A delinquent Christian's quest to conquer the seven deadly sins -- one day at a time.
So far, I have had no difficulties in giving up alcohol and nicotine. It has been relatively easy to give up those vices. Every time I think about indulging, I remember the pledge I made to God, and my urge goes away. I honestly did not think it would be this easy. However, I haven’t really put myself in a situation where there would be temptation. I have avoided late-night bars and parties. So far…
I gave up drinking for a year because of the vice Gluttony, which is the over-indulgence of anything to the point of waste–food, nicotine, alcohol, shopping, etc. And I think that I had reached that point. I was starting to crave drinking each night. I wanted after-dinner drinks, after-work drinks, after -running drinks…And of course it was just as bad with nicotine. My indulgences were becoming excessive, and I wanted to cut them off. My personal challenge to try to eliminate the seven deadly sins from my life seemed like the perfect oppertunity to do so.
The next few days will prove to be a challenge, of that I am sure. I am hanging out with a few friends from high school–and in standard tradition, our “hanging out” will consist of us going to bars and talking while (hopefully only) they get drunk. And then for New Year’s Eve, I will be attending a party thrown by one of my closest friends. By her admittance, drinking will be the party’s theme.
Neither of these scenarios bothers me, but it will be more difficult to maintain my pledge. Throughoug high school and for my first year of college, I was straightedge–no drugs, drinking, or nicotine. And I did it with pride. At the time, the pride worked–being straightedge was something that set me apart from my peers. And it helped them respect me for it. But now, not only is pride one of the vices that I dedicated a blog to squelching, it would be downright obnoxious to be PRIDEFUL about not drinking at a New Year’s Eve party…Who would want to hang out with that girl? It would be like a bad SNL sketch.
Hopefully, I can find another way to feel included.
Psalm 37 focuses on all the good things the Lord will do for you when you commit to living in a righteous manner: you will have all the desires of your heart, you will inherit the land, and you will enjoy peace and prosperity. If God is the center, the focus, and the “delight” of my life, then He will fulfill your deepest desires.
What I might think are the desires of my heart might not actually be those deepest in my heart. I might want a convertible so bad that it is all I can think about..I’ll spend my days fixating on how I can save up to afford it, what it would be like to drive around in Hawaii with the wind in my hair, and so on. But, when it comes down to it, is that what I really want? No, I want my family and friends to be healthy and safe.
So if you actually “delight” in the Lord, as Psalm 37 is advising, you are putting God at the center of your life–He will be your focus. If you do this, it would never occur to you to day dream about owning a convertible. Your dreams and hopes would be about the welfare of those close to you. Simple things–food, shelter, health, happiness. Desires that are the essence of your soul–not material goods or superficial pleasures.
God knows what you really need, what it deepest in your heart, because He put those desires there in the first place.
“3 Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
(PSALM 37: 3-4)
A book I am reading, Growing Closer to God, suggested that today I “do good” by thinking of one person I know, and secretly doing one thing that will encourage him or her. Endeavor to bring a smile to that person’s face and peace to his or her heart.
A close friend of mine, W, lost her mother about a year ago. She is still very much wounded by this loss, and we talk about it frequently. I am going to find a way to cheer her up. Stand by.
Additionally, I liked this post about Psalm 37.
This is the first time that the birth of Jesus in the Bible–the original Christmas story–has any meaning for me. Christmas for me has always been about family and friends, presents, and eating. I never really considered myself a true Christian, and thus I never thought too deeply about Christ and his birth.
I genuinely feel extremely moved from this reading. Something has entered my life, and I feel like an entirely new person. I feel so different than the person that I used to be.
I find it interesting that Luke and Matthew detail two different aspects of the birth of Christ: being visited by the shepherds and being visited by the wise men. In typical Christmas imagery, both the shepherds and the wise men are present at the birth of Jesus. But when you read the two descriptions of the events, it is clear that they do not happen at the same time.
It seems that the shepherds were actually present at the birth of Jesus in the manger–but the wise men were not. After his birth, the star guided the wise men to Jesus’s home–not the manger. The wise men left the “far east” to find Jesus on the night that He was born; it could have taken the wise men many months to reach Him, as the “far east” certainly is not close. Additionally, after the wise men tell Herod why they have journeyed here, Herod kills all the babies under the age of two–not just the new borns…Herod knows Jesus is a small child, and not a newborn infant at this point. And any questions about this interpretation can be answered by comparing the discrepancies in the locations and the traveling of Jesus, Mary, and Josep.
I find it interesting that in Biblical storytelling, both the shepherds and the wise men are present in the manger. My own Christmas manger set has each of them. I wonder why the two stories are often confused? Any thoughts on the matter are greatly appreciated…
“Why then, the world’s mine oyster, which I with sword will open.”
