A Clogged Conduit

25 11 2013

(Note: This is a two-part post. If the first bit doesn’t pertain to you, the second half will…don’t miss it.)

When it comes to intimacy with God, it must be made clear that first we must have a relationship with Him.

Being merely “religious” doesn’t count: faithful church attendance…charitable acts…being nice.

These are all good things, but without ever coming face to face with our need for a Savior, they profit us nothing.

Sin – our inability to be perfect – is a very big problem when it comes to having a relationship with God. It was one we couldn’t fix. It took Jesus, who came to earth as a baby, lived a perfect life, and was put to death on the cross to bring reconciliation.

While on the cross He stated, “It is finished.”

Nothing more is needed on God’s part in order for us to commune with Him.

It didn’t end there, though. He rose from the grave, having overcome death. A few weeks later, He lifted off the planet and returned to heaven where He lives today.

The Bible calls Him the “prototokis” among many brethren…the “prototype,” or model of what is available to all who choose to follow Him. It is His life after death that gives us hope. He is, for those who have accepted His pardon, the true “Fountain of Youth.”

If there was another way for mankind to be reunited with God, then Jesus’ death was for nothing.

To those who have not made this important first step, very little that is written about “life with Christ” will makes sense. It sounds like a fairy tale, and those who “buy into it” will seem deluded to the extreme!

The Bible is like a true hologram. It was created by a unique Light. To the naked eye, it appears to be nothing more than a bit of gray film. Illuminated by any other light, it remains a bit of plastic – and nothing of the image can be seen.

However, when it is illuminated by the Light that created it, the Book comes to visible and understandable.

If the Bible is nothing but a dusty old book, full of ancient history, then ask God to shed His Light on it…to reveal what can’t be understood apart from His illumination.

Go ahead, take a risk and ask God to reveal Himself. If He truly does not exist, then nothing will come of it; Christians can be written off as a bunch of nuts, and time (of which there is a limited quantity if there really is no God) can be spent doing happier things than having frustrating arguments with the “deluded” about their beliefs!

*****

For the child of God, sin is not an obstacle to our walk with the Lord, but…

unconfessed sin is a major barrier. 

When Jesus called out, “It is finished,” He used an accounting term. You’ve probably heard this before, but it bears repeating. Translated to English, His words were:

“Paid In Full!”

It is this statement that makes all our efforts to “earn” the right to come close to God ludicrous. Jesus bought an “All Access Pass” for those who will accept it. We are free to come boldly to His throne for grace and mercy…and a whole lot more!

The purpose of the cross is to provide intimacy with God.

However, when we regard iniquity in our heart, the Lord will not hear us (Psalm 66:18). Think of it this way:

Good parents love their children. Affection flows freely, and there is peace between parent and child…

Until the the child disobeys or rebels.

This causes a rift in their relationship that remains so long as little Johnny refuses to “come clean.” He still wants the cuddles, the laughter, the uninhibited communion with his parents, but instead hides in his room.

Love does not cease, but closeness is affected.

Until he is willing to admit his fault, this break in their relationship will continue.

In the same way, we – God’s children – do the same thing. We judge (with an intent to condemn), we lie, cheat, steal, hate, or gossip.

Then we sense distance between our Father and us. We may have chosen to distance ourselves so He can’t “see” what we’re doing. (Really??!)

When we finally “come clean” – by which I mean agree with God that what we did was wrong – we are instantly forgiven, and the relationship is restored.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)

Note that great acts of charitable deeds are NOT demanded for penance. A simple, “I’m sorry I did ___________ (fill in the blank)” is sufficient. There is no punishment to endure…Jesus was punished on our behalf.

There may be consequences of the choice we made to sin…and we may have to live with those consequences for many years. The principle of “sowing and reaping” is not always suspended. I’ve lived with the unpleasant results of choices I made thirty years ago…and so have my (now) grown children. 😦

In some cases, like divorce and remarriage, God could not remove the consequences of our actions without wiping out our ex’s entire family, for they didn’t cease to exist the day the divorce was final (no matter how much we wish they had).

It wasn’t just the former spouse and our children that were affected, but another entire family as well. Divorce may be the end of one set of problems, but it’s the beginning of a whole new set!

There is no “undo” for this choice. This is discipline enough. (Note that this is training – not a beating!)

Simple confession is enough to clear the air between God and us.

Father, is there anything I need to confess in order for our relationship to grow?

Search me, O God, and know my heart

Try me and know my thoughts

See if there be any hurtful way in me

And lead me in the everlasting way.

Psalm 139:23-24

*****

We’re discussing obstacles to intimacy with God. It begins with: C’mon In…

Week two begins with: Where Image Is Everything





Game Over!

10 06 2013

Out of nowhere the little tyke appeared, eye on the prize – his dear friend across the road on which I drove my car. In a single bound that would have made any kangaroo proud, his mom pounced on him. The two landed in a heap on their cement driveway.

Ouch! That’ll leave a mark! I thought to myself.

