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Keeping It Simple

July 2012
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I think we all agree that life can get very complicated at times. Unfortunately, we can take that stress and strain right on into every area of our lives. We forget to turn to God and instead try to work everything out on our own. And we mess it up most, if not all, of the time. If we could only learn to take the focus off of ourselves. If only . . . .  And, perhaps we leave God out–intentionally or unintentionally–because we think we have to jump through a lot of hoops to get His attention. There’s a lot of that thinking going around in religious circles today. We tend to think in terms of “ten steps to getting it right with God and/or having a better life,” and if you don’t believe me, just look at the titles of a lot of the Christian “best selling” books over the past couple of decades. We grow weary from the weight of that kind of thinking. We just can’t be as perfect as all those books tell us we can be if we will just follow their formula.

I just read a wonderful devotion this morning by Dr. Charles Swindoll titled, “Keep It Simple.” I don’t know about you, but at this stage in my life I definitely want to keep life as simple as possible. And no drama, please! I love reading the Old Testament prophets as they can be quite challenging to my own way of thinking in these complicated times in which we live. The societal problems we face today are really no different then they were during the time of the prophets–after all, human nature hasn’t changed. So with that in mind, let’s read what Dr. Swindoll has to say about a prophet named Micah, who has his very own book in the Bible.

 Keep It Simple

Micah 6:6-8

Micah isn’t exactly a household word. Too bad. Though obscure, the ancient prophet had his stuff together. Eclipsed by the much more famous Isaiah, who ministered among the elite, Micah took God’s message to the streets.

Micah had a deep suspicion of phony religion. He saw greed in the hearts of the leaders of the kingdom of Judah, which prompted him to warn the common folk not to be deceived by religious pretense among nobility. In true prophetic style, Micah comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable. He condemned sin. He exposed performance-based piety. He championed the cause of the oppressed. He predicted the fall of the nation. And he did it all at the risk of his own life.

But Micah didn’t just denounce and attack, leaving everyone aware of the things he despised but none of the things he believed. Like rays of brilliant sunlight piercing charcoal-colored clouds after a storm, the prophet saved his best words for a positive message to the people, and I am pleased to say that he did it with simplicity: “With what shall I come to the LORD and bow myself before the God on high? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, with yearling calves? Does the LORD take delight in thousands of rams, in ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my first-born for my rebellious acts, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” (Micah 6:6-7).

Micah’s words state exactly what many, to this day, wonder about pleasing God. Teachers and preachers have made it so sacrificial . . . so complicated . . . so extremely difficult. To them, God is virtually impossible to please. Therefore, religion has become a series of long, drawn-out, deeply painful acts designed to appease this peeved Deity in the sky who takes delight in watching us squirm.

Micah erases the things on the entire list, replacing the complicated possibilities with one of the finest definitions of simple faith: “He has told you, O man, what is good: and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness (mercy), and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).

God does not look for big-time, external displays. He does not require slick public performances.

What is required? Slow down and read the list aloud: to do justice . . . to love kindness (mercy) . . . and to walk humbly with your God. Period.

Faith is not a long series of religious performances or a pile of pious things.
All God asks is simple faith.

Source: Day by Day by Dr. Charles Swindoll
Word Publishing, Thomas Nelson, 2000, p. 267

I found these words to be remarkably comforting as I read them this morning. It’s hard enough to not conform to the pressures of our society–the lure of materialism, prosperity, greed, the lust for “more,” and the list goes on. If we turn to God expecting Him to give us another long list of requirements in order to jump through the hoops of “religiosity” (which most if not all of the world’s religions require) we weary under the strain of the struggle between the two.

No . . . . that only leads to frustration and mass confusion.

To be released from this miry mess, we first need to come to Jesus with a repentant heart and accept Him as our Savior and Lord–“And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21). Jesus’ invitation is clear and simple, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). REST . . . not the latest “what to do so you can be successful in life and still serve God” book on the bestseller list.

Our struggle is self-imposed. Our reasons for doing that may be as numerous as the pebbles on a beach, or it could be as simple as wanting life on our own terms. However, if you are truly seeking to love and serve God, Jesus Christ offers the only way, and it’s not complicated, but it does require your whole heart.

So, if you’re Christian and you know Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord but you’re not sure what to do in any situation, especially a complicated one, turn to Him (and not a list of rules) and remember the very brief instructions from Micah:

Act Justly
Love Mercy
Walk Humbly with Your God 

YouTube Video: “I’ll Take You There” by the Staple Singers:

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