I was at a meeting a couple of weeks ago where I knew no one. Most of us at the meeting were strangers, so as the meeting commenced, we each went around the room and shared a bit about ourselves. It wasn’t long before a particular individual stood out as someone wanting to control every aspect of the conversation. With almost every introduction, this person had something crucial to say about this or that and so interrupted almost everyone as they spoke. Even after the introductions, she dominated the discussion, oblivious to the facial expressions and body language of the other participants indicating frustration at her monopoly.
I began to rile inside with the inability to stop her interruptions, and longed for the moderator to step in. As the evening progressed, I realized I needed to check my own body language so as not to come across as rude and indifferent, yet am not certain how well I accomplished grace. I was really ticked off.
Once alone, and again the next morning, my emotions were still unsettled and a bit miffed. As I remembered the previous evening, I began to pray, “Lord, would you please convict the hearts of those moderating so this doesn’t happen every week? Would you let them realize they must gain some control of the situation?”
Then the inaudible voice of the Holy Spirit began to speak and convict me, “Robin, what if instead you prayed I convict her of her need to control all conversations? What if you asked me to free her from her bondage to needing control? What if you prayed my Spirit move within the meeting each week and moderate all conversation toward building one another up in Christ?
Then without warning, the Spirit began to hone in on my own heart….What if you saw your own need to control and show grace? And what if you considered maybe why she may have this tendency?
God’s love through me sacrificing my comfort to cover her shame. Or as the Apostle Paul put it:
Truth. Life. Transforming me, then transforming others through me.
Lord, forgive me for thinking not of her need, but only of my own discomfort. Forgive me for looking only on the outward appearance of things, and thank you for reminding me of someone’s bruised heart. Forgive me for wanting to take this into my own hands and forgetting your Spirit is able to move and work in a grand way to free each of us. Please use this time to show each of us our need, and may your Spirit love lavishly through us as we meet.
Last week I visited a friend with two adorable children under 5. During the visit I noticed the two-year old head to the fridge, open the door and hide while attempting to sneak a snack. Her mamma smiled and softly explained her daughter had recently begun helping herself to a snack before lunch. As mom and I talked on, the little one, oblivious to our watchful eyes, walked quietly into the open dining area only feet away. Grasping her piece of cheese she hunkered under the dining table with an occasional turn aside to see if her deeds were still unnoticed. Soon mom turned to her daughter and quietly spoke, “Honey, I don’t mind if you have cheese.” Upon realizing all was well, the toddler quickly came out of her hiding space to join us as she continued to munch.
From the first hint of shame and guilt in the garden, mankind has assumed a holy God reviles us as our rebellion deserves. Certainly Adam and Eve felt that way. Upon discovering their nakedness for the first time, Adam and Eve covered themselves in leaves then hid from God in shame and fear. When they failed to show up for their daily visit, God called their names, and their response immediately alluded to the fact of what they’d done. Their rebellion brought shame and made them incapable of standing before a holy God. And with shame, Adam and Eve wrongfully assumed God would also now shame them, and so ran from rather than to His presence.
However, a holy God never desires us to stay within our shame, so after enacting discipline to bring them to repentance, God slaughtered an animal to picture the slaughter of His Son centuries away, and personally fashioned garments for his beloved children. Even in rebellion, God’s immense love acted to cover their shame and remove their guilt.
The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. Genesis 3:21 (NIV)
Centuries later as Jesus, God’s own Son, realized his death was imminent stood on a hill outside Jerusalem, and looked over the city where He’d soon be beaten, mocked, and then crucified. As His Father did so long ago, He longed to not only cover the guilty shame of His people but eradicate it by the sacrifice of His own blood. Knowing His sacrifice would be rejected by many He cried out:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me. Luke 13:34 (NLT)
Where today are you? Do you continue to hide in your shame, assuming God despises you for your guilt and shame? Or have you run to Him, asking Him to remove its stain for you?
May I please pray for you?
Dear Lord, it’s so easy for me to assume you despise me in my guilty state, and wait for the opportunity to expose and punish me. Yet, I see here you long to cover my shame and guilt rather than expose me further. It seems to says you long to eradicate my shame rather than punish me. Help me to trust the truth in your words. My guilt and shame are great, and I long to find freedom from their torment. Would you make a place for me under your wing? Would you cover me and heal me? Please. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Come rest under God’s covering embrace with me. It’s wide enough for any who choose to shelter there.
…be earnest and disciplined in your prayers.Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.
“If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it’s yours. If it doesn’t it never was.” – Jess Lair
An eternity ago that quote adorned a poster of an idyllic countryside hanging on my bedroom wall. At the time, I was head over heals in love with a beau who failed to feel the same making our relationship anything but idyllic! During those tumultuous months, I often gazed at that quote and thought my world would end if I ‘let him go.’ In reality, I was far better off when I finally loosened my grasp long enough for him to escape. I had a lot to learn!
