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HEAVENS DOLE QUEUE

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HEAVENS DOLE QUEUE ...

    HEAVEN'S DOLE QUEUE

     WAITING FOR YOUR MINISTRY

    THE QUEST FOR FULFILLMENT

    By Grantley Morris

CHAPTER 1: THE QUEST FOR FULFILLMENT

    You are destined for greatness, but live in obscurity. You are on this planet for a purpose, yet

    your life seems a perpetual groping in the dark.

    This book has touched busy pastors‟ hearts. That‟s bizarre. Obvious achievers on the

    church‟s payroll are nowhere near my target audience. By some strange twist I‟ve ended up with a

    book almost everyone enjoys. Nevertheless, this book is especially for you if ...

    ? You‟ve sung your greatest songs, thundered your finest speeches and touched the largest

    audience, while having a bath.

    ? You use a toothbrush with three bristles to prolong the most exciting part of your day.

    ? The last time you blessed someone was when you left early.

    ? After gallantly offering heaven your services, a postie sprouting angel wings appears.

    Trembling with excitement, you read the urgent dispatch:

     „Don‟t call us; we‟ll call you.‟

    ? Having finally left the shelf, you are now out in the cold, sitting on ice on the back seat,

    contemplating an exciting move to the back burner, where you will remain off the boil until your dog

    has kittens.

    I know the hurts, frustrations and bewilderment of barren years seemingly devoid of any

    worthwhile contribution to heaven or humanity. Perhaps you are more blessed, but know the disap-

    pointment, even the devastation, of a life‟s work which is less than you had hoped. Then read on.

    Destiny

    Suppress it, pervert it, do what you like with it, you were born to excel.

    A new-born kangaroo, blind and hideously undeveloped, inches its way on its critical journey

    to its mother‟s pouch, spurred by some primeval instinct. An inner compulsion lures a moth to a

    light. Something within a bird stirs it to migrate half-way around the world with astounding precision.

    We, too, have an inborn urge. It‟s goading us to accomplish something of outstanding significance.

    Philosopher John Dewey identified „the desire to be important‟ as the deepest drive within us.

    I‟m told even Freud, despite his preoccupation with sex, identified the desire for greatness as a sig-

    1nificant human motivator. It surely represents one of our most fundamental needs.

    Seeking a cure for cancer, smashing an Olympic record, and defacing a building are in-HEAVEN‟S DOLE QUEUE stances of the countless, often twisted, manifestations of a hunger divinely lodged within us.

    When the light of Christ shines in our lives and divine life is sparked within us, a transforma-tion is triggered, as dynamic and extensive as the one initiated when sperm meet ova. Fuddled

    minds are sensitized to the Spirit. Divine truths explode within us. Vague urges begin to mature. We

    arouse to the realization that the craving we were born with is actually a yearning to serve our Mak-

    er; a drive to reach our full potential; a yen to materialize our reason for coming to this planet. In

    short, pulsing within you is a yearning for ministry.

    Confessions of a battered saint

    The problem with rags to riches stories is that I can identify only with the rags. And I have this nagging suspicion that someone experiencing dazzling success soon forgets what wheezing in the

    smog of despair is really like.

    This book is different. I‟m not trying to imagine or remember what it‟s like to have problems. I‟m thrashing about in them.

    I was 43 when the Lord finally began to end my frustration and give me the ministry I had been preparing for from birth. The moment these opportunities arrived, I stopped adding to this book. So

    except for these three paragraphs, the entire book was written during my dark days. There is a real

    sense in which this book saved my life. You would not believe how dependent I was on reading and

    re-reading this book day after day, year after year. It's as though God wrote it for me, rather than the

    other way around.

    It’s a solemn fact that my only reason for living is to glorify God, and until recently the extent to which I had achieved that goal seemed utterly inconsequential. My drive to glorify God was so

    enormous I am amazed it didn't kill me. It came close. Since childhood it kept building and building

    and mostly its fulfillment consistently seemed impossible.

    Now things are changing. Everyday, people with all sorts of problems e-mail me. Often I just paste a few appropriate paragraphs from this book and they write back detailing how God powerfully

    touched them. The Lord has given me a tenderness I simply wouldn’t have, had my road been easy.

    The number of suicidal people who have written amazes me. The fact that I have been there myself

    gives me the edge. I am now so thankful for my every trial and the seemingly endless preparation,

    and I can add my wobbly testimony to Scripture's authoritative declaration that God has answers.

