Thank God for God.
Last Saturday afternoon I was very tired and on day four of a twenty day round of antibiotics. All I wanted to do was sleep. I forced myself to get up for breakfast but by mid-afternoon I was fading fast. I had to rest. My wife was consuming another cooking show in the kitchen and our son had a cartoon on in the living room. Neither one heard me mumble about going to bed for a while as I headed down the hallway wrapped in a fleece. The sunshine floods our son’s bedroom in the afternoon and I just wanted to curl up in it and be warm. I crawled onto his bed and immediately fell asleep.
A few minutes later I felt something barely brush my cheek and I opened my eyes. My son woke me up with a kiss.
"Are you sick Daddy?"
"Yes son, I just need to take a nap for a few minutes."
He went into the kitchen and told his mother that I was sick and sleeping in his bed. He sounded surprised that I would choose his bed to rest in. It is his room after all. He came back a minute later with his stuffed tiger, propping him next to my head. He told me to get better and left his room, not satisfied, he came back again with Music Man. Music Man is a stuffed character that plays classical music. It's what my wife and I would turn on to help him sleep when he was a baby or when he woke up from a bad dream. It's his comfort toy. He put it next to Tiger and turned it on. Then he covered me up to my shoulder with his blanket, kissed my cheek again and told me he loved me. When he was satisfied that I was comfortable he went back to his cartoons.
He did all of this out of love for me, and voluntarily. It was an expression of his heart because he loves me and it is his room and he was doing his best to take care of his guest. Every high part of love was in operation in that short but unforgettable moment. He was compassionate, empathetic, had a willingness to comfort, to extend kindness, care and service. I thought about my son's efforts as I fell into a deep nap in the January sunshine. Mozart softly poured out of Music Man. Then, the doorbell rang.
Being a Saturday afternoon I had no doubt who it was at our door, it was the Jehovah Witnesses. We often take turns responding to them but I let my wife take the hit this time. All week they blanket our neighborhood walking in pairs. Handsome black men are dressed in suits with bright ties and polished shoes while the women are all in dresses with their hair done. It’s an odd sight as they walk around all dressed up weaving through poor neighborhoods. It’s as if they’re lost looking for the corporate meeting that’s happening somewhere in a housing project.
The “Witnesses” all carry their faith’s version of the Bible under their arms and most have leather satchels over their shoulders full of this month’s teachings to hand out to anyone they hope to dialogue with. Whether they can reach someone on the street or under a doorframe they have their handouts ready. And they carry a lot of them because the world is coming to an end, again. On Wednesday’s I walk through a gauntlet to get to our neighborhood grocery store, politely looking down or away to avoid a conversation, or a confrontation. When they stop to talk to me I go right to the foundation of their faith, a con man that falsely predicted the end of the world. Obviously it didn’t happen as he said it would, but the “faith” continued on just the same and it has been spinning different versions of a mountain of failed predictions for well over a century. They were at our door on Saturday to give us this week’s version.
The conversation at our door was brief because my wife has no patience with people who follow a faith than can be easily deconstructed within ten minutes reading Wikipedia. They wanted to hand her a new version of their ever-changing belief system but she responded that we attend a Baptist church. The conversation from their end immediately ended. And so did my nap. My nap wouldn’t happen now because my mind began to map my faith process getting to the church we now attend. The process was like a very long and unnecessary detour bringing me back to where I should have began thirty-four years ago.
The Jehovah Witnesses cannot be faulted for their good intentions as they follow their faith but they are in a terrifying place of deception that only God can deliver them from. I know more than I can bear some days regarding my own spiritual deception so I have a little more patience than my wife does when they come to our door.
The greatest attacks against my faith as a Christian did not come from outside of me.
They came from inside of me.
Like the Jehovah’s at our door I believed a chain of lies that did not support the Bible’s message of Christianity. In the course of my life I wrote my own version of my bible and stumbled through my life for decades, arrogantly certain and blissfully ignorant. I was torn between two worlds, one of truth and one of lies.