Although not a statement I’d base my entire life on, there’s some truth in it. Relationships won’t last if there isn’t commitment from both ends. Those who are willing to wait forever for their partner to come around often end up broken-hearted. At the other end, people who smother others with a steel-like grip eventually find themselves lonely.
Often, those who don’t know God speak as though following Him requires bending to His ‘steel-like grip.’ Yet, in reality, the opposite is true. God is supreme, yet as I look further at the the story of mankind’s beginnings in the garden, I see something I wouldn’t necessarily expect from a supreme being. One of the first gifts God gave those He made in His likeness and image was the freedom to pursue or reject His rule.
Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
…The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:8-9,15-17 (NIV)
A TRUE FRIEND OFFERS THE ABILITY TO CHOOSE
A previous post details why God forbid Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Suffice it to say it was for their protection. What I want to note is, through that tree God gave Adam and Eve the ability to choose either to pursue Him or walk away. ‘You can eat from the myriad of trees and plants I’ve made for your nourishment and enjoyment so you may live abundantly, or you can choose this one tree and suffer consequences beyond your current ability to understand.’ As supreme Creator, God could have made a nice comfy garden with the most wonderful foods and greatest entertainment, but with no ability to choose. God didn’t want servants or captives, He wanted friends so He willingly provided an opportunity for His friends to say “no” to friendship and His rule by eating from the forbidden tree.
A TRUE FRIEND IS WILLING TO SACRIFICE TO RESTORE FRIENDSHIP
Yet God’s love didn’t end in giving Adam and Eve the freedom of choice. God also saw the dire results of their choice, and their forthcoming inability to escape their own consequences. In amazing love, God formulated a plan to rescue and restore not only they but also their children and children’s children. The only possible rescue would be of such a magnitude so as to require the death of His Son as a ransom.
The greatest evidence of God’s love is that although we’ve rebelled against His rule and scorned His friendship, He’s made a way for us to be restored.
When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good.But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. Romans 6:5-11 (NLT) emphasis mine
Supreme Creator. Highest Ruler. Yet He didn’t force Himself. He offered Himself. Then in lavish love made a way for rebellious subjects to return home, through the death of His Son. Where are you today? Are you a loyal friend and subject to His rule, or are you wandering about needing God’s love to show you the way home?
The beauty of a true friend comes from camaraderie and the confidence in knowing, “You really get me and still like me.” I remember when my husband and I were dating, I would sometimes remark, “Just wait, when you really get to know me you may not like me as much as I can be ‘fiery’ and my passions can get the better of me sometimes.” He’d laugh nervously, and I always wondered if he was re-thinking his undying love. I’m so glad he decided to marry me anyway, and although he knows me well, he even likes me.
To think of God as one who could be my friend wasn’t something I used to consider because, “My end of the friendship wouldn’t satisfy. God may love me but He couldn’t really like me.” Yet God’s Word says so differently. Why’s it so easy to doubt?
As I pondered and prayed over where to begin examining how I could ever be confident as God’s friend, the thought came to me, “Begin at the beginning.”
If I want to know God as friend, I need to discover who he is and why He says friendship is even a possibility. I can’t just take the word of others. Nor can I assume the outcome of my query based upon my own presuppositions or prejudice. I need to take the time to find out by sitting and listening to God and by spending time with Him. If I fail to do so, I will misunderstand Him and possibly assume things about Him that aren’t true.
Do I really want to know God, or do I only care about others’ opinions of Him?
There have been times I’ve said, “I’ll never be that person’s friend because…….?” Yet later discovered all I presupposed was wrong and we became the best of friends. In the same way, I’m learning to know God as ‘friend,’ I need to spend time getting to know Him. The only way I can do this is by reading what He says about Himself and by communicating with Him about myself. God speaks to mankind first through his Word, the Bible. We communicate to Him through prayer.
So then, what is the first thing God says about Himself?
Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning, God….”
When we’re first introduced to someone, we often begin by mentioning something important about ourselves, something unique to us. No one but God could ever open an introduction with, “Nothing else existed before me.” If anyone other than God said such things, we’d be calling the police and moving away s.l.o.w.l.y. So this statement obviously sets God apart. But why did God choose this statement to introduce Himself, of all the things He could say?
Genesis 1:1 is God’s introduction to mankind.
Since God was in the beginning, before anything else existed, He’s set apart from everything else as supreme. That’s an important thing to know about God. There’s nothing above, or even near Him in rank. I imagine for some, this causes red flags! We know plenty of people who think they’re better than us, and they don’t mind letting us know in not too pleasant a fashion. But, let’s give God’s intro a chance and see what comes next.
God goes on to say:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth….
