October 11, 2010

Burning Spiritual Calories...

Imagine its Thanksgiving. Due to obligations beyond your control, you have been scheduled by your boss, mother-in-law, and father to show up at three separate dinners during the day.

The first one is scheduled at 11:30 (your normal luncheon time) and is being hosted by your employer. It will be attended by all of your friends at the office...and just like four other people at this party, you're up for that big promotion. Not showing up at the boss's big shindig would be considered an unacceptable snub to him...so you go...and eat...and eat. You compliment the boss's wife on her pecan pie that tastes just like sawdust...and you eat a second helping. You leave in the most cordial manner, excusing yourself to go to your mother-in-law's home for round two of "thanksgivings from the crypt."

You arrive at 3:00. (That's 3pm SHARP because you know how "Mrs. J" feels about tardiness) Your husband abandons you with "Mrs. J" because, even though he hates the Detroit Lions, he'd rather watch them than what is going on in the kitchen. You get to hear about all of her ailments, most of which are not dinnertime conversation, and then you sit down to another traditional meal of turkey, dressing, and all the fixings. You would rather just skip this one, but you know that the price of skipping is too high. The misery of gluttony is nothing to compare with the hurt feelings and the consternation of "Mrs. J." So you eat...and eat...and eat...and thankfully its on to round three.

Finally, it's time to go see your father. This is the part of the day that you have looked forward to since August. There is just something about being home, smelling the smells from the kitchen, recalling the wonderful stories of the past, and visiting a place where you can just "be still" and experience belonging. But there is a problem.

You are so miserable from round one and two that you cannot possibly enjoy round three. You have eaten so much and exercised so little that you feel lethargic, ill, and even a little edgy. Things aren't working out the way you envisioned in August. The smells from the kitchen that would ordinarily fill your soul are making you nauseous. You are so tired that you can barely sit still for the stories about "old times." You are so uncomfortable in your own body that there is no place in the entire homestead to find rest or comfort. You can't figure out why you feel the way you do...the food was impeccable...your father was as engaging as ever...home was never more inviting, but the part of your holiday that you have longed for has become a total bust.
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Welcome to the religious experience of millions of Christians. What should be time spent with the Father feasting on his presence, recalling his love and the joy of our relationship, and just being still and knowing him, turns into disillusionment, lethargy, and disappointment. Worship becomes a total bust.

Why? We're "fat on religion." If we ate like the illustration above on a regular basis, and did nothing to work off the calories, we'd be miserable to say the least. Yet we rarely think of what we are doing to ourselves when we spend all of our time feasting on the Word, but doing nothing to work the Word into our world.

We go to Bible School on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. We worship on Sunday mornings and go to Small Groups throughout the week. We are feasting, but what are we doing with all of this spiritual food we are taking in?

James wrote: If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. He says that running our mouths will never change the world, but actually being missional in our service to people will.

If you are feeling lethargic in your worship...saturated to excess by your studies...joyless in your journey, it's time to stop getting fat on the word and begin exercising those spiritual muscles. If you'll do this, you'll be surprised at how soon you feel that hunger for God and joy in His presence again.

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