Religion of Approval

by | Nov 7, 2011 | Uncategorized

Sometimes scripture takes you to a place you aren’t prepared to go.  Have you ever been in a place so uncomfortable, yet so true that you can’t escape it no matter how hard you try?

“The time is coming,” says the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine on the land – not a famine of bread or water but of hearing the words of the Lord.” ~Amos 8:1

This kind of famine, it doesn’t look like only crumbs to sustain the growl of the stomach or like parched earth deplete of what quenches thirst.  It is dark void, without a ray of joy or hope.  And as I sit in church, listen to these words, they jolt perspective.

Because I know how to do this, do church on Sunday.  How to dress acceptably, take the hand of the greeter and return pleasantries, find a place to sit on the hard pew.  Scoot in to make room for others.  Walk out of my way to greet strangers.  Take the bread in my cupped hand and dip it in the challis of wine at the altar. Join in singing.  Kneel for prayers, listen to the sermon, and take notes. Shake the hand of the minister on the way out the door.

However, if I don’t hear His voice, sense His presence beside me, what does all this knowing do for me?  All outward form without passion leaves the heart empty.

When I think about not hearing His words over me, it is like lying down to die.  Because without His words, I am dust that flies aimless in this world.   I am a hopeless speck of misery relying on the wind to take me where it will.

If I rely on my own thoughts, the opinions and approval of others, it is like gerbil running on a wheel. It takes me nowhere, never satisfies.  

“I hate all your show and pretense – the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies . . . I want to see a mighty flood of justice, a river of righteous living that will never run dry.” ~Amos 5: 18-24

These ancient words of warning and judgment, they pierce the ears, make the body restless and restore hope, usher gratitude. Because they document truth so we know how to live today, learn from those that came before us. 

And the boy wearing the white robe, the acolyte helping prepare the table for communion, he drops the glass lid to the cruet on the brick floor.  The sound echoes loud over the melody and he gasps with red face. In the stillness, all eyes witness this young one practice the externals and I remember what the eyes cannot see.

How just last year this same boy reads a poem he pens to a room full like this one.  Words spilled from a flood inside about the one he abides with in the quiet of his room with bible laid open, journal ready to receive words He speaks.

This knowing how to practice the religion of approval, what we do on the outside, it falls to the floor in the shadow of truth.  That He loves us for who we are, not for what we do. We become the love of God so our lives spill over like a river onto our spouse, our kids, our friends, the cashier at Starbucks, the bagger at the grocery store, the teacher in the classroom.

I will accept famine but please Lord, not famine from you.  Because when you speak, I want to, I need to hear your voice.

Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. ~Psalm 51:11


Thanking God with Ann today:

  • For hearing His voice in the early morning hours
  • My husband who loves me no matter what the circumstance
  • Kids who travel safe from retreat with their peers
  • For Ann’s words: Peace is a Person, not a place.
  • Friends who call when they travel, because they have the time to really listen and care.
  • The way sunlight illuminates vibrant leaves in Fall.
  • Sleeping in and laughing in those first minutes with the man God gave me.

Also linking with Graceful, Write it Girl!, Playdates With God









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  1. Clint Wilson

    Hi Shelly–Great Post! I am reading Ann as well and have been blown away by her writing. One Thousand Gifts has deeply impacted me. I often sit stunned after reading this book. I love your writing as well!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Hey Clint! So good to hear from you here. I also have been deeply impacted by 1000 Gifts and her words written in her daily blog. So grateful you stopped and left a comment today, it blesses me!

  2. kelly

    Love this truth. Affirming and encouraging.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thanks Kelly. Been thinking about you lately. Hope all is well.

  3. This Mom's Heart

    This was a beautiful post, and so aptly titled. Our need for approval tends to lead Christians down the path of works-based theology, and really robs us of our peace. I really like where you said, “I know how to do this, do church on Sunday.” This is something I have thought a lot about over the last year after leaving the church we were attending at the time- needing to stop “doing” church and escape the “fakeness” of those relationships, and just be in relationship with the God who already loves me.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thank you so much for your kind words and thoughts about this post. It hit me hard on Sunday. How devestating it would be if God stopped speaking knowing how much I rely on His voice to lead me, especially when it comes to writing. So glad you visited today and left a comment!

  4. Shanda

    There is nothing worse than not hearing God. I love the phrase, “without His words, I am dust that flies aimless in this world”. Knowing about God and having a communal relationship with Him are definitely not the same.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Yes, I think that knowledge is something we grow in to over years of putting things that don’t matter before abiding with Christ. But all is grace and for that I am thankful! Thanks for stopping by Shanda!

  5. Stacey29lincoln (@stacey29lincoln)

    Yes, this!! “Because without His words, I am dust that flies aimless in this world.”

    I so need HIs Word.

    Thanking God with you!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Stacey, thanks for providing a place to link up this week. Have enjoyed getting to know you through the tweets and your blog! Appreciate your visiting and leaving a comment.

  6. kd sullivan

    Oh my goodness, beautiful words, and exactly where I am at right now. I can not, and must not live so much on this planet that I live without His presence…His Words. The only good thing about famine and drought is that you realize how truly hungry and thirsty you are.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Amen to that. I have learned some of my greatest life lessons in the presence of Rwandan friends who truly know what famine looks like. Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. Your words bless me!

  7. Amy

    I found you via the Write It Girl linkup. Love the image of lives spilling over like a river. There is such truth to that.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      So happy to meet you here. I think about this now wherever I am. Pray that the water runs freely, doesn’t get dammed up or diverted by the externals. Thanks so much for leaving a comment!

  8. roseann elliott

    oh the practice of approval…like you…being set loved and just wanting that to ooze over on others…great post…

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thanks Roseann, you are always so gracious and full of encouragment. Appreciate all your comments so much!

  9. Girl Set Free

    “However, if I don’t hear His voice, sense His presence beside me, what does all this knowing do for me?” Thank you for this … and for sharing your words. Joining you from the Write it, Girl linky.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thanks for visiting! Love linking up and meeting new bloggers. Blessings to you.

  10. Katie Orr (@KatieOrr22)

    Beautiful post!
    “If I rely on my own thoughts, the opinions and approval of others, it is like gerbil running on a wheel. It takes me nowhere, never satisfies.”
    Oh, that the truth of this futility would really penetrate, to where we get off the wheel and find it all in Him alone!

    Thanks for linking up to Write it, Girl!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I agree Katie. I sometimes think this is even harder for bloggers who get the instant gratification of approval in the comments and stats. A challenge not to rely on them. I think maybe Ann Voskamp showed some wisdom in turning them off early in her writing career. So glad to meet you here and thanks for providing a new place to link up!

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