Why Not?

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We’re starting a new series today titled, It’s Not About You. Over the next few weeks we’ll take a look at the narcissistic side of modern spirituality and learn how our attitudes need adjusting. Drawing one from this series took longer than usual to get started, but came out simple and concise.

If I asked you to define the attitude of American society using a single characteristic, what word would you come up with? Patriotic? Compassionate? My observations require a different adjective; entitled. Everyone deserves something. A raise, a vacation, a positive outcome to whatever situation. Of all the things we could feel entitled to, the one that reigns above all is answers. Answers to any question we can fathom, explanations for other people’s actions, reasons for our failure to receive some other thing we’ve “earned”. No matter who the question is directed towards, modern society stands vehemently static until we have this information. Heaven forbid the answer given is not the preconceived response we’ve determined the question deserves!

In 2 Kings 5, Naaman nearly missed being healed from leprosy because he didn’t like his question’s answer. Naaman was a commander in the Syrian army and a leper. During a raid in Israel, a girl was captured and began working for Naaman’s wife. Learning of his disease, the girl compassionately encouraged Naaman to visit the “prophet of Samaria (a.k.a. Elisha)”, he would be healed. Naaman’s entitlement to healing begins. He pulls rank and has the king of Syria send a letter to the king of Israel, setting up a formal meeting between Naaman and the Israeli king, with the ulterior motive of meeting Elisha and, BAM! No more leprosy. The scheme unfolds as planned, until the actual healing process takes place.

The king of Israel, upset that this diseased Syrian commander usurped his authority to get into his court, reluctantly agreed and Naaman’s date with destiny was set. Avoiding the normal pleasantries, the king sent Naaman directly to Elisha’s house. Bonus for Naaman! The meeting with Elisha, however, did not go as Naaman envisioned. Naaman expected some holy words and spiritual sleight of hand, a flash of burning magnesium would have been a nice touch. Instead, Naaman received some bathing instructions and directions to a less than desirable river to bathe in! In order to wash away his leprosy, Naaman had to submerge himself into the Jordan river seven times. Hearing this infuriated Naaman. Despite expressing his disappointment (showing his tail in front of Elisha) and offering cleaner alternatives for the location of this bath, Elisha calmly shuts the door in Naaman’s face and Naaman storms back to his entourage. His posse looks at him in bewilderment and says, “Seriously, dude? The guy just told you to take a bath to be healed and you’re mad because the water is dirty?! Naaman caves and takes a swim in the Jordan, coming out with skin “like that of a newborn”, completely healed.

God calls us to tasks by planting in us a vision for a specific project and an insatiable passion to see it through. What often frustrates our efforts is our own hesitation as we wait for a popular Christian buzzword from God, confirmation. We continually ask God to reveal why He’s given us a passion to x,y,z and why we should follow through with our idea. Apparently, if we don’t know why we are serving in a particular capacity, the notion must have originated from a questionable source and following through would mean certain demise. Taking a meal to that couple who just brought home a baby and we only know as acquaintances may be awkward and ruin any chances of friendship since they did not invite us. Offering a cold bottle of water to the ragged man at the intersection on a sweltering July day may be offensive because his sign doesn’t mention being thirsty. The point of today’s drawing is we are asking the wrong question. God does not owe us an explanation. He’s worthy of our affection and obedience just because he’s God. An idea is the most resilient parasite known to man. Once an idea strikes, our question should not be why, but why not?

Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself in him. John 14:21

Speak

We’re between series this week at North Ridge. Last week finished up Man School, next week we begin The Bible: It’s Not About You. Today we took a step back to revisit the series that launched 2012, My One Word. To recap, My One Word is our New Year initiative to pick a single word to emulate throughout 2012 instead of making a list of resolutions to achieve.Today we revisited the words we picked and were encouraged to continue striving towards adopting the word as part of our character.

Romans 12:1-2

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present yourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

The word I chose back in January was bold. To be honest, I felt like selecting that word was a cop-out. For one, simply ‘bold’ is a vague characteristic. Bold about what? There’s a fine line between being bold and flat-out rude! Second, My One Word led into a series titled Bold; picking the same focus for myself that we were studying as a church seemed quite “convenient”. Nevertheless, I could not get away from that word so I have stuck with it. Over the last seven months, that word has evolved, honing in how this boldness will manifest. Just in the last few days, this re-focusing on my word has inspired the word to change. My new word for the year is ‘speak’.

Speaking is where I have chosen to focus my boldness because it is the area in which I am weakest. Call it a lack of confidence, a passive nature, or a fear of rejection; but my goal is putting forth a conscious effort to speak my mind and voice my opinions at every opportunity. Doing this requires a certain level of compassion, I do not want to mistake arrogance for boldness in my words. I found the inspiration for my word in 2 Timothy 1:7: For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.

Selecting my new word is the first avenue of inspiration for today’s drawing. Realizing where I wanted to focus my boldness felt like release in my spirit, symbolized by the figure breaking through the water’s surface. The expression on the figure’s face shows relief, despite the shadowy figures circling around him. The shadows represent the situations that arise to test our commitment to bettering ourselves, temptations to abandon our goals, and the premature pride from thinking minor victories means we’ve arrived. Deciding to make positive changes in your life with God’s help does not mean the task will be easy, in fact it means the opposite. God will teach you the characteristic selected with My One Word by placing you in situations that require using that quality. It can really be quite frustrating! Are you wanting to  be more patient? Expect to face situations that will test your patience. Is your goal to be more honest? Expect hard questions and to give hard answers with increased frequency. My word brought opportunities to take on new risks by stepping out on my own. With my new focus, I am expecting more instances to share my ideas, though it’s not always the most popular. (I had to choose this during an election year….DOH!) God is not looking to make things easy, He is pushing us to become more like Him.