Social Media Fasting and 5 Ways to ‘Unplug’

Social Media

One day a week, the earth manages to keep revolving right along on its axis without me.

It’s a blow to my pride, perhaps, but surely that’s the point.

I began a once-weekly social media fast a little over a year ago. The constant connection, constant pull, constant noise, constant interaction of this always-online world was crushing my introverted writer’s heart.

So, once a week I shut it down and shut it out. It’s a way of fasting, going without so I can re-focus on God.  I have the time then to be still and rest in His presence, time to enjoy family and beauty.

And, I miss out on a crisis or two of Facebook drama.

But the world goes on.

I’m reminded that:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:2-4 ESV).

He may have been talking to Israel about golden calves and bronzed images, but I know this means electronic gods, too.

This world has become so noisy and information-heavy.  How would we even know if God is speaking to us?  We’re far too busy and surrounded by noise to notice.

John Piper said, “One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that our lack of prayer was not from lack of time.”  He called social media the acceptable addiction of our modern society.

Facebook?  Twitter?  The Internet in general?  Texting?  We shrug these addictions off as simply the way of things in this modern world.

So I rebel against modern convention.

I unplug and walk away and let the world keep going right along without my heavy-handed involvement.

This month, I choose to be more purposeful about this social media fasting.  In my 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, I choose in March to ‘unplug.’

I’ll continue my social media fasting and intentionally fill that space with Him.  I will linger in His Word, enjoy His creation, rest with my family, read a good book, bake some bread, knit a scarf, play a game with my kids.

I will unplug from the noise and plug in to the essentials and what really matters.

On the warm days, I’ll pack my baby into the stroller and stride down the Main Street of our town.  Without a smart phone or texting plan, I will revel in the quiet.  I will think, pray and notice the beauty of the clouds, the flowers, the trees all over again.

Maybe this month you can join me in choosing to unplug at least one day a week? Here are some possibilities:

  1. Social media fast:  One day a week (or more), leave Facebook and Twitter and the world of social media alone.  Replace that time with something soul-filling.  Walk, pray, read, rest, play, build relationships face-to-face.
  2. Bible Before Computer: Put your Bible over your computer keyboard at night so that in the morning, you are reminded to read the Bible first before getting online.  You’ll be much more successful at this if you have to physically remove your Bible before typing on the computer!
  3. Put the Phone Down: Choose times to give the smart phone or texting a rest.  Maybe: No texting during meals.  No smart phone during Bible studies, in church or during your quiet time.  Set a goal and then stick to it.  People can wait an hour for you to text them back.
  4. Set a Timer: The Internet has a way of sucking us in and taking far more of our time than we intend (or maybe admit!).  Try setting a timer for how long you want to be online.  When the timer dings, you know to stop.
  5. Take a day off of television: Turn off the TV.  Choose a worship CD or Pandora radio station with worship music and enjoy some alone time or family time without the television.

Perhaps you’ll be surprised at how hard this really is and that’s a good discovery.  It means you’re rooting out that addiction and that idolatry and that’s painful.  It burns deep to deny our flesh.

But we’ll be drinking deep of what truly satisfies, the Living Water that our parched souls are panting after, instead of trying to quench our spirit thirst with brine.

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.
Psalm 63:1 NIV

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.
Psalm 42:1 NIV

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I ‘Unplug’?

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

Why Choosing New Glasses is Hard When You’re a People-Pleaser (Like Me)

She tells me, “Those look cute on you.”

I wrinkle up my nose and squint my eyes at the mirror.

She’s the sweetest, kindest lady ever, handing me pairs of glasses at the eye doctor’s office.

But I’m a pushover.  One slight hint of someone else’s opinion and I tend to fold up like a pup-tent in a windstorm.

I explain to her that I really like my glasses, the ones I’ve worn for 4-1/2 years that are now cracked, scratched, bent, and about to disintegrate in the palm of my hand.  Can’t I just have something pretty much the same?

She says, ‘They are kind of small’ and points to a few pairs she likes on the shelf.

The pair she hands me aren’t really ‘me.’  They are cool and trendy, big dark frames in that funky retro style that looks great on everyone, but just don’t suit me or who I am.

