This is a political blog, I understand that. But politics is based on values, especially conservative politics. And politics is caustic to the soul, even toxic. Spending all day dealing with those whose values are in direct opposition is draining.
I thought it proper to remind myself, and all of us, that we must keep our priorities in order, God being the foremost, as He is the primary source of our values, our moral law, and our strength. Please indulge me this Easter message of preparation.
Every year, when Daylight Savings Time starts, we are reminded to change our smoke detector batteries. Even if the smoke detectors are hard wired to house power, the batteries should be fresh—the smoke detector needs to work when we have power and when we don’t.
In the same way, we should take time before Easter to be reminded to freshen our spiritual batteries. Our faith and Christian walk needs to work when we are feeling on top of the mountain, and also when we are in the valley.
You say to me: “I’m doing well with my faith, I don’t need to do a battery change.”
I say to you: that might be so, but habits are important. With a smoke detector, if you fail to change the battery on a regular basis (yearly), it’s a guarantee that at 3am the low battery alert will sound. Always at 3am. My house has 5 smoke detectors within just feet of each other, and finding the one that’s bleeping at 3am is not how I enjoy spending my night.
With spiritual batteries, it’s much easier to ignore the low battery alarms. They sound when you get that “should I be doing this?” feeling. “Should I make that compliment to the woman at work?” when I’m married. “Should I be watching this TV show filled with anti-Biblical material?” “Should I see this movie loaded with profanity, gore, and sex?” Those are the loud bleeps. The softer ones: “Should I buy that car or donate money to the poor?” “Should I only see the people from church at church but have all my secular friends over for dinner?”
Before we know it, the low battery alarms stop. We don’t hear them anymore. That’s because the batteries are dead.
With a dead smoke detector, when a fire comes, we may not be alerted to the smoke, and we may die from inhaling it, or perish in the flames. It happens.
With dead spiritual batteries, when trouble comes, we may fall into sin, and out of God’s will for us. We may even blame God for our trouble and walk away from our faith. It happens.
Easter* is known as the time of Passover for Jews, and Jesus as a man is a Jew.
[*I won’t get into the historical aspects of this, it’s simply stated as a fact –Ed]
Matthew 26 verses 1 and 2:
When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, “As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”
Jesus took time to prepare for the fire. Judas also prepared, verses 14-16:
Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.
Spiritual battery #1: money.
It’s easy to see someone’s priorities by looking at where they spend their money. Years ago, when i was a bachelor, I didn’t keep track of what I spent, or how much I had. Sometimes I overdrew. If I had money, I spent it. The first preparation is to start keeping track. I guarantee if you don’t keep track, you are not spending wisely.
If you do keep track, it’s a very simple matter to see how much you’re giving versus spending on yourself. Are you living beyond your means? Are your “required” monthly expenses so high that you have no discretionary money? This is a low battery signal. It means that at one point in your life, you let the batteries go dead, and “went for broke” spending money you didn’t have. Maybe you bought a bigger house, a newer car, nicer clothes, jewelry, all the outward signs of success. Maybe you spent unwisely, buying a round of drinks for all your friends, being the life of the party, going out every night, taking expensive vacations. Maybe you had some hidden vices: gambling, alcohol, sex addiction, drugs; these are expensive habits.
Nobody is above these low battery signals. In my own life, I’ve made many of these unwise choices, and paid for it financially, and spiritually.
Preparation for Easter is the time to check your spending, check your habits, and check your priorities regarding money. If you have discretionary funds, that’s great. Where are you investing them? In your pleasure? In your retirement fund? In stocks and bonds? In your own company? Some of these are necessary and worthy investments. To excess they become as addictive as drugs.
Do you know people who live in fear and bondage to the daily stock prices and the Dow index? People you can see coming by the look on their face, and know if the market is up or down? These people have priorities out of line with good spiritual health and wise investments.
The Kingdom of God is first and foremost in giving. Jesus was prepared for the cross by a woman pouring very expensive perfume, from an alabaster jar, over his head. (verses 4-11) This was no Chanel Number 5. It was more like Clive Christian No. 1 Imperial Majesty Perfume from the private collection, at $12,721 per ounce (a 16.9 ounce bottle costs $215,000). Jesus’ disciples were shocked that a woman would spend so lavishly on a seemingly meaningless act. Jesus said in verses 12-13:
“When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
If you’re going to a local church, give to it. Don’t just put a $20 in the offering plate for looks: really give! The Biblical standard is one tenth of your gross income (that’s before tax). If you’re not giving 10%, then find out what are you are giving, and give more, until you give at least 10%. If you are giving 10%, great; give more if you can. Once you become a faithful tither, look beyond your church. If you are not giving outside your local church, you’re missing out on a blessing and an opportunity. Jesus said that what the woman had done “will also be told, in memory of her.” Giving to missionaries around the world is an opportunity to be remembered “wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world.” God is a rewarder of those whose faith pleases Him, and giving is a very real and concrete way to exercise your faith and keep your spiritual batteries at full charge.
Spiritual battery #2: Bible.
Most people don’t have unlimited money, but some of the super-rich have more money than they could ever spend in ten lifetimes, so it might as well be unlimited. However nobody has unlimited time. For every living person, there are 24 hours in a day. For everyone alive, there’s a day when life will end. Our time on this earth is finite, limited, and short. In a 24 hour day, how much time is spent reading and studying the Bible?
The Bible is God’s word, in fact John 1, verse 1 says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” God commands the universe into being, and all things, by speaking a Word—his very will is revealed from His mind through His Word. In Hebrews 1, verse 1 it’s written:
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.
God’s word is conveniently written down in book form, preserved for us to read and study. If it was not written down and preserved, how would we know God’s will? It’s the same on a daily basis: if you’re not reading God’s word in the Bible, you can’t easily discern His will for you. And God does have a will for you, specifically for you, and specifically for today. Today is the only day we have to live, and since we all are in the same point in time, God has a will for today for everyone in the world.
The point is: how can you get through a 24-hour day without spending some of it reading and studying God’s word? If you aren’t reading God’s word regularly (at least 4 or 5 days a week), then check your batteries. They might be dead.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” [John 15:5-8]
Spiritual battery #3: prayer.
Jesus prepared for the cross by praying. Matthew 26:36:
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”
Jesus prayed three times, so intensely that that drops of blood were forced through his sweat glands (known as Hematidrosis, this is a real condition). Verses 40 and 41:
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Prayer is the offense and defense against temptation. Prayer should be constant (1 Thessalonians 5:17: “pray continually”), although setting aside time for prayer and meditation is a great idea to keep your spiritual batteries from being drained. All throughout the day, spend time speaking, thinking, meditating on God, and then listen for His prompting. This is where you hear the low battery alarms: “should I be doing this/watching this/saying this?”
It’s also where you hear the signals of a charged battery: “pray for this person,” “encourage her,” “give money to this cause,” “buy him lunch,” or simply “show some love.” Specifically, you might hear these things in the heat of an argument, defending your rights, or in the midst of persecution. Without prayer, you cannot easily hear from God. Without hearing from God, you will fall into temptation. That is inevitable and certain.
We are not okay without prayer, and we are in fact, not okay without full engagement with God and charged batteries. 1 John 1:8-10:
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
Without prayer, we stand wide open to believing anything, including that we are okay and in no need of confession. Sin crouches at the door to our minds and spirits.
Let’s take the time before Easter and make it time for our annual spiritual battery change. When the fire comes (it most assuredly will), we will be glad for the fresh batteries and fully charged faith.