Idolatry of the Heart

This is an old (2006) post from a blogger I’ve not seen before but speaks absolutely about the place I’m in as a Christian, even after 32 years. To the extent that I seek fulfilment through anything but God, my life is a waste. To the extent that I want Jesus to forgive my sins but not to be Lord of my life, my life is a waste. I can’t make myself godly; I can’t make myself into someone who puts others first; but I can surrender unconditionally, somewhat apprehensively I’ll admit, and let God begin a new work in me.

It’s a long article but if, like me, you’re a Christian who knows their life isn’t really that distinctive, or falls prey to pursuing security & fulfillment apart from God, please read it 🙂

Possessing the Treasure

The following piece is an excerpt from my book Walking the Walk by Faith. I decided to post the chapter titled “Idolatry of the Heart” today because of some very uncomfortable blogosphere discussions I have been involved in over the last few weeks. There seems to be a great deal of confusion rooted in pride in many well-intentioned Christians who are passionately doing battle to defend their “beliefs” who end up after a many skirmishes feeling somewhat ashamed of themselves. They end up asking for forgiveness from the very people they have been battling. Of course that “shame” is coming from the conviction of the Holy Spirit into their consciences. When I wrote this chapter over a year and a half ago I was trying to explain the greatest obstacle Christians have in becoming Spirit-led. That obstacle is pride which builds idols in our hearts with the biggest most…

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Learning to “Work for the Lord” in everything

Let's be honest: Work's a pain sometimes. A drag, a nuisance, a source of stress and all the rest. That might be work that's paid or stuff I have to do at home. In both spheres my lot in life is waaaaay better than many people's. I'm constantly challenged to be thankful. But at least with that challenge I know what to do – thank God for stuff and stop complaining.

There's a broader challenge in the way I regard my work. I've a habit of thinking there's something more satisfying, or more meaningful, just round the corner. I even (gasp) sometimes think about how many years remain in my working life. But scripture challenges all that fair and square, because in at least two places it suggests that every job or task should be and can be done “for God”. Here's the first:

Colossians 3:23-24

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.

And here's another:

Ephesians 6:7-8

Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.

I kind of get the impression that “working for the Lord” isn't reserved for vicars and missionaries.

I'll admit it's tempting to conclude that it's just a bit of psychology to kid yourself – pretending that some job in an office, factory, home, supermarket, kitchen, garage or school is serving God so that Christians can feel better. A possible interpretation of the phrase “as though you were working for the Lord…” is “even though you're not really”. But I don't think the rest of the verses leave room for that. I think it's more like, “remembering that you're working for the Lord”.

Hanging out the washing - for Jesus?

So yesterday I hung out some washing then spent over two hours hoovering and washing my car. In a couple of days I'll have to do some more washing. In a few days the car will no doubt be dirty again on the outside and in a few weeks there'll be so many stones in the driver's footwell you'd never know I'd cleaned it. Cleaning things is like that; the effects don't last. Yet, somehow, if I offer that labour to the Lord it pleases Him and I put myself in line for “an inheritance”. So I did.

Years ago I did a time management course where they taught you to distinguish between “maintenance” tasks that just keep things going and “progress” tasks that bring improvement or innovation. Naturally the idea was to minimise maintenance and focus on improvement. Even the church likes to talk about “moving from maintenance to mission”. It's true that sometimes the stuff I do is going round in circles in a pointless way or “keeping the lights on” where really they should be allowed to go out! It's good to question what I spend my time doing. But guess what? Even so-called “improvement”, “innovation” or “mission” tasks and projects can seem, or may eventually be, insignificant or fruitless and will ultimately be forgotten.

I'm beginning to grasp that what matters most is (surprise, surprise) my heart attitude behind the work. I have to ask for the Holy Spirit's help with choosing what to do, how to do it and all the rest. Then I have to remember that it's Christ I'm serving – whether I'm stacking chairs after church, pulling weeds out of the garden or running a software upgrade project. And then I need to offer it all to Him.

I'm big on life having “meaning” and “purpose”, but It's no good me searching for it by trying to assign a “meaningfulness” score to every activity in life. That way lies anxiety, discontentment and disappointment. No; God's plan is clearly that I should do what I do, where I am, with what I've got and what I'm called to – and offer it all to Him, moment by moment.

I'm big on life having “meaning” and “purpose”, but It's no good me searching for it by trying to assign a “meaningfulness” score to every activity in life.

And that's the challenge facing me. While I like to think of myself as quite bright I've not cracked this after more than thirty years. Not so bright now, eh? But this isn't about intelligence; it's about surrender, faith and allowing Christ to transform my stupid thinking.

Excuse me while I go sweep up in the garden…

 

The Most Important Thing In Life, Ever

So it's my first foray into WordPress and I'm excited to find my way around. For now, here's a link that tells you my overriding priority in life. Without this, nothing else matters, nothing else works.

The Most Important Thing In Life, Ever

Hopefully more stuff to follow. Much more. More than you might even want. Or think you want. But you're wrong. So there.

 

The most important thing in life, ever: I know what it is

Ooooh, a tad arrogant that title? Confident, I would say. Positive, sure, clear, definite. They all sound better than the “a” word. But if, in the end, it’s arrogant to suggest that you know something and that not everyone thinks the same – then, yes, m’lud – guilty as charged.

