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Light for September

“Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.”

~ Joel 2:13

Many times throughout Scripture we are reminded that the Lord wants our hearts not our actions. For example, Hosea 6:6 says, “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” We know that our salvation comes through faith not works and yet many of us are more concerned with checking off a box than actually experiencing God.

I know for me this is often a pride issue because “I” can check off the boxes and “I” can behave properly and “I” can pray daily. Do you notice a theme? It’s all based on what “I” can do or think “I” can do. It gives me some satisfaction in my abilities rather than in the grace and mercy of the Lord. This also leads me into complacency in my relationship with the Lord because I become more concerned with behaving properly than actually having a real relationship with the Father which is exactly what Joel 2:13 is confronting.

See, this was a time when people would literally rip their clothing as an outward sign of distress and brokenness but that means nothing if your heart hasn’t truly changed. It’s like saying you’re sorry because you got caught and you want to avoid the consequences rather than actually regretting your actions. While these outward displays may fool the world, the Lord knows our hearts and He knows whether our actions are sincere or merely showy. The Father couldn’t care less about what boxes you check off each week because He wants you to truly repent of your sins and turn to Him (Acts 3:19). Think about the interaction between Jesus and the Pharisees in Matthew 23. The Lord was making the point that while the Pharisees behaved properly with their protocols, garments and religious observances, they were really like white washed tombs… clean on the outside but full of rot and death on the inside. Sounds like some folks walking around the halls of the church, huh?

Also, the Lord would rather you fumble your way through a sincere prayer than speak with eloquent but empty words. He wants the real you…not the cleaned up, social media version of yourself. He wants a real daily relationship not a Sunday visit. Yet, so many of us are working real hard to get everything on the “to do” list done without actually accomplishing anything.

Luckily, for us, the Lord, is “gracious and compassionate”. He isn’t without the understanding of our failures, in fact, He knows our failures better than we do and yet He is “slow to anger and abounding in love” when it comes to those moments BUT we’ve got to truly repent and intentionally spend time with the Father. Ask the Lord to show you where you are more focused on performance than the relationship and take decisive steps towards truly meeting the Father rather than the religious expectations.

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