Sunday, July 15, 2018

Cleaning House

   Sometimes I’m not as thorough as I should be when cleaning house.  I might miss getting into the corners when I sweep or leave the dust bunnies under the sofa.  When dusting I don’t always get to the places that are the hardest to reach.  Eventually those places that I don’t pay as much attention to require even more attention.  When they get to the point that they can no longer be ignored I fuss because they are now much more difficult to take care of.  If only I’d done it right all along it wouldn’t be a problem.

   I’m the same way when doing yard work.  When weeding, the big obvious ones get pulled but the small ones down close to the ground sometimes get left alone.  After all, they’re small and you can’t really see them.  Of course the next time I weed those small ones are the big ones and there are many more small ones to deal with.  Again, if I’d done it right the first time it would be much easier to keep up with.

   Cleaning our spiritual house is much the same.  We see the big problems but sometimes overlook the little things.  If we’ve told lies we ask forgiveness.  But if we complained under our breath at the driver who cut us off I think we sometimes feel that was justified and therefore not a problem.  Just as when sweeping or weeding, those small things become big things.  The under the breath yelling at the other driver becomes vocal and maybe accompanied by inappropriate hand signals.

   The small things are the playground of Satan.  The bit of peevishness we show toward our spouse or children can become more bitter and nastier.  The speck of dust left in the corner of our soul becomes infested with the spiders of sin spawned by the evil one.  That tiny little weed of apathy left in the flower bed may grow and smother out the beautiful rose bush of love and joy.

   Just as our house needs a thorough cleaning and our garden a thorough weeding, so too our soul.  If we want the Lord to live within us we must provide Him with a proper dwelling.

”Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord; though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1: 18)   

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Giving All

   A baseball player spends hours in the batting cage to improve his ability to hit the ball more often and further.  Pitchers and catchers spend hours watching films of their opponents to better pitch to them and increase the chances of striking them out.  People sometimes say they are giving 110% to the game.

   An employee who works to achieve what others have been unable to accomplish is praised for the nights and weekends put into the effort.  They are said to have “given it their all”.

   Do we give 110% to our spiritual life?  Are we giving it our all to better know, love and serve our God?  If not, why not?  Our place in eternity is of far greater value than hitting a baseball or getting the job done at work.  Yet it seems this type of effort isn’t as prevalent in faith as in other aspects of our life.

   I think part of the reason for not giving all to our faith life is fear.  We are afraid of finding that God wants more of us than we want to give.  He wants all of us, not just the portion we are willing to offer.  God wants us to be with Him every day of our lives, not just on Sunday.  His will for us requires more than a partial effort on our part.  It requires that we give Him our all; 110% of our effort.

   We shouldn’t expect Christianity to be a part time calling.  Jesus gave us His all, not just for one or two days a week but everyday of His life.  The apostles gave up the life they knew to live one of evangelization, persecution and death for the kingdom of God.  Throughout history many have given their lives rather than deny their faith.  They truly gave their all to God.

   We need to sit with the bible; study it; pray about it.  We need to sit with God; listen to Him; ask what he wants of us and be prepared to accept His answer.  There is nothing of more benefit to us than to learn God’s will and choose to follow it.  This is the relationship with God that will change your life and perhaps the world.

   “And every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.” (Matt 19: 29)

Friday, July 13, 2018

False Altars

   The books of the Old Testament document many altars to false gods that the Israelites wrongfully worshipped.  As soon as they were freed from the slavery of Egypt they grew impatient with God, created a golden calf, and worshipped it.  They worshipped the pagan god Baal and others.  Each time God punished them for their infidelity and forgave them when they returned to Him.

   We also bow to false gods at manmade altars.  There is an argument to be made that society is in the shape it’s in today because of our false worship.  Just as the Israelites turned from God we also have turned to the gods of our times rather than the one true God.

   The false god where most worship is found at the altar of “me”.  We worship what we want with no regard to the value of our desire or the consequences of receiving what we worship.

   The god of pride causes us to believe we have the answers.  We can determine what is good for ourselves.  Our first parents worshipped at this altar and found themselves banned from the Garden of Eden.

   We worship at the altar of freedom, falsely believing that there can be freedom without responsibility.  We take the great gift of free will and turn it against the One who gave it to us.

   We bow to the god of money.  We forget that nothing of this world is of lasting value, selling our souls cheaply to obtain earthly wealth.

   The god of self-image calls us to it’s altar.  We worship youth, beauty, sexuality and health.  Those who don’t meet the desired image are shunned and turned away.  Jesus turned no one away.

   We all worship false gods at their altars in some areas of our lives.  They are easy to recognize if look closely; they have no lasting peace or joy.  They can be avoided through prayer and love of God.

   “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands.  They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see.  They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell.  They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat.  Those who make them are like them; so are all who trust in them.  (Psalm 115: 4-8)

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Of What Worth

Of what worth am I Lord?  I am like smoke dispersed by the breeze.  I am a leaf blowing in the conflicting winds of the world; a rudderless ship, tossed about by the waves.

Only as a voice for You am I of any value.  If I am not a witness to Your love and mercy I live in vain.  Grant me the faith and courage to stand for You in a wicked world.  Let me always serve You regardless of the cost.

Grant me the grace and strength to do all things for You.  Though the winds may blow me about, with you I can remain on course.  Let me guide this earthly vessel by Your beacon of light.


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Knowledge of the Heart

   For years I’ve studied Scripture and my faith.  I have learned quite a lot but mostly what I’ve learned is there is far more to learn that what I’ve attained in my studies.  For everything I know there are multitudes of things I don’t know and will not know in this world.

