Epiphany

light-dawnsWhen, in an instant, you realize everything that’s true – because of what literally just happened to you, which backs up and proves all the evidence you’ve sensed all along.

This is how I would describe my “Spiritual Experience”. My moment of salvation. It happened in a flash – really a series of “BANG” revelations in the span of 24 hours – that I experienced like that filmmakers’ tool of silent, milliseconds-short jump cuts to quickly summarize intense action. It may have taken days, weeks, months, years to grasp and accept, but that initial halo of light’s explosion cannot ever leave my mind’s eye.

I’d heard the story before – it even made fairytale sense, especially as an opiatic idea of controlling the masses developed by some churchy, pre-socialistic, elite, priest-class in the distant past. BUT, in a blindingly-bright instant, the factfulness of it slammed into my being, my awareness – literally leaving me gasping for breath and in complete shock. It was REAL.

This is how I described that coming to terms in a Journal Entry, April 6, 2009:

I am what I do today.
I am sexually pure for my wife.
I confess my wrongs and ask forgiveness.
I serve by doing my best.
I forgive myself by living Christ’s example.
I will await God’s timing.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.
1 John 3:16a

I forgive myself by living Christ’s example.
forgivenessA man, who had never sinned because he was the Son of God, allowed himself to be killed in a horrible way – in my place. [This entry is almost a year after I began my recovery journey, and nine months after The Epiphany.] I was put on trial for all the (I thought) hidden evil, all the wrongs I have done. I was found guilty and I was sentenced to be put to death by being nailed to a cross and left there to die.

God gave us Jesus to die for our sins. And he raised him to life, so that we would be made acceptable to God.
Romans 4:25

But this man came forward and took my place voluntarily. He died in my place. And, instead, I was pardoned, absolved, forgiven, set free to start over, to live again – knowing this time of the law, of the way to live free from sin, from wrong-doing. This man’s example of love, of sacrifice, is that way.

What was he thinking?? He was at my trial. He heard the charges against me: pure selfishness, greed, hurtful words, lustful perversity, negligence of those in my care, drunkenness, laziness, gluttony, sloth, pride, vanity, lies, self-delusion, avoidance, isolation, me, me, me. Why, knowing the charges to be fact, to be true – why would he willingly suffer excruciating pain and torment – equal in weight to my sins – in my place?

God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins. Then, in exchange, he poured Christ’s goodness into us!
2 Corinthians 5:21

giftGuilty I am of all. Deserving of justice, of punishment- not deserving of life. Yet he steps forwards and dies for me. And I am absolved of all sin. I am given a clean slate. And more: for all the condemnation that others have for me, all the despisement, is transferred to him as well.

And we ought to lay down our lives for others.
1 John 3:16b

But there is a condition: Now, I must become like that man myself.

[Addendum] It is not the condemnation of society nor any legal consequences of our sins that Jesus eliminates. It is our need of self-hatred [of self-condemnation] because of that sin. Jesus allows us to live again with ourselves. We know for ourselves that we are forgiven [by the highest judge]; that we can forgive ourselves; that we can continue to live in this world and have a hope to reach the next. We are able to be like new.

sparklerBut we owe him for what he has done for us. [Incredibly, all that]  we owe him [is] belief and love. [What could be easier?]

God says he will accept us and acquit us – declare us not guilty – if we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we can all be saved in the same way, by coming to Christ, no matter who we are or what we have been like.
Romans 3:22

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Christianity Is: Fixin’ the Whole

“I’m fixing a hole [the whole, my whole] where the rain gets in
And stops my mind [life] from wandering
Where it will go [out of control]”
– Beatles

There’s a meme flying around social media that depicts the worst ways that men, who claimed to be Christ-followers, instead utterly denied him by their actions. It’s an image of torture, probably from the Inquisition times. I won’t say any more about it specifically.

My Dear Friends, this is not what Christianity is.

To be Christian is to desire – above all else in life – to be like Jesus Christ, Son of Man/Son of God. Desire and above all else are excellent words to describe this faith. It speaks of passionately wanting, longing, yearning – not for some thing of this world – but to be whole as a divinely created human being.

