Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ignoring the Hand That Feeds You

I got up this morning and followed a pretty typical routine. I let Sophie out of her crate, fed her and took her outside. I poured a cup of coffee for me and sat down in my chair to do my devotions. A few minutes later, Sophie jumped up on me, and after wandering around my lap for a few minutes, she settled down and rested peacefully.

After about a half hour, she heard Kacie upstairs. Sophie stirred a little bit. The more she heard Kacie, the more anxious she got. She positioned herself on my lap so that she had a clear view of the staircase behind me. Every time she heard the bathroom door open or the bedroom door close, she got more excited. Then finally, Kacie descended from on high. Sophie jumped off of my lap, scratching my leg in the process. But she didn't care. She was on a mission to see Kacie.

I have to admit, in some ways that irked me. After all, I'm the one who let Sophie out of her crate. I'm the one who fed her. I'm the one who took her outside so she could do her business. And after all that, she abandons me at the drop of a hat in order to embrace Kacie.

I can't help but draw a comparison between Sophie and the Israelites in the Old Testament. God led them out of bondage and slavery. He took care of them. He fed them and protected them from their enemies. He brought them into a land flowing with milk and honey. But at the drop of a hat, they went following after other gods.

Now, I'm not comparing myself to God (or Kacie to false religion), but my point is simply that it is understandable how upset and even angry God got at his chosen people when they refused to acknowledge Him and His provision. But such treachery didn't end with the Israelites. It goes on, even today, among those who claim a relationship with God. We abandon God for fame, fortune and power. We pursue other ambitions while giving lip service to Him.

As God's people, let's be sensitive to those times when we fail to show God the love and respect that is due Him. Let's be less anxious to jump down off His lap to chase the latest fad to come along.

Friday, August 14, 2009

For those of you who know me, this won't come as a surprise. I hate yard work. The mowing, weed-eating and other essentials of maintaining a yard represent, to me, the very definition of the word "chore". And if you've driven by our house lately, you'd shout a hearty "Amen".

Even though this summer has been relatively cool, the recent hot & dry conditions are really taking their toll on our lawn (I hate having to give water to the dog, so I'm sure not going to waste it on the grass.) So for the past few weeks, our lawn has been turning a strange color, somewhere between yellow and brown.

Except for a few spots here and there, which are a deep shade of green. I mean, those spots are really green. And growing much faster than the rest of the yard. You might say "growing like a weed". Because they are weeds.

I have always marveled at this phenomenon. While the plants and lawn struggle to survive, the weeds thrive. Since I rarely water or fertilize the yard, it is going dormant, but the weeds are doing great.

Which is exactly what it's like in the spiritual realm. If you nurture your spiritual life through Bible study, prayer, worship and service, then it can thrive. But if you ignore it--just do nothing--then the weeds move in and take over. The weed of worry. The weed of anger. The weed of doubt. You don't have to water these weeds for them to do well. You don't have to feed them for them to spread. And before long, all you have is a spiritual yard of weeds.

Getting rid of weeds once they've taken root is much tougher than preventing them in the first place. So if you recognize that your spiritual yard is looking a little rough, take action now to keep it from looking like my front lawn.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

American Idols

In studying 2 Chronicles 34 and the revival that occurred during the days of King Josiah, we observed that in an effort to manifest repentance and experience revival, Josiah destroyed that which hindered revival in his day. In his case, that involved destroying the instruments and symbols of idol worship. So he completely eradicated from the land idols, Asherah poles and incense altars. He knew as long as such things existed in the land of Judah, the people would be tempted to return to idol worship and false gods.

It is apparent that for us to experience spiritual renewal, we, too, must destroy that which hinders revival. In some cases, that means ridding from our lives that which is blatantly sinful and inherently evil. No doubt, we can think of some attitudes and practices that fall into that category. But we also noted in Sunday’s sermon that “destroying that which hinders revival” also encompasses ridding from our lives some otherwise good and decent things that represent competition with God for our attention and our affection.

I hope we’ll seriously consider what those things might be, because until we knock them off of the throne and destroy them completely, they will be a hindrance to our ability to reconnect with God in a vital and vibrant way.

For some of us, it may be a job. Not only is it the source of income and financial security, but it consumes us. We are defined by our work. We live to work, rather than working to live. If we aren’t actually working, then we’re thinking about it. If we’re not “on the job”, it’s at least “on our mind”. If the telephone rings, we’ll answer. If an email comes in, we’ll respond. And if it means that we don’t have time for devotions or worship or service, well, that’s just the price that we are willing to pay. But in the end, the job has become an idol that has dethroned our King, and we need to consider the price we are paying to keep it.

For others, it may be a relationship. Not an inappropriate sexual relationship (that would be blatantly sinful), but a relationship that takes us away from God. Or that causes us to minimize our time with God. Or that causes us to compromise our values and convictions. The relationship itself may not be sinful, but when it diminishes our intimacy with God, it becomes an idol that must be destroyed.

It could be an activity, a hobby or an interest. It could be service in a community organization that takes so much of our time that we can’t serve the Lord through His church or participate in corporate worship. It could be our love of golf if it consumes so much of our time and money that we don’t have either for God. It could be football (as much as it pains me to say it) if our devotion to the game rivals our devotion to our God.

It could be our home, if we devote so many resources to maintaining or improving it that we have fewer resources for the Lord’s work. It could be a boat, a second home or any possession that interferes with our relationship with the Lord.

As I quoted from Chuck Swindoll on Sunday morning: I don’t have many temptations to worship evil things. It’s the good things that plague me. If you can relate to that, understand that unless and until you eradicate those “good” things from your life, you will not experience repentance, and if you don’t experience repentance, then revival will just be the topic of a summer sermon series at the church that meets in a middle school.