Saturday, December 15, 2007

An open letter. . .

Dear Beloved,

This manner of greeting may well have you looking over your shoulder to see to whom I am referring to or did you open someone else's correspondence by mistake, but I am addressing you. I do not know your face or name. I only know your heart. I know your heart and I love you beyond your present ability to understand. I care for you. My eyes fill with tears for you. My heart breaks. I know that you do not understand.

This letter of my writing tonight, to an addressee unknown may cross years or decades, but I know that it will be delivered and read. I know that it will touch your heart. I know that reading this will be a turning point in your life.

God is talking directly to you from these yellowed pages. I know that you do not believe. Neither did I believe. I was a fool. I beg. . . I pray for you to not be a fool a day longer. I had all the arguments. I was so very certain. I knew that there was no God right until my eyes were opened and I saw Him for myself.

I know that there is an emptiness inside of you. Questions of purpose and worth abound. . . unease simmers within you never very far below the surface. Many of your past actions you would like to cover up and forget. . . somehow giving a lie to the damning worldly philosophy that men are basically good at heart.

You like to pride yourself on the good things that you do. In some small way they purchase a covering for the things of shame that you have done, but they are mere covering. If you put them in a balance the good is completely outweighed by the bad. Stack the good and happiness and joy that has resulted from your deeds against the pain, betrayal, heartache, broken promises, and deceit of your actions. Strip away the mythology of your memories and shine the harsh light of truth on your past. See how uncomfortable you become. It is painful to even think about, but better to face now than later when all hope and time for redress is past.

If you are honest with yourself, you do not have a clue as to life's purpose or how it is to be lived. You go through the motions each day, considering it a success if no great disaster befalls you. This is not living a life of victory, maybe at best a truce. . .and yet in some ways each day lived like this is one step closer to the grave where the time for decisions is past and all questions are answered, however rudely.

Every drop of water in a great river thinks itself free to do and go where ever it likes, but all water in the river ends up in the same destination. So it is for the great mass of unsaved humanity. All thinking themselves masters of their own lives, celebrating their independence as they flow along to the lowest possible level.

The questions, uncertainty, and fear can so easily be replaced by unshakable peace and joy. It is a decision within your power to make, but until this point hidden from your eyes.

You think that you know of religion and God, but your ideas are a severe distortion of the truth. You look upon it from the outside and all you see are restrictions on your cherished independence and supposed freedom, but again that is an illusion. Going back to my little metaphor of the drops of water in a river, by doing as you desire, by being carried along by the morality of the world you are being carried along with the world, to a destination not of your choosing, a destination that you cannot foresee.

Your objection to religion is based upon and focused upon the rules. They are distasteful to you in the extreme. That is all that you can see, but that is not religion as God intended it.

In the beginning we had a face to face relationship with God. He walked in the garden with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. We can only imagine the intimacy that must have been between them, but due to their sin God had to remove Himself from their presence and they had to leave His perfect garden.

Years later God again attempted to build a relationship directly with men, but the Hebrew people rejected God directly speaking to them. The people requested that God go through an intermediary, an intercessor rather than for His speaking directly to Him. They were so convicted of their vulnerability in His presence. They could not tolerate hearing God or talking with Him face to face. They rejected the face to face relationship. They opted for the rules and rejected the Rule-maker.

This is the religion of the Old Testament. Unfortunately many do not understand the reason for Jesus. Virtually all non-religious people and sadly a good number of those who think themselves very religious do not understand or accept the new agreement between God and man, that Jesus brought to us.

Men are not able to stand in the unfiltered presence of God. All men fall to their faces in His presence. The ancient Hebrews could not tolerate it and neither could we.

That is what Jesus has done for us. He was fully a man as you and I are. He suffered temptations the very same as you and I do and yet He is also God robed in flesh. With this flesh God covered the terrible, unbearable brilliant light of His Spirit that no man could endure. This now allows us to stand in His presence in spite of our sinful natures and again walk with Him and talk with Him. This flesh that He put on as Jesus makes it possible for us as individuals to come to know Him in a very real and personal way.

No longer do we need another man (like Moses for the ancient Hebrews) to intercede for us and to thereby transmit the desires of God to us, filtered through another without the relationship with Him. Moses was only able to pass the rules along to the people. He could not pass the relationship along to them. That is the religion of the Old Testament.

Now through Jesus, God is personally available to each man. God wants a relationship with you. Religion is not about a baffling myriad of restrictive rules. It is about a relationship with God.

Do you understand the difference of this perspective? As an unattached single person, marriage is looked upon as a restriction of freedom. There are certain things that you cannot do as a person in a committed relationship that you can do as an unattached person. Certain ways of behaviour are not acceptable. Certain places are now off limits when you enter into a relationship with someone.

You will often hear of young men talking of never getting married due to all the things that they would no longer be able to do. When married you cannot spend all your time with your friends going where ever you want. You cannot spend all your money on entertainment and toys.

But. . . but. . . but. . . most young men eventually change. They meet someone and the same changes in behaviour, the same restrictions in what you can and cannot do are expected, but now it is for a relationship that these changes are taking place.

The relationship comes first. The overwhelming love comes first and the old ways of behaving are gladly given up for love. They are no longer viewed as restrictions. You no longer want to do those things. Your relationship with your love is the most important priority for you. The changes that take place within you are not imposed from without, they naturally fall away. Your old ways voluntarily discarded for the sake of your relationship.

