Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Picking and Choosing

“One day in Joppa”, he said,”while I was praying, I went into a trance and saw a vision.  Something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners from the sky.  And it came right down to me.  When I looked inside the sheet,I saw all sorts of animals, wild animals, reptiles, and birds that we are not allowed to eat.  And I heard a voice say, ‘Get up Peter; kill and eat them.’
‘Never, Lord,’ I replied. ‘I have never eaten anything forbidden by our Jewish laws.’
But the voice from heaven came again,’If God says something is acceptable, don’t say it isn’t.’”.  (Acts 11:5-9) NLT

Peter had heard in the past all about the laws that God had given Moses.  He was deeply invested in doing his best to follow them.  He knew what was and was not allowed to be eaten.  When God gave Peter an instruction that was not in line with Peter’s understanding of God’s plan, Peter refused to accept the instruction.  He did what we often do.  He refused truth because it didn’t fit in with his world view.  God was speaking truth directly to him audibly and he couldn’t accept it.

What happens if the truth of scripture does not line up with what you’ve always believed (or what you want to believe)?  Maybe it conflicts with teachings passed on by your parents or a pastor who was influential in your life.  Or, maybe scripture is speaking out against something you really enjoy or really want to do.  For one reason or another, your belief system doesn’t have room in it for something you read.  What happens next?  The temptation is to ignore those verses and only assimilate what fits smoothly into our mental model.  We have veto power and we aren’t afraid to use it.  But then who is Lord really?  Are we submitting to God’s will and direction for our lives, or are we sitting on the throne ourselves?

When Peter told God that God was confused, God quickly straightened him out.  We are no more worthy to explain the world to God than Peter was.  Your past is your past.  Biblical principles are not intended to make you judge your past but rather to guide you as you build your future.  Of course we should learn from our past, but we should not carry around guilt over it.  Neither should we be defensive of decisions we made that may have contradicted Biblical principles.  We have all done things that contradicted Biblical principles and in God’s grace and mercy sometimes they work out fine anyway.  Instead, we should strive to allow these principles to guide us and protect us as we move into the future.  At the end of the day, God is God and he is smarter than we are.  He is the leader, we are the followers.  And He does know best.  Even if it’s uncomfortable, we ultimately need to recognize the truth of what we find in scripture and do our best to figure out how it applies to our lives.  Sometimes what we need to hear is not what we want to hear.  We can run from truth, but truth will eventually catch up to us.  And unfortunately, truth isn’t always gentle.

When have you made decisions that you knew ahead of time were in contrast with Biblical principles?  Were there consequences?  In my life, I have made lots of decisions that I knew contradicted the scripture,  most of them out of selfishness, fear, or pride.  I have suffered the consequences of some my decisions.  Other times I received grace and mercy, knowing I didn’t deserve it.  I continue to strive to walk wisely and follow God’s lead.  I know that God can be trusted, and yet I still sometimes act as if my way is better.  As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to trust God more and more, and to trust myself less and less.  The more I have stepped out and followed Him, the more my faith in Him has grown.  Many of you have a similar story.  Every day is a new day.  Today, let’s follow and see where He leads.

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