In these politically correct, postmodern times it’s just not done to say that one thing is true and – shock, horror! – other things are not true. Or, more to the point, it’s not even contemplated, let alone done, to suggest that your view is wrong (excuse my language) while my view is (forgive me) right. Nevertheless, here I am, sticking my head above the proverbial parapet and declaring, “Hellooooo! I have some important information, some truth about life, and I believe it utterly and I think it’s soooo important that you all need to know it.”

Sorry.

Sorry, that is, if you’re offended (although I haven’t actually given you any decent reason to be so yet). Not sorry, oh, most definitely unapologetic, for saying what I say. I do understand absolutely that not everyone will share my view. And that they have a right to hold a different one. What I cannot be doing with is the notion that it’s OK to hold a view but somehow not OK to reach the obvious conclusion that other views are incorrect in some way. The person who sees life differently ought to be comfortable enough with their philosophy not to be offended by the simple fact that I think they’re wrong.

But I didn’t actually intend for this to be a railing against PC-ness and relativism. What I intended was to point you to a page where you can discover just what this highly important thing is – and then make your own mind up.

The page http://www.thebamproject.com/articles/2/mark-pimperton is the text of a nifty foldy-up leaflet that’s just been printed – and if I ever get to meet you I’ll happily give you one as it has attractive pictures as well as the gripping text. It’ll fit in your pocket for later perusal and then you can dwell on it as you slice the bread or wait for the bus. Now there’s a thought.

Until then, pop over to the online version and let me know what you think.

Thank you, in anticipation.

Horatius and the common things of life

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What a weekend! A royal wedding, time with the family, the world snooker final, two bank holidays with not a drop of rain in sight, the death of an infamous terrorist leader and the conclusion of a gripping two-part Dr Who season opener. And amidst all of that here I am thinking about The Meaning Of Life.

Bit heavy isn’t it? Bit serious? Ay, indeed. But I’d rather think serious and make my life what it’s supposed to be than just bumble along with an ever-increasing sense of missing out…and holidays seem a good opportunity.

You could be forgiven for thinking, if you don’t know me, that I’m new to the contemplation of the deep and meaningful. But you’d be wrong. For arrogant though it may sound to some, I’ve known for decades what life is about. No, my bank holiday thoughts on “Life, The Universe And Everything” aren’t because I don’t know what we’re here for, but because I do.

(Dramatic pause for breath, or to make tea, as appropriate.)

Almost thirty years ago when I gave my life to Christ I guaranteed where I’d spend eternity in the next life. I’ve also come to grasp that the point of my life until then is to please God and contribute to his Grand Mission – getting as many people as possible into heaven!

In turn, doing this pleasing and contributing breaks down (at least in my mind, which after all is what you should expect if you read a fellow’s blog) into two major bits. I call these The Obviously Spiritual and The Common Things of Life. The former consists of things like prayer, Bible reading, going to church or speaking about Jesus (not that I do that very often).

I feel I know a lot about The Obviously Spiritual and try to learn, grow and basically get on with it. But the other challenge I have in view at the moment is to practice walking with God in The Common Things of Life.

Let me explain, first of all, my rather quaint-sounding name for this concept. I know there are Bible verses that speak of serving God in “ordinary” activities such as we all either have to do or choose to do. But as I was ruminating in between Britain’s Got Talent and the next piece of Easter egg, an old hymn came to mind. We used to sing Fill thou my life, O Lord my God at school and I remember thinking then, not yet a Christian, that it seemed to aspire to an ideal so lofty as to be unobtainable. Yet to me today the words seem to encapsulate exactly the place I want to get to in living everyday life.

The hymn was written by Horatius Bonar in 1866 and is a prayer that God will so work in the singer’s life that it will be completely characterised by praise and adoration of God, pretty much 24/7, as they say. It includes this verse:

Praise in the common things of life,
its goings out and in;
praise in each duty and deed,
however small and mean.

…from which cameth my title and my name for that part of life which needs working on, that is, the stuff we spend most time and energy on, viz a viz working, changing beds, washing the dishes, looking after the kids, doing the tax return, fishing socks out of the washing machine, eating, shopping and so on and so forth.

I trust you have valiantly stuck with me and have finally been rewarded with at least a hint of an inkling of a vague idea of what on earth I’m babbling about.

So, dear Horatius, little did you realise 145 years ago the impact you would have on this particular fellow believer, contemplating as he is the post-holiday return to work and The Common Things Of Life.

As to the understanding and outworking of this part of living for Christ, I suspect it ought to start with being thankful. Not, as they say, rocket science, and not even new to me, but highly Biblical and my first port of call, at least for now.

Remind me of that, and of Horatius and TCTOL, will you, next time you hear me bemoan my lot? I promise to appreciate it.

 

 

And here, naturally, is the complete hymn for your consideration.

Fill thou my life, O Lord my God

Fill thou my life, O Lord my God,
in every part with praise,
that my whole being may proclaim
thy being and thy ways.

Not for the lip of praise alone,
nor e’en the praising heart
I ask, but for a life made up
of praise in every part!

Praise in the common things of life,
its goings out and in;
praise in each duty and deed,
however small and mean.

Fill every part of me with praise;
let all my being speak
of thee and of thy love, O Lord,
poor though I be, and weak.

So shalt thou, Lord, from me, e’en me,
receive the glory due;
and so shall I begin on earth
the song forever new.

So shall no part of day or night
from sacredness be free;
but all my life, in every step
be fellowship with thee.

Words: Horatius Bonar, 1866
Music: Richmond