The Chinese Menu
Did you ever order a meal from a Chinese restaurant? Chances are you have – I know we’ve done it many times. And most of the time, you get a number of choices – you may get one item from column “A” and several items from column “B”. You can decide if you wish to add egg rolls or almond cookies, but the basic idea here is that the goal is to pick a menu that suits your palate. None of us wants to order something that doesn’t agree with us, or something that we just don’t like. Throughout the years, we have come to expect Chinese restaurants to offer us choices rather than pre-determined plates of food. And in fact, it’s not uncommon for us to attend Chinese buffets, where we have almost unlimited choices to create our meals any way we like.
The problem is that many people see the Bible the same way. Let’s face it – it’s difficult to follow the mandates of the Scripture. It’s not easy to be Christian. Oh, I know – yes, all that is needed for salvation is a profession of belief in the deity of Jesus Christ. That gets you into heaven – nothing more is needed. That’s quite clear – you don’t need to be baptized, or any number of other things, including sacraments, that some denominations profess that you need to enter heaven. But the purpose of tonight’s post isn’t to determine what you should or should not do to receive salvation – it is to stir your imagination and try to hold you accountable to a higher degree of commitment to the mandates of the Father. By the way, that goes for me as well – I think everybody struggles with doing things that just aren’t convenient.
How many people state that they believe in the Bible, but decide that they don’t want to attend church? Yet first century believers were quick to meet daily and share everything they had with one another. There is something important about community with other believers yet many Christ followers don’t see the need to enter into fellowship with one another. That view is in fundamental opposition to what Christ wanted for us.
Or how about working on the Sabbath? God clearly wanted us to have a day of rest – in fact, even God Himself rested on the seventh day of creation – but we really don’t heed that biblical imperative either. But the Father wants us to have a day to worship Him and rest from our regular labors.
One of the big things that we tend to ignore is the mandate about tithing – that means giving 10% of our income to the church and/or other worthy institutions. In the old days, giving 10% was the minimum allowable contribution and it was not uncommon for people to give several “tithes” that added up to more than 30% of what they earned. Yet most of us balk at 4 or 5%, let alone a full 10%.
One of the most controversial biblical mandates is the prohibition against marrying an unbeliever. The Bible refers to being “unequally yoked”. This is not unique to the Christian community. Many people in the Jewish faith, and others, request that their children and families carry on the tradition of marrying within the same faith. God was very clear, originally with the people of Israel, that they were not to intermarry. Yet I receive many phone calls each year from people who really don’t care about even having a faith based wedding, let alone with someone of the same faith. And today, people convince themselves that it doesn’t matter if they marry someone who doesn’t believe in God. How wrong they are! But people convince themselves that they are ordering their theology from a Chinese menu.
They choose several options they think they can live with but then disregard other areas of the Bible they just can’t agree with – because it doesn’t fit with their own desires. Statistically, most of the time, these marriages just don’t work out – and that’s just sad…
The verse for this evening is from Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Notice it says that we should trust God and acknowledge Him in ALL your ways – not just those that suit you. By the way, none of us is perfect. We will all fall short of the things that God wants us to follow – but that doesn’t mean that we can pick and choose the things that we wish to follow. That’s not living a God centered life.
My encouragement this evening is that God wants us to be aware of and follow His desires for entering into deeper relationship with Him. My prayer is that we all will consider honoring His mandates and that we will put the desires of the Father ahead of our own desires when considering the kind of life we will lead. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…