Tag Archives: Peter

Reflections on Bargaining

I am lousy at bargaining (1). In fact, I don’t like to do it. Just give me your best deal up front. So I seldom try to bargain. Except when it comes to God. I have tried bargaining with Him more times than I can recall. I guess that’s why I like the following story.

A little boy wanted a bike for Christmas. On Christmas Eve he hunted around the house and realized that none of the parcels were big enough to contain a bike. Worried that he might not be getting the bike, he got down on his knees and said, “God, I really want a bike for Christmas. I really do. More than anything else I want a bicycle. And God, if you give me a bicycle for Christmas, I promise I’ll be good for a month. For one month, God. I won’t do anything wrong. I will please only you.”

He went to bed and started to think that his bargain with God was not very realistic – after all, a month is a very long time. So he got back on his knees and said, “Okay, God. I’ll tell you what. I will give you a week. I will be good for a whole week if you give me a bicycle for Christmas.” He got back in bed – and started thinking about how his sister and how annoying she was, how she knew just what to say to get him wound him up and make him mad. He realized a week was probably too long also. So he got back on his knees again, and said, “Okay, God. I’ll tell you what. How about a day, okay? You give me a bike tomorrow for Christmas – I’ll be good for a day.”

Then he started thinking about his mother and how he had to keep his room tidy and all the other little things he didn’t do, and how he might fail even in a day. Then it hit him. He remembered a small, formal chapel, right near where he lived. He sneaked out of bed and hurried across the street. He opened the door to the chapel and just on the left was a little stone basin for holding water, and above that was a small statue of Mary.

He took the statue off the pedestal, ran out of the chapel, dashed across the street, sneaked upstairs, and barricaded himself in his bedroom. He put the statue in his wardrobe, closed the door, got down on his knees and prayed, “Okay, Jesus. If you ever want to see your mother again…”

I wonder if it worked? I doubt it. God really isn’t interested in bargains. Yes, He certainly tells us to ask – but never does He tell us to bargain for anything. The Psalmist learned this lesson. “You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” (Ps. 51:16-17 New Living Translation) The prophet Hosea learned it. “You don’t want sacrifices. If I gave an entirely burned offering, you wouldn’t be pleased. A broken spirit is my sacrifice, God. You won’t despise a heart, God, that is broken and crushed.” (Hosea 6:6-7 Common English Bible). Peter learned it. In response to a man who offered to pay money for the spiritual gifts Peter was exercising, “Peter replied, “May your money be destroyed with you for thinking God’s gift can be bought! You can have no part in this, for your heart is not right with God.” (Acts 8:20-22 New Living Translation)

God isn’t interested in bargains. What God gives He gives freely; it can’t be bargained for. The reality is He does not want what we can offer — He wants us. As for those bargains we do end up trying to make with God? Be careful. Should God decide to agree and keep His end of the bargain, we need to be prepared to keep our end. Far more times than I want to think about I’ve heard someone say or pray  “If God does such-and such” (like heal or grant their desire) “then I’ll…..” (be more faithful at church, give more, etc.). And when God did what they asked they fail to follow through. That’s plain dangerous. The side preacher warned:

“As you enter the house of God, keep your ears open and your mouth shut. It is evil to make mindless offerings to God. Don’t make rash promises, and don’t be hasty in bringing matters before God. After all, God is in heaven, and you are here on earth. So let your words be few. Too much activity gives you restless dreams; too many words make you a fool. When you make a promise to God, don’t delay in following through, for God takes no pleasure in fools. Keep all the promises you make to him. It is better to say nothing than to make a promise and not keep it. Don’t let your mouth make you sin. And don’t defend yourself by telling the Temple messenger that the promise you made was a mistake. That would make God angry, and he might wipe out everything you have achieved. Talk is cheap, like daydreams and other useless activities. Fear God instead.” (Ecclesiastes 5:1-7)

If you like to bargain, do it with gusto. You’ll probably get better deals than I will. And that’s fine. But be careful trying to bargain with God. The following ancient prayer of submission, prayed daily, is a good antidote to the desire to bargain – and it will take you straight to the throne and heart of God.

“I am willing, Lord, to receive what You give, to lack what You withhold, to relinquish what You take, to surrender what You claim, to suffer what You ordain, to do what You command, to wait until You say ‘Go.’” (2)

(1) Photo by Phad Pichetbovornkul on Unsplash

(2) From Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymns Stories for Daily Devotions by Kenneth W. Osbeck, August 15 entry

The Aliens Among Us

When our son and his family moved from Michigan to Texas our granddaughter had an interesting experience. Her new 8th grade classmates warmly greeted and accepted this Michigan transplant. But one girl came up to her and, in all sincerity, asked “Do they have TV’s up there?” What a hoot!

I doubt very much that our granddaughter was all that strange but someone certainly thought the place she came from was strange. It led me to think that perhaps, as Christians, we should expect such strange questions – after all, we are from a different place. There are aliens among us – and they are us! We truly are aliens in a foreign land.

Here’s how the Apostle Peter stated it: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10) We are a strange, set apart people. We are strangers, aliens and foreigners in this world.

This means that we need to be intentional about our strangeness – not that we behave oddly just to be different but that we be holy so we will be different, for Christ’s sake. Peter continued: “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.“ (1 Peter 2:11-12) We are aliens, strangers in a foreign land and should live strangely – different from the natives of the land. Eugene Peterson, in The Message, puts some clarifying flesh on these verses: “Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.” So if someone thinks you’re strange, take it as a compliment because you should be!

The difficulty is that it can be hard to live as an alien. We may well be shunned, mocked, hated, or even persecuted – because the natives do not understand. The Good News Translation emphasizes it by translating the verses this way: “I appeal to you, my friends, as strangers and refugees in this world! Do not give in to bodily passions, which are always at war against the soul. Your conduct among the heathen should be so good that when they accuse you of being evildoers, they will have to recognize your good deeds and so praise God on the Day of his coming.” The natives will accuse us but will later recognize the truth and testify for us and give praise to God in doing so.

So just how strange, how different, how thought provoking is your behavior? Has anyone accused you lately of being strange? Has your behavior and lifestyle drawn enough attention to warrant someone’s negativity? How foreign have you appeared in the eyes of the natives around you? If no one has thought you strange, it may be time to examine your life and your witness, to ask if you are living in the marvelous light. And if you have been accused of being strange or your life has been questioned, – praise God! After all, you are the alien among us.