~The Merry Wives of Windsor, William Shakespeare
Not a religious quote, but I heard it today and felt inspired. It reminds me of how I feel/am trying to feel right now (depending on the moment). I am beginning to view the world in an entirely new way. I think in general, I have lived my life pretty selfishly. But now that I see that, I am taking steps to fix it. Even if it is just little things. For example, I was in a running late yesterday, and someone needed a jump for their car. I could have just ignored it, and let it be someone else’s problem. After all, I was already late–and I *hate* being late. But, I remembered what I was trying to accomplish, and realized that by helping that guy, I would be putting his needs before my own. So I pulled my car up along side his…The look of gratitude on that guys face was worth it.
I am sure there are people who would judge me right now..And say, well who WOULDN’T do that? How selfish are you? But obviously, a lot of people were that selfish because no one else stopped to help him. So would you really have stopped and help someone if you were in a rush?
Going on vacation starting tomorrow. Finally, I will have more time to devote to religion and self-improvement. Excellent .
It is really hard for me to accept that God has a Plan for me–that He would not have put needs and desires in my heart that He did not intend to fulfill. I went to a work Christmas party today; it was full of little children and I couldn’t help but be jealous. I know that Envy is something I am supposed to work on, but it was a struggle today. I keep wondering, What am I doing wrong Lord? It must be something. I wouldn’t feel the need to be a mother so strongly if it was not meant to happen. And why hasn’t it happened already?
After praying and reading the Bible, I realized that I need to try to accept the fact that maybe I am not doing something wrong. Perhaps God does have a Plan for my life, and it will resolve itself without my influence. Matthew 6:25-34 specifically focuses on Jesus’s message of God as a provider of my needs. I don’t have to try to change myself or worry about the situation: God inherently knows my needs and will meet them.
It was a beautiful passage. I could spend all of my time and effort focusing on why I have not yet been able to start a family. But look at how beautiful God has made flowers! He has made them each perfect, but yet they are insignificant to Him. The human life is infinitely more valuable than that of a flower. We are what He cares about. If God is willing to make flowers so perfect, he is clearly be willing to fulfil the needs and desires that He has put in my heart.
I wasn’t able to practice the Sabbath last Sunday since I did not have Saturday to prepare. But this time, I do. I am kinda excited: just going to Church helped me a lot last week, so imagine what can happen in a full day. Christian Sabbaths are not nearly as strict as the Jewish Shabbat. For example, Christians can use electricity and drive to Church. So, that makes it a bit easier…
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it.”
- From sundown Saturday night till sundown Sunday night, here is what I plan to follow:
Allowed on the Sabbath: worship God, works of ministry, works of mercy (helping those in need), spend time with family and friends, read the Bible and other religious works, visit the lonely, sick, and elderly, and pray for others.
Not allowed on the Sabbath: any kind of work, anything that encourages others to work on the Sabbath (so purchasing anything is completely out), cooking, anything that takes away from worshiping God.
Why Follow the Sabbath?
The Sabbath is mentioned quite a few times, most notably in the Ten Commandments. The Bible says that God “blessed” the rest day.
John Piper, in Remember the Sabbath Day to Keep it Holy, contends that “when God blesses a man, the man becomes rich with blessings. When he blesses a land, the land becomes rich with blessings. So when he blesses a day, that day becomes rich with blessings...Sundays are the days that God has specifically chosen to be rich with blessings…when you seek your blessing in God rather than in the products of human labor, you hallow him and honor his holiness as the greater wealth.”
As someone with a Type-A personality, I have a hard time resting. I wake up literally ten times a night. I seem to make myself sick from stress. Even when I pay for a massage to relax, my mind just refuses to let go–it runs through my schedule and to-do list the entire time. Only when I am in Church do I feel overwhelmed with a sense of calm, contentment. When I am in Church, I feel like I am one with God. From this feeling, I always have moments of clarity about my life. Whatever has been bothering me is no longer significant, I love those I love all the more, and my only concern is how I can better praise and please God.
By dedicating an entire day to the worship of God, instead of running around and getting ready for the week, I will be honoring Him the way that He asked for. I will be fully experiencing a day rich with blessings.
John Piper brings up another good point….“The beautiful thing about the sabbath is that God instituted it as a weekly reminder…that all true blessing comes from his grace, not our labor….He has indeed designed that we work. But our work neither creates, nor saves, nor sanctifies. For these we depend on the blessing of God. All things are from him and through him and to him.”
So often we forget that God does not bless our lives based on how hard we work. How often have I prayed, “Dear Lord, I worked so hard for this, why did it not happen?” God does not bless our lives based on how hard we labor. Rather, God blesses us for loving him, worshiping Him, hallowing Him. God blesses us for reasons we will never know, and for reasons we will never understand. And what He asks in return is our devotion on the Sabbath.
Read the rest of Piper’s article here. It is the best piece of religious writing that I have read since I started my quest.