January 26, 2010

To live is Christ — with both ears open

Complaining is natural. Finding fault, wishing things were different, looking at the negatives, are all part of my sinful nature. I can go that way so easily, but instead, God tells me to be thankful, look for the good, and be content.

I’m learning. This year, I selected key words as well as the verse, “For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” from Philippians 1:21. Those words are: Thy will be done. Whenever I feel the urge to bellyache, I say those words — and mean them. So far, God has been replacing my grumbling with a better attitude.

I used to have roast preacher for Sunday dinner also. Not a good meal. Since becoming a Christian, we have moved a couple dozen times and been in many churches. Through all that, God showed me that if I wanted any spiritual nourishment from a sermon, I’d better smarten up and listen for it. Good preacher or poor preacher, He is able to speak through anyone. If my ears were tuned to His frequency, I would be fed.

Today’s devotional verse reminds me of this. The people of Israel had been in captivity and not had any sermons. For a long time, no one had read the Word of God to them nor explained what it meant. When they resettled, the priests and scribes found God’s Word and preached it to them. 

Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is sacred to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. (Nehemiah 8:9)
This response is rare. Perhaps too many of us have “heard it all before” or are preoccupied with life and do not really listen. In this case, God’s Old Testament people provide a good example of taking the Sunday message seriously. What they did afterward is a good example too. 
Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them. (Nehemiah 8:12)
Their spiritual feast, even though it made them weep, became a joy to their hearts. They went home to celebrate with a feast and with joy. They sent food to others and were glad because they had understood the message.

I fully appreciate this response too because I can relate to what happened to them. For sixteen years before Christ came into my life, I read the Bible every day. I could not understand it, but I thought this was what I was supposed to do. It was a ritual without meaning. After Jesus changed my heart and saved me, the Holy Spirit opened the meaning of Scripture to me. Ever since that day, the Bible has become my spiritual food and I rejoice when God helps me understand it.

This is important. There are bad preachers and poorly put together messages. However, complaining about them is folly. God spoke to His people in all sorts of ways, including through the mouth of a donkey. If I listen, He also speaks to me. To live is Christ means listening for Him, not roasting the preacher, or grumbling about anything.

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