When I watch a movie, I’m intrigued by how the story unfolds, how the writer has pulled the threads of the plot together to get to a satisfactory—and sometimes unsatisfactory—ending. Of lesser importance to me are the specifics surrounding the actors’ ability to nuance the characters in the movie. Perhaps of least importance to me is the technique behind the camera shots or the way in which the director chooses to film the action in the movie.
However, my husband is not that interested in the “story” of the movie. Instead, he pays more attention to how realistically an actor portrays his character, and whether he or she is good at the craft of acting. He can also get excited about how a movie is filmed, noting things like the director’s love of close-ups or tall buildings.
I believe these two different methods of watching a movie reflect how we relate to other people. For example, take what happens when my husband and I meet a new couple. I immediately start asking questions about their background, their family, their “story.” On the other hand, he is much more interested in asking questions that reveal the couple’s emotions, feelings, and opinions.
Not surprisingly, our personality differences affect how we worship God, how comfortable we are with a certain style of worship, and how we enter into a worship service or respond to the pastor’s sermon. I believe Jesus seeks to encompass all kinds of worshipers with his words from John 4:24: “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
How does your spirit worship God?
The other day I was standing beside an elevator, having just pushed the Arrow Down button to call the elevator up to the second floor, when an elderly gentleman walked over and pushed the same button again. Then, he turned to me and said, “I know that was useless. The elevator won’t get here any sooner just because two people push it.”
At the grocery store, a little later that day, I tried to sign my name on a credit card scanner. After several attempts to make a semi-legible mark, the clerk waved her hand at me and said, “Oh, honey, forget it. Your signature won’t mean anything on there. That thing is useless.”
My day of useless things ended when I got home and tried to balance my checkbook. No, it wasn’t balancing the checkbook that proved useless. What was useless was pushing the “C” repeatedly on the calculator, clearing out the old amount before adding a new one. Like the gentleman at the elevator, I suddenly realized pressing the “C” a second time was an exercise in futility. The screen always went blank the first time I pushed it.
There’s a fourth useless thing we may be guilty of as well. It’s forgetting to worship our Creator. God reminds us of this in Isaiah 45:7 when He says, “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.”
Failure to acknowledge the God of the Universe, He who created light and darkness, who directs every aspect of our lives, is useless. In the same chapter in Isaiah, God says,” By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return:‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.” (Isaiah 45:23).
As believers, we sing of God’s amazing grace, but, if the parable Jesus told in Matthew 20 is any indication, lurking beneath these praises could be a heart of jealousy.
In this story, found in Matthew 20:1-16 and often called the Laborers in the Vineyard, Jesus tells of a landowner who hires laborers to work in his vineyard. He does this throughout the day, so that the laborer hired in the early part of the day works many more hours than the laborer hired at the end of the day. Yet, the landowner pays each worker the very same wage–the amount initially agreed on when the hiring took place. Thus, those who worked longer received the exact same wages as those who worked for only one hour.
Predictably, when those who had worked a full 12 hours noticed that the landowner had paid each man the same wage, they grumbled and complained to the owner of the vineyard. This was the owner’s answer in Matthew 20:15, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?”
Since the landowner is representative of God, we should take this parable as a cautionary tale to guard ourselves from complaining about the blessings God bestows on someone who appears undeserving of such grace. Instead, when God showers someone with blessings, our response should be one of joy. Imagine how pleased the landowner would have been if the workers, who bore the heat of the day, had rejoiced with with the workers who had worked but a few hours. What a celebration they could have had!
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” Philippians 2:14-15.
Placing trust in someone doesn’t mean they are trustworthy. Trusting a chair to hold you up doesn’t mean it’s sturdy enough to do the job of bearing your weight. Trust must have a basis. Otherwise, it’s not to be trusted.
Trust is a word that’s being discussed a lot these days. That’s probably why I was intrigued by a story about trust in the Old Testament.
Without getting too caught up in the details, here’s the background: The King of Assyria sends an army to fight the Israelites led by King Hezekiah. When the envoy from the King of Assyria arrives outside the gates of Jerusalem with a huge army, he has a message for King Hezekiah.
“Say to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: On what do you rest this trust of yours?'” 2 Kings 18:19
“On what do you rest this trust of yours?” Hezekiah rested his trust in the Lord. His trust was in the Almighty God, the God of his fathers, his Creator. He trusted Him for deliverance rather than an army of thousands. This was a trust to be trusted.
Hezekiah demonstrated his trust by praying for deliverance to a trustworthy God. “O Lord … you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth.”
Hezekiah’s trust was well-placed. God delivered the Israelites from the Assyrian army in a miraculous way (2 Kings 18-20).
One of Hezekiah’s ancestors, King Solomon, left instructions about how to trust the Lord. Those instructions are found in Proverbs 3:5-6. They involve two commands. 1) Don’t rely on your own understanding and 2) Acknowledge the Lord’s right to control your life.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your path straight.”
“On what do you rest this trust of yours?”
If you’ve spent any time at all on any of the social media sites, you’ve come across something called “best hacks” or “unbelievable hacks.” These are usually discoveries people have made to make life easier. Whether it’s simply a description or a full-fledged video, each discovery uses a tagline to get your attention. My favorite is “this shouldn’t work, but it does.”
Here’s my own “best hack” for having a meaningful, God-glorifying, devotional moment. And yes, “this shouldn’t work, but it does.”
Take almost any Scripture, short or long, random or favorite, and read it through once. Then, go back and emphasize each word, using that word’s meaning to draw your attention to the Lord.
Here’s an example from Psalm 46:1: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
God–Of course, this is an easy one. Focus on your Creator, the maker of all things.
Is–Focus on God’s state of being; the essence of being the “I Am.”
Our–Focus on belonging to Him
Refuge–Focus on God as a shelter
And–Focus on God being more than
Strength–Focus on the availability of His strength for you
By the time you’ve completed this simple exercise, you will have glorified God and, most assuredly, you will have been blessed yourself.
It’s easy to lose your way in the world. Our modern world has a myriad of paths from which to choose, and we can explore them all, saturating ourselves with facts and philosophies and desires and practices and beliefs.
However, like hikers exploring a new trail, there are some precautions we should take before we head off into the unknown. Otherwise, we’re sure to lose our way. These practices should serve us well, whether we’re looking at a belief system, a career choice, a new set of friends or anything requiring our time, money, and effort.
First, FIND a way to have a Daily Quiet Time
Spend at least thirty minutes every day in Bible study and prayer. It doesn’t matter how you do this. There’s a Bible reading plan out there that will match up with anyone’s learning style and preferences. The important thing is to put yourself in a position where your Father in heaven can communicate His love, His plan, and His desires for you, and in return, you can catch a glimpse of His Glory.
Second, FIND a way to meet with others to worship God
Praising, loving, and serving God with other people will strengthen and enhance an individual’s faith. However, being with others in a faith-based group isn’t always about the individual’s needs. It’s about a people who together desire to give glory, honor and praise to an Almighty Creator who sacrificed His only son to make such a relationship possible.
Third, FIND a way to express your faith
Our belief in God requires an outlet. Otherwise, stagnation sets in. This expression can take many forms, and it may be different according to personality types. For some, it may mean singing, speaking, teaching or preaching. For others, it may mean journaling, writing, serving, or counseling.
Jeremiah 6:16: “Thus says the Lord: Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.”