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I Want to be a Hypocrite!

Really?

Let’s see if we fit the definition.

hypocritedefinition

Do you see yourself there?  Take a long look at some of those synonyms.  How about now?

I was reading in Matthew 6, again, this morning and was reminded of what hypocrisy really looks like.  On the subject of giving, Jesus says:

Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites…Matthew 6:5

He also deals with giving and fasting, using the same basic construction, “do not be like the hypocrites.”

In every case, the practice of the hypocrite is polluted by a desire for a certain notoriety among those who would see their activity, take note of their piety, possibly praise them for their commitment…

In every case, self is the focus.  Self-satisfaction, self-worth, self-promotion…while these are expected and even encouraged in our culture, they are not the pattern for a follower of Jesus.

None of us give, pray or fast, intending to be a hypocrite.  I think, however, we may fall into the trap described by Jesus in Matthew 6, too often.

Think about it.

 

You Really Need a Nap

Busy?

I would venture to guess that you are.  All of us are, running from meeting to meeting, task to task, the world a blur that we view from our car window as we barrel down this freeway we call life, way too fast.  We take pride in our activity and gauge our worth, and the worth of others, based upon the answer to the question, “What did you DO, this week?”

Guilty?

The majority of us have been programmed to feel guilty for the choice to do nothing.  When I asked about rest in a recent small group, one member of the class said, honestly, “I really feel guilty when I am not doing anything.”  How about you?

God created us to rest.

Rest…doing nothing, is not a secular idea.  God rooted rest in Creation.  The creation narrative we have in our scripture includes, “on the seventh day, God rested.” (Genesis 2:2)  He established Sabbath, which is deemed HOLY, by God, Himself.  Don’t confuse this idea with the enormous burden of regulation that sprung up around Sabbath, reducing it to a legalistic religious observance.  Jesus reminds us in the gospels, “the Sabbath was created for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).  Rest.

I’ll not take the time to rehearse or rehash the physical necessity of rest.  Just suffice it to say, your body needs rest.  Your mind needs rest.

So, rest.  It’s a gift of God.  Plan for it.  AND do it.

 

It’s Complicated…

If you use Facebook, you’ve probably seen the relationship status: It’s Complicated.  This can mean many things to many people.  It’s obscure.  It’s mysterious.  It’s, well, complicated.

Such is life, isn’t it?  BUT…does it have to be so.  Sure, there are complications in our lives that are out of our control.  However, the majority of the complications of our lives are our own doing.  We make decisions, every day, that will either simplify our lives or complicate them further.

the majority of the complications of our lives are our own doing. We make decisions, every day, that will either simplify our lives or complicate them further. Click To Tweet

Our Western culture has, for a long time, been invested in the idea that our security comes through our abundance of possessions.  Even within the Church, there is a cultural expression of this, commonly called the “prosperity gospel,” that teaches the evidence of genuine faith can be equated with abundant wealth (and health).  Happiness has been equated with material abundance.

The sad fact is, we have bought this line.  We have begun to describe ourselves as “blessed” when we increase our material wealth in some way.  When we get a new job or promotion, God has “blessed” us.  When we buy a new house or a new car, we post to social media thanking God for His “blessing.”  We often describe those who have attained material wealth as “blessed” by God.

AND so it goes.  We find our happiness and security in our ability to attain material wealth and surround ourselves with material things, blind to the fact that we have submitted ourselves to a culture of idolatry.

Our relationship with our material possessions becomes increasingly complicated.  The very things we have accumulated to serve us turn the tables on us and we serve them, instead.  As we become increasingly invested in our stuff, our freedom to find fulfillment in our intimacy with Jesus often decreases.

Keith Drury says,

Like a tiny drop of poison added to our coffee each day, materialism slowly poisons the soul.

 There is a simpler path…a road less traveled.  It is the path of simplicity.

There is a growing movement in our nation, especially among young people, to reject the rampant materialism of our culture and get back to basics.  The tiny house movement is one such expression of this.  There is a rejection of the premise that bigger is better and homes that are well below the average 2,700 square feet (new construction) are being built across the country.  In fact, the average “tiny” house is less that 500 square feet, with many below 200 square feet of living space.

There are a number of reasons people seek a simpler life, rejecting the pursuit of material wealth.  I’m not talking about those who are purely motivated by some altruistic need to use less.  I’m talking about those who have determined to change their focus from seeking the material for security and satisfaction and seeking that security and satisfaction in God.

There is a classic scripture that addresses this.  It is found in Matthew 6:24-34.  I don’t believe for a minute that Jesus is condemning material possessions, or the attainment of them.  He is ultimately addressing an attitude of the heart toward them.

  • You cannot serve both God and money.
  • Do not worry about the provisions of life (food, water, clothing).
  • Do not find security in your accumulation of material things.
  • Your priority MUST be the kingdom of God, a right relationship with Him and with your neighbor, and you will see that God has provided and will provide.

