When We Don’t ‘Get It’

12 Jul

Some things in life are pretty obvious.WatchOnNightstand

I once told my husband, “I’d be a lot taller if my legs were longer.” He stared at me with that “Well, duh” look. And it took me a minute to understand his response.

Sort of like when I asked him, “Does a watch still run if you’re not wearing it?” (I’m afraid I have a track record of duh-type statements.)

I remember that old Steve Martin humor: “A day without sunshine is like, you know … night.” Uh-huh.

Or Ronald Reagan’s quip: “I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born.

Again, stating the obvious.

But that still doesn’t mean we get the implications of the obvious. And in some cases, a fresh understanding of the obvious can lead to a change of perspective.

I recently heard a pastor say, “Satan’s driving motive is to be worshiped.”

My first thought about that was, “How can Satan be so foolish? Doesn’t he get it that he is just a creature, not the Creator?” My next thought was – and I’m not sure whether the words came from my brain or the Spirit of God – “How like you.”

Huh? I’m foolish … like Satan? How so? Because …

God is God and I’m not. But sometimes I don’t act like I get that. Worse, I don’t want to.

Sometimes I argue with God about what He’s doing. I think I have a better plan. Or I get mad over what He allows … or what He won’t address or solve.

Romans 9:20 reminds us that we have no right to talk back to God. (We see that same concept in Isaiah 29:16; 64:8). It’s not for us to question our Creator’s decisions – why He made us the way He did or what He does in our lives.

QuestioningGodOh, we can ask tough “why” questions. The Patriarch Job did (Job 3:11-12, 16). But that’s not the same as “questioning” God as to His control in our lives.

God had some questions of His own. He reminded Job that He alone is God (38:4-13; 39:1-2), and the old saint acknowledged God’s sovereignty. The Lord has the right to do as He pleases with His own creation. He doesn’t have to give account to us (Job 33:13). And we certainly aren’t to instruct God in what He should do (Job 40:2, 5, 8)!

Christians know that God’s love and goodness are threads that weave throughout His children’s circumstances, and His ultimate goal is for their good as well as His own glory.

But there’s something else at work in this “God is God and I’m not” idea.

I may not say I want to be worshiped (which was Satan’s attitude, see Isaiah 14:12-14), but I sometimes live like I’m “all that” and deserve others’ attention. Sometimes my pride and a desire to be recognized and served swell up and control me.

In that, I’m much like the enemy. In that, idol-worship is still very much alive. I bow and worship at the idol of self, and I want others to bow as well. It’s all about me-Me-ME!

The truth is, we were not created to bring glory to ourselves, but to the One who created us for His purposes (Colossians 3:17). We live to obey His will (James 4:14-15). I’m stating the obvious, right?

Lord, help me live what I know is true.

Is this a struggle for you too? How do you remember that God is God and you are not?

- Dawn

Incongruous

5 Jul

Back in the 70s, my boys watched Sesame Street, and we’d sing this song: “One of these things is not like the others, One of these things just doesn’t belong….” They learned early on to recognize incongruous things.SandSnowman_HoHoAloha

You’ve probably seen some incongruous things in life.

One of my favorite “incongruous” sightings is a sand snowman on the beach.  We certainly don’t expect to see a “snowman” there! Vacationers in beautiful Hawaii, Aruba and other tropical isles get creative building and decorating these sand snowmen in December.

[A side note ... Jenn, a dear woman who still grieves the loss of a little baby, Noah, built a happy little snowman on vacation some time later. She allowed me to adapt it for this photo.]

Some other incongruous things:

A pig wearing lipstick (made famous by Sarah Palin) … a baseball player pitching an avocado … a cake mix box in the middle of a row of cookbooks … a kitty in a lineup of Meerkats … a very loud belch at a formal dinner….

You get the idea.

Congruous means “what is suitable or proper.” It’s things that make sense together. When something is incongruous, we might say it is “not in harmony or keeping with the surroundings” or other aspects of something.

Incongruity is a key element in good humor, but it’s not such a good thing in life.

I was thinking of the word “incongruous” as I read some familiar scriptures.

Romans 6:2 says, “… How can we who died to sin still live in it?” This entire chapter reminds the believer that we no longer need to obey our passions and impulses to sin. We are to consider ourselves “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (v. 11).

It was incongruous to Paul that a Christian should “continue in sin that grace may abound” (v. 1),  present their bodies to unrighteousness (v. 13) or live as slaves to sin (vv. 17-18).

Yes, there is an ongoing struggle with the presence of sin (Romans 7:15-23), but the power of sin over us is broken (v. 25) because Christ has redeemed us. We have life in the Spirit (Romans 8:1-11) and are heirs with Christ (8:12-17).

Our reality is, we are headed for glory with Him (8:18). We are “conquerors (overcomers) through him who loved us” (8:37) and will never be separated from God’s love in Christ (8:38-39).

I’m grieved by Christians’ light-hearted attitude toward sin today.  I grieve that I accept my own sinning so easily. I forget I’m a foot-soldier in the Lord’s army, obliged to obey His every command.

