Re-reading the Manual

Sunday, our normal preacher didn’t take the stand, but the pastor of operations did. Shane and I have heard the younger speaker before, and agree, he is just as inspiring as our senior pastor. This week, he did not disappoint, bringing forth the word, and presenting it not as a “how-to” manual for life, but instead a story of who. If we constantly and only approach the word as a manual, then we are bound to be disappointed. Ways we can be disappointed could be in ourselves for not measuring up or being disappointed because even though we were following the “directions”, things did not turn out how they were supposed to. We can be disappointed as we feel we are following the “directions” yet others around us, who don’t seem to be following them get promoted, get a bonus, get that relationship we’ve been wanting, that job, that home, what ever.

If your heart is heavy and mind is tired from trying to follow the “how-to” manual, these lyrics from the song “Particles” seem to sum up how it feels in that moment of things not working:

Here I am
Floating in emerald sea
Keep me dancing
Keep me as still as can be
And I try to keep the balance right
And I try but it feels like wasted time

But these heavy hands
They’re pulling me down on my chest
Latching on, coloring all of my flesh
Quietly, you hover over me
And I fight but it feels like wasted time

I’ve been there. Who hasn’t been there? I think what really hurts sometimes is seeing someone you love right there; there in that moment of “but what did I do so wrong, wasn’t I basically following the manual? I have seen others follow it far less, and yet I’m the one suffering.” Any time spent following the manual, feels like wasted time. Disappointments pull you down and seem to latch on. I so want to tell everyone who is standing in that place, there is a door, there is a pathway, there is more to the story. Thank goodness, there is more to the story, there is redemption.

Our regular pastor has been speaking on Revelation, and he is in chapters two and three at this point, and Jesus is revealing things he knows about specific churches, a testament to a central theme in Revelation that God knows what you are going though, it is evident by what he already knows about the churches. At the end of every church statement is written, “He who has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says…” Meaning, if we put it in context of ourselves, we have to be willing to listen. We have to be willing to look for signs of all sizes. This is where our senior pastor said, “Do not miss the subtle ways God reveals himself because you are only looking for the powerful.” Maybe it is a song, maybe it is a blogpost, maybe it is a friend reaching out, but that is God acknowledging that he knows what you are going through and he is trying to reach out to you about it.

The bridge for me between his message from Revelation on April 29 to this past Sunday’s sermon on the Bible as a “how to” guide, was this idea of not giving up. If you have followed the Bible like a “how-to” manual instead of a story about who, then trying something else might seem to make more sense, ignoring it until Sunday may seem easier, or tossing out the manual altogether may seem like an answer, but there is more to the story than a list of do’s and don’ts and more to your story. It may feel like God hasn’t noticed how you have followed directions or at least that other people have followed them less and yet they are receiving blessings and it just feel like time wasted, but there is more.

Pointing out synonyms, we looked at Psalm 19:7-10 where it speaks of the law of the Lord, or synonyms for law like commands or decrees.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
    making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
    giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
    giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure,
    enduring forever.
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
    and all of them are righteous.

10 They are more precious than gold,
    than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
    than honey from the honeycomb.

 

Here it is, verses making promises, following all these rules should work, right? So why doesn’t it always work out? Where is the beauty in illness, in a car crash, in debt, in a broken family? Let’s pause and consider, what if we re-read those verses and replace the “how-to” with a who.

7  Jesus is perfect,
    refreshing the soul.
Jesus is trustworthy,
    making wise the simple.
Jesus is right,
    giving joy to the heart.
Jesus is radiant,
    giving light to the eyes.
Jesus is pure,
    enduring forever.
Jesus is firm,
    and all of them are righteous.

10 Jesus is more precious than gold,
    than much pure gold;
He is sweeter than honey,
    than honey from the honeycomb.

 

And what if we look at the truth Jesus shared about himself in Matthew 11 where his arms are stretched out, reaching for us? It adds so much to these Psalms full of promises and helps fulfill a beautiful image of a caring savior.

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Jesus is the answer. He is perfect, he is pure, he is forever. He is all of those things that the Psalms describes. While those descriptions may be applied to many unreachable gods, Jesus is reachable. In fact, he is reaching out for us with the promise of rest.

Jesus is the answer. Every time he speaks to a church in Revelation, our pastor pointed out, Jesus identifies himself to them, and to the suffering church of Smyrna, he presents himself as the one who died and came to life again. For that particular church, they needed to know that, they were under real persecution, and some wouldn’t survive. But, we need to be reminded of eternity too. This isn’t it, there is more, so much more to all of our stories thanks to Jesus, and when it seems like the rules, the decrees, the manual isn’t working, Jesus is perfect, refreshing to the soul and waiting to give us rest.

I have to finish with this quote from our senior pastor because as I heard it the first time, I found it so encouraging. The connection I made with this particular quote from his message and resting in Jesus rather than a “how-to” manual just culminated into a beautiful reminder I want to carry into the remainder of this spring. It is a reminder that I can’t keep to myself as I see hurting people all around me feeling like they are wasting time on laws and decrees with hollow promises. And to contrast the song “Particles”, I also want to share “Your Promises” and hope it is a song you can carry with you this hour, this day , this week to remind you to not give up.

“Don’t give up even though you don’t always understand what God is doing, you may not like it, you may not understand it. Things might happen to you that God didn’t orchestrate because somebody else turned wrong, made a wrong decision and now you are paying the price and he would’ve not wanted you to go through that, but he promised he’d be with you, even in the middle of it. But even if there are things God orchestrates, and you don’t get what he’s doing and the end result, don’t give up.” -Denny Krajacic, Senior Pastor at Butler Community Alliance Church 

 

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