Acceptance

January 23, 2010

A cathedral...in MISSISSIPPI!

I’m still working on that journey into deeper faith (I hope). In the midst of this, I felt compelled to do a short word-study on acceptance. I thought I’d share a bit of what I learned. Here is a summary of some verses I pondered in the process:

Job 42:9 – God accepted Job’s prayers for his “friends.” Are there prayers God does NOT accept?
Ecclesiastes 5:18 – Solomon says, “Accept your lot in life.”
Luke 4:24 – “No prophet is accepted in his own hometown.”
John 1:12 – To all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become the children of God” (italics mine).
John 17:8 – “They acepted [my message] and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me” (Jesus speaking).
Romans 11:12 – God made salvation available to us Gentiles in order to make Israel jealous so they would come to Him!
Galatians 2:9 – The early church leadership accepted Paul and Barnabas. That means they believed what the men told them.
Colossians 2:6 – Accepting Christ’s Lordship and continuing to follow Him are both on the continuum of faith.
1 Timothy 1:15 – Acceptance here is Paul urging Timothy to embrace a certain truth and to pass it on. This is an endorsement.
1 Timothy 4:9 – “Everyone should accept it.” Paul is endorsing his message and also giving Timothy his sermon instructions.
James 1:21 – Says get rid of filth and evil from my life. How? Accept the Word means to give in to it; submit to it. The Word has power/authority.

I noticed that accept and believe often appear together. If I accept Christ’s message, I believe what He said about Himself.

How does accepting and believing Christ’s message tie into accepting others?

1. Believing He is who He said He is means Jesus is judge and I am not.
2. Faith in Christ means I don’t depend on others’ opinions for my self-definition. What counts is not what others think, but what Jesus already knows.
2. Faith in Christ = believing and accepting His authority in my life. It means letting go of the desire (self-imposed obligation) to control others. They can also choose His Lordship. My own freedom implies allowing others the same privilege.

The only way I will remember to live this out is if I’m accountable. My prayer is that believing Jesus and accepting His promises as true will radically change how I respond in the day-to-day. Please feel free to hold me accountable. And you’re welcome to pray for me, too.

January 17, 2010

Did you know that email is propagating a modern version of animism? If you are one of those people who forwards things that end with “send this to 8 people in 5 minutes and God will bless you,” I’d suggest you stop reading right here. Those emails are what I’m talking about.

I had many friends in my adopted homeland who were animists. In simple terms, animists believe that things have a spirit, and that there are many spirits in nature and man-made things that control events and circumstances. Some of them believed in God as well. For them, he was one of the stronger spirits. But in order to live a happy, healthy life, you had to keep those more capricious spirits happy. For example, if someone was building a house, he laid a coin in the hole and poured liquor on it before putting in the post. This would make the spirit of that area happy so that the people in his house wouldn’t get sick. If someone did get sick, he went to the medium who – for a price – would tell him the sacrifice required to make the person better. It might mean killing a chicken. It could entail doing a certain ritual. After he did that thing, he expected that sick person to get better. If they didn’t, he’d have to go back and try again. Maybe the sacrifice wasn’t good enough. It’s a system based on making a deal with a spiritual entity; you do your part of the bargain and the god is required to act in accordance with your expectations.

I think you can probably see where I’m going with this. We, the “civilized,” don’t sacrifice chickens. We’d never dream of appeasing the spirit of the land when we broke ground for a new building. But we think nothing about guaranteeing that the God we claim to worship will do someone a favor if they meet certain requirements. In essence, isn’t saying “if I send this to all my friends, God will bless me,” the same thing as saying, “if I bury this coin and pour out this libation, God will keep my family safe”?

The tendency to put God in a box and say “Now, behave like this,” is a control issue. It negates faith and puts the human in charge. In both instances above, humans are attempting to manipulate God. That is not Christianity; it’s magic. From the very beginning, man was unhappy with God’s rules. God said, “I’m God and you’re not,” and the primal couple said, “Uh uh!” They believed Satan who told them God could not be trusted. God had to be manipulated. Paraphrased, the devil said, “God told you a lie. Eat this fruit and you’ll be like Him.” That sounded pretty good to Adam and Eve. They could be God’s equals, maybe run the show. People have been trying to do that ever since.

You can tell I detest those emails. They rub me the wrong way. I can just see Americans chasing chickens and sitting down on city street corners to slit their throats. “Here, God – I’ve done my part. Now you owe me something.” Believe me, He doesn’t.

I think instead of deleting those forwards, I’ll simply change the wording to, “Look around, friend. Say a prayer of gratitude that you woke up on the top side of the garden today. Count the blessings God has already given you. It wouldn’t hurt anything to thank Him for them.”

Now send this blog to 8 people in 5 minutes. I’ll bet you’ll never get another forward instructing “send this to 8 people in 5 minutes…” 🙂

Snow!

January 12, 2010

The beginning - then it got dark...

My desk sits beside a bay window overlooking the front yard. When it snowed on Thursday, I was so distracted it was hard to work. It fell so soft and quiet… gently masking everything in an even blanket.  It covered every flaw: no more unsightly stumps or dead leaves. Gnarly branches became unique works of glistening art. The world I knew was gradually transformed into something else.

Snow isn’t like rain. Rain is noisy, violent, sometimes accompanied with earth-shaking thunder and sky-splitting lightening. Snow is a surprise, even in the daytime. Unannounced and uninvited, but strangely welcome.

Maybe that’s why the prophet says, “Come now, let us reason together. Thought your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Is. 1:18). From God’s perspective, my soul is as pure as unblemished snow. Glistening and fresh. Perfect and unmolested. He does the work quietly and doesn’t miss a single flaw. But unlike snow, His work never melts away.

A journey

I woke this morning to a new day in a new year, the first of a new decade. But in spite of all the celebration and commercial hype, I still found myself in the same old body. Nothing had changed overnight in my personal circumstances. The wind is blowing over winter’s landscape across the neighborhood just like it did yesterday. And regardless of colorful parades through the streets of New York, there isn’t much to look forward to from the chambers of Congress or the White House.

I read in an email this week that a pessimist is “a person who is seasick for the entire voyage of life.” I really don’t want that to describe me. I prefer to consider myself a realist: I’ll take my dramamine and enjoy the ride. Maybe nothing has changed in my environment, and perhaps there’s nothing much I can do about that. But there are changes I’d like to see.

We don’t venture out on New Year’s Eve. Last night we watched a movie called Faith Like Potatoes. I was deeply challenged by the main character, who radically changed when he gave his life and his livelihood to Jesus Christ. Angus Buchan’s childlike faith just took God at His Word, and he saw miracles.

I’m too hesitant to pray radical prayers. The change I’d like to see God make in me this year is to grow my faith in significant ways. It’s a matter of trust, of giving up what little control I think I have (which is really just self-deception) and really submitting to Him. I want to have an ear that’s fine-tuned to His still, small voice, and a heart that’s willing to actually carry out what He says.

It’s extremely scary to pray about faith. The prayer entails a willingness to be stretched, to look the impossible in the face and believe God. I don’t really want to do it in myself, but I know I’ll never grow past where I am if I don’t. What’s new in this new year? I don’t know yet, but I’m praying for faith to anticipate God’s surprises.