We need to remember the battle we’re in. We need to:

  1. Take Up Our Armor (put on every piece, Ephesians 6:11-13);
  2. Endure Hardship and strive to please our Commander-in-Chief, Jesus! (2 Timothy 2:3-4, 9-10; Matthew 16:24);
  3. Fight the Good Fight (1 Timothy 1:18-19; 6:12), proclaim the truth of God’s Word and living for Him – no matter how difficult;
  4. And Stand firm against the attacks of Satan (1 Peter 5:8-9; 1 Corinthians 10:12; James 4:7; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

The world needs to see Jesus’ life manifested, demonstrated, in our day-to-day circumstances. Too often, all it sees is an incongruous picture – “Sinning Saints.” This should not be.  The Holy One calls us to holiness (1 Peter 1:15-17a; Leviticus 11:44-45).

Yes, I know. We won’t be perfect until we get to heaven. But that’s no excuse to continue in disobedience. We have hundreds of opportunities to decide for God every day, and we need to stay engaged.The battle is the Lord’s, but He expects us not to slink away from the battlefield!

What could be more incongruous than a soldier sitting out the biggest battle of his life, fiddling with lesser things and failing to obey his Commander’s instructions?

You might want to ask, with me: “Father, is my life a picture of incongruous living? Where am I a hypocrite? Where am I not obeying your commands?”

Let’s recommit to taking those four steps to become victorious in Christ!

  – Dawn

Keep It All in Context

28 Jun

SouthernPlate_fromDebVA few years back, Debbie, a friend from Alabama, gave me a plate with all sorts of Southern phrases.  Most of them have become commonplace in American lingo:

  • I declare!
  • Sit a spell.
  • Much obliged!
  • Help yourself, hon!
  • Just a sliver, please.
  • Homegrown.
  • Sweet Tea.

But one was new to me:  Ya’ll are too cute! I’ve since seen it on some Southerners’ Facebook pages.

Robin, my sister-in-love who lives in Texas, has her own version:  She says, “Ca-u-u-u-u-ute!” The phrase is usually connected to the context of a picture, situation, Facebook comment, etc. (“Ca-u-u-u-u-ute!” makes no sense otherwise.)

I got to thinkin’ (which is a phrase my Grandpa used):  Do I ever say things that, taken out of context, make absolutely no sense to people?

One phrase that I say is, “Throw that woman a life preserver!”

Now some people might wonder about that one. I’m not talking about a woman drowning in the ocean or a pool, or even a woman who’s struggling with something. In my context, it means, “She’s got her nose so high in the air, she could drown in a rainstorm.” In other words, this is one proud woman and she needs a life preserver before she drowns in her conceit!

I read an excellent book that tackles some of the biblical scriptures (and phrases we use that come from them) that are totally taken out of context. These scriptures are misused and misunderstood, even by well-meaning Christians.

Here are only a few cases:

  • “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1).
  • “… plans to prosper you and not to harm you…” (Jeremiah 29:11-13).
  • “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do… (John 14:13-14).
  • “… all things work together for good … (Romans 8:28).
  • “I can do all things through Christ… (Philippians 4:13).
  • “The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well” (James 5:15).
  • “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 19:18).
  • And even the common “revival” scripture that begins, “If my people…” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

These and other verses are dissected with biblical wisdom by Eric Bargerhuff in his book, The Most Misused Verses in the Bible: Surprising Ways God’s Word is Misunderstood.

I was familiar with some of these scriptural distortions, but others surprised me. I’ve used them incorrectly for most of my life! I discovered that sometimes we “fix” scripture to meet our needs or presumptions, and then they have little or nothing to do with the author’s original intent. In some cases (think, Adolf Hitler), scriptures have been twisted. The altered text becomes dangerous! Faulty interpretation can also lead to theological heresy, and that’s never a LOL matter!

The apostle Paul urged Timothy to handle the Word of God with care;

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

He would caution us today not to twist passages to mean what we want them to mean for our own purposes. Even if those purposes are well-intentioned and good. We need to “get it right” when we study, teach and proclaim scriptures.

Some study tips I’ve drawn from Bargerhuff’s book:

1. Start with the literal reading of the text.

2. Quote the verse accurately; don’t leave out or add words.

3. Read the full context of a verse. (Read surrounding verses and even the whole chapter in some cases. Consider the theme of the book.)

4. Use scripture to interpret scripture.

5. Consider the historical and cultural background of the passage.

6. Consider the literary “genre.” (Are the verses from prophecy, poetry, wisdom principles, parable, a narrative or letter, prophecy or apocalyptic literature?)

7. Resist the temptation to “work” a passage into what you want it to say.  In other words, don’t read an application into scripture that isn’t there. Be sure your application is as accurate as the interpretation.

Sometimes our misuse of scripture is entirely innocent. Other times, we have an agenda.

DontTwistScriptureAfter reading Bargerhuff’s book, I am more committed than ever to “rightly divide” the Word of God. We must not play games with the “Word.” Do we really think this “fixing” or “working” of scripture for our own designs doesn’t matter to God?

I have to admit that I’ve been guilty in the past of taking passages out of context for my own purposes. (They were good purposes, and the verses “fit” so nicely into my message that certain way.)  It’s so easy to do this.

We can mishandle scripture without thinking. And that’s the problem.

It’s not a wise practice, and for me to continue to do so now – knowing the truth about these scriptures – would be a point of pride, an unwillingness to preserve the clear meaning of God’s Word.

With that kind of arrogance … “I declare, I’d need a life preserver!”

Is “working” a passage to fit your needs or agenda, a problem for you too? Let’s commit to handling God’s Word with greater care.

- Dawn

 

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