Sunday, June 17, 2018

Welcome back!

God, your God, will cut away the thick calluses on your heart and your children's hearts, freeing you to love God, your God, with your whole heart and soul and live, really live... And you will make a new start, listening obediently to God, keeping all his commandments that I'm commanding you today. God, your God, will outdo himself in making things go well for you: you'll have babies, get calves, grow crops, and enjoy an all-around good life. Yes, God will start enjoying you again, making things go well for you just as he enjoyed doing it for your ancestors. But only if you listen obediently to God, your God, and keep the commandments and regulations written in this Book of Revelation. Nothing halfhearted here; you must return to God, your God, totally, heart and soul, holding nothing back. This commandment that I'm commanding you today isn't too much for you, it's not out of your reach. It's not on a high mountain—you don't have to get mountaineers to climb the peak and bring it down to your level and explain it before you can live it. And it's not across the ocean—you don't have to send sailors out to get it, bring it back, and then explain it before you can live it. No. The word is right here and now—as near as the tongue in your mouth, as near as the heart in your chest. Just do it! (Deuteronomy 30:6-14 MSG)

It does not catch God by surprise to find our hearts wandering, our focus dwindling, and our attitude twisting toward things which should not really get our attention. While it would please him most for us to be consistent in our focus and attentiveness toward the things he loves and blesses, he knows it is hard for us. He also knows we sometimes have no clue we are even being lured away by our apathy, or some laxity we have allowed in our lives. Therefore, he reminds us there is a way for restoration when it is needed - as heart devotion wanes, it can be restored by embracing the truth of his Word and 'beginning again' where we left off. Most of us know the "way back" is never as easy as the steps we took in our wandering away - but as long as we use the tools he has that guide us back into a place of restored grace, we will find our path restored. 
Our return to a straight path is conditioned on heeding, or paying attention, to the things that begin to surface in our lives. The first step back is to recognize that we even need to make a turn in the first place!

Do right, and we enjoy blessing; if we pursue wrong purposes,we experience curses upon our nation - not just our own house, but our wrong-doing actually affects other lives around us because there are always others watching what we do. God says we need to "tune into" our lives a little better (and a little more consistently), allowing the Holy Spirit to expose our motivations, our heart attitudes, and then weigh them against what God defines for us in his Word as "righteousness". If we find ourselves falling away from the "standards" he defines there, then it is time to make an about-face and come back to center again. "No matter how far away you end up, God, your God, will get you out of there..." This is the promise in scripture - for those that acknowledge they need a 'return' can be assured he will be there to help them return. That should squelch all doubt we have in our minds that we could ever drift away from God unnoticed by his watchful eye, or unreachable by his caring hand.

WHEN we drift (and not IF we drift), God is a restoring God - scripture makes it quite clear that it won't always be a 'consistent path' we walk - we will drift. When we recognize our condition, then respond to the grace God is extending, and take the identified actions to return, look at the actions God takes on our behalf:

-He brings us back - it is not OUR efforts that get us "back on track" in our walk, but his!
-He removes the calloused parts of our heart - freeing us again to love him with our entire heart. Think about a callous for just a moment - it is hard, unsightly, and abrasive to everything it touches. It is also pretty impenetrable. If a "physical" callous was around our heart muscle, the heart would be so restricted that the normal and regular beating of that heart would be impossible. God is the one to remove those callouses of our spiritual heart - removing our "restriction" in obedient worship of him.
-He places us in the very circumstances where we can make a new start - dealing on our behalf with our enemy (our own lust, our immense pride, and even the devil himself). Our part is to listen obediently - callouses removed, giving us freedom to "beat again" in unison with his heart, we are free to listen and respond.
-He will outdo even himself - in making things go well with us! He blesses us over and over again - outdoing all we could ever imagine about his grace, his love or his ability on our behalf.
-He will ENJOY us - it absolutely amazes me that God could ENJOY me! Sometimes I don't even bring much joy to myself - much less others - so how could I ever bring joy to him? Yet, he says we will become a thing of enjoyment to him.

Our part is to hold nothing back - no half-hearted attempts at obedience. God knows we will slip up from time to time. He also knows he will give us grace to get up again and move on. The worst thing we can tell ourselves is that we can never move on in life. It is the heart attitude he is focused on here - one of commitment, dedication, and entirety in our responsiveness. If you have ever found yourself moving at a speed of 45 mph down a busy surface street, approaching the intersection, and suddenly the light turns from green to amber, you make a split-second decision to screech to a stop and possibly have a multi-car pile-up, or plunge on through the intersection in spite of that amber light - risking even more. If you decide to do the latter, it means you are "committed" due to the speed of your vehicle, the traffic coming at a face pace behind you, etc. Commitment describes a determination that drives us forward, truly calculating the risks, and then acting in spite of those risks. That is what God expects of us - make a commitment - allow it to drive us forward despite what we see may be the risks. When we do, he stands ready to restore us.

His word to us is to "come back". His action on our behalf is to "welcome us back". His blessing to us in coming back is to "take back" what we have lost and restore it to us completely. Don't get bogged down in the fact that you may have wandered - listen obediently to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit, respond with an open heart, and come on back! Just sayin!