Why We Do The Things We Do

10/11/2008

Are we following the directions on the bottle?
Are we reading the instructions in the kit?
Are we getting a clue about how things should look?

If we are, we will have a better understanding about how life should taste, how things here fit together, and what each new day can bring. If we don’t have a clue, and we seem to be wandering around in some sort of darkness without a light at our feet to follow, we might need to spend a bit more time in the Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth manual.

A.K.A.
The BIBLE.

(“Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth” comes from the song, “Basic Instructions” by the group Burlap to Cashmere.)

Everything today seems to come with a set of instructions, even children’s toys. They can be so complicated I usually don’t even attempt to put them together. In fact, being one who is known for NOT reading the directions, I just figure that most of the things that need to be assembled are out of my league, and I leave them to my husband to do. He is the patient one who will leave the “toy” in the box until the instructions have been read. I don’t understand this thinking, and I probably never will, but I appreciate it, and I appreciate the fact that things actually work the way they should when he is finished!

Does life work the way it should? Will it eventually? When we are finished here, will we say, “Wow, that actually worked the way God designed it!” I guess I should say, “Re-designed it,” since we didn’t follow the directions the first time around when God said:

“Don’t eat the fruit from that one tree…see it over there, that one!”

And Eve said, “This one? CHOMP!

From that point on, we have needed a Savior!

Even that one simple bit of instruction was not followed—and what followed was a world gone haywire because of it. Sin, and more sin invaded our lives…starting with the very first family—and not the president’s, but God’s. Cain and Abel…brothers. Dysfunction, anger, jealousy, and in the end, murder was part of that first family. They didn’t have the Instruction Book back then, but they had parents who had walked and talked with the Author of the Instruction Book, and still…things went downhill so fast. Should we be surprised that our lives can get so messy, so quickly? I think not.

When the Instruction Book came along, God’s Word, it might have seemed complicated, but I don’t think God meant it to be—I think sometimes we mess with it too much, making what’s clear, foggy. I received a cute e-mail just the other day and I thought I’d share it with you. If we have trouble understanding what God desires for us, what He expects of us, how we should live our lives according to His Word, this might help to take the complexity out of it, and put the simplicity back into our instructions. It goes like this:

Ten Commandments
(1) Just one God
(2) Put nothin' before God
(3) Watch yer mouth
(4) Git yourself to Sunday meetin'
(5) Honor yer Ma & Pa
(6) No killin' 
(7) No foolin' around with another fella's gal
(8) Don't take what ain't yers
(9) No tellin' tales or gossipin'
(10) Don't be hankerin' for yer buddy's stuff
(This was posted on the wall at Cross Trails Church in Gainesboro, TN )

I think these are instructions we can all understand, but maybe that’s the problem. Maybe it’s not that we don’t understand them, or what God desires, or how we should be living and staying out of many of the troubles we seem to be in—the problem comes more with the obeying of these things God has said. Most times we want to do what we want to do.

The other day I was giving a young gal a ride home from school. While attending Cosmetology School in my 50’s, I get to spend the day with girls younger than my own children, and their lives are an interesting set of complications. I hear about boyfriend troubles, family troubles, fights and heartbreak and fears of the future. Some don’t even have their driver’s license yet, hence, the ride home for my young friend. As we drove along she began to talk about the values that she sees in the other girls at the school, and how hers are a bit different than theirs. I asked what her values were; she hesitated to say, and then instead asked me what mine were. I kept it simple, but told her that, “I follow God. That He has given us an Instruction Manual for life, and it makes it simple to know what I should do and what I shouldn’t. The only thing is, even sometimes when I know what I’m supposed to do; I might still choose not to do it.” The conversation pretty much ended there as we arrived at her house.

“In matters of principle, stand like a rock, in matters of taste, swim with the current.”
Thomas Jefferson

It might seem too simple, to just follow God’s set of instructions, but isn’t simple a good thing? Doesn’t it make matters of principle easier to stand on? God has made it clear as to how we are supposed to live our lives, so why at times does it seem to get complicated? Do we make it that way? Does our enemy the devil complicate it as he prowls around looking for someone to devour? And when we ignore God’s instructions, aren’t we the ones who open the door to Mr. Trouble and invite him in? At least if we’re following the directions sent from God, we’ve got the door shut to the troublemaker. Sure, the enemy will stand and knock, and we’ll hear him…but we don’t have to answer!

