Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Doing more than monkey business

Remember the three monkeys? Monkey #1 defiantly refused to see anything. Monkey #2 is determined not to listen to anything. And #3 will say nothing, not even a comment, yea or nay. Each has noble motives, or so it appears, purposing no contact with any evil whatsoever! Inspite of their stubborness, you have to admire their intentions. If only more of us monkeys would be as resolved, we would avoid foot-in-mouth embarrassments as well as many other contaminations! These three teach us among other things, that good intentions alone are not enough.

Consider another set of three types of people mentioned in Scripture. Two exhibit admirable qualities although severely handicapped, and the third is our example to follow. Whereas the monkeys were in denial, these three seem to be just the opposite, eager to see, hear, and receive instruction!

The first is the hearer. He is present every time instructions are given. He is all ears, he nods with approval and says "amen to that!" Unfortunately that is as far as he goes, ready to hear, but slow to move, and missing in action. Initially he is on fire, but nowhere to be found at the end of the day. By failing to act upon that which he hears, he deceives others as well as himself. Something is wrong with this picture. He is not as committed as he appears.

The second is very wise, or so it seems. This is the knower, the "wise" man. He assures all that he's been there and done that, offering advice and counsel for all situations. Given all his wisdom however, his track record is strangely disappointing, for he is content only with compiling information for show, and not with being an example. Worse is the fact that without first-hand experience, his counsel can be unreliable. The danger looming for him is that his life is in conflict with his knowledge. Something troubling is also very wrong in this picture. He knows the truth but chooses to live otherwise. Eventually his life style will override his knowledge, and his beliefs will soon conform to the way he lives. This person cannot be trusted and is already in motion on a slippery slope.

Although both the hearer and the knower are flawed, they should not be thrown out with the bath water. The challenge is to show them the danger they are in, and then to motivate them to experience the truth to which they have been exposed.

Our example is the doer. He hears and understands, but he also is able to apply what has been learned. He speaks from experience and the consistency of his life is his most impressive credential. Of what value is the intent listener, or the man with knowledge, if few if any are ultimately benefitted by their lives? Doers succeed, improve the lives of others, and make excellent leaders. Surely the tongue must be bridled, the eye guarded, and the life kept unspotted from the world, but he that does the will of God abides forever.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The direction of ordinary days

There seem to be very few special days in life. It is easy to think they are all ordinary, even sub-ordinary. We view most days as normal, uneventful or boring in the grand scheme. The few days that distinguish themselves as special are going to happen: Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year's Day, birthdays, beginning a new year of classes, a new school, graduation, marriage, babies, etc. The special days however don't happen without the preparation and experience of everyday routines. The key is learning to accept each day, each activity, even each person encountered, as planned and organized by God himself. Each growing season will eventually yield its desired fruit.

For the Christian, reality is that no day should be boring, uneventful or without purpose. Unfortunately, we have often failed to experience this reality. The new nature given at salvation is a forever possession. It is given by God, grown by God, and perfected by Him. Nothing is ordinary about what He implants into believers. The difficulty comes in our learning to recognize His nurturing of that new nature. We need a response of faith that He is active in our day, rather than our usual negative response to only what we see. Regular exposure to His Word will remove the blinders and stimulate growth.

The very thought that another bad day is happening is the proof of God's purpose for us! His strength is perfected in us on our weak days! Every ordinary day is full of opportunities for His greatness to be evidenced. But having forgotten that we were purged from our old sins, we blindly plow through our days unaware of what He is doing for us. All that He has prepared is good. If only we would remember that good qualities are usually grown and strengthened by pressure. Unfortunately there seem to be no shortcuts. So pressure it is, and by His pressure we will grow.