Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Going Through the Motions

Going through the motions.  We all do it.  We get up, read a few choice words in our Bibles and make sure it's nothing too convicting.  We pray for our needs.  We might even pray for the needs of our friends.

We go to work, smile and nod, and try to have a good attitude while ugly thoughts pass through our heads and sometimes out of our mouths.

We get up on Sunday morning and head off to church.  We strike just the right pose while worshiping and listening to the preacher.  We nod at the right parts and might get a useful word or two out of the message but more often than not, think critical thoughts about how he worded something or about Suzie across the aisle.  Then we go home and what we heard passes right out of our heads as we go through the motions all over again.

We wonder why God doesn't seem to answer our prayers or why He seems absent.  We forget the fundamental truth that He doesn't want us to simply go through the motions.  He doesn't want us to substitute ritual for relationship and rule-keeping for mercy.

Isaiah 58:1-8 (MSG) ~

“Shout! A full-throated shout!
    Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!
Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives,
    face my family Jacob with their sins!
They’re busy, busy, busy at worship,
    and love studying all about me.
To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people—
    law-abiding, God-honoring.
They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’
    and love having me on their side.
But they also complain,
    ‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way?
    Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’

“Well, here’s why:
“The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit.
    You drive your employees much too hard.
You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.
    You fast, but you swing a mean fist.
The kind of fasting you do
    won’t get your prayers off the ground.
Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after:
    a day to show off humility?
To put on a pious long face
    and parade around solemnly in black?
Do you call that fasting,
    a fast day that I, God, would like?
“This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
    to break the chains of injustice,
    get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
    free the oppressed,
    cancel debts.
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
    sharing your food with the hungry,
    inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
    putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
    being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
    and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
    The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
    You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’
Does it matter to God whether we sing hymns or choruses? Sit in chairs or pews?  Does it matter if we have perfect church attendance and are there every time the doors are open, yet criticize our neighbor?  Does it please the Lord when we read our Bible every day just so we can say we did it but take away nothing from the reading?  If all these things don't change us how can we point the finger at others.
Let's work at not going through the motions.  Let's offer God our best, our truest, and our innermost being.  I want to live my life so that God's glory shines through.
How about you?