Truth

Saturday Spotlight: Felix

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After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he talked about faith in Christ Jesus. But as Paul went on discussing about goodness, self-control, and the coming Day of Judgment, Felix was afraid and said, “You may leave now. I will call you again when I get the chance.” Acts 24:24-25

 

Governor Felix was in charge of deciding the case against Paul, who had been imprisoned as the result of charges made against him by the Jewish religious leaders. Felix seems to have wanted to listen to Paul, since he sent for him. As long as Paul talked about faith in Jesus, all was well. As soon as Paul spoke about acting with self-control and God’s judgment, Felix got afraid and didn’t have time to listen.

 

A very human response. We feel comforted and reassured thinking about God’s mercy and unconditional love, and rightly so. But faith in God’s love isn’t a passport to doing whatever we feel like. We don’t have to earn our own salvation—we can’t; scripture makes that abundantly clear. But it is also true that by our choices, we demonstrate where our hearts are. Faith that is no more than lip service isn’t faith at all. Faith isn’t simply intellectual agreement about the nature of God’s love.

 

If we truly believe in and have a relationship with God, it will be reflected in our actions. If we truly experience God’s love, we will be changed. We will choose to act with self-control when we find ourselves in situations that might harm ourselves or others. That doesn’t mean we will become perfect. We will mess up again and again, and trust ourselves to God’s love as we get back up, again and again. But presumption, feeling like we have it made in the shade with no responsibility in responding to God’s love, is a mistake.

 

The point is that God loves us as we are, but He loves us too much to leave us that way. The spiritual journey is not do it yourself project, but it is not a do nothing project either. We do what we can and let God do the rest. One of the first things we can do is listen to the entire message of the Good News, not just the warm, fuzzy parts. When we find ourselves like Felix, snapping shut the door of God’s word, let’s pray for courage, willingness, and an open mind.

 

Prayer: Lord, make me receptive to your whole truth.

 

Reflection: What parts of scripture do you find challenging? How can meditating on God’s love empower you to face those challenges?

 

Wednesday’s Word: Idol-worship

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They made a gold bull-calf at Sinai and worshiped that idol; they exchanged the glory of God for the image of an animal that eats grass. Psalm 106:19-20

 

 

God led the Hebrew slaves out of bondage in Egypt. When they were trapped and their enemies were closing in on them, God parted the Red Sea, led them to safety, and destroyed their enemies. Moses left them on their own to climb Mount Sinai and receive the Ten Commandments from God. While he was gone, the people created a god for themselves…and what a gyp of a god they came up with: creature lower than themselves, a baby cow. What a chintzy god to settle for.

 

 

 

But isn’t that always the case? How could anything we come up with on our own compare to the perfect, all-powerful, all-wise God of love who created us? We sell ourselves short when we settle for less. Maybe you think we don’t worship idols like a gold bull-calf in this day and age. Think again. Madison Avenue, Wall Street and Hollywood bombard us with images of gold bull-calves all the time.

 

 

 

Gold: How many of us are tempted to sacrifice our time, our relationships, and our integrity for money and the luxuries it can buy? Investing our happiness in possessions is disappointing. When the thrill is gone we’re left wanting to go out and buy more, creating a spiral of trying to fill the emptiness that can’t be filled with things.

 

 

 

Bulls: The modern version of this image of power isn’t restricted to a bullish stock market. Bullying in the form of road rage, gang wars, school yard or social media intimidation are blatant, but what about the more subtle forms? The power we give to the opinions of others, economics and social policies that fail to address the needs of the vulnerable ones in society may be less obvious but are still damaging.

 

 

 

Calf: A calf is a young bull. Our culture seems obsessed with youth. Anti-wrinkle creams, cosmetics, and supplements promise to turn back the hands of time. What is that about? Could it be a form of denial of the inevitable end of our physical lives? For those of us that have only the gods of our own creation, what else is there to hang on to but what we can see and touch in the present? Who wouldn’t want to put off the end of life as we conceive it to be?

 

 

 

Let’s turn instead to the one God who is so beyond what we can imagine that it’s safe to trust him with our well-being, both here and in the hereafter. Twelve Step programs use the term Higher Power for God. If God truly is God, He must be a Higher Power, higher than anything we could come up with on our own. It is worth our time and effort to ask, seek, and find the glory of the true God. But as someone said, “It’s hard to find something that’s above you when you’re looking down.

 

 

 

Prayer: My Creator, help me look to you rather than to the idols I come up with on my own.

 

 

 

Reflection: Who or what am I relying on today?

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday’s Word: Counterfeits

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My children, keep yourselves safe from false gods! 1 John 5:21

 

Temptations are seductive. If they didn’t offer us something that looks good, why would we go after them? They lure us by promising to make us feel good, or satisfy our desires for pleasure, power, or fame. They promise protection from painful feelings like loneliness, helplessness, or rejection.

 

The problem is, temptations are impostors. Their promises are lies—no matter how many people “worship” them. At best, they let us down. At worst, they are destructive. Ask any addict who started out wanting to feel good and ended up devastated by loss of health, loved ones, and income—not to mention the freedom to choose, as they find themselves pushed around by the demands of the booze, drugs, etc.

 

But we don’t have to end up on skid row to be taken in by false gods. How many trips to the mall does it take until we know that more things aren’t going to bring us lasting happiness and might even leave our bank accounts in dire straits? How many times do we have to join in gossip until we recognize that tearing someone else down doesn’t build us up but instead damages our character at least as much as the person we’re talking about? How many times will we surrender our principles and self-respect by going along with what others want because we can’t risk being rejected? Physical comfort, wanting to feel important or accepted aren’t wrong in themselves, but when we let them take first place in our lives, we make them into false gods. These idols feed on pride and fear. Pride tells us we are the center of our own universe and that the way to happiness is focusing on Number 1. Fear tells us we don’t dare experience rejection or look bad or else we’ll not only feel worthless, we’ll be worthless. 

 

Maybe that’s why the Bible tells us so often, “Do not be afraid,” and encourages us to grow in humility. The God of Truth can teach our hearts that we are valuable, precious, and loved, even if we aren’t the center of the universe. He can show us that our ultimate joy and good comes from trusting Him instead of going after happiness in short-sighted or self-defeating ways. He will teach us that joy runs deeper and endures longer than the pleasure promised by false gods. When those false gods let us down or hurt us, the One True God is always waiting for us to turn back to Him.

 

Prayer: God of Truth, open my eyes to see false promises for what they are.

 

Reflection for sharing: What false gods are promising you more than they can deliver today?

 

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Meditations

But Jesus answered “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.’” (Matthew 4:4)

 

All Bible quotes are from the Good News Translation unless otherwise noted.

 

It is reassuring that Jesus called fishermen and tax collectors to be his followers. These were laymen, not Scripture experts. It is wise to seek guidance from religious scholars and clergy who have studied Scripture to avoid errors in interpretation. But the Bible is also a gift given to each of us, to use as a basis for prayer and meditation.

 

I’m not a Biblical scholar; I’m an expert only on my own experience. Following the Scripture passage is a brief meditation along with a question or two as a springboard for your own reflections. Please feel free to share your own thoughts or insights on the passage by adding a comment. All comments are moderated, so please allow some time for your comment to be posted.

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