As I was reading Acts 7 this morning a sequence of events, starting at v 39, that seemed too familiar for comfort!
'in their hearts they turned back to Egypt' This of course is a common theme for preachers on many occassions, although it's familiarity in no way diminishes it's truth. Familiarity may, however, cause us to pass it by without the considertion it merits or without the depth of 'heart engagement' that allows the word to really impact our life. When we are, for whatever reason, having a bad time, an off day, a spiritual low point we know where we should 'turn in our hearts' but knowing it is no gaurantee of doing it. It is all too easy, and sadly very common, to find your mind and then your heart wandering to some other place, some other time, other relationship, some other activity. In our hearts we turn back to Egypt, to places, times, people, relationships, situations that God has lead is from, and this can so easily trigger a series of events that leads us to places we really do not want to go.
As Stephen,in Acts 7, recounts these events we see that the next stage was the setting up of idols.
As they 'turn in their hearts' to a place they shouldn't be so they begin to turn and look elswhere for comfort, security, encouragement. Before they know it something, someone, some experience has come to the forefront of their heart and is competing for something that belongs only to God. That was stage two in this slippery process - the setting up of idols. They ended up in stage three before they could blink! The focus of their worship had turned away from the living God to other things.
So, firstly,there is a turning in the heart away from where God is leading us to,to where God has lead us from.
Secondly we began to look for our needs to be met by things other than our relationship with, and obedience to, God, and thirdly, the focus of our worship changes from the Living God to other things. This process can be very subtle. The things we can end up worshipping are not necessarily 'in your face' obvious and can include the works or gifts of God rather than God Himself, or it may be ourselves and our needs that we worship and serve -disguised with words about God!
I'm sure I am not the only person for whom that journey is familiar? Four thousand years of time separating us from the subjects of Stephen's story and what has changed? OK so I've got an iPhone and they didn't!! Otherwise, at the important levels of heart and spirit, needs and fears, joys and desires, and a propensity to wander into blind alleys and unhelpful places, very little!
Lord, by Your Spirit, help our hearts to remain focussed on You and where You are leading and keep them hungry for your presence.
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