    Can I identify with your frustration? You have a right to know my sob story, but I don‟t want

    your tears getting my book soggy. As we frolic through the gloom in a few paragraphs, laugh with

    me in celebration of trials heaven intends us to rejoice in, and before you know it, we‟ll be in the

    Son shine. Though in his genius he may hide the surprise twist until the last scene, our Lord specia-

    lizes in ecstatically happy endings. When we let him write the script we can always chuckle.

    I was 43 when the Lord finally began to end my frustration and give me the ministry I had been preparing for from birth. (For a brief insight into what this entails, see

    http://net.simplenet.com/dove/quote_s.htm.) The moment these opportunities arrived, I stopped add-

    ing to this book. So, except for these three paragraphs, the entire book was written during my dark

    days. There is a real sense in which this book saved my life. You would not believe how dependent I

    was on reading and re-reading this book day after day, year after year. It's as though God wrote it

    for me, rather than the other way around.

    It’s a solemn fact that my only reason for living is to glorify God, and until recently the extent to which I had achieved that goal seemed utterly inconsequential. My drive to glorify God was so

    enormous I am amazed it didn't kill me. It came close. Since childhood it kept building and building,

    and mostly it's fulfilment consistently seemed impossible.

    Now things are changing. Everyday, people with all sorts of problems e-mail me. Often I just paste a few appropriate paragraphs from this book and they write back detailing how God powerfully

    touched them. The Lord has given me a tenderness I simply wouldn’t have, had my road been easy.

    The number of suicidal people who have written amazes me. The fact that I have been there myself

    gives me the edge. I am now so thankful for my every trial and the seemingly endless preparation,

    and I can add my wobbly testimony to Scripture's authoritative declaration that God has answers.

    When it comes to feeling useless, I‟m an expert. In second year high school, my class of forty

    students had a popularity poll. You already know who came bottom.

    It took the first eighteen years of my life to muster the courage to ask a girl any girl out.

    THE QUEST FOR FULFILMENT She refused, of course. Once, to my amazement, someone agreed. Instead of being overjoyed, I

    bellyflopped into a pool of pity for her, appalled that anyone could be so lonely as to consider a date

    with me.

    That was my proud, carefree youth. I‟ve come down many a notch since then. Depending on

    the country you‟re from, you would call me a dole bludger, a welfare bum, a beggar, or a parasite

    of the heavenly variety. I live off heaven‟s hand-outs and do nothing in return.

    I realize no one can earn their keep spiritually. We could never repay God for the blessings

    received on the worst day of our life. But you‟d think I could at least do a few odd jobs around the

    place. For excitement I take off my shoes and watch my toenails grow. Every time I call heaven to

    offer my services the line goes dead. I‟m not sure what happens. If only I could hear some celestial music I‟d at least know I‟ve been put on hold.

    Some people collect stamps. I collect dust. My greatest achievements are outstanding out

    standing in the rain. If you‟ve seen the old television series Some Mothers Do Have ’Em, you‟ll rec-

    ognize me as the Frank Spencer of the spiritual world.

    Things started off so well born to Christian parents, born again at age eight, sold-out to

    God, faithfully growing in spiritual knowledge, then four productive years at university in preparation

    for ministry. (Don‟t be put off by my education: the good thing about my IQ is that my only hope of

    being highbrow is a receding hairline.) University was followed by a year‟s missionary work in Asia,

    after which came Bible college, enhanced by six months with another missionary group, then

    Nothing. Years and years of nothing. Books written which no one reads. Teaching cassettes

    made which nobody hears. Failure in every conceivable color. If you‟re tired of success stories,

    you‟d find my life refreshingly different.

    After years without even secular employment, I finally got a job. Hour after hour, I balanced

    on a step-ladder, alone in a dust-clogged shed feeding a hungry machine. Five lonely years battling

    the din and dust of a shredder, filling its deadly jaws with armfuls of paper peppered with broken

    glass, rotten food and sometimes filth too repulsive to mention. Think of me as a full-time garbo on

    a part-time wage.

    It‟s outside working hours that many of us find fulfillment, gleefully chasing challenges. In my case, I‟m usually flat out, up to my ears in blankets. Physical limitations confine me to lights out, up

    to eleven hours a night. When it comes to pursuing dreams I‟m in a world of my own. I bring a

    whole new meaning to the term lay person as I bull-doze through problems, catnap through crises,

    and hibernate through triumphs. If Christian activists faced the death penalty, my greatest threat

    would be the electric blanket. With the drive of a V-8 and the fuel tank of a Tinker Toy,

    a I must be

    the world‟s laziest workaholic, fast becoming the Kingdom‟s Rip Van Wrinkle (and that‟s no spelling

    error).

