The Cold Shoulder

Most of us have experienced the cold shoulder; and most of the time, we know exactly why we are receiving it. If the relationship means enough to us, we seek to resolve the issue so pleasant interactions can resume; otherwise, the rift widens.

H.T., a brother in Christ, recently asked in a Wednesday night devotional, “Life is about change…How has your worship changed?” It stung. Why? Because I’m afraid that my worship, after ten years of being a disciple, may still sometimes strongly resemble what it was soon after I put on Christ. Growth should be apparent to me, and I confess that there is less of it than there should be. So, what does this have to do with the cold shoulder?

When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; Yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood. (Isaiah 1:15)

Simply put, if I feel like I’m getting the cold shoulder in worship, it’s my own fault. You reap what you sow; you get out what you put in. The Lord wants worship to be meaningful to us; He wants us to grow in it, to develop a deeper understanding of its purpose and power. But it can’t happen if we don’t do out part.

Part of “our part” is having our lives in order. How? God follows His “cold shoulder” warning above with nine simply stated (though incredibly challenging) suggestions:

Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1:16)

When these God-like characteristics begin to permeate our lives, then the Lord will again give His ear to our prayers and remove the cold shoulder.

God, give me strength to remove my evil deeds and pursue the justice, mercy, and goodness you desire to see in us so that there may be open, unhindered communication between us. Amen.

rocky mountain low

According to the Huffington Post, Colorado is now filled with a puffing host! The article gives the full statistics for the first month of recreational marijuana sales in the Centennial State, along with projected uses of tax revenue from the product. Ironically enough, the first $40 million in taxes is promised away for school construction–now that’s what you call a “higher” education. The Holy Spirit through Paul outlined what is surely a more effective educational strategy:

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14)

#christianity, #colorado, #drugs, #education, #huffington-post, #marijuana-sales, #recreational-marijuana, #sin-taxes, #sober, #sobriety

there she stood in the doorway…

In Proverbs 9, two ladies call out from high places in the city. They invite those lacking understanding to dine with them. One of the ladies has prepared the meal she offers; the other has stolen hers. One lady does not seem to mind if people know about your visit; the other wants to keep it a secret. One offers wisdom; one offers pleasure. You must dine with one of these women. Choose wisely. They may both mean well, but one of them will kill you.

For by me your days will be multiplied, and years of life will be added to you. (9:11)

‘Stolen water is sweet; and bread eaten in secret is sweet to a man.’ But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol. (9:17-18)

Lord, deliver us a daily dose of discernment and decision-making power: the discernment to distinguish between these two ladies; the decision-making power to accept the right invitation.

#choices, #death, #dinner, #invitation, #life, #pleasure, #proverbs, #solomon, #wisdom

Israel’s land survey

I purchased a house last year, and the seller split his larger property into two lots, selling me the smaller of the two. To make this happen, the property had to be surveyed, and a description had to be drawn up specifying the exact locations of the borders. I could describe the borders in one sentence, but the surveyors have to be much more precise. The document they created describes in very technical language the latitude, longitude, angles, curves, etc. from corner to corner of the property, and is quite lengthy. The precision is a result not only of the desire to establish a clear understanding between buyer and seller, but to prevent future disagreements about the exact locations of the border.

When the children of Israel conquered the land of Canaan, there were twelve tribes. The conquered land had to be divvied up between them. I used to read Joshua 13-21 with dread, trudging through the city names and border descriptions with only the purpose of getting through it. Not so anymore. As I struggle to pronounce dozens and dozens (if not hundreds) of city and village names, I think of the towns, cities, suburbs, metropolises, counties, and states in my own country and the different climates, accents, histories, cultures, landscapes, laws, traditions, products, arts, disciplines, stereotypes, etc. peculiar to each one. I imagine what conversations may have sounded like in ancient Israel. Did the young Issacharians in Tabor ever complain about how there was nothing to do in their town? Did they long for the day when their parents considered them big enough to go with big brother and his friends to Shahazumah where they could fish or swim in the Jordan River (I may be misrepresenting the geography here). Which one of the cities on the Great Sea did people vacation to the most (think of Myrtle Beach or Gulf Shores)? Were Manassehites arrogant like Texans because of the size of their inheritance? Was there trash talk among the tribes about whose land was, as we sometimes say, “God’s country”?