Fortunately, as was my custom, my speed was slow enough to have allowed me to stop before running the little fellow over. Mom was not so confident. No doubt visions of the blood and guts of her beloved child’s body being strewn all over flashed before her eyes and gave her the ability to reach him with such speed and agility.

The death of her little child would have meant “Game Over” to their relationship. She was willing to inflict pain in her child in order to prevent his death.

Hmm. Now isn’t that interesting?

We admire this mom for choosing the “lesser of two evils;” however, when God does this, we call Him cruel and heartless. To our minds, He should make our lives pleasant, prosperous, and pain free. In America, we have some sort of sense of entitlement. We’re Americans – God “owes” us.

I’ve discovered that much can be learned about God from parenthood.

For instance, one thing I had to remind myself of often is this: Parenthood is not a popularity contest. I would have to set some boundaries that my children did not like, make some decisions that they were going to be angry about, and discipline them when they made choices that were going to lead to out-of-control behavior.

One hard and fast rule was this: “No, you may not play ‘Chicken’ with the cars on the freeway.” Their death meant “Game Over” where I was concerned.

Another was, “No, you cannot join the Bloodlust Gang.” Was I willing to see them become criminals? Hardly.

Disrespect of elders was not permitted either. I was unprepared to raise a boatload of rebels.

Other, not so life threatening decisions made were along the lines of “You will buy your own car;” “We are not buying the newest game system,” and “No, you can’t have a cell phone.” These latter decisions were harder to stick with because “everyone else has one.” And they did. I felt like the original cheapskate!

I also took them to the doctor – who would inflict the pain of immunization injections, and to the dentist – who would also inflict pain, in order to protect their health in the long run. One of my children required three adults to administer liquid antibiotics. Two didn’t stand a chance!

In their immaturity, my kids didn’t understand the wisdom behind my “mean” actions.

Sometimes a good parent will inflict a little pain to prevent a much larger problem.

Why are we so surprised, then, when God (our heavenly Father) permits pain to enter our lives?

Unlike an earthly parent, to whom death is “Game Over,” God allows us to exercise our free will – and play on whatever “freeway,” should we insist on doing so. He’s given us “the Talk,” and we know what His boundaries are (the Big Ten). He’s also given us a conscience that invokes guilt and shame for behavior we innately know to be wrong…until we go against it so often that it becomes seared and doesn’t bother us anymore.

From His perspective, death is not “Game Over,” but rather the point at which our mortality gets swallowed up by life. He can ride out whatever decisions we make. In the end (if we are His children), we will be in His presence. He’s good with that!

He’s explained to us, just like we do our own children, the principle of sowing and reaping: If we sow theft, we may reap jail. If we sow drinking or drugs, we may reap addiction and all the unpleasant and painful consequences that go with it. If we sow kindness, we reap the love of others.

God is great in His mercy and grace. Once we’ve seen the error of our way and repent, (a fancy word that means make a u-turn away from what was wrong) He blesses us with spiritual riches…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc.

However, consequences may still have to be lived with. A recovered addict will still have destroyed relationships, financial issues, and health problems that will continue to be a part of their life…perhaps for the rest of their life. Some things cannot be undone by grace and mercy.

Actions taken while under the influence cannot be undone. How does one “un-abuse” a person they’ve injured? These things are not God “punishing” us (Christ took our punishment on the cross); the natural consequences of choices we made will be enough – and are self-inflicted pain. God had nothing to do with it.

Having spent the last several months trying to “help” one of God’s kids “tie his shoes,” and having had my hands pushed away, all the while being told, “Me do, me do,” I’ve had time to ponder God’s ways. Every consequence being endured was the result of willfulness to choose contrary to what God had said was good, pure, right, just, lovely, and noble. His Father, ever and infinitely patient, simply stood by, waiting for him to give up. From a human standpoint, it seemed hard. Once I saw this from God’s view, however, I saw His wisdom. I’ve done the same thing with my children when they were willful and rebellious.

Once our Father’s little one was tuckered out and no longer resisting Him, He lovingly scooped him up in His arms and carried him Home.

I know, because they “stopped by my car” so he could say, “Farewell,” awakening me so I could return home to my husband.

For us, my brother-in-law’s passing was “Game Over.” For him, however, it’s a whole new game!

*****

Having been a participant in this story, I’ve learned that a person has to determine to step over the crucified body of Jesus to get their way on the day of their appointment with death. God doesn’t make this choice for them…they choose it for themselves. God forces no one into a relationship with Himself. What person would? Love can’t be forced.

The sad fact is that there is only one place available in all of all there is where God will no longer be an unwelcome Presence for those who hate Him. It’s a place that was never intended for humans, only for Satan and his followers.

Hell, which Jesus openly discussed, is a place of isolation, darkness (the absence of Light), heat, torment, worms that don’t die, and such. Worse than that, it is a place completely devoid of kindness (what would be the point? There will be no possible reward for being “good” – those who choose that dwelling place will be selfish to the max), and worse, without a glimmer of hope for a “better day.”

There are only two camps available – the “With God” group, and the “Without God” group. It’s a choice that each person has to make on their own.

With which group will you choose to spend forever…

…when it’s your Game Over?