Tuesday, May 16, 2006

#46 "Let Them Come As They Are...God Does!"

May 16, 2006
"Although most of the many people who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulin had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover, contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, 'May the Lord, who is good, pardon everyone who sets his heart on seeking God - the Lord, the God of his fathers - even if he is not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.' And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people." (2 Chronicles 30: 18-20)

What impresses you the most about a person? What do you think impresses God? I think that the answers to these two questions are often very different. Today's society is very looks-conscious. Things don't have to appear the way they really are for someone to be held in high esteem. Wealth, glamour, intelligence and fame are the standard for measuring a person's importance. And unfortunately the same standards often apply within the walls of the church.

Hezekiah was one of Judah's greatest kings. The northern kingdom of Israel had already fallen to the Assyrians and many people had been deported. The southern kingdom of Judah was under the judgement of God because of their idolatry and disobedience. So Hezekiah wanted to bring his kingdom back to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He purified the temple and all of it's articles. He then proceeded to have the people consecrate (set apart) themselves to the Lord. Sacrifices for sin were made according to the regulations that the Lord set forth. He revived the Passover celebration that had not been observed for many years. He even invited the remnant of northern Israel to participate. Though they were not ceremonially cleansed according to the Law of Moses, they ate the Passover. Hezekiah noticed this and prayed that the Lord would pardon them because they had hearts that were seeking God. He prayed on their behalf that God would be more impressed with the sincerity of their hearts and motives than with matters of ceremonialism. The essence of God's grace is seen in His favorable response to the king's prayer...showing us what really impresses God.

Psalm 51: 17 tells us that God will not despise a broken and contrite heart. This is a heart that is sorrowful for sin, repentant and crushed. The same psalm says that He doesn't so much delight in sacrifice as He does a bankrupt spirit. Pride, arrogance and self-righteousness have no place in what draws the heart of God. You notice that Jesus never gave much time to the Pharisees of His day. He was always drawn to those who were broken, battered, rejected by society. He wasn't impressed by all the Law keeping. He looked at the heart and He still does. He even went so far as to say, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean." and "You are like white-washed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean." (Matthew 23: 25-27) When God was looking for a king He told Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16: 7) God doesn't look at your programs, your ceremonies, or your building...He looks at the heart.

What do you look at when you consider a person? What if they don't look like you? What if their skin is a different color? What if their clothes are out of style or worse yet, dirty and threadbare? What if they smell less than favorable on a Sunday morning when they come in to your church? Do you run and find someone to "take care of them" and keep them as far from the mainstream as possible? Or do you embrace them, introduce yourself and let them sit in the pew right next to you..right among your polished friends? What do you do? What have you done? To use a worn out question, "What would Jesus do?" I suspect He wouldn't look at their appearance but would consider their heart. And each one of us is called to be like Christ. We don't need to send the hurting to the pastor or the outreach director. You are called to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty, invite the stranger in and visit the sick and those in prison. (Matthew 25: 35-46) Not someone else...you! Whether or not they look like you, talk like you or smell like you. What you do for one of the least of these.....

The Christian group 4HIM sings a song that says, "I found out the measure of a man is not how tall you stand, how wealthy or intelligent you are. I found out the measure of a man - God knows and understands - He looks inside to the bottom of your heart. And what's in the heart defines the measure of a man." I encourage us all to search our hearts this week and ask God to show us how we have been measuring the man. If it has been by appearance, prejudice and judgement, may we truly repent and ask God to change our attitudes and responses to one's that are like His. Ask Him to give you His heart for His people. Look at your own heart, your family's heart and your church's heart for people. In His strength, make the necessary adjustments.

Look, here he comes. Dirty, tattered clothes, smelling less than favorable on a Sunday morning....seeking...hurting....interrupting your program....what will you do now?

Until next week,

Donna Schultz

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