Friday, July 29, 2005

Instruction Manual for Life

Some people like to think of the Bible as an instruction manual. Instruction manuals simplify life and save time. Most parents would appreciate having a manual handed to them along with their first child.

To write a useful instruction manual, the writer must have superior knowledge of the unique design of an item. The user also needs to have some comprehension of the parts and purpose of the item to be able to understand the manual. According to my experience as a parent, the engineering design of children is much too complicated for anyone to write such a manual.

If the Bible is an instruction manual, I’m in trouble. My thoughts and ways are not anywhere near God’s thoughts and ways. Therefore, I don’t have a chance of comprehending the instructions.

I like to view the Bible as God’s autobiography. The most useful parenting books are written by parents suggesting ways to interact with children rather than specific procedures to apply. The Bible is full of stories about God interacting with mankind. These true-life stories allow us to get to know God.

The cool thing is that this autobiography doesn’t have an ending because God is as much alive today as he was in the beginning. We are a part of the never ending story. The Bible shows that God has interacted with mankind in various ways throughout time.

In the beginning, God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden. After the Garden, he interacted with chosen people through his Spirit. Eventually, God became man in the person of Jesus Christ. He is no longer with us in the flesh of one man but Jesus promised that he would send the Holy Spirit to live in his followers. Not just with us, but in us. That’s a pretty close relationship.

If we view the Bible as an instruction manual, we will go nuts trying to make human sense out of whether we are to annihilate our enemies or turn the other cheek. A friend was once trying to read scripture as an instruction manual and found the “instructions” concerning the mold in her house to be rather humorous.

Everything in the Bible has purpose and meaning. Just as every aspect of my life has made an impact on who I am, we can learn who God is by looking at the various aspects of his life as revealed in scripture.

God’s actions and instructions do change throughout the Bible. His character never changes. Actions that never change are instinct or habit; they are performed without much thought. Actions based on the character of a person change according to the relationship encountered.

If we view the Bible as an autobiography of the Holy Spirit that is alive within us, the entire Bible is much more enjoyable to read. Rather than say, “that instruction doesn’t apply today,” we can ask “what impact did that interaction between God and man tell me about who God is and his relationship with me today?”

Do you want to have a relationship with God or just follow instructions written by one with an intellect beyond the scope of human understanding? He is not made in our image. We are made in his image.

God desires obedience, yes. But it is obedience to his gentle voice which we recognize by getting to know his unchanging character. That character is revealed when we read the Bible as an autobiography in which the main character is God, not us.

May the peace of Christ free you to live in relationship with the Creator of all things.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


I really don’t like that word. Wouldn’t it be nice if the important things in life were easy? The definition of persevere is to remain constant to a purpose, idea, or task in the face of obstacles or discouragement.

Obstacles? Discouragement? If the purpose, idea or task is worth pursuing for the common good of all; why would anyone place obstacles in the way? Why would anyone discourage the effort?

Apparently the need to persevere is not new. One of my favorite passages in the Bible is found in the book of James. My study Bible gives this book the theme “Practical Christian Living.” Keep that word “practical” in mind as you read this statement from James 1:2-4

Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Do you want to be mature and complete? Then we must remain constant in the face of obstacles and discouragement. It’s the practical (useful) thing to do.

Maybe you are more like Peter Pan and you don’t care about being mature and complete – or at least that’s what you say. You want to just enjoy life: do as little as possible and only do that which is not met with resistance. Doesn’t sound so bad. Right?

Hang on, you “life is for enjoyment” minded folks. In 2 Thessalonians 3:5-6, Paul prays that those who profess to know Christ would be directed by God’s love and Christ’s perseverance. He goes on to command, with the authority of Christ, to “stay away from any Christian who lives in idleness and doesn't follow the tradition of hard work.” Oh, bummer.

So not only is it God’s desire that we persevere, it is God’s command through Paul that those who persevere through hard work should abandoned those Christ followers who sit idle and take the path of leisure. That doesn’t sound very nice. There must be more.

Like James, Romans 5:3 tells us to rejoice in our sufferings. What emotionally stable person would rejoice in sufferings?

According to this passage in Romans, suffering produces perseverance. Well, that makes sense. We can’t call it perseverance if there are no obstacles to suffer through. Stop there and I think we could avoid perseverance by avoiding suffering.

Let’s read on. Perseverance produces character. Well, character is good but if we don’t care what others think, it doesn’t really matter, does it? Must be more. Digging a little further we find that character produces hope. Now that is worth something.

Hope, the confident expectation of the fulfillment of a desire. Without hope, why live at all?

The desires God has placed in my heart are just past the obstacles. It can be discouraging trying to make my way through what seems to be failures or simple unexpected resistance. Spider webs are easy to get through but when I go through them unexpectedly, they gross me out and slow me down.

Sometimes, it’s just the sense of being alone on an unfamiliar, unmarked path. I’m really not alone. It just seems that way because I’m having to give attention to the obstacles I might trip over. The path is quiet at times because others on this journey are doing the same thing.

It’s ok that the path is unfamiliar to me. That satisfies my desire for adventure. But the path is not unmarked. Jesus Christ blazed the trail. I suffer with Christ by staying on the path he made for us.

Many have been lured into making their own trail or taking easier paths made by others. The truth is they don’t really know where those paths lead. They have no hope because they have no confidence in the fulfillment of their desires. They don’t have a relationship with those who have been to the end of that path. It’s a dead end and it takes an eternity to get there. Their desires are never fulfilled. Even along the path, they are constantly changing their direction seeking for something better, easier. Something that feels good.

I’ve been on that path. It was fun for a while. But the sense of not getting anywhere – no hope – proved meaningless.

Some give up on the path because of the obstacles. Maybe they just sit down where they are and visit with those who are traveling on. They have lost the desire to see the view on the other side of the obstacles. Maybe they think it will be something that someone can bring back to them. Or that someone will pick them up and carry them on. Maybe they will tag along close behind someone else until the path becomes too difficult for their lack of determination.

I’m way too familiar with that type of traveler. You can find my butt print at various places along my journey. Fortunately, I’ve had friends come along and help me up as Ecclesiastes 4:10 suggests. They don’t usually allow me to follow behind them. They walk beside me. Some have even pushed me ahead so they could encourage me from behind.

Others accept the defeat of discouragement and return to a place that is familiar and comfortable. They give up on their desires. They decide they were foolish to attempt the path. They convince themselves that life is about being content right where you are. They may even convince themselves and others that dreams are bad because they fuel discontentment. They strive to just be good to those around them. Peaceful living becomes more valuable than hope.

I’ve been known to fall into that category also. It seems so easy to say “just be content.” Oh, my flesh is willing but my spirit isn’t content to stop at any point for very long.

I’m struggling with perseverance right now. I don’t doubt God’s existence anymore but sometimes I wish I did. [laughing] Growing up in Christ is a lot like becoming an adult.

My kids asked me recently at what age do you become a grown up. I told them it’s not about age. It’s about willingness to accept responsibility.

So why grow up? Why be responsible? Why persevere? Why work? Why labor?

I like the way 1 Thessalonians 1:3 puts it. The work is produced by faith, labor prompted by love and endurance is inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Perseverance simply requires remaining focused on Christ. Hebrews 12:1-2 tells me that Jesus is the author and perfector of my faith. He endured the cross for the joy set before him. He has blazed the trail through all the obstacles. This path is not a disappointing dead end. I am confident that the desires God has placed in me will be fulfilled. How can I be confident of that? Because I have an interactive relationship with the trailblazer.

Do you live with a sense of hope? Are you sitting waiting for a friend to pick you up? I suggest that you pick up your love letter from God – the Bible. Get in relationship with the one who has made it to the other side. His perseverance and love will guide you through.

Hebrews 12:3 (NIV) Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Who am I?

Some days, I don’t know who I am. Ever feel that way?

When I created this blog, I sent an email to a selective group of friends to let them know about the dream God had placed in me. Mary, my best friend from high school, replied assuming I had sent the email to everyone in my address book. She included her maiden name and wrote as if I may not remember her. This friend didn’t know who she is.

Let me tell you how her friendship changed my life forever.

We officially met at band camp my sophomore year of high school. We became best friends almost instantly. Based on what she knew of me, that was a miracle.

Her family was a second family to me. Her mom and dad trusted me. Sometimes I wonder if they really did or if they just said that hoping that would make me behave. It worked. There is nothing greater than being loved and trusted.

I started attending church with Mary. Because of that, I was able to travel with the youth choir one summer. I love to travel. I also was introduced to the couple that would play a major role in my spiritual survival a few years down the road. I met my husband at her church. He is another gift from God. The influence of this church led me to choose a Christian college. The college friends have also been significant in my spiritual growth.

Mary and I went through a rough period my freshman year of college. It hurt me very much. My pride failed to let me see that she was reacting out of the pain from all the stuff going on in her life. She apologized for her part and I verbally accepted her apology but inside I was not forgiving. She appropriately and loving pointed out my lack of true forgiveness about four years later.

I was so obsessed with her offense against me that I didn’t give her a chance to tell me all that was happening in her life. It was many years before I apologized for not being a supportive friend to her during that period.

When I get an email from her, I get excited. I’m very thankful that we do still have some contact. Her friendship continues to be a gift from God. I wish we could be more involved in each other’s lives.

Not remember her? Ha! God has made me who I am today because of the influence of her friendship twenty years ago.

Lessons from this friendship: Be thankful for every friendship. Don’t be selfish in friendship. When a friend hurts your feelings, there’s a good chance that something else is going on in her life. Listen. Always listen.

Mary gave me permission to blog about her with the hope that it may encourage others. I’ll never forget who she is because “a lifetime’s not too long to live as friends.” (Friends – Michael W. Smith)

What friend do you have that doesn’t know who she/he is? Maybe you need to apologize for who you were and thank them for influencing who you are now.

“Wounds from a friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” Proverbs 27:6 (New Living Translation)

the mission:
PROCLAIM the good news; HEAL the sick and oppressed; BRING JUSTICE
~ Luke 4:16-20

Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing (John 14:12)
~ Jesus 

Copyright 2005-2010 Lisa Biggs Crum
Email for reprint permission