Romans – Creature Worship

Romans 1:16-32

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

(Romans 1:24-25)

It’s a simple matter too look at this passage and dismiss it entirely as irrelevant. After all, there are no little stone gods nor candlelit alcoves in honor of carved images in my house.

And yet I find I am not so innocent after all.

When I examine my life in the light of the Word of God, I have to confess there are times when I have “worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator:” a creature named Heather Davis.

This self-worship is called “pride” and it is detestable to a holy God – a putting of self in His rightful place.

With this in mind, as I read verse 18, I found not a condemnation of all those godless and wicked people out there in the world, but a warning that my life must not suppress the truth.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
(Romans 1:18)

Like Paul, I need to live as one who is not ashamed of the Good News, keeping in mind the fact that my role is one of immense and grave privilege. I am an ambassador for the King of kings and Lord of lords. As such, the way I live my life reflects Him, and if I live for myself, it reflects him inaccurately.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.
(Romans 1:28)

Moving on to verse 28, I have to ask myself: How does this apply to me? It is of no use to read this on behalf of others only. Have I lived so the world can know I not only consider God worth knowing, I consider Him worth loving and obeying? Or do I put my own comfort, desires, or preferences in a position of higher authority than His will?

These are sobering questions. As I read on, I find I have been envious. I have been guilty of both slander and gossip, of acting maliciously, of foolishness and arrogance. I have been faithless.

As much as I would like to declare these are all sins from my distant past, I must be honest. I have been guilty of many of them in recent days.

And I am sorry. Truly, genuinely sorry. Not because of the people I have hurt, though I am sorry for them as well. Most of all, I am sorry for tarnishing the good Name of my Creator.

I do not applaud these things – not in me, not in others. Instead, I ask each day for the Lord to open my eyes to them in myself. My desire and intense longing is to walk humbly before my God, worship Him as God and dying to that twisted old creature called self.

Interestingly enough, all of my failures and crimes really only prove the truth of the basic tenants of my faith.

I am a sinner, incapable of saving myself. I am in need of a Savior, and when I fall, I cling to Him. I am thankful for Him not because I am so wonderful, but because I am so wretched.

Understanding this, how could I fail to worship such a merciful and magnificent Creator?

He must increase, and I must decrease!

Lord, have Your way in me. Forgive my every act of self- aggrandizement and change my life to one lived fully for You. May I be a tool useful to You, never suppressing Your Truth but living it out in heartfelt humility and joy in Your salvation, amen.

My Mind is Set

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
(Romans 8:5-6)

In a candid moment, I might tell you that I am often tempted to self-pity. In truth, I have indulged in it far too often.  Of course, it could be argued that I have a good excuse to do so, for my peculiar set of issues includes migraines, arthritis in my spine and big toe joints, muscle spasms in my neck and upper spine… well, it can be a lot. Suffice to say that most days it is not so much a question of if pain is present but to what extent.

But I have learned that even the best excuses do not negate sin when it is present. When I have chosen to feel sorry for my poor little self, my Father has brought it to my attention that the root of my self-pity is self-focus. Self-focus is, of course, just a tidier-sounding name for idolatry. In short, it is sin.

In dealing with chronic pain, one thing I have learned above all else is that when my focus is on myself, my circumstances, or even the pain, it overwhelms me. I feel a bit like Peter who asked the Lord if he could join Him walking across the water – and he did! At least, he did until he took a look at the storm all around him. Then poor Peter began to sink (see Matthew 14:28-31).

When I take my eyes off the Lord and fix them on my problems, I also begin to sink into despair or self-pity. In my case, the words of Romans 8:6 are very literal – if my mind is set on my malfunctioning flesh, it leads to death of joy, of peace, of patience, and other such things.

However, if I can set my mind on the Author and Perfecter of my faith, the One who endured so much in order to set my mind free from sin, I find that my self-pity is replaced by reverence and awe. My joy is renewed. My hope is restored.

Rather than worrying about my own suffering, fixing my mind on the Spirit of God reminds me to see instead the suffering of those around me. Often, their suffering is far greater than my own, particularly if they do not share the hope I have in Christ and the undercurrent of joy in Him that is pervasive even in my darkest moments.

Gracious Father, today I publicly repent of idolatry of self. Please forgive me for every time past that I have failed to trust You in the midst of pain or difficulty, displaying a fixation on the problems rather than setting my mind on Your Spirit. You are enough for me; help me not to forget it in a time of testing. Fix my mind firmly on You, increasing my faith and giving me unwavering trust in Your name and ways. Use me – pain and all – for Your glory and let the life and peace of the Holy Spirit shine brightly through me to help those around mesunrise003, amen. 

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.
(Isaiah 26:3-4)

 

 

 

Daddy Can

Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Matthew 14:31

Yesterday, I had the privilege of spending a few hours with two sweet young ladies, ages one and three. It has been a while since my kids were that age, and I found it delightful to go through the nap time, the fascination with all the big, wide world, and even the inevitable but short-lived teary sessions when big sister got a little too intense for little sister.

During our time together, the oldest one frequently told me such things as, “My daddy can build anything!

When the littlest was carrying around a piece broken off from a yard toy, big sister had no doubts. “My daddy will fix it.”

When we found two sky-blue bird eggs in the grass, she said, “My daddy will put them back.”