In that moment, though, I question myself.

She says they look cute.  She says she likes them.

So maybe she’s right?  Maybe all those things I think and feel about myself are wrong?  Maybe I just need to try something different….get wild and crazy for a second.  Maybe I should be more stylish?  Maybe I could grow to like them?

I feel slightly trapped.

Thankfully, I’m rescued from my decision-making paralysis by a friend who works at the office.  She shakes her head, ‘no’ and I feel truly, truly saved as I slip those frames right back onto the display shelf.

I needed someone to back me up.  Given just one more nudge by the sweet and gentle lady trying to help me pick out glasses, I’d have walked right out of there having purchased frames I hated.

And I would have worn them for years.

And I would have hated them every time I put them on my face.

And I would have hated myself for buying them in the first place, for just taking someone else’s opinion as truth without weighing it against the truth I know about myself.

That’s me.  People-pleasing me.  Indecisive me.  Swayed by the slightest push from others and then growing all resentful at the pressure.

The trouble is that this is an opinion-sharing world.  Random people in Wal-Mart like to comment on the groceries you buy and the amount of kids you have crowded around your shopping cart.

God does use people to speak truth to us at times.  They can be a confirmation sent by the Holy Spirit or a loving word of encouragement or challenge just when we need it.

Sometimes, though, they are just people—friends, loved ones, random shoppers with opinions.galatians1

In Scripture, Job endured and ignored the counsel of his friends and his overwhelmed wife’s advice to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9 NIV).

For all their professed spirituality and theological ‘expertise,’ Job’s friends were wrong.

His wife was wrong.

But me, if I had sat there in the sackloth and ashes, would I have discerned the truth?  Would I have held on stubbornly to that challenged faith like Job did or would I have begrudgingly given in?

I’m learning that I must:

  1. Consider the source:  Is this someone whose input has value?
  2. Consider the message: Does what they are saying match up with Scripture?  Does it match up with what the Holy Spirit has been telling me or is this noticeably out of place?
  3. Consider the intent: Are they sharing something prayerfully and in love?  Or are they condemning and hurtful?
  4. Consider the authority: Is this simply an opinion or a way that God is speaking to me?  (Remember that sometimes people even say things are ‘words from the Lord,’ yet they don’t mesh with Scripture or what God has been doing in your life).

In the end, I can’t be both—an obedient servant of Christ or a people-pleaser.  Paul lays it down as an either/or choice:

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ (Galatians 1:10 NIV).

“People-pleaser,” after all, is just a polite way of excusing the truth about me:  I’m an idolater,  worshiping the approval of others just as much as any man-carved image of stone or wood.

It takes discernment and courage to decide that “God’s judgment is the only one that counts” (Galatians: Gospel-Rooted Living, Todd Wilson) .

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

Empty Promises, Book Review

Empty Promises: The Truth About You, Your Desires, and the Lies You’re Believing
by Pete Wilson

A preacher who tells the congregation that an idol is anything more important to us than God probably wouldn’t shock (or enlighten) anyone. Most of us have heard this before . . . countless times . . . in many different ways . . . in Sunday morning sermons, small group lessons, radio preacher segments, and more.emptypromises

So, we might shrug it off.  Is anything more important to me than God?  Nah.  Not me.  Yawn and start doodling on the back of the bulletin.

Pete Wilson, knowing our tendency to bored complacency on this issue, gives his own definition: “idolatry is when I look to something that does not have God’s power to give me what only God has the authority and power to give” (p. 5).  Ahh, now he has our attention.

Of course this isn’t about statues of stone or bronze.  Most likely, this is internal idolatry, a problem in our hearts.  It doesn’t have to be the idol of materialism (although it can be), or physical appearance (although that’s possible, too).  Wilson covers other potential idols that are more elusive and harder to identify, like power, religion and dreams.

He writes with vulnerability and a touch of humor, making it an easy and interesting read.  He’s also organized and challenging–including in each chapter some benchmarks to consider when deciding whether or not you struggle with this or that.

