If you read the Bible cover to cover there is no doubt that there would be questions. For example, why did God allow there to be a devil? Or, how do I read the Book of Revelation without getting confused? Or, how can forgiveness come so easily in the New Testament to a God who instructed his people to eradicate so many people in the Old Testament?
There are questions we may never know the answers to, and that is exactly where faith comes in. Being a believer does not require a Masters degree, but it does require understanding the degree of the Master. Simply, God is God and we are not. What he does and how he does it will ever elude our finite minds and the more we try to figure "everything" out the more confused we get.
That might be why Jesus said, "unless you turn and become like little children.......". I can remember that as a little child I listened a lot and thought very little. And when I thought I usually got in trouble. Back then, the Bible seemed more about Thou Shalt Not, than about forgiveness, love and grace. Now if we think all this through and try to understand it, we will take ourselves further away from the truth.
Not saying we should not think, just saying that understanding comes once we surrender our life to Christ, and that understanding thereafter comes from the benefit of the Holy Spirit who now becomes our counselor as Jesus foretold. If we equated it to human terms, the Spirit is our tutor who clarifies an otherwise cloudy picture. Or in another way, how can a sinful and imperfect man or woman understand a perfect and omnipotent God?
Not possible without divine help. So it boils down to this, trust and faith that the one you trust in is the right God. After 30 plus years I see it clearly now, but back then, my faith was to put my trust, like that of a little child ,into the hands of my Father and see where that took me.
The next thing I found out is that Thou Shalt Not ever give up on God because he will never give upon you. And all those other Thou Shalt Nots that I used to do, became forgiven by the one I put my trust in.
Funny thing, I seem to think a lot better now!
With Easter coming up the thought of that famous sermon "It's Friday But Sunday's Coming" has been constantly on my mind. For those who have not heard it please look it up, you will thoroughly be inspired. It is about the doom of the crucifixion overcome by the joy of the resurrection,and how it applies to our lives today.
So I thought to myself, why not take it a little farther, since many of us were way far away from any kind of spiritual existence in our days of addiction and whatever else we would do for personal satisfaction. We were not only lost, we were without much hope of ever finding our way to a life of normalcy and recovery. We were on the outside of life looking in and we were A Long Way From Sonday!
People who have not dealt with addiction forms such as alcohol, drugs, sex, work, food, religion, money et al would maybe not understand what I am talking about, but let me assure you, we were much like that fellow in the bible who ran around the graveyards like a wild man- out of control though we may have thought we were in control, and living only for the moment in front of us. But then he ran into Jesus, and he sat beside him after his healing like a little child who had been put in his place.
The resurrection provides proof of Jesus as our savior and messiah, but our personal transformations like the aforementioned man and others in scripture as well as our present life are testimony that He is still healing today, he is still bringing us back from one foot in hell to a solid rock to stand on. We were A Long Way From Sonday until he became our Sunday!
It looked hopeless for us, it looked for many like our lives were over because we could not save ourselves, but the man on the cross became the way to transformation by demonstrating the full power of God when he arose from that grave. Because of that miracle, we have an open door to walk through what is referred to as the narrow gate, that one that not many choose to enter, except those of us who realize that without a relationship to our God, we will remain lost.
We can't heal ourselves, figure out all the steps to get there, but because that gate remains open 24 hours a day 7 days a week, it is only left up to us to enter. Then, when we enter in, we will no longer be A Long Way From Sonday!
While visiting in ATL this weekend, the subject of Honesty has come up because my grandson has not been truthful lately. As habits tend to do, you start with a little and much more usually follows. When asked the questions by his Mom such as "Have you brushed your teeth?" or "Have you fed your guinea pig?" his responses have been a quick yes, but reality is that it should have been no.
With 7 year old kids we can almost brush this off as a temporary excuse, but his Mom thought this would be a teachable moment, so she gave him a firm lecture, pointing out how he lately has gotten off course. That is of course what good Moms do. But knowing him like I do, I asked her for a chance to talk with him as well (that's what good Grandparents do- ask).
Our talk was brief ,and very quietly I spoke with him man to man about what good men do. And I said "That's not who you are, pal" and mentioned how it can become a very bad habit. To reflect, Honesty was not very present in my drinking years, it was something I had to learn to do all over again, like a child. Maybe my grandson can avoid that, and I will always strive to encourage him to be truthful because I know how destructive a lack of it can be.
So obviously Honesty is always the best policy. But even more than that are the words which come from Jesus about the parable of the man of nobility and his servants in Luke 19:11-27:
"Well done my good servant! his master replied. Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities."
The seed of Honesty planted at a young age can lead to tremendous growth as an adult. When you are a person to be trusted, there is no telling what your ceiling can be in a relationship, in business or especially as a parent who passes on the truth. On the other hand, the constant habit of lying can require excessive energy just to cover up the falsehood as well as the hurt and pain it causes us and others.
