Sunday, July 29, 2018

No more sour notes

Have you ever looked at awe upon someone or something, with one of those kind of "jaw dropping" moments? For just a moment, your attention is held and your reverie in what you are beholding is exclaimed. I have been at amazing falls of water, deep caverns carved precariously into our earth's 'underside', and high up on mountain's edge looking out great expanses of space - each holding a particular sense of awe for me. I have observed huge cranes lift massive loads to heights that you think would make them topple over, and small sticks of explosive substance bring down massive walls of great boulders. Awe is hard to describe, but it comes because something or someone holds one's attention just long enough to cause them to consider the magnitude of what they are seeing. To our good character (moral choices), spiritual understanding (discernment), alert discipline (spiritual development), and passionate patience (endurance and stability), we are to add reverent wonder - something that causes my jaw to drop each time I see this trait active in the life of anyone.  Reverent wonder really comes down to one key word: Obedience.  We are to incorporate into our lives the moment-by-moment "habit" of obedience.  Obedience brings honor to God and acknowledges his presence in our lives - it causes others to 'stop and take notice'.

So don't lose a minute in building on what you've been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can't see what's right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books.
(2 Peter 1:5-8)

Reverent wonder may also be translated as "godliness".  Godliness is the evidence that one is conforming to God's laws (moral code of conduct) and wishes (the sense of doing as one has been asked).  It is a sense of devotion to the control and direction of another - God.  Obedience is more than just conforming - it incorporates the idea of being "willing" to do something without balking. Willingness is probably one of the biggest struggles we have as Christians.  We may even adhere to the idea that "the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak".  In other words, we WANT to do what is right, but we DON'T do it.  The struggle between "US" and "GOD" is too great - we "give in" to the "US" because it is immediately satisfying, easier, or just plain selfish. We 'balk' at the idea of what is being asked of us - making it become a battle within to move toward that place or action of obedience.

It is important for us to remember "obedience" is something that is PRACTICED. If it has to be 'practiced', it does not come easily! We must do it over and over again. A lifestyle of reverent wonder (godliness or obedience) is LEARNED. We don't start out one day saying, "Today and forevermore I will be obedient to all God desires of me." We may have all the good intentions in this world to live that way, but reality hits us about two choices into the day and we find ourselves facing that crash and burn moment when obedience flies out the window! The thing we need to realize is that God is more concerned with our consistent and progressive obedience.  Obedience is practiced - therefore, it is progressive.  What we practice soon becomes easier and is something we embrace without much resistance. To learn to play an instrument, we practice. To become an expert, we practice a whole lot! Obedience is also consistent - we learn that a course of action yields a result that is rewarding, enjoyable, or simply put, good for us. What becomes practiced becomes habit - obedience is a habit, not a ritual!

With a strong foundation laid, we have an opportunity to begin to build upon that foundation. We are being directed toward daily activity that produces this continual and progressive type of "learning" in our lives.  God is provoking us toward consistently embracing the thoughts, attitudes, and actions that will bring more of his grace and wisdom into our lives.  Obedience is not immediate or instantaneous - it is a process. Remember, practice makes perfect - not the other way around! Too many times, we get the idea we are supposed to be perfect - never faltering, never struggling to 'get it right' in our lives. Nothing could be further from the truth - because obedience gets easier each time we practice it, but it doesn't happen that we 'get it right' all of the time. When I tried to learn to play the guitar, I made some pretty awful sounds come from those six strings on occasion! The chords just didn't sound good at all - something was amiss with the placement of my fingers. In our spiritual walk, there are times when things are 'amiss' with our positioning - we get out front and forget that is the place God belongs! The more we practice placing him exactly where he belongs, the sweeter the music of obedience will be that stems from that right placement! Just sayin!