“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:4,5 New International Version
Wanted: Dead or Alive
One of my favorite dreams as a child, even as an adult sometimes, was to be a cowboy! I’m not sure how many boys wanted to be a cowboy when they were growing up. I never wanted to be a soldier, or president of the USA. I wasn’t interested in being an astronaut (a good thing with my motion sickness issues), or a fireman. Perhaps I could have been convinced to become a police officer, since a cowboy could become a sheriff or a deputy sheriff.
I liked the boots, and still do. I still wear them often! I liked the shirts, and still do, but don’t wear them anymore. The hats, the jeans, the jackets, the stuff, cowboy stuff has a magnetic attraction for me, especially when it comes to the horses. The saddles, bridles, blankets, saddle bags, all the horse stuff is equally as enticing as cowboy stuff!
The funny thing is as I am writing this my heart is racing with anticipation over something that became more daydream than reality long ago. Every now and then in my mind I take a journey to the great west of the cowboy and the indian, that which is referred to as wild. Sometimes a story written by Louis L’ Amour will remind me what a man was known to be, that cowboys were men of honor, and there was a code to protect.
Once upon a time we knew who the good guys were. We trusted what they were to do, and how they were to do it, with honor, trust, and pride. We believed they would choose to be harmed before they would cause harm, or allow harm to ever touch the innocent. They were always standing clearly as a wall between those needing protection from the evil and the wicked, those who destroy just because they can.
Or did we really know who were the good guys? Was it truly so clear how the evil was actually infiltrating our lives?
About now someone may begin playing the world’s favorite game, The Blame Game. Who can we blame for the demise of the good guys, the code of honor, integrity, for all the missing excellence in our world and lives? It really isn’t about who is to blame anymore. It’s about how we are choosing to respond. What will I choose; what will I do? What will you do?
For the last three weeks I have been part of an online group discussing Theology. It has been quite different from what I first expected. What was I expecting? I’d expected an exchange of ideas having more to do with the experiential reality of God’s intimacy and passion in our lives. Instead, I have been exposed to something quite different.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to run with the big dogs. The individuals I have been in conversation with are PhD’s, and have nearly a whole alphabet behind their names. They teach in universities, exchange ideologies with cutting edge philosophers and theologians, spending much of their time in the world of academia. And here I come with no degrees, no alphabet following my name to impress the highly educated. The only PhD I know goes with being a cowboy, a Post hole Digger. As much as I wanted to participate, in the beginning I was ready to run as fast as I could to somewhere safe. I felt completely out of my depth, asking myself what was I doing!
Then why am I still treading water in the deep end of a pool some would say I have no business swimming in anyway? One answer may be I have never known enough to get out of the pool, let alone to leave the deep end. Quite honestly, God hasn’t given me permission to leave yet. I figure He isn’t through with the lessons! I don’t know how it works for you, but when God leaves me somewhere it’s because the Lessons are not finished!
At least not for now, and I am learning to respond to comments about my obvious ignorance with gentleness. Are you surprised? I’ve had lessons in recognizing responses from others crafted in pain, and learning to avoid, if possible, adding to that pain.
Inevitably as in any group, some desire a punching bag. As much as I hate being pummeled, I’m learning to take verbal punches as a punching bag, not personally. I am sure the biggest lesson was to my ego, big surprise.
As I was joining the group, discovering my voice, writing responses, and expressing thoughts, several positive comments were made regarding my skill in writing. Of course those comments stroked my ego, then when some discovered I held different understandings of scripture than their own, expressions of my sophistication as a writer vanished like the mist. Other group participants decided I still retained my sophistication, and stated I was an extremely talented writer, etc. Does anyone want to guess where that sent my very fragile but growing ego? The answer may surprise you as it did me, because reality had paid a visit reminding me as much as my self-esteem craves hearing Words of Affirmation (see The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman), it’s not what matters.
Jesus responded to the evil of the enemy by giving Himself for all, not just for some. There are many who teach Jesus only died for the ones who believe. That is true, except they want to tell you what to believe—it’s about what they tell you to believe. Jesus told us to believe in Him. Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians, God in His amazing mercy has made us alive with Christ! Jesus, on that night so long ago, in a conversation with an old man seeking truth, told him to believe in Jesus. Choosing to believe in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrected life begins an amazing process of Grace.
God wanted us when we were dead in our rebellion, in our self-focused, self-seeking, evil, wickedness, desiring only what we wanted for ourselves. God took us when we were dead and made us alive in Christ by Grace. We were wanted dead or alive because God was making us alive in Christ, the only living that really exists anywhere. His is the only living that smashes the time barrier for eternity!
It is by Grace you have been saved. I never get tired of reading, seeing, hearing, being reminded of that truth. It’s the truth that is found in and with Jesus, the Father, and the Comforter. We all were members of the enemy’s camp, that’s just reality. An even greater reality is we are no longer members of the rebellion when we accept the offer God gives us. Daily He becomes the wall protecting our hearts, mind, and souls from the enemy. Jesus gave His all that we may live not only in the future with Him, but in the now with Him.
I know its hard to remember; there are days when I can’t remember. Some days are just too much. It seems I cannot survive one more illness, one more procedure, one more anything! Yet, I am never alone; He is always with me. He reminds me, and friends “just happen” to remind me of His loving care. During the day, the week, the month from somewhere will come words so needed to refresh, to remind me who I am, where I sit, and why I sit there!
It is highly unlikely I will ever be a cowboy except in my own mind, and I’m all right with having that dream as a place to chill out every once in a while. What we have in real life is the promise God loves us. Jesus made life here a reality, here and in the future. The Comforter is never put off by any mood or mood swing trying to define my day! In Christ it all becomes something beyond who we are, beyond who we believe we are, it becomes everything He knows we are in Him. Wanted: Dead or Alive, either way it leads to a Life Everlasting.
6-8 Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.
9-11 Now that we are set right with God by means of this sacrificial death, the consummate blood sacrifice, there is no longer a question of being at odds with God in any way. If, when we were at our worst, we were put on friendly terms with God by the sacrificial death of his Son, now that we’re at our best, just think of how our lives will expand and deepen by means of his resurrection life! Now that we have actually received this amazing friendship with God, we are no longer content to simply say it in plodding prose. We sing and shout our praises to God through Jesus, the Messiah! Romans 5:6-11 The Message
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