When someone is offended at God, no matter how lovable that person may be, a leaden door seals them off from what God wants to do and be for them. . . is there any power that can get through to them, to change their heart and make them His own?
Bruce warmly recounts his father’s and grandfather’s Jewish ways, but I’ve never heard him identify himself as Jewish. The rejection and prejudice of generations past has left a wound, family in Europe were put to death in the Holocaust. Bruce’s just soul has been so deeply offended that God, prayer and the Bible have no part in his life’s practice. He simply can’t connect. I hear the divine dialogue threading his incredibly intuitive observations, but Bruce does not see it at all. “If you want to impact me,” he firmly explains, “it will not be through references to God.”
As a boy, Tom brought home measles from school. He easily recovered, but his sister caught them and died. In their shattering grief over the loss of their daughter, his parents unintentionally cut themselves off from their young son. A tender child, Tom was essentially abandoned — left to face insupportable feelings of guilt, grief and loss — vulnerable and all alone. Deep down, decades later, my beloved friend still weeps — wishing he was the one who died. In so many ways I see God pouring His goodness into Tom’s life, dialoguing with Him — but the leaden door is fixed — it is too painful, too angering for him to entertain what kind of God might exist on the other side.
For many people, offense at God comes another way. . . in the vehement disdain of Christians and Christianity that fixes the leaden door of offense against the truth. . . but there is a power that can get through.
God is not undone by our offense at Him.
But too often I find myself aching over friends and family who seem hopelessly shut against God. I need the fresh revelation from time to time that faith does not wallow in hopelessness wishing God would do something. Faith identifies and seizes upon the power of God, and prays believing.
Identifying the power of God to make us His own
is the point of this lesson today.
Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.”
An incident that does not need recounting steeled my heart against Christianity when I was thirteen years old. As I walked away that Sunday morning, I vowed I would never enter another church again, and I was steeled against every Christian I would ever meet. The callous outburst of one profusely sweating, middle-aged Sunday School teacher, responding in gross fear without a shred of love convinced me that my beliefs were spiritually superior to anything Christianity had to offer.
I was confident that I had a relationship with God. There were innumerable moments when I felt His comforting presence, when I would look back and realize He had led me, when I vaguely understood what He was prompting me to do. Christians greatly underestimate the reach of grace into the darkness, the divine dialogue that is in place before the gospel comes. So when Campus Crusaders came to my dorm room at college, telling me I needed Jesus in order to have a relationship with God, I was smug, dismissing them as knowing nothing.
I didn’t know that I was in love with what I wanted God to be,
without caring to know Who He actually was.
Yes, I experienced His occasional motion on my life — but I was essentially rejecting Him. Like Saul of Tarsus, I had no idea how my loathing of Christianity persecuted Him.
In a letter to believers in Rome, the apostle Paul (formerly Saul of Tarsus) looked back on the power of God that had made him Christ’s own, and he said,
I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom 1:16, NASV)
It’s news I’m most proud to proclaim, this extraordinary Message of God’s powerful plan to rescue everyone who trusts him (Rom 1:16, THE MESSAGE Bible)
The power of God that makes the most offended hater of Christianity His own is The Message, the gospel God Himself supernaturally brings.
No matter how distant someone is from Him in culture or time, the gospel supernaturally preached to them by God, through His divine dialogue with them is what makes them His own.
The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU.” (Gal 3:8-9)
The gospel was preached to Abraham . . . telling us that God was making people His own long before Jesus of Nazareth was born. God may use the vehicle of a sermon, a testimony or a tract . . . but HE has to speak the supernatural message of the gospel into a human being to make them His own.
When the time came for The Son of God to be revealed in me, God moved upon a young woman named Melba Wagoner to recruit a team to pray for me . . . I was horrified and offended at the time . . . but I am very certain, now, that The Message which only God could speak to me, was borne on the wing of their prayer. Thank you! I do not know your names or your faces, but I am eternally grateful to you.
One morning in my twenty-fifth year, as I was brushing my hair in front of the bathroom mirror, thinking nothing in particular, time suddenly stood still as God’s voice broke into my thoughts, riveting my attention . . . “It is time for you to begin your mission, your life’s work. You have much to catch up on.”
The absolute clarity of the message stunned me. I didn’t hear His voice with my ears, but in my mind. It was like God was thinking His thoughts through my own. But it resonated differently than my own thoughts — it resonated as incontrovertible truth . . . intensely direct, penetrating, non-debatable, leveling, comforting, authoritatively compelling.
I was haunted by what it meant, that I had much to catch up on. What it was I didn’t know. But I had the unsettling feeling I was being gently “put in my place.” My sense of being called to a work was strong . . . I did not know that. . . we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Eph 2:10)
Intent on finding what I was meant-to-do and what I needed to catch up on, I threw myself into my spiritual practice, having no idea of the reform I needed or the danger I was in . . .
Most weekdays, while Bill was at work, I would put my children down for their afternoon naps and go to the living room, where I would lie on our couch, close my eyes and use relaxation techniques to slip into meditation seeking “contact” with God. The time had come for God to reveal to me the danger I was in . . . A command appearance I never could have anticipated was about to take place.
