Going Through The Motions

Today’s reading is Amos 4.

I have to admit in preparing for this I did not know much about the prophet Amos and this book of the Bible which is, quite frankly, a little difficult to interpret. Thankfully, my brother in Christ and fellow Bible Journal writer David LaFrance turned me on to John MacArthur’s “Grace to You” app a few years back which I highly recommend if you have questions and want to learn more about a book or passages from the Bible.

Amos’ name means “burden bearer,” and he was from a small town Tekoa 10 miles south of Jerusalem. He bred sheep and tended sycamore fruit (yet another example of how God can use anyone from anywhere for big things and His glory). He lived in a time of peace during the 8th century B.C. when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam II was king of Israel. As can happen in times of peace when everything seems merry, we can tend to lose sight of true worship of God and God used Amos to bring attention that and also a lack of justice.

“Come to Behtel and transgress; to Gilgal, and multiply transgression; bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days; offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving of that which is leavened, and proclaim free will offerings, publish them; for so you love to do, O people of Israel! declares the Lord God.”

Amos 4:4-5

God wants to bring attention to their idolatry and them going through the motions in giving and worship. I’m sure we can all relate to doing this…I know I can! I notice when I’m in prayer time and realize I’m distracted thinking of my “to do” list, meetings that day, or personal or professional goals. I notice this when my mind wanders in church, and I’m not focused on the sermon but instead thinking about lunch or the game of my favorite team later that day. I even noticed sleep being an idol today when I was going to wake up early Sunday morning to work on this but am instead working on it in the afternoon! Don’t get me wrong..making an impact professionally, our spouses, our kids, our favorite sports team or hobbies, money, sleep, and food are all blessings from God which we should enjoy. However, are we prioritizing and thinking about them over him? Are we thanking Him for these blessings and using them for His glory or for our own? All of these and more can become idols if we are not careful…yes..even our spouses and kids.

Deuteronomy 6:5-6 says..

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might and these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.”

The people of Israel Amos speaks of were giving and going through the rituals of worship without truly worshipping God and giving to Him with a thankful heart to further His kingdom.

I may have mentioned this in past writings, but I had a Sunday school teacher growing up who became moved to tears nearly every week at some point when talking about Jesus. I just didn’t get it then and thought it was very strange, but I do now. I know the times I’m living out Deuteronomy 6:5-6 is when I’m nearly moved to tears during a worship song, prayer, communion while thinking of His sacrifice on the cross, while reading the Word, or while looking at my wife and kids in thanksgiving to Him for these blessings and more.

As you read through the book of Amos, it can become very confusing, as the wrath and punishment from God is discussed. I must admit again that I have a hard time understanding this other than knowing we should suffer the wrath of God and be separated from God due to our sin. However, I’m thankful that in Amos 9:11, he speaks of Jesus by stating, “In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old.” Romans 8:1 also says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” 1 John 2:2 tells us that God sent Him as the “propitiation” for our sins. I’m extremely grateful God loves us so much that He sent Him to suffer the wrath that should have been mine.

Let us keep this in the forefront of our mind in thanksgiving as we live, give, and worship. When we do, it becomes easy live out Deuteronomy 6:5-6 and love God with all our heart, soul, and might!

1 Corinthians 10

    Since I last wrote two weeks ago, we have finished the book of Acts and are now reading 1 Corinthians together.  In today’s reading, our focus is on chapter 10. This chapter has two primary themes:  it is a strong warning against idolatry, and an equally strong encouragement to glorify God.

    Paul begins by warning the Corinthian people against putting anything – another person, an object, a behavior – in God’s rightful place.  He mentions sexual immorality, testing God, and…grumbling.  Paul writes, “We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.”  (1 Corinthians 10: 10)  Grumbling?  When I’m overwhelmed, I can be a good grumbler.  A really good grumbler, actually.  I try not to, but it happens more often than I’d like to admit.  So, reading Paul’s words about grumbling and idolatry really made me think.  How is grumbling a form of idolatry?  Personally, I grumble when I think that I should be treated better, or that a situation should have turned out differently.  Basically, I grumble when I’m making everything about me.  Ouch.  Right?  What should I do – what should we do – when we are tempted to grumble?  This is what I’m going to do:  since I grumble when I feel overwhelmed, I’m going to do a better job asking for help.  There are plenty of people in my life who are ready and willing to help me – and I’m pretty sure it is impossible for me to request help and to grumble at the same time.

    Next, Paul gives his readers hope.  He explains that even though we will face temptation as a follower of Christ, God is faithful and will always – always – provide us with an escape route from that temptation.  He says, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”  (1 Corinthians 10:13)  Did you catch that God provides us with the way (ESV)?  One way?  How, then, do we know what that way is?  I believe that He is The Way.  We stay close to Him.  We read His word.  We pray.  Then, we will be less likely to bend to temptations, and when we do – and we will, because we are all sinners (Romans 3:23) – we will be more likely to quickly glimpse that one specific escape route:  the one that leads directly back to him.

    Paul’s last words in this chapter are both beautiful and challenging:  “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  (1 Corinthians 10:21).  I remember when I was a new mom, hearing a speaker suggest that when we performed the more mundane tasks of motherhood – like changing diapers and washing toilets – we should praise God that He has given us the ability to do those things, and consider our daily chores a privilege.  I remember jumping on that bandwagon right away -only to forget a day or an hour later, and begin grumbling to myself in my head.  With perspective, and age, I’ve come to think of this verse in a different way.   Now, throughout the day, I praise Him for the privilege of walking through my life with Him.   I seek to glorify His name by doing the work that He has called me to do each day.  Without grumbling.