Wednesday, May 28, 2008

5 indicators that it's time to challenge old assumptions and grow

What do you say when you sense God leading you to once-taboo actions or into thought-to-be unholy arenas?

“Not hardly, Lord.”

That’s the response of one of the leading followers of Jesus. Confronted in a vision with the voice of Jesus telling him to kill and eat Torah-forbidden animals, Peter naturally resists.

Three times he declines the non-kosher dinner offer. And three times he receives a counter-challenge to his risky rebuff:

“If God says it’s okay, it’s okay.”

This encounter, told fully in Acts of the Apostles 10-11, prepares Peter to get beyond himself, his phobias and his cultural insulation in order to let God’s grace flow through him. Out of this head-spinning, heart-searching vision, Peter would awaken to real-world needs--needs and opportunities for which God’s grace is the answer but through which only vision-challenged disciples who can get beyond themselves can be effective.

In order to bear grace to Gentiles in whom God was already stirring, Peter had to let go of long-held taboos, norms, legalisms and prejudices. Eating non-kosher food would just be the tip of an iceberg that would need to be melted over a lifetime of spiritual breakthroughs.

Getting beyond ourselves it still one of the great spiritual challenges for Jesus’ followers. Drawn from Peter’s story in Acts 10-11, here are 5 indicators that it may well be time—and past time—for us to get beyond ourselves.

It’s time to get beyond ourselves…

1. ...When our habits, preferences, traditions and self-interest DULL us to God’s present, forward-looking work in the world. Acts 11:5-8

How do routine, non-spiritual things in my life become barriers to fresh faith and my ability to see God’s work in others’ lives?

2. ...When we find ourselves RESISTING God’s voice of challenge to our “narrowness,” “stuck-ness,” or “me-ness.” Acts 11:8-10

What will it take for me to be shaken loose from my cocoon of familiarity, convenience, and excuses?

3. ...When God SENDS people our way who need and want to know about the faith we have been given. Acts 11:11-14

Who has God sent my way in the past six months with hopes, hurts, and spiritual longing? What has been my response? What can I do when this happens again?

4. ...When God DEMONSTRATES overwhelming grace in lives and groups we have previously written off, suspected, or excluded. Acts 11:15-18

Where in the world and in what groups is God’s grace being embraced? What changes in attitude, care, and solidarity does this call for from me?

5. ...When to stay where we are in our faith--or to not share our faith--will hide God’s light and NULLIFY our witness. Matthew 5:13-16

Am I willing to say "Yes" today as I am called let go of spiritual and cultural dead weight and to walk into a future of witness and growth as God leads me?

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