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aligning my heart

Shortly before we left on vacation, I came across a quote that encouraged the keeping of the Sabbath as a defense against the "idol of productivity". It resonated with me and I kept it in the forefront of my mind as we rested well that week.

For the past several weeks I've been studying the Sermon on the Mount, and all throughout Matthew 5 & 6, Jesus' words point to one clear theme: this life is about aligning my heart with God's. All that I do is to be done before Him, in His strength - not to be seen of others. Our worth is found in abiding in Him, and His light shines forth clear and bright when we are the candle, the vessel, and He is the flame that is visible for miles.

I think this is really important to remember, because otherwise I am very tempted to serve the idols of productivity and performance. When I serve those idols, I am seeking my worth in what I can accomplish, or even worse, other people's perceptions of me or what I can accomplish. The world's urge to "do something" whether it be in the face of political and social issues, or career advancement, or "work hard and you can do anything", can be really compelling and loud. It can tempt us to post on social media just to make sure others know we are aware and we are "doing something". It can tempt us to take action on an issue, but for the wrong reasons (as was the case with the Pharisees). It can tempt us to despair because we aren't doing "enough" to force change. It can tempt us to fear because it seems like all the other people that are taking action are people whose values are different than ours. It can tempt us to question our own status as a human and as God's own because we aren't sure if we're doing enough. It can tempt us to hide in our corner of the world because we are "privileged" and are made to feel ashamed of God-given abundance. It can tempt us away from boldness in our faith because religion as a whole is increasingly viewed as a handicap and a detriment to society - and we are scared.

We absorb the news and opinions around us and we grow anxious, and in our desire to alleviate that anxiety we begin to try to "do something". We feel broken and afraid and instead of turning to Jesus in those moments, we turn to action and try to perform... better than our forefathers, better than the ungodly, better than the Pharisees. But here's the truth: "Unless [my] righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, [I] will never enter the kingdom of heaven". God does not call on me to perform better or act more righteously than the Pharisees. He calls on me to be more righteous than the Pharisees, and the only difference is within my heart. We are called to be and that is only possible in Him.

Just like the Pharisees, it's tempting for us to want to be the type of person that does something - to identify with a certain group of people or with a certain idea or to be known a certain way - rather than to actually be that person. It is good to aspire to be things, and to work toward them, and I think we often even do the right things for the wrong reasons and God still blesses that and uses it to grow us in the end. But we should be desiring the things of God in a very real way... we should be desiring to be in church more than trying to be the type of person who goes to church, and we should be reading and studying the word more than trying to be the type of person who is in a bunch of Bible study groups, and we should be sharing the Gospel in our everyday lives more than we want to be the type of person who "has a heart for missions"... and the only difference between the "being" and the "trying to be the type" is the heart. The "more righteousness" that we are seeking comes from aligning our hearts with God's and allowing Him to change us.

As we align our hearts with God's, we begin to see discrepancies between what we value and what He values, and what the world values and what God values, and we begin to desire reconciliation and justice. This desire for reconciliation and justice, when motivated by a love for Jesus rather than our own personal comfort or protection, is righteous; in Micah 6:8 we read that that is something we should aspire to:

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

From the moment they can talk, or even before, children express a desire for fairness and justice, and the pursuit of justice for all has led to many a noble cause. However, when everything is stripped down to the very basic fundamental truth, there is no justification without Jesus... and the flip side of that, is that in Jesus, all who seek Him are justified. It is tempting to pursue justice in other ways. For example, the world would tell us to do something, such as try to make reparations or to advocate for a cause. Those things are good and they should be done. But they should be done without losing sight of this: that Jesus has paid the only price that is sufficient to cover any and all wrongs of anyone, ever, and He is the ultimate Advocate. In His strength, we should be doing something... but the doing something can only result from the being in Him, moving forward motivated by the fact that He has already done, rather than despairing by all that appears to be yet undone.

From a very practical, life application perspective -- I cannot be fully effective in teaching my children the Gospel, making our home a haven from the world, serving the church, encouraging my fellow believers, or in doing anything at all if I am wallowing in accusations from Satan about shame for my heritage of skin color or religion, guilt from my past, or fear of the future. He wants me to believe that I can never make full compensation for wrong and that no thing that I do will ever be enough and the problem is that he is right... but full compensation for wrong has already been made and the freedom in that is full and complete. I am in Christ, and I have been justified, and my actions stem from that - not a performance of my own strength.

Back in college, when you would download ringtones to your non-smartphones and a song would play instead of a phone ring, I used the song "Go Light Your World" by Chris Rice, and it is relevant here:

There is a candle in every soul

Some brightly burning, some dark and cold

There is a Spirit who brings a fire

Ignites a candle and makes His home

So Carry your candle, run to the darkness

Seek out the hopeless, confused and torn

Hold out your candle for all to see it

Take your candle, and go light your world

Take your candle, and go light your world

Frustrated brother, see how he's tried to

Light his own candle some other way

See now your sister, she's been robbed and lied to

Still holds a candle without a flame

So Carry your candle, run to the darkness

Seek out the lonely, the tired and worn

Hold out your candle for all to see it

Take your candle, and go light your world

Take your candle, and go light your world

We are a family whose hearts are blazing

So let's raise our candles and light up the sky

Praying to our Father, in the name of Jesus

Make us a beacon in darkest times

So Carry your candle, run to the darkness

Seek out the helpless, deceived and poor

Hold out your candle for all to see it

Take your candle, and go light your world

We want to do things that matter, and we want to glorify God. So let's align our hearts with His and keep our candles burning.

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Hi, I'm Hannah.

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