    Marriage and family help soothe the gnawing ache, or so I assume. You guessed it. Never

    married. They say I‟m quite a catch. (Not that that‟s necessarily bad – most good offers have a

    catch.) I can‟t understand it. I reckon I look better than Casanova. He‟s dead. With a few weeks' ex-

    ception here and there, ever since childhood I've felt certain that no sane woman would want me

    and/or I'd be a hopelessly inadequate husband.

    I see the achievements of people I grew up with and I cringe. At church a stranger introduces

    himself. I steel myself for the inevitable „And what do you do for a living?‟ At the door stands a pas-

    tor who knows how little I do. I slink out another way. I drive home alone. And agonize.

    Envy me if you must, but drop pity. Though the truth keeps hiding from me, with God writing

    the punch lines, trials are hilarious. I often wish he preferred one-liners, but everything God does is

    b-i-g. Year after year he keeps building the tension until all of heaven explodes in rapturous laugh-

    ter, rejoicing in God's stunning resolution of the problem. Let‟s slip in a few giggles before the big

    one.

    Anyone can miss the boat. I‟ve missed the ocean. I‟m lucky I found the planet.

    I have a passion for a teaching ministry. The only word I‟ve ever received from the Lord about

    it is, „Let not many of you become teachers.‟b I offered myself to the Lord for full-time service more

    than three decades ago. My ever-growing longing for it has been as productive as a desert in a

    drought.

    Then, after most of this book was written, I turned a corner. And hit a wall. I was thrust into a

    new job, making my former „purgatory‟ seem like paradise. Previously, my body was enslaved in

     a Registered trademark b James 3:1

    HEAVEN‟S DOLE QUEUE

    degrading work, but my mind was almost free. Now they‟ve got my mind as well. My ability to write

    has been mauled. Though writing to a non-existent audience is more therapy than ministry it

    seemed the one twig in my hand buoying my head above the fierce, gray waves of utter despair.

    A young woman, attractive and popular, lit a match and plunged into lifelong darkness. Gas

    had been seeping into the room. The explosion ripped through her, searing and pulverizing a once-

    normal body. It hurt to see her plight. My greatest battle, however, was not fighting tears of com-

    passion, but envy. Had I suffered like her I would probably receive a small pension and so, despite

    enormous restrictions, I might have more time to write.

    I get a little negative at times. I once applied for a job at a local Psychiatric Hospital. The in-

    terviewers wanted someone with the ability to relate well with depressed, psychotic patients. As

    they showed me the door they mumbled something about me being over-qualified . . .

    Then, while swirling in the vat of squashed hopes and crushed dreams, it slowly dawned that

    I‟m not floating with the scum of humanity, but with its cream. I peeked at heaven‟s unemployment

    records. You wouldn‟t believe the big names they‟ve had on their files. Scripture and the tomes of

    church history bulge with stories of spectacularly successful people who spent years languishing in

    heaven‟s job line. I‟ve uncovered facts that affirm the light at the end of my tunnel isn‟t a freight

    train it‟s sparkling success, glorious fulfillment. After years of prayerful seeking I‟ve received an-

    swers with the power to revolutionize both your life and mine.

    God is making a smart cookie. If I‟m covered with spilt milk, that‟s marvelous. If there‟s egg

    on my face, it‟s a bonus. If I‟m mixed up, I‟m delighted. If I‟m beaten, I‟m making progress. If the

    heat is on, I‟ll warm to my task. If I‟m half-baked, something good is cooking. When I feel I could

    crumble, I‟m nearing perfection. Everything is going my way.

    I haven‟t been feeling myself lately. Everyone‟s noticed the improvement. If the secrets I‟ll

    share fill me with joyous expectancy, imagine what they‟ll do for someone as normal as you.

    Word games

    By „ministry,‟ I mean a calling; a divinely ordained area of service that thrills the heart of God

    and touches needy humanity. It might not be full-time pastoral or missionary work, but from hea-

    ven‟s perspective, it is of equal stature. Whether full-time, part-time, or spare-time, a „ministry‟ is

    sacred, fulfilling, and of immense significance. Irrespective of how recognized it is on earth, it will

    be forever honored by heaven.

    I refer not just to serving God, but doing so to our highest capacity. It is far from easy. It

    stretches us to the limit. But for each of us it is the one type of service that gives Almighty God the

    greatest praise and us the greatest satisfaction. As a missionary can be in the will of God before

    becoming a missionary, so we can be in the will of God before entering our ministry. Our life con-

    sists of more than ministry, just as a plumber‟s life consists of more than plumbing. Nevertheless, it

    is one of the thrilling aspects of Christian life.

