Sunday, August 18, 2013

Tell me the Old, Old, Story of Jesus and His Love.

The following is an excerpt from the novel Angel Harp by Michael Phillips.  As often happens, we can discover the beliefs of Christian authors through the conversations and thoughts of their characters.  In this case, the main character, Marie, is visiting Scotland.  She finds herself drawn to Scarnose, a seaside village. There she meets the vicar of the small village Presbyterian church.  Although she has been an active church member in her past, she no longer considers herself a "church" person, having become disillusioned by the judgmental "Christians" in her past (after the death of her husband).

It is as though God has brought her to this place so that she would encounter Him without the "church".  The vicar is totally devoid of all judgment of others, and this fascinates her.  After several encounters with other characters, and a sermon on the prodigal son, she finally has a enlightened moment and the following dialogue of her thoughts:

   Suddenly for the first time in my life I wondered what it was Jesus saved us from.  I knew the stock answer ought to be sin.  But now it dawned on me that what I had actually thought down inside, without saying it, was that Jesus saved us from God - from God's wrath and punishment.
   All at once-how could I have never seen it before!-I saw how little sense that made.  How could there be a division between Jesus and God?  How could one save us from the other when they were supposed to be one?
   It was very confusing.  Today's sermon had set my brain to spinning with possibilities that blew my mind.
   Suddenly I heard Jesus' words, Come follow me, being spoken in the midst of the prodigal son parable. Suddenly the picture came into my mind of Jesus going to the prodigal as he sat with the pigs, stooping down and taking his hand, and saying, Come, follow me...I will lead you home.  I will take you back to your father.  He is waiting for you.
   It was completely new image.  It wasn't Jesus as protector from wrath, it was Jesus leading us home!
   It was Jesus leading us to the Father's open arms, to the Father's love.
   He came to lead us home to God...home to his Father!
   All this raced through my brain as I listened to Iain talk about the prodigal, and what it meant to be reconciled to God.  It was a completely new image of what Christianity meant.

I have heard people talk of sermons that "scare the hell out of people" and they surrender because they are brought to understand they are escaping the wrath of an angry God.  But how much more inviting is the loving Father waiting, always watching for Jesus to bring someone else "home" to be loved by and changed through that love.  Although I knew He loved me, I was taught as a young child that God was always watching to punish me if I "messed up", so there has been some fear in our relationship.  But to realize that He cannot wait from me to abide with Him - He even runs to meet me when I "mess up" - so that He can again shower on me His love.  I have no problem obeying one who loves me that much!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Dilemma

Last year when I finished reading the book Radical - Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt, I made several decisions.  One of those was to visit a country that reflected how much of the rest of the world lives life.  About the same time, I received an offer from Compassion International to visit the child that we sponsor in Guatemala.

I began to discuss the ramifications of making a decision to travel outside the U.S. with my husband.  It is a costly trip - would it not be better to send that money to Compassion and let them use it to meet the needs of children and families?  It was then that I remembered a statement from Platt's book: "...God chose to bring salvation to you and me, he did not send gold or silver, cash or check.  He sent himself -the Son.  I was convicted for even considering that I should give money instead of actually coming to Sudan.  How will I ever show the gospel to the world if all I send is my money?  Was I really so shallow as to think that my money is the answer to the needs in the world?"  This statement led me to decide that I needed to give of myself if I really wanted to share His love with the world.

As a result, we visited the Ixil mountain area of Guatemala on January 19-26, 2013.  I so clearly saw a truth while there:  "God's blessings have been poured out on America for only one reason - to use us to bless the rest of the world and glorify God in doing so."  Unfortunately, I believe many of us thought it was only for our comfort and for the "stuff" we can buy.  When our nation reaches a point where it hoards more of our riches than we use to bless others, I believe it will be taken from us.  We hear repeated warning of a coming financial collapse.  Will it come because God is no longer being glorified in the blessing of those in need?  I realize there are legitimate organizations who are touching lives in the name of Christ - Compassion International and Samaritan's Purse are a couple with which I am acquainted.  But I believe we may be hanging in the balance as a nation. Which way will the pendulum swing? And will our Lord return before the collapse?