36 years ago today I experienced my spiritual birth. Over the years I have learned new things and been challenged in many ways. I was a 21-year-old living at home with a dead-end job, substance addiction, little hope and no direction or purpose. I had declared that I would be dead before I reached 30 but what is really scary is that I didn’t care.
I have been encouraged and I have been declared crazy because of my encounter with Jesus of Nazareth that night. During that encounter with Jesus I felt as though a warm shower had washed over me removing all of the doubt, despair and hopelessness that had haunted me.
Since then, I survived my thirtieth birthday, been blessed with the best family and friends any person could dream of. I have been trained and conditioned in all of the “correctness” of religion and have wrestled with the tension of thinking and believing what I understood I was supposed to think and believe.
My theology is still pretty orthodox but my relationship with The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are more important than the components of my doctrine and theology. I found tremendous freedom in understanding that God will continue to be a wonderful mystery to me and that He will never run out of ways to amaze, encourage and inspire me. “…His compassions never fail. They are new every morning…”
I knew that I had reached what could be considered spiritual “maturity” when I became complacent in my journey. I felt I had learned and experienced everything there is to experience and that there was nothing new under the sun.
Then one day, when I read King David’s words in the 51st Psalm, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation”, I realized that God doesn’t want me to be “mature” to the point of complacent haughtiness. He wants me to continue to experience the joy, peace, hope, wonder and amazement that I experienced 30 years earlier. He wants to amaze me – and He continues to do so.
Jesus said, “…anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it”. I want to always look at God and all of creation with the wonder and hope of a child. Maybe that makes me immature, childish or even naïve, but it also brings me peace, joy and hope.
People can argue my theology and my experience. Other believers can question my doctrine and theology, people of different faiths or no faith can question and doubt my experience but the simple beauty is this: No one can take it away from me! It’s mine – it’s in my heart, mind and spirit. And that can never be taken from me!
Thank you, Jesus! I love you!
(I haven’t posted in a few months but the following thought came to mind. After arriving at my conclusion I figured that it is a good subject to post)
God gave us the Ten Commandments as the foundation of the Law (Torah). As people of faith we need to look at the Law through the lens of God’s heart.
Why did God give us the Law? What does God ultimately want? Does He want our obedience or our love and devotion? He wants both but how should they be prioritized?
Jesus said that the Law, all of the Law and Prophets, were summed up in the Greatest Commandment, which is, from a human perspective, two commandments intertwined as to be unable to be separated.
Mark 12:30-31 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.’”
Relationship is the key. God wants us to love Him first and foremost. He does want our obedience but He wants our obedience to be an outflowing of love and devotion to Him rather than an act of self-protection from divine wrath.
The best way for me to illustrate this concept is as follows…
The seventh commandment instructs us to “not commit adultery”. In our household that has never been stated as a house rule or law. (We don’t really have house rules, just an implied code of conduct developed over years of relationship.) it would however, be a violation of a vow I took over 30 years ago to be a “true and devoted husband, faithful to her and to her only…”
I have never committed adultery, I have never cheated on my wife. Why have I not committed adultery and why will I not do so? Is it because I do not want to face the consequences of breaking that rule? That could be a secondary motivation but the primary reason that I have not nor will I ever commit adultery is because I love my wife. I am madly in love with her and I could not bear to hurt her, break her heart or betray her.
While the consequences of such an act would be devastating to me that devastation on my part would be warranted but the pain that my wife would endure would be incomprehensible and I could never recover from knowing that I had inflicted such an atrocity on someone so special and so important to me.
My reason for obeying the no adultery rule or not because it would be a violation of law but because I would be hurting someone I love deeply. Our relationship would at best be damaged and at worst, destroyed.
God wants us to get to know Him on such a level that our adherence to His commands are motivated by love for Him, not of simply doing good.
The discovery of my eclecticism was a pinnacle of self-realization. Two diversely opposite cultural genres collided at the junction of a shared a family tie that very few would notice without a broad reaching association with two distinct worlds.
As a sports fan it is reasonable for me to be familiar with the fiery diatribes of the vociferous sports commentator, Skip Bayless. Since I am a Seattle resident, Skip’s interview of Seahawks cornerback, Richard Sherman had a distinct impression on me. Normally unflappable, Sherman was goaded into rendering prickly responses to Bayless’ abrasive interrogation.
As a Food Network enthusiast and aficionado of Mexican cuisine it follows that I would be familiar with the television show “Mexico: One Plate At A Time” hosted by the soft-spoken and even-tempered, Rick Bayless.
While not a common surname, neither is Bayless an unusual name. I enjoy both of these celebrities but I never considered the possibility that there might be a family connection and therefore I never bothered to investigate. It was during a random Google search following up on one of chef Rick’s television episodes that I discovered, in fact, that these two are actually brothers.
Granted, my discovery of Rick’s and Skip’s fraternal relationship was serendipitous but had I not been aware of the elder Skip in his capacity as a sports journalist, I would not have taken note when his name appeared during my research into Rick’s culinary pursuits.
One is an accomplished sports journalist, the other a nationally recognized chef and author. I can only imagine how enjoyable it would be to share a meal together at a sports bar with these two luminaries.
Thanks to the Bayless brothers, my standing as a renaissance man is set! Rick and Skip, if you’re ever in the Seattle area together, lunch is on me.
See Skip in action https://youtu.be/j6x-O3kb1sI
See Rick in action https://youtu.be/k95Qb_XFm8Q