"So," they say, "nobody's perfect!"
But the Vinedresser won't buy that.
Given the opportunity, He will trim the unproductive suckers and shape the branches so each one will bask in Sonlight.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

An Audience of One

        Since The Radio Bible Class publishes Our Daily Bread, one would expect that spiritual bakery to daily, declare some evangelical Christian theme, which is indeed true of today's title. "An Audience of One" suggests a solid, Biblical theme that we should expect to periodically hear from the pulpit, but its possible familiarity must never dull our hearing or sate our appetite for its always timely message.
        The author, Philip Yancey, kindly suggested reading Matthew 6:1-6,
to complement today's devotional, so I dutifully clicked on the link. My eyes embraced the Scripture passage at first glance as a familiar excerpt from Jesus' sermon on the mount. Of course, verse one elicited a sub-verbal "amen," as it always does. For years I've accepted and believed those words as part of Jesus' teaching that cut across the religious establishment's grain. So I charged into verses two and following with every expectation of more "same-ol'-same-ol'."
        What I found, however, was anything but mundane. What I found was a sword-thrust, fresh from God's hand to my religious-establishment heart.
        I tithe and give, not because it's a valid principle of Christian living, and certainly not because I expect God to return the favor a hundred-fold. I tithe and give because I love to, and because those funds aren't mine anyway—or that's what I always thought. Though these Bible verses had become as familiar and comfortable as old shoes, when I put them on this time it felt as if God had, without my knowledge, installed some radical orthotics. And they pinched!
        "Lord, those words fit just fine as they were. I've been walking in them for years, so why fix what ain't broke?"
        But they were "broke," at least, as I had always worn them. How many years had I read those words and applied them directly to the rich, elitist religious establishment of Jesus' time? And YEAH! They had it coming … in spades! This time as I approached those words, Jesus held up His mirror-finished, double-edged sword and blinded me with His Truth … blinded me to my self-delusion so I could see my motives as He did.
        Yes, Lord! Guilty as charged. All this time I've been giving during the Offertory—that is, when I thought I could afford it—and feeling good about it. And why did I feel good about it, especially when my giving has been inconsistent at best? Because people could see me put something into the offering basket.
        Why, it's plain as day now. I've been using that Offertory ritual to boost my own ego. I would have given anyway, but I chose that time when the Offertory music was playing, just like "the hypocrites do in the synagogues and the streets, so they may be praised by others!" And during prayer meetings, when I utter a few holy words of profound wisdom aloud, I'm just like the hypocrites, who stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others.
        The truth is, the Offertory, is for giving myself, as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is my spiritual worship. And if that's my motive for dropping a check into the basket, then I can praise God for so convicting me.
        Now, I am NOT saying everyone should give at some other time than the Offertory segment of the worship service. And I am NOT saying everyone should sit like a wart during prayer meetings, for fear of appearing to grandstand. I am saying we must not do anything for appearance's sake—or avoid doing them for the same reason. We must only fear God—not what others think—and trust Him to illuminate our motives to us.

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