That’s my summary of Jesus teaching here.  You may find holes in it.  You may have additions.  Feel free to share them in the comments.

Here are three SIMPLE steps to begin practicing simplicity:

  1. Downsize – take an honest assessment of your possessions.  Why do you have that collection?  How useful are those things that remain in boxes from your last move?  What about those tools you haven’t used in a year or two?  Have a garage sale and give the money to your church or a favorite charity…or, an individual who is struggling.  Give those things away that are collecting dust.
  2. Say NO to spending – Obviously, there are necessities on which we must spend money.  What about that “disposable” income?  Have you thought that it might be a better investment of those resources God has given to actually do some good rather than satisfy your wants or horde for some future that may or may not come?
  3. Deny yourself, daily – It could be as simple as not purchasing that expensive cup of coffee or daily sweet treat with a plan to increase your giving by the same amount you save by doing so.  Who knows?  The possibilities are numerous.

So…what do you plan to do, this week, to begin a practice of simplicity in your own life?

 

 

Are you there, God? It’s me, James.

Solitude.

The state or situation of being alone.

Have you made an attempt at solitude with God, this week?  What were your expectations?  Were they fulfilled?

We live in a culture of immediacy.  We want our food fast.  We want to see results…NOW.  In most cases, the slightest wait time leads to impatience, displeasure, complaints…just ask anyone in the retail industry.  We come into every situation with the expectation of quick service, low wait times, etc.

Then…we come to God…in solitude…

We get impatient.

We don’t see immediate results…other than the mental distractions that begin to invade our time.

Am I doing this right?  Have you asked that question?

Are you there, God?  Do you care, God?  I am here…waiting…crickets…

Keith Drury gives a couple of important pointers when approaching the practice of solitude, we must all consider.

Keep the focus on God

You may want results.  You may want answers.  You may come with the expectation of a thunderous voice, speaking through the clouds, flanked by a choir of angels humming or chanting.  Wouldn’t that be great!  Well, remember, you are entering into this time to draw close and focus on God.  Your heart and ears may need tuning, and that takes time.  You may even enjoy the time alone, in the quiet, but lose focus on who is the most important member of this relationship…God.

Beware of Affect Lag

You may not see immediate results.  In fact, you may have to take a seat in God’s waiting room.  This is not punishment.  This is not God ignoring you.  This is God working and changing you.  I guess that would mean that you are not in the “waiting room” BUT the “exam room.”  Don’t allow impatience to rob you of the glory of this experience.  It takes time.  Give it.  God has been waiting for you.  He’s working.

Seek Ordinary Moments

There are numerous opportunities throughout our day for snatches of solitude.  How about during your commute?  Use that time for God-time.  When you arrive home?  Take a few minutes in the car.  Make it a sacred time, even 5 minutes will do, prior to starting your evening routine.  Schedule a walk alone, after supper.  Go to your room, close the door and spend time with God prior to sleep.  Turn off the television and have “solitude time,” as a family.  Each member can retreat to a chosen place for a few minutes.  This is a great way to “train up your child.”

It’s your turn.  Do you have any ideas or suggestions?  What has worked for you?  What has challenged you?  Share your victories…and your struggles…in the comments.

 

Overwhelmed with silence?

Last night, following our small group time, I loaded into the car with three of my children, as usual.  There was much small talk about the night.

One of my children, who shall remain nameless, spoke up about what they had learned about the discipline of silence.

Child: “Dad (insert awkward silence here) it would be hard to be silent for an entire day, wouldn’t it?”

Me: “Yes, that’s why it’s better to start off with small doses of silence.  Start with a few minutes…then an hour…work your way up to longer periods of time.”

Child: “OK”

I celebrated another win within my mind.  I had connected on a spiritual level.  I had contributed to the growth of my child.  I couldn’t wait to sit back and watch things happen.

This morning, I had returned home from the office to take care of a couple of things at home.  My wife says, “(The Child Who Shall Remain Nameless) has given up on being silent.  It’s too hard.”

Did you hear that sound of deflation?

Application of a new discipline can be overwhelming.  Silence is a tough discipline, particularly for a child who likes to fill every void with words 🙂  I’ve written about the need for Making Space for God in a Really Loud World and the difficulties in doing so.  That’s why we need to take baby steps in new directions.  Here are three that will help you along in silence.

Start Small

It’s called  baby step, for good reason.  For some of us, spending fifteen minutes in silence is a major victory.  Determine to spend that fifteen minutes of silence this week.  Master it.  Then, next week, add five minutes.  Not only is an incremental increase effective, it will help you establish the habit over time.

Have a Plan

Plan the when, where and how you will spend your time in silence before God.  Timing and location are an important aspect of this discipline.  Silence and Solitude often go hand in hand (I’m talking about that, Sunday), so you may need to find a location that puts you away from your normal routine (or people).  Set an appointment and keep it.  Arrange other commitments around that appointment.  This is important time, often more important than any busy work you may have on your calendar.

