oh, let this be our heart! "Come what may, I want to run!" More often than not, I hear, "If it is not too inconvenient, I want to run!" "If it fits in my time schedule, I want to run!"
This is very similar to the men talking to Jesus in Luke 9. One man said (my paraphrase), "I want to run!" Jesus replied, "Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." He asked another man, "Run with me." But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." Still another said, "I will run, but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family." Jesus replied to them all, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."
So Joab takes a long look at Ahimaaz (let me get you a tissue!), and tells him, "RUN!" Then he ran fast enough to outrun all the competition! I would like to take a long look at myself and would ask you to do the same. To really search ourselves and get rid of all of our excuses, all of our reasons why we can't, all of our wrong and impure motives, and tell ourselves: RUN and share the news that Jesus died so that through Him, the world might be saved!
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize." 1 Corinthians 9:24
First, let me clarify that I did not climb Mt. Everest. I know you all were thinking that I did! It is not even on my bucket list! I like living too much. My family did go on vacation this past week to Elephant Rocks in Missouri though. Hiking a few 1-3 mile trails with a 3 year old can make you feel like you’re ascending the great Everest! We spent a week or two preparing for our camping adventure!
Do we have the tent ready?
Do we have the sleeping bags and cots?
Do we have food and drinks?
There is not much preparation needed for a week long “glamping” trip, as my wife likes to call it! There is however great preparation needed for a trek like Mt. Everest. Here is a brief breakdown of what it would take, just in case it happens to be on your bucket list!
At this point you would hike 10 days just to get to base camp! From there you will hike to Camp 1, Camp 2, Camp 3 and Camp 4 otherwise known as the death zone. Start to finish is 2 months!
Why say all this? Why the effort to look it all up? There are a few things I feel I have learned in life. One is that the greater the adventure, the greater the preparation time. In my own life, I have come to realize that I want an Everest experience, but am preparing for Elephant Rocks Missouri! I want mountain top intimacy with God but am unwilling to pay the price to gain that.
What does your preparation time say about you? Are you setting yourself up for success? For greatness? Did you realize that we have the same amount of hours in a day as Mother Theresa, Benjamin Franklin and Billy Graham. Why did they seem to get so much accomplished? They were willing to do what so many of us are unwilling to do.
Jeremiah 12:5 says, “If you have run with mere men, and have grown weary, then how can you run with the horses?”
God has called us to a higher standard of living. Steward your thoughts well. Preach better sermons. Live a holier life. Give more generously. Be more intentional in evangelism.
Living by the Spirit does not give us an excuse to live complacently. Do your part! Do you really want to miss out on anything that God might have for you?
Run With Horses!
Climb Your Everest!
If you would allow me to, I would love to take a simple walk through the first story of Mark 2. Sometimes we can read a story, or even preach a story, so many times that we lose sight of some very basic knowledge and scriptural truths that the text brings. On a side note, don't overcomplicate reading scripture. Read where the Lord has you. You don't have to binge to make up for days you forgot. Have 'selah' moments. Trust me, there is enough manna for today!
Mark 2:1 "And again He entered Capernaum after some days..."
Don't be afraid to go back and revisit places in your life. Often times we should visit where God did a great work and we should celebrate those victories. For me, there are often failures and missed marks that we can fix, learn from and steward better next time around. I know in our Christian walk, we must revisit these places to once again be renewed, refilled, and rejuvenated again and again,
Mark 2:2 "And He preached the word to them."
Here is a common misconception: people didn't just come to see Jesus because He healed many. Everywhere Jesus went He preached the Word. He was diligent to His task, as we ought to be.
Mark 2:3 "Bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men."
I love these four men more than about anyone in the Bible. I hope you have friends like this. I hope you are a friend like this. There should always be someone on your mat that you are taking to Jesus!
Mark 2:4 "They uncovered the roof where He was."
Am I the only homeowner that would have a problem with this happening at my house. Can we get his side to this story?! Was insurance a thing back then?! This is said with such nonchalance!
Mark 2:5 "Son, your sins are forgiven you."
Do not forget, in the midst of healings and all things supernatural that we may experience in services and in our encounters with the Holy Spirit, that salvation will forever be the greatest miracle to ever happen in anyone's life!
Mark 2:12 "He went out in the presence of them all."
This, again, is a prominent story that we have heard preached on a thousand times. Perhaps you have heard what I am about to tell you before, but it is still worth noting that this man walked out the front door of the house and not back through the ceiling. More so than networking with the right people, having the right amounts of money, or the right title in front of our name, one encounter with Jesus can give you access to places you had no access to before.