“You shall have no other gods before me.” (Ex. 20:3)
What if we could just get this first commandment right all the time? Read that again… Would we work 80 hours a week? Would we abuse our bodies with junk food? Would we abuse people around us with harsh words? Would we neglect the people who need us most? Would we steal from our “neighbor”? Would we even covet our neighbor’s stuff?
Tim Keller says “Sin isn’t only doing bad things, it is more fundamentally making good things into ultimate things. Sin is building your life and meaning on anything, even a very good thing, more than on God.” When we elevate something lesser than god to a rival position above God, we are sinning… Ouch.
So, how’s that going for ya?
The beauty of the Christian life, though, is that we’re all in the same boat – we “kill and covet” because we don’t have/get what we want, because what we want can never be fulfilled finally and fully by the 7,000,000 page menu of this world’s offerings. Yet, despite this brutal fact of our reality, God loves us enough to sacrifice Himself for us in Christ. God went “all in” for us at the poker table of redemption (awkward metaphor?).
Today, you and I as followers of Christ can take comfort in the fact that God is a jealous God. Really? Yes! Perfect, holy, awesome, great, all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful God is better for you and I than all the stuff we could work for, covet, steal, or attain in this world and He’s so committed to that, that He made it the first command, sent Christ to suffer and die for our sins, and sent the Holy Spirit to help us do all He designed for us to do.
By the Spirit, by the Spirit, by the Spirit… The first command is clearly a hurdle too high for any of us, yet God sent the Spirit to empower us to “do all things”. In a Genesis 3 world, none of us can truly expect to do this perfectly for any extended period of time. However, this is one of many voids the Spirit was sent to fill.
Bigger than that is the fact that our God is bigger than all of this. We were not created by and are not pursued, loved, and empowered by a bumbling wannabe superhero. It is not a wee, man made, gold statue that’s offering you a good grain harvest who sent his little brother to help you plow the fields and do a few odds and ends on your honey-do list. It is the King of Kings, the ha olam – Master of the Universe – who sent the Spirit of Truth to walk along side you through everything from the valley of the shadow of death to loving God without rivals.
Maybe you’ve read this verse before – John 1:10-13. Maybe not. Regardless, it’s quite a big deal and I’m publicly admitting I’ve glossed over it a few times hoping it would just go away so I wouldn’t have to be moved by it.
You may have had the perfect dad growing up. Mine was often… “busy”. My older siblings had a different relationship with him. But by the time marriage #2 and child #6 came around, he was spread a bit too thin to give me the time and attention a kid like me was craving. So, reading about being a son gave me a bit of the same fear you get after you fall off a bike and get gravel in your knee and the doctor says “okay, time to go inside and clean this thing up…”
This might sting. And, you might have to deal with some past hurt in order to heal fully and walk right again.
Eventually, I did. I had some great opportunities over the past decade and a half to engage with my dad about what was “missing” from my childhood and experiencing his death a year and a half ag. My perspective has markedly shifted. Gone are many of the illusions I’ve had that God, as perfect Heavenly Father, was just a bigger version of an imperfect earthly father. Today, I understand “sonship” more clearly.
Last week, I was reading Proverbs 2. Couldn’t get past the first two words: “My son…”
How do you do when you read that? Today, I read it in light of the fact that every morning, I deserve to have a bottomless bucket of God’s wrath poured out on me all day long. Yet, He poured it out on Jesus instead. Do you consider the fact that despite all of your failures, foibles, and shortcomings, God – perfect, holy, righteous Elohim reaches out to you both in the Spirit and in the word to leave you notes of encouragement, wisdom, protection, even love? Have you considered that the Lord of everything that is, was, and is yet to come has taken the necessary steps to reveal himself to mankind, inspire errant men to write down His inerrant truth, and preserve and protect it to this day so that you and I can read the whole story (so far) of His pursuit of a traitor race that He loves and bids us call Him “Abba [Daddy], Father” (Romans 8:15)?
Maybe you had a great, “available”, fully present Dad who offered you encouragement and love at every step – that’s great! You’ve been truly blessed. But, like all men, your Dad was still flawed – imagine what it will be like when we see Jesus face to face and He presents us to our perfect Heavenly Father!
I pray today that we all begin to pick up Proverbs differently. In fact, that we pick up the bible differently, and own the fact that God calls us sons and daughters of the Most High even though without Christ we are nothing more than “objects of wrath” (Romans 9:22, Ephesians 2:3).
Read on, sons and daughters. Let us walk on, as children of light.
People used to ask me two questions pretty often –
- So, how do you find the people you minister to?
- How do you raise the money to run the ministry?
To both questions, I had two responses:
- I used to say all kinds of stuff – formulas, graphs, projections, plans, statistics, would come barreling out of my mouth like some slickly packaged network marketing life coach.
but now, a little grayer, a little broken by the Lover of my soul…
- I just stick to the wiser truth that’s been beaten into my head dozens of times over the past 4-1/2 years with a spiritual 2″x4″ by the loving God who has called us to do this work:
“I… Don’t… Know.”
God Doesn’t Need Our Help
It’s the best and smartest answer I can come up with sometimes. God brings people our way who need what He is all about: love and truth for those He created and ultimate glory to Him. He encourages me from time to time to make known the ministry’s material needs and connects the dots with the givers. Yet, I so often try to “help” Him out.
Recently, my friend Dan Diaddigo published on of his incredibly cogent and insightful newsletters where he notes:
“Inside normal men are gods. Because inside normal we can manage events and predict our outcomes. A wise man knows that life is not normal and that he is not God.”
See, in the past, when I’ve answered either of those questions, my answer came from a veiled arrogance fueled by a need to prove myself competent to wiser men. All the while, I was showing myself to be a fool to those who’ve ever answered the call to “walk by faith, not by sight”. Humbling.
Today, I published a brief story about a local family in need. I did it out of a sense of knee-jerk desperation because… well… more than 12 hours had gone by since my first post and fundraising wasn’t going according to my plan. You know, “managing events and predicting outcomes…” What’s annoying about this is I’ve done this kind of thing before. What’s amazing about this is that God has answered my prayers often within hours of me “helping Him out”, reminding me that it is He who is God and not me, He who is provider, not me, He who holds outcomes in His hands… not me.
Is this a pity party? No! It’s a humble “Go, God!” party. I can’t imagine the article was up for more than 10 minutes before the $140 need we had made known was satisfied in full by one donation made by a friend who we haven’t seen personally in at least a year. God, in His mercy, used someone I’d never have written a support letter to, never have texted or inboxed on Facebook to answer a call for this family in need. So, party on you awesome lover of Christ – and thank you, publicly and anonymously for your hair trigger obedience to God’s prompting to give. Thank you, for Speaking Life to a family in need of a little sunlight on their leaves. And, party on, God – You who made the heavens and earth and see the depths of my heart, yet love me the same.
For those who read the story – the family in need will now have a roof over their head for the next week, maybe even more. We can still use a gas card or two to keep them on the road to their jobs, but the matching gift has been met. If you read their story and still feel compelled to help them or Seasons of Life Ministries, we welcome you to support now or anytime at http://bit.ly/solmsupport.
Praise God, for His amazing faithfulness, mercy, and grace.
humbled in His shadow,