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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Do a little bragging!

Trademark:  A distinctive feature or characteristic usually associated with a person or thing.  What are some of the "trademarks" you have come to know over the course of your life?  If I ask you to tell me about a cookie with a creamy white center, you'd likely be able to come up with the name "Oreo".  If you were asked to provide the name of a potato chip in a red can, you'd likely think of "Pringles".  In fact, almost all of the purchasing we do is because we have come to associate something with the image on the can or box - it helps us identify the object more readily.  Perhaps this is why so many companies don't change their packaging willy-nilly.  They know they must do some "up-front" work if they were to change it because we associate their line of product with that particular trademark.  

“Don’t let the wise brag of their wisdom.  Don’t let heroes brag of their exploits.  Don’t let the rich brag of their riches.  If you brag, brag of this and this only: That you understand and know me.  I’m God, and I act in loyal love.  I do what’s right and set things right and fair, and delight in those who do the same things.  These are my trademarks.”  God’s Decree.  (Jeremiah 9:23-24 MSG)

Our passage deals with a trademark of a different sort - the way in which we "know" God is in action in our lives.  Here we find both a warning and an outline of the character traits of our faithful God.  The warning:  Don't get too big for your britches!  It is not your own efforts that have brought you to a place of victory in life - it is the constant oversight and care of God.  Every good thing is a blessing directly from God's hands - we simply opened our hands and hearts to receive it!

The next portion of this passage is where I'd like us to focus our attention today.  In looking into Jeremiah this morning, it became quite clear to me that God disapproved of where Israel had drifted as a nation.  They found themselves in many compromising situations, including absolutely bondage to capturing nations, simply because they did not heed the warnings God provided.  This is a common theme with mankind since the beginning of time. We are given warnings, not because God wants to keep "good things" from us, but because he knows the danger associated with them.  In fact, it is the way they will consume us he is most concerned with - even good stuff can overwhelm and destroy us if it is "consumed" in excess!

So, in evaluating where God wants us to focus our lives, here's what he says:

* It is okay to "brag", but boast of the right stuff in your life.  We often boast of the stuff "we" attain - like the bargain we find at the local grocer, the latest score we achieve in some game, or the like.  God's reminder is that apart from him giving us breath, we'd never enjoy the find or relax with the game!  Two things we can "brag" about - that we understand him and know him.  How do these differ?  To understand him, we have come to a place of becoming familiar with the way he moves, responds, etc.  It is something which comes by spending time with him.  We only become familiar with that which we are exposed to most frequently.  To know him implies we do more than just observe how he moves in our lives, but we have come into a place of fully experiencing his movement.  We are not only familiar with him, but we know his movements.  My sister is amazed by how easily I awaken to movement in my home.  My mother only needs to begin to shuffle her way to this destination or that and I can tell she is about the house.  Why?  I am both familiar with the sound of her movement, and I know the spots she frequents.  The same is true of the movement of God in my life - I am both familiar with his movement and I also know the spots he frequents!

* He is the God of "loyal love".  In other words, when he commits to something, there is no going back!  He follows through on his promises and purposes in our lives.  Now, this is definitely something to "brag" about in this day and age of constantly changing things, is it not?  The thing God wants us to see here is simply this - we may change, but he never does.  We wax and wane in our commitment - his never changes.  We sometimes get diverted - he brings us back on course.  Why?  His love is "loyal" - in other words, it is faithful - it can be trusted.  We don't understand trust until we have tested it, do we?  We "trust" based on having "tested" something.  If we want to cross a foot-bridge, we likely put our weight on it a tiny bit - if it holds up, we might increase the weight until we know it will hold our full weight.  We are like this with God, too.  We put just a little trust in him - then when we see he can be trusted with a whole lot more, we give him more.  I think God would like it if we'd trust him fully to begin with, but he can deal with our limited trust until we come to the place of full trust!  The idea is - he wants us to come to that place eventually!

* His mission in our lives is to set things right.  This implies that things without God are a little messed up!  May I just go out on the limb here and say that things without God are more than a "LITTLE" messed up - they are majorly messed up!  It is like trying to understand the inner workings of an automobile without ever having been to mechanic's school!  You may see things moving, but you have no idea what impact that one movement has on the whole of the automobile!  Stop just that one "movement" and you may reap untold consequences.  The mission of God is to set things right in our lives - to bring things into correct order and function.  It is his touch, and his continued presence, which accomplishes this.  No amount of Bible reading will ever accomplish what just a few moments in his presence can - it may give us the basis for "understanding" things ABOUT God, but when we experience his presence coupled with his Word, we come to KNOW God.

I don't know what you boast about most in your life, but I think it is time we begin to boast about what it is we have come to learn about God - and that which we have come to experience first-hand OF God in in our lives.  Just sayin!