My own personal stance against religious hypocrisy - both my own, and any others who seek to hurt people in the name of God.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Apple

A long time ago (to me), perhaps as many as thirty-five years, I was attending community college. I carpooled with my best friend. I drove. Until one day he suggested we ride with his father and I leave my car at his place.

I agreed, but it didn't set well with me, and by lunch time I was walking back to his house to get my car. Any reason to skip class, you know.

It was a hot September day, and the walk was something like seven miles.

Back in those days we didn't carry backpacks, water bottles, or things like that. And so at about the halfway point I was thirsty.

The route I chose was the shortest I could think of. It followed the divided highway. Along the one side was a residential district, separated from the highway by a four foot chain link fence. A path through the tall grass showed I was not the first to take this route.

I got to thinking about apples, and how a nice juicy Macintosh apple would taste just wonderful. The more I thought about it the more I wished I had one. I decided that when I got back to my car I was going to drive to a store and buy me a bag of Macintosh apples. That's what I was going to do. And then I would savor it's juiciness and flavor.

All of a sudden I stopped walking. There, laying on the path before me, was a bright red Macintosh apple. I looked around. Aside from the cars whizzing by there were no people to be seen. There was no apple tree from which the apple could have fallen. But it was there.

Now normally I would not have paid this apple any mind. Fallen food on the ground is just that: Food on the ground. Dirty. Germs. Disgusting.

But I had been thinking about an apple. Specifically, a Macintosh apple. And here before me now was exactly what I had been wishing for.

I picked it up and made a cursory examination. No bruises. No bite marks or cuts of any kind. I thanked God for the apple and ate it. It was as cool, juicy, and refreshing as I hoped.

So how did the apple get there? And why?

Logically, it was there because some other person had put it there. Either accidentally or on purpose. It could have been thrown from a car. It could have been dropped by a previous walker. Or, perhaps God just created an apple right there. The truth is, I don't know. I may never know. What I believe is that God answered the prayer of my heart and gave me an apple. I expect it was a small thing to do, but much appreciated. So much so that I still remember it with thanksgiving.

There are people who are searching for God but say they cannot find him. Why not?

Read this piece of scripture and think about it.

Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets. Matthew 7:7-12 Revised Standard Version

God is always at hand to be found. He really is. However, when we restrict ourselves to only seeing him in a way of our choosing, we are probably going to miss him. Kind of like hiding in plain sight.

God nearly always uses the things and people of this world to answer prayer. We don't want that. We want the parting of the Red Sea. We want to walk on water. We want to raise the dead.

When things seem to happen as a natural order of events we wonder if God was involved. "It would have happened anyway," we say. Do we really know that? When much needed money arrives in the exact amount we need we rejoice. Then we find the money was sent days, or weeks, before we even knew we needed it. Was God involved?

It all comes down to faith, doesn't it? And faith is NOT what we feel about a thing. It's what we CHOOSE to believe. And we know we believe because we ACT accordingly.

If we really believe God forgives everybody, including those who have been especially horrible to us or those we love, then we will forgive everybody, including those who have been especially horrible to us or those we love.

If we really believe that salvation is based on forgiveness and not our own self-righteous efforts, then we will not be troubled about admitting our failings, for we will be relying on forgiveness to get to heaven.

What we feel is often at odds with what we believe. And this confuses us.

Read what Paul wrote:

I do not understand my own actions. For I do what I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. Romans 7:15-20 Revised Standard Version

Often we hear ourselves and/or other Christians - or people of faith - wail that they desire to be more patient. This cry from the heart is based on a misunderstanding about what patience really is.

We think patience is how we feel during stressful times. It is not. It is how we behave.

Think of the baseball player, standing with a bat in his hand and waiting for the pitch. It comes. His mind processes that it is a curve ball. Every muscle in his body wants to swing NOW. His emotions are screaming for action. But his will forces himself to wait. Just a fraction of a second longer. And WHAM! He gets the hit. Maybe even a home run. The impatient hitter feels all of these things - and swings early, striking out.

Patience isn't how we feel. It is how we discipline ourselves to not make decisions based on feelings.

When we see someone behaving patiently we assume they are not feeling the pressure. Wrong! They are simply holding back their actions.

God is here. With us. He grants us what we want through the people and things of the world. Sometimes to receive it we must wait. And wait. And wait.

But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:8-9 Revised Standard Version

The above verse is, of course, speaking of Christ's return to earth. However, I believe we should keep it in mind when waiting for other things, too.

We forget that this life is just a short blot in history. We are in a nursery of sorts. When we are ready, God will let us into the wide place of heaven and everything else.

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