I love going to the gym as much as my schedule permits. The gym is my happy place. I put on some music and spend an hour trying to push my body. One thing that bothers me at the gym is when people sit at machines and do not exercise. The last time I was at the gym, I was exercising on the elliptical machine and peered out to see a handful of people sitting on the weight machines with cell phones in hand. The people sat at the machines the entire time I was on the elliptical machine. I became curious as to why the people would even come to the gym if they were not going to work out.
The people who sat at the machines could tell people that they went to the gym. Perhaps some of the group checked in at the gym on Facebook. Perhaps some of the group will tell friends or family that they were at the gym. They will even tell themselves they were at the gym. But to be at the gym and to actually work out at the gym are two different things. Anyone can go to the gym, but not everyone uses the gym equipment. People can see the check in on Facebook and believe their friend is getting buff, and in the end, their friend was scrolling their Facebook newsfeed. To the blind eye, it appears the person is getting fit; reality says something different.
This same façade is true in the life of a “Christian.” There are many people who claim to be Christians but when outsiders observe their lives, they are not seeing Jesus. There are people who attend church on a regular basis and people who do good deeds, who unfortunately do not know Jesus. These people may know of Jesus, but they never had the blessing of enjoying the presence of God in their lives because they were too busy trying to show everyone they had everything in order, too proud to lean into God, or too blinded by their own façade that they missed the grace so freely poured out. It is sad how many people still today think that they must try to earn their place in heaven.
We are each on a journey. We all need Jesus. Let us not sit at the machines pretending to be Christians. Instead, may our eyes be fixed on Jesus. May our words and our deeds point to Him. May we stop trying to cling to the title of Christian, and instead invest our time in following Jesus by responding to the great commands to love God and love others. Love is not a façade. It’s honest. It’s real. It’s vulnerable. It’s messy. It’s certainly not easy. Love God. Love others.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:30-31 [NIV]
While picking up a few things, I planned to get the dogs each a new toy. I got the dogs a nylon chew bone that is supposed to help clean teeth. It was certainly one of the worst purchases I’ve made for the dogs as Max has no interest in the bone. After seeing his rejection, I considered the options – real bone or fake bone. Max gets real bones all the time. He has had the real deal. Perhaps the fake bone is just that – a fake bone.
When you experience the real deal, you really don’t want anything else. When you have the best, there is no desire to have anything else. I can think of the beautiful beaches of Australia. Once you walk upon those beaches and take in that air, there’s nothing that can compare. When you have a fancy meal made by a top chef, anything else does not bring joy to the palate in the same way. When you’ve have a great cup of coffee, having any other coffee can be considered devastating. You may have heard the phrase, “You’ve ruined it for me,” said when someone has had this experience.
Today, consider the real and the fake. The fake bone is just like anything else that is offered that is not a relationship with God. Once you have a relationship with God, once you experience the love and grace of Jesus Christ, there is nothing that compares. Once you accept Jesus, once you take that step and allow Him to begin to make things new in your life, the desire for anything else is far away. Why accept anything less than He Who created all things? Why live a life seeking all that fake, when you have the option of knowing He Who is Truth?
“Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.” – Psalm 40:5 [NIV]
We had a great time at the Joyce Meyer Conference but good things much eventually end. We went into the parking lot and we were stuck. It took an hour to just leave the parking lot. With all that time to fill, my sister and were singing some worship songs. But we also decided to remove her worn steering wheel cover. I tried to pull it and it would not budge. My sister helped. With the two of us, it still would not pop off of the steering wheel. Finally I let out a war cry, which I’ll admit sounded like a sad dog growl. Just at that moment there was a group of people passing by and a fellow heard my sad sound. He said, “Don’t worry. I haven’t seen a thing. No one has seen it happen” and kept walking.
I’ll admit I got a bit flushed with embarrassment but then I was reminded of the need for transparency and realness in this world. We spend so much time trying to pretend we don’t make certain noises, we don’t do particular things, we don’t watch “those shows,” we don’t listen to “that music.” We spend a lot of time trying to pretend we are “good Christians” or “good people” or “happy” or that we have it all together.
Guess what?!? I make weird screaming sounds as I remove steering wheel covers. Sometimes I think bad things. Sometimes I don’t make the best choice because I don’t listen and I want what I want. Sometimes I get angry at other drivers. Sometimes I spill coffee on my shirt and don’t change my shirt because it blends in. Stop trying to appear perfect. Stop trying to appear that you have everything together. God sees you when no one else can see you and God can see your heart. Don’t worry about what others think about you or how you appear—ask God to give you eyes for Him. Ask God to help you focus on Him and not on the world. Through your transparency and your desire to please God and God alone, there will be a testimony to others. It will be a much better story than anything you could pretend to tell. It will be the truth and it will point to the Truth.
