Wicked: The Justice to Come


If you’re following along at home we’ve been reading one chapter of the Bible each day. So far this year you’ve read 2 John, 2 Peter, 2 Thessalonians, 2 Timothy, 3 John, Colossians, Habakkuk, Haggai, Joel, Jonah, Jude, Nahum, Obadiah, Philemon, Philippians, Romans, Ruth, Zephaniah, and today we’ll finish Malachi.

Congratulations! In just a couple of months you have read 19 books of the Bible! You’ve read 9 from the Old Testament and 10 from the New. That’s about a quarter of the Old Testament and a third of the New. What do you know now that you didn’t know before? Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow as you keep going.

We’ll finish Malachi today. Next we begin the books of the Bible that have 5 chapters. Let’s go to 1 Thessalonians. 5 chapters. 5 days. You’ll complete your 20th book of the Bible!


Malachi 4

Malachi 4 is prophetic. It tells two stories. The first is about the end of the world as we know it. The day will come when the wicked receive their just rewards. Right now I have three friends who are learning to live with the wicked choices of people they love. Their choices are ripping their family apart. It hurts to watch them go through the pain. It’s frustrating to see justice delayed. I want God to fix it. I want to see his wrath, judgment and vengeance poured out on the ones causing the problem. As a friend, I’m a step removed from the situation, but I still have a hard time controlling the anger I feel toward those who have caused the problem. I can’t imagine how my friends are working through it.

Because of situations like these I don’t know if the first part of Malachi 4 is reassuring or terrifying. The wicked will be punished. While I’m glad for the justice it doesn’t have to be this way. The wicked could repent. The lost could be found. They could come to their senses. That’s what I hope and pray, but we know how things really work. Some will repent. Some will not. Those who don’t will one day face the justice of Malachi 4. They will eventually be nothing more than dust under the feet of God’s people. Reassuring…and terrifying.

There’s another prophecy here. This prophecy tells how people can avoid the punishment described in the first part of the chapter. It reveals how the wicked can be redeemed. Malachi points to a messenger who will preach repentance. He says, “His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers…” (Malachi 4:6)

Imagine how different our world would be if children were inspired by their fathers. What if fathers could look at their children and honestly say, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ”?

I can’t think of anything our world needs more.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for your word and how you use that word to challenge, strengthen and encourage me. Thank you for those who are reading along with me. May you bless them with your favor today. Keep the heart of my children turned toward me. Help me to be a father who inspires his kids. Give me the strength and courage to make choices that would allow me to honestly say to my kids, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” Let the heart of my family always be turned toward you, our Heavenly Father.

For my friends who are hurting right now because of the wicked choices of others I pray that you would give them strength and endurance. Stand with them. Remind them of your presence. Work in their favor. Frustrate the plans of the ones making wrong choices and bless the plans of the ones making right choices. Let your justice be satisfied. Grant them the gift of repentance. Give them the capacity for forgiveness. Help them come to their sense. God, fix this.

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad

Generosity: How Jesus Will Make Much of You


Malachi 3

Malachi 3 is a big chapter. If you’ve been in church for any length of time you’ll be familiar with the passage that says, “Would a man rob God?” The rest of that passage challenges us to test God’s faithfulness by giving our tithes and offerings. Those are important principles to learn. We don’t give to receive. We don’t give out of compulsion or coercion. The truth is, we don’t even give because the church needs our money. We give because we need to learn to give. One of God’s goals for his people is that we would learn to be generous. Generosity is quality of character that can be developed. Systematic, percentage giving is the discipline that strengthens that quality of character much like running strengthens your cardiovascular system. If you’re not systematically giving away a percentage of your income to some good godly purpose on a regular basis I want to challenge you to begin. Generosity reveals a depth of love you’ll never fully grasp until you do.

But that’s not what I want us to focus on today. Malachi 3:3 says, “He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross…”

Malachi 3 begins with a prophecy about John the Baptist. It says that someone will come to prepare the way for the Savior. It then says the Savior will come and begin to refine his people into a worthy offering to God. With this in mind it reshapes our conversation about giving money to the church. God, through Jesus is refining you into an incredible offering to God. Did you catch that? Jesus, practicing the discipline of generosity, is creating an offering to give to his father. Here’s the best part, you are the gift Jesus intends to give.

Malachi 3 says that he is refining you like a refiner of silver. He puts you through the fire to remove the dross. The dross is all the useless parts of the metal, those parts that will never add value to anyone or anything. So often when we go through the fire we get distracted and discouraged by the dross in our lives. But here’s what’s important to remember, the purpose of the fire isn’t the dross. The purpose of the fire is the silver. The dross is discarded.  What remains will be worth more than you can imagine.

