Written By Ryan Walters
“The Lord says: These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.”
Hope you have been blessed in one way or another by my latest photos I’ve been posting since beginning my new photography ministry: Noahzite Nation Photography (©LSPhotography). It’s a joy to my heart to work alongside one of my best friends- the man I call my spiritual mentor- a gifted photographer- Larry Shaw, and be able to share pictures and quotes that all belong to God and have their origin in Him.
Come with me and partake in my thoughts that have been dwelling in my thick skull for quite some stretch of time. Thoughts with the ability of gently entering an ear but that also possess the ability to take a broken and surrendered heart and capture it. We’re talking the capability to scorch right through barriers of pigheadedness and arrogance, egotism and conceit and reach the innermost vulnerable place of a heart: its non-sugarcoated spiritual condition. Because when we get down to brass tacks, that is a massive piece of who we are as followers of Christ.
Our divine makeup earns the right to be meditated on day and night; constantly searching and examining our hearts every minute and hour of the day. Let us not be absent-minded to the inevitable fact that while at the corner café, fitness center or Aunt Beth’s summer condo, God is near to us. He is omnipresent in our personal bubbles and in our spirits (Eph. 3:17). And don’t fool yourselves because the Father in heaven sees right through your façade faces. Our temples are completely transparent to the One who created them in the first place. There is absolutely no reason to even conceptualize the “built to shatter” mindset that we can dupe God into believing our artificial behaviors and attitudes are not reflective of our spiritual condition. It would be like Pinnochio trying not to lie. Caught in the act. Guilty as charged.
With that said (man, do I love rambling), as a guy who has his heart set after running for Christ (John Mark McMillan- “Heart Runs”) I’m continually eager to chase down the matter of lukewarm Christianity in this culture; the reason this blog was established eight months ago. I passionately feel determined with an unwavering holy discontent to arrest Mr. Lukewarm & feed him to the dogs. He is corrupting what God meant for good. He is paralyzing and demoralizing. And what really ‘grinds my gears’ is his pursuit to be a stumbling block to unbelievers and believers alike (1 Cor. 8:9). It drives me nuts.
So am I the only one out there who witnesses so-called Christians just ‘going through the motions’? Am I an outcast in this subject? The nobody who no one else can relate to? Well I doubt it because the Lecraes, Jefferson Bethkes and Francis Chans who clearly get more attention than I do seem to share this mutual concern for this generation.
When I speak of this ‘going through the motions’, what I’m referring to is the tendency to go along with what we know God’s yearns for us to do with a “yep, let’s get this over with” attitude instead of actually being authentically committed to follow Christ (Matt. 4:19) out of love to the One who first loved us. If we’re just following God’s law for the ‘perks of eternal life’ or avoiding punishment from Abba’s holy discontent, we won’t actually receive any crowns in heaven or be rewarded. We so desperately need to escape the funk of living identical days of cliché Christian routines that single-handedly displays the lack of a genuine and spiritual backbone.
Cool Ryan, 98.6 kid. How do you expect me to do all that?
Let me sum up my thoughts with this proposition:
Reevaluating our prayer life and alone time with God.
I’ll start with the confession that I used to pray the SAME EXACT prayer every night (and yes, I was not even praying during the day besides a ‘God bless this meatloaf’ kind of “prayer”). I never changed it up. I wonder why. It was reflective of my stagnant heart and stagnant growth as a believer. I clearly did not have an authentic “Let’s be like peanut butter and jelly” relationship with my Heavenly Father. It was more of a “Hey man, here are the keys. You drive. And I’ll just be in the backseat fooling around with sin telling You where to go.” Ha! What an image of surrender huh? Because that’s what we’re ‘supposed’ to do as Christ followers, right?
You know “that guy” who writes his number down on the merchant receipt at Chilis for the good-lookin’ waitress and his two buddies laughing hysterically on the way home calling him ‘chump and fool’? God is looking down on Mr. & Mrs. Lukewarm like that chump’s buddies. He writes us heavenly letters that go something like this, “My sweet child. It’s me or flesh. Serve one, not both. –Sincerely, God”. And He doesn’t even force us to follow Him! (so why in the world are Christians attempting to force their faith on others?).
Since the days of starting Ninety-Eight Six especially, I catch myself praying half hour prayers on the way to work in my Mazda. I don’t say that for recognition or applause. I say it to glorify God for His daily dose of renewing my heart. I talk to God with reverence but that doesn’t mean you can’t talk to God as though He’s your friend because He is. Have a deep, one-on-one sleepover-like conversation with the King of Kings just as you did with your first teenage crush. He’s an open book and even better He actually supplies us with a literal open book called the Bible to get to know Him better with.
So that concludes prayer life for the time being….how about “TAWG”- Time Alone With God (classy retreat acronym)? This is a two-part topic. The first is how we as Christ followers love to do all the talking and not so much listening. I think we have a deformed version of correct communication with God. Let me use Proverbs 17:28 which says “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent” as well as James 1:19 which states, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” Rapper Andy Mineo says in his song “Death Of Me”:
“God, I’m sorry, I mean it. All I want to do is walk with you but
My priorities wrong, I talk about you more than I talk with you.”
We try every once and a while to be sneaky and talk to God with the “godly intention” of actually intending to speak with Him. But doing all the talking doesn’t cut it and results in our loss because we shut down the most worthwhile opportunity there is- hearing from God. If girl scouts deliver cookies to your door and without a minute to spare you open your mouth with “Go home. Don’t bother me” and proceed to slam the door on their innocent faces, you never allow the girls the chance to offer their delicious treats. Guess what? Your taste buds miss out! It’s okay to communicate with God. He encourages it and He delights when His children reach out to Him. But it’s a two-way relationship so give Him the opportunity He deserves to speak to your heart.
Part two of time alone with God deals with praising and talking to God not only when life is soaring above the mountain tops but also when we’re lingering in the foggy valley. We all know it. We’ve all heard it. It is one of the major three components I have mentioned of how Christ followers can go lukewarm via ‘going through the motions’. Read this quote I came up with in October of 2013.
“Believers are always talking about going through the “valleys of life”. Well there’s a reason you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel in trials. Because in valleys there is fog- a temporary haze that clouds your vision of the future outcomes. That fog is there to test your faith. To encourage and motivate you to trust and take hold of God’s faithfulness that the fog will eventually drift away. And trust that through the trials, God will produce patience, endurance and character in you that you will look back and notice once you’re up upon that mountaintop. And there you’ll look back down at the valley in awe of The Lord and the hope He placed in you while you were surrounded by fog. Oh, and just a reminder that our growth never comes to a peak on earth. Just a continual cycle of valleys and mountaintops. (Just one interpretation of mine of Romans 5:3-5 & Matthew 6:34: two of my ‘life verses’).”
I hope that quote blesses and encourages you to look at the valleys of life in a different light. As far as my past goes, that particular struggle had defined me. But when you’re able to have the outlook on traumatic and disastrous events that Job in the Bible did, you find within yourself a profound and revolutionized appreciation for the way God works.
It’s quite possible that 15% of those who began reading this blog quit halfway through due to length. For that I apologize. It just may have something to do with the fact that (Insert foreshadowing comment here) my upcoming & second video as well as what I hope to be my first published book will both revolve around this concept and idea of:
#TheStruggle | ‘Going Through The Motions’
Confessions Of An Early Twenties Christ Follower.
Ryan Walters. ’98.6 Too Cold’ Founder, Blogger