Expect Interruptions

Interruptions take various forms.  Mine are my thoughts.  It’s difficult for me to not become distracted with thoughts about my day, the upcoming week, etc.  Even now, while writing this, I’m thinking about my plans for the evening and the things I need to do in preparation for those plans.  Expect it.  Don’t allow it to frustrate you.  Have a favorite verse of scripture to read silently to yourself, or, better yet, have some memorized to quote to yourself, silently.  Allow the Word to permeate your thoughts and silence the other voices.  With practice, silence will come easier.

Don’t give up

Frustrations may arise.  Plans may need to be changed.  Find your groove.  Remember, this is a means of GRACE.  Allow that to bring you comfort and encouragement in the struggle.  Commit the time to Jesus.

How are you planning to seek silence, this week?  I’d love to hear about it.  Share it in the comments.  It’s a great opportunity to brag on Jesus and encourage others along the way!

Finding Space for God in a Really Loud World

Raucous.

Boisterous.

Booming.

Thundering.

Obstreperous.

They’re all synonymous for REALLY LOUD.

I have experience in really loud.  I have seven kids from age four to twenty.  There is much shouting, laughing, banging, hooping and hollering around my house.  I like it that way, most of the time.

Last night, after a long day of obstreperous activity (see what I did there?), my wife was looking a little worse for wear.  She needed some time away.  I said, “Let’s take a drive, get you a late-night snack and have some quiet time.”  She turned to me, as we headed down the road, and asked, “I’m not a bad mom to need some quiet time, am I?”

That simple question strikes at the heart of our problem with silence and solitude.  We often feel guilty for getting away.  We often feel uncomfortable for seeking peace and quiet.

There’s so much to be done.

There’s so much to be said.

There’s so much…

I’m reminded of a passage in the Bible.  In Mark 6, we see an enormous amount of activity…what could be compared to a storm of activity, surrounding Jesus and the disciples.  Here, in the midst of His preaching and the working of miracles, a RAUCOUS crowd was constantly nipping at His heals.  The demands were great.  Then in Mark 6:31, we read:

He said to them, “Come with me privately to an isolated place and rest a while” (for many were coming and going, and there was no time to eat). NET

The disciples had just returned from a missionary journey, of sorts.  They were excited about what they had witnessed God doing through them.  The crowd, whipped into a frenzy by the preaching and miracles of Jesus, were oppressive and demanding.

There was so much to be said and done.

Jesus said, “Let’s get away and rest.”

There are numerous examples in the gospels, when Jesus is said to have sought silence and solitude.  There were early mornings and late nights.  There were times of popularity and times of persecution.  It seems that any time was the appropriate time for Jesus to get away, rest and pray.

Why do we find it so hard?

In a recent small group discussion, a comment was made that went something like this, “When I take time to get away and rest, I almost feel lazy and unproductive.”

Eugene Peterson, in an article titled, “The Unbusy Pastor” has this to say about our society’s attitude about busyness:

I live in a society in which crowded schedules and harassed conditions are evidence of importance. I want to be important, so I develop a crowded schedule and harassed conditions. When others notice, they acknowledge my significance and my vanity is fed. The busier I am, the more important I am.

Could it be, that we are incorrectly convinced that our worth is found in our busyness?

Pastor, don’t you think we should be busy doing the work of the Lord?  Building the Kingdom?  Serving Him by serving others?

Therein lies the trap.

I’m reminded of another story, when Jesus was visiting the house of Mary and Martha.  Martha was busy, buzzing about, preparing food, serving…and boiling within that Mary was not helping.  She asked, “Jesus, don’t you care that Mary has left me to do all the work alone?” (Luke 10:40)  You see, Mary had chosen instead to sit at the feet of Jesus, to listen and spend time with him, rather than joining in the labor of the day.  Jesus answered her:

10:41 “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things, 10:42 but one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the best part; it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42 – NET)

Jesus was busy.

Jesus was in demand.

Jesus was important.

Jesus took time to seek space for the Father in a very loud world.

Why should our practice be any different?

Silence and Solitude were a necessity for Jesus.

AND, yes, silence and solitude are a necessity for us.

No, Marjorie, you are not a bad mom to need some quiet time.  You’re a better mom because you take some time away.

How do you make space for God, in silence and solitude, in a very loud world?  Share in the comments.

 

 

 

Boast About Jesus!

Last night, we had a good time, gathered as the church.

We sang great songs of testimony…focused on redemption, forgiveness, deliverance and faith.

Who was the focus?  Jesus.

We heard great testimonies.  People boasted about what Jesus means to them and what Jesus has done for them.

These songs and testimonies would be labeled, by some, as sentimentalism, having little to do with genuine faith.  I beg to differ.  We shared our story, individually and corporately.  In that, we shared God’s story, together.

Now’s your opportunity.  I want to invite you to boast about Jesus in the comments section.  Share your story.  It doesn’t have to be sensational.  In fact, keeping it simple may be the key to keeping the focus properly in the one who is worthy, Jesus.  Go!