And it came to pass, when the king had heard the word of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes. 2 Kings 22:11 ASV
In my culture, the Christian has arrived at the status of a disdained individual not to be trusted. He is viewed with suspicion, someone whose views are dangerous and intolerant. Santa Claus equals faith, marriage between men and women is archaic, and the church is nothing more than a social club enjoying a tax free status.
Ouch, again. Of course, there are pockets of faith nestled throughout my wonderful country; people who believe and are obedient to God’s word live out the call of Jesus in vibrant and loving ways in communities and families.
The call of the church becomes increasingly difficult, though, in a hostile environment, but that neither absolves us from completing the task nor from devoting ourselves wholeheartedly to the mission ahead. Perhaps, the modern church is no more persecuted than it ever has been. Our early forefathers were fed to lions. So far, so good for the Western Church.
I have no apology in repeating my love of God’s Word. The early church lived It as It wrote It. We have the benefit of thousands of years of experience and wisdom at our fingertips in every form imaginable: written, electronic, and audible texts available on multitudes of devices. So, are we more familiar than ever with God’s thoughts and intentions?
A story I heard reminds me of how many Christians live out their lives.
A woman baked her holiday ham in a pan. Before she put the ham into the pan, she cut it in half. Her family asked her why she did this, year after year.
Her response: “My mother always did it this way.”
Next, her family went to the source.
“Grandma, why did you cut your ham in half every year?”
Grandma brightened. “Because my pan was too small.”
And so, a tradition was born.
I can at least compliment this family for investigating the source of the origin of the habit. How many Christians go through life without a full understanding, knowledge, and appreciation of the foundation of our faith? Do we go through the motions because that’s what we’ve seen and are familiar with or because we are totally sold out to Jesus and want to live for Him, in whatever He may call us to do?
I believe the church has always been hard at work striving to fulfill the mission. There has always been a remnant of believers in the kingdom, even during the Old Testament captivities. God’s work will continue, with us or without us.
Our human nature may be the stealth entry for the devil to sink his teeth into, and leave the marks of apathy and disinterest, which robs the believer of the vibrancy and zest to be displayed to the world. I encountered this example recently.
A trip to the gulf coast introduced to me a new thing. As a paleo eater, I was not able to participate but my interest was peaked nonetheless.
The children in my traveling group clamored for King Cake.
The King Cake is a confection served during Mardi Gras, a ring of cinnamon cake covered with purple, green, and gold sugar. Inside the cake, a tiny plastic baby is found. The individual who receives the toy in their portion of the cake has to buy the next cake. Even though I don’t partake, I could certainly appreciate the fun of the tradition and the joy in the children’s eyes when the cake arrived.
The tradition has been well received for as long as the members of my group could remember, most of us young senior citizens. However, no one could explain the origin or meaning of the cake other than it always has been associated with the festival of Mardi Gras.
A bit of research on the internet revealed to me that the origin of the King Cake is tied to the Epiphany or the Kings Day. The gift of the Magi, in an oval symbolizing unity, displays the qualities of justice, faith, and power. The purple, green, and gold parallels those spiritual attributes. The cinnamon represents the spices the Kings brought to the Savior in His manger. The discovery of the plastic baby represents the opportunity to discover the Christ child.
I wonder how many Mardi Gras celebrants think about Jesus when they celebrate? Do they savor the flavor of His presence and appreciate His justice by showing us mercy? Do they recognize His power in their lives and feast into faith that energizes and sweetens us like the colorful sugars? Have they discovered the infant that grew to walk the road to the cross on their behalf?
Like the ham cutter and the cake eater, we can participate and enjoy, yet not know why. A culture hostile to Jesus will savor and embrace those benefits He and his people sacrificed to make available for all, while disdaining Christians and their mission.
My prayer is that the church continue to be diligent in its study and execution of God’s word. I pray the day will not come when we will be like King Josiah and tear our clothes when we realize what we have missed. Study to show yourself approved. Be a workmen of God, a vessel of honor, and prepared for every good work. The King’s cake that awaits you is sweeter than you can imagine.
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