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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Learning from others - we all do it

Although much of the Old Testament is written to the nation of Israel, the people God chose to rescue from Egypt and take into a land filled with all manner of blessing, we can learn much by the principles taught and the examples left us there.  It is kind of like hearing the stories of our own families from our grandparents and other elders.  We learn about their struggles, jumping into the midst of the stories with peaked interest, and come away with tidbits of information we only learn because they shared the story.  I kind of think the Old Testament is like that - we come away with peaked interest and tidbits of information which is only available to us because it was written down for our remembrance.  Through the combined "sharing" of the truths and historical accounts which are recorded for us in the books from Genesis to Malachi, we observe instruction in how God wants us live, truths about what is like when we do/don't choose to live this way, and what I will refer to as the "road back from wrong choices".  Maybe this is why the Old Testament is so rich of a source of learning - it paints the picture of what it is like to have made wrong choices and then the accompanying restoration which occurs when a people heeds the call to repent and return.  In fact, there are numerous accounts of Israel drifting away from what God asked of them only to find themselves miserable, in bondage, and wishing for the "good old days".  It is like we have the sharing of a legacy.  When we embrace the truth of repentance, we also embrace the truth of restoration!

After Babylonia has been the strongest nation for seventy years, I will be kind and bring you back to Jerusalem, just as I have promised. I will bless you with a future filled with hope—a future of success, not of suffering. You will turn back to me and ask for help, and I will answer your prayers. You will worship me with all your heart, and I will be with you and accept your worship. (Jeremiah 29:10-14 CEV)

Some view failure as a stopping point - a place from which it is almost impossible to return.  Others see failure as a means to discovering what it is we will finally label as "success".  When I set out to learn to ride a two-wheel bicycle, there were lots and lots of failures.  I bear a few scars to prove that fact!  This is something we might just want to remember about our failures - they leave scars, but scars don't define who we are - they just remind us of where we have been.  Scars don't bind us to the past - they only point out how we have healed from the injuries we suffered there.  I barely remember the sting of hitting my chin on the ground as I turned that first corner, trying hard to navigate the turns on my sister's Schwinn two-wheeler.  I see evidence of the reality of having taken the tumble, but I don't any longer hold onto the initial pain, or even the loss of a little blood.  Sin's damage might hang around for a while in the form of a scar of sorts, but trust me on this - if we come to God with our sin, he won't have us focusing on the scar, but the health he "reworks" into that area of our lives by the touch of his hand!

This is a lesson we can take from the stories of the Old Testament - the reworking of our lives where once we pursued our own interests or found joy in the things which proved to be less than honoring of God in those choices. The stories recorded are chocked full of reminders of what sin does to us - taking a toll on family life, personal life, and even our work life.  The pursuit of those things God has asked us not to pursue will leave a mark - in the form of scars we might not want to have born in the first place.  Yet, we hold onto the hope of restoration - knowing God never takes his hands off those he has chosen to be his own.  Israel is a prime example of a people getting caught up in the hype around them - being a little too comfortable in the company of those who God said to be wary of in the first place.  They leave an example for us of the reminder to be aware of what it is we allow to influence our lives - for we cannot associate with something without it having an affect (good or bad) on our lives.

If you don't believe me, just think back to the last commercial you heard on TV or the radio.  If you don't listen to either of those, then think back to the last ad on the social media site, or perhaps in the magazine or newspaper you read, or the billboard on the side of the roadway.  Those short exposures to those ads left an impression of sorts.  There is something, even if it is ever so slight, which you remember about those ads.  This is the specific purpose of advertising in the first place - to create those memories and create somewhat of an appeal for the product being advertised.  The things which we are exposed to frequently enough will begin to leave an impression on our lives - good or bad.  Plain and simple, we cannot escape the affect of sin around us unless we keep our focus on the one who holds all truth and assists us to navigate through compromises.

If we have already made those compromises, we have the examples of those having made similar ones recorded for us in the scriptures.  We need only look at their accounts to see the way out of compromise.  The road is plainly marked as the one which leads us out of bondage and into rest once again.  The truth we must recognize is the road upon which we have chosen to travel.  Is it leaving us with scars and wounds too deep we don't imagine healing?  No scar is too deep or wound too ugly for God's hand to heal.  Is it one which we'd want to admit to having traveled?  Perhaps not, but even in the discovery of the awfulness of sin's journey we find lessons we can pass on to future generations. This is why I walk with others who have traveled their own journey with sin. I don't just look for those who present the image of a "perfect Christian".  I want to understand how those who struggle just like me have made it back into the arms of Jesus.  I want to learn about how it is we come into full restoration. I want the legacy they can give.

So, lest you think your failure is different from another's - it isn't, for we all sin and all fall short of what God intends for our lives.  We may call it by a different name, but it is still a struggle with the things God clearly knew would pull us away from his arms and send us down a road where the influences would be uglier than he'd ever want us to experience.  The way back into his arms isn't any different for either of us - it all begins with acknowledging we have been on the wrong path.  It all ends with us being secure in his arms once again and in his "nursing our wounds" back to health by his grace and love.  Just sayin!