November 22 – December 31
Almost two and a half hours with God every day?
That’s a ridiculous idea. No one has that kind of time.
What about work? What about Netflix?
Yet God desires to draw us near to Him, so when He laid it on my heart to tithe my time, I said yes.
After saying no for about two years first. Oops.
Jesus gave Himself up so we could enter an intimate relationship with God. How arrogant of me to take that for granted or disregard it altogether.
God offers so much grace and proves His unending faithfulness over and over. He will meet us with Himself when we seek Him. Here is a glimpse into the wide range of things God addressed with me over the 40 days I tithed my time.
You know, I wonder how God came up with all the rules for sacrifices and the tabernacle. There were peace offerings and wave offerings, burnt offerings and more. It sounds so ridiculous when I read about it, but I know God was trying to meet them, giving them a way they could still have an interactive relationship with Him. Though our practices today differ, we can, and maybe should, still approach God holistically and with detail in mind. He expects us to sacrifice every part of ourselves to Him and offer our choicest abilities, energies, efforts, etc. Making a way for us to have a relationship with Him cost Him everything, and He expects everything in return.
I bet the early Israelites had a clear idea of the cost of sin. When anyone realized he had done wrong, he had to give up something of his. They had to take from their food supply, their resources. They had to watch their choice products get slaughtered or burned. Every. Time. Such a visual reminder of the cost of sin certainly would encourage them to run from it. Every time a temptation arose, they had to stop and think, “Am I willing to slaughter another goat so I can carry out this sin?” (Scripture in Leviticus 4)
Since the beginning of time, God has made Himself present with His people. Walking in the Garden, meeting with Moses, signs and wonders, tabernacle, messages of the prophets, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit all evidence God’s desire to be with us. We should hate walking anywhere without Him. God has gone to great lengths over history to give Himself to us. And yet, a lot of today’s Christianity “fails to stress the Christian’s privilege of present realization… Ignoble contentment takes the place of burning zeal. We are satisfied to rest in our judicial possessions and for the most part we bother ourselves very little about the absence of personal experience” (A.W. Tozer). Why do we settle for so little when God goes to great lengths to give us so much? Tozer suggests, “It is the veil of our fleshly fallen nature living on, unjudged within us, uncrucified and unrepudiated” (47). For if we honestly pursue God, He will enact in us the work of sanctification. Such work involves the death of sins we leave unconfessed and surrender of the pieces of our lives we believe to be safest in our own hands. Clenched fists and closed eyes will not be permitted before God. The urge to control ourselves becomes “an enemy to our lives and an effective block to our spiritual progress” (48).
Thank you, God, for caring enough about me to work on me.
From the beginning of human history, God’s people have struggled with the temptation to forsake God’s instruction and accept the beliefs and practices of the people living around them. We see this in idol worship and sexual immorality and inter-marrying. While our covenant has changed, God’s morals have not. I believe His words to the Israelites call out to us today:
“You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 18:3-4).
“Any man who by repentance and a sincere return to God will break himself out of the mold in which he has been held, and will go to the Bible itself for his spiritual standards, will be delighted with what he finds there” (A.W. Tozer).
I do think many of the molds we come to force upon people start with a desire to be like God or give our best. It’s along the road that they become legalistic and cultural. Pushing past expectations placed over you by entities or individuals into God’s specific directions for your next step brings immediate freedom. He will lead you to love those around you. God’s goals for you always surpass those of others.
And some thoughts from Tozer today:
“Much of our difficulty as seeking Christians stems from our unwillingness to take God as He is and adjust our lives accordingly. We insist upon trying to modify Him and to bring Him nearer to our own image” (93).
The Bible is sprinkled with passages that warn us against exactly this. It predicts people changing the gospel, modifying the teachings of Jesus, and choosing which aspects of the gospel to believe. It describes an unwillingness to completely surrender. A heart that chooses God first gives “proof in the choices he makes day after day throughout his life” (94). Even this man will make mistakes and have countless shortcomings in his day. God will work through those to spur the man on toward Himself. In the lives of many of those we remember, “not perfection, but holy intention made the difference” (96). I want to be perfect and I want the things I do and present to be perfect as well. Knowing God will use me when I intend to serve Him, even when my final product or steps along the way lack perfection, brings confidence to move forward.
And in case you needed another reason to follow God, here comes this beautiful picture of His character:
“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.” (Deut. 10:17-18)
Let us so integrate a focus on and celebration of Jesus into every day that we don’t need a focus on “holy days” and productions. The truth of the gospel stands just as strong every day as on the holy days of remembrance. The truth should change us and daily impact us, not seasonally entertain us.
Joshua speaks these words to Israel, but it seems so fitting for me at the conclusion of this time and in preparation for what comes next:
“Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness.” (Joshua 24:14a)
In light of all I have learned, the connections I have made, the inspiration I have received, the perspective I have been given – fearlessly yet fearfully place God, His desires, and His purposes far above anything else I might find appealing. Give my every action as an offering. Submit with desire. Obey with honesty. Talk to God about how I feel even when those feelings are ugly, temptations are prevalent, or desires turn unrighteous. Give God what’s real and work through it. Say what you mean, not what sounds nice or right. Find the right word and use it. Live steadfastly. Never forget who God is, what He has performed across time, how He has impacted my life, or the commitment I have made to Him. Consecrate consistency and offer it. Do not ever stop.