The Child at the Back…

Once upon a time, a small troop of people drudged along an uphill road, and found they’d arrived at their destination. They sought the Kingdom of God, and had reached the front gates.

Together they paused in silence, rapt in wonder, awe, worship, gratitude, and… honestly… fatigue, yet aglow with their sense of accomplishment. Most, but not all, were middle aged or older. Most were well dressed, some in ornate robes, others in business attire, some in Sunday best. There were both men and women.

An ancient man, apparently the porter, appeared outside the door and greeted the group cordially.

“Welcome to the Gates of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is wonderful to see all of you. Now, why have you come?”

At this, there was some milling about and muttering. None was quite sure what to say. Finally a man stepped forward and said, “Sir, we seek to enter. We have have traveled long hard roads, seeking to enter in to the Kingdom of God.”

The old gatekeeper nodded, “that’s marvelous. Well done. Now, good sir, why should I admit you? What is your qualification?”

The man pulled out a neat scroll and handed it forward. “I have sought this gate all my life. I have lived a righteous life, always doing right as I could. I’ve never lied or defrauded anyone. I fear God, and seek to obey His commandments with all my heart.”

The old man nodded approvingly, took the scroll, and said, “Well done, my son. You are very near indeed to the Kingdom.”

Turning to another petitioner, he asked the same questions. This man was mighty in worship leadership and had led thousands of believers in singing the praises and glory of God. He, too, was congratulated on his efforts and assured that he was very near.

The next was a woman who had spent her entire life in prayer and encouraging others to spend time with the Lord. She offered up all sufferings to the glory of God, and sought His will in all things. She had raised her children to fear and reverence God, and do what was right to honor Him. She too was congratulated, encouraged, and assured of her nearness.

This went on as one after another, everyone named their accomplishments and sacrifices in God’s name, and declared their honor and worship of Him. Each had done wonderful things, including one who had studied their whole life acquiring great academic honors and mastering all the sacred languages. He sought admittance through his efforts to teach the world of the wonders of the words of God. The last, or nearly last, conversation was with a mighty pastor who had built a magnificent cathedral, led many thousands to relationship with God, and trained many hundreds in their own lives of ministry and service. When asked why he had done all this, he said that Jesus was his Lord and his model, and he sought to live as Jesus had lived, in honor of God.

Everyone thought, “Ah, certainly THIS man… with all THAT to say…. all THAT he has done…. surely, this man, will pass through the gate.”

Yet, he received the same response, including the great approval and encouragement, from the Porter.

A quiet scuffing sound was heard from the back of the group, as a small child in quite nondescript clothing had turned around and began to shuffle back down the road away from the gate.

The Porter stepped forward, raised his cracked voice, and addressed the child. “You there!” as he stretched his arm towards the child and all the adults made way. (The wee one had been hidden at the back of the group where no one had seen.) The shuffling steps stopped, as the downcast figure slowly turned.

“Mm… me? Sir?” the child responded in a voice nearly too soft to hear.

The old man smiled warmly, “Yes, youngster. You. Why are you here?” The Porter’s eyes shone with friendly light as he encouraged the child to speak. “Don’t be afraid. Please tell me why you’ve come.”

“Well, sir. I came to find this gate, and to pass through into there, into the Kingdom.” The sibilant voice grew a bit, as the child’s eyes rose to meet his.

“Very good, little one. Why then, do you seem to want to leave before we’ve even spoken?”

The gaze and voice quickly dropped again. “Because I see now, I realize… I haven’t done any of the great things all these fine people have done. I have nothing to show you, good sir. I’m not even properly dressed, being a bit ragged and dusty like this. I have no business here. I’ll go quietly, sir.”

“Wait, little one. How did you find the path to here?”

“Oh, that. Well, sometimes, I seem to hear Jesus’ voice calling me, leading me. Sometimes I think I can see His footsteps, or I catch a glimpse of Him up ahead. I think I’ve heard Him call to me, saying ‘Follow Me’, and so, whenever I’ve thought I had the direction right, or I could see the steps, I’ve tried to follow. One day, I met up with all these people, who had maps and books and things. And together, here we are….”

“I see,” nodded the old Porter. “So you followed. Now, granted that you don’t yet have a big list of mighty deeds or works to show, tell me WHY you want to enter these doors? What do you hope to gain?”

