New Years Eve we were all celebrating the promise of the year ahead as we ushered in 2020. By mid January, we were wanting 2019 back. Truth is, all we’ve gone through the past nine months has probably had us all thinking a bit more about Bible prophecy and what today’s events might mean.
In the past month, the moral line in our country moved substantially once again. And, just like a roadway without lines, a crash is inevitable.
You might have heard that a couple weeks ago, to cheers of joy and applause, New York passed a law allowing…
Did you catch Lauren Daigle’s appearance a few weeks ago on The Ellen Show? It was stunning—absolutely perfect musically and vocally. I was excited at the impact of the exposure of a Christian artist and the Gospel on that show might have. That excitement wasn’t shared by everyone though…
The Amish are more on target than today’s church.
Whom have I in Heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You.
Love that Verse, but how does the author of that Psalm (Asaph) get there? I know my heart runs the gamut of things I desire on this earth.
Last week I visited an Amish market in La Plata, Missouri. It was a large farm with lots of kids playing, the men and boys out in the field (it was a work day for them), leaving the women and a wide age-range of girls milling about from the home to the barn to the market. Some teen girls in fact wandered into the market and picked up one of the music boxes for sale a couple aisles over from me. They played song after song, using it as accompaniment to their singing. The three of them went through several tunes — even Christmas carols without hesitation or threat of another person judging them.
All of them were barefoot and wore the same rich blue modest outfits. One of the young girls held onto a baby only a handful of months old, likely freeing up at least one of the mothers who I imagined was with several other women in the main house preparing that evening’s meal. They politely walked by, greeting us with a very distinctive Amish-German accent to their English.
It was a different world. No technology to speak of, just the basics — staples of life. Instead of a smartphone loaded with MP3s, they relied on a music box. I knew a little bit about them going in — that electricity and cars were off limits, but got curious about their lifestyle and what drove them to live this way, so simple…so different.
I think the Amish people have it 75% right and I think we have it only 25%.
I read up about the history of the Amish and my wife dug up even a deeper background. What we read so amazed me at their level of commitment to their faith — that it consumes their every facet of existence. Their dolls don’t have facial features, teaching the kids at an early age the importance of not having “idols” with the likeness of an image before them. They don’t have pictures of others for fear it might mimic an idolatrous tone, much less a boy band poster or Star Wars memorabilia. Their buggies are homogenized so status is minimized. The apparent lack of jewelry and makeup they feel helps keep attention from being drawn to them. Even at their funerals they don’t share the highlights of that person’s life for fear of elevating one person above another.
There’s plenty to parse and criticize about the Amish. For one, they isolate themselves when Jesus told us to go into the world to make disciples of all men. Yet, at the heart, they take their faith seriously and that’s hugely to be admired — even modeled. These are humans, so I’m sure that even though they’ve done everything to level the playing field and put God first, there’s still politics, heartbreak, and brokenness.
Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.
—1 Peter 2:11
If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.
It really had me taking stock of how overwhelmingly we surround ourselves with every temptation and distraction and then wonder why our faith doesn’t feel vibrant. Truth is, if we’re honest, it’s not important to us. For the most part, today’s Church is part time — not fully committed. Not in love with God. We’ve become just as much like the world that we’re virtually indistinguishable. Perhaps the world doesn’t hate us as the Verse above says because we’re just like them.
1 John 2:15 says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world.”
We’ve packed our days with activities and overstuffed our homes and garages with so many things of this world that it’s no wonder our Bibles gather dust. There’s no time left over for God. But, we’re not to find left over time for God anyhow, we’re to give Him the first fruits of our time. As it is, our televisions and Facebook see more of us than God ever does.
Hey my friend, I’m not pointing the finger at you. I’m looking at my own life and my own heart and seeing how very far I fall short.
What if we took our faith seriously and questioned all that is in our lives? Sadly, most of us won’t. It’s like when Jesus said to the rich young ruler in Mark 10, “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” He couldn’t. He was in too far to let go. Are you? If we call ourselves Christian, then we follow Christ, not the THINGS of the world. Like the Amish, let’s put down the iPhone, reject the addiction to Facebook and the countless hours in front of the television. Let’s not have the pursuit of “things” always in the forefront of our mind, giving us constantly tiring goals to strive for — “things” that never truly satisfy and lead to more pursuits of endless stuff.
A couple Verses to consider:
Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. —Ecclesiastes 5:19
That tells me that it’s OK to have possessions and enjoy them. As Billy Graham once said, they just shouldn’t possess you.
Then He said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me.” —Luke 9:23
What if our homes looked more like an Amish person’s? The Amish at first glance seem like a total fringe people group. But, in God’s eyes, is their behavior fringe or is ours? What if we put the brakes on all (seriously…ALL) areas of our life and one by one bring them back online only after we questioned every facet in light of our faith. We’d look like freaks — Jesus freaks. But you know what, that opening Verse would make a whole lot more sense to all of us.