The most insightful moments of the book for me were actually quotes from commentaries  and other classic and modern writers like C.S. Lewis, Timothy Keller, and John Piper.  I don’t mind this.  It shows the breadth of Pete Wilson’s reading and his ability to present truth in an organized and challenging way.

This wasn’t a particularly life-changing book for me at the moment, but it has the potential to be so.  I did, however, discover some fresh descriptions and explanations that I’ve been thinking about even after finishing the book.  This is fitting since, as Wilson, says, “I don’t think being mature Christians means getting to a place where we never deal with idolatry.  Rather, maturity comes when we become aware that this is going to be a lifelong battle…and we make up our minds to engage in it on a daily basis (p. 196).

That makes the book worth a re-read whenever we’re struck again by feelings of emptiness and dissatisfaction, if only for the reminder that some longing won’t be fulfilled until heaven, but it is always fulfilled in Christ.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Altars of Uncut Stones

Originally published April 16, 2012

I picked up my daughter’s yellow spring jacket and felt weight, heaviness where it shouldn’t be.  Clearly she had stuffed her pocket at the park with her latest treasure.

Curious, I slipped my hand into her pocket and pulled out . . . a rock.  Two rocks actually, one for each pocket.

They weren’t gems, either.  No sparkles or beauty.  No monetary value.020

They were plain ordinary gravel, no different than the layer of rock on my driveway.  In fact, the one crumbled into my fingers with the slightest pressure.

I sighed.  She had been toting home rocks for about two years now.  Everywhere we went, some pebbles, gravel, or smooth stones caught her attention and ended up in her pockets.

She has even tried to remove stones from the paths at Colonial Williamsburg and the zoo and once tried to haul away a cement block from the local museum where its grand function was to hold open the door.

I put my foot down about those.

But if it fits neatly into the pocket of her jacket, she’s likely to tuck it away and add it to her “rock collection.”  Perhaps she’ll even give it a name, which usually ends up being something like “Rocky” or another equally creative moniker.

To me, they are plain, ordinary, maybe even ugly rocks.  To her, they are treasured collectibles.

She’s not the only one who finds beauty in simple stones.  God loves them, too.

As they crossed over the Jordan River, the Israelites obeyed God’s instruction, picking up 12 stones from the river bed and lugging them up the embankment onto dry land.  God told them to use those stones to build an altar.

More specifically,

“an altar of stones.  You shall wield no iron tool on them; you shall build an altar to the Lord your God of uncut stones. And you shall offer burnt offerings on it to the Lord your God, and you shall sacrifice peace offerings and shall eat there, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God” (Deut. 27:5-7 ESV)

Their peace offerings and sacrifices, their worship and rejoicing before the God who had carried them into the Promised Land, may have seemed more fit for an altar of finest gems.

Perhaps their greatest artisans could have finely cut diamonds, emeralds and rubies into an altar fit for worship of the Most High God.

Or, if they had to use river rocks, at the very least they could have chiseled and carved until the altar looked like a marble statue.

Yet, God was clear.  Stones, simple stones, uncut by any human tool, formed the altar fit for the offerings of His people.

Why did God even care about a detail so small?  According to Him, “If you make an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it you profane it” (Exodus 20:25).

To God, human construction on the altar stones made them unholy and profane.

That’s because God knew the danger implicit in cut stones and man-made bricks.  The moment we begin to adorn altars with human effort is the moment we shift the focus off of the God we praise.

We become idolaters.  Our worship becomes profane, admiring the human talent that made the vessel or cut the stone.

This is what God accused the people of doing in Isaiah:

I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices;a people who provoke me to my face continually, sacrificing in gardens and making offerings on bricks” (Isaiah 65:2-3 ESV).

Israel ignored God’s mandate and chose instead to offer their sacrifice among garden flowers.  They had rejected simple stones in favor of brick constructions.

Israel wanted to worship God their own way and on their own terms.  His instructions seemed superfluous and unnecessary.

In the same way, God sometimes overturns our expectations of adequate offerings and suitable worship.

He desires the simplicity of an obedient heart.

We think He needs more.  

