Why outward appearances matter

appearance

When it comes to caring about outward appearances, it seems like there are two main camps. 1. I care way too much about what everyone else thinks of me. 2. I don’t care at all about what others think of me. This causes some interesting conflicts in homes, such as “you can’t seriously be planning on leaving the house wearing THAT,” and “for the hundredth time – you look great! Let’s go.

Now I get that some people overthink it in the looks department, but what about when it comes to actions? Do we put any thought into how our actions might be perceived by others? Nehemiah thought we should.

Nehemiah 5:9 So I continued, “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies?

Here’s what was going on in this situation: The Jewish people were treating each other poorly. They were enslaving each other both physically and financially. Their actions toward one another did not reflect the heart of God. So Nehemiah stepped in and brought correction. And to drive his point home, he said this: “This isn’t right! My goodness, people who don’t believe in God are watching. Let’s have some respect for God and get this right.”

As Christians we do the same thing that the Jews in the book of Nehemiah were doing. We act in a way that isn’t a very good representation of the heart of God. Oh, but we excuse our very ungodly actions by quoting scriptures like “but the Lord looks at the heart!” Okay, I can agree that the Lord looks at the heart. But your coworker can’t see your heart; he can only see your actions. 

So shape up Christians. Ask the Lord who sees your heart to change it so that godliness can make it all the way to your skin. Ask Him to change your thoughts so that godliness will make it to your tongue. Those who don’t know Him are watching and listening. We have the opportunity to show them who He is through our actions.

Gas for the generator

Exodus 27:20-21  20 “Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning. 21 In the tent of meeting, outside the curtain that shields the ark of the covenant law, Aaron and his sons are to keep the lamps burning before the LORD from evening till morning. This is to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for the generations to come.

Let’s just be real here. Neither one of us have ever pressed clear oil out of olives so that we could keep our lamps burning. Generally, if I want light, I just make sure to have a good light bulb and to always pay the power bill. That usually does the trick. Probably the closest I’ve come to this whole “oil for the lamp” thing is changing the butane can on my camping lantern. Either that or filling up my generator with gas during a power outage. Now THAT’S important. I wouldn’t want the generator to run out of fuel. I mean, shoot, all the stuff in my freezer would go bad. Not only that, but the 3 lamps I have on in the house would turn off and it would be dark. So ya, I guess I can relate to the Israelites and the oil filling. Sort of.

gascangenerator

But wait. What if this whole oil for the lamp commandment was more than just actual oil for an actual lamp? What if there was a greater purpose than bringing light to the temple? After all, God did say that this would be a lasting ordinance for generations to come. Is it possible that we are still supposed to be filling lamps with oil? Absolutely!

Here’s the picture: The temple isn’t a building – it’s you. The lamp is the light of Christ. The oil is the power of the Holy Spirit. 

The command is still the same. As God’s people, we are to be a temple of the living God. And with our lives, we are to shine the light of Christ. We are to be a lighthouse, a light on a hill, a beacon of light for the world to find life. Yet, the light in our lives fades unless we give it attention. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to fuel us to be that light!

Now some of you might say, “I’ve asked the Holy Spirit to come and empower my life.” Awesome! I mean that. That’s really awesome! But here’s the thing: you don’t just fill the generator with gas one time. You have to check the fuel level and fill up when it is running empty. You might be running empty, too. You might feel burned out, used up, worn, tired, and without oil.

Now what? Well, you simply ask. Ask the Holy Spirit to come and fill you today. Ask again tomorrow. And then ask again the next day. The oil of the Holy Spirit keeps our lamps burning. Don’t walk through life as an unlit lamp. Be filled today!

The ultimate flashlight

Flashlights. What a wonderful little versatile tool. They have so many uses… reading a book at night, searching through the attic, flashlight tag, finding the bathroom at night during the camping trip… so many uses. Most years, I put a little flashlight in my kids’ stockings. Just for fun. Because you can’t have too many flashlights. One Christmas I got a flashlight in my stocking, too. It was different, though. It was special. This thing can light up my whole back yard!

flashlight-beam

Perhaps the most necessary use for a flashlight is during a power outage. Specifically, the moment the power goes out. You are sitting there doing whatever you are doing and then it hits – dark. Everything goes black. The first thing you do? Look for a flashlight. Well, I guess you probably just use the flashlight app on your phone, but the point is the same. When it’s dark and there’s no source of light, you are quick to find one. In Exodus 10, God sent a plague of darkness on Egypt to get Pharaoh’s attention. Everything went black. Instant power outage. Except there wasn’t power in the first place. And there were no flashlights, so it was just plain dark.

Exodus 10:22-23 22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. 23 No one could see anyone else or move about for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.

That’s pretty impressive! It was dark everywhere for three days. Everywhere… wait. Not everywhere? How is it possible that the Israelites had light in the places where they lived? I mean, God would have had to block out the sun, somehow. So how do you block out the sun and still make it light in one specific place? Ya, no idea, but somehow He did it. He is God after all.

I found it fascinating in this story that it was dark everywhere EXCEPT where God’s people lived. Isn’t that how it is spiritually still to this day? Or at least that’s how it should be. In this world, there is much spiritual darkness. But where God’s people live, there should be light. Yet we continue to live in places of darkness and stumble around like we don’t know what we are doing.

We are called by God to live as children of light. You know what that means? We are called to be the ultimate flashlight! We are called to have the light of Christ in us in all areas of our life. And we are to bring that light to the darkness around us. The world may be dark like Egypt was for those three days, but where God’s people are there should be light. So be the light. Be the flashlight. Shine on, my friend. Shine on!

Flip the switch

1 Peter 1:13-16  13 Therefore, with your minds ready for action, be serious and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance. 15 But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; 16 for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy. 

Sometimes during power outages, I still try to turn on the lights.  It’s pointless, I know.  But there is something instinctual about going to the bathroom with the lights on.  During power outages, it’s really annoying trying to get light.  You have to light a candle or fumble through the junk drawer for fresh batteries for the flashlight.  Which is one reason I appreciate electricity and light switches so much.  Power is available at the flip of a switch.  There is really no need to be in the dark, you just have to flip the switch.

Sometimes in the morning, I wake up with what feels like a mental power outage.  My brain doesn’t work all that well.  When our minds aren’t engaged, it’s easy to get sidetracked.  It’s easy to head down a path of distraction and sin.  When our minds aren’t engaged, it can be difficult to answer the call of holiness that Peter talks about here.  Fortunately there’s a solution.  In verse 13, Peter makes this key statement: “with your minds ready for action.”  What? I have to turn my brain on?

Yes.  If we are going to live a life holy before the Lord, it is going to require that our minds are set on it.  We cannot revert to laziness or trail off into boredom.  Serving the Lord is a thinking man’s task.  Holiness happens when we flip the switch.  Have you ever noticed that when you sin, you often have the thought, “how did I end up here?”  You find yourself in the dark wondering why the lights aren’t on.  The issue so often is that you simply didn’t walk over to the wall and flip the switch.  So get your minds ready for action today.  Be engaged with the Lord and His call to holiness.  He’s got all the power you need, so turn on the lights!