Friday, October 28, 2011

Living in Our Own Little Box

Our daughter Jordan enjoying her box!
     When our children were growing up, they loved boxes almost better than toys.  I have pictures of them sleeping in a box, sitting in a box and pretending the box was a boat.  It was as if the box was their own special safe place to play.  Being in a box is fun for children, but when, as adults, we choose to live in a box of our own making,  the fun stops.  We cut off meaningful relationships with others because they don't fit in our box, and heaven forbid, if we step out of our box to try something new.  After all it is safer here in the box where we can control everything.  Know someone like this?  The Bible tells us about someone that God removed from his box - none other than the Apostle Peter.

     In the book of Acts chapter 10, we are introduced to a Roman Centurion names Cornelius.  He was a god fearing man who prayed to the Lord and gave alms to help others.  He had a vision, one day, of an angel that instructed him to send for man who was staying with Simon the Tanner.  So, Cornelius sent a faithful soldier to bid this man come to his house as the Lord instructed.

     On the next day, Peter the impetuous, headstrong disciple of the Lord went up on the roof of the house where he was staying to pray.  As he did so, he fell into a trance and saw a vision.  Verse 11-13  reads:
".....and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth.  In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air.  And there came a voice to him: 'Rise, Peter, kill and eat.'"  Peter, of course, declined as he was an observant Jew and many of these things were considered unclean.  However, the voice of God spoke again:  "What God has made clean, do not call common.'  This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven" (Acts 10: 15b-16).  Peter's box was being shaken.  The Bible says he was perplexed.

     By the time this had concluded, the servant of Cornelius had reached the home where Peter was staying and asked him to come to the home of the Centurion so he could hear what Peter had to say.  The Apostle invited these men in the home for the night and departed with them the next day.  When they arrived, Cornelius had quite a gathering in his home.  Peter opened his discussion with an admission:  "And he said to them, 'You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.  So when I was sent for, I came without objection" (Acts 10: 28-29a).
Nathan enjoying his box!

     In the events that followed, Cornelius relayed his vision to Peter, and Peter preached to all who were gathered.  While he was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who had heard the Word.  Peter and those with him heard them extolling God and he remarked:  "Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" (vs.47).  This entire incident opened doors to a broader ministry than Peter could ever have conceived of because he had been busy staying in his box.

     Certainly, Peter never dreamed of going to a Gentile home.  He was a Jewish believer in Jesus Christ who knew the Law.  Even when he had that vision from the Lord, he fought it initially because it was forbidden to eat certain types of animals, birds and reptiles.  However, God was forcing Peter to consider the world outside of his box so that many could be reached for Christ.  Isn't it amazing how we limit ourselves and God all because we are in our own little box?

     Here are some points to ponder.  First, when we live in a box, we cut off certain people because they don't measure up to what we think they should be.  We are in danger of developing a critical spirit.  Peter certainly wouldn't have gone to a Gentile's house unless God had shaken him up with that vision.  He admitted to the Centurion that God revealed to him that he should not call any person common or unclean.
How often do we consider someone as being unable to measure up to our standards?  I would venture to say that most of us have been in that box before and it is not pleasing to God.

     Secondly, when we stay in our own box, we limit our outreach to others.  It is as if we have our own little club and no one else is allowed to join it.  This can happen in churches as well as in individual lives. There are congregations that refuse to associate with other believers because they either feel superior or they want to avoid contamination of ideas.   How sad!  In addition, think of what would have happened if Peter had refused to go into the house of the Centurion.  He would have missed the blessing of seeing what God was about to do in the lives of these people.  The Lord demonstrated to Peter that He had other sheep that were not of the original fold of Israel.  These were people who would be grafted into that tree by God Himself.
Grandsons Briggs and Gavin enjoying a basket together

     Finally, living in a box, keeps us from growing.  In fact, it can make us rigid, and much like the Pharisees of the New Testament.  They knew the rules backwards and forwards.  They dressed the part of religious people and had an attitude that said they "had it together".  This rigid lifestyle, however, became a great burden and squeezed the life out of them.  They could not recognize their own Messiah when He walked among them.  They were blind and so will we be if we choose to stay in our nice, tidy, perfectly controlled little box.

     Jesus called us to radical living.  He challenges all religious, sanctimonious, box-like thinking about God and our fellow man.  We are called to forgive when others hurt us.  We are called to walk in love even towards our enemies, and we are called to share the Good News with everyone.  This is box busting at its best!  Unfortunately, some of us run out there and get our duct tape and try to save our boxes so we can climb back into them.  If we do, we will miss what God is trying to do in our lives.

     Maybe it is time for us all to think hard about the boxes we have constructed for our lives.  Perhaps God is trying to get us to break out of that stale thinking and grow in His glorious light.  God may also be attempting to move us to share with those we have avoided for so long.  He certainly moved in Peter's life in a powerful way, and as a result, the church grew as the Gentiles were welcomed into the fellowship of believers.  God's plan is always bigger and better than our box.  Isn't it time we quit living there and began to step out like Peter?  When we do, we will see greater blessings in our life.  Selah!

Have you ever lived in a box?  How did God help you to escape?  I welcome your thoughts, insights and
encouragement.  Feel free to leave comments here.  Blessings!


Pam said...

I have seen the truth of your post in the many churches my husband and I have served. The "We've always done it that way" box seems to appear in all of them! Thank you for pointing out that Jesus calls us to radical living.
Pam at

Petra said...

Very true, my friend! God is too big for any box (or man-made formula) and He always has such a way of breaking us out of our puny boxes. He opened our eyes with first and second Timothy. We fell far and hit hard but I wouldn't trade it for the world, only for more of Him! Blessings!

Barbara Thayer said...

Thank you for your comments Pam. Yes, the Lord does call us to radical living....outside the box! :)

Barbara Thayer said...

Thank you for stopping by Petra. Yes, our God is much to big for us to try to contain Him. He is great and mighty!!! Blessings to you!