Jesus said in John 12:49-50, “I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me gave me his own instructions as to what I should say. And I know his instructions lead to eternal life; so I say whatever the Father tells me to say!” (NLT)

This is the Son of God speaking! He too seems to be following the instructions He is being given from His Father…so if we think as mere humans, we can make wise decisions on our own…we might want to think again! If we’re trying to challenge God’s Instructions, and do it our own way, it can get hard and confusing!

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.
Psalm 119:105 (NLT)

Being in school right now, it seems the question comes up often as to what will I do when school is finished? You may be in that position also if you are in school or in training somewhere. Where to go…where to work…how to best use the education we have been given? I’m a grown-up, and my parents still ask me that question. “Diane, what will you do when you are finished with school?” And being that I am learning that God’s “word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path,” I know I can relax even not having an answer to that question yet. We all can. My best answer to my parents came from the title of a book I haven’t yet read, but it’s called, “There’s only enough light for the step I’m on.” I like that answer, and I like the freedom it contains. It means, I don’t know, but God does, and He will be my guide. As long as I know that the step I’m on is on His path…I need not fear. And even if we’re off His path, we need not fear, as long as we are searching for His path, always, and willing to readjust the moment He gives guidance to do so! He will let us know!

Rick Warren writes: “Don’t act thoughtlessly but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do” (Ephesians 5:17 NLT). When you talk about time management, you’ve got to do what God wants you to do. You have just enough time to do God’s will. If you do not have enough time right now, it means one of several things is going on:
  You’re doing something God never intended for you to do.
  You’re not doing what God intended you to do.
  You’re doing the right thing in the wrong way.
God would not give you a purpose in life and then not give you the time to do it. So if you don’t have enough time to do everything you need to do, it means God didn’t expect you to do it all.”

Wow, this is simple, but clear! And it makes me want to take a look at each day and see if I’m running out of time in my day…because if I am, I should surely be asking myself, “Is this in God’s plan for my day?” If He’s not expecting me to do something, should I be doing it? I mean, I know it’s not going to keep me out of Heaven if I run myself ragged, but it’s surely going to keep me out of peace, His peace. So I want to ask Him, “What step am I on Lord? Is it Your step? Is Your light here guiding the way?” Sometimes it may not even be that we’re out of God’s will on the step, but just simply not trusting Him as we should while we’re there.

Just the other day I was having a conversation with someone who is making changes in her life. In today’s economy, sometimes jobs go dry and changes are needed. It’s not a matter of being out of God’s will sometimes, as much as it’s a matter of trusting that God knows and being focused on His lamp for the next step He might have us take. This woman was taking that next step, but it was a bit complicated, and she was finding herself completely tied up in knots about it. She was asking herself, “Would this come through in time? Would that? Would she have to make another change if it doesn’t, etc, etc…?” Just that morning I had heard a wonderful message on how the devil is the one who will tie us up in knots, and God is the One who unties us, so I shared that with her. When all was said and done, most of the knots that kept her in unrest were loosened by the answers she received in her situation.

The knots of worry are of the devil, not of God, but do we willingly allow ourselves to be placed in those knots when we’re not willing to trust in our Father for each individual step? It seems a waste of time and energy that could be used in more productive ways. The devil is not only the great deceiver; he is also the great distracter! If we’ll look to our Father instead of to the devil and his lies, we will be set free from most of those tangles and knots! Sometimes it’s a matter of talking it out with someone to get a revelation; sometimes it’s a matter of talking it out with God. If we will, it can be an eye-opening event! We may see things we have never seen before in the very same situations that once had us tied up in knots. God will meet us where we’re at, and eventually He will make things as plain as day if we will take the time of day to spend with Him, learning from Him and following His lead, and His instructions as to what comes next. Most times it won’t happen overnight, but it will happen!

