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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Good manners?

I always like it when scripture makes things very, very plain - so I don't have to struggle with the meaning - don't you?  The parables are nice, but there is hidden meaning which must be ferreted out.  The truth is truth, but sometimes truth is a little harder to "get" than we might first think.  When God lays out things so plainly in scripture, we rejoice in laying hold of the meaning the first time we read it.  When he lays out things like "don't do this..." or "do this..." without giving us the "why" behind the restraint we are to exercise or the action we are to engage in, we just plain want more of an explanation - right?  It is only part of our nature to question "why" these actions make a difference, or the restraint from some particular action would keep us "inside" of God's plan for our lives.  Since the beginning of time we have "pushed against" any boundary set for us!  Why should today be any different?  In teaching the disciples how it is they were to not only "follow", but to encourage others to become "followers" as well, Jesus often spoke very plainly to his disciples. Why? He wanted them to understand fully what his intentions were.  In terms of how his Father looked upon his followers, Jesus wanted us to know one very important thing:  Our heavenly Father stands at the ready to give good things to those who ask!  First in terms of our salvation through Christ Jesus, then in multiplied fashion over and over again in terms of his grace, love, peace, and power.  All this begins with asking...

Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened for you. Everyone who asks will receive. Everyone who searches will find. And the door will be opened for everyone who knocks. (Matthew 7:7-8 CEV)

Ask - you will receive.  Search or seek - you will find.  Knock - the door will be opened.  Pretty plain, right?  Yet, in each of these, there is something of a hidden truth, as well.  Let's explore:

Ask - receive.  As a child, I was taught something at the dinner table we have come to refer to as "good manners".  We didn't just use a "boarding house reach" to get at whatever we wanted on our plates.  We were taught to respectfully ask for someone to pass the potatoes or green beans.  Then we'd place the serving upon our plate.  Yet, even in asking, there was something of "restraint" we were being taught by using these "manners" at the table.  I am not advocating for a free-for-all at the dinner table here, but I wanted to use this as an illustration of how we often "restrain" ourselves from asking God for the good things he has in store for us.  Mom prepared the meal, not so it would look good on the table in the serving dishes, but so we'd all eat to our fill!  She wanted us to be satisfied and no longer hunger!  God isn't any different - he doesn't want us to come demanding, but he also doesn't want us to "restrain" ourselves when it come to expressing our needs to him.  He wants us to be "out with it" and let him "pass on" to us those things he so desires for us to fully enjoy!  It is as though Jesus is telling his disciples to "come and eat" - the meal has been prepared!

Search - find.  Asking is definitely an action, just as much as receiving is.  When I asked for the potatoes to be passed, mom or dad took the action of passing them and I took the action of receiving what was passed.  Searching and finding are equally actions we take on our part.  If you remember a parable Jesus taught about a woman who lost a tiny coin in her dark house, you will recall she moved furnishings, then swept the floor clean until she discovered the lost coin. What she did was active - she didn't just look for the coin, she also did all she could to uncover it from the hiding place it was in.  If you are like me, you probably put things away "so carefully" so as to be able to find them again when you need them.  The problem is...I forget where I put them!  All the care up front didn't equal the urgency of discovery at the end!  In times when I need whatever it is I have put away so carefully, there is usually this mad frenzy to find it!  Then frustration sets in if I cannot!  The good part of seeking in God's house is that we find things which were previously hidden to us - but it does take a little effort on our part.  I think it is the effort we put into the search that makes the reward of what we find even greater!

Knock - open.  As a child, I knew the closed bedroom door of my parent's room meant I needed to knock.  I just couldn't barge in unannounced.  The knock was both an alerting of my parents to my desire to enter, and the response to enter was an acknowledgement of my need or desire.  Much is the same with our heavenly Father. I am not unlike most Americans who have this tiny hole in the door with which I may "screen" those who come knocking. When we come "knocking" on his door, so to speak, we are not "put off" as unimportant or as someone not worth answering the door to acknowledge.  God doesn't have a "peep hole" he looks through to see if it is worth him opening the door!  In fact, he recognizes our knock.  As a little child, I knocked softly, but my parents always heard.  Even in the night hours when all were sleeping, my gentle knocks were acknowledged.  We don't need to beat God's door down - he knows our knock and he stands alert to acknowledge our knock.  When I "screen" those who come to my door it is more than that I don't want to hear the stories about how these kids are selling this candy bar or that candle to raise money for this project or team sport, or the latest sales at the local mechanic's establishment.  What I really don't want to do is tell the kids or man standing there is that I am not interested!  Why?  Some of them make it very, very hard to say "no"!  Even when we "knock" on God's door, we might not receive a "yes" answer to our seeking - but we WILL receive an answer.  This is something we can stand upon as certainty - God opens the doors for us - it may just not be the door we expected to open!

So, ask, seek, and knock away!  God isn't put off by our asking.  He isn't interested in our apathy.  He isn't disturbed by our knocking.  He is at the ready to listen and respond.  He is open to helping us find what is hidden.  He is continually listening for our timid knocks.  Just sayin!