It is Vain to Serve God.

“Your words have been hard against me, says the LORD. But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’ You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts?” (Malachi 3:13-14 ESV)

Be honest.  In your heart of hearts, in the weakness of faithlessness, have you ever uttered something to this effect?

  • “It’s just not worth it.”
  • “What have I gotten out of this?”
  • “This is too hard.”
  • “I keep sacrificing, and for what?  This??”

We all have seasons like this, because we are made of dust.  The blessing is that He remembers this.  He knows what was used to craft us.  He knows the frailty that consumes us.

Let’s turn the tables.  What motivated the Savior to sacrifice Himself for us?  It was love.  Love, and the joy that was set before Him (that we would all one day be reunited and be one together with Him–John 17).  He could very easily have said any one of those things I listed above.  We fail.  We fall.  We faint.  But it is love that was the impetus that drove Him to the cross.  It is love that must spur us on as well.  If it is payback, reward, ease…then we will shrink in disappointment, because this world is tainted with the sin of the fall, and we are corrupted along with it.  This life is a series of imperfections.

Cultivate your love for Him, if you sense your spirit sagging, your resolve flagging.  Love can motivate the human heart to otherwise unattainable heights.  Read the word.  Speak with Him.  Get to a quiet place so you can hear His replies.  Remind yourself of His greatness, His goodness, His pity, mercy, and grace.

He remembers.  We need to as well.

My Gloom…His Hand

Alack, thou knowest not

How little worthy of any love thou art!

Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee

Save Me, save only Me?

All which I took from thee I did but take,

Not for thy harms.

But just that thou might’st seek it in my arms.

All which thy child’s mistake

Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home;

Rise, clasp My hand, and come!”

Halts by me that footfall;

Is my gloom, after all,

Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?

“Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,

I am He Whom thou seekest!

Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.”

Francis Thompson (1859-1907)


I am grateful for the word of God, which serves as a mirror to my soul.  The scripture says,

23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” ~James 1:23-35

See, I often don’t like what I see.  It is not a matter of forgetting.  It is a matter of shame, and sometimes denial.  But I have found encouragement lately.

As I stand before that mirror, my Savior stands beside me.  I lift my eyes to the reflection of myself.

As I give my image a sideways glance, I whisper to Him, “That’s….me.”  I know He sees beyond my outward appearance.  My gaze falls in shame to the floor.

Then, He moves close, and puts His left arm around my shoulder.

“You have taken me as your Savior.  Diane, you are mine.”  With His nail-pierced right hand, He lifts my chin.  I look into the glass again.

He then points His finger to His own reflection beside mine and says with warmth, “From Heaven, you look like this.”

“…THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS…Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. …Christ in you, the hope of glory…” ~Jeremiah 23:6; 1 John 4:10; Colossians 1:27

Redemption…Is It Easy?

This keeps playing in my head.  There are so many things in scripture that seem to be conflicting, but aren’t.  This is the great mystery of God…if you think you’ve got Him all figured out, tied up in a nice, neat little package, with all your questions answered, then you don’t know the God I know.

So, is redemption easy?

From God’s standpoint, yes and no.  Yes, it is easy because He loves you with an everlasting love and is not willing that any should perish.  Like the father of the prodigal, He waits with eager heart and loving arms for all who will come to Him.  From the time the world was formed…even before…He knew your name, and loved you so much that the plan was already in the works for your salvation.

That is why the answer is also “no.”  The cost was high.  The price was excruciatingly painful.  Have other men endured pain equal to that of the physical pain on the cross?  Probably so.  But no other man suffered as the Lord Jesus.  Perfectly just God, He suffered the injustices of wicked men.  Everything that led up to His crucifixion would cause Him to humble Himself, refusing to exercise the indignation of perfect righteousness.  His wounds were ugly, vicious, and undeserved.  He bore them in silence.  This is not a human reaction, but the decisive resignation of the Savior to bear all of this for you and me.  Do you know what it is like to be one with God?  To be part of a trinity that is three and yet also one in unity?  When Christ bore our sin, that unity was severed…so much so that Christ Himself said that He felt “forsaken.”  Do you know what it is like to experience this?  I think this was the most torturous aspect of the entire plan.  No, in this way your redemption was not at all easy.