I don’t know what fire you face today, but Jesus is refining you into an offering whose value is immeasurable. It’s not about the fire. It’s not about the dross. Truth be told, it’s not really even about the silver, but about the one who gives the gift and the one to whom the gift is given.

Today you may hurt because of the fire. You may feel like you’re swimming in dross. But hold on. Jesus is remaking you into a remarkable offering of inestimable value to be given to his father. As he presents you to God the windows of heaven will be open and the blessings of God will overflow. Let Jesus make much of you today. Practice the discipline of generosity. Recognize that you are being refined into Christ’s generous gift to his father and for that, you are worth more than you can possibly imagine.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for sending your son. Thank you for the fire you put me through to remove the dross from my life. I don’t like the fire. I regret the dross. But I look forward to the day you will present me to our father as a perfect offering. May each day I become shaped more closely to the image you have in mind for me. May I give to you and to others out of the abundance of what you have given me. May I learn generosity. May I give more than I think I can afford and trust you to provide. May I add value to your kingdom and to everyone I encounter today.

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad

Post-Christian: Leaving Faith Behind


Malachi 1 & 2

Malachi is a minor prophet. Minor doesn’t mean insignificant. It means short. Minor prophet. Major message.

For more than 2000 years the Christian faith has influenced art, culture, government, economics and science. For a thousand years the church was the storehouse of knowledge, the stimulus for original thought and on the cutting edge of art and academics. We still experience the effect today. Hospitals bear the names of saints and denominations: St. John’s and St. Francis, Baptist and Presbyterian. These centers for science and healing find their foundation in the church. Many of our Ivey League Universities began as seminaries. The culture and traditions you live in, regardless of your belief or practice of faith, would be vastly different if not for the effects of Christianity. I believe the world is better for it.

But that’s not a popular thought today. We live in a world that is increasingly post-Christian. Faith is viewed as the enemy of science. Some circles consider faith a childish crutch for the ignorant and uneducated rather than the foundation of every other intellectual discipline. The sins of Christian culture and history, of which there are many, are amplified while the good that has been done is ignored or attributed to some other source.

Interestingly enough, this is nothing new. Malachi addresses the Old Testament, Jewish version of this very thing.

Listen to Malachi 1:2, “I have always loved you,” says the Lord. But you retort, “Really? How have you loved us?”

The level of insolence of the children of Israel is remarkable. But it’s a level of insolence we experience everyday. It happens so often we’ve almost gotten used to it. Our nation is blessed. We’ve experienced the favor of God like no other nation in the history of the world. Yet when the gospel is preached, when truth is presented, when God is discussed our national response, “Really? How have you loved us?”

Our problem is simple. We want to blame our failures on God and our successes on our own rugged self-determination. We may choose to ‘worship God’, but like the children of Israel in Malachi 1 we do it on our own terms rather than on God’s terms. We offer up lame or stolen sacrifices. We shape our worship to reinforce what we think rather than what God wants. You see God’s response in Malachi 1:10, ““How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered!” In other words, God would rather see churches shut down than see people falsely worship him. And we’re seeing that happen today. The influence of the church is waning. People of the Christian faith are being marginalized.

Chapter 2 reveals why. It’s not simply because of the wickedness of non-Believers. They’re non-Believers. Wicked or not we should expect them to doubt the faith, deny it’s significance and work to minimize the influence of the church. Malachi identifies the problem. He says it’s the people in the church.

Malachi 2:2, “Listen to me and make up your minds to honor my name,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies…” He’s talking to the priests. He’s talking to the children of Israel.

Remarkably, in chapter one he says that there are non-Jewish people who worship him more purely than his chosen people. I see that today. There are people, disconnected from the church, who worship God more admirably than many who are in church every time the doors are open.

Malachi 2:2 offers the challenge and the solution. Listen to God. Honor his name.

That’s about coming to God on HIS terms. It’s about offering to God what he wants rather than what’s convenient for you. It’s about giving more than you think you can afford and trusting God to provide. It’s about surrender and submission. It’s about knowing his word and his will so well that you can actually live by them. It’s about recognizing the amazing number of ways God has expressed his love for you.

Regardless of our culture we can listen to God and honor him. What will you do today?

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for the many ways you have expressed your love for me. I am remarkably blessed. May I never forget it. Today I hope to recognize and remember even more ways you have demonstrated your love for me. I want to worship you in the way you choose. I want to hear your voice and honor you.

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad