Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Heavy Equipment

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

                        2 Timothy 3.16-17

The User’s Manual

It’s pretty much impossible these days to buy anything with a wall plug and not get a fat little book with cryptic directions about its features and how they work. Your new iron does more than put a crease in your slacks. It’s also a makeup remover, a griddle, a wallpaper steamer—and if you press the control, memory, and auto buttons simultaneously, the thing will record how you press this particular shirt and do the work for you next time.

How many of us use all these features, though? Most of us, I bet, give the user’s manual a quick glance to find out how to turn the appliance on and toss it aside. Then, when we really could benefit from an added capability, we tear the house apart in search of the directions. Once we find them, we waste precious moments trying to figure out how it works. The first few attempts fall flat. If we do manage it or if we give up to do like we’ve always done, odds are we’ve defeated our purpose for looking it up to begin with.

Read the Directions

In 2 Timothy, Paul says God’s Word is our User’s Manual. It tells us how we work—or, more accurately, how God works in us. Those of us who want to get the most out of our lives are smart to read the directions, all of them, understand how they operate, everything God enables us to do, and, yes, what our limitations are and how to avoid hazardous mistakes. Of course, it’s entirely possible to scan the Bible’s pages for instructions about how to function at our most basic. But we severely cheat ourselves out of achieving our full potential in Christ by this. And when situations arise truly requiring our expanded ability, poor command of the Word leads to frustration and failure.

We want to be thoroughly equipped for every good work. Our Creator loaded us with extra features to seize every opportunity He sends us. He’s given us tools to handle every challenge. We don’t find out about them on our own, however. They’re in the Book. Unless we devote the time and concentration to fully master what it tells us about ourselves, we’ll invariably, habitually hit spots where the great things we could do fall outside our reach.

The Good Person and the True Believer

“Indeed, when the Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves,” Romans 2.14 says. Here, Paul is describing basic functionality. All humans, with very few exceptions, are endowed with an inherent moral mechanism they have to override to sin. This “law unto itself” is most commonly called “guilt.” We should thank God for imprinting this into all our hearts. Otherwise, our world would be a savage place to live. But it’s also essential that we distinguish between moral sensibility and obedience to God’s word.

Being a good person and living as a true believer are completely different pursuits. The first is self-regulating and the second requires faith. Good people judge themselves. Believers give account to God for all they think and do, because they trust He has a higher purpose for them. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you,” David said. (Psalm 119.11) By faith, we know that God has given us extraordinary talents and abilities. He’s entrusted us with heavy equipment. To make the most of it, we can’t just turn it on and let it go. We have to become proficient in its use. The better we hide His user’s instructions in our hearts, the smoother and more productively our lives will run.


A slightly crude analogy, but effective in its own way: true believer is to harvester as good person is to tractor. One requires mastering all its functions and capabilities. The other is fairly intuitive and easy to use. Which should we be?

(Tomorrow: Crying Rocks)

Postscript: Angels Aware

I caught this on Missy’s Big Fish Stories and can’t neglect passing it on. Angel Food Ministries is a Georgia-based enterprise that has ingeniously turned bulk buying into a blessing. It’s built a network of distribution centers around the US (most of them housed in churches) to provide folks who’ve fallen on hard times with low-cost groceries.

These angels are all too aware that many of us are dealing with tough days. Their ministry reaches out to everyone—seniors, middle-class families, unemployed singles, and anyone else struggling to make ends meet. As I looked at their site, I couldn’t help but think of Jesus’s transforming a few loaves and fishes into a meal for thousands. That’s pretty much what they do.

Missy does such a wonderful job of describing the details of how it works (including a great video), that it’s quicker and better to link to her blog. I urge all of us to take a look. These days, I can’t imagine anyone who either doesn’t need Angel Food’s help or doesn’t know someone who does. And if you’re among the fortunate few who has a little extra to share, their Website also accepts financial contributions.

Click over to Missy’s blog and see what real Christianity in action looks like:

Angel Food

(If you've not yet spent time with Missy, spend a few extra minutes to get to know her. She's one terrific lady, a solid believer, a cool neighbor, and we're blessed to count her among us.)


Missy said...

What a great analogy--wow. I may have to use this in my ministry. Can I copy it as a hand out for my Scripture students? You've done a fine job of putting the importance of Scripture into words a middle school student would understand.

(RCs are not known for the handle of Scripture. I'm trying to change that, about 60 kids at a time.)

BTW, thanks for the linky love. ;)

Leonardo Ricardo said...

The other is fairly intuitive and easy to use.

The best part is that after all the striving to follow the instruction booklet correctly I often fall on my face...plop, splat...I call it shorting out...and that is exactly the place where I know God best...it´s in the surrendering that I´ve come to know and TRUST in God authentically...it´s not in all the things I ought have done (according to me or anyone else).

Now, I´m going to climb down off my tractor and go to bed...thanks for the reminder of what´s what and what isn´t what.

Tim said...

Missy, by all means, use anything you find here in your ministry. What you're doing is incredibly important and whatever I can do to help is my privilege. Blessings as you work what I know can be a very tough room at times! (60 middle-schoolers--yow!)


Tim said...

Leonardo, what a beautiful point. Mastering the manual and mastering the mechanics aren't the same--there's quite a bit of trial and error that's involved. There is a lot of pop, splat and shorting out and we should be ready for that. But as you say, that's when TRUST does come into play. I think it's actually at that very moment that the manual comes alive for us. It's less in the doing than the believing it will be done!

Pleasant dreams, my friend.