Underlying all of these statements was a confident and blissful certainty that whatever might be wrong with the world, Daddy could handle it. All at once, I was convicted by the very sweetness and simplicity of her trust. For I know her daddy, and while he is an excellent Christian man, husband, and father, there are broken things in this world that are far beyond his power to set straight.

But that is not the case with my Heavenly Father.

The last few months of my life have been marked by oddity. There are tasks I have done for years that I felt called to stop for a time, though I can’t say how long which is troublesome to a planner like me.

More than one exercise I was certain God was calling me to perform has ended with anticlimactic and depressingly fruitless-seeming results. Chronic migraine has awakened again after two years of relative dormancy, and each time I believe we have hit on an answer, it charges back in to prove me wrong.

What’s more, I am facing a strong possibility that my oldest two may go to private school next year; a tremendous change from the last several years of home schooling and thus a great and gaping unknown. This, perhaps more than anything else, has left me feeling emotionally torn as if I’ve been fired from the job I’ve poured everything into.

Beyond my family, the world is going crazy. This years’ presidential hopefuls leave me feeling dismal in my most positive moods, and so many of my fellow Americans seem to have separated church and state in their hearts so entirely that we no longer expect politicians to be moral or good or anything, really, but corrupt.

Perhaps resigned to some idea that corruption is “inevitable” within government, we have allowed it by repeatedly voting it into place.

Then there is the rise of militant branches of Islam, the frightening slide towards moral insanity, the tensions between “races” (which, frankly,  I cannot understand because while I see different skin tones and cultures, I see only one human race populating this earth)… and on, and on, and on.

I have allowed myself to get caught up in fear of the unknown, perhaps even a belief that any of these things are mine to handle. My fear of personal failure has caused my heart to forget that just because God calls me to do something does not mean it will appear successful by the world’s–or indeed even by my own–standards. The rise of darkness, ignorance, unconcern, rudeness, and a general public short attention span that reminds me startlingly of the world described in George Orwell’s 1984 have all crowded into my mind.

In short, I have fallen into the sin of unbelief. I have, to my shame, once again worried about what I will do, forgetting that no matter how large the problem or how shattered the component, my Daddy truly can take care of it. I cannot do it and there is much out of my control, but there is nothing out of His control or beyond the scope of His power.

I do not need to fear the unknown, for it is not unknown to my Father. I only need to follow Him, obediently, humbly, and cheerfully certain that He will accomplish His perfect plan no matter how far-fetched or round-about it may seem to me. I need the guileless, frank, honest, and complete trust of a well-loved child, for such I am.

Father, forgive my lack of faith and help me to trust in You, not just logically, but with my whole heart and with every atom of my being. Remind me that You have not called upon me to know the future nor to understand it, but to believe on You and follow You. Humble me as a child who knows she can do little, but her Father can do all things, amen.  

Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.
Luke 18:17

Like a Rock

Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter…  And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?”    Exodus 15:22-24

My children and I giggled a bit over this passage, although I admit, on my part at least it was a somewhat guilty giggle.  As the last young person finished her turn in the reading, I noted aloud that the Israelites took a significant pendulum swing from a state of joyous praise to dissatisfied griping in three measly days.

To fully understand what I mean, you may want to read the previous portion of Exodus 14 and 15. Go ahead. I’ll wait….

Now, think about what you just read:  Three days after watching the hand of God perform an impossible feat of deliverance involving a massive volume of water, the people seemed unable to grasp that the very same God might possibly be competent to make a little nasty water taste nice.

Three short days — it really is a little amusing. However, if I am honest, the joke’s on me. It is so easy for me to look at the infant nation and wonder how on earth they could have watched something as astonishing as the parting of the Red Sea and still not understood that God is infinitely capable of providing for their needs even when they cannot see how He will.

The sad truth is that I am no different.  I desperately want to be a person possessing unwavering faith in my God, a person who never doubts Him for a moment. But the real me is much more like that group of refugees from Egypt.

On any given day, I may see a glimpse of the enormity of my God and of the goodness and rightness of His plans, yet I rarely need three whole days to slip into disbelief. I have been known to literally sing His praises, filled with unspeakable joy, during an early-morning walk with my dogs only to collapse in frustrated tears before lunchtime because my children are disrespectful or my home school day is not going well.  Three days? It can happen to me in three hours!

Perhaps there is a lesson in this shameful undulation of faith, so like the tides of the sea. It is at such times when my rashness and fickleness are so evident that God’s steadfastness and patience are poignantly underscored.  This,  then, is why God desires so to develop patience and faithfulness in His children — because He is, Himself, patient and faithful.

Perhaps — just perhaps — He has yet one more miracle to perform involving water, considering our flesh is mostly composed of water; one more marvel concerning the tide-like ebb and flow of our faith. For in a display of really ridiculous patience, our long-suffering, holy God continues to allow us access to Himself when we draw near despite the tragic number of times we faithlessly retreat from His presence.

Just maybe as He works in us,  He is gradually increasing the length of our advances toward Him and decreasing the distance we withdraw.  Maybe He will do the impossible and change the shifting waves of our disbelief into fixed and changeless postures of trust.  Maybe even someday in the process of our sanctification, we will find our faith is no longer capricious but has come to look something more like Him , our faithful and steadfast Rock.