† In Jesus Name †
Come and See! The Lord you are seeking
As you prepare to celebrate Christmas, may you welcome the Lord’s assistance in “cleaning house”, even as you realize the love and mercy and faithfulness He will do it with!
Are you ready?
Years ago, when I ran bookstores, most managers feared something. Some of the best of my peers, the people I looked up to an counted as mentors, would tremble when three little words were mentioned.
“zero defect audit”
When the news hit the grapevine that our regional manager had begun them, the panic set in, the managers would leave whatever they were doing, dive into the files and the paperwork on their desks… the staff’s would immediately go into hyper-drive cleaning and everyone’s stress levels would skyrocket.
Some managers even developed techniques, allowing a few, very visible mistakes, that would be caught, allowing the regional manager to find the errors, and they thought she would be content “getting them”, and leave the rest of their operation alone.
Somehow we missed the point – if the audit’s were done well, they would help us correct paperwork errors, help us see our weaknesses and adjust to them.. and should we learn from our errors and accept the assistance in cleaning up our acts… then our bonuses would skyrocket! It was not easy, indeed looking at our errors was sometimes…painful. Yet, the payoff was incredible.
But we were too afraid of the coming, about the required look at the “life” of our stores.
Sometimes, I think we are afraid of God, and we would rather not deal with His presence in our lives now, for very similar reasons… we need to be straightened up, cleaned up, we need to get our acts together… before the final audit..
This cleansing is part of advent… and indeed our daily lives. For we live, not just with a coming Lord, but with the One who is coming, yet is already here, incarnate, present, working in our lives.
What do we need to be cleansed of?
As we hear Malachi’s message to the people of God, as we hear him tell us of God’s covenant bringing apostle/messenger, there is a pause, something that grabs our attention, and causes us to hesitate.. Hear the words, that like “zero defect audit”, throw a shock into your system….
2 “But who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears? For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal, or like a strong soap that bleaches clothes. 3 He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver,
How many of you… are ready to stand there, and watch God cleanse your life? To apply the heat – or the lye or bleach that is necessary to remove all that has marred your life? How many are willing to stand there and see the dirt of your life removed? To stand under the pressure of what it takes to cleanse them?
I remember the “debriefing” from some of those zero defect audits, as my senior staff and I were told where we fell short, the feeling as if a football was caught in my throat, the absolute powerlessness, the inability to say, but wait – you need to understand this.. the inability to excuse… And the results of that briefing were marked on a three by two foot poster, that hung prominently in my office… the results of 6 audits there for all to see…
Are we ready for that, not as our files are reviewed, but as our lives are? Are you ready to have those things which we try to hide, or worse, the things we do so often that we forget that they are offensive to God, revealed before Him, as He cleans our lives?
Sometimes I think – wouldn’t it be great if God came, and cleaned up this world in which we live? If God would come and deal with all the problems, all the pains, all of the sin an immorality? If that list, the sorcerers, the adulterers, against all those who break their word, all those who don’t treat their employees well – against all those who don’t even have the most basic sense of hospitality towards those in great need, if God would just deal with them and every other person who breaks His commandments? Wouldn’t it be great?
Then I realize, if God has to clean up – wouldn’t He start with us? With those that know best His will, who know His commands, who understand that they all boil down to two relationships – our relationship with Him, and our relationship with every person He has created.
And all of a sudden, I am not so ready for a spiritual audit, I want to hide or take a week or two off. How about you? AN audit, a cleansing, not performed by some mere pastor or prophet… but by the Lord God Almighty…
But the good..
A few months after the audits, there was always “EoY” paperwork, and the closing of a year – even as we just closed another church year, and are about to say goodbye to 2012, and eventually will see and end of the age…when Christ returns.
After the EoY review, there was the day when the regional manager showed up again – this time with envelopes in her hands. Checks were in those envelopes – and sometimes they were significant.
That is what we wait for now! The day when Jesus comes again, when the work pays off! I am not talking about our work, but the work He accomplishes in us. We are His worksmanship – His masterpiece, He is the one who takes our lives and molds them into something that is incredible. When we realize just how much filth He has cleansed us of, when we see what He does, when we realize how much love He has for us.
We rejoice, we have hope… for Joy has come to our world.
