There is a God…and He Ain’t You- or Me.

16 08 2018

love commandments

I am looking forward to walking with middle school kids through the Small Catechism again.  It’s been a long time. The demographic of the kids is different than when I taught catechism before.  These aren’t wealthy kids who live in trendy suburbs and go to the best schools and who have parents who actually care about their Christian education.  These are kids who have to beg rides to get to church, kids who might or might not have beds to sleep in at night, kids who may or may not have sober parents.

The kids who will be coming to catechism will be there because they want to be there- not of their own volition (whether they realize it or not) or because Mom dragged them- but because God has given them the desire (the faith dare I say) to show up.  They need these basic truths spoken to them in the hope that they will be brought to saving faith in Christ.

The first lesson in the Catechism is on the First Commandment:

Thou shalt have no other gods.

What does this mean?–Answer. We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things. Martin Luther,  Small Catechism

There is a God- and He ain’t you….or me.

This simple truth seems so painfully obvious, but the First Commandment shows us the sin of the Fall, the root of all sin.

We want to be God.  We want to be the center of our own universe.  We want things to go our way, according to our will.  We don’t want to pray that hardest petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done.”  We don’t trust God. We aren’t able to.

Intellectually we get it- sort of- that God is the Creator, but every one of us has that screaming toddler inside who wants his or her own way.  We want to trust ourselves, but we aren’t fit to be trusted.  Left to our own devices we are still those toddlers who would throw tantrums in the middle of Kroger’s and demand M&Ms and ice cream for every meal.  When we try to live by “my will be done,” it doesn’t end well.

Historically the church has referred to our inability to obey God as “original sin,” which the apostle Paul discusses here:  “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh, and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.” – Ephesians 2:1-3 (NIV)

Paul does not mince words here.  We aren’t “kinda good.”  We are no good through and through.  The theologian John Calvin would describe our state before God (apart from Jesus) as the total depravity of man. 

God demands we put Him first, yet we are constantly distracted and chasing after everything but God.

Apart from Jesus, apart from being covered by Him in baptism, apart from being covered by Him because He died to save us from sin, we are completely incapable of putting God first or obeying any of His laws.  We are not able to be perfectly good like God requires. We aren’t even “sorta good.”

Thank you, Lord for the faith you give us as a free gift, the faith in Jesus that saves, the faith that counts us righteous in your sight for Jesus’ sake.  Forgive us for all the times we fall and forget to trust You alone.

 

 

 

 

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Matthew 6:19-21 Eternal Treasures

16 03 2013

 Jesus

(Jesus said:)

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21 (NRSV)

Today’s question:

What is your “investment strategy” for investing in things that are eternal?

I am not a wealthy woman, at least not in material things, according to the standards of my community.   According to the rest of the world though, I am better off than most.  I have food and clothing, a car to drive, reasonable access to medical care and shelter including indoor plumbing and central heating and air conditioning.  Even though I do not live in poverty today, I do struggle with a deeply ingrained scarcity mentality that began in my youth.

When I got clothing (with few exceptions) it had already been through both older sisters, and it was generally ill-fitting and threadbare by the time it was passed down to me.  I was sickly and weak and sometimes my parents couldn’t afford appropriate medical care or glasses.  There were times that my parents had to make a choice between food and/or scripts or keeping the utilities and mortgage paid.  Everything was always hard won and acquired at the last minute, and even if it was “essential,” you might still have to go without.

poor child

Poverty sucks.  Believe that.

Growing up with scarcity taught me that I didn’t care for going without.  It gave me an intense drive to achieve, to never run out, and to be able to provide myself all the things I could not have as a child.

I came to a point where not only did I earn enough to be able to have the “essentials” (at least most of the time), but to feed my own ego, I had to be the biggest, baddest one around professionally.  It wasn’t even so much about money as it was credibility and prestige.  I wanted to be taken seriously instead of being mocked for being an awkward, badly dressed geek.

The problem with my quest for prestige and professional achievement was that in that pursuit I became cut-throat and ruthless.  I didn’t care about anything but professional success.  I worked 60-80 hours a week.  I did everything I could to make money for my employer as well as I did everything I could to advance myself.

celica

I had a Celica like this at one time.  It was a tasty car.

I didn’t care about anything except professional success- until I had a series of catastrophic health failures.

I have essential hypertension- a severe and pernicious form of high blood pressure that is inherited and extremely difficult to keep controlled.  By age 29 my blood pressure was so out of control (despite being on multiple medications at ridiculously high doses) that I was having bleeds into the scleras of both eyes- where the whites of my eyes would suddenly become blood red.  I also had two incidences of phlebitis in my right leg that were associated  with my uncontrolled blood pressure.  I had severe and constant sinus infections and bronchitis from chain smoking.

sclera bleed

Gross, but this was happening to my eyes pretty regularly from out of control blood pressure.

My health got to a point where at age 30 my family doctor warned me: Change your lifestyle and your outlook and most importantly, your job, or you won’t live to see age 35.

That warning was the tipping point.  I was killing myself- physically, emotionally and spiritually- over what?

By the grace of God He brought me to a realization of what I was doing to myself and to those around me.  I found a different job where it wasn’t necessary for me to be there so many hours, and where I didn’t have the stress of managing employees and dealing with customers face to face all day long.  I suddenly had the time to stop and examine what was really important, and God dealt with me over it.  I knew that after seven years of pig pen living I needed to run back to the Father’s house, including getting back to involvement a Christian community.

Slowly and eventually God brought me to my church.  He led me to become free of a long standing addiction to cigarettes.  He got me to the point where I wasn’t so obsessed with work. My health improved, but more importantly my focus changed.

It’s not about my personal status or my personal ability to provide for myself.  It’s not about me at all.  Sola Dei Gloria.  She with the most toys doesn’t necessarily win, and acquiring toys that I can’t take with me is pretty much pointless anyway.

I still have issues with scarcity mentality.  Sometimes I get so worried and afraid about what I can’t do, instead of trusting God.  Unbelief is a sin.  God help my unbelief.

Love God, love other people, and love myself.  It sounds easy in theory, but in practice I can only do these things by the grace of God.

love of god