Thursday, September 30, 2010

Impressing God

Tonight I read Isaiah 58.  God is talking to Israel.  Here’s part of what He says: 

“Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast.  Tell my people Israel of their sins!  Yet the act so pious!  They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to hear my laws.  You would almost think this was a righteous nation that would never abandon its God.  They love to make a show of coming to me and asking me to take action on their behalf.  ‘We have fasted before you!’ the say.  ‘Why aren’t you impressed?  We have done much penance, and you don’t even notice it!’ 

“I will tell you why!  It’s because you are living for yourselves even while you are fasting.  You keep right on oppressing your workers.  What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling?  This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me.  You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like a blade of grass in the wind.  You dress in sackcloth and cover yourselves with ashes.  Is this what you ca fasting?  Do you really think this will please the Lord?

“No, the kind of fasting I want calls you to free those who are wrongly imprisoned and to stop oppressing those who work for you.  Treat them fairly and give them what they earn.  I want you to share your feed with the hungry and to welcome poor wanderers into your homes.  Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.” 

“If you do these things, your salvation will come like the dawn.  Yes, your healing will come quickly.  Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect your from behind.  Then when you call, the Lord will answer.  ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply”  (Isaiah 58: 1-9a)

How much of my spiritual activity or spiritual disciplines is done to impress God?  How much am I focused on myself?  Spiritual formation and the disciplines required for spiritual maturity, but when we use them to focus on ourselves, we’ve completely defeated the purpose.  Do I read Scripture to show God how pious I am or do I read it to really learn more about and know God?

I’ve had some real headache issues in the last five days.  I’ve noticed that pain makes me focus inward – everything I do is to try to lessen the pain or help me get through it.  This makes sense.  However, while I should treat the headaches, I also need to spend more of my time and energy on the needs of others.  I may not be able to provide for someone materially or even be emotionally available at that time, but I can always pray.  This gets my eyes off me and my pain and back on to God where they belong.

What thoughts do you have?  How can we fight the American consumeristic culture and learn to really love God and love others?

P.S. I won’t be posting again until Sunday afternoon/evening because I’m going on a Women’s Retreat.  Yes, you read that correctly, I’m going to be gone from Thursday through Sunday morning, hanging out with my mother-in-law and other women from our church, listening to a great speaker, and just enjoying God’s creation in the Northwoods!


Kimberly said...

Hope you have an absolutely WONDERFUL time on your retreat! I always get so much out of those and feel like a new woman when I get back. :) As far as how to deter materialism tendencies, I personally struggle with that. However, I know that we're told in scripture that we are to not love money. Having money is not evil; it's the love of money---the Bible says you can't serve 2 masters. I think that if we always keep things in focus, that our "stuff" belongs to God and not to us, and we are only stewards of His stuff, then it helps to keep one humble and not get so caught up in material things. The other thing I always try to acknowledge is that nothing I do or accomplish in life is due to my own efforts; it's ALWAYS because of God and His enormous blessings. I think with that kind of mindset, it's hard to get self-consumed. The Bible also says "Your treasure is where your heart is" so wherever you spend majority of your time and money is what you value most. If that means your family, then that's not a bad thing. God blessed us with our families to take care of. The question is, are we raising them in a godly home and teaching them the ways of God? I find that it's in the every day things where I'm able to show God's love. I also have to remind myself that God made us all differently and even though I may not get along with someone so well, God still loves them (and loves me with all my flaws), so I should also show kindness and God's love to them (definitely isn't always easy). Yes, sometimes the material things and our culture get in the way, but that's when I pray for God to work on my heart and change me. I'm definitely a work in progress! :)

Lloyd said...

I really enjoyed reading the posts on your blog. I would like to invite you to come on over to my blog and check it out. God's blessings, Lloyd