    Though it would be valid to call all obedient service „ministry‟, I use the term in a narrower

    sense. Let me illustrate. With Christ-like grace and dignity, Joseph served God in Egypt as slave

    and prisoner, yet he could not, and should not, have viewed that as his destiny. Lodged within his

    heart, fired by a dream, was a divine restlessness which he dare not quench. Not all godly service,

    but his ultimate vocation, the earthly culmination of his yearnings, is the type of service on which

    this book focuses.

    It‟s not the task that makes the difference, but the call of God. Had Joseph a different calling,

    slavery might have been the „something more‟ he craved from his youth, the assignment he was born for. If so, it would have been the one activity through which he could find completion. Though

    worldly voices shout that slaving is always inferior, when still and receptive to the Spirit‟s whispers,

    Joseph would know if God had endowed him with the rare ability to elevate slavery to a holy voca-

    tion.

    Preaching with pens, the apostle Paul, John on Patmos and John Bunyan turned prisons into

    pulpits from which they shook the world. Likewise, Saint Ignatius, Madame Guyon and Dietrich

    Bonhoeffer penned while penned, inking their names into history‟s pages. And the crucified Christ

    turned being treated like the lowest criminal into the highest ministry. So in theory, suffering unjust

    imprisonment could have been the ultimate for Joseph, carrying with it as much eternal acclamation

    as being Pharaoh‟s right-hand man. To urge Joseph down that path, however, would be the devil‟s

    work, seducing him to abandon his dream of becoming a ruler. His faith in dreams was critical. It

    was dream interpretation, you may recall, that secured his release and allowed him to fulfill his des-

    atiny. THE QUEST FOR FULFILMENT

    Perhaps, like Joseph in prison, you are already serving God, but it somehow feels hollow, as though you‟re still in the „waiting‟ stage of your life. Fellow workers know they have arrived and they

    may try to comfort you, urging you to regard this as your destination, too. But though their motives

    are honorable and they may be reciting divine pronouncements about their own mission, they could

    be enticing you to miss your unique call.

    Now you see my dilemma. One person‟s destiny is another‟s detour. The vocation of one is the temptation another of another. How can one book address people with such diverse calls? And

    if ministries differ, so do roadblocks to ministry. Some of us have cold feet, others a hot head, oth-

    ers a lukewarm spirit. A few, like baby bear‟s porridge, are just right. Some of us have never neared

    our vocation, while others, equally needy and promising, agonize over having seized a once-in-a-

    lifetime opportunity and blown it.

    Addressing such a diverse audience makes it inevitable that tensions run through this book, threatening to tear it apart. Yet to write separate books is even more hazardous. What if the wrong

    one reached you?

    Thank God, there‟s an answer. I rely heavily upon the Spirit of God, trusting him to spotlight those truths you specifically need. If you join your prayers with mine, God will use this book to

    speak to you.

    Book map

    As you slip through this book, various themes will rise and fall. Like waves on the sea shore, thoughts will recede, then reappear. I pray this rhythmical ebb and flow will prove as therapeutic to

    you as it has to me. Rather than lull you into a hypnotic sleep, however, these waves are breakers

    designed to jolt you awake.

    bEzekiel feared his words were like a lullaby when his listeners needed a trumpet blast. Unlike

    Ezekiel, who brought accusation to the hardened, I bring comfort to the hurting, yet even I fear lul-

    labies. Electrifying truths that lilt by without charging you with hope is my nightmare. My mission is

    to soothe down-trodden and confused souls and then see them to soar, not sleep. So I write stacca-

    to and use cymbals as well as violins. Instead of bridges tempting you to hurry on, I sometimes

    leave chasms, enticing you to pause and assimilate. My aim is to lift you, not for a month, but for-

    ever. For this to happen truths must hit with new force. The clash of rapidly changing subject matter

    should help. And when a vital truth is in danger of fading from your consciousness you need it to

    splash over you again. At least that‟s my excuse for a book that reads like divine revelation filtered

    through a scrambled brain. As you ride its waves you will lurch and lunge like a tiny boat on a wild

    sea. That should keep you awake.

    You‟ll find the humor comes in waves, too. In fact, it‟s about to wave good-bye and duck out

    of sight for quite a while. It will rear its cheeky head again. (There was humor on every page until

    someone corrected my spelling.)

    The book is peppered with Scripture references. These are an incentive to consult a book su-perior to mine. Occasionally, I will introduce a thought you would like to pursue a little deeper.