So, we hold back our offerings until they are “fit” for Him.  We hide in the sanctuary pews until we have more to give.  We think other worshipers, who are more talented and more rehearsed, give gifts more worthy.

It isn’t, however, about being the best, most talented, or most qualified; it’s about being called.  Yours is the offering He desires.

There is beauty in the uncut stones of our worship.  It’s never about the show, never about our own talent or training; it’s not about looking good or fitting in, or processing our worship into acceptable forms—all human additions that shift focus off God and onto human ability.

Instead, it’s about responding to God in pure uncut adoration.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Not the Other Mom

Her Other Mom cooks yummy pancakes.

Her Other Mom bought all of her clothes (although I clearly remember shopping myself).012

Her Other Mom has a big house with a pink toilet in it.

Her Other Mom owns a dog.

Her Other Mom tells her when to eat, when she can have a snack, when she can go outside to play, what shows to watch on television, and whether or not it’s bedtime.

Her Other Mom has that book, that Kindle app, that game, that movie, and every toy that’s ever been advertised on television…ever.

We’re not exactly sure when it happened or how, but at some point my three-year-old transitioned from a mini-van full of fairly typical imaginary friends to an imaginary “Other Mom.”

Eventually the Other Mom had an Other Dad and Other Sisters and even Brothers, and she chats about this entire Other Family all day long.

We laugh most of the time (quietly to ourselves, of course) and let her chatter on about this pretend family.

Once I mistakenly corrected her, reminding her at dinner that it wasn’t the cape-wearing superhero Other Mom who gave her a birthday gift, but it was in fact me.

She cried.

So, I mostly leave it be and certainly don’t use the words “pretend” or “imaginary,” “not real” or “fake” whenever she launches into one of her Other Mom fairy tales.

But the other day, I leaned in close to my little one and whispered, “Who loves you?”

Without a second’s breath, she blurted out “My Other Mo……” and then she stopped.  She put down the crayon she was coloring with and let it roll on the table, concentrating on my question.  She pushed back the flyaway hairs escaping from her ponytail.

Then she looked right into my eyes and said, “You!” and giggled at me like we had just shared the best knock-knock joke ever heard by a preschooler.

“And who else loves you?” I asked her, pressing in on the moment.

“My cats….and Lauren and Victoria and my Dad.”

Not her Other Dad, not those Other Sisters, or the Brothers or the imaginary dog…

We love her, this real family who takes care of her real needs and buys her real clothes and cooks her real food.

It’s innocent, of course, this imagination of hers.  Most days, I try to marvel at it rather than question too much whether deficiencies in me gave her reason to create an Other Mom (I don’t, after all, have a pink toilet in my home).

But then there’s God and then there’s us and it really isn’t innocent much of the time, forgetful, yes…apathetic at times…generally oblivious in some moments.

Like Israel just a short hike from Egypt, not long enough for a generation to develop spiritual amnesia about their miraculous deliverance out of slavery, still they were forgetful beings.  Moses delayed on the mountain with the Lord, so Aaron threw some gold into the fire and pulled out a golden cow.

The people looked at that man-made object and declared, “Israel, this is your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!” (Exodus 32:4).

And they did it again generations later.  King Jeroboam decided it was too difficult for the people to trek to Jerusalem to worship in the temple.  It required too much sacrifice, too much effort.

So, “he made two golden calves, and he said to the people, ‘Going to Jerusalem is too difficult for you. Israel, here is your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt.'” (1 Kings 12:28).

How?

How could they give any fake god or false idol the credit for miraculous salvation?

How could worship be so fickle?

How could they forget who God is and what He had done?

How could we?

We’re not three-year-olds with active imaginations.  We’re His children who forget to thank Him, forget to worship Him, forget to give Him glory for what He’s done, forget today what miracle He did for us yesterday, forget to look for Him in the middle of our everyday lives.

We too often just accept the gifts without pausing to see, really see, the way they drip with grace.

Praising Him one day; forgetting the next; overlooking His goodness; blaming Him for what is wrong and not thanking Him for what is good….so we fall and so we fail, and so we end up worshiping golden calves of our own making.

But God reminded His people: “I am the Lord your God, who brought your out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery” (Exodus 20:2).