When we realize how phenomenally He deals with the injustive of the world, when we realize how He uses it for our good, when we get to the point where we pause… and look and see…
We realize the guarantee to prodigals, We realize the blessing that He never changes! A blessing that our prophet this morning tells us that we will never be be devoured, we will never be consumed. But that we can return – we can joyfully seek the Lord who comes bringing the promises of the covenant, fulfilling the work of God.
You see, God created you and I for a purpose – an eternal purpose. Not to be transformed into someone else, but His cleansing, His promise work in your lives, is to reveal in you that which has been marred, that which has been hidden by sin, by unrighteousness.
To reveal in you the child of God, to remove the labels like prodigal, or sinner, or even the name of the sin or unrighteousness that holds you in bondange.
That is the nature of advent, a time to ditch the facades, the sins, from gossip to lust to using God’s name, the name we’ve been given to use, in our vanity. To remove us and free us and given us life.
The people of the Old Testament saw this, yet didn’t. They longed for the return of the messenger, the apostle who would prepare the way for the Lord. They longed to see the Lord who would come suddenly, the one who would bring a covenant that resulted in the forgiveness of sins.
At the end of the passage, the verse asks, “how shall we return”… the answer is provided in the very promise of God – I will return to you…
They struggled with what this means, the removal of idols and sins, the cleansing of things we are firmly attached to, the sins that have their claws stuck in our hearts and minds. Hearts and minds, that like ours, were meant to live, not in bondage to sin and anxiety and unrighteousness, but hearts and minds that were meant to feast with our Father, in complete fellowship, in a relationship that nothing could mar…
and that is why He has come, why He accomplished this very cleansing, this very purification, as He hung on that cross – as every sing was stipped from us, and laid on Him.
For we were meant – heart and minds, to live in His glorious peace… and until that is revealed in all His glory, know this – you are already there – protected, guarded, kept in that peace, by the Lord who has come, in whose presence we live.
Come and see your Lord, your newborn King – and feast in His peace filled presence!
Devotional/Discussion Thought of the day:
It’s a day I dread, the Monday after a vacation. I look at my desk and there are a ton of things to do. There are services to plan, sermon preparation to be done (and prepped to share with my deacons) There is the business of being the pastor of a church. It is almost tiring just looking at the work that needs to get done this week.
More importantly, there are people I need to go see, and visit.
When I was in management at a university, Monday morning was a critical time – if I spent the first 30 minutes actually planning the week – life was so much better! Of course there would be interruptions, emergencies, things that would throw me for a loop – but the plan would be there to come back to, to restore sanity, to guide my week – and if I did 75% of the plan during the week – I could count it a good week and head off on Friday content. Attempts to do this in ministry, well, I’ve realized it is not just impossible – but completely wrong. I know contend that it was wrong even then…..
Consider this well known Bible passage:
6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33 (KJV)
another translation put it this way…
6:33 Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on God’s saving justice, and all these other things will be given you as well. Matthew 6:33 (NJB)
As a pastor and translator, there are a number of reasons I like the second version better- but this post isn’t about Greek – it is about priority setting and Monday mornings and setting out for a great week. To see that happen, the only priority that must be set, is this one – to see ourselves living this day, this week, under God’s authority and care, to realize that He has called us to righteousness, He has saved us and made us His, and we live within the realm of His authority, and as important, His responsibility. This is perhaps the first and most difficult lesson of discipleship. I am not in charge, God is, and it is His time to use, to plan out, to show me how He will craft this week in such a way that it is a gift to me, and more importantly (here is where it gets challenging) to where my week will be a blessing to others.
This is important whether you are a pastor, or a manager, or a clerk, or a student. To realize that we sit at our master’s feet, that He is in charge of setting a schedule and making it work within His will, that it is the Holy Spirit’s work to see this week holy and sanctified.
Luther talked about it by noting that we begin and end our day as being baptized – that’s the righteousness/saving justice of God. It is also explained in the catechism in regards to the First Commandment. He is your God, no other. Knowing that helps set the priorities, and helps us stay focused when life seems less than righteous around us. Another writer said it this way, “Add a supernatural motive to your ordinary professional work, and you will have sanctified it” (Escriva – The Way)
So i urge you – because I have to urge myself this morning, take the time, a few moments – even 5 minutes… and breathe, and seek to realize that incredible blessing that comes from living in His presence, where He is in charge, where things that matter are all tied to His making them right, and holy. Seek first His love and authority and responsibility, seek His making your life the way it should be…. and everything else… will fall into place.