Monday, November 1, 2004

"If you will return, O Israel, return to me," declares the LORD "If you put your detestable idols out of my sight and no longer go astray, and if in a truthful, just and righteous way you swear, 'As surely as the LORD lives,' then the nations will be blessed by Him and in Him they will glory."

"Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, circumcise your hearts, you men of Judah and people of Jerusalem..."

~Jeremiah 4:1-4a

"One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"

"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'There is no commandment greater than these."

"Well said, teacher," the man replied. "You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."

When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God."

~Mark 12:28-34a


Throughout history, God has revealed His heart to His people, begging them to come to Him, to love Him with all of their hearts and set Him in His rightful place as the one true God, above every other god. His cries for their loyalty resound through the pages of the Old Testament, His pleas for their hearts from the pages of the New Testament. But never is His heart seen more clearly than in the Person of Jesus Christ, who died for us, while we were yet sinners.

God has chastened His people for their lack of faith. He has driven them from place to place, and called them to return to Him. He has paid their price of slavery, and has taken the penalty for their sins upon Himself so that He might redeem them.

Who is this God who would fight so much for a stiff-necked, stubborn people? Who are we to despise Israel for their rejection of God when we ourselves do it every day? Who I am to complain about His chastening, or about the trials that I walk through?

Is He not refining my heart? Is He not faithfully my God, ever-changing me into the image of Jesus, burning His face upon my heart?

I am coming to understand something I never knew before. Everything that happens in my life was planned before I was ever born. Each day that I live was written for me, ordained from the foundation of the earth. Each trial that I walk through is in His purpose for me, and each sin that I will commit has already been atoned for.

There is nothing that happens to me that He does not know, nothing that I do that He has not looked upon. He has searched me and known me, my secret faults, the darkness that I don't even know. There is nothing I can bring to Him except myself, for He knows all--and has made provision for all.

What amazes me the most is that with everything that He has planned for my life, no matter what changes, or how my desires are filled or left unfulfilled, no matter who walks out or who comes in, no matter what trials or sorrow I may be facing--He is inexorably drawing me to Himself. Everything that He gives to me is designed to show me more of Him, that I may know Jesus Christ, and the power of His resurrection. I learn of His mercy when He forgives my sin, of His grace when I cannot overcome it on my own, of His power when He frees me from it, of His love when I realize that I have been redeemed. Mostly, I learn of His heart, my Abba's heart, my Father's heart.

As I learn more of Him and seek to know Him and love Him better, and to love others more fully with His love, I know the trials will increase. Which is obnoxious because I already feel like my life's not fair as it is. But I know what I have asked Him for, and how should I NOT enter into the sufferings of Christ? Is a servant greater than his Master?

How MUCH He must love me, to use so many great things to draw me to Himself? I pray that I may learn to desire them and to count them all joy.

"Nothing is inexorable but love. Love which will yield to prayer is imperfect and poor. Nor is it then the love that yields, but its alloy…. For love loves unto purity. Love has ever in view the absolute loveliness of that which it beholds. Where loveliness is incomplete, and love cannot love its fill of loving, it spends itself to make more lovely, that it may love more; it strives for perfection, even that itself may be perfected—not in itself, but in the object…. Therefore, all that is not beautiful in the beloved, all that comes between and is not of love’s kind, must be destroyed. And our God is a consuming fire."

~George MacDonald


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