The child was a long time before answering, but no one broke the silence. All the elders found themselves thinking about the question for themselves. What did they really seek, hoping to enter in?

Finally the child answered, “Sir, I just want to get in to find HIM. I’ve heard Him. I’ve seen Him from time to time. But I just want to find Him, grab Him, and… and… hug Him.”

At this, some of the elders repressed a snort. How silly did that sound? Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! The Great Majesty of All Creation. And here this child speaks of grabbing… and hugging… psh.

The Porter came close up to the child, dropped to one knee so they were face to face, and nearly whispered… “And why, child… Why do you so seek to hug Him that you’ve come all this way and dare even this?”

Tears welled as their eyes met, and the child whispered simply, “because, sir, I love Him. I don’t know very much. I haven’t done very much, certainly nothing great. I’ve just heard His voice, seen Him now and again, and I love Him. That’s why I’ve come.”

The old Porter hugged the child, as the great gate door dissolved. There, to the astonishment of all, stood Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Joyfully He laughed as He dropped to one knee with His arms wide open for the child.

“Finally! You’ve arrived! I’ve been waiting. Together we will see everything. I cannot wait to show you.” Jesus had lifted the child up in His arms with a mighty heave. If a little one could fly, that’s how it seemed as together they shared a moment of sheer joy unspeakable.

Turning to the others, the Lord said, “I am so glad you are ALL here. You are so very close. You have all done so well, My good and faithful servants. As soon as you are ready, come in and join Us. You lack only one thing…” and, carrying the child in His arms, He passed through the gate back into His Kingdom.

Astonished, all the elders were left standing with the Porter, who had gently arisen and strode back to his post. Everyone was reviewing these amazing events in their mind, pondering heavy to understand.

The eldest and wisest of the lot, suddenly smiled and nodded. He exchanged glances with the Porter, who realized that understanding had dawned. Quietly he walked up to the Porter and whispered in his ear. The Porter stood aside as he passed in.

Everyone left standing there wondered what he had understood, and what he had said.

To Be Like Isaac

Of the three great patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, which one lived the longest life? Of those three, who is it that we know the least about?

The answer to both of these questions is Isaac, and he is also the one whose name was never changed.

Of course, Isaac was the son of promise, but as an adult, we don’t see chapter after chapter telling his story, as we do with Abraham and Jacob. Abraham and Jacob went down in history as superstars of a sort, while Isaac just plugged away. Maybe this is because his career was more or less a transition between the age of Abraham and that of Jacob; I’ll leave that for others to figure out.

It would seem that the only things we know about Isaac of any consequence is the story of how he came to be married to Rebekah, the birth of the twin boys, and of his dealings with Abimelech and finally how Jacob got his blessing before he died. He had no great triumphant accomplishments that are mentioned in Genesis, nor did he have any great moral failings mentioned there, but he did leave a legacy, for not only was he the son of promise, but he fathered Jacob, who would come to give his name to the nation of Israel. In all of his dealings that we know about, he was faithful, just and a model of righteousness.

When he married Rebekah, she was apparently not able, to become pregnant, so what did Isaac do? He prayed to God and waited patiently for 20 years for God to intervene, which is quite a contrast to what Abraham did when he decided to help God along by getting involved with Hagar and producing Ishmael, resulting in conflict and war that continues to this very day.

No, Isaac did the right thing instead, and as a result, a nation was born.

I doubt that very many of us will have a career like that of either Abraham or Jacob; few of us will ever have the chance to change the course of history and go down in the annals of sacred history, but all us can be like Isaac. Each of us has the opportunity to leave a legacy of a close relationship with God, can live a godly and upright life, and serve as an example of righteousness, faithfulness and justice, and even though we might not become superstars, we will leave the kind of legacy that builds  the Kingdom.

The Dash of a Lifetime

Have you ever stopped to look at a tombstone?

You might see something like this:

John Doe

1947-1988

Or maybe something like this:

Winston Spencer Churchill

November 30, 1874 – January 20, 1965

One of these was just a man, who was born, who lived, and who died, and who we have no knowledge of. The other also was born, lived and died, but about whom we know a great deal, for he was one of the 245px-Sir_Winston_S_Churchillworld’s greatest statesmen. Other than a name and two dates, what do these men have in common?