“Then he said to them, “You like to appear righteous in public, but God knows your hearts. What this world honors is detestable in the sight of God.” – Luke 16:15 [NLT]
The Bible says that we are not to put God to the test. When Jesus is tempted three times, He even responds with the Deuteronomy 6 verse when He is told to throw himself down. In today’s passage, Ahaz responds that he “will not put the LORD to the test.” There is a difference though.
Ahaz was asked by the Lord to ask for a sign or confirmation. God was saying, “Go ahead Ahaz, seek me. Ask me.” Ahaz did not want to know the truth. Ahaz did not want to seek the advice of God. He responds by attempting to make himself look as if he is following the Law. He proclaims that he didn’t want a sign because he didn’t want to test God. But he was simply pretending to have reverence for God, though it was more of a refusal to accept what God had for him.
Jesus and Ahaz had the same response but their hearts were different—their true motives were different. Reverence for God is something we all should have, but there is true reverence, what Jesus displayed, and a false reverence, which is the display put on by Ahaz. Today consider the reverence you show for God. Do you have a deep respect for the Lord?
“Later, the LORD sent this message to King Ahaz: ‘Ask the LORD your God for a sign of confirmation, Ahaz. Make it as difficult as you want–as high as heaven or as deep as the place of the dead.’ But Ahaz said, ‘I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.’” – Isaiah 7:10-12 [NLT]
“In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem. He carried off the treasures of the temple of the LORD and the treasures of the royal palace. He took everything, including all the gold shields Solomon had made. So King Rehoboam made bronze shields to replace them and assigned these to the commanders of the guard on duty at the entrance to the royal palace.” – 1 Kings 14:25-27 [NIV]
We read that “Judah did evil in the eyes of the LORD” (v. 21). Then the passage mentions high places, sacred stones, Asherah poles, and even male shrine prostitutes. The people were engaged in horrible, sinful acts. The people were committing idolatry. Then the judgment for their actions followed. The king of Egypt attacked and the treasures were taken. The gold shields that Solomon had made were carried away, and Solomon’s son has them replaced with bronze shields.
When we look at this replacement of the shields, it reminds me of something that a criminal does, replacing something real with something fake to pretend that the fake item is the real thing. At the end of the day, the deception is deception and can never be truth. Even if the shields were replaced, it was easy to see that they were not the original gold shields. Solomon made those gold shields when he was doing what was right in the eyes of the LORD. The shields were just one of many things that pointed to the splendor of Israel when following the Lord.
Today let this be a reminder of what truth is and what is not considered the truth. Let us remember that we have the option of having a true, real relationship with God. We can attempt to fake it by having a Bible on our bookshelf or attending church on Sunday, but there is no replacement for the real thing.
I remember when I was a little girl and I would see someone put on an act. Everyone has seen someone put on an act at some point in life, and I believe that everyone has taken their attempt at trying to be a bit deceptive to the human eye as well. We leave ourselves very vulnerable if we allow our true selves to be seen. Plus some of our wrong decisions and our faults are embarrassing. Yet we are all sinners– we all fall short.
A big issue that has really impacted the feelings nonbelievers have for Christians has resulted from people trying to put on an act. There are some people who accept Christ into their lives and they begin to change, but all the changes are not positive. They take a step forward, believing that they are better than those who have not yet received Christ. For some reason the people fail to remember that they are still sinners saved by grace. At the same time, they have forgotten that the invitation remains there for nonbelievers and that they are to show the love of Christ to EVERYONE as they try to work for God’s purpose.
Recently I was questioned as to whether or not I would keep an old friend in my life who believed I was “religious.” The question arose because the person felt I would be judgmental of sin. The person deemed me “religious” simply because I shared Scripture and Christian music. To me, I feel not only that it is my duty to share God with everyone, but I also hope that in some way it will benefit someone who hears it. I have been shown many times how God works in amazing ways to touch the lives of others, even with something as crazy as Facebook. He can use anything for His glory.
So here I was with a message from an old friend who was putting me in a position to either condemn the person with my own personal judgment or show love. The reason that I was sent the message was simply because too many Christians are out there pointing fingers rather than reaching out. Too many Christians are showing hate, rather than showing love. The issue is that when we show love for a person, we are not choosing to love the sins of the person. There is a big difference. That is what bothers me so much about so many situations. I am disturbed when I see people lashing out at others for their sins. We understand that we are saved from our sins, but we need to also accept that if we look in the mirror, we are all still sinners saved by the grace of God. We are only cleansed because of Christ’s work on the cross, not by anything that we have done. In the end, we are all still sinners.
Therefore before we decide to put on our act of being better than others, we need to recognize that no one is better. We are all in the same boat. It’s just that some of us are wearing our life preservers already and some have not taken the time to put one on. The preserver is still there. Perhaps we all can grab a few and start handing them out. The Holy Spirit will guide us to do that, but we must change our attitude to one of gratitude and complete devotion to Christ. We need to start showing God’s love to all and let Him do the rest.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” – Romans 3:23-24 [NIV]