Pampered Pets

“Then Joshua said to the children of Israel: “How long will you neglect to go and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers has given you?” Joshua 18:3 (NKJV)

I had an experience a couple of weeks ago at work that left me annoyed. A couple of days ago, I had a repeat of that experience, which left me angry. These experiences consisted of brief conversations with a fellow employee who sought me out to ask me a few questions.

This employee’s opening comment to me (in our first conversation) was, “I understand that you are really religious. I am thinking about checking out a new religion and I wanted to ask you about it.” So, to be perfectly honest, my hackles immediately go up because I detest the phrase “really religious.” She went on to explain that she was brought up in a particular denomination (one which I was familiar with) and wanted to check out this other “religion.” However, she did not know that this “other religion” was also a Christian denomination.  I tried to briefly answer her questions and sent her on her way, leaving me shaking my head at what I had just heard.

Fast forward to a couple of days ago.  She sought me out again to tell me that she hadn’t yet visited this other “religion,” but that she had gone to hear a couple of preachers (who are actually affiliated with this denomination). When I told her that she had already met her goal of checking things out, she was surprised. I knew then what she was looking for. She was looking for a “show.” She was expecting something akin to “rolling in the aisles and foaming at the mouth,” and when she didn’t see what she was expecting, she didn’t know the difference. I found out later that this woman’s primary interest in this denomination had more to do about gaining favor with the man she was currently intimate with, than any real interest in matters of faith.

I realized that she was playing games with Christianity and it made me angry–really angry.

For most of my life I have been willing to “go along to get along.”  Of a socially reticent nature, I have always wanted to “play nice in the sandbox” because I never wanted to “rock the boat.” Conflict and anger were something I studiously avoided. I was too insecure and fearful to do otherwise. I became the ultimate in “stealth Christianity.” I couldn’t bear the thought of a disagreement with anyone about anything. I realize now that I have been afraid of the offense of the Gospel and inadvertently became a spiritual “pampered pet.”

But you see, God has no “pampered pets” in His Kingdom.  God’s prevailing principle is this: “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” (Luke 12:48b)  The multitude of talents and abilities each of us have been given, are for a specific purpose: to advance God’s Kingdom. We didn’t do anything to earn them; we didn’t do anything to deserve them; they were a gift and we have been given the responsiblity to use them wisely on His behalf.

Christians in the rest of the world know far better than we do that God has no “pampered pets.”  In most countries, there is a real price to be paid for faith in Jesus Christ. These Christians are willing to pay the price to hold tight to the great gift of salvation they have been given through Jesus Christ, no matter what it costs them.

The American church, for the most part, seems to have forgotten this. We sit in the ease of our comfortable churches, with our pretty pews, sweet songs and lengthy liturgies, listening to pastors preach soothing sermons. We come out of our Sunday services feeling good about ourselves, but no one can tell we are much different for the experience. If the sermon being preached on any given Sunday doesn’t make us squirm a bit and cause us to change, it hasn’t done its job. We should be called to repentance; we should be called to prayer; we should be called to action when the Word is preached. Our pastor’s job is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Most of us are far too comfortable and satisfied in our Christian lives; we aren’t being “afflicted” nearly enough. What would happen if we actually met the power of the Living Word on any given Sunday morning? Would we ever be the same? Could those around us ever be the same?

Now it was so, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the Testimony were in Moses’ hand when he came down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him. So when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. Then Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned to him; and Moses talked with them.  Afterward all the children of Israel came near, and he gave them as commandments all that the LORD had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face. But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would take the veil off until he came out; and he would come out and speak to the children of Israel whatever he had been commanded. And whenever the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone, then Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with Him.” Exodus 34: 29-35 (NKJV)

There was no doubt in any of the Israelite’s minds that Moses had spent time with God. It was visible. In fact, when the Israelites saw the power of God manifested on Moses’ face, they were afraid. When was the last time we came out of church and people saw that much of the power of God on us?

God has given each of us specific talents and abilities and He has put us in a place of influence in which to apply them. It doesn’t matter whether God has given us great intellect or He has given us simple talents. Our work, whatever it might be, is part of our act of worship. Our work is also the act of taking dominion in this world that God has entrusted to us (just as Adam was commanded to do in Genesis 1:28).  Work is not a curse. Adam had a “job” before the fall of man and sin entered into the world. The work of our hands should flow out of our love, gratitude, and obedience to the God Who gives us breath. And as we do His work at His command, God’s presence will be manifested to others through us.

I believe that it is time for us to roll up our sleeves and get to work in changing the world around us with the Good News of the Gospel, instead of sitting around waiting for the “rapture” to yank us out of this mess. Over the last couple of weeks, I have heard phrases of an old song by Steve Green rolling around in my heart.

Do you think God is trying to tell me something?

The River

There’s a river ever flowing, wid’ning, never slowing and all who wade out in are swept away. When it ends, where it’s going, like the wind, no way of knowing until we answer the call to risk it all and enter in.

The river calls, we can’t deny. A step of faith is our reply. We feel the Spirit draw us in. The water’s swift. We’re forced to swim. We’re out of control and we go where He flows.

There’s a river, ever flowing, wid’ning, never slowing, and all who wade out in are swept away. When it ends, where it’s going, like the wind, no way of knowing, until we answer the call to risk it all and enter in.

Danger awaits at ev’ry turn. We choose a course, we live and learn. As we surrender to His will, we’re at peace but we’re seldom still. He is in control and we go where He flows.

There’s a river ever flowing, wid’ning, never slowing and all who wade out in are swept away. When it ends, where it’s going, like the wind, no way of knowing until we answer the call to risk it all and enter in.

Words and music by Jon Mohr and Randall Dennis
Copyright 1998 Sony/ATV Songs LLC, Randy Cox Music, Inc., Sony/ATV Tunes LLC and Molto Bravo! Music, Inc. All rights admin by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, 8 Music Square West, Nashville, TN 37203.

Copyright © 2011 by Susan E. Johnson
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