How about you?  If you have trusted Christ, was your redemption easy?  Again, as the prodigal personified, you came to the realization that you had sinned against your Father.  You approach him, and instead of having to beg at the door, you find him running down the path to greet you with a loving, tearful embrace.  Is that hard to receive?  No.  With overwhelming joy and relief, you collapse in His arms.  So what is the hard part?  Well, if you are truly regenerate, you understand that there is a very difficult truth to address.  You must come to grips with the fact that you are wrong.  You are not “all that”…you are ignorant, simple, imperfect, helpless, hopeless.  Did you find that initially easy to swallow?  Probably not, without the aid of grace.  I rejected the gospel for years because I was too full of myself to let anyone else in.  There simply was no room.  But then I realized He loves me…”just as I am”…as the song says.  He loved me, though I was filthy from the world, my hands were empty.  My stubborn heart that had been so hard, was overwhelmed by this.  Such love is irresistible, once we are awakened to it.  And so, we come full circle.  Trust Him who cannot lie, and in whom everything is “Yea” and “Amen”?  Accept His gift, which cost me nothing but setting aside feeble pride?  Oh yes, that was easy.

“Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
3 Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live… Isaiah 55:1-3


Allowing God to handle the injustices in our lives is not passivity.  On the contrary, it requires a great deal of exertion.  I have found that human beings do not wield the sword of “righteous indignation” well.  In most cases, they end up wounding themselves and others unnecessarily.  Anger, no matter how righteous, is not managed well by sinful beings.  It often implodes.  It destroys a person from the inside out, both physically and spiritually.  Anger and the subsequent stress destroy the body and morph into bitterness, aggression, arrogance and brooding contempt.

This passage was included in my morning reading today:

But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,
that you may take it into your hands;
to you the helpless commits himself;
you have been the helper of the fatherless.~Psalm 10

I decided a long time ago, when one of our children was the victim of grievous sin, that I had to forgive and give my hurts to God.  Also, I found that brandishing mercy and unconditional love is quite a bit harder than exercising anger.  It is difficult to show forgiveness toward the unlovable in a selfish way.  Evening the score is gratifying to the flesh.  Bestowing mercy is not.  It requires a keen understanding of the degree of mercy we all have already received… without asking for it:

For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.  But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. ~Romans 5:6-8

We are to be like Him, and humble ourselves (Phil 2).  We have a strange notion (rooted in selfishness and pride) that we are not required to grant forgiveness until it is deserved…or at least until the other person offers an apology and shows “enough” remorse.  This is wrong.  If this were the nature of forgiveness, where would we be?  Still hopelessly lost.  We are quick to say that salvation is not by works, and yet we contradict ourselves when we demand our pound of flesh as satisfaction before we will extend a forgiving hand to an offender.  I have written before about the fallacy of “closure” in modern psychology.  It simply does not jive with scripture.

In the case I alluded to, I have chosen to love that individual who sinned against our child.  There was never an apology.  There was no remorse, although there was an admission of guilt.  I do not know what is happening in that person’s life today, but I pray there has been victory.  I pray the Hound of Heaven will continue to pursue that individual until there is rest.  He can do that more steadfastly and lovingly than I can.

I know now that until I first release the matter into His hands, I cannot move forward.  There may be more that is required of me in the situation, but until I make it over this hurdle, restoration cannot be accomplished.  This is my responsibility.  Please note that I did not say it is easy; but it is right, and very freeing.  It is not a natural response.  We are not naturally wired to “turn the other cheek”…our reflex is to raise our hand and retaliate.  No, this is entirely supernatural.