    That‟s your clue to check out a footnote. Another of my eccentricities is that since my creativity

    stops short of inventing facts, I believe your right to truth includes the right to know my source

    (someone must take the blame). Perhaps only one reader will benefit from some references, but I

    beg your indulgence. I long to serve that reader.

    I have a nose for a good story (I‟m told you could write most of War and Peace on it). So to

    add interest and substance, I cite the stories of nearly three hundred women and men. Each person

    was selected because a facet of their lives exemplifies a valuable principle. It is not an endorse-

    ment of their ministries or doctrine. Some are not even Christians. I take my lead from God‟s book,

    crammed with accounts of idolaters and shabby saints. The Holy Book invites us to feast on Solo-

    mon‟s wisdom without partaking of his folly; to see divine power and mercy in the story of Jonah,

    the cold-hearted wimp; to be proud of David the giant-killer and ashamed of David the adulterer.

    It is imperative that this book be life-changing, but my love-gift to you and the Lord is the pain and prayer joyfully dedicated to making the book entertaining and a delight to read. When God does

    something it‟s not just functional, but beautiful; not arid necessity but brimming with unexpected

     a Genesis 41:9 ff b Ezekiel 33:31-33

    HEAVEN‟S DOLE QUEUE joys. He made the sun, for instance, not just an essential power-house but a warm bath of pleasure,

    delighting and inspiring all humanity. That divinely fashioned orb is more than a time-piece. Its rays

    don‟t just illuminate, they sparkle and dance, they paint rainbows and the ever-changing splendor of endless sunsets, splashing color through all the earth with unrestrained exuberance. Everything

    God does displays his inexhaustible creativity and generosity.

    How I long to be more like Father!

CHAPTER 2: THE ULTIMATE LOVE AFFAIR

    The greatest good anyone can do for humanity begins with a dynamic encounter with the liv-ing God. I refer to a spiritual transformation so revolutionary that it is aptly termed being „born

    again‟, though overuse has sapped this term of its power.

    You could walk down church aisles all your life without ever marrying. Everyone knows that. Yet, tragically, countless thousands have walked down a church aisle and falsely assumed that

    made them born again. Like marriage, it is a relationship, not a ritual that counts. Spiritual rebirth

    results from a life-changing union between two persons. You can mumble the sinner‟s prayer, the

    saints‟ prayer, any prayer you like; you can join the best church, get wet, slurp communion, look

    more godly than an archangel, and have not a throb of spiritual life. Your act can be so convincing

    that you even fool yourself, and remain unaware that your life has missed an entire dimension.

    In style and content, this chapter is quite different from the rest of the book. So if you are cer-tain you enjoy daily intimacy with God, you may prefer to go straight to the heart of the book by

    skipping this chapter and return here later. I don't want you losing interest by dwelling on matters

    you are already familiar with. For the rest of us, however, this chapter is essential. The remainder of

    the book will help only if you put this chapter to work. The quest for fulfillment starts here.

    Dare to dream

    We crave love. It is an essential ingredient of a meaningful life. Yet it is a risky, potentially agonizing experience. Death or disagreement can so easily rob us of the one we love. Though we

    kiss with our eyes closed, relationships are frighteningly fragile. Beauty sags. People change. The

    deeper our love the deeper our insecurity.

    Reality is cold, but dreams are too hot to hold. Our passions seem so insatiable we that shrink from them, yet still they haunt us. Just for a moment, release the iron grip that keeps your longings

    suppressed in the dungeons of your mind. Let your longings waft free before your gaze, no matter

    how unattainable they seem. Dare to see what they reveal.

    You burn for unwaning intimacy; a companion who will never fail you; a carer who will always be there, no matter what the circumstance or hour; someone whose love never ceases to astound

    you; someone whose charms and beauty and powers will not fade with the passing years.

    Too often you are misunderstood. You crave a friend who can slip inside your mind; ideally, someone who has not only heard of your every trauma and triumph from birth, but experienced

    them with you. You need to unburden yourself with a confident who knows your blackest secrets,

    yet delights in you with unswerving devotion.

    When life‟s blows send you reeling, you ache for an admirer who not only passionately longs to meet your deepest needs, but is always able to. You need a partner so capable that when crisis

    swallows crisis you can trust your friend to comfort, protect and power you to success. Yet you don‟t

    want to be smothered. On the contrary, you want someone who will nerve you to reach the heights

    you were born for.

