Disciplines that Bring Us Close

Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.

See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.  (Mal 4:4-6)

We are finally ending Malachi!

God concludes this book by urging his people to not forget his law.  And then he foretells the coming of Elijah.  This is so cool.  Because when the angel comes to Zechariah in Luke 1 and tells him about his son who is to be born, the angel refers to this passage.

And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous–to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”  Luke 1:17

zechariah

John the Baptist would be “Elijah!”  He would be the one who was prophesied about in Malachi 4!

And what does it say would John’s mission be?  To turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the hearts of the children to their parents.

Okay, my head is swimming.  What does this mean?  Because we know that John the Baptist didn’t start this instant love fest between families.

Yet on another level, maybe reconciliation was one intent of God with the coming of the new age ushered in by John, and later by Jesus.  Surely people were called to honor their parents as part of their repentance.  Maybe even as people repented and were baptized by John, they began to get along better.  After all, look in Luke 3 at the things John told them to do.  If they had two shirts they were to share one of them with someone in need.  If they were tax collectors they were not to overcharge.  If they were soldiers they were to treat people fairly.  This had to have led to better relations between people.

So anyway, I turned to the experts to find out how they explained this passage.  Most commentators said that the word “parents” here refers to the teachings of the Jewish fathers.   God wanted to turn the hearts of the people back to a true respect for him and his word.  As one commentary I read said, “he (Elijah/John) shall bring many, both of the rising and the declining age, to that real piety toward God.” (Benson)  God’s children, the Jews, had gotten away from what their attitude towards God should be.  God intended, with the coming of the John the Baptist, to begin the process of bringing them back to true worship.

I love the thought of applying this today!  We, too, want true worship!   We want to get away from half-heartedness and artifice, and serve God with a pure heart!

Here are a few ways I’ve been learning to serve God with a pure heart.

Maintain eye contact with God.

apple of eye

Ps 17:8  Keep me as the apple of your eye. 

I got this from the awesome Saturday Women’s Program at the REACH conference.

If you could physically look God in the eye right now, what would you see in his gaze towards you?  Disappointment?  Disapproval?  Or would it be adoration?

I think it would be the latter.  God dotes on us!  I just spent some time with my 25 year old daughter, and she is the joy of my heart.

devon

Sure, she isn’t perfect, she has ways she needs to grow.  But as I look at her, my love for her overshadows everything else.

The “apple of your eye” literally means, “little man in your eye.”  It means our reflection in someone’s eye as we are looking at them.

So for God to keep us as the apple of his eye, we have to maintain eye contact with him.  We have to keep our inner gaze on his devoted face.  We can’t let ourselves become distracted to the point where our focus is fixated on other things.

Maintain surrender 

whack a mole2

Ah, the attitudes that war against us.  We wrestle them down, and the next day they pop up again, like rabid whack a moles.

I have learned that one of the most important things I need to do is engage in battle with my attitude each morning, and give it completely into God’s hands.  I need to I tell him, “I trust you with this. Only you know how to work a solution.”

Jesus is my inspiration in this.  He trusted entirely in God’s goodness.

I’ve been reading a great book, “Jesus the Same,” by Charles Edward Jefferson.”  Jefferson says that the foremost characteristic of Jesus was his trust in the goodness of God: “To trust in the goodness and mercy of the good Father was his own intensest and fullest delight.”  I love the way this author describes the way Jesus felt about trust:  “It was the heaven above his head, the earth beneath his feet, the atmosphere he daily breathed, the spirit in which he was saturated, the music that ran all through his conversation, the inspiration of his life.”

What a wonderful goal, to learn to trust as Jesus did!

Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.  Ps 143:8

Maintain forgiveness.

unmerciful servant2

Oh boy.  If only I could forgive someone once, and it would last.  Those grumpy feelings towards the person who “wronged” me keep resurfacing.  Before I know it, I’m all tangled up again in hurt and indignation.

I think that’s why Jesus made forgiveness front and center when he taught his disciples to pray:  “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. ”  Forgiving others needs to be  a discipline. 

I am so glad the parable of the unmerciful servant is in the Bible. (Matt 18:21-25)  It convicts me to forgive when nothing else does.

It reminds me that I owe God more than I could ever repay, and He forgives me.

gold1

Whew!  How could I then turn around and be unforgiving with someone else?

Maintain gratitude

I talk about this a lot, but I’m still going to keep on mentioning it, because it’s so vital.  Whenever we thank God, we’re rewriting the narrative of our life.  We’re saying, “The day was not a failure filled with mishaps.  God was in my day.  He showed me his love.  He orchestrated my times.”

I was reading back through my gratitude journal recently, and I was struck by how many of the things I am grateful for have to do with people. I am so blessed by having a relationship with so many wonderful individuals!!

Mini Reunion

Here is a picture of some of the women I got to have lunch with at the REACH conference.  Three of them are members of our church who have moved to other cities — New York, Baltimore and Phoenix. I was so happy to get to spend time with them!

Gratitude changes our perspective.  I’ve talked to two women recently who have been working on gratitude, and have had breakthroughs in their marriage because they viewed their husbands differently.

We can have breakthroughs in our heart as well, if we will SEE God and how he gives to us.

Maintain humility.

road trip2

Humility is like going on a road trip with God.

We don’t say, “Here’s where I’m going today.”  We say, “God, where are we going today?”  And then we trust that whatever happens is a part of the trip God is laying out for us.

When we hit a roadblock or challenge, we don’t freak out.  We say, “Okay, Father, you brought me to this.  Show me what to do.  Help me deal with it.”

When we pray, we don’t petition and then forget.  We watch to see how God is answering these prayers.  “In the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”  Ps 5:3b

And when a situation seems too hard, we tell God, “I know your grace is sufficient and it will get me through this moment, this tough circumstance, this day.”  (II Cor 12:9)

It’s being reactive, not proactive.  Yes, we should be intentional and do things, but we’re not setting out on our own, we’re always seeking to see what God is doing and keep in step with that.

“…the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” John 5:19

“The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.”  John 8:29

God concludes Malachi with a dire warning.  If the people do not turn their hearts back to him, there will be total destruction.  Literally, this word means they will be cursed!

Surely this is true for us as well.  “. . . every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished.  So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation . . . ?”  Heb. 2:1b-2a

As encouraging as I believe God’s grace is, as merciful, longsuffering and patient that he is, we must keep working on our hearts!! God wants true worship!

It is a discipline, but the discipline is sweet, bringing us closer to our wonderful Lord.

1 Comment

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One response to “Disciplines that Bring Us Close

  1. Kat you are an amazing example to me. LOVE your perspective and challenges to seek GOD first.

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