Yes, He is the God worthy of our praise.  He is the God who rescued us.  He is the God who loves us.

Yes, He is God and God alone.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Attack of the Mutant Christmas Lists

Their Christmas lists keep growing.

I thought we had it all settled.  In fact, being the slightly neurotic Type-A mom that I am, I turned my daughters’ wish lists into a color-coordinated spreadsheet in Excel that tracks what the girls want, how that corresponds to what her sisters are getting, and what store has the best prices for said item.

Then I’ve established a four-month shopping program charting which presents I can afford to buy during each of the months until Christmas.

Believe it or not, I love this.  I enjoy gift-giving, especially to my children.  I don’t just jot their lists down, I listen to their interests and likes and spontaneous desires for months.  In fact, I begin writing down possible gift ideas on my day planner in June.

Yes, June.

And I mentally categorize their verbal requests into:

A: That’s a great idea!  I wonder where I can get that?
B:  Hmm. . . I’ll consider this one, but I may need to change my plans for other gifts.
C. Maybe not for Christmas; maybe for a birthday.
D. Ain’t gonna happen, honey.

That last category is for all those gifts that cost more than anything else we own in our home or toys that will likely break after the first use or sit dusty and forlorn on the shelves the week after Christmas.  It’s for duplicates of things they already have (how many Pillow Pets does a child need?) and for gifts that just seem downright silly to me.

But still the requests come in.  Like video games and Nintendo DS systems and the iPod touches and Kindles that apparently every other first and second grader in our town owns.

Thanks to birthday parties, friends, and the ever-constant barrage of commercials, my children have mutant Christmas lists.

While it seems so childishly foolish to long for novelty slippers or a new video game, don’t we often want what this world offers?

Perhaps it’s material things that constitute our wish list or physical beauty or instant gratification.

Or maybe our heart’s desires are truly Godly things, but we want them on our terms, under our control, in our timing . . . ultimately looking for fulfillment in them rather than God alone.

…Like ministering because we’re dependent on praise and attention.  Or working and serving because we’re addicted to success and accomplishments..

Or the ever-alluring need to be in Control.

And the oh-so-tempting rush of feeling needed and useful.

These aren’t sticks and stones idols that sit on the shelves of our hearts, so obvious and easily tossed out with the garbage.

No, Tim Keller writes that, put simply, idolatry is “taking a good thing and making it an ultimate thing.”

So even the best, most honorable desires of our heart might turn out to be idols leading us astray—all because we’re dependent on ministry for our value or friendships for our worth or anything other than God alone for our identity and hope.

Kelly Minter writes, “It is so essential that the only true and wise God be exalted, not only above all religious gods, but over all the things we put in place of Him” (No Other gods: Confronting Our Modern Day Idols).

But sometimes we just don’t know what’s lurking in these hearts of ours, not until God takes an idol away or asks us to hand it over.  It’s then we start feeling the pangs of withdrawal and realize just how addicted we really were.

Like when He tells us a busyness addict to rest.
Or a success addict to step down.
Or an approval addict to handle criticism.
Or a relationship addict to walk alone for a time.
Or a control addict to strap in for a wild ride of His design and not their own.

If we were Abraham, a wealthy landowner with status and connections, and God told us to leave and go, would we?

And if we went, would we go willingly and cheerfully, or would we whine and complain and create wish lists along the way to refill the voids?

Abraham not only trusted God and obeyed, but he managed to keep his eyes set on eternal things.  He didn’t look for fulfillment here and now or even in good things that just weren’t God things.

Scripture tells us:

“For he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.  For he was looking forward to the city with foundations whose architect and builder is God”  (Heb 11:9-10).

What tent is God asking you to dwell in?  What has He asked you to lay aside?

Set your eyes on eternity.  Hand over the keys to your house, carry your tent on your back, and trust God to plan and build a city with a permanent home for you there.  He is, after all, all we need.

Check out these great resources all about this:

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Altars of Uncut Stones or the Beauty of Simple Obedience

I picked up my daughter’s yellow spring jacket and felt weight, heaviness where it shouldn’t be.  Clearly she had stuffed her pocket at the park with her latest treasure.