This is exactly the same as coming to God in the religion of the New Testament. Before we know Jesus all we see are the rules and restrictions upon our freedom. This is exactly like a young man's opinion of marriage. But if we open ourselves up to Him, if we allow Him to come into us and sup with us and we with Him, if we put aside for a time our fear of giving up our supposed independence and illusion of freedom without Him, if we allow Him to fully love us in the way that He desires we will find that His love for us and our love for Him out weigh every other consideration.

If we fully enter into an intimate relationship and loving relationship with Jesus our hearts desire is to make Him happy. Our unhappiness stems not from any restrictions placed upon our behaviour, but our dissatisfaction and dismay arise from what we perceive as our glacially slow rate of change into what He desires for us.

We still struggle with doing the things we should do and not doing the things that we shouldn't. Our flesh has appetites that will never be completely conquered as long as it still lives, but our focus is not upon the rules that we must follow. We are now more concerned with His reaction to our not following His desires for us.

When I do something that I know that Jesus finds displeasing, I have an image in my mind of my turning around and spitting in His face. When I do that which I shouldn't, my disobedience is also surely disrespect to Him. I see my spit of disrespect mingle with His tears of sorrow and pain as He watches any ungodly act that I may commit.

All I can then do is quietly weep. In my shame and embarrassment, I then ask for the forgiveness which He so readily gives and continue upon my path. I am hoping and praying to draw closer and closer to what He wants me to be.

This is the essence of what it means to be a person trying to live for God. I hesitate to use the word Christian, for some believe that to be a Christian means to be Christlike and that in truth I can never be. I am not and never will be very Christlike. That is a goal, but to think that I actually am would be a source of pride and trouble.

You have seen many who call themselves by His name and somehow presume to have drawn closer to Him than the rest of humanity through their following of rules. Theirs is not a path of humility and meekness, but one of pride and arrogance. The damage that they have done in the name of the kingdom is incalculable. For decades I mistook these fools as true representatives of Him, when in fact Jesus spent a large part of His ministry rebuking the self-righteous rule-followers and rule-makers of that day.

How do I describe for you the wonderful peace and joy of my relationship with God? He loves me beyond any human imagination. He endured my years and years of rejection of Him with no hint of holding any grudge or hardness of His heart. He is patient and understanding. He is always there, never impatient, in a bad mood or too busy for me. He protects me and leads me. He loves me and shows His love for me in countless ways. He talks to me. Sometimes He uses words, other times the flight of a bird, a flower, a cloud or a sunset.

As I write, this very moment the sun shines through my clear pen spreading a rainbow across the words of this notebook page. . . now it is gone and try as I might I cannot on my own efforts duplicate that effect. I turn my pen this way and that. It is gone. Whatever combination of angle and light that came together for a brief moment as I write, by the sunny window, of God's love and speaking to me in various ways, was only for a moment. . . small things like that happen all the day long. Coincidence you say? Over and over again at exactly the right time, these things happen. I write of His love and speaking to me and a spectrum of colors. . . the colors of His promise to Noah wash across the words of my writing.

My life is changed completely. My marriage is so so much improved with Jackie and I both trying to live for God.

Just one small example of many: I used to fret and chafe at periods of waiting. . . a long slow train in the car, a slow line at the grocery store, an hour in the waiting room at the doctor's office. . .I now relish these times of quiet and idleness. I pray. I talk to Him. I worship. I meditate on Scriptures. In just this one example, in a very fundamental way, my having a relationship with God has turned a daily occurrence from being a time of tension and frustration into one of peace and contemplation.

Never again am I powerless or swept away by events that I cannot control. In every situation no matter how mundane or dire the circumstance I have a direct connection to my God, to my Father in heaven, the One who both created and controls everything.

Not long ago I felt buffeted about by circumstances at my job. I was upset and frustrated by events that I had no control over. Have you ever been in a state like this? The realization suddenly dawned upon me that my job is not the source of my happiness. It is not the source of my security. I am not justified, validated, vindicated, or saved by my job. There is nothing there that inherently has any power over me that I do not give it. As soon as these thoughts came into my head, my feelings of tension and frustration evaporated. In mere moments I went from stress to joy and peace.

I did not have to pray for this. I was not dependant upon God granting a request. I have power of my own directly as a result of my relationship with Jesus. This power is fully available to you also.

Do you understand how life changing this is? Do you understand how much freedom you receive merely by submitting to God as your Lord? The difference between the ties that bind me to God and the chains that formerly tied me to the world is this: My submission to God can at any time be reversed or broken by merely turning my back upon Him. Those heavenly cords of lightest gossamer would immediately fall away. The bondage and servitude of the world is another matter entirely. I had to fight and fight to free myself from the bondage of the world. Smoking, drinking, legal or illegal drugs, pornography, immorality of all kinds, credit card debt. . . on and on and on. . .these chains are not at all easily cast away.

Yet those under the dominion of these spirits, haughtily disdain coming before the Lord and bending their knee in submission to Him. They have an illusion of independence of action and freedom. In reality they (formerly I) are absolute slaves to their vices. This deception of the highest order. True freedom is only available through submission to God.

In hindsight it looks so foolish, not long ago I was there blind and ignorant of the paradox and contradiction of my position. . .

I write this to you my faceless, nameless beloved one. I know you are there. I write these words from my heart to yours. My eyes shed tears for you. I raise up prayers to God for you. I see you in my mind. One day we will dance together around the throne of God in an ecstasy of worship and praise in the light of His love. . .

Your brother in Christ,

Dave Stokely
December 12, 2007

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