Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Wrong Place

PRINCIPLE: “If you’re in the wrong place, repent.”

I had enjoyed the first day and a half of the ‘Festival of Homiletics’ in Minneapolis. (For those wondering about ‘homiletics’, it means ‘pertaining to the nature of preaching. In other words I was at a preaching festivalJ It just sounds more impressive to use the big word!). I had returned to my motel – just across the street from the new football stadium of the Minnesota Gophers – to spend the evening reading and planning. But first, I needed to eat. On the key cards of the motel there was an ad for 10% off pizza at a local establishment. I had discovered the location was less than a block away so figured I could phone in an order and then pick it up. As I was preparing to make the call I noticed the pizza ad on a plastic stand on the bed stand next to my bed. On the backside was a menu and a note that the complete menu could be accessed through a web link. So I grabbed my computer and went to the site, selected what I wanted and ordered online. After the allotted time I walked to the pizza place up the street. I gave them my name only to hear that they had received no order. I explained it was an online order and gave them the confirmation number, 140. Still no record. The nice man was willing to make the pizza so he asked what I had ordered. The name of the particular pizza didn’t ring a bell with him. Even if it did, I didn’t want to reorder because my card had been charged for the previous order. But I could sit down and wait for him to bake one and I was hungry. While he went to check with his manager, I began to wonder if I was in the right place. By now I figured something wasn’t right. So when he returned and asked what I wanted to do I simply said “I’ll go back to my room and recheck everything.” When I got back to my room I realized the ad on the bedside stand was not the same place that advertized on the room key card. I had been in the wrong place all that while. Glad I didn’t stay!

As I reflected upon and eventually laughed about my embarrassing adventure (and yes you can feel embarrassed even if no one else knows what you did!), I realized that this was not the first time I had been in the wrong place in my life. I’ve often made decisions and taken actions that landed me in many wrong places. And I’m sure I will be in more wrong places. What I’m learning is this: “If you’re in the wrong place, repent.” Yes – seek forgiveness. But ‘repent’ also means to turn around and head in the opposite direction. The Psalmist wrote (34:14) “Turn from evil and do good.” Similarly, Ezekiel said, “Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?”  You see, I could have apologized to the nice man and had him bake a good pizza – but I would have paid for a pizza I never received or ate; I would have forfeited the blessing of what turned out to be a fabulous pizza. I wouold have ‘died’ to that pleasure.

So “If you’re in the wrong place, repent.” Change your location and your actions. Otherwise you’ll never move forward and never get the pizza you deserve and have paid for. Being sorry and embarrassed is not enough. Only true repentance, a true turning of our lives, leads us to the blessing.

So the next time you realize you’re in the wrong place, no one else needs to know. Just remember: “If you’re in the wrong place, repent.”

Friday, May 6, 2011

On Being New

PRINCIPLE: “If you want something new, you must be willing to get rid of the old.”

I should have known. I took the week after Easter off with no plans to go anywhere but outdoors to get a good jump on this year’s yard and garden work. After all, with Easter being so late, the weather should be wonderful. Well, it was a good thought. Who’d have thunk we’d have rain every day? So much for lots of yard work!

So early in the week, to get some exercise, Barb and I went to Menards – just to take a walk. Right! We came home with tiles for one of our bathrooms. Then the work began. After a few hours of scraping up glue and the remains of the old tile, I was really wishing for the rain to go away so I could spread all that mulch! And I really felt like just slapping down the new tiles without getting the surface beneath totally clean. After all, good tiles would stick anyway! Good thing I’m married to Barb. We persisted and got the floor totally clean. She even said to me, “There has to be an illustration in here somewhere.” Yep – and here it is: “If you want something new, you must be willing to get rid of the old.” The new tile will not perform at a maximum level unless you first get rid of the old. I’ve been thinking about that quite a bit. I love the new – but I find it hard to get rid of the old. That’s why I have three wallets – one I use and two old ones on hand ‘just in case.’ (Okay women – before you smile too broadly, how many purses do you have?) That’s partially why we have our old hard drive is still in a closet – just in case we need it. That’s why I have so many old shirts taking up closet space. And the list goes on.

Now think about the principle in our spiritual lives. “If you want something new, you must be willing to get rid of the old.” If you want to be more loving you must first get rid of anger, hatred, and envy. If you want to be more generous, you must first get rid of greed and lessen desire. If you want to be more patient, you must first get rid and anxiety. If you want to be more at peace, you must first get rid of worry. If you want to live more like Christ, you must first get rid of selfish desires and motives. That’s why Paul loved to write about taking off the old and putting on the new. We cannot wear the new if the old is not gone. In fact, this is a key theme in Paul’s letter to the Romans (6:6-14 MSG): “Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer at sin's every beck and call! What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ's sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection. We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us. From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God. That's what Jesus did. That means you must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives. Don't give it the time of day. Don't even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life. Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time—remember, you've been raised from the dead!—into God's way of doing things. Sin can't tell you how to live. After all, you're not living under that old tyranny any longer. You're living in the freedom of God.”

I can’t say it any better (which is why Paul’s words are canonized in Scripture and mine are not!). So remember, “If you want something new, you must be willing to get rid of the old.”