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Saturday, August 8, 2015

Don't force that delivery!

Our hospital has this little chime which plays overhead announcing the birth of a new baby into the world.  It usually is played when mom and dad have settled in shortly after the birth and are able to hear it overhead to announce the arrival of the newest part of their family.  I wonder if there are any little chimes which go off in heaven, announcing to the angels that is time to strike up their "choir" and launch into worshipful exclamation that a new soul has been birthed into the Kingdom of God?  I think there just might be!  In fact, scripture tells us ALL of heaven rejoices when even one soul says "yes" to following Jesus!

But some people did accept him. They believed in him, and he gave them the right to become children of God. They became God’s children, but not in the way babies are usually born. It was not because of any human desire or plan. They were born from God himself. (John 1:12-13 ERV)

I have heard people ask questions such as, "When did you come to Jesus?" or "When were you reborn?" or even "At what point did you put your trust in him?" Back in the day, we'd invite someone to be "born again" into this new life with Christ.  It was kind of like a "key phrase" in Christian circles.  We have all these "religious" phrases to describe the moment a person says "yes" to following Jesus, but I think the most descriptive of what really happens is this idea of "birth". It just isn't easily understood by those outside of Christian circles.  Let me clear up some misconceptions about this moment of saying "yes" to Jesus which kind of linger in the minds of some individuals.  First and foremost, it isn't about ANY effort we take on our own that brings us to the place of being "ready" or "positioned" to follow Jesus.  WE don't find our way to Christ - he brings us right up to his doorstep and even places a sign on the door saying "knock". Jesus said it well, "It wasn't because of any human desire or plan." The truth is we didn't want Jesus - we rejected him.  He did the work of drawing us unto him, then he made a way for us to actually enter into relationship with him.  All his work or effort - not ours.

God doesn't give up on those who resist him.  They may resist him at first, but he has a way of allowing them to follow their own desires long enough and far enough that they come to a place of recognizing they need something outside of themselves.  God doesn't violate our own will - if we choose to be stubborn and resist his urging to enter into his family, he will not rope us in against that resisting will.  In fact, he loves us too much to "rope us in" - he made our freewill so that we'd enter into his love with intentional dedication.

In hospitals everywhere you will find mothers who are not quite ready "physically" to birth the baby, but they are scheduled for a c-section to bring that life into this world.  It may be because of health conditions such as where the placenta has attached to the uterine wall, or just because it is convenient to birth the baby in a certain week of the month because family is coming in to celebrate the birth.  In these cases, the "normal" course of birth isn't really allowed to happen - it is kind of "forced" by the external factors.  The doctor takes the mom to the operating room, uses his skill and expert technique to open the womb from the outside, and then remove the baby.  We call this birth, but it really isn't what was "originally intended" as birth.

In much the same way, we can "force birth" into the family of God, but if it is forced, it isn't quite the same.  As with these babies born a little ahead of schedule, they just aren't as "prepared".  These babies require a little more oxygen, and may even struggle a bit with the "birth experience" or the next few days/weeks of life.  That point between conception and birth is important for multiple reasons, but this time we call "gestation" is when the baby develops the lung capacity, organ development, and other components necessary for sustaining life outside of the womb.  To separate from the womb too quickly makes it harder for the baby to survive.  For a child of God to come into the family of God "capable of surviving", they need to go through a "gestation" period of sorts. In that time of "gestating", God is preparing all the necessary spiritual "capacity" for life the individual will require.

It isn't by our own effort - such as coming to church week after week - that we enter into this "birth".  It isn't by our planned "step-ward" progress that we enter, either.  It is because God allows "spiritual gestation" to occur, and then at the right time, he brings us right up to the "door of delivery" and then we "take our first breath" in this new place called the "family of God".  The first breath leads to another, then another, and before long, we are experiencing the strength and perseverance to "live" in the family.  We don't get ourselves to the place of "delivery" - God does that.  The truth is, we can only help people to meet, know, and follow Jesus.  We cannot "force" them to embrace him, but we can introduce them to him.  The rest is up to him!  Just sayin!