I'm just a few days removed from returning home from a week long study break with Dr. Jody Owens and some great friends. We spent a week looking at the depth and richness of "The Book of the 12" or Minor Prophets. I know it sounds amazing right - well to this Bible nerd it was more than amazing. For days I felt if God was feeding me with a fire hose. But all I could think about in my down time was the idea of "RETURN" and how this concept is scattered throughout the Old and New Testaments. The concept of "RETURN" is everywhere. The idea of returning to God is almost nausating at the amount of times the Scriptures speak to this idea of "RETURN" and for the most part - I've missed it - I've missed it for years!
With this revelation that I've missed it! I decided to get to work and put my thoughts and lessons together for others to see. It's kinda like I wanted to invite you inside my brain and how I process the information. I thought if God is going to change my mind and my heart - He might as well have a crack at yours at the same time.
So, I would like to invite you on a jounrey with me. I would like for you to join me on discovering just what it means to "RETURN" to the Father and help people along the way "RETURN" to a blessed life - one full of God's very best! I would like for you to join me as we discover what it means to please God in such a way that our lives are full of hope, restoration and concern for this broken world like we've never had before as we daily live for God and live with people of all different backgrounds and issues. Will you join me? I pray that you will. And I pray that you'll share this with someone else, so that, we can go together.
If you're still here reading, I'm assuming that you are going to appease me for a few more paragraphs at least. So thank you!
One of the first things that I noticed about the "minor prophets" or the "Book of the 12" is their understanding that the message they shared was from God and not from themselves. They understood the importance of clearly speaking God's ultimate message of hope, restoration and salvation in the midst of speaking clearly about God's wrath poured out on evil and God's call back to obedience and faithfulness.
It seems that this group of 12 was not so interested in answering the question of "why is their evil in the world", but rather, "what was God going to do about evil in the world". They seemed to have a very clear message - How will God's people ultimately "RETURN".
This brings me to the start of our journey together.
It all starts for me in 2013 and the decision for our family to adopt internationally. We had three biological children at the time, but felt the tremendous pull on our hearts to adopt. This desire had been there for some time, but we had not moved or been very active in pursuing this tug. But in 2013 that all changed. It was as if God simply said, "You're ready and I've got this". To be honest, I heard that message very clearly as I sat in our living room watching "Machine Gun Preacher" (not a movie for the weak at heart). There was no doubt that God had this planned and it was time to act.
Now for the next almost 4 years our family would be put through some pretty difficult situations and circumstances. I'm confessing that I had to repair a few drywall holes and had to ask God for mercy and grace - a lot! It was one of the most difficult seasons of our lives. But remember - God said He had this! So we trusted that God, in fact, had this!
Why do I start with our families adoption... Well I start with adoption because I now understand what it means to long for a person that you deeply love to "RETURN" home and just be where you are. The time spent apart from Roman and Adia was heart wrenching. All I wanted was for my entire family to be in ONE place - TOGETHER!
I wanted my kids to grow together, laugh together, cry together, and simply just be together. I didn't want anything to separate them. I didn't want them to hurt anymore or be afraid or alone. I simply wanted them to all be in ONE place - TOGETHER! This for me was what I deeply wanted and this was what I poured my "everything" into. During this time - I believe I understood (in a very small way) the heart of my heavenly Father. I think for the first time, I understood what He wanted from me and for me. I was never more close to my Father; nor was I any more focused on His plan for our family.
That has however, grown weary with the pain and hardships and choices in life. That closeness to God comes and goes and I think for the first time in a really long time - the study of minor prophets have once again sparked the flame of God's heart in my own heart.
You see, I prayed a prayer before adopting our two kids from Africa. I prayed: "God let me see what you see, let me feel what you feel, let me love like you love and let me do what you've asked of me." A very dangerous prayer and one that I prayed often. It was this prayer that kept me focused on the mission at hand - our kids in the DRC! This prayer was the prayer that helped me understand God's desire for people - ALL PEOPLE!
As I prayed this prayer thoughout our adoption experience, I begin to see that God had a great desire for people to return to Him and be close to Him. Through adoption, I could give an opportunity for an orphan to know God and love God and ultimately (with lots of prayers) return back to the God that created them and gave them life. These two kids would be the vechile in which I saw God move and move mountains. What happened over the next few years would change me forever!
But to open and if I"m being honest - once they were with us - once they "RETURNED" - I stopped praying that prayer. Now I've prayed some different prayers along the way, but I stopped praying that one particular one. Why did I stop? I'm not sure. I'm not even sure when I stopped. I just know that I haven't prayed that for some time. And what I've come to understand is this prayer helped me see God's heart in a way that I've never seen it before. I believe this prayer helped me see the essence of God's desire for His children.
This prayer helped me see the heart of God's message to His people throughout the lives and ministries of the prophets. God has a great desire for all of His children to return back to Him. This is played out all through the Old and New Testaments. God has a great desire to bless his children, protect them and be close to them. God also has a great desire to punish evil and make right the wrong that is found when people turn from God and do as they want. God has a heart for hope, He has a plan for restoration and He has made it clear that those that hurt "these little ones" will pay a very heavy price. Who are these "little ones"? They are you and me!
God's heart breaks at the sight of evil. His heart longs for people to be free from evil. God wants to give a way back to Him and wants to help people live the best life possible. But the fact remains true - evil is all around us - we are held captive by its stranglehold - we are caught in its snare. We are broken by sin and led astray. But as we will see - God's wants us to know Him, trust Him, obey Him... and love Him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. He wants us to do that same very thing to our neighbors. He has a plan for restoration!
Zechariah 1:3-4 English Standard Version
3 Therefore say to them, Thus declares the Lord of hosts: Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. 4 Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets cried out, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, Return from your evil ways and from your evil deeds.’ But they did not hear or pay attention to me, declares the Lord.
Malachi 3:7 New Living Translation
7 Ever since the days of your ancestors, you have scorned my decrees and failed to obey them. Now return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
Joel 2:12-13 New Revised Standard Version
12 Yet even now, says the Lord,
return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
13 rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Return to the Lord, your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
and relents from punishing.
As we take a look at God's message and the way He spoke through His prophets - we will see God's plan for ultimate victory has never changed and is still active today for all of those who will "RETURN". Our Father deeply desires for His people to follow the example of His Son - Jesus Christ. I hope you'll join me as we discover how to "RETURN".