When I try to discipline Gordon—for toddler infractions like yelling or throwing—he’ll often interrupt me by putting his hand in my face. That’s his way of asking me for kisses. I started this a long time ago when I acted silly and kissed his hand and went all the way up his arm to his neck, and now he thinks it’s the best thing ever. Now, I love nothing more than kissing my sweet baby, but it’s so frustrating when I’m trying to discipline him. I just want him to learn to be obedient. Oh the daily frustrations of being a mom!
When Gordon thrust his little arm out the other day—again—it made me a bit introspective. Do I do this to God when He’s trying to teach me a lesson?
With Covid still impacting nearly every area of our society, churches are still having a hard time providing a safe place for people to worship. The issues are numerous: Do we wear masks? What if someone doesn’t want to wear a mask? Do we close off every other pew? Do we have children’s church? Do we give up and just and meet outside?
Almost every time I’ve seen news reports about churches and Covid, the issues have been around worship—our right to worship the way we want to, when we want to, where we want to, and how we want to.
If I didn’t know any better, I’d think that Christianity was all about worshiping. And maybe that’s the way it is today.
But what about the other 167 hours of the week? You know, the times when we’re supposed to tell the truth at work, be nice to our spouse, speak life into our kids, and share with our neighbors? The times we’re supposed to be the salt and light of the world. Are we really doing that? Or are we too worried about our rights of worship to do the harder things of faith—like develop spiritual discipline and spread God’s love?
Don’t get me wrong here. Worship is important, but worship is really anything we do in the name of the Lord. Our right to gather and pray and read the Bible in community is extremely important, and we must guard that right carefully. But have we become a worship-only religion?
Are we just thrusting our hands in God’s face, asking for kisses all the while spurning His lessons?
This wouldn’t be the first time we’ve sought God’s blessings but failed to be obedient. In the Old Testament, the Israelites worshiped by sacrificing animals to God. Although they would do this religiously, they would often forget the true meaning behind the sacrifice. They would close their hearts to God and commit daily sins against Him. Here’s God’s response as He shared with the prophet Isaiah:
“What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?” Says the LORD. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle; and I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats.
When you come to appear before Me, who requires of you this trampling of My courts?
Bring your worthless offerings no longer, Incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies– I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly.
I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, They have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them.
So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.
Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil,
learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.
Come now, and let us reason together,” says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.
If you consent and obey, you will eat the best of the land;
But if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” Truly, the mouth of the LORD has spoken. (Isaiah 1:11-20 11 NAS)
If you’ve been demanding blessings, or you’re stuck in a worship-only routine, then I encourage you to stop. Put your hand down and listen to what God is telling you through His Word and His Holy Spirit. Stop sinning. Seek spiritual discipline. Then approach God wholeheartedly.
This can be quite a challenge, and I commend you for evening considering it. If you’d like some help to get started, check out the classic Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster. This is a tremendous resource that will change how you view spiritual discipline and will give you helpful tools to start today.
To do righteousness and justice Is desired by the LORD more than sacrifice (Proverbs 21:3 NAS).Are you stuck in a worship-only routine? Read as author Ashley L. Jones discusses the importance of the hard things of faith. Click To Tweet
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On Gordon’s hand
Mean momma forgives me
For my misbehavior just now
Kisses are momma’s way
Of saying she loves her
© L. Whitefeather
I wrote this poem after reading only the first few “teaser” lines of your blog in my e-mail. Afterward, I clicked on “read more” and saw your expanded thoughts.
I notice that when it comes to inappropriate behavior and God’s response, that most Christian teachers resort to quoting verses from the Old Testament. I’ve always believed that the Old Testament was meant to be a historical document, explaining to us why God changed His approach toward human behavior. You have to admit, not much worked with His people. So He resorted to making “forgiveness” His primary approach toward us. That is what sending His Son Jesus Christ was, and still is, all about in the first place. We hear, believe, repent, confess, and are baptized in Jesus’ name. But we still sin. Over and over again because it is human nature. We are not perfect and never will be. Oh, I think God had high hopes that He could protect His little images, but once they gained the knowledge of good and evil, it was like trying to discipline a toddler. Nothing really worked – not even His effort to hit “reboot” with the flood.
So, I guess what I’m saying is that, as Christians, our real lessons should be coming from the New Testament. Mercy and forgiveness – asked for sincerely and with a repentant heart. And I think that my little poem was right on target afterall. When Gordon puts that hand up in your face, he is – in my opinion – sincerely repenting and asking for forgiveness. As for changing his behavior, I think that will happen over time as his brain matures. But for right now, he is a toddler without older siblings to set an example for him. So momma, keep forgiving him and giving him unconditional love just like God gives you and me in Jesus’ name.
Linda, thanks so much for the sweet poem. Yes, all mamas have to major in forgiveness and longsuffering, I think! It just goes with the territory.
You’re right that Jesus clarified God’s will and desire for us. Anytime we pull an isolated Scripture from the OT, we need to view it in light of Jesus’ sacrifice and the forgiveness we’ve received through Him. But that OT is still really important because it lays out God’s plan. Everything in the OT pointed to the need for a Messiah, for an ultimate sacrifice that would do what no burnt offering could ever do. That’s why Jesus was able to tell the disciples all about Himself by unfolding the truths from the OT (the only written Word they had at that time). We are so fortunate today to have both the OT and the NT and to have the living Holy Spirit within us! It’s really amazing if you stop and think about it.
Take care and God bless!
Thank you for this reminder. The other day I sat down and just started writing with no purpose but to break through the blank page staring back at me. I thought of the many times I’ve sat through teachings of writing out a vision statement for why I write. I was a bit surprised at what came out: obedience, growth, and timing. I’m going to put that up in a prominent place near my computer for those times I wonder why I write without an audience when things don’t get published. I write out of obedience. Obedience in turn produces growth–in my writing skills and most importantly in my relationship with Jesus. What He chooses to do with how I’ve grown and what I’ve written is in His timing.
I love that, Charley! It can be so hard to spend so much time and energy on something and have no one read it. Faith writers write out of obedience. I like Romans 11:36: “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”