twisted truths and false promises

Luke 4:5-8 The devil led him (Jesus) up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’ 

I received a phone call from my internet provider this past week. The man on the other end of the line promised me that he would offer me deal that would really benefit me. Before he could continue I asked him if it would save me money. He ignored my question and kept saying that he wanted to ask me a few things first. I pestered him enough until he told me “yes.” So, I listened to a long explanation about how much faster my internet would be and how many more international minutes I’d have for calling. Unfortunately, in order for me to save money on my internet bill I would have to take their deal for a tv package too. Sometimes advertisers twist their truths and give false promises so that we think we need what they are selling us.

A second temptation that Jesus faced in the wilderness was something similar … with much bigger consequences. Jesus knew his purpose was to bring restoration between God and us again. He knew it would cost him. The devil caught him out when he was exhausted, both mentally and physically. “I’ve got a great deal for you!” he says, “It will really benefit you.” Jesus wouldn’t have to go through the next three years that we call his ministry years. He wouldn’t have to travel from town to town while putting up with a bunch of moaning people following him. He wouldn’t have to have the responsibility of saving the world. He could just coast his way through life. All he would have to do was one simple and seemingly harmless thing – worship the devil, just once. For one moment, take a look at the destruction that Satan has caused on the earth and say he is the greatest. It’s twisted. It’s false. To us, it’s obvious.

Recognizing the twisted truths and false promises in our own lives is far more difficult. What do we believe that is so close to truth that we don’t even see it? What gets in the way of worshiping God and serving him only? Who or what do we think is more powerful and great than God? The easy answer is: “Nothing.” But what about our fear? What about our boss? What about our hunger? What about our suffering? What about our pride? What about our money? What about our hobbies? What about our religious beliefs, or lack thereof? What about our work ethic? What about our jealousy? What about our hatred? It is easily done … and so obvious when we are looking back at it. Seeing God as bigger and more worthy of our thoughts just because of who he is, is tough.

Walking with Jesus through the wilderness means worshiping God alone and recognizing false advertisements that come our way. Adam and Eve missed it the first time around. They took the devil up on his boasts about the benefit of knowing good and evil. Jesus didn’t. We don’t have to either.

Talk to God about the things that have become more important and powerful in your life than him. Ask him to show you his truth about those things. When you are done, take a minute of silence and think about the greatness of God.

This week of Lent will be dedicated to learning what it is to worship God and serve him only.

if god would only give up his archaic ways

Some days I’m not so sure about being on a team with God. First of all, he’s not as obviously visible and vocal as another human being. It can feel like I’m talking to myself: “Ok, God, if I understand correctly, I head this way and you head that way and then we will meet over here.” And trying to listen to him? Well, it sometimes sounds like this: “——————-.” Apparently he hasn’t read all the books about how our current culture operates. He might have a better understanding of how to function in society if he had. With that better understanding, maybe he’d fit in a little better. Maybe he could take all his strengths and even become as successful as Google – with all those unique qualities he has: being everywhere at the same time, knowing everything, being able to do whatever he likes (creative genius behind the concept of the world and all …).

But I signed up for his team a long time ago. I signed up for his team. He didn’t sign up for mine. In moments of complete clarity there is nothing I’d rather be doing.

We think we are so smart, so evolved, so ahead of every society that ever came before us. God is old, really old. He hasn’t quite caught up to the way we deal in information overload and fast-paced environments. He doesn’t know the way we communicate these days. If he did, he’d know we are an extremely intelligent people with hurting souls, and who really needs a soul (it’s like an appendix, perhaps it had a function once but might just cause us health issues if it doesn’t get removed). He should learn from us.

But then there is a dream that follows me like a shadow around the city, even on a cloudy day. In it there are children, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and neighbours laughing with each other in the streets coloured with trees and flowers instead of advertisements on abandoned beer cans. The empty shop fronts and derelict buildings are housing unique and bustling businesses that are birthed through the creativity of a community. Creased foreheads have been smoothed from peace and hunched shoulders of desperation are pulled back in hope. Heaven, it smells like heaven. It is a place to belong that stores up so much love that it comes up from the ground in springs of a playground on a hot day for everyone who passes by.

It is unrealistic. It is a fantasy world that we know couldn’t possibly exist because the world just does not work that way. And yet, as fast as I run and no matter where I hide, that dream stalks me, sneaks up on me and crouches in wait before crashing over me – in beauty, in life, in belonging, in the essence of the dream. Caught up and overwhelmed by the dream … that is where God speaks, reminding me that my role is not as complicated as I over-think it to be and his is far more complicated than I could ever imagine. He knows what he is doing. Do I know what I’m doing?

He has bigger dreams than me and has set into motion creative tides of change that have swept over our universe again and again. Should we both be visible and standing side by side I would only be noticeable if he made me noticeable. We aren’t playing together to win some sort of intellectually clever competition. We are playing to see whole communities bought back in hope. Perhaps it is us who haven’t caught up and he is way ahead, groaning over our archaic ways.

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong … Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God. ~ Ecclesiastes 5:1, 7

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prayer words

Forehead pinched together with eyes shut tightly. Word after word escapes in hopes of covering the request completely – not forgetting anything – bargaining for everything.

Time consuming.
Stressful.
Repetitive.
Boring.
Ineffective.
What’s the point.
Guilt.
Do it all again tomorrow.

All-thing that our Lord hath ordained to do, it is His will that we pray therefor, either in special or in general. This is our Lord’s will, that our prayer and our trust be both alike large. For if we trust not as much as we pray, we do not full worship to our Lord in our prayer. ~ Julian of Norwich

Liberating.
Ongoing.
Spur of the moment.
Genuine.
Full of trust.
Powerful.
Miracles.
Do it all again tomorrow.

Heart poured out and burdens lifted. Eyes wide open in a word, in a look, in a conversation. Filled with impossible expectation in a collection of moments. This is trust and prayer. This is worship.

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