The story of David and Bathsheba. It was a dark time for the man whose heart was once a reflection of God’s. It’s a passage I read through this week and amidst the familiar story,
something unexpected jumped out at me this time around.
2 Samuel 12 says (with God speaking), “I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more.”
You can just hear the grieving heart of God: why did you sin David? Why didn’t you just ask Me if your heart wasn’t fulfilled with all that was already at your disposal?
That passage gave me hope. It tells me that when sin is in view and we’re tempted to look away from God’s direction toward something so alluring, stop and tell Him what’s on your heart. Ask Him to reveal why your heart is desiring something outside of what He’s already provided. It doesn’t matter what that sin is — it’s a counterfeit for the true fulfillment only God can bring to your heart. If we’re desiring it, then we’re just being drawn in by the lies that somehow there’s something better than what God has to offer. Really?
Going that route had consequences as it does for us today. Just a couple Verses later, God stated that “the sword will never depart from your house… .” From that point on, there was constant turmoil in David’s kingdom and personal life in what could have been a blissful fellowship and protection under God’s hand. That passage sounds all too familiar to Genesis when Adam and Eve chose to believe the lie in the garden — whispers from the enemy that God is somehow holding out on something more fulfilling. That too resulted in banishment from God’s best.
So, what is taking root in our hearts? How often do we counterfeit a close, passion-filled walk with God for the things of this world competing for our affection? Instead, God’s saying here to pursue Him. Talk with Him and take refuge is in His Word. It’s transforming. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” And the amazing Psalm 1:1-3: “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.”
Is our delight truly in God? Do we have roots forging a path into the rich soil of God’s Word? Do we meditate on His Word day and night? We should. Seriously! We do it in other areas of our life, consuming television and social media until we’re full to the brim and it’s all we reflect upon throughout the day. Reading the Bible, taking it to heart, reflecting on what you read throughout the day, and praying about what you read will keep it top of mind, but also have a far more impacting result in your heart. Are you willing to try it? Just read a couple Verses for two weeks every morning or every evening. Find a regular time and make it happen. You will be amazed at a God that meets you in that moment. James 4:8.
David had a relationship — a fellowship with God that had him listed as one of the greatest men of our faith. Yet, he failed. That’s scary. We can’t relent for a moment in keeping our eyes fixed on Him. Deuteronomy 6:5, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
Sidenote: Isn’t it so amazing to find these kind of Verses in the Old Testament? I used to think the Old Testament was just that — old and perhaps not as relevant as the New Testament. So wrong! In fact, I find it provides such a profound glimpse into God’s character and heart. His love for David is the same that He has for you and me.
If you hear the word idol you might immediately think of a golden calf or something people worshiped in ancient times. Makes no sense, right? Why would a society build something, sit before it day after day and worship the very thing they created with their own hands? Today we call that television. Ouch. OK, perhaps we don’t “worship” television, but if you were to travel back in time and tell those people how we spend hours in front of our devices tethered with wires going into our ears or sit motionless in front of a box with a cable leading to a satellite dish, they’d think we had flipped.
The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods.
An idol explained in the Bible may look far different than an idol in today’s world when it’s really anything that takes us away from God. One definition says this: any person or thing regarded with blind admiration, adoration, or devotion. If ultimately God created us to be in fellowship with Him, then it stands to reason we’re fulfilled the same way, by that same fellowship. When our fellowship with God isn’t healthy, we often seek that fulfillment “harmlessly” elsewhere — television, music, sports, social media, yoga class, or worse (if there is something worse than yoga class) — anywhere that we can feel validated. Problem is, it’s trying to replace that need with something counterfeit that doesn’t truly fulfill. I never truly took Solomon at his word in Ecclesiastes, but each year of my life, I find his words increasingly validated that without God, all is vanity and meaningless.
So, two things:
- We’re missing out if we’re filling our lives with things that take up time we could spend with God. Why do we do it to begin with? It’s a “sugar rush” — immediate gratification rather than cultivated relationship. It’s like a diet of cotton candy, we’d get filled up, but not with something that would properly nourish us. Over time, we’d see the devastation it would have on our health.
- People who fill their lives with anything other than God typically never end up with a good result. “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts…” (Romans 1:24). The path ends far away from God. If we’re not filling our hearts with God, we’re likely filling it with what the enemy has put right at our fingertips — even things seemingly innocuous.
The good news is that while we’ve been on all the carnival rides of life, God has been there patiently waiting for us to come to our senses. In fact, it was Jesus who told the story of the Prodigal son in Luke 15 where a son had squandered his inheritance on “wild living” and was forced to return to his father…a father who was beside himself with joy when he saw his son return. And, it’s very likely He’s been pursuing us. Earlier in that same chapter in Luke, Jesus tells of leaving the 99 sheep just to find the one who had wandered off. He loves us that much!
Talk with God, read His Word and run back into His open arms. Think of the passion in which we pursue so many things in our lives…doesn’t He deserve that same fervor and more? We’re truly missing out if we don’t pursue Him with every fiber of our being today.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).