Sunday, August 7, 2011


Thoughts on the Sabbath School Lesson for 8.13.11

I don’t know about you, but when and where I grew up, saying “uncle” was not a good thing.  It meant that you had met your match and that you were giving up the fight and admitting that your opponent was stronger than you.  Saying “uncle” carried a certain amount of shame with it, especially if there were witnesses.

As adults, we usually don’t grab anybody in a headlock and give him (or her) noogies until he screams “uncle.”  We have more subtle ways to gain, consolidate, and demonstrate our power.  We use our homes, cars, education, credit limit, pretty much anything can become a tool used to make sure those around us know just how tough we are.

And yet, Jesus tells us over and over again, that we need to let all that go; that earthly power means absolutely nothing, and we’re not sure what to do about that.

Can you imagine a society where everyone has given up all of his power?  Now, I’m not talking about giving up your freedom, but giving up power.  There’s a difference.  If you give up your freedom, then you end up in 1984 or A Brave New World or any number of other Utopian novels.  And that is a terrifying concept.  I’m trying to imagine a place where, well, maybe we don’t give up our power; we admit up front that we know we don’t have any power to give up. 

And that’s exactly where a true worship experience brings us.  Open your Bible to the book of Psalms and read practically every one and you will find the author of that Psalm finding his way to that place where he remembers where the power is – with God.

Let’s look at Psalm 90.  It was written by Moses.
“A prayer of Moses the man of God.   Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.  Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.  You turn people back to dust, saying, 'Return to dust, you mortals.'
A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.  Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—they are like the new grass of the morning: In the morning it springs up new, but by evening it is dry and withered We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation.  You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan.  Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. If only we knew the power of your anger! Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due. Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.   Relent, LORD! How long will it be? Have compassion on your servants. Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble. May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children.  May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.”  Psalm 90.
Now through the eyes of the world, Moses was and had been a very powerful individual; not the least of which was the grandson of Pharaoh and then God’s chosen leader of the children of Israel.  And yet throughout this Psalm, Moses reminds himself and us that God is totally and completely in charge and that he (Moses) likes it that way.

In fact, if we were to make the Psalms our model of worship, no matter where we each started, we would always end up in the same place – the place where we have learned that we can only survive through God.  We essentially wrestle with God for control of our lives until we realize we can’t win and we say, “uncle.”
When it comes to submitting our entire lives to God, most of us at some time or another, have decided we’re not ready.
“In his book Generation Ex-Christian, about younger Christians leaving Christianity, author Drew Dyck relates one interview with a young man who left Christianity to join the Wicca religion.
“Morninghawk Apollo (who renamed himself as is common in Wiccan practice) discussed his rejection of Christianity with candor. ‘Ultimately why I left is that the Christian God demands that you submit to his will. In Wicca, it's just the other way around. Your will is paramount. We believe in gods and goddesses, but the deities we choose to serve are based on our wills.’”[1]
Wow, that’s really powerful, isn’t it?  Submitting our will to God’s will is a completely unnatural act for a sinful human being, but if we make our will “paramount”, well, then, we’ve become our own gods.

God isn’t asking us to do anything, really, except love Him and accept His gift for Jesus’ life and death for our sins.  You’d think we’d be running to accept.  Instead, we’re acting like this guy:
“On March 10, 1974, Lt. Hiroo Onada was the last World War II Japanese soldier to surrender.
“Onada had been left on the island Lubang in the Philippines on December 25, 1944, with the command to "carry on the mission even if Japan surrenders." Four other Japanese soldiers were left on the island as Japan evacuated Lubang. One soldier surrendered in 1950. Another was killed in a skirmish with local police in 1954. Another was killed in 1972. Onada continued his war alone.
“All efforts to convince him to surrender or to capture him failed. He ignored messages from loudspeakers announcing Japan's surrender and that Japan was now an ally of the United States. Leaflets were dropped over the jungle begging him to surrender so he could return to Japan. He refused to believe or surrender.
“Over the years he lived off the land and raided the fields and gardens of local citizens. He was responsible for killing at least 30 nationals during his 29 year personal war. Almost a half million dollars was spent trying to locate and convince him to surrender. 13,000 men were used to try to locate him.
“Finally, on March 10, 1974, almost 30 years after World War II ended, Onada surrendered his rusty sword after receiving a personal command from his former superior officer, who read the terms of the cease-fire order. Onada handed his sword to President Marcos, who pardoned him. The war was over.
“Onada was 22-years-old when left on the island. He returned a prematurely aged man of 52. Onada stated, ‘Nothing pleasant happened in the 29 years in the jungle.’
“Like Onada, many people are fighting a lonely battle against the God who is offering reconciliation and peace.”[2]  
Time to stop fighting; let’s say “uncle” and surrender to Jesus.  Nothing good can come from resisting Him.

[1] Drew Dyck, "The Leavers," Christianity Today (November, 2010), p. 43; excerpted from Generation Ex-Christian (Moody, 2010)
[2] Summarized from a 1974 story in Newsweek; submitted by Syd Brestel, Bend, Oregon

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