Perhaps what is not so obvious is, that in order to want to be whole, one must first be aware that there is a hole (or holes) to fill. To feel brokenness. To admit to wrongdoing or simple mistakes, colossal goof-ups, or words and acts of purely evil intent.

Another way of looking at it is that Christianity is carpentry of the soul. We’re rebuilding ourselves to be a temple for the Lord God to inhabit. The wood we build with is our own habits and behaviors. Any sawing, cutting, sanding, or planing if done on our own lives.

Jesus Christ taught and demonstrated exactly how a flawed humanity could grow toward perfection. He spoke of two ways to make consistent, ongoing progress, as recorded by two people who personally knew him. Jesus said:

Mark 12:30
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, strength…
“Love your neighbor the same as you love yourself.”

Matthew 28:19
“So go and make followers of all people in the world.”

There may seem to be a question about the letter of this law, due to the many possible interpretations of the verbs used, but it is the spirit of these ‘commandments’ that is the key to living them.

First and foremost, to follow Christ is to live every minute in a deep and extremely personal relationship with The Creator. To seek to know God, who literally and figuratively made me, as intimately as I know myself. (Maybe even more so.) To be inseparable from him. To be with him with every fiber of my being. All my heart (my emotions), my soul (my six senses), my mind (my logic), and my bodily strength (my very life).

Getting to know God leads to realizing every good and potential thing about myself, and to see where I am lacking. Then, with his forgiveness, I receive the power to change – the spark that only he can give. Daily, moment-by-moment, I can then apply myself to fixing the whole of me.

As I grow and mature towards more-often-than-not being able to say and do what is “loving” for myself and for those who are in my life, I am able to see that they are like me in brokenness, in mistakes made, and even in purposely or reflexively causing harm. I can then feel and extend the same forgiveness – that God gave me, that I give myself – to them, through my own words and actions.

‘My words and actions’ means that I “walk my talk” of abiding in God – of staying with him. This is leading by example, not by forcing or dictating expectations of behavior for others. Consider the verbs used in English translations of Matthew 28:19:

  • make followers or disciples
  • teach
  • disciple
  • train
  • immersing them into

None of these implies the use of force or punishment. Instead, they give the sense that people will voluntarily want to know my secret for living with peace and joy in any circumstance.

Revelation 3:3
So don’t forget what you have received and heard. Obey it. Change your [own] hearts and lives!

Focusing on God, on myself in him – this is what will lead other people to a desire to know him for themselves.

I Call It Tw/G (“Twig”)

Tw/G. I love acronyms. This one, “twig”, stands for “Time with God”, and it’s something I try to do every day, first thing in the morning. I love it. Getting up early is now a well-established, ingrained pattern of behavior for me. (Well, ok, the dog helps more than once in a week by sleeping horizontally across my side of the bed, leaving me with no room.) Bless Poochie!

Tw/G time is growing time. It’s spiritual watering time. I can’t help but think “I am the vine and you are the branches” – I’m a twig. This daily practice is how I grow, slow ‘n’ steady. I know that on some days, there won’t be much for show, but the long-haul, the one day at a time, the one moment at a time effort is what counts. It’s where the real work gets done. It’s not always going to be glamorous, or “mountain-top”, not all budding or flowering in bright colors. But that’s cool. I guess plants need shade, too. After all, God covers the sun’s light “to give us the coolness of night.” (Indescribable, Chris Tomlin).

To be honest, I only recently got tired of writing on my to do list, “Time with God”, and shortened it to Tw/G. This just looks like it should be pronounced “twig”, so that’s what I’m going with. Since I found the Lord – or rather, He found me (with a 2×4 upside the head), morning devotional time is one of the few things I’ve kept consistently in my schedule. I am so very grateful for this. I’ll keep writing each day and tell you more about my story – or rather, God’s story in my life. Praise the Lord!

Tw/G is the first thing on my list each day. Since I make the list after my Tw/G, it gets CROSSed off (“+”)  right away. What a positive way to get the day going!

Are you ready? Let’s go!