    You pine for someone changeless, yet exciting; someone who fits your needs so exactly it feels you were made for each other; someone you will be forever proud of; someone whose love for

    you is so vast that it always satisfies; someone faithful, genuine, open and warm, yet so resistant to

    the ravages of aging, sickness and tragedy as to seem immortal.

    No human fits the bill, yet the craving remains. A few dreamers keep chasing the elusive high of starry-eyed love, forever groping for the perfect relationship. Most of us give up. A person would

    have to be God to meet our criteria! And how could he help? We‟re flesh and blood; God, if he ex-

    ists, is some nebulous, unapproachable Spirit. The notion of a friendship with God is preposterous.

    Or is it? Within the realms of the unknown almost anything could dwell even a God poised

to shatter our insensibility to him. If there really is an Intelligence behind creation, why were we HEAVEN‟S DOLE QUEUE made with cravings that could never be satisfied? Is God a sadist, or were those yearnings for the

    aideal companion planted within because he longs to fulfill them by being your closest friend? Could

    it be that God seems impersonal only because you‟re not on close terms with him? If God were im-

    personal, that would make us superior to our Creator. That‟s absurd. If we can speak, feel and love,

    bour Maker can do all that and more. God is warm.

    This exciting Person, whose never-ending companionship and limitless power are able to fill

    the unfillable hole within us, is the perfect partner we ache for. Yet his very perfection makes him

    unapproachable. The Almighty is awesomely holy; incomparably virtuous. We are not.

    The joy of being wrong

    We come hurtling back to reality. Life‟s a bed of roses. The beauty is enticing and the aroma

    alluring but the thorns are cruel. There‟s a solution, but to appreciate the grandeur of that solution,

    we must dwell for a couple of pages on the magnitude of the problem. This is so distasteful that we

    instinctively recoil from it, longing to deny its existence. Our reaction proves the truth of Jesus‟ as-

    csertion that people love darkness (ignorance and wrongdoing) rather than light (truth and purity).

    We‟ll expose facts that challenge the limits of our ability to grapple with reality. Yet facing

    them is the most liberating experience a human can know. Let me illustrate.

    I‟m stumbling up a perilous trail, far from civilization. Angry blisters jostle on the pain-scale

    with bruises and open wounds. The blazing sun sucks my throat and mocks my exhausted supplies.

    If I don‟t get there soon ... Panic rips down my spine, gets trapped in my stomach, and thrashes in

    wide-eyed terror. I stagger on, virtually insensible to the weird sound overhead.

    The trail twists and to my amazed surprise a helicopter stands before me. A pilot approaches,

    claims to be part of a search party, and tells me I‟ve been tramping for days in the wrong direction.

    „Do you take me for an idiot?‟ I fume. My bush skills ...‟

    Patiently, he takes out a map and dismantles my every argument. My spirit wilts. I could never

    survive the distance to even the nearest waterhole. Then the pilot offers to fly me to the exquisite

    oasis I had been looking for. My worries vaporize. The sooner I admit my need of help, the quicker I

    can get out of here. In such circumstances, even I can handle being told I‟m wrong.

    Magnify that tale and transfer it from fantasy to reality and you glimpse what this chapter is

    about. Discovering we are wrong can be the most thrilling moment of our lives. Confronting the

    truth of the next few paragraphs can usher you into a new world of joyous freedom, fulfillment, chal-

    lenge and excitement.

    When Frederick the Great visited Potsdam Prison, every convict he spoke to professed inno-

    cence. Finally he encountered a thief under sentence of death. „Your majesty,‟ he said, „I am guilty

    and richly deserving of punishment.‟

    „Release this scoundrel,‟ commanded the king, „before he corrupts all the noble innocent

    people here.‟

    1

    A similar surprise awaits everyone who dares admit the truth.

    I make no claim to powers of mind and pen sufficient to portray the wonder and majesty of the

    world‟s greatest love story. Nor can I highlight each facet of the unassailable wisdom, justice and

    moral perceptions that opened the possibility of a transformation of human nature so radical that it

    defies comprehension. My hope is to whisk you to its benefits, not expound its intricacies. So if any

    of the following seems unconvincing, limitations of space and skill may be the problem. I warn,

    however, that in these critical issues, the real cause of blind-spots usually turns out to be psycho-

    logical or spiritual. The door to spiritual understanding is not human explanation, but supernatural

    enlightenment divine revelation. And that door swings not on mind games but on a willingness to

    surrender our stubborn will to One who knows better than us.d Already our defenses are on red I ask you to face this issue because it leads not to shame, but to the exhilaration of a cleansed con-

     a It is more than coincidence that old-fashioned romance, bearing lightly the scars of reality, was laced with religious ex-pressions like „she adores/idolises him', „you're divine/heavenly', „he worships the ground she walks on', „a marriage made in heaven'. From another source comes the term „sex goddess'. b Even in cases where no drugs were administered, many people who have been revived after clinical death have reported a sensation of floating away from their bodies toward a bright light. Their experience was too fleeting to know whether they would be considered worthy to remain forever in the presence of that light, but for our purposes, the notable thing is that although „bright light' sounds impersonal, they commonly report telepathic communication and intense love emanating from that Being.

