The images out of Afghanistan yesterday pressed heavily on me. Politics and blame for the debacle aside, I just could not shake the compassion and concern for those who will now suffer under the regime of the Taliban. Christians, who are a tiny minority of around 1% in the nation, are prepared for hardship and martyrdom. Last week a missions team there to serve were killed. Reports have come of Christian men killed and their wives taken. One Christian texted a friend out of the country – “We are preparing to meet Jesus face to face in a few days.”
How would I feel if I knew that life was about to become very hard or worse, that death was likely because of my faith in Jesus? What would I do? Those thoughts circled in my mind as I prayed for my brothers and sisters on the other side of the world.
From my perspective in the American church, it appears that much of what we do is done ‘because that is what we have always done’ or ‘we have to keep up appearances.’ That kind of ‘faith’ if we can call it that, one that is without passion and conviction, does not stand under fire. Worse, it is an offense to the Living God. Ancient Israel had fallen into ‘religion’ that looked good, but lacked connection to the Lord.
Preacher Amos watched, prayed, and heard the Spirit’s words. They were not comforting! “I hate all your show and pretense—the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your hymns of praise! They are only noise to my ears. I will not listen to your music, no matter how lovely it is.” (Amos 5:21-23, NLT) God says that He despises heartless religion.
Christian, if we just go through the motions of worship, if we sing without thought, pray only rote prayers, and ignore the Spirit’s voice – I believe that God says, “Just stop it. It’s not even funny. It offends Me.”
We do not have to become crazily emotional fanatics to please Him. He desires that we bring our faith and devotion to the ordinary, that our worship is as evident on Monday morning as it seems to be in the sanctuary on Sunday. He told Israel, ” I want to see a mighty flood of justice, a river of righteous living that will never run dry.” (Amos 5:24, NLT) God saw the injustice in Israel, the exploitation of the poor by the rich, the oppression of the powerless by the privileged. He called on them to use their times of prayer to reflect on the way they were living; and to change.
Amos was not a crank, a unique voice. Isaiah observed the same lack of integrated faith in the lives of the people. He heard the Spirit say “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (29:13) Jesus warned about “babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” (Matthew 6:7) His prescription for the sickness of heartless religion is still offered. “Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31, NLT)
The plight of the Afghan Christians made me think about the way I love God. I hope it will be a catalyst for some soul-searching in all of our lives. Let’s ask God to keep us from singing songs we don’t really mean. Let’s go beyond sending a check to church, and go to serve in His Name. Let’s engage our minds in the study of the Word, accepting it as God’s Word to us, not just some devotional reading to start the day. May our prayers flow from the depths of our heart, including real confession, faith-filled petition, and humble contemplation of His majesty.
May God keep us from a few days of just trying harder! If we have a moment of crisis or self-examination most of think just that- “I’ll just have to double down and work at it.” That doesn’t work because the focus is on you, and we are prone to failure, easily distracted, ready to justify ourselves. Fall on Him! Give Him complete access to your life, laying it all out before Him. Jesus offers Himself to us. IF we start to fall into a heartless religion, He says – “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20, NIV)
He does not love us less when we are nakedly honest.
If you’re sick of ‘church’ tell Him.
If you are not at peace, but a simmering pot of resentment towards the world, tell Him.
If you really have little desire for godly things, if you find more in fishing than serving Him, tell Him.
If Heaven seems far away and life’s pleasures are immediate and alluring, tell Him.
I have written the next words many times – He knows the real you better than you do. And, the One who knows you best, loves you most!
If we own our reality, if we will live confessionally instead of covering our sin, our fear, our doubts, our failures- with religious noise we will find Him present to comfort, faithful to forgive, and changing us from the inside out. Loving Jesus is not a matter of doing religion better; it’s about loving Jesus, focusing on Him.
Meditate on His words, our word from the Word today. “You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” (Revelation 3:17, NLT) “I am the one who corrects and disciplines everyone I love. Be diligent and turn from your indifference. “Look! Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends.” (Revelation 3:19-20, NLT)
He’s waiting, knocking on door. Will you invite Him in?
My Heart Your Home
Come and make my heart Your home
Come and be ev’rything I am
And all I know
Search me through and through
‘Til my heart becomes
A home for You
A home for You Lord
A home for You Lord
Let ev’rything I do
Open up a door
For You to come through
And that my heart would be
A place where You want to be
You are my portion
Filling up ev’rything
You are the fortune
That’s causing my heart to sing
That it’s amazing
That You could make Yourself at home
With me with me Lord
Christy Nockels | Nathan Nockels
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