Yes, sometimes being honest can hurt as well, but not nearly as much as a lie which can cause your Guinea Pig to die if you don't feed him. And, our society seems to be constantly against being honest even though they say they are (present political races), so it seems so much rarer when someone of character and Honesty actually exists.
That is why I am sure Jesus prefaced most of his parables with "I tell you the truth.....". He was a rare one indeed!
While the title may catch your attention, the prospect of ever going on that popular TV reality show is even scarier. I must admit that while I was traveling on the road in the past, watching this show was the true essence of watching the very basics of human emotions. Truly they bared their souls when under intense pressure to survive. BTW all the important parts were covered up so that anyone could watch.
For those of you who have never heard of it, a man and a woman are sent out into the wild (a la Adam & Eve), with maybe one survival tool of their choice into an area that is difficult to survive in for 21 days. They have to supply their own food, build their own shelter, and if they make it that far they have to traverse a dangerous route back to the pick up point to go home. I have seen folks totally lose it, break down, tap out and some get so physically sick they had to be airlifted to a hospital. Others lost up to 30 pounds during their time. Sounds like a fun show right?
What intrigued me the most was the human interaction during these 21 anxious days. They either worked together as a team or broke down into a burden on each other. Always reminded me of this human race that we are in and how difficult it is for us to get along with so much more to count on than what two of these pairs survived on. We take so many things for granted, even other human beings.
God always intended that we be naked in our relationships with each other (The Garden Of Eden), but mankind broke the bond with God and we have been afraid of bearing our souls with each other ever since. So we dress ourselves up, hide our feelings, wear masks, anything to be something other than Naked And Afraid!
You see, when we can trust each other, be sincerely honest with each other, amazingly good things begin to happen. We must first start by realizing that God already knows what we look like inside and out. If we become real with Him, then we can start being real with each other.
And because there are some faults, some past failures, we should never be afraid of what another human being thinks of us or can do to us.
After all, If God is for us, who can be against us? To him, being Naked And Afraid is exactly where he wants us to be because His strength is perfected in our weakness, not in our ability to survive without Him.
If we could ask Adam and Eve if they wanted a do over, I am sure we know what the answer would be. We, on the other hand have the ability to have a do over every day thanks to someone who was nearly naked and somewhat afraid (Garden of Gethsemane), but he did what he had to do anyway to give us a chance.
Do we want an apple or eternal joy? I am sure they have a whole lot tastier ones in heaven!
There are so many things that I could write in today's blog but in the interest of attention span and focus, I will do my best to keep it brief. But we must begin by defining what a U-Turn is.
If you pass the street you needed to turn on, or the street you need to turn left on is blocked by an island, you make a U-Turn to go back to where you need to be. Either way, a distinct change of direction occurs. As a matter of fact it is a total reversal and requires the driver to admit they made a mistake or acknowledge that they cannot turn because there is a barrier blocking the way.
Does any of that ring a bell with you? Does your life need a U-Turn or have you made one but you are on a bit of shaky ground? Think of this.
God asked Jonah to do something but instead he ran away. Then God, who needed Jonah to do this one important thing, caused Jonah and his friends some turbulence to get him to come back when he disobeyed him. Then after further denial he ended up in the belly of a whale (insert your version of whale right here in this story). And when Jonah finally relented and agreed to do it God's way, he was not gently delivered back to solid ground, he was vomited up!
And then after completing his mission, Jonah had a melt down and God had to reason with him again. Man we can be stubborn can't we?
Then of course there was Paul, who had it all together or so he thought. His whale turned out to be 3 days of blindness while God purified his heart and soul. Then when he could see again he made a U-Turn, he started preaching the opposite of what he preached a few days earlier, but this time he was on the right GPS destination, and unlike Jonah, he didn't revert to his old behavior, but he did have a thorn to deal with.
The point is, taking that U-Turn in life can be vary painful to do and requires a complete and total change of direction. It requires not looking back to revert to old behavior or there could be more whales ahead, this time caused more by our own behavior than an act of God. And then, in despair we ask, hey God, why me?
Well Jonah and Paul learned in different ways was that God's purpose is not about us, how good we are, or how much we know, it is instead about what God knows, what he wants us to do and how we need humility to understand all of this.
Sometimes we can only get this through a whale of an experience!
Glenn is an ex-Marine Viet Nam vet who is also a recovering alcoholic, clean and sober for 30 years. He has been involved in start up and ongoing recovery ministry at North Atlanta Church and Campus for the last two decades. He has a passion for outreach and to spread the message that the answer to lasting and fulfilling recovery from addiction is in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He and the ATB team are available to assist in your questions or needs on an individual basis and will do so maintaining complete confidentiality. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.