Tag Archives: restoration

Totally Gone

10 May

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A friend of mine doesn’t know Jesus. She has LOTS of questions, and desperately wants to believe. This past week she and I have been trying to figure out what is keeping her from being able to surrender to him.

She wants the world to be fair. Honestly, so do I.

She doesn’t want people to get away with murder (or anything else), to be hateful, or to do anything to hurt someone else. I tell her and remind her that she wants this because God put it in her, that he wants it, too. And that, eventually, we will all get what we want when the Day of the Lord comes or when we get to heaven, whichever comes first.

The Lord Almighty has a day in store
    for all the proud and lofty,
for all that is exalted
    (and they will be humbled),
for all the cedars of Lebanon, tall and lofty,
    and all the oaks of Bashan,
for all the towering mountains
    and all the high hills,
for every lofty tower
    and every fortified wall,
for every trading ship
    and every stately vessel.
The arrogance of man will be brought low
    and human pride humbled;
the Lord alone will be exalted in that day,
    and the idols will totally disappear. Isaiah 2:12-18

There will be a day when all the idols totally disappear! Translation: everything will be made right!

Every wrong thing can be traced back to idolatry. Test it: murder (idol of self or power); theft (idol of possessions or greed); gossip (another self/power); meanness (idol of pride/self), and so on.

But there will be a day when all this is gone! No idols, only God to worship.

[On that Day] many peoples will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
    so that we may walk in his paths.” Isaiah 2:3

———-

READY FOR SUNDAY

The second chapter of Isaiah is about the end of time, but it’s also about when Jesus came to usher in the Kingdom of God. In other words, this passage is also describing reality for today. Jesus paid the penalty for all sin – for idolatry. The idols in our lives have been dealt with. We need only to turn away from them and toward Jesus. The Kingdom is here and not yet, where idols are nowhere to be found. The ultimate fulfillment is heaven, yet those who have Christ in their hearts get a taste of this here on earth. No idols – only God to worship!

I. Can’t. Wait.

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The Ultimate Do-Over

3 Mar

I have loved you with an everlasting love;
.   I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.

I will build you up again,
.   and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel.

Again you will take up your tambourines
.   and go out to dance with the joyful.    —Jeremiah 31:3-4

Sitting with a tangled green mess in my lap, I crumbled into a heap. “I can’t do it!” I raged.

The “hat” flew across the room, knitting needles clanking as they landed then rolled under my grandma’s dining room table.

Looking at the floor, I heard her come into the room, but I ignored her. I would know those black oxfords in a crowd of feet. “Who wears those ugly things anymore,” I thought, my anger spilling all over the linoleum toward her pointy-toed shoes.

She retrieved my tangle of knit-when-I-should-have-purled from the chair where it had landed and kicked the needles out from under the table.  She bent down as they rolled toward her.

I steeled myself for a scolding. She simply walked out of the room and back into the kitchen. I heard a creak from the chrome chair legs as she sat.

Still pouting, I turned on the TV and lost myself in Wheel of Fortune. Words and letters were better friends than yarn. I was good at this.

————

Israel had turned away from God. Not like turning around and ignoring Him– more like running headlong in the opposite direction toward anything else that made them feel good. Instead of praising their Creator, they worshiped other gods– gods they made with their own hands. Gods that could not hear or do anything.

When God made the first Covenant with Israel, he said he would be their God if they would serve him only.

The crazy thing is that when they broke the Covenant, God didn’t stop being their God. He went after them, wooing them back. And when they couldn’t be wooed, the curses he had promised came: sword, famine, and plague.

He brought horrendous devastation and exile on his chosen people. And they responded as he had hoped – with repentance. The curses were punishment for disobedience and natural consequences for their sin, but they were also the discipline of a loving Father. Everlasting love and unfailing kindness go to any lengths, including discipline.

While the Israelites were still in exile (a severe punishment because a major promise of the Covenant was the Land), Jeremiah received gracious promises from God. In Jeremiah 29-31 God proclaimed that restoration would come to the remnant– to those who repented and turned back to him.

In Jeremiah 31:4, in the middle of incredible promises, a glorious treasure lives: You will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel.

As Israel slid into idolatry, God called her an adulteress and a prostitute. She threw away her honor for shame and disgrace. Her virginity was forever lost when she turned from her Beloved and ran into the arms of self-indulgence, hedonism, and debauchery.