It didn’t take that much effort either: Get saved by the grace and mercy of God then be relative regarding personal holiness. Avoid church for years or attend casually or indiscriminately. Love the world, its methods, mindset, music, television shows, films, celebrity, language and style. Trust feelings and obey them; crash and then repeat. Then attend church to collect a small warehouse full of study notes from various preachings and apply superficially, add a bookcase of half-read spiritual books, study up on doctrinal truths then circle the runway failing to land hard on the problem of my sin. Get caught up in emotions, learn church terminology and culture and put that on like a chameleon, trade the Bible’s message of service and accountability with pleasure and opinion, distort grace, blend God’s truth with pop-psychology, act like you’re something you’re not until you believe it, argue with God, fail to examine your life and voilá, you’re spiritually deceived and your faith is contaminated and lukewarm.
Calling it what it is, it’s actually idolatry and paganism, a counterfeit, worthless religion.
There is a way that seems right to a man but its end is the way to death. Proverbs 14:12
Thank God for God. That He corrects the children that are His. Thank God for the kindness and mercy to reveal the hard truths I needed to look at in my life. I was in a pit of confusion and pride that I could not get free from. I was in darkness.
I was as desperate as Jonah when he called to God for mercy from the deep.
Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the stomach of the fish,
And he said,
“I called out of my distress to the Lord,
And He answered me.
I cried for help from the depth of Sheol;
You heard my voice.
For You had cast me into the deep,
Into the heart of the seas,
And the current engulfed me.
All Your billows passed over me.
So I said, I have been expelled from Your sight.
Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple.
Water encompassed me to the point of death.
The great deep engulfed me,
Weeds wrapped around my head
I descended to the roots of the mountains.
The earth with its bars was around me forever,
But You brought up my life from the pit,
O Lord my God,
While I was fainting away,
I remembered the Lord,
And my prayer came to You,
Into Your holy temple.
How did I survive such a horrific life? I survived only by the grace and mercy of God.
I was in a pit and God had mercy on me.
I went through a year of terror last year. All chance for escape from the terror was impossible. Every avenue of strength in my mind, will or emotion drained out of me. I trembled in terror before God as He corrected me. I could only be silent and wait. I called out to Him through Jesus when I could speak at all.
There is no hope for anyone apart from the mercy of God’s grace, which is found only in His Son, Jesus. There is no hope and only darkness and terror.
God is Holy. Man is not holy and needs to be redeemed by God’s plan of salvation. Jesus Christ is that plan of salvation. There is no other way for man to be rescued from the holiness of God. Without Christ, God’s wrath remains, eternally.
I lived my Christian experience without the fear of God. I met God in a way I did not expect in 2011 and I loathed the decisions of my life. Under His examination I saw my sin. I learned the mercy of God’s grace found only in the atonement of Christ. God is holy and unapproachable, yet He loves and makes a way to come to Him forever. I remembered His Cross in my terror and He had mercy on my soul.
I am learning now through His Word and through the church He led me to. To fear Him with reverence and dump the gooey, mushy, tepid response to God’s holiness I allowed unchecked. Then love Him by obeying His Word. Then love others by serving them. Meet with other believers to grow in these things and encourage one another in our personal difficulties.
Follow Christ, intimately.
To learn that will require the remainder of my life.
I feel overwhelmed by my inadequacy and that’s good, I should, the moment I think I’m fine I find that I’m not fine. I pray for examples to follow to teach me and they come to me everyday. Our son modeled love and service perfectly for me and he’s three-and-a-half years old.
As far as I know he doesn’t own a notebook.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said,
“Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
“Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
God help me, and God help you too. Amen.
I will continue to blog about the progress of my life that brought me here. Every heartbeat has been a gift of God’s grace.
Glory to God for His Son, Jesus, the Savior of the world.