Going through the motions

We all go through motions every day. There are things we do that we’ve done so many times that we don’t even have to think about what we’re doing—getting dressed, brushing your teeth, pouring a cup of coffee, work, even commuting. We go through our daily routines by rote. Little or no thought is required. It’s easy to slip into those kinds of habits. Even when it comes to God.

I hate all your show and pretense—the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your hymns of praise! They are only noise to my ears. I will not listen to your music, no matter how lovely it is.

Amos 5:21-23 (NLT)

Ouch! Here God is, telling Israel that He will not accept the very things He gave them. Why not?

Yaweh did not desire the slavish observance of ritual, he desired right conduct, which in itself is an act of true worship.

International Bible Commentary

At this point in Israel’s sin, notice that God no longer referred to the festivals and offerings as His own. The attitude behind the sacrifices had become so focused on the action that God had nothing to do with them anymore and the actions belonged solely to Israel.

God has given us so much, so many ways to praise and worship Him yet we, like Israel, can easily slip into habits where we go through the motions, but our hearts and even our minds are no longer engaged.

Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, a river of righteous living that will never run dry.

Amos 5:24 (NLT)

Far more than mere actions of pious offering, God would have us live lives of perpetual worship. Fake it ’till you make it can only get us so far. Sometimes we just need to start, but if our entire lives become a series of hollow actions, God receives no glory.

And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he is the one who identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

Ephesians 4:30 (NLT)

Let us all strive to produce a river of righteous living. Let us put meaning to our motions so that our works become our worship.

Daily Bible reading: Amos 4-6, Revelation 6

First installment

Do you ever wonder just how much God really has for you? Do you wonder if this is it or if you’ve barely scratched the surface?

I want to let you know that, no matter what you’ve experienced with God, the answer is the latter.

…because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, never wavers between yes and no. He is the one whom Timothy, Silas, and I preached to you, and he is the divine Yes—God’s affirmation. For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in him. That is why we say “Amen” when we give glory to God through Christ. He has commissioned us, and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment of everything he will give us.

2 Corinthians 1:19-22 (NLT)

When we look at the power of the Holy Spirit, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we think we have arrived. We want those things—and rightly so—but those things are just the tip of the iceberg. The Holy Spirit is the first installment. Read back through 1 Corinthians. If the Holy Spirit is just the first installment, what else is there?

There is so much more than we could ever even imagine. We can barely fathom the power of the Spirit that is already within us let alone the next installment. And the one after that. Jesus is the Yes, the divine affirmation of everything God has already promised to us. He is the exclamation point on everything God has ever said about His children. Jesus opened the door for the Holy Spirit in our lives. But there are more doors.

This isn’t it. There’s more. So much more. You’ve only received the first portion. Don’t get complacent with just a little bit, with door number one. Walk through that door. Dig into that installment. Find out what you already have. Then wait in expectation for what is yet to come.

Daily Bible reading: Proverbs 15-16, 2 Corinthians 1

If there is a God…

Here’s a line we’ve all heard over and over. “If there is a God, why doesn’t He…” Do you know what I’ve learned about the people who ask that question? They’re not really looking for God at all. They’re looking for an easy out and an excuse to continue living as though God doesn’t exist.

But why doesn’t God solve all of the world’s problems? Why doesn’t He step in when atrocities take place? Why doesn’t He stop war? The simple (yet sometimes difficult to swallow) answer is that we don’t give Him the right to. God gave man dominion over the earth and man promptly handed it to the devil. God gave us free will, to fix everything in one go would be to take away our free will and defeat His entire purpose in creating us.

Believe it or not, there is good that can come from all the turmoil around us.

Back when Moses was petitioning Pharaoh to let the Egyptians go, God intentionally hardened the heart of the king so that He would be glorified.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Return to Pharaoh and again make your demands. I have made him and his officials stubborn so I can continue to display my power by performing miraculous signs among them. You will be able to tell wonderful stories to your children and grandchildren about the marvelous things I am doing among the Egyptians to prove that I am the Lord.”

Exodus 10:1-2 (NLT)

In Egypt, Moses was following God’s instructions as He paved the way for the miraculous.

The harder the hearts of the people, the greater the miracle. For us, right now, our best course of action is united prayer. If we want to see the miracle in the hardened hearts of our nations, we need to give God room to do it. A united Church in and of itself would be a miracle. Imagine what a praying, united Church could do.

Daily Bible reading: Exodus 9-10, Matthew 18:1-20

Untied

If you’ve read the scriptures listed for today’s reading, you’ll note that there is absolutely nothing about being untied or tied. Maybe I’m dyslexic, but I read this:

Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
[untie] my heart to fear your name.

Psalm 86:11 (ESV)

Now, the verse doesn’t say untie, it says unite. But it got me thinking all the same.

I believe that, as much as our hearts need to be united, sometimes, they also need to be untied. We can get so turned around every which way, that we’ve forgotten where we started and can no longer tell the beginning from the end.

There are times where we need to cry out as David did.

Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
listen to my plea for grace.
In the day of my trouble I call upon you,
for you answer me.

Psalm 86:6-7 (ESV)

In those times when we’ve lost our way and our hearts are tied up in knots, we can call to God and He will answer. He will patiently help us to untangle ourselves from the messes we make.

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

Psalm 86:15 (ESV)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 85-87; Romans 9