The sun was just coming up over the mountains as a steady stream of droopy eyed customers repeatedly opened the swinging door into the coffee shop. Outside tables were being filled with various groups who were busy discussing their kid’s soccer games, what they watched on TV last night or the latest gossip circulating around town. Off to one side, the Ridge Lake Christian men’s group was meeting for early morning prayers and devotions. Hot coffee and cranberry scones were being devoured as fast as the waitress could haul them out. However, most folks sat motionless in their chairs gazing into an endless sea of laptops, notebooks, IPads and smart phones of all shapes, colors and sizes.
“You Know” paused one of the men from the church group to a woman sitting at a table behind him. “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life!”
“Yes, I’m sure your right” smiled the woman who was distracted and not desiring conversation turned back to her book.
“But I’m not sure you know the same Jesus that we do” continued the man with his line of questioning and who seemed to recognize the woman as belonging to a different spiritual fellowship located down the street from Ridge Lake Christian.
“Oh, well, I wasn’t aware there was more than one Jesus?” snapped the woman politely yet with a smidgen of annoyance at the man’s persistent inquisition.
Soon, pleasant conversation came to a halt, bibles slammed shut and all eyes became focused on the woman with spot-on, pin-point accuracy. Their glare was so intense, like red lasers in a laboratory experiment, that you could almost feel the heat and see a wisp of smoke rising from their target. The group of penitent older men had quickly dissolved into a vicious pack of young, hungry wolves and as the sun was rising they began to slowly circle their prey. All the men joined in the feeding frenzy that escalated into a shouting match across tables. Verses were now being hurled from memory, out of context, demanding that their own particular knowledge, theology and dogma were the only way to reach God.
As providence would have it a young Jewish rabbi, sitting nearby, closed his copy of the Torah and began blocking the men’s rhetoric like a giant shield held high above one’s head during a bright storm of flying night arrows.
“Anyway, we Jews would have to disagree with all of you” said the rabbi adjusting his round, Harry Potter looking spectacles up towards the bridge of his nose. “And I believe the fact that you are arguing with one another is proof that you don’t know what real love is. None of you know the first thing about God and the great love that He has for His creation. You see, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” stammered the rabbi.
The preceding story is completely factious; any similarities to actual people, places or events are strictly coincidental.
Two thousand years ago, Nicodemus, a religious leader of Jesus’ day, under the cover of darkness, came secretly stating the fact that God must be with the young rabbi. Jesus replied saying “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Jesus went on to say that just as Moses lifted up the bronze serpent in the wilderness so shall the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believed and trusted in Him would be saved. All one has to do, to be forgiven by God, is to look up to the cross, believe and to behold Jesus, God’s One and only Son. He alone has paid our debt in full by becoming the payment for our sins and transgressions.
The questions we must all ask ourselves are: Have we really been born again? Are we truly transformed? Do we really love people? Are we ready to reach out a hand to someone in real need or are we quick to shout out “Be warm and be filled” but don’t stop to render any assistance.
Maybe we are like some of the men in this story who are more concerned about being right, getting our own way and burdening others with long lists of pseudo rules and non-essential regulations. If we surrender to God, He will transform us to be like the young rabbi who stopped to show kindness and love to a total stranger.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”