These 9 chapters are a testimony of the Israelites’ desire for accuracy, understanding, and peace between the tribes. We are given the bare details, but they open up speculation about what life was like as they settled into their new territories. God’s current people have not yet crossed their Jordan. We, too, will settle a new territory one day, but I don’t think we’ll be as concerned about borderlines as they were.

#book-of-joshua, #borderlines, #children-of-israel, #christianity, #heaven, #jordan-river, #land-of-canaan, #land-survey, #old-testament, #promised-land, #tribes-of-israel

spiritual rash

If you’ve ever had a rash, your experience may have gone something like this: you notice yourself scratching at the irritated part of your skin and it dawns on you that it’s been itching a lot. You realize the rash is there. You put cream of some kind on it to treat it and make a conscious effort not to scratch it. Your concentration on not scratching it makes it itch more. You hold yourself back, but your self control eventually breaks down and you scratch feverishly until it attains that raw, hot, yet strangely soothing painful sensation that you know deep down means it’s going to be twice as bad tomorrow. You’re relieved for a moment, yet you know that you’ve done the worst thing you could have done to it.

Sin is sort of like that.

Each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. (James 1:14-15)

For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want…. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:19,24-25)

Lord, give us the self control to let Your Spirit dictate our actions when we are in the throes of temptation.

#christianity, #guilt, #itch, #rash, #self-control, #sin, #skin, #temptation

the whole counsel of God

Joshua 8 records the battle the children of Israel fought against the people of Ai. It is an interesting study in military strategy, but more importantly, the end of the chapter provides a lesson for us regarding our spiritual lives. After the victory, Joshua built an altar, wrote a new copy of the law of Moses, and the nation held a ceremony in which the law was read to the people. According to the last verse of the chapter, “There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel with the women and the little ones and the strangers who were living among them.” It was not enough to know some of the law. The people needed to know ALL of the law. As the Lord told Moses, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by EVERY word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Deuteronomy 8:3).

Lord, make us hungry to glean everything we can from the pages of Scripture, for we do not live by some of Your words, but by all of them.

#battle-of-ai, #bible-study, #book-of-joshua, #children-of-israel, #christianity, #joshua, #land-of-canaan, #old-testament

vain repetitions?

When I hear men pray in public, I like to hear the usual requests put into different terms. It is more thought-provoking to me if I am a bit surprised by the way something is said than if I can stay three seconds ahead of the “pray-er” as he treads down the ever-trodden path of “guardguide’n’direct,” “keepusuntilthenextappointedhour,” “happyrecollectionofthethingshehasprepared,” “keepusinthehollowofthyhand,” etc. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with those phrases. They can be just as genuine as a newer, more creative arrangement of words, but I confess that I find myself being judgmental when I hear the “standard” phrases because I tend to use them when I have not been especially attentive to my own prayer life. God forgive me for thinking that way.

What made me think of this was either hearing someone begin a prayer recently or beginning a prayer myself with “Dear Lord, thank You for this day.” I sometimes give myself an internal kick when I begin a public prayer this way, because it rolls off my tongue unconsciously if I am underprepared. But it struck me a few days ago that I am silly for thinking that way. Just because that phrase has been overused a bit doesn’t mean that it has to be meaningless. After all, what more are we promised than this moment? We can’t thank God for tomorrow–Christ might return at midnight, or 30 seconds from now. When people are assembled with their heads bowed in prayer, it means God has granted them an opportunity to be together fellowshipping, studying, edifying, exhorting, encouraging, and basking in God’s lovingkindness with each other one more time. It means there is yet one more opportunity for those who have not obeyed the gospel to soften their hearts and make that decision. It means the Lord yet has some work He’d like to accomplish in each one of us, and He’s not done with us yet. Yes, come to think of it, “Thank You for this day” is no shameful way to begin a prayer. Perhaps there is a reason it has become one of our “standard” phrases. God help us not to let the rich meaning of those syllables be lost on us the next time we hear them uttered.

You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. (James 4:14)

Lord, thank You for this day. Help us use it to lift up the name of Jesus Christ.

#gratitude, #james, #jesus, #meaningless, #prayer, #repetition, #stale