Friday, August 23, 2013

Religious habits

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Isaiah 58:1-14

TO CHEW ON: "'Why have we fasted,' they say, 'and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and you take no notice?'" Isaiah 58:3a

God is never fooled by our rituals. In our reading today, God scolds Israel for something we would think would earn His praise. Fasting—denying themselves food and drink as an expression of worship and faith in God—is a regular part of their practice. But God is taking no notice of their religious works. Why is this?

It is because in their actual living, they are violating principles that are close to God's heart. For one, they are ignoring the most needy in society. God tells them the fast that would get His attention: "To share your bread with the hungry and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh" (vs. 7).

We are not so different. Daily and weekly habits of religion—like a regular Bible-reading and prayer time, regular attendance at church—may make us feel like we're meeting the requirements. But if they are just going through the motions and these actions are not the expression of a real and vital relationship with God, they can be as much a form as the Old Testament fasts.

In the home where I grew up, my dad was a stickler for being on time. He would rather be ten minutes early than one minute late. As a result, Mom did her best to honour his wishes, to the extent of setting the table for Sunday breakfast on Saturday night to help ease the Sunday morning rush. She showed her love and respect for him by actually changing her routine so his wishes would be honoured.

Do we take the same actions when it comes to our relationship with God. First we need to know what He desires. Do we know what pleases Him -- the things He really values? Two of them are mentioned in Isaiah 58: showing kindness to the poor [Isaiah 58:6-7] and setting aside one day in seven for Him [Isaiah 58:13-14].) Then, motivated by love for Him, we need to uphold and further these things in our actual day-to-day living.

PRAYER: Dear God, You see through my actions into my motivations. Please show me where I'm kidding myself that all is well because I have formed some religious habits while ignoring things You really care about. Amen.

MORE: "To Obey is Better than Sacrifice" by Keith Green

Do your 8-12-year-olds have daily devotions? Point them to Bible Drive-Thru.

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