DORA, Ala. (BP) -- My husband Larry is truly a jack-of-all-trades. His skill in so many areas makes him a popular guy for family and friends to call on whenever they have a problem with anything from clogged sinks to rough-running engines.
Early this spring Larry was asked to take a look at an uncle's lawn mower. Uncle Ralph could get the engine to start but it would quickly cough, sputter and die out.
The answer to one simple question gave Larry the info he needed to fix the problem. Peering into the tank, he asked, "How long has this gas been in here?"
"I think I put that last tank in around the end of September," Uncle Ralph responded. In other words, the gas had been sitting in an unused mower for about seven months.
So what was the big deal with that? Gas is gas, right? Wrong.
As Larry explained to his uncle, unused gas will begin to go stale, forming gummy deposits in the fuel tank, carburetor, fuel lines and fuel filter. Larry had to clean up quite a mess caused by the stale gas, but after he refilled the tank with fresh fuel, he gave the rope a pull and the mower powered up and was back in operation.
We as Christians sometimes find ourselves sputtering along or, worse yet, at a complete standstill -- times when we have no energy or no excitement about our faith. We may even be wondering why we're no longer sensing the presence of the Holy Spirit. News flash: He didn't leave. But our fuel line -- the line of communication between His Spirit and ours -- may have gotten clogged. How?
Lack of prayer. Prayer is conversing with God. If lack of communication can be detrimental to the closeness of a husband and wife, how much more can it hurt our connection with our Redeemer?
As James 4:8a puts it, "Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you" (HCSB). God doesn't turn off or stop up His communication channel, but we sure can build up a lot of barricades on our side of the relationship.
Lack of real worship. Paul David Tripp, in his book "Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands," sums it up beautifully: "Human beings by their very nature are worshipers. Worship is not something we do; it defines who we are. You cannot divide human beings into those who worship and those who don't. Everybody worships; it's just a matter of what, or whom, we serve." Real worship focuses solely on the Savior.
Too often our time in church isn't worship. We check our watches, make mental to-do lists, and do anything and everything but truly worship.
Even more damaging is the notion that we have to be "in church" to worship. Time spent in fellowship with other believers is vital, but worship should be a daily experience that becomes as desired and needed as our next breath.
Unconfessed sin. Like the "little foxes" that would spoil the vineyard in Song of Solomon (2:15), those "little" sins that start out as seemingly harmless can become devastating. As unconfessed sins accumulate, they turn into one big mess. The apostle Peter stood in the temple and urged the people to "repent and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19, HCSB).
Churchgoers need regular times of repentance. In my case, I need daily repentance. Sometimes hourly or even minute by minute. I, like the apostle Paul, so often "want to do what is good, but I don't" (Romans 7:19b, NLT). If we're honest with ourselves, I believe every Christian can relate to that to some degree or another.
A really stale old joke talks about a wife who turns to the husband and says, "You never tell me you love me anymore." The husband retorts, "I told you I did when I married you; if anything changes, I'll let you know." Not a good way to treat a spouse and certainly not a good way to treat our Creator.
Don't rely on yesterday's prayers or confession or worship. Start each day with a fresh commitment to the Lord and know the joy of a closer walk with the One who loves you most.
Judy Woodward Bates is a speaker and TV personality as well as the author of "Bargainomics: Money Management by the Book." Visit her website at www.Bargainomics.com.
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