God’s Thoughts to Me
But Jesus knew their evil motives, “You hypocrites!” he said. “Why are you trying to trap me? Here, show me the coin used for the tax.” When they handed Him a Roman coin, He asked,” Whose picture and title are stamped on it?” “Ceasar’s,” they replied. “Well, then give to Ceasar what belongs to Ceasar, and give to God to what belongs to God.”(Matthew 22:18-21, NLT).
So God created human beings in His own image, in the image of God He created them, male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27, NLT).
The Hurdles of Discipline
When my oldest son, Simon, was a secondary school learner, he was a provincial 400 meter hurdles athlete. At all the competitions his doting mother caused him endless embarrassment by, to put it mildly, proudly, yet noisily, jumping up and down, cheering him along and helping him to finish the race. Eventually he had to surrender, for he, for some strange reason, seemed unable to get his mother to behave more appropriately.
Then it happened! He stumbled and heartily greeted mother earth during a race he was about to win. My courageous, brave 18-year old baby got up and finished second…and then…collapsed! This mother hen quickly gathered her precious, bleeding chick under her wing, and that in front of an enormous crowd of spectators. So completely not cool at all!!
That was one of my favorite, precious God moments. Our Pappa taught me a most valuable lesson through this incident on His love and care towards us. Like the best parent ever, He lovingly disciplines us by allowing the hurdles of trials and tribulations during our race of life to teach us godliness and complete dependance upon Him. Every hurdle presents another opportunity to stretch those faith muscles to jump clear. When we fall, He lovingly picks us up and gathers us in His arms and wipes away all our tears while encouraging us not to lose heart, for He will always be there, right beside us, jumping up and down with joy as He cheers us on, rejoicing over us with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17).
As I was reading the above Scripture, the Lord opened my eyes to a big, bad insurmountable hurdle of misconception and wrong perception l had allowed to develop in my life, hindering my relationship with my Pappa to grow, to bloom and to blossom. My frame of reference told me that all our Lord Jesus’ anger towards the Pharisees and Scribes was also directed towards me. Our Pappa was, as far as I was concerned, a very angry, abusive God, expecting me to pull myself up by my own bootstraps and polish up my poor excuse of a life.
Our God patiently taught me through one of my favorite Bible teachers, James Fowler, my perception of His character was totally wrong. My frame of reference needed to include some “zits im leben” (setting in life). It needed to be based on the truth of whom our Lord really was referring to, as well as the culture and traditions of that specific time. When I read the text in that context, scales fell from my eyes and I looked at this Scripture with new understanding.
Allow me to give a little background information. At the time our Lord Jesus walked the earth, the Roman authorities issued a silver coin, the denarius, stamped with the image of the Emperor. It was used as the standard payment for taxes. The Romans were well aware of the Jews’ scruples about “graven images” and out of respect for their religious traditions, they issued a bronze coin without any image for the use of those devout Palestinian Jews, without having to defile themselves when paying their taxes.
I have wondered why politicians and religious leaders often seem to be bosom buddies until I saw the truth of Solomon’s words, there truly is nothing new under the sun! (Ecclesiastes 1:9). The Pharisees and Scribes were hand in glove with the Herodians, inviting them along when they tried to soft-soap our Lord Jesus by commending His integrity. As if they were qualified to be judges of integrity! They tried to force Him into a Catch 22 situation by asking Him the famous question about taxes. These highly religious and righteous Jews, as they considered themselves to be, had no reason to defile themselves by touching a denarius, but when Jesus requested one, they provided the denarius from their own pockets!! I wonder if all the bronze ones went to the poor!
Our Lord saw right through their evil intent into their greed for religous power, position, prestige and money. They were unwilling to give it all up and to give themselves wholeheartedly to our Pappa. We are all familiar with the outcome of this story.
A question started to form in my mind, “As humans, whose image do we bear?” Our Pappa revelaled to my heart the precious truth that we are all created in His image!! He created us as spiritual beings to lavishly love us and enabled us to love Him in return. That privilege was forfeited in Eden and bought back on the cross at Golgotha. If only I could rid myself of that brood of “Pharisees” joyfully lodging in my heart, suffocating the loving relationship between my Pappa and me. Our Lord’s words became crystal clear to me, “You search the Scriptures because you think they give eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this eternal life” (John 5:39-40, NLT).
I rejoiced when we together chased the slave woman and her son from my heart as Paul instructed us to do. (Galatians 4:30). Good riddance indeed! But little did know of all the son’s siblings, cousins and cousins-twice-removed still stealing and feasting on the delicious fruit our Lord was producing in my heart, keeping me imprisoned and chained to the system of religious performance. I had cordially invited them in when I had gobbled up many false teachings in the past. The stone tablets of my heart had many laws, over and above the Ten Commandments. As the years passed by, I kept adding more and more, as well as erasing a few outdated, old ones.
The slave woman and her son
I never was certain what the current religous modus operandi would be and was horrified of being rejected one more time, so I kept my list up to date, I never knew our Pappa could be so finicky for He seemed to change His mind from day to day, from denomination to denomination and even from congregation to congregation! Just to name a few of the silver denari, stamped with the image of religion, I was carrying in my pocket:
1. Only the Psalms and organ music are suitable for our Lord’s ears.
2. Communion must be served around a big table where everyone drinks from a humongous silver communion cup.
3. Tithe your gross income if you want to ensure God’s gross blessings.
4. As proof of having been baptized in the Holy Spirit, speak in tongues.
5. Serve, serve, serve and then serve some more; give, give, give and then give some more.
6. You have to be under the church’s covering, submitting to their authority. Failing to do that is proof of habouring a Jezebel spirit.
7. Wives submit to your husbands even if it kills you or be warned of the danger that you might turn into Jezebel herself.
8. Never mention someone’s name while praying for them in church for that borders on idolatry.
9. Do not disagree with your pastor, or if you do; zip the lip!
10. Do not always be the one suffering from an illness, for that shows your lack of faith and without faith you are not pleasing God. So rather suffer in silence and pretend to be well.
11. Spread the Gospel. Failure to do so will hinder the growth of your fruit supply and if you are empty handed when you meet the Fruit Inspector one day, you might be in BIG trouble!
And so the list went on and on and on!! Keeping them caused me endless spiritual pride and I could teach the Pharisees and Scribes a lesson or two about hypocrisy. Today I realize that it was all due to my extremely poor and shame-based self-esteem for I always used to measure love, anyone’s love, especially God’s, as something earned through my performance, yet mine always seemed to miss the mark!
Although some of these practices are not wrong in and of themselves, they do become law the moment they become rules and therefore replace grace, bearing the emperor’s image. I realize now that the Great Deceiver, the Father of Religion, played dirty tricks on my mind. Our Lord Jesus did not mince His words when He told the Pharisees, “For you are the children of your father, the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth.” (John 8:44a, NLT).
Dear Ones, even though Fm/CFS takes us through deep, deep valleys of suffering, I can now see and appreciate our Pappa’s hand of love and wisdom in my life, providing the hurdles of suffering to draw me away from the law-based road to destruction and steering me gently into His kingdom of light of love, of freedom and peace. He will personally carry you over all the many hurdles this illness and life in general bring into your life, looking forward to the beautiful butterfly that will eventually emerge from your cocoon of suffering.
May our Lord bless you and keep you secure this coming week, snuggled warmly in the safety of His Loving Embrace!
Hugs and blessings