    c John 3:19 d John 7:17; 2 Corinthians 3:14-16; 4:3-4; 1 Corinthians 2:4-16; 4:20; Luke 10:21

    THE ULTIMATE LOVE AFFAIR

    science. It leads not to oppressive restrictions, but to utter freedom.

    Our dilemma God’s deliverance

    If we burst into a hospital and chanced upon a doctor sterilized for surgery, he could not touch

    us. We may seem immaculate, but not by his standards.

    We are like that in the presence of the holy Lord. We may be as good as the next guy, but by

    the unassailable perfection of his lofty standards we are moral lepers. God must keep his distance.

    That seems an over-reaction. Being surrounded by imperfection all our lives has jaded our

    ability to see ourselves objectively. Deep down we suspect the worst but we flee from it like people

    refusing cancer checks even though early diagnosis brings life, not death.

    A favorite, rarely conscious, technique to silence our suppressed but nagging conscience is to

    concoct a doctored moral code that lets us entertain the delusion that we are morally superior to

    some people. What drives us to despise certain people or to gossip is not unkindness or snobbish-

    ness so much as a desperate attempt to drown the shrieks of our own conscience. We feel less

    guilt if we can convince ourselves that there are others who are morally worse. Our self-deception

    is so individual that I am unlikely to guess the reader‟s blind-spot, let alone find my own. The follow-

    ing are just three of countless possibilities.

    ? A man might detest wife-bashers, while he cheats on his own wife, thus loading her dice in

    the deadly AIDS game. He toys, not with the possibility of injuring her, but not with the possibility of

    killing her. He does this not to her face, but in cowardly deceit. And he is certain he soars at moral

    heights far above anyone who would slap a woman.

    ? Or we might label rape a hideous crime, but call the seduction of a married person „love‟.

    Seduction ravishes its victims at the deepest level, debauching them so completely as to make

    them willing partners in immorality. Even the grave offense of rape leaves its unconsenting victims

    morally chaste.

    ? Or we might feel superior to criminals when what differentiates us is not morality but co-

    wardice (fear of getting caught, of incurring the disapproval of others, etc.) or lack of opportunity

    (not knowing how to commit the perfect crime, or not holding a gun at our weakest moment).

    Each of us are infected by one of hypocrisy‟s innumerable strains. And the most dangerously

    afflicted are those oblivious to it. That‟s why Jesus said blatant sinners are more likely to find God

    athan are the self-righteous. We are driven to all lengths even to accusing God of injustice to try

    to ease our guilt. We spurn God‟s laws, hurt each other, and then have the audacity to blame God

    for the mess.

    „Why do the innocent suffer?‟ we sneer, conveniently forgetting the times our anger, greed

    band lies have hurt the innocent. For some suspicious reason, there is a degree of hurt we deem cusable, and the hurt we have inflicted happens to compare favorably with the standard we have

    arbitrarily set. With every atom of pride within me shrieking in protest, I am forced to the shattering

    conclusion that the moral gap between a sadistic murderer and myself is invisible, relative to the

    yawning chasm separating me from the flawless virtue of Almighty God.

    The Holy One loathes evil but if he enslaved the human will, squelching evil by forcibly pre-

    venting all of us from indulging in pet sins, we‟d be the first to shake our fists.

    If God is a God of love, why does he allow the evil that‟s rampant in this world? For anyone

    not entranced by his/her own double-standards, the reason is obvious. God longs to destroy all evil,

    and the time is fast approaching when he will.c But how, without unprincipled favoritism, could he do

    this without destroying you and me?

    (I warned this horror story would take you to the edge of your tolerance. Rich rewards, how-

    ever, await those with the courage to face facts we inwardly know to be true. When approaching a

    God who can make us more beautiful than we dare dream, we have no need to act like burns pa-

    tients smashing mirrors.)

