Monday, April 18, 2016

Looking For A "Handy" Excuse

When is the last time you saw God do something outside your comfort zone? Could it be that you have never seen God do something outside your comfort zone? Could it be that something happened outside your comfort zone, but you were certain it wasn’t God because, surely, God would never do anything like that?

Years ago I was hurled into a very uncomfortable place as I joined two other pastors and a Christian counselor on a prayer retreat. The car’s stereo was playing a worship album. One of the songs included words about lifting hands to the Lord and suddenly the other three guys all had their hands in the air (at least the driver kept one hand on the steering wheel!). I was so outside my comfort zone that I briefly considered jumping out of the car as we sailed down the highway. I imagined that injury or death might be preferable to spending a few days with guys like this!

A few years later, having read the Bible and searched the thoughts of those very wise in the Scriptures, lifting hands in worship had become a regular part of my own worship experience. You can imagine my sadness when someone I deeply loved and respected spoke about lifting hands and said, “It can’t be Biblical because we don’t do it and we believe the Bible.” I remember thinking, “How can this person be so blind? The Bible is full of references to lifting hands in worship.”

One day, Jesus had an encounter with religious leaders whose logic was very similar to what I just described:
9 Then Jesus went over to their synagogue, 10 where he noticed a man with a deformed hand. The Pharisees asked Jesus, “Does the law permit a person to work by healing on the Sabbath?” (They were hoping he would say yes, so they could bring charges against him.)
11 And he answered, “If you had a sheep that fell into a well on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you work to pull it out? Of course you would. 12 And how much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Yes, the law permits a person to do good on the Sabbath.”
13 Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored, just like the other one! 14 Then the Pharisees called a meeting to plot how to kill Jesus.
(Matthew 12:9-14 New Living Translation)

Rather than accept that Jesus had just healed the man’s hand, they looked for a “handy” excuse. “God doesn’t work like that! We believe in the Bible and we we know God doesn’t work like that!” In other words, “If it’s outside my comfort zone, it can’t be from God.”
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What happened to me in the car with my friends and what happened to the religious leaders in Jesus’ day were both examples of “Hangups.” The truth is, we all have some and they blind us to some of the ways God does his work. One the best things we can do is learn to recognize and acknowledge our hangups, asking God to clean them out of our lives. No Spring Cleaning is complete without a few hangups being swept out and dumped in the trash where they belong.

That’s our subject this weekend at Stone Ridge Church and I can’t way to talk with you about it.  Can’t be there? Catch the podcast!

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