Below, I am excited to include a picture that a friend sent to me just the other day. As she sat in her backyard, praying, and seeking God’s direction in her day, God revealed something to her that was always right there in front of her but she’d never noticed it before. With God, revelations can come in a whisper, they can come in His Word, they can come in any way He chooses when we choose to look for His freedom from the knots this world would like to imprison us in. The picture you will see is of an ordinary, every day thing, but it appeared to my friend out of the clear blue sky in a way she had never seen it before, and I’m sure God was smiling down from Heaven as His joy filled her heart upon its revealing:

Cross

Teach them God’s decrees, and give them his instructions.
Show them how to conduct their lives.
Exodus 18:20 (NLT)

God’s not here to rob us of the joy in our day, but to give us joy in our day as we spend time with Him. Our Father knows life is hard enough, He saw the fall in the garden, He knew what was coming in our world, and He knew it would take the earthly life of His Son to clean up the mess we had made and are still making today. I think of the Cross God revealed to my friend as she sat out back and prayed to Him, and I think of the blood that was shed on that Cross for all who will believe, and I know that without being washed clean from every single sin we commit (as is explained in our Instruction Manual), we’re not getting through the gates of Heaven into our eternal Home. Just one dirty spot on our garment, and we will be refused admittance. We won’t be in our “dress whites” without Jesus! No amount of “good” we have done on earth will be enough to cover the smallest blotch on our record. We could feed a thousand poor, and it will not cover one lie we have uttered, not even a white lie. We could wash feet, house the homeless, care for the sick, comfort the brokenhearted, and it wouldn’t be enough to get our names written down in the Lamb’s Book of Life without the Lamb Himself to vouch for us. And there’s only one way to have the hand of God write our name down as an invited guest of Heaven, and that’s to be known as a friend of His Son, Jesus Christ. To believe He is our Savior, and that His blood was shed on our behalf.

“For the individual, the Bible—the Book of Life—teaches the art of individual growth, and it is a guide to conduct and character. For the state it is a handbook of universal civilization. For those who mourn, it is a loving bosom to flee to; for the young man and woman, it is the rule for godly attitudes and behavior; for the tempted it shows how to live victoriously. For everyone, the Bible is a roadmap for salvation.”
Newell Dwight Hillis

The Instruction Book of life tells us about Heaven, and how to get in. It also tells us how life should be lived while we’re here. These things are explained for our own good, for our own happiness, and for our eternal destiny. Who doesn’t want to live loved and forgiven both here and forevermore?

Randy Alcorn writes in “Heaven,” “You may think that you don’t deserve forgiveness after all you’ve done. That’s exactly right. No one deserves forgiveness. If we deserved it, we wouldn’t need it. That’s the point of grace. On the cross, Jesus experienced the Hell we deserve, so that for eternity we can experience the Heaven we don’t deserve…No sin is bigger than the Savior…If God wasn’t willing to forgive sin on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice, Heaven would be empty.”

Empty.

Perhaps God doesn’t need us in Heaven for company, but He surely wants us to come Home to Him as His children. It’s where His light on each step in this earthly life leads…straight to and through our Father’s Heavenly gates. Why are we willing to mess around with such fundamentals of life—such clear-cut instructions? Would any of us truly answer the question, “Do you want to go to Heaven when you die?” with a “No” answer? Probably only if we think Heaven is going to be boring, and without our friends, and playing a harp all day—even though the harp is a beautiful instrument. But Heaven is going to be a very real, very physical, very wonderful place. Our Instruction Book says so!!

God has shown us how to conduct our lives here as we make our way there. When we veer from God’s ways, we make things a lot harder on ourselves than they need to be. This is not to say that life is perfect if we follow God’s perfect plan. This is not a perfect world anymore, so we can’t expect life here to be perfect. But we can expect it to be full of God’s love, and care, and concern and miracles along the way when we are focused on all He is, and all He is doing each day.

In thinking about this world, and how it works, I’m realizing that Satan doesn’t so much care about our sins (although he is quick to condemn us when we step out of line even though he is the tempter who urges us that way). What I believe Satan loves most of all is that our sins separate us from our God. Not that God leaves us when we are sinning, but that we choose to leave God for a time when we choose sin, to look away from the Holy Highway, and take our own route through life. As I saw on a sign, a message from God might read, “My way is the High way.” The other routes lead to a pit of destruction.

Oswald Chambers writes: “Satan does not tempt us to do wrong things; he tempts us in order to make us lose what God has put into us by regeneration, viz, the possibility of being of value to God. He does not come on the line of tempting us to sin, but on the line of shifting the point of view, and only the Spirit of God can detect this as a temptation of the devil.”