Curious about her new discovery, I slipped my hand into her pocket and pulled out . . . a rock.  Two rocks actually, one for each pocket.

They weren’t gems, either.  No sparkles or beauty.  No monetary value.

They were plain ordinary gravel, no different than the layer of rock on my driveway.  In fact, the one crumbled into my fingers with the slightest pressure.

I sighed.  She had been toting home rocks for about two years now.  Everywhere we went, some pebbles, gravel, or smooth stones caught her attention and ended up in her pockets.

She has even tried to remove stones from the paths at Colonial Williamsburg and the zoo and once tried to carry a cement block away from the local museum where its grand function was to hold open the door.

I put my foot down about those.

But if it fits neatly into the pocket of her jacket, she’s likely to tuck it away where I can’t see and add it to her “rock collection.”  Perhaps she’ll even give it a name, which usually ends up being something like “Rocky” or another equally creative moniker.

I made the mistake of tossing “Rocky the First” back into our garden when I discovered it on her dresser.  She cried.  She searched the back garden for a glimpse of him and, finding him, carried Rocky right back inside.

To me, it was an ugly rock.  To her it was a treasured part of her collection, more like a pet than a simple object.

She’s not the only one who finds beauty in simple stones.  God loves them, too.

As they crossed over the Jordan River, the Israelites obeyed God’s instruction, picking up 12 stones from the river bed and lugging them up the embankment onto dry land.  God told them to use those stones to build an altar.

More specifically,

“an altar of stones.  You shall wield no iron tool on them; you shall build an altar to the Lord your God of uncut stones. And you shall offer burnt offerings on it to the Lord your God, and you shall sacrifice peace offerings and shall eat there, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God” (Deut. 27:5-7 ESV)

Their peace offerings and sacrifices, their worship and rejoicing before the God who had carried them into the Promised Land, may have seemed more fit for an altar of finest gems.

Perhaps their greatest artisans could have finely cut diamonds, emeralds and rubies into an altar fit for worship of the Most High God.

Or, if God insisted on them using river rocks, at the very least they could have chiseled and carved until the altar looked like a marble statue, perhaps of angels or a depiction of the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant, or of Joshua leading the people.

Yet, God was clear.  Stones, simple stones, uncut by any human tool, formed the altar fit for the offerings of His people.

Why did God even care about a detail so small?  According to Him, “If you make an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it you profane it” (Exodus 20:25).

To God, human construction on the altar stones made them unholy and profane.

That’s because God knew the danger implicit in cut stones and man-made bricks.  The moment we begin to adorn altars with human effort is the moment we shift the focus off of the God we praise.  Instead, we admire the human talent that made the vessel or the human ability that cut the stone.

We become idolaters.  Our worship becomes profane.

This is what God accused the people of doing in Isaiah:

I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices;a people who provoke me to my face continually, sacrificing in gardens and making offerings on bricks” (Isaiah 65:2-3 ESV).

Israel ignored God’s mandate and chose instead to offer their sacrifice among garden flowers.  They had rejected simple stones in favor of brick altars.

Israel wanted to worship God their own way and on their own terms.  His instructions seemed superfluous and unnecessary.  Their ideas seemed so much nicer, so much better, so superior, so much more religious than God’s request for pure and uncut praise.

In the same way, God sometimes overturns our expectations of adequate offerings and suitable worship.

He desires the simplicity of an obedient heart.

We think He needs more.  

So, we hold back our offerings until they are “fit” for Him.  We hide in the sanctuary pews until we have more to give.  We think other worshipers, who are more talented and more rehearsed, give gifts more worthy.

It isn’t, however, about being the best, most talented, or most qualified; it’s about being called.  Yours is the offering He desires.  It is because of your heart of obedience that He can be glorified in the sacrifices you bring.

There is beauty in the uncut stones of our worship.  It’s never about the show, never about our own talent or training; it’s not about looking good or fitting in, or processing our worship into acceptable forms—all human additions that shift focus off God and onto human ability.

Instead, it’s about responding to God in pure uncut adoration.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King