Yes indeed, good work! There is a dash between the two dates. Isn’t it ironic, that the smallest little detail contains a person’s entire life story?

If you are reading this today, then your life is somewhere within the dash that will one day be placed on your tombstone. Now I’m hoping that your tombstone won’t be made for quite some time yet, but for each of us, that day will surely come.

That small dash will contain our whole legacy; what will it be?

It might be that we lived our life for the glory of God, and even though we were never famous or rich or powerful, as this world understands such things, we always put the needs of others ahead of our own needs.

It also might be that we lived entirely for ourselves, that we didn’t really give a damn about anyone other than ourselves.

What my dash stands for is up to me; what your dash stands for is up to you. It isn’t for me to judge your life, nor is it for you to judge mine, for by the time that our tombstone is finished and erected; God will have already done that particular job.

Today, we all have a chance to work on our “dash project”. What will we do today to build our legacy?

What is Church?

©susanirenefox
©susanirenefox

Perhaps I should begin by saying what church is not.

Church is not simply a brick-and-mortar building. Church is not a system of rules and laws. Church is not judgment and condemnation, shame and guilt, accusation and exclusion. . Church is not my dogma is better than your dogma. Church is not us and them. Not the church Jesus intended.

Church is people who ache to follow Jesus. Church is people who care to know you. Church is people who meet you where you are. Church is people who uplift and encourage. Church is safe. Church is hope. Church is the Holy Spirit showing up through people you hardly know to let you know He knows your heart.

Church is where your vulnerability meets my vulnerability and together we walk unashamedly toward God.

Church is a group of online bloggers who, without fail, write with the love and compassion of God. They demonstrate it in their love for individuals and humanity, in their quest to be the heart of Jesus, in their desire to let His light shine through their words and their actions.

Church is wherever two or more are gathered in His name.

Church is me and you, and our questions and struggles to figure out this relationship with a God we cannot see. It is holding out our hands to accept His unconditional love, His grace and His mercy, even though we can’t figure out why He would bestow this amazing gift on us.

Church is allowing God to have His way with you, and acknowledging you are already perfect; yet, in the refining process, knowing once He has His gentle hands on you, He will mold you and shape you into the masterpiece you were intended to be.

Church is removing the veil of guilt and shame and daring to see yourself through the loving and compassionate eyes of Jesus.

Church is mourning over great loss, knowing He walks through it with you, tears in His eyes, arms around you, bearing much of the burden of your grief and heartache so you will not be crushed and destroyed by the weight of it.

Church is finding joy in the quiet hours of the early morning, delighting in the fullness of heart and peace of another day, as He embraces and envelopes you in grace and mercy and everlasting love.

Church is the thrill of finding Him in every living heart; the willingness to seek and experience through guileless eyes the wonder and exultation that is our Creator.

Fix Your Thoughts on Jesus

Not long ago, I was having a conversation with a lady who was having a rough time at home. She and her husband were having problems adjusting to their recent adoption of a teenage girl, their first child, and stress was getting them down.  My suggestion to this lady was that she “fix her thoughts on Jesus” as a means of finding solutions to her difficulties.

Her reaction was to politely tell me that she was hoping for something more helpful than that, like a list of things to do.

I recommended that she start with a “to do” list of one “to do”: Fix your thoughts on Jesus.

This is a common thing in daily life; in all of our lives, I would imagine, we expect “to do’s”. Jesus doesn’t really give assignments like that, and we, like His original listeners, find that a little hard to deal with.

Yesterday I spoke with a man who had a problem at home, one for which he has every right to be angry with his wife, but he told me that Jesus ruined it for him, because while he was very angry, he was thinking about how Jesus has forgiven him for so much in his own life… and his anger melted away. “Come on Lord, I am entitled to be mad!”

But the anger was gone.

The concept of fixing our thoughts on Jesus is expressed many times in Scripture, in various ways maybe, but it always amounts to the same thing, as a way to cope with the trials of this life. Sadly, I’m afraid, there really aren’t any complicated “to do” lists of “action steps”, just fix your thoughts on Jesus.

Oh yes, and as my friend found out yesterday, it works.

I guess it isn’t so easy to be mad at somebody when you are in the presence of God!