Sunday, January 24, 2010

Going Through the Motions

I was at church one Sunday. The worship leader sang the song by Mathew West titled “Emotions” The lyrics say: “I don’t want to go through the motions. I don’t want to go one more day without your all consuming passionate side of me. I don’t want to spend my whole life asking what if I had of given everything, instead of going through the motions. We also sung other songs that morning with lyrics that just cried out for God and for His life changing power to change us. Tears poured from my eyes as I choked out the words of the songs feeling the truth in every word with my heart. Initially, that particular Sunday morning, I didn’t even want to go to church. I was bordering on depression at the thought. It made me wonder, what had happened to me and my spiritual fervor?

There was a time in my Christian walk when I couldn’t wait for Sunday to come. I looked forward to hearing the sermons and I hung on every word as if it was my nutritional meal that would get me through the week. I would be encouraged, challenged and moved to share my faith with everyone. God had placed a passion in me so strong and a burden for the lost that inspired me to write song after song. Before I was a Christian I used to write poetry. The poems were always expressions of my sadness, loneliness and depression. When I accepted Christ, my poetry went into an entirely new dimension. My poetry became more about hope, salvation, praise and God’s love. I would play my guitar for hours worshipping Jesus in my living room. It was Him and I. Now I rarely pick up my guitar, not even to practice for playing on the Sunday worship team. I was going through the motions. Once in a while I would feel a spark of the flame that once consumed me.

My life had changed because of many different circumstances and I had to move to this other church. I attended regularly. I was on the worship team. At times it seemed more of a bother than an honor. I lost a Godly perspective and got caught in life and busyness that seems to invade our daily lives. The more I delved into work and other curricular activities the farther I drifted from the place I once was spiritually. That was when I started just going through the motions. I went to church, still doing the religious things, but received nothing but frustration listening to the sermons that many times just made me feel like I was just wasting my time. I did this every Sunday finding no joy of the Lord, no passion or much of anything that would get me out of that funk that I found myself in.

That particular Sunday morning, when I sang the songs and cried out to God, it just became so clear to me. I was stuck in the mud spiritually. This realization told me I had to seek change. My pastor once said that if you don’t like the preaching than go some place else. For a long time, I just stayed and unhappily listened to his sermons that did nothing that would spark or ignite the spirit within me. Realizing the place I found myself in spiritually, it became clear to me that I had to take that first step again. God never left me. God hadn’t changed. I had allowed time and complacency to tie me down. Now it was up to me to cut the ties that bind and to desperately seek God and ask Him to fill me once again and bring me back to my first love Christ Jesus. To do this I had to have a need, a desire and the willingness to be changed. When I left that church on that Sunday, I just knew I had to go some place else to worship. Simply, I was not getting the Spiritual food I needed and was becoming depleted spiritually, emotionally and physically.

That Sunday night I prayed to God, standing before Him completely truthful about myself and how I was feeling, knowing full well that God knows all things. I specifically prayed for restoration and revelation. I prayed that God would bring me back to that place of closeness with Him. I prayed again that God would give me eyes that see and ears that hear Him and for His wisdom and understanding to be made manifest within me. The next morning when I awoke to get dressed for work, I bent over and my back went out on me. For the next two days, I was pretty much limited to lying on my back not able to move without a lot of pain. I took this time to read the book of Hebrews and started reading the book of Acts. When you are limited to very little movement like I was, God had me in a place where I would finally seek Him.

After two days of stillness I mustered enough strength to sit at my computer to write. After praying that morning, I began to write this chapter not knowing where it was going to take me. The phone rang and I picked up. On the other end of the phone was the angelic voice of a friend. She told me that God had placed me on her heart and she felt that she had to give me a phone call. I hadn’t talked to her for a few months to this point in time. Her call surprised me. She said to me that she felt that I needed a word of encouragement and she gave me a scripture verse that I am very familiar with. NIV Bible Proverbs 3: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will and he will show you which road to take. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones.”

This verse really had a lot of God’s truth and direction for me and was really an answer to my prayers. God put it on Sherrilyn’s heart to call me. God gave her the verse. She was obedient to God and called me. At first, I wondered why that verse. I know that verse off by heart. God wanted me to think about it again. In my defense I thought, I do trust you Lord. Do I trust Him with all my heart? The second line says, “Don’t depend on your own understanding.” I tend to do that a lot and it gets me in trouble. The third line says to “seek his will.” When I thought about it, I ask God for this and for that but are these things in God’s will? Then a light started to dawn on my thick head. "Seek his will, turn from evil." You see I believe my Spirit had been telling me for a long time to leave that church. Not that it was an evil place. However, it was not the place for me to be anymore. God was trying to get my attention each week, but I just pushed His promptings back down. I didn’t trust what God was telling me because I was trying to figure things out with my understanding not His. This verse that she gave me was a confirmation to me, as I had decided to write a letter to the board of the church stating reasons why my husband and I would be taking a sabbatical as to find out what road God wanted us to take.

Sherrilyn invited me to go to a Thursday night service at her church. The worship was powerful. The congregation joyfully participated with praises and halleluiahs. Then the message that the Pastor spoke was so full of scripture and power, it felt like a title wave of food coming over me. It was so much food that I could barely take it all in. His two hour sermon didn’t seem that long and my ears were so attentive to what he was teaching. He said many things which would motivate change in a Christians’ life. It was a message for this present day, a time such as this. It was an apostolic message about faith, about the power of God in the old and New Testament. I never thought about the cloud of the Lord. Being a cloud watcher myself, I know there are many different kinds of clouds; anywhere from the Stratocumulus perlucidus clouds to Mammatus cloud formations and on and on the list goes. It is fascinating to think about the many variations of clouds which God has created. They are new every morning, never the same twice. The cloud of the Lord is different because God’s Spirit is in the cloud. Exodus13:21-22. By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. The book of Numbers 9:15, Deuteronomy, and Nehemiah also tells of the same kind of cloud. When the cloud of the Lord came upon Miriam, she became full of leprosy. Again that cloud showed the power of God’s judgment toward Miriam’s sin.This pastor showed scripture verse after scripture verse. It was very interesting. One of his main points was that the truth has to go up to God for His glory to come down to us. God is righteous and holy and therefore cannot pour out his admiration and honor to us if we are not walking in his truth. If we try to fool ourselves and try to fool God we will do little more than spin our wheels. How can we move in the fullness of the Holy Spirit if we have things in our lives that are not truth? If we have sin in our daily lives and do nothing to try to remove that sin, we are not pleasing or obeying God. We cannot hide anything from God. He is all knowing. If we have a problem or a struggle we can approach God with our concerns honestly and without fear. God does not give us a spirit of fear. The fear of God’s judgment is a different matter. That we should fear. The bible calls that kind of fear the beginning of wisdom. When we are walking in truth then God will pour out His glory to us. With this message, again God was revealing truth and answering my prayers of that week.

Sometimes we are brought to a place in our walk with God where we come face to face with difficult decisions. At times we may have to sacrifice some of the things we enjoy as to live God’s truth. When God calls you to go some place else that is when we trust that His ways are greater than our ways. Instead of going through the motions, we are seeking God’s will. God’s wisdom in all things and God’s understanding so that we can do His ministry.