Yet God restores the Remnant of Israel. More than just taking her back, he completely restores her virginity– and he puts no quotes around the word. In 31:4 Virgin is a capitalized title, drawing attention to Israel’s redeemed status. His Remnant Bride is completely restored.  He gave her the ultimate do-over.

She responds by making music and dancing– the Virgin Bride sings the praises of her Beloved.

————

A couple of game shows later, my grandma came into the room, the ball of yarn, neatly wound in one hand and the beginnings of a hat in the other. The snarls were completely gone; she had taken me back to the point before I got off. Without a word, she put the needles in my hands, cupped her hands around mine, and worked the yarn up and around until the hat was done.

She told my mom that I had knitted it. I made the mess. She put it back right.

————

Ready for Sunday

God has completely restored me– all the mess is gone, cleaned up, and put right. Do I fully understand that?

Do I understand that his everlasting love and unfailing kindness went to the ultimate length– the sacrifice of his Son so that I could have the ultimate do-over.

Much of the time I don’t grasp this.  But when I do, my heart sings and soars! I am his Bride; he is my Beloved.

Let the singing and dancing begin!

Gomer’s Choice

18 Feb

[She] went after her lovers
and forgot me, declares the Lord.

Therefore, I will allure her…  Hosea 2:13-14

Forgetting God is what Gomers do.

Western culture and human nature produce one after another.  Gifted artists, raised in the church where their God-given talents are nurtured, attain a level of ability that gives them options not available to most of us.   In the myriad of choices they forget the One who gave them their talent.

Elvis Presley grew up singing Gospel songs.  After becoming famous, he continued to sing and record songs that glorified Jesus while he chased after fame and self-gratification– empty idols that seduced him away from God.  He died young (age 42) and miserable.

Whitney Houston‘s mother encouraged her to eschew fame and continue singing in church.  The lure of fame pulled her through a morass of substance abuse that ended last week in her early death.

Hosea gave his wife everything she needed.  Gifts that she used for idol worship.  Gifts she attributed to her lovers, not her husband.  (Hos 2:8)  My heart grieves for her, and Elvis, and Whitney – each so blessed and loved, and all so deluded.  They remind me of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, who went looking for her heart’s desire by running away from those who loved her best and from what, deep in her heart, she really wanted.

Gomer’s story is also Israel’s.  God provided Israel with everything she needed because of His love for her, but His chosen nation chose to worship other gods.  Throughout the book of Hosea, God exposes Israel’s idolatry.  He calls her behavior what it was – adulterous whoring.  (Hos 2:2)  He punished her severely, taking away all His gifts, and put an end to her celebration. (Hos 2:9-13)

But that’s not the end of the story.

God allures her.  He entices and woos her as a lover would to a place where they can be alone together and tenderly speaks to her.  (Hos 2:14)  He gives back everything her lifestyle took from her and promises hope where there had been trouble and despair.  Her actions called for punishment and death; He gives grace and restoration.  (Hos 2:15)

Whitney and Elvis turned away from the Source of their great talent at the beginning of their careers, one choice at a time, until what they were chasing devoured them.  Though we don’t know for sure, reports indicate that they were both seeking God in their final days.  I pray they were able to see through the veil substance abuse had erected to the Face of the Lover of their souls.

It’s the little choices.  The ones that focus attention on me, not God.  To play a fill so others notice me.  To choose a song because it features my talent.  To plan a program that fulfills my need for significance.  To imagine how people will praise me for my abilities when the worship service is over.

We each have some Gomer in us.  Whether we use the talents and abilities He gave us within the church outside of it; whether we tour in a famous band or play in a local 2-piece duo, the choice is: worship myself or God?

———-

Heart-check for Sunday

What is my motivation for leading, playing in the worship band, designing the service, etc?  Whose glory am I interested in?

During the worship set, where does my mind go?  Am I worshiping and leading others to worship God?

The second half of Hosea 2 covers Israel’s restoration.  Because Israel did not acknowledge that all she had was a gift from God, He took His gifts back.  I have known musicians and teachers who had experienced this, yet with others (like Elvis and Whitney) God lets the gifts remain.  God cares for each of us differently, but in one respect we are all the same: He wants our hearts.  In every case God graciously calls, deep unto deep, with an offer of complete restoration – no strings attached.  Free grace.

That enables me to sing again, as when I first knew Him.

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