Sunday, July 16, 2017

Freedom Walk


Nearly two years ago, I got a new puppy and named him Jet. This energetic little ball of fur soon became a big black dog with a bad attitude.  I tried to train him to be nice and respectful and follow rules, but he wanted to do what he wanted to do…and with great gusto.  My dreams of an obedient and devoted pup were vanishing as fast as the expensive grain-free dog food that I fed him each day. Since his low-carb meals weren’t reducing his boundless energy, I decided that a nice long walk would be good for both of us.  So, every morning, I took him out into the fields behind our house and let him run.  At first he was cautious and would stay nearby; but then he became braver and started to venture further.  When I would call him back, he would triumphantly trot even faster and farther. Occasionally, he would come running back to me, but when he got just out of reach, he would sprint away, tail wagging victoriously. Because of his deviant behavior, I finally resorted to leash walking so that I could protect him from harm and teach him about acceptable boundaries. These leashed walks weren’t nearly as fun for Jet; he was closely tethered and often choked himself trying to pull ahead of me.

Enter the miracle collar.  After numerous attempts to reward (non-existent) obedient behavior and to give Jet a little more freedom, I finally purchased a “training collar” (or in less PC language, a “shock collar”).  When we first buckled this mighty miracle on Jet and he figured out what it could do (don’t report me to the Humane Society...we only used the “tone” function except in times of extreme disobedience or imminent danger), he was terrified of the control we possessed.  Mostly he just stayed in his kennel sulking because of his loss of perceived freedom; he hated the idea of submission to our rules. As he became accustomed to wearing it, though, he discovered that if he came when we called, he could actually gain freedom, not lose it; he could run faster and farther and free-er. Because he finally understood his boundaries, he was able to enjoy his un-tethered walks once again. By putting some parameters on his life (that were painful when he exceeded them), Jet gained freedom from his errant, and possibly harmful, desires.  He was able to run and play without fear of being “in trouble” because he knew how far he could go.

There was a time early on in history when God gave us the run of this earth, but because we thought we knew better than He, we did what we wanted to do…and we ventured outside the boundaries.  As a result of our deviant behavior, and because God wanted to keep us safe, He established some rules for us.  For a time, He put us on a leash called The Law; this law showed us the boundaries God had drawn.  But, because it kept us tethered to our sinful selves, we could never experience true freedom.  This kind of walking—according to the law—wasn’t nearly as fun and it almost choked the life out of us.

Enter the Miracle Maker. When Jesus came to live on Earth, he abolished this law by fulfilling it.  And He showed us a new way to live.  Some people scoffed at this new way, angered by its Leader’s claims. Some wandered outside of these parameters and suffered ‘shocks” that made their lives miserable. And still some chose to surrender their wills and follow this “higher law." These people, the ones who recognized the Miracle Maker and respected His Lordship, found this new way of walking beautiful and right; and when they, out of reverent obedience, stayed within God’s field of blessing, they experienced unleashed liberty like never before! They had abundant life!

A God-focused mindset is like that; like a fence (or a shock collar!) for us.  It reminds us of His design for our happiness and tells us how far we can go. We would be wise to listen for His call.

Nowadays my daily walk with Jet brings me joy.  He runs and romps and comes when he is called.  Tail wagging and no longer leashed, he knows his limits and respects them.  He also respects me.  And obeys me without question.  And that, my friend, is a true miracle from the wonderful Miracle Maker.

Amen and amen.

 "Therefore I will keep on obeying you forever and forever, free within the limits of your laws." 
Psalm 119:45 (TLB)

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Ultimate Reconciler

I had a thought when I was walking today.  I was missing Brent (who is gone on a weekend away) and God used this momentary feeling to give me a picture of an eternal truth.  Here it is: 

When Brent and I argue fiercely and finally come to a place of unity, the reconciliation is so true and right and satisfying to my soul that I yearn for him in a way that I don’t experience when all is right between us.  I think it is that way with God too…except that we don’t always understand the life-altering reconciliation that is offered us. If we truly sensed our brokenness and saw the great chasm that Jesus closed for us, our hearts would thirst desperately for the Father’s love and we would drink it in deeply.  We would be satisfied in Him alone.  We would long to stay close.
And our hearts would sing for joy.

The Psalmist says it well in Psalm 63:1-8:

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;

    my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
    beholding your power and glory.
 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
    my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
    in your name I will lift up my hands.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,

    and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
    and meditate on you in the watches of the night;

 for you have been my help,

    and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
    your right hand upholds me.

May it be so for me, and for you, as we seek the Ultimate Reconciler, Jesus Christ.

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss -
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.

“How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” by Stuart Townend