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Thursday, February 20, 2014

A shiny new appliance

All scripture is given for our benefit - all truth given for our use.  Yet, something given is not of value until it is put into use, is it?  When you receive a gift of a new blender for the kitchen, or perhaps a new toaster, the small appliance looks pretty in the box.  You can even open the box and place the new appliance on the kitchen counter, but if this is as far as you ever get to using the new appliance, it really doesn't serve you any purpose.  You could even plug it into the outlet to be "hooked up" to electrical power, but if the appliance is never turned to the "on" position, all the electrical power could do is of no benefit.  Even if you put a couple pieces of bread into the toaster, or some berries into the blender, until you engage the "on" switch, the appliance still doesn't do all it could do.  Once the toast is popped up, nicely golden, or the berries are swirled into a smoothie, even those promising things contained within the appliance are of no value until they are "taken into" your body. What gives the life is the ingesting of the toast or smoothie.  Up until that point, the purpose of the appliance is just not fully recognized.  We sometimes treat the truth contained in God's Word much like the shiny new appliance on the counter.  We get to the point of being connected and even seeing the potential of good stuff in there, but fall short of "ingesting" it so it can bring benefit to our lives.  

Then he added, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given—and you will receive even more.  To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.”  (Mark 4:24-25 NLT)

All scripture is meant to be taken in context - in other words, you have to look at what else is being said "around" what you are reading so you get to know to whom the passage applies, what was happening at the time it was written, etc.  Then you get the gist of the entirety of the passage.  Jesus had many an encounter with the religious leaders of his day - men opposed to the "shiny new religion" Jesus spoke about so freely.  You see, they concentrated so much on all the rules to be kept that any "new religion" which merely proclaimed relationship as the means for salvation had to be some kind of "wrong religion".  In truth, what Jesus offered was no religion at all - it was the opposite of religion - deep, intimate, personal relationship with God without all the "doing" of rule-keeping.  The religious leaders saw the "shiny new religion" much as the one who merely receives the gift, but only gets as far as unpacking it from the box.  It didn't serve a purpose for them because it didn't "fit" their present needs.

As he taught among them, his teaching was constantly met with both silent and vocal resistance.  Why?  Their way of living was being "unraveled" by the simplicity of the message of faith Christ proclaimed.  His message of personal relationship with God through the Son was foreign to their way of living - so it was threatening their "well-established" religious pursuits.  It required a mindset change, coupled with a change of heart - something most of the religious leaders just weren't willing to do.  When the Word of God gets into you, it affects you - so if they could keep it on the "outside" of their lives, they had half a chance of remaining unaffected by it.  Some of us know the truth - it is right there in front of us like the shiny new appliance on the counter - but we refuse to ingest the nourishment the truth provides.  Why? It could be we are just content with the complexity of our present lives - because we at least have that all figure out.  It could be we don't like change and we resist anything which requires us to embrace something outside of our realm of comfort.  Regardless of the reason for our resistance - truth exists to be embraced.

Eventually, even the shiny new appliance on the counter just "blends in" with all the other stuff gathering there.  What was once "new" becomes "familiar" and we often take for granted it will continue to work as promised when we go to use it somewhere down the road.  I don't know about you, but what I have learned over the years is that something provided at one point in my life is often best "used" at that point in my life - because I needed it then!  It doesn't mean I won't need it again later, but I miss out on so much if I don't use what I am given.  When I use what I am given today, it carries me into my tomorrow and will help me go the distance.  The shiny new "religion" Jesus offered had all the potential of setting the religious leaders free from a bunch of meaningless rules and bringing them closer to God than they had ever experienced before.  Yet, they resisted - they put the gift where they could see it, but at every hint of its majestic possibilities, they resisted making it their way of living.  

I have a little food processor about the size of a two cup measuring cup. I bought it to chop up things like onions and the like for dishes I would prepare. I don't think I have used it more than a couple of times - not because it doesn't perform as it promised, but because I forget it is there.  I resort to the old way of doing things and start chopping away with the knife and cutting board.  Truth is only as good as when it is applied - we have to take it out, put it into use frequently, and allow it to make an impact on our lives. Nothing about truth serves its purpose until it is embraced.  Just sayin!