Why I must have a relationship with my Creator

So here is the question … why does any of this matter? What difference does it make?

I can tell you what difference it has made, is making, and will forever make in my life.

I lived for many decades in fear of God – fear, as in being afraid, not fear in the Biblical sense of reverence and awe. I lived afraid of God – afraid of not being “good enough,” afraid of the punishment that I certainly deserved, afraid that I could never conquer the sinful part of me. And even though I was afraid of God, I still made a pretty good mess of things.

But I have lived the last three decades with this wonderful hope—a certainty that I am betting my life on—that I stand in God’s presence without a single fault. He not only welcomes me, He pursues me and draws me into Him.

This hope, this certainty, changed my life—it gave me freedom. It constantly leads me “behind the curtain.”

Why do I even care about coming into God’s presence and being welcomed and accepted and loved?
Because I believe this is the way we were created to live.
Because it is the only way I want to live.
Because I believe God’s purpose is to make everything new – and living a life of love and worship of the Creator is the only way we will be created anew.

And all of this is essential to my life because … well, as the disciples said to Jesus –“ Where else can we go? You are the one who has the words that give eternal life.” (See John 6:68). This journey on earth is not our real life; we have a far greater life in a realm beyond what we can now see with our eyes. Jesus holds the keys and is the way to that existence.

And… where else can I find hope? The only hope I trust is in the promises of God. I’ve found nothing else that is certain in this world. I trust only the bridges God has laid before me.

So knowing now that I am free to relish and delight in this relationship with my Creator—this is fantastic news! I no longer fear the wrath of God. Jesus provided the way for me to return to a bond of love He has always intended to have with His creation.

And… all the other hopes I’ve built my life upon—everything else we will look at in this series—come to fruition only within this relationship between God and those who love and worship Him.

Taste and see that the LORD is good.
Oh the joys of those who take refuge in him! (Psalm34:8)

Without that relationship—no, I cannot see any hope in this world. The outlook is quite dreary.

But with God—so much hope.

So much hope.

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Psalm Prayer:

LORD,
   you have endowed [me] with eternal blessings
and given [me] the joy of your presence.
(Psalm 21:6)

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More words of hope to lead you behind the curtain:

Matthew 27:50-52; Mark 15:37-38; Romans 4:25; Romans 5:6-11, 18; Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 2:12-13; Ephesians 3:12; Colossians 1:19-23; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24; Hebrews 4:14-16; Hebrews 6:18-20; Hebrews 7:19-28; Hebrews 10:19-23; James 4:8; Jude 24.

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© Elaine Starner 2015

Photo credit: Claire Pridgeon

The Secret … The way we were meant to live

As I sat down at the kitchen table to work on this post, the sun slipped lower in a blue winter sky, trimmed only with random, delicate wisps of clouds. And then, at the edge of one gray strand, a short arc of rainbow appeared, as though someone had taken a giant prism and cast a banner of color in the sky. For the few moments until it faded, I tried to get a photo, but the camera could not capture the ethereal beauty of that swatch of color against the blue of sky.

I feel a similar inadequacy as I write this. This hope of God’s presence alive in the very fabric of our days, the life of every breath we take, is a hope to be shared. And yet, how can words on a screen capture the wonder, the mystery, of this hope? I know I cannot. I’ll depend on God’s words, not mine.

This is the secret of our lives now – our real lives:

Come close to God, and God will come close to you. (James 4:8a)

There it is. So simple. So life-changing.

We are not only invited to enter into the Holiest of Holies, but God comes to us. Hear these Scriptures:

* Jesus says that those who love Him will live out His teachings, and that God the Trinity “will come and make our home with each of them.” (John 14:23).

* “Look! I’m standing at the door and knocking,” says Jesus. “If you hear me, open the door. I’ll come in and we’ll share a meal together as friends.” (Revelation 3:20). He’s talking to a church, to people who claim to already know Him. Yet He’s knocking, asking for further admittance into a closer, more intimate friendship.

* The Spirit of God lives in all those who believe Jesus is the Son of God. And those believers, in turn, “live in God.” (1 John 4:13, 15)

* “Remain in me,” Jesus says, “and I will remain in you. I’m the vine. You are the branches.” (John 15)

* “When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you,” said Jesus. (John 14:20)

* And we are given this amazing glimpse into a conversation between Jesus and the Father: “I am in them and you are in me.” (John 17:23)

* Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. (Ephesians 3:17)

* My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. (Galatians 2:20).

* And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. (Colossians 1:27).

The secret seems to be told with one tiny word: in. 

Christ ripped apart the barrier between us and God. We no longer need special times and permission and conditions to enter His presence. We step into His presence and He comes to live right here with us, within, living closer to us than even our spouses, our brothers and sisters, our closest friend.

He comes with an intensity and intimacy that shakes our lives.

He comes in. Because this is the way we were meant to live. 

David had a glimpse of the wonder of such a relationship. He marveled at the lavish goodness the Lord has stored up for those who come to him (Psalm 31:19).

This is the secret of our new lives. It is the basis for making all things new, the basis of all the hope we are going to celebrate.

We come close to God, and He comes close to us.

And that makes all the difference.

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Psalm Prayer:

LORD,
   you have endowed [me] with eternal blessings
and given [me] the joy of your presence.
(Psalm 21:6)

 

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© Elaine Starner 2015

Photo credit: Claire Pridgeon

Broken Heart … Restored Friendship

Here’s a timeline to ponder today. It’s in God’s time, not ours. Remember, our days and years are nothing to Him. Trying to grasp the depth of this makes me very aware of the spiritual realm—the life we have that is our real life. I’m lifted out of the day-by-day, year-by-year measurement of our lives here on earth when I consider these things:

Even before he made the world, God loved us … (from Ephesians 1:4)

How’s that? We have no idea how this can be, because we are so bound by our sense of time.

Yet this is what God says to us in His Word—He loved us before time began. I only know that God operates outside of our earthly, limited dimensions, in a dimension that is not measured by our months and years—or even our linear sense of time. I don’t understand this, I cannot grasp it; but I choose to believe that what God says of Himself is true. Before time began, He loved me.

After God created men and women to live on and enjoy the earth, they