   This bothered me for a while.  We are used to setting out to finish what we start.  In this effort there is no finish to be had.  Spiritual knowledge doesn’t have an end, it can continue forever.  It simply isn’t possible to know all there is to know about God and His will for us.  The best we can do is learn what we can and leave the rest to Him.  The knowledge I’ve gained is great and I would do it all over again.  But knowledge of facts isn’t the same as knowledge of God. 

   No education, no college degree can teach us who God is.  We can’t learn the depth of His love in a book alone.   It takes the heart and soul as well as the mind if we are to begin to know our Lord.

   There are some questions that simply can’t be answered.  I can’t know why some people suffer and others don’t.  Yet I know that suffering is a necessary thing for us.  As Christ suffered for us we should willing accept suffering in living our life for Him.

   I can’t know why evil exists.  But I know that even evil can be used by God to accomplish a good.  The perfect example is the passion and death of our Lord.  No greater evil has ever been done than that of killing the Son of God, our Savior.  But from that evil came the greatest good; the gates of heaven were reopened, giving us the opportunity for forgiveness of our sins and the chance to spend eternity with our God.

   People with no formal education in theology may have as much or more knowledge of God than the most learned theologian.  Knowing God is as much of the heart as of the head.  In fact I believe we can have a much better understanding of God through our heart than we could ever obtain through education.  The Apostles were simple uneducated men but came to be the ones who would evangelize the world.  They were able to do this not from the study of books but through knowing Jesus and loving Him in their hearts.

   Knowledge is a wonderful thing and I fully intend to continue gaining as much knowledge as God gives me time to obtain.  Yet if I have to choose between studying God through books or learning of Him in my heart and soul I will take the personal relationship over books every time.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Poor in Spirit

   “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5: 3)

   This beatitude puzzled me for a long time.  I couldn’t understand how someone who was spiritually poor could be blessed in this way.  I expected that those destined for heaven would be very rich in spirit.

   Of course, Jesus wasn’t speaking of spiritual poverty, but of the attitude toward earthly riches.  By being poor in spirit we identify with physical poverty; we don’t become obsessed with worldly goods.  We can be quite wealthy but still remain poor in spirit.  It all depends on our priorities in life.

   The desire for worldly goods can overcome our desire for those of heaven.  By becoming too attached to the “things” of this world we can lose sight of the rich blessings of the world to come.  Our priorities become misdirected; the world and its’ pleasures replace the kingdom of God in our heart.

   What if tomorrow all wealth was lost and all chance of regaining that wealth was gone?  Most would be devastated; totally lost.  When something like this occurred in the depression many committed suicide rather than face life without their worldly riches.

   But many who lived through the depression speak of the closeness of community it brought.  People helped others; those who had shared with those who didn’t.  You see the same thing in poorer areas all over the world.  A more communal attitude; one that looks to supply the needs of those who can’t provide for themselves.

   True poverty of spirit speaks to the realization that the riches of this world are of no value in the final analysis.  Regardless of one’s worldly wealth they can’t take it with them.  Riches of true value aren’t found in this life but in the next.  The recognition that all we have is a gift of God will help us remain poor in spirit and enter the kingdom of heaven.

   “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”  (Job 1: 21)

Monday, July 9, 2018

Defining God

   We want to know what things are, how they work and how they affect us.  It bothers us when we can’t define or understand something.  As much as we like to know all about everything in our life there is one aspect of our life that defies definition.  That one thing is God.  We may think we know Him and understand Him but that’s only our pride talking.  It’s not humanly possible to fully know and understand the omnipotent, all-powerful God of the universe.  Our minds simply can’t grasp it.

   Yet we still try to define God.  In trying to better know and understand Him we try to envision our God in human terms.  How we define God can impact our relationship with Him.  I believe there are two distinct areas of trying to know God that affects how we relate to Him and how we believe He relates to us.

   First, how do we envision God.  If we see God as a strict disciplinarian we will find it hard to like Him.  After all, who likes someone who is always looking for any wrong that is done with an eye to punishing the wrong-doing.  On the other hand if we envision Him as a kindly old grandfatherly God we may not have the proper concern for following His laws and His will for us.  The awe and respect God deserves may suffer.  We need to stop trying to classify Him by our human definitions and understandings.  He will never fit any mold that we can imagine so the effort is futile.

  Secondly, how do we approach God in our life?  Where do we look for Him and how do we find Him?  If we think God is only in church, we risk failing to recognize Him in our daily life.  If we believe He is everywhere all the time we may fall into the trap of believing proper worship and praise in an organized manner is unnecessary.  It’s important to know that He is everywhere but at the same time understand that proper respect and worship is needed in our spiritual life.

   God is all things and does all things in my life.  If I’ve sinned I look to Him as a loving, forgiving God.  If I’m uncertain He is my strength, my certainty.  When ill He is the physician; when hurting He comforts me.  When I have failed Him, he is my conscience reminding me of Him and His laws.  Yet He will also allow me to ignore, disrespect and disobey Him if I choose.

   He longs to welcome us into His kingdom but there is a price of entry.  Money, wealth, fame or fortune can’t gain us entry into that kingdom.  The price is love.  Love of God means that we want to obey Him; we want to follow His precepts and laws.  If we love Him we are saddened when we disappoint Him by our actions and hurry to go to Him asking forgiveness of our sins.

   To seek God is to see Him in all things.  He is within us; in our hearts, our minds and our souls.  We simply need to look toward Him and He is there.  I love and am amazed by a God who is within me.  My heart also desires always to go to Him in His house, His Church, and worship Him and give Him all praise and glory.

   God is all things and is in all places.  Best of all He is within us, guiding, protecting, loving and forgiving us.  We need not try to define Him; just love Him in our heart, our mind and our soul.  There is only one definition we need concern ourselves with; God is Love.