Recently I was in an interesting situation, watching some disturbing “points of view.” Someone in the group I was with was handed a tract full of Bible verses from a stranger who walked into the room. The stranger had just briefly talked with this person out in the parking lot. She quickly entered with the tract and then left. The group of people I was with erupted in anger and defensiveness at her offering! They didn’t like the idea of God being “pushed” on someone. More than a few spoke out with passion about it. I remained quiet, watching the situation. When it was finished, I asked the person if I could take a look at the tract, and what I found were simply some instructions from our Lord’s Book pertaining to love, compassion, peace, etc… Under each word were about five Bible verses speaking to those subjects. I explained to the person who had received it that it was just Scripture, indicating to her that there was nothing wrong with it, and nothing to fear. She seemed okay with it. But my heart was saddened at the passion that had been shown to defend against the Good News being shared. It seems those who are most “ignorant,” (which means uneducated, not dumb) about God’s omnipresent wisdom and grace, are the most passionate about what should be done with it, when many times those of us who are educated in the Good News lack the same amount of passion FOR IT! What’s going on in our lives, in this world? It seems there’s way too much darkness trying to direct and lead, and not enough of the Light of God pointing out the way. There are too many lost souls needing some directions!

It’s not all that complicated to know our Lord, and what His Instructions say. In a little booklet I picked up the other day called, “The Bible Made Easy,” there were ten gems from the Book of Proverbs. Here they are:

Gossip“A gossip separates close friends.” Proverbs 16:28
Correction“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.” Proverbs 12:1
Wisdom“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Proverbs 9:10
Temper“A fool gives vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” Proverbs 29:11
Adultery“A man who commits adultery lacks judgment, whoever does so destroys himself.” Proverbs 6:32
Learning from ants“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” Proverbs 6:6-8
A kind word“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” Proverbs 12:25
Prayer“The Lord is far from the wicked but he hears the prayer of the righteous.” Proverbs  5:29
Six, no seven things“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” Proverbs 6:16-19
Not speaking“A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue.” Proverbs 11:12

The wisdom of God, meant for our own good…now this is something to be passionate about!! And we are the ones, as believers in Jesus Christ, who can show that passion to the world! Are we staying on the path and leading? We better be because if the blind are leading the blind, both will fall into a pit, as our Instruction Book says.

Most times we know when we have veered off God’s path and are choosing to be on a side road, but do we know we’re choosing the devil and his ways in that action? And do we realize how pleased Satan is when we do so? It makes him happy, but are we? Most times not, we are miserable, really. The side road is a detour that looks like it leads to a fun place to visit, and we might even feel it’s right for a time to be going there, but ultimately, destructive ways never feel good. What the devil disguises as “Disneyland,” becomes something else once we get there. Being out of God’s will never feels good. Sins are heavy burdens. How long will we choose to carry them around thinking it’s what we want? When will we admit that the path has grown dark and dreary, and that it’s not as much fun as when it all began? When will we get to the point where we will make the decision to turn back to the way that brings light and life and joy to our soul? For what good does it do if we gain the whole sinful world, but lose our own soul? Just when we want it to be “all about me,” those decisions make “me” very dissatisfied with the results. We might think, “I want others to treat ‘me’ good,” but we end up treating “me” worse than anyone else could! What this world contains, all its so-called fun and possessions are worthless compared to one soul who God has created in His image. God loves us, and because He does, He sent His only Son to die, saving each precious soul that will receive Him.

This morning an old song came back to me, and I was singing it with gusto! I sang, “St. Peter don’t ya call me cuz I can’t go, I owe my soul to the company store.” When the call comes to go Home, will we be ready? Or will we be found in our sins, wrestling with them to exhaustion, tied into the knots that Satan has willingly provided for us on earth? It’s time to let them go and live in the freedom that is already ours!

Some who don’t know our Lord may ask, “Why we do the things we do?” as Christians. What would our answer be? To earn our way to Heaven? I would hope that would never be our answer. To earn our Father’s love? No, His love is unconditional. I would hope our answer would be because there is no better way to live this life than to follow God’s Instruction Book, the Bible. Why we do the things we do is because it’s God’s way, and His ways are high and holy and have been planned out in His wisdom. And ultimately, God’s ways work out better for not only our lives here, but our eternal life in our eternal Home. Isn’t that reason enough?

