In the Old Testament covenants we find three themes: land, descendants, and a special relationship with God. The bottom line can be found in Jeremiah 30:22, where God says ‘You will be my people, and I will be your God.’ In order for that to work both ways, Israel had to keep herself focused on that special relationship that God was offering to her. When I compare this relationship to a FB status, I’m not being cheeky or disrespectful. Many of the prophets compared Israel’s relationship with God to that of a marriage. It’s a real-life way for them (and for us) to concretely understand the covenant God made with His people.
Skipping over complicated theological concepts like ‘syncretism,’ suffice it to say, Israel got around. She did not stay faithful. She relaxed her standards to embrace the ideas and the gods of the cultures around her.
It’s easy to adopt new ideas and embrace a tolerance of different thinking. Actually, biblically, that’s a good idea. Paul does it best at the Areopagus (Acts 17). But there is a line, and when it comes to relationship, we have to be faithful.
God calls us to monogamous relationship with Him. That doesn’t mean that we can’t love anything or anyone else. It means we can’t worship anything else. And don’t get too simplified in your thinking about worship. On any given day, I can find myself worshiping at the altars of an upcoming vacation, a retail purchase, even a planned lunch with friends. Anything that competes for my worshipful affection should be checked. Worshipful behavior, for me, boils down to my looking for my peace, passion, love, comfort, strength, etc. to be provided by something or someone other than God.
This is not behavior modification that I am talking about here. This is reorienting myself to right affection. When I slow down and think about where my passion, my love, my peace, my comfort, and my strength lie, I know that those things are only found in Christ. But when I speed back up, I can find myself looking for those elements of desire-satisfaction in other things or even other people. My first and greatest affection belongs to Christ, period.
What’s complicated for me, some days, is the how of all that. Here are some ways that I keep my mind set on Christ, and none of these is reinventing the wheel, so you won’t be surprised. But we all need a little reminder sometimes:
- I listen to worship music. This is my go-to, because I can do it without slowing down in a busy day. Pop in the earbuds and go. Christian music is great for many occasions. But worship music focuses on God and not on me. It focuses on God as worthy of my all, my praise, my life. No judgement on other Christian music, but when your brain needs to be reoriented it’s helpful to be discerning on the type of messaging you are taking in. I update our Spotify worship playlist often, if you’d like to join me. There’s also something to the fact that I put in my earbuds and block the rest of the world. Highly recommend. [Fun fact: This song NEVER fails to have me dancing around my house with hands raised up to our Lord. It happens at around 2:49 on this song. Like clockwork. But don’t skip to it, let it build, trust me.]
- I read the Word. There is no doubt that I skip days and sometimes even skip weeks. But there is a direct correlation between that habit (or lack thereof) and my daily state of mind. It doesn’t have to be an hour of quiet time, though that’s obviously great if you can do it. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t. Build up to it. You can start your day with a simple bible app notification of a daily verse and choose to think on that verse through the day, asking God to show you how it relates to you right here and right now.
- I pray. I find myself listening more than asking these days. I am very curious what God is up to in my life and in the world. I think there is a special blessing for God’s children who show up in prayer time to simply be still and listen. But I know for sure that this is a great way to keep your orientation on Christ instead of whatever else is trying to compete for your worshipful affection.
- I talk to believing friends. It doesn’t have to be about faith. Just staying connected to these friends strengthens my faith. Does it usually come back to Jesus? That’s kind of the point, I suppose. The bible word for this is fellowship, but it’s just keeping your tribe strong and connected. Also, connecting with a friend to hear what’s going on with her does have the natural effect of taking your mind off of your own stuff.
Don’t let your worship be disoriented. God is worthy, nothing else is. It’s not complicated.
God, help me to stay focused on You. Increase your Spirit who lives in me so that I am constantly reminded of who You are and whose I am. I ask it in Jesus’ name and for His glory. Amen.