I used the word tolerance a couple of days go. It is important how word usage and language has changed over the years. Looking back in a dictionary from the 19th century tolerance meant “the power or capacity of enduring or acting”. In the early 20th century it added “endurance of the presence or actions of objectionable persons, or of the expressions of offensive opinions”. The first definition in modern dictionaries states that tolerance is “the willingness to accept feelings, habits, or beliefs that are different from your own”. The meaning has changed from endurance to acceptance. This has given Christians a serious problem by bringing on the charge of bigotry when we oppose certain behaviors accepted in modern society. Being bound by God’s holy word we cannot accept sexual practices contrary to God’s design. We cannot accept the human sacrifice of killing the unborn. But at the same time we are not against anyone. Our Lord died for all mankind, and it is not our place to condemn anyone, and we don’t. By not accepting actions contrary to God’s word, we are simply trying to say that, within God revealed will, He is offering the fullest life possible. People are very complex beings. That’s the way God made us. So, each person has individual cares, and needs. Each must be treated with God’s love and compassion even if we don’t agree with their manner of life. Our opposition in areas that God declares to be wrong is not bigotry. It is love seeking to share God’s best.
We have rules for everything. To use this computer we must follow the rules according to the engineer’s design. The car runs by set tolerances and values the designers established. They can’t be violated and still have a car that runs. Traffic is governed by rules, as is the government. Even the dentist sets down rules for brushing and flossing. Somehow we feel that God shouldn’t be that way. After all, He is loving an forgiving, isn’t He? Yes, He certainly is, but that doesn’t change the fact that He created life, yours and mine, and determined the rules by which we find the best possible life. As humans we love to bend the rules. We may get by and think we are doing OK. But then we always get less than the best God desires for us. It is why He has given us the Scriptures, His revealed word. We are to seek out and understand His direction for life. We are never free of trouble in a fallen world, but we can go through it with a clear conscience, and His strength sufficient to meet all our needs.
One of many souvenirs on my book shelf is from the Statue of Liberty. It is a perfectly clear block of glass in the center of which is an etched, 3D picture of the statue. I have looked at this image from every angle, and haven’t the faintest notion of how the 3D etching was put inside. I could probably look it up on How Things Work, but I never have. It is much like the way God works in our hearts. That’s something not found on How Things Work. God’s unseen hand works in us, or in others through our prayers, and we have not the faintest idea how it is done. God also works sovereignly in the world by the power of His Spirit. There is so much in the realm of God’s Spirit, and our own human spirits, that is a mystery to us. Yet we do see the results, like the beautiful image in the glass block. All the works of God’s unseen hand are according to His perfect will and are good. We can give thanks in all things.
Government statisticians just came out with new figures on what it takes to raise a child from birth to age 18. They say it is now $245,000 not including any savings for college. I really dislike such figures, and in God’s eyes they are meaningless. To begin with, it, among other conditions today, scares couples about even the prospect of having kids. We have learned well how to limit reproduction, taking that out of God’s hands. We’ve taken children, that Scripture declares are a blessing from the Lord, and put a dollar figure on them. This means that we balance kids against a lifestyle we desire. It also means that we are not willing to trust the Lord to provide for the children He gives. Psalm 127 declares, “Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;…”(vss.3-5) This is just another area where the western world, which used to be Christian, has gone far from the will of God, yielding to science and reason rather than Scripture, and seeking to understand the gracious Lord who created us. Just another thought to ponder for a Tuesday morning.
What if God goes in a direction that we don’t want to go? It seems to me that many of our prayers seek to maintain the good life that we have built for ourselves. We pray for good health and the continuing of the lifestyle we have gotten used to. It is not that those things are wrong. John wrote, “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.”(3 John 2) God always wants good for us, but physical and material good is not at the top of God’s agenda. Our spiritual growth and well being is. Sometimes God takes us in a different direction, one not always pleasant or of our choosing, to turn our hearts to Him and bring growth to our souls. Let us learn to pray for His best will and to open our eyes to the true good that He gives us.
We have rules for everything. To use this computer we must follow the rules the engineers established. The car runs by set tolerances and values. Traffic is governed by rules, as is the government. Even the dentist sets down rules for brushing and flossing teeth. Somehow we feel that God shouldn’t be that way. After all, He is loving and forgiving isn’t He? Yes, He certainly is, but that doesn’t change the fact that He created life, yours and mine, and determined the rules by which we find the best possible life. As humans, we love to bend the rules, but then we always get less then the best. We don’t follow the rules in order to gain our salvation. That has been freely given to us by faith in Jesus Christ. By seeking God’s rules for life we are not trying to stack up credits with Him, but simply trying to understand the beauty God planned for human life, and the way we live in that beauty as best we are able.
Proverbs 3:1 & 2 says, “keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity.” In an age that disdains any absolute values, this is an important word. We wonder why there are so many problems in our world today. We hear “don’t pray in school,” stop saying “under God” in the pledge of allegiance, don’t acknowledge God in any government function, keep church and state separate. Yet, God say keep my commands in your heart. It is no wonder we see problems. But this is still a word for each of us, regardless of what the world around us does. You and I are called to walk in God’s way, and strive to honor Him in all we do.
Years ago, when our kids were little, we lived on a busy street. Our four would ride their tricycles in our driveway. We made an absolute rule for them not to go past the end of the porch. We made this rule, not to restrict their freedom, or deny them pleasure, but to keep them safe, and for them to have the most fun. Why is it so difficult for us to understand that God does the same with us, His children, when He tells us in His Word the best pattern for our lives? He tells us about forgiving, loving an enemy, not being filled with pride, of not coveting and building life around material things. He tells us what a man is, and what a woman is, and how they are to relate to each other. He tells us that human life is sacred and held in His hands. But, no, we feel these are restriction to our freedom. We should be able to do what we want, when we want, with the life we arrogantly call our own. And like little kids on tricycles we go merrily riding into the middle of the street. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. “(I Corinthians 6:19-20)
I am not a political person, and I’m not for or against any candidate when I write about what is going on in the current election cycle. I see where Governor Perry has endorsed Newt Gingrich, but he had to say something about all the accusations that surround him. He remarked, “Newt is not perfect but who among us is.” I get sick of hearing that kind of junk! No, none of us is perfect, but we use that as a complete cop out to excuse ourselves, and keep doing what we want. We lower the bar of God’s standard, saying we’re all bad, so it is OK to be bad. God never lowers the standard for us. He is always calling us to understand the best way of life He has set out for us, and encourages us to strive for it. Yes, He graciously forgives when we sin, but he picks us up so that we can do better. He doesn’t excuse lying, stealing, adultery or anything else. They are always wrong, and as God’s created beings in His image, we can do better.
Sometimes we struggle with understanding God’s will for our lives. There are particular things He calls us to at times, but Paul give us a good statement of God’s will that applies to each of us. ” Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (IThessalonians 5:16-18) “Be joyful.” That doesn’t mean being happy about every circumstance we face. We certainly are not. Rather, we have a continuing joy in knowing the grace and strength that God provides, and that He is working in all that touches us. “Pray constantly.” Not on knees 24 hours a day, but prayer as a way of life, knowing that we walk side by side with Him. “Give thanks.” Thankfulness is our way of life because He has made us, and will complete His good plan. There may be specific things God asks of us, but this is the context in which all our lives are lived.