I'm preparing for my message this weekend. I'm teaching through the purpose of our church right now. Our purpose is "pursuing God's fame". We try to live that out in 6 areas that make the acronym, PURSUE; Passionate worship, Unchurched people, Remaining faithful to God's Word, Stewardship, Understanding God's heart for the poor, and Equipping the church.
This week we're talking about pursuing God's fame by understanding God's heart for the poor. I love this topic, though I stand ashamed at how little I look like Jesus each time I study it.
One of the texts we're looking at is Isaiah 58:6-9. God is giving his people a picture of what real fasting looks like. It wasn't at all what they were doing, or what we do much of the time. The Israelites were actually praying things like, "God, don't you see what's going on? We're humbling ourselves. We're fasting. Are you noticing?" Here are some of the words God spoke in response to their hypocritical seeking of Him.
"Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, 'Here I am.'"
That sure looks a lot like Jesus to me. That's how he lived. And it reminds me how far I am from practically living like Him. I've NEVER brought the homeless poor into my house. I've thought about it a lot. But I guess that classifies me with several of the Pharisees who probably went home fantasizing about the same thing, yet remaining hypocrites.
I'm praying with John the Baptist, "(Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease," (John 3:30). I wrote at the beginning that this is a topic that I love. My prayer is that it will no longer be a topic for me, but rather lived in such a way that when my sons come across the words of Isaiah 58 sometime in their life their response will be, "That sure looks a lot like my dad."