The second thing God wants us to know about Himself is that He used His supremacy to give the gift of life! And when He finished, He was so pleased with the beauty, grandeur, and masterful craftsmanship of His creation, He declared, “It is good!” If you want to read the entire account–found in the first two chapters of the Bible, you can find it here in a modern language. (You may also be interested in reading a post about it here.)
God fashioned everything meticulously, in an order that would sustain and produce life with mathematical precision. And after thoughtfully creating all else, at the very last, He tenderly scooped up clay from the ground and with great tenderness formed man ‘into His own image and likeness.’ Then God-breathed, filling Adam with life.’ Within a short time, God, with the same care, put Adam to sleep, removed a rib, and beautifully sculpted a similar but unique form suited well to Adam and gave her life. None other of His creation was made with such intimate care. Why?
While God’s Son Jesus walked this earth, he often beckoned those around him to friendship. In the book of Revelation (the last book of the Bible) the Apostle John heard Jesus say:
Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Revelation 3:20 nlt
When you look at the thought of becoming God’s friend, what holds you back? Would you be willing to comment or email your reasons? I’d love to discuss some of the reasons (without names of course) in future posts. Also, would anyone be interested in a closed FB page for further discussion with like-minded people? Let me know what you think.
If you are interested in looking at the previous post “Pursuing God’s Heart, Becoming His Friend” click here. If you are interested in the next post in the series, “A True Friend” click here.
I’ve created this free downloadable, as these are the things I’ve discovered over the years that have helped develop my friendship with God. Below is what it will look like in your inbox. To receive your copy, submit the form below, and it will automatically be forwarded to you. You will also be notified when new posts arrive. You’ll also be the first to know when there is exciting news, such as when my new Bible Study comes out (it will be a while yet). I hate spam, so I won’t send it. My posts come out about once a week, and any special notices will be sporadic.
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On this journey too,
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Was there ever a time as a parent you knew your child had done wrong, but rather than directly confront, presented opportunity to admit? Not from cruelty, but because you wanted them to take responsibility, and experience freedom from the damage of hidden guilt.
Mom had warned me over and over to take care of my clean laundry right away. On this particular day, she’d shown me a couple of items on hangers, freshly pressed, and asked me to put them away. I was too busy, and so quickly and quietly hung the items on the handle of a candle holder on the shelf and walked away. Shortly thereafter, the weight of the items toppled the candle holder and it broke.
I’m certain Mom knew who had broken the candle holder (they were my clothes). She wanted me to admit wrong and so asked if I’d been the one to put the clothes on the handle. “Not me.” So, wisely, she gathered all three of us kids, and asked each if we’d done it. Since no one admitted to wrongdoing, she offered to spank us all! My tender heart couldn’t stand the thought! I soon confessed.
My Mom gained her wisdom from a very wise Father.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Genesis 3:8-13 (NIV)
God is all wise and knowing. His questions weren’t of ignorance, but full of opportunity for his “children” to admit their wrong.
We will never be free from the bondage to our particular sins until we face the reality of them, and take full responsibility for them.
Sadly, neither Adam nor Eve were willing to take responsibility. Like us, they too easily pointed to someone else for blame. Adam blamed God who’d made Eve; as well as Eve, who’d given him the fruit he’d eaten.
Eve, blamed the serpent. He’d been the one to deceive.
Blame added to denial. Sin multiplied. No longer would mankind be able to live in a perfectly good garden – because their choices apart from God daily multiplied their shame, guilt, fear, denial, and now blame, where none had existed before. Blinded to God’s goodness, they were now enslaved by their choices.
But God is greater than both our sin and Satan’s deceptions!
14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,
“Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:14-15 (NIV)
God acted swiftly. He put the serpent in its place, punishing it for deceiving Adam and Eve by making it forever crawl on its belly and eat dust.
God then promised that at a certain point in time, he would bring into the world a man, an offspring of Eve, who would deal a sudden and crushing blow to Satan’s hold on mankind. A blow he would never recover from. In the battle, Satan would injure this champion of mankind painfully, but not severely.
God’s amazing, ultimate gracious plan of restoration was proclaimed and enacted even as the stain of Adam and Eve’s rebellion lay fresh in the garden.
Adam and Eve could never have imagined their choice would have such catastrophic consequences to their descendants and God’s creation. Genesis 3, and Romans 8 spell out the consequences more fully than I have here.
Yet, this makes God’s grace all the more amazing. He had every right, and still does, to destroy us because of our daily choices to go our own way. Our choices still have catastrophic consequences on our descendants and God’s creation, apart from God.
But he doesn’t choose to destroy us.
God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. Romans 5:20 (NLT)
God’s amazing grace chooses to restore, not destroy!
Tomorrow, we will look at the first glimpses of this champion of mankind who would exhibit God’s amazing grace toward us by fighting on our behalf!