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]
Recently my son had a problem with his gaming system. I decided to reveal my tech geek side and began to look deeper into the issue. I realized that the disc drive was malfunctioning and had another drive ordered. When it arrived, the sticker on the box said, “new.” I quickly learned that it was anything but new. It had a padded wrapper over it but inside told another story. I found things broken and a stripped screw.
The people who sold me the disc drive can easily slap a sticker on a box and say the merchandise is new even though it is anything but new. With us, we can pretend to be a particular way; however, if we have the Spirit, if we accepted Jesus into our lives and were baptized, then there should be a sign of fruit—fruit from our lives.
You cannot fake a relationship with Christ. You cannot slap on a label (ex: “Christian”) and think it makes the reality change. There’s a song that says, “You’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Today, are you a box with a deceptive sticker or are you the real deal? If people look around will they see the fruits of your labor or will they get lost and confused from the image you try to uphold?
“You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.” – Matthew 7:16-18 [ESV]
There’s a phrase that I often hear from people when I ask them how they are doing. I guess I will say I am okay. It does no good complaining. No one cares anyway. Now for my complaint…
It really upsets me to hear people say things like this because I know that no matter what, someone cares. Always. And yes, complaining too much is a bad thing. The Israelites spent a lot of time grumbling in the Wilderness. But there are moments when we are upset and it is okay to verbalize our feelings.
I am currently reading the Book of Psalms. As I page through, again and again I read of the Psalmist crying out to God, pouring out his emotions. There is no holding back. There is nothing but pure, honest truth. And yes, there is some complaining. Today I want to remind you that God cares about you and EVERYTHING you are going through. And there are people in this world who care as well. Don’t go through your days not opening up and connecting. If you keep everything to yourself, then you are not really having a relationship at all.
“The cuts in my flesh stink and grow maggots
because I’ve lived so badly.
And now I’m flat on my face
feeling sorry for myself morning to night.
All my insides are on fire,
my body is a wreck.
I’m on my last legs; I’ve had it—
my life is a vomit of groans.”
-Psalm 38:5-8 [MSG]
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]
When the Gibeonites came before God’s people, claiming to be from a distant country, “The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the LORD” (Joshua 9:14). The people of Gibeon made the false claims and had items to make their words appear to be true. They had the worn-out sacks and old wineskins. The bread was dry and moldy. The people sampled the lies, but never went to the Truth. As a result, because they believed the lies presented to them, they made an oath to the Gibeonites which became a burden to them.
There are times when we are presented with what appears to be factual information. We are to use good discernment to make decisions. But are we to approach God with everything? Should the Israelites have inquired of the Lord? Again and again God tells the Israelites to not make treaties with others, to not intermarry with others, to not allow themselves to get too close to the outsiders because they would then dwindle towards following their ways. Making a treaty, an alliance with someone, is a big deal.
Truth is God’s truth. In a day when people continue to try to twist the truth, it is important that we keep seeking the Lord for Truth. Just recently, I have seen someone bring up the topic of slavery in the Bible in a false manner to challenge the biblical definition of marriage. These people were sampling the lies rather than truly reading the word of God. So many today are sampling lies and making up their own truth. Today, stand firm in the truth. Seek the Lord rather than sampling the lies of the world.
“Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.” – John 17:17 [NLT]
This past week I moved, because I wanted for my children to be in a safer area. We all have needs and one need that we have is a sense of security. We want to be safe and we want to know that everything is going to be okay. At the same time, we actually have no control over the things that could very well threaten our security. We can prepare. We can try to prevent certain things from happening. However, the only security that we have is in Jesus and in the promises found in His Word.
Last night, after not even a week at my new place, I woke up in the early morning to hearing loud shouts, mostly curse words. I looked out the window to find some young man running around nearly naked screaming. The man was ripping the boards off of a neighbour’s fence, tearing it apart and tossing it feet away. He then went houses down the street and took a patio chair, tore the cushion apart and tossed that as well. He was making animal noises, grunting and yelling as he was doing all of this stuff.
Even though I spent ten years working in the medical field and dealt with mental health patients, I was a bit fearful. This wasn’t in some institution– this was outside my front door. As I think about this now, anything could have happened. The police came for the man, who happened to try some new, popular form of marijuana that is currently in the area, one that causes people to go crazy.
This event shows that bad things can happen anywhere. We cannot run and hide, thinking that if we are in a certain area we will be safe and secure. We could spend our lives not driving because we are afraid we will get in an accident, and a car could run up onto the footpath and run us over. We can put safety helmets on our children so when they fall, they won’t get hurt, but the child could get hurt elsewhere.
The only true security that we have is Jesus. He promises no matter what to be with you. He promises forgiveness, peace, salvation, treasures in heaven, life abundantly, healing, reward, blessings, cleansing, great joy, comfort, justice, rest, love, friendship, power, companionship, etc. You can purchase a home security system, practice all of the safest health measures, reside in a particular area, and read all of the safety findings found online, but nothing– NOTHING– will provide you the security you need except for Jesus.
“The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer.
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”
– Psalm 18:2 [NASB]