Eyes closed, I felt energy begin to fill the room from the floor up — as if the room was filling with a liquid energy that was kinetic, alive, highly charged, almost crackling with power as it rose toward the ceiling. And then a presence coalesced in this energy . . . the presence of sheer evil. It was not scary, like hearing footsteps in a dark alley — I just knew it was Evil.
And then, I saw a picture in my mind of a gloved hand turning its palm up as it extended itself toward me and I heard, “I can give you the gift you are seeking.” It was a dark taunt, but I knew both the offer and the power behind it was real.
A cold chill ran through me. Who and what was this? And how did it know that I was trying to develop “the psychic gift” in myself? I shot up, swinging my feet to the floor, responding fiercely, “If it isn’t from God, then I don’t want it!”
Instantaneously the energy drained from the room and the presence with it. I sat alone in an empty room, in a cold sweat, my heart pounding, terrified to ever practice that kind of meditation again–lest I open myself to what I now knew was out there. The command performance was over.
For the first time in my life I was contending with the revelation that Evil is real: it has a mind, it is powerful, it hides itself, it knows us, it tracks us and it is incarnated in beings that move on an unseen plane. My spiritual practice was being rigorously reformed. God was being gentle with me, but not soft — it was a stern measure, because it needed to be.
The next day I did not know how to proceed. I felt like I was putting together an incredibly difficult puzzle of immeasurable import — but I was missing a major piece. Feeling walled in and frustrated I turned to God, praying fiercely, on the edge of tears, telling Him that if He wanted me to figure this out, He was going to have to show me what the missing piece was. I was placing myself squarely at His feet, leaning entirely on Him to tell me what I needed to know.
I waited. And then, like the briefest flicker of a yellow butterfly flying across my field of vision, I saw one word: “Jesus.” Wrinkling my brow, I ignored it, thinking surely God had something more profound than that. I waited, praying the same prayer again.
One more time it flickered: “Jesus.” But this time a shudder of revulsion coursed through me. It couldn’t be. No, please! A hard darkness uncoiled, filling me with antipathy for everything Christians represented to me. I couldn’t bear the thought that they could be right. The cross, the blood, their ridiculous contentions. . . It couldn’t be. But I had asked God twice what it was that I was missing …. and twice, the word. “Jesus,” had come. The silence was intense . . .
And then He spoke, using my name for the very first time, “Valerie, do you really want to live your life outside the truth?”
He was direct, uncompromising, and for me. It was the most exquisite moment, the most ghastly moment. I yearned toward what He was saying. I was terrified by what He was saying.
But what could my life produce of lasting value,
if lived outside the truth?
He was giving me the freedom of choice; but as clearly as I perceived the choice, I really had no choice. To refuse what He revealed would be like signing the death warrant of truth in my soul.
And then, on the screen of my imagination, I saw on the right, high and lifted up, a wooden cross — empty and plain. On the left, I saw a crystal castle refracting light into colored beams. It had ramparts, turrets and walls and was quite beautiful. I knew this “castle” was a picture of my belief system, beautiful to me. And I knew I had to make a choice. Before I could turn to the cross and leave everything I knew behind, I cried out with everything in me — imploring one thing of God — that I not be sentenced for the rest of my life to follow a religion that meant nothing to me. “Please, I beg You, Jesus, if I am going to follow you, make Yourself real to me!”
I cast my eyes upon my castle one last time, saying good-bye. And then, I turned my eyes forcefully on the cross, choosing.
As I did, the castle imploded into thousands of sharp glassy shards vaporizing in thin air.
But He was not yet finished.
I sensed a door. . . and someone . . . on the other side of that door waiting. Words were spoken, Scripture I must have seen somewhere sometime before . . . but I clearly heard it being spoken to me then: ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. (Rev 3:20-21)
“It’s Jesus!” I thought. But I was wary of being misled, afraid of a spiritual imposter, so I prayed a fervent stipulation to protect myself. “IF you are the Jesus of the Bible, who died on the cross for me, then I open the door — I WANT you to come in to me and be with me!”
Now every afternoon, the sun would reach a place in the sky where it would break through the French doors of our living room to shine on the floor. That day, right as I prayed that prayer, the sun burst through those doors.
But the Light that flooded the room was far more than sunlight. It shone with a brilliance bearing the Presence of love and authority so overwhelming that I was driven to the floor, flat on my face with my arms outstretched. In that Love and authority every question found its answer, every need its satisfaction. I did not want to move; I never wanted that Presence to leave me. It was Jesus.
The bristling energy and power, which had filled that same room the previous day, was nothing compared to this love and authority.
I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, (Rom 1:16, NASV)
It’s news I’m most proud to proclaim, this extraordinary Message of God’s powerful plan to rescue everyone who trusts him (Rom 1:16, THE MESSAGE Bible )
Do not confuse this extraordinary Message,
the gospel that is the power of God to make us His own,
with information . . . it is, it has to be . . . divine revelation
I question if it is possible for any one of us to become God’s own, apart from the divine dialogue bringing the supernatural revelation that saves our soul.