August 6

Malachi 1-2, Psalm 64

There are many similarities in the growth and development of a physician and that of a Christian and a pastor. I had a zeal for science, so this was my focus in undergraduate college. I then went to 4 years of medical school where I crammed an exorbitant amount of facts in my head in order to regurgitate it back out in my tests. At the conclusion of medical school, I was loaded with information but knew nothing about being a physician. Throughout residency and my early years of practice, I learned the art of medicine, at which time much of that head knowledge was entering my heart in my dealings with my patients. In 2003, though an extremely busy practice, we almost lost it. Because we focused so little on the running of our business and we had just hired a corrupt and lazy business manager who wrote off most of our earnings in just one year. This required us to strike that balance between running a business while caring foremost for our patients. Many physicians over time focus more on the disease than the individual patient and allow themselves to become complacent and stale. There are also many pitfalls along the way both professionally and personally to derail from continuing along the right path. The truth is the road as a physician is a long one and it is easy to lose our way.

Most place the writing of the book of Malachi around 445 BC, which is around 90 years after that first excited group left Babylon to rebuild the temple under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua. The people along with the leaders had become comfortable and complacent. They were going through the motions of religion, but their hearts were no longer yearning for God. God always desires an authentic relationship not just an outward display of obedience and formality. We read in Malachi 1:13-14, "You also say, 'Oh, what a weariness!' And you sneer at it", Says the Lord of hosts. "And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; Thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?" says the Lord. "But cursed be the deceiver Who has in his flock a male, And takes a vow, But sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished-For I am a great King," Says the Lord of hosts, "And My name is to be feared among the nations." Though we no longer perform animal sacrifices, this speaks to us who replace giving our best to God with giving Him our leftovers. The same thing was said to the priests in Malachi 2:2, "And if you will not hear, And if you will not take it to heart, To give glory to My name,...". Malachi concludes this section in 2:17, saying, "You have wearied the Lord with your words; Yet you say, "In what way have we wearied Him?" In that you say, "Everyone who does evil Is good in the sight of the Lord, And He delights in them," Or, "Where is the God of justice?" The priests had replaced heartfelt worship with mere heartless formalities and rituals.

In ministry many men of faith have spent so much time in seminary filling their heads with good information as I did in medical school, but have neglected allowing this information to transform their hearts to become the servants of God that is necessary. Those that effectively bring forth the word of God and take to heart their flock can then fall into the next trap which is running the business of a congregation. They can get so involved in the work of the ministry: the various functions, the politics, the business, the many individual ministries that they can neglect their own personal walk with God. When the early church found themselves getting too busy to fulfill all the various needs of the congregation, we read in Acts 6:3-4, "Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word." This also holds true for every member in the body of Christ. Many of us after entering into a relationship with Christ plunge in with excitement. We read, go to church, serve, etc fervently. But over time, many begin to lose their first love (Revelation 2:4). Many stop getting up early to begin their day with Christ, instead they cram their reading in half asleep before going to bed. Many start out pouring their hearts to Him in prayer then allow themselves to transform over time into giving God a small list of petitions. Many begin focusing on every word in the lyrics of the worship music only to eventually hum along to the their favorite catchy tunes. The walk is long and it's easy to lose our way. We must return to our first love, any real relationship requires this. The main reason for the One Year Bible Challenge is as a vehicle to keep people in the entirety of God's Word so that our walk may continue and our path may remain clear, avoiding the distractions and pitfalls.

Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley:

Marj Lancaster