Repent! The Kingdom of God is at Hand!
As I mentioned in the first installment of this 40 days of Shofar, the month of Elul is a time of repentance. Now, you may say, “Lonnie what do I need to repent of? I’m a church member. I attend regularly. I’m not a bad person.” Well, that’s a good question.
You see, in the Bible, what kept Israel in hot water more than anything was disobedience. You may say, “How have I been disobedient?” That’s a good question as well.
Israel’s disobedience, in a nutshell, centered around idolatry and sexual immorality. Add to those things they had a habit of forgetting the things God had done for them in times past. They would turn to the worship of Baal or Molech and, in doing so, sexual immorality prevailed within the worship of those idols.
You may be thinking, “Well, I am not sexually immoral, and I certainly do not worship false gods.”
Sexual immorality runs deeper than acts of a sexual nature. It also creeps into your thoughts. It creeps in by the music you listen to, the movies that you watch, or even in the case of some clergy, pornography.
Jesus said, “But I say unto you, if you look upon a woman with lust you have already committed adultery with her in your heart.” (Paraphrased). Watchung that movie with nudity, or sexual activity, is an act of sexual immorality.
But the worship of false gods is a much wider issue. Chasing after more money can be a false god. Hobbies and past times can become false gods. I know of a pastor who once boasted that he played golf every day. Well, pardon me, but a round of golf takes about four hours and when you add driving time, you’re talking about a minimum of five hours a day. Preacher, you’re not devoting time to prayer and study to feed your flock. In fact, as expensive as your golf hobby is, you’re probably fleecing the flock instead of feeding the flock to fund your hobby.
I’ve worshipped false gods at times. Past times like fishing, hunting, motorsports, and playing music were once things that I lived for. I put more time, effort, and money into those things than I did praying and serving God. In fact, there was a time that those things were all I did in my free time.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have anything against a hobby. Nor do I have anything against a round or two of golf a week. I don’t have anything against a fishing or hunting expedition on a regular basis. I don’t have any problem with playing music or watching a ball game or watching a race.
But when work, hobbies and/or past times eat up your free waking moments entirely, those things are what you live for. Excluding God for the sake of time spent on hobbies or past times, that’s worshipping a false god.
Just recently I had to repent in a monumental way. Remember, repenting is not a prayer where you tell God how sorry you are or how “bad” you’ve been. God already knows. Repenting is to turn away from aberrant thoughts, words, actions, or preferences that take precedence ahead of God and turn back to God.
I love woodworking. But I don’t do wood working the way most folks do. I find old woodworking hand tools and restore them and those are the tools that I use. I don’t use electricity. I do it all by hand. I love making cutting boards, jewelry boxes, desk organizers, kitchen utensils, and furniture. I saw rough sawn lumber by hand, plane it to thickness and width by hand. Cut joinery with saws and chisels and put it all together without nails, screws, or bolts. I love doing that! It’s the “old school” way of doing things. I like that.
Recently, Cheryl and I have been considering our retirement within the next five to seven years. We considered running electricity to my “shop”. We talked about acquiring a nice table saw and a bandsaw to help speed up the dimensioning process to help me be more productive. We talked about building custom order wood items as a second income after we retire. I liked the idea. I found myself researching current tools, equipment, and materials to get ready for that task when we retire. However, I realized that all this planning and research was distracting me from my prayer time and time to write and produce materials in Bible study. I found that I was distracted from the things that I know God has called me to do. Most likely, I was going to divert money from the things I’ve been called to do to set up this shop to produce a second income.
I came to realize, again, that God is my source of provision. Woodworking is a means that I can make something for someone that I love as a gift. God never told me that it would be my secondary income or vocation. I told Cheryl that we need to put all the shop plans on hold and not spend the money we’d planned on spending for the time being. I explained that these plans of ours were distracting me from the plans God had for me. She agreed whole heartedly. I had to repent and turn from what I wanted to do to and return to what God has planned for me for His purpose.
That’s how simple and easy it is to get off track. Something that looks as harmless as setting up a modest shop for a second income after retirement distracted me. It took my eyes off serving God and focused on serving myself. It was leading me away from God. I was taking time away from things God has placed in my heart. Like writing these 40 days of Awakening. Like writing a book. Like producing videos and teaching for people who want to sound the shofar. I was beginning to neglect those things because I wanted to chase after something that I wanted to do.
I’ll be honest. Yes, I’m going to build things in my meager, modest shop. I’ll be building gifts for my wife, family, and friends for them to use and they’ll have something to remember me when I’m gone from this earth. But building and making things of wood for profit will not stand between me and the plan God has for me. THAT would be worshipping a false god!
I told an old man once that I loved God more than anything else. He said to me, “Yeah? Let me see your check book.” At first, I didn’t understand but I realized that I spent my extra money on what I loved most. I do not spend more on my wood working than I do on tithes and gifts of giving. Granted, I have house payments, vehicle payments, insurance, and so forth. We all have costs of living. But what I spend on hobbies, past times, or entertainment does not exceed my tithe much less my gifts above the tithe. I do not neglect my tithe and offerings. The Book of Malachi says that to do so is robbing God. I’m not legalistic about it. Cheryl and I do so in joyful obedience. Besides, Malachi tells us that God said, “Test Me on this!” It is the only time that God has given us permission to test Him. The rewards are blessings overflowing. NOT just blessings in finances! Don’t get hung up on that! Many “preachers” will try to convince you that the more money you sow the more money God will give you. They are turning the tithe into a slot machine!
But prayer and worship is a time spent with God. I spend a couple hours in prayer every day. Not bragging, just a fact. I actually read my Bible every day and I study, every day. The time I spend with God outweighs the time I spend on hobbies, past times, or entertainment any day of the week.
Another thing I’ve had to repent of on the opposite end of the spectrum is that I would spend ALL my time working on the things that God has called me to do. I would deprive my family of any of my time to work on media projects such as a web site, podcast, videos, articles, research for a book, and sounding the shofar. God gave me my family and I don’t believe He intended for me to neglect them. I’m not saying my family is more important than God or His purpose for my life. I’m saying that I’m not going to totally neglect my family in the process. I’m not going to neglect my family participating in any hobby or past time as some men do either. THAT is worshipping a false god!
So, stop and think about it. Better yet, stop and pray about it. Is there anything in your life that you need to repent, turn 180 degrees from, and return to God? No? You’re better than I am. Ask God to reveal to you anything that you need to repent of. He will open your eyes. Ask for wisdom and He said that He will grant it to you.
It’s time to awaken! No better time than now, during these 40 Days of Awakening.
I am The Old Watchman, Ezekiel. REPENT! The Kingdom of God is at hand!