Saturday, January 21, 2012

Following Directions

Last week there was a Chinese New Year celebration at work and I offered to bake for the dessert competition. I wanted to bring something really good, so I looked online for a great recipe. Finally, I found the one: Macadamia Lemon Bars. I went to the store and bought all the ingredients. I came home, measured out the different quantities of flour, sugar, nuts, lemon juice, and so on, and got started.

First, I made the crust. Then, as the crust was baking, I made the lemon filling to put inside. When the final product was finished, I took it out of the oven…it looked awful. Something was not right. Somewhere along the line, I messed up. I looked at the beautiful picture on the recipe, then at my slimy creation. I had no idea what I did wrong.

I popped it back in the oven, hoping to bake the goo into something edible. Then I started on batch two. The second batch was going to be better. It had to be, I couldn’t bring that stuff I just made into work. So I called someone who could help.

“Mom! I need your help.”

We went through the recipe together as I started on batch two.

Did you cook the crust separately? Yes.
Did you add the right amount of flour? Yes. Of lemon? Yes. Of sugar? Yes.
Did you beat it til it was fluffy? Like this? I asked, stopping the blender.

No, definitely not. And there was my mistake. A seemingly small part of the instructions, but I guess it made a big difference.

I turned the blender back on. "Is this fluffy?" I asked. "No, not yet," she said.
"Is this fluffy?" I asked again. "Nope, keep going."
"Is this fluffy enough?" I asked for the third time. "Yes, that’s good."

I poured the bubbly, or fluffly, filling into the crust and viola! 15 minutes later I had a beautiful dessert that looked exactly like the picture in the recipe. As it turns out, you can’t just follow some of the directions. You have to follow all of them, as the baker originally wrote them. Of course there is always room for creativity, but the basics remain the same, especially when you’re learning.

Then I started to think about how that compares to my relationship with God. He’s the original baker. He wrote the directions, he gave us the ingredients, and now it’s up to us to follow them. He gives us very clear directions through the commandments, Jesus’ teachings, the prophets. Hey, we have a huge instruction manual called the Bible. It has examples, stories, and some versions even have pictures.

You know, we get a lot of instructions in life, from all different directions.
  • Family: clean your room, be nice to your sister, set the table for dinner.
  • Friends: come over to my house, come out to dinner, come to a movie with us.Fri
  • Teachers: Study hard, do your homework, read the directions before taking the test.
  • Bosses: Prepare the report for Friday, schedule a meeting for Tuesday, get the information to me by Wednesday
  • Inanimate Objects: Do not remove tag from mattress, read instructions before assembling, allow 5 minutes to cool before eating

You would think that with so many instructions in our lives, we would be used to it by now. Yet somehow, I still find myself falling short when it comes to God’s instructions for my life. But I know I’m not alone. Today, we heard the latter part of the story of Jonah, who, when he received God’s instructions, ran far. Ninevah, was east. He ran to Tarshish, which was in Spain. He really couldn’t have gone any further if he tried.

But within this story, we hear about the Ninevites, who were not very good people. They didn’t know about God and their lives showed that. It was so awful there, that God was going to destroy the entire city in 40 days. That’s pretty bad. But you see, Jonah came speaking God’s words and they believed him and acted immediately. Immediately. The people and the king, the government, all stopped their violence and put on sackcloth and hoped God would be merciful. They even put sackcloth on their animals.

I don’t know about you, but I think I fall somewhere in the middle. I generally listen, and my response usually isn’t to run halfway across the country. At the same time, I’m guilty of taking quite a bit of time to do what he tells me.

The story from Mark is a prime example of obediently following God’s instructions from the get go. He called, they came. No questions asked. But I think that our relationship with God goes much deeper than just following directions.

There’s a great song by Matthew West titled The Motions which goes:

I don’t wanna go through the motions
I don’t wanna go one more day
Without Your all consuming passion inside of me

I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking
What if I had given everything
Instead of going through the motions

No regrets, not this time
I’m gonna let my heart defeat my mind
Let Your love make me whole
I think I’m finally feeling something
Cause just okay is not enough

The disciples definitely didn’t just go through the motions and okay wasn’t enough for them or for God. They lived out their faith each day of their lives. In the translation of the passage from Mark we heard today, Jesus says, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”

Jesus wasn’t asking them to add this on to their to-do list: Fish for dinner, fish for a living, and now, fish for people. No, Jesus was inviting them to a new life. A different translation of the same passage shows this more clearly, saying, “And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.” Not another task, a new lifestyle, a complete spiritual makeover if you will.

When God puts questions, challenges, or tasks in front of you, how do you respond? Do you run? Do you get up and follow his instructions? Do you follow just some of the directions? Do you give God the opportunity to change your life?

A dear friend of mine once spoke these words to me, which really hit home. If your vision for your life, your ministry, your church doesn’t change you, it isn’t going to change anything else. Sometimes following the directions requires us to change our direction.

I’m sure you’ve heard the Woody Allen quote, or a version of it:

You see, God already has directions for you and he wants more than just the motions. He asks us to come and follow. He will make you fishers of men.

When I finally followed the directions, I was presented with a delicious dessert. Today I ask you to listen to what God is asking of you. What directions has he given you? If you step out of the boat and follow him, you might just find something sweet.