    Should we reform and never so much as think another wrong thought, it wouldn‟t help. If wa-

     a Matthew 21:31 b Ultimately, only one Innocent ever suffered - Jesus. Though for our sakes he became man, the eternal Son of God had life independent of human ancestry. The rest of us owe our very existence to wrong-doing. If, for instance, we could trace our family tree far enough, we would likely find a direct ancestor who was the product of rape or unlawful incest. In other words, were it not for gross wickedness we would not exist. And in our genes - our basic essence - we have our father's eyes, our grand-father's walk, our mother's temper, our ancestors' sin. Far from being innocent, we were born a product of wickedness and confirmed our guilt the first opportunity had.

    c 2 Peter 3:9-13

    HEAVEN‟S DOLE QUEUE ter is contaminated, adding pure water doesn‟t help – the water is still contaminated. There‟s cor-

    ruption in our past and we cannot change the past.

    Some things God cannot do without violating his integrity. Consider a man in court found

    guilty of dangerous driving. The judge happens to be a close friend of the defendant. Would it be

    right for the judge to declare his guilty friend innocent? Or could he fine the offender less because

    ahe is his friend? Only a corrupt judge could condone law-breaking or display favoritism.

    And God is our Judge, because there is no such monstrosity as a self-made person. None of

    us decided to come into existence, or can even design our offspring‟s fingerprints. God formed the

    brain cells we think with. We owe him everything. The Lord is maker and therefore owner of

    every molecule and organism we have ever used or abused. Like it or loathe it, that makes us ac-

    bcountable to God for our every action. Our selfishness has hurt people. It would be an outrage for

    the Supreme Judge to ignore our offenses. We‟re the ones who bellow at God when we see wrong-

    doing go unpunished. Though his devotion to you defies explanation, he cannot do other than dec-

    lare you guilty. And justice demands the penalty be paid.

    That leaves just two alternatives. Either you pay the penalty, or someone pays it for you.

    It would be sheer conceit for me to consider taking your punishment. I have my own wicked-

    ness to answer for. But the Son of God, two thousand years ago, left his celestial judgment seat and

    came to earth. He became the sole human who has lived a perfect life. In the brilliance of his purity,

    our highest moral achievements look like mud. So when Christ voluntarily endured the pain and

    shame of a criminal‟s death, something of cataclysmic significance was happening. The timeless

    Son was taking upon himself full blame for your sin.c

    Physical torment choked in a sea of spiritual agony. On the cross the only person who has en-

    djoyed eternal oneness with God cried, „My God, why have you forsaken me?‟ Father God was com-

    pelled to desert his beloved Son, treating him as the vilest sinner, until the horrific penalty was paid

    in full. After absorbing the full consequences of our depravity, Christ broke through to life again,

    blasting a path for us to follow.

    You are the focal point of this heart-stopping display of love, the greatest love the universe

    has known. Will you continue to spurn it?

    Our response

    Christ has provided a legal way whereby anyone, though guilty, can go scot-free. But that

    does not make forgiveness automatic.

    To be intimate with the Lord of the galaxies; to have divine power flowing through your veins;

    to reach the peaks you were made for, requires a response on your part. To explain, let‟s return to

    the reckless driver.

    A judge would have to fine his friend for breaking the law. It is quite legal, however, to offer a

    friend money to pay the fine. It is then up to the offender whether he accepts the judge‟s gift.

    It would break Jesus‟ heart if you slight his offer to suffer for you. The only alternative is for

    you to bear the penalty. That‟s the last thing he wants. God is anxious to save you from the horrors

    of hell and grant you a fulfilling, life-changing partnership with him.e But you must accept the gift.

    That involves admitting that you need the gift that only Jesus‟ sacrifice can absolve your guilt.

    There is one more consideration. If our lead-footed friend intends perpetuating the same of-

    fenses, he is a danger to the community. It would be wrong to pardon someone who plans to con-

    tinue flouting the law.

    Similarly, it would be wrong for God to forgive us until our attitude to sin has changed.

    I reel at the thought of the hordes who have tragically missed this point. A second analogy will

    confirm its centrality.

    You are trapped in a sea of sin. Bottomless waters lap towering cliffs. No one can tread water

    forever. The murky depths terrify you, except for one spot. You‟ve found a place where the deadly

    waters seem beautiful and the sensual waves exquisite. How can anyone take seriously your cries

    for help if you‟re splashing around enjoying yourself? And what‟s the point of saving someone who

    is hell-bent on plunging back after every rescue attempt? No one with a suicidal commitment to a

    sin can be saved.

     a Romans 2:11 b Acts 17:31 c 1 Peter 3:18 d Matthew 27:46 e 2 Peter 3:9

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