Thursday, February 16, 2012

In The Wake of Destruction

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio
Joel 2:12-14
“Even now,” declares the LORD,
   “return to me with all your heart,
   with fasting and weeping and mourning.” 
 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.
 Who knows? He may turn and have pity
   and leave behind a blessing—

Today I have been reading the book of Joel. In that book the writer describes an invasion of locust on the agricultural community of his day. He say that nothing has ever happened like this before in his life or in the memory of his forefathers.  In one resource that I was reading this morning as I thought about these passages it described it not as a one time event but a cycle over a year or more in length. The locust came in waves they would lay eggs and before long another wave would come. One after another the harvests would ripen and be destroyed. In one passage he speaks to the drunkards and drinkers of wine and tells them to wail because the new wine has been snatched from your lips. In another passage that seems poignant it says "The seeds are shriveled beneath the clods."   In another "How the cattle moan! The herds mill about because they have no pasture, even the flocks of sheep are suffering.  It paints some vivid pictures and brings to mind for me in our times tusnami, hurricanes and earthquakes and the devastation left in their wake. We witness through the window of our tv's the end of life as they knew it for other people. If they survive their life will never be the same as it was. Yes the survivors will pick up the pieces. You hear stories of people who have endured flood or fire and how in the light of those losses they realize the value of the people they love. Those who's loved ones are not lost, rejoice and re-examine their priorities. Home becomes not a place to hang your hat but the people who are dearest to you.

Joel who says of what he writes: "The word of the Lord that came to Joel the son of Pethuel". This is not just some historic account but in and through it God is speaking. In more than one place in the bible locusts are seen as the judgement of God. Ex 10:12; Joel 1:4; Rev 9:3. What do we do with the judgement of God in our 'Jesus is my buddy and pal' kind of mentality of the church of our day. While that familiarity is wonderful and I encourage people to a personal relationship with Jesus. I wonder that we sometimes loose sight of his awesome might and power. My point is that sometimes in that familiarity we forget the wonder and power the holiness of God. Do you tremble in His presence?
Jeremiah 5:12 Should you not fear me?" declares the LORD. "Should you not tremble in my presence? I made the sand a boundary for the sea, an everlasting barrier it cannot cross. The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail; they may roar, but they cannot cross it.

Who do we blame for devastation?  Is it the judgement of God upon people who's hearts were hard. Is it just the natural effects of how we have cared for the planet that we live or simply part of a natural cycle of earth changes.  We want to draw black and white conclusion and often the lines are fuzzy.
We want to know where was God when this bad thing happened? Who is to blame for this we demand. As if knowing will some how justify or bring back that which was lost.

In this book this devastation is said to be from the Lord upon a people who have repeatedly turned from him. Joel cries out them to not just follow the convention of grieving of that day to rip their garments and go about in rags. He tells them rend your hearts. Does your heart break over the things that breaks the heart of God?  God is not looking for ritualistic outward change from us. He wants our hearts to change. I am convinced that our hearts do not change with out being found in his presence regularly. I don't understand the actions and motivations of a stranger. How can I understand God if I do not spend time with him in the pages of his Word or time with him in Worship or in Prayer.

Some of you are facing devastation of life as you know it. Perhaps its the loss of a loved one, a divorce, mental illness, financial ruin, personal illness, perhaps a fire, or a car wreck or any number of things. In this moment you know that your life as you have known it has changed. 

I do know that we serve a God who is just. He does not just turn his head and ignore sin and its effects. He can't simply excuse some and punish others - to do so would negate justice. Justice must be served and we all have sinned and fallen short of his glory.  It is not only that 'Jesus loves me this I know for the bible tells me so'. He does, in that love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Jesus leaves heaven and comes to earth and takes the place in the judgement that we each deserve. He makes a way that we might return to a right relationship with God. It is through his sacrifice. He forces it on no one, we are at liberty to choose to accept what he has provided or not. It is not that he comes to condem us, we stand condemned already. (John 3:18).  The poison of sin in our lives is working and it is only a matter of time before it finally leads to death. A loving God sends us an antidote. We have to decide if we will use it or not.

I am not here to say if the things you are facing are necessarily Gods judgement. They may simply be the out come of your choices and decisions or the decisions of others. We live in a fallen world and we feel the effects of sin upon it. What you are facing may be a demonic attack. I can't draw that line in the sand for you. I can encourage you to turn to God - hear what He would say to you.  Most often change is brought about in a violent sort of way. In a sense we come to the end of our self sufficiency, when everything we know to do has come up empty - we turn to God in our desperation.
 We have in that moment the opportunity to go down in dispare and accept the verdict or the diagnosis or we can turn to God and receive his instruction.  I have over many years watched how people respond to destruction. They will allow it to propel them further in God as they overcome,  or they will shake their fist and blame God for their troubles and be consumed by them.

How about you will you identify with the verdict before you, that you are done for, your life is over, and hopeless beyond repair? Or will you reach out to God who loves you and who is bigger than all your problems. Will you come to that place of realizing your desperate need for Him in every part of our life. Yes he could perhaps have kept the bad things from happening in the first place but over and over I see him receive glory in taking what is devastated and bringing restoration. It is often a long journey as we learn to see our selves through his eyes and in the light of his purposes.
What does God say about you? What is his verdit? Who's report will you believe?
We can't always say why things happen but we can choose how we will respond.

Today what ever you are facing big or small turn to God and allow him to come in and give you His direction. 

Dear Lord,
You know the circumstances and the things readers are facing today. Life can at times becomes overwhelming and out of control. There are those moments in life when we realize that everything we knew or thought we knew has changed. There is no going back and the choice before us is to go down in defeat or to turn to you in the midst of the crisis. Help us Lord to not just tear our garments in some religious display of piety or false humility but to truly turn to you and accept you as our Lord and Savior who loves us. Help us to realize that if we allow you, you will come in to the middle of what ever we are facing and show us your plan, your purpose and your direction. We invite you Lord to come in to our life and its circumstances. Help us to see where we need to change. Help us to walk out those changes, decision by decision, one step at time. Help us to become not to identify with what we are in this moment but to begin to see all that you would have us to become.

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