Saturday, February 25, 2006

God of Do's Not Don'ts

God of Do’s, Not Don’ts

It would be easy to conclude that God is all about “Don’ts.” Listening to preachers, parents and misinformed media, you’d think God wants to stop us from pretty much everything that is appealing, limiting us to activities that put our teeth on edge.

Perhaps that is a bit harsh, but, c’mon, haven’t you ever felt that way?

Look at God’s ultimate top 10 list delivered by Rev. Moses to a people living in desert tents, eating flour that miraculously appeared each morning with the dew. (Deuteronomy 5:6-21). There are only two “Do’s” in the bunch.

In our relationship with God,
Don’t… have any other gods, worship any idols, misuse God’s name
Do… keep the Sabbath holy

In our relationships with other people,
Don’t …murder, commit adultery, steal, lie, covet.
Do… honor your parents, (which, as a parent I’ve come to embrace and lovingly exhort my children to follow God by keeping the commandment. They love me for it).

So is it that God is holding out on us by restricting us with all these don’ts? Is He trying to squelch our desires, desires that he hard-wired into us at creation?

No, no, no. God is the God of Do’s! Because behind every don’t is a bigger do.

Take a look at the list above. Why the first 3 don’ts? So we can experience the bigger do of a relationship with the real God of the Universe, discovering the meaning and fulfillment that only He provides. It is what we were created for and what only He can deliver.

Take a look at the other 5 don’ts. What are those about? So we can have healthy relationships with other people. We have to get the unhealthy barriers out of the way before we can experience the incredible value. I mean, if you murder your friend, what are the real chances of ever building a lasting friendship. And before you get too smug (“Well, I never murdered anyone”), move to the New Testament and gander at the explanations Jesus gave. Murder = anger. Adultery = lust. On and on it goes.

REALITY: when we settle for doing the don’ts, we miss what brings meaning. The don’ts are counterfeits, fakes, empty promises that provide a momentary rush, and lasting guilt. Not a good deal. But by obeying the don’ts we swim past the shallows to experience the exhilaration of the big waves of God’s great blessings. God is the God of do’s. Let me say it again, behind every don’t is a bigger do.

C.S. Lewis in “The Weight of Glory”, (Copyright 1949, C.S. Lewis Pte.Ltd), says it this way,
“…Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

WOW! “far too easily pleased.” Trespassing the don’ts, we forfeit the depth of the do’s.

The apostle Paul discovered it.
"What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ" Phil 3:8 (NIV)

Is it possible you and I need to work harder at mining it out as well?

Boldly, Herb

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

What is it?

What is it?

What is it, really, that causes us to get into trouble when we say we don’t want to?
That causes us to say something that we know we’ll regret yet we allow it to escape?
That causes us to eat something that we know will go to waist?
That causes us to purchase something that we don’t have money for, think we can’t live without, yet later ignore? (Except for the monthly payments that scream at us degradingly through the envelope?)
That causes us to entertain ourselves in ways that cause us to neglect what is truly important and later heap guilt on us like the bad aftertaste of cheap cough drops?

We’ve been told that it is because our hearts are not right. Sometimes that is true.
But is it possible that sometimes it is because we have not trained our moral muscles to respond in the right direction? That we are still stuck in the lifestyle of our natural, selfish desires? That we have not retrained our moral muscles to respond in a virtuous direction?

James Spiegel in the book, “How to be Good in a World Gone Bad,” tells us that virtues are moral skills that require skill training.

Is it possible that the reason we often fail in our quest for living as we desire is that we have not taken up training our moral muscles, somehow expecting the moral fairy to sprinkle pixie dust on us, instantaneously transforming us into mirror images of God?
Is it possible we have ignored, forgotten, denied, or believed there is another way to living up to God’s standards other than the clear teaching of scripture?

1 Cor 9:25,27 (NIV) “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."

“Strict Training!” Sounds like work! Yep, but it’s so much better than paying the price of giving into our frustrating failures. What does it mean? Sorry, I can’t give you the entire training regimen in one bite, but here’s the start: Every day choose some things to say “no” to and some to say �yes� to that you don’t have to. “No” to a TV show, an extra dessert, an angry response or too much time with the newspaper and “Yes” to opening the door for a stranger, getting a cup of coffee for a friend, complimenting a family member, reading an extra chapter in the Bible.

By exercising our muscles in small ways we begin the training that develops the moral muscles in the big things in the future.