“The scriptures teach us the best way of living, the noblest way of suffering, and the most comfortable way of dying.”
John Flavel

On earth, Satan sometimes seems to have the upper hand, but we are told in our Instruction Book not to worry. Satan definitely has a reign here on earth, but Jesus is our Ally, He is our Protector, our Provider, our Prince of Peace. Yes it still hurts here on earth when tough stuff happens, yes Christians still bleed when we get cut, yes things still seems unfair, yes we want to retaliate and make sure that we’re not taken advantage of—we feel real emotions as Christians, but we’re not a slave to those emotions and to those forces of evil unless we choose to be. We have the option to trust that God’s got our back, our front, our sides and above and below us. We can live free knowing that the devil’s not in control of our lives, and that his instructions are wrong, misguided, and full of mistakes. We know there are parts missing in the devil’s play book, he’s not being straight with us, he is the father of lies. Whatever language the devil is speaking, we can be sure it’s not God’s Truth.

I’ve seen too many people burdened lately with the piles and piles of lies that Satan’s been feeding them. He’s poison to our soul, he’s the “company store,” and he wants us to feel indebted to him when we fall into his traps, he wants us to pay to get out, he wants us to think we’re stuck where we are with no way of escape—but our debt has been paid in full by Jesus Christ. We have been set free already! We don’t owe Satan anything, except a cold shoulder turned toward his pit of fire.

In Kelly Minter’s book, “No Other Gods,” she writes about “what it means to live as Christians in relevant and meaningful ways, (and) what living in freedom with purpose and identity actually looks like.” She says, “We all claimed God as our God, but we had been serving lesser things...When we try to house both God and gods, we are left with half hearted living. It is painfully ungratifying. And I believe it’s possibly one of the reasons why so many of us—including me—have been stuck. Basically, we have edged God out. We have left him with little room in our hearts. Our false gods have taken up our most treasured spaces; we leave God no place to show himself strong on our behalf.”

Without reading God’s Instruction Manual and obeying it, we will have things out of place in our lives. Our “treasured spaces” will be filled with “lesser things,” and we’ll get caught in the web of lies that says we really need those things, that they are what make us happy and without them we will be lost and alone, sad and empty, left wanting and needing—when in actuality those very things are the cause of empty, lonely feelings. ONLY God’s way can truly satisfy. If we’re looking for our answers anywhere but in God’s Instruction Book and in His Grace through Jesus Christ, we’ve got the wrong book…with the wrong answers…and we’ll fail the test of life here on earth.

There is a path before each person that seems right,
but it ends in death. Proverbs 14:12 (NLT)

We’re not alone in this deceptive game the devil’s got going, we’re all in it together. That’s why we must do as James 1:19 (NIV) says, we must be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” Rick Warren says that verse “reflects the concept of ‘seeking to understand’ before ‘trying to be understood.’” Why we do the things we do is because we don’t need to be understood, because we understand—we understand that many times we’ll be misunderstood on this earth. They’ll also be many times when we won’t be treated kindly, or right, or with compassion—that will be true of everyone. But, when we know the Father of compassion, the Father of kindness, the Father of righteousness, we’ll understand what the world cannot, that we’re on the right path and ultimately, that’s all that matters! We can be slow to anger, knowing it’s best to listen up, to be quiet, and to not let all this stuff get to us.

“The soft tongue breaks the bone. The tamed tongue subdues the adversary.”
Washington Gladden

All these little tiny steps along the way of life can get messy and slippery depending on which step we’re on, but they don’t have to trip us up. All we’re experiencing here on earth is just one big step that has God’s eternal light blazing down on it. It’s all about the journey Home, but so many times we forget that and get lost along the way. Keeping our eyes on the Lord’s leading light is the only way to truly experience the joy and peace in life that God has planned for us each day, a life that will bring Him glory when all is said and done.

That’s why we do the things we do as Christians…because it’s about so much more than us and we know it, it’s about all that God has planned for His glory—and really, that’s all that matters in the end! We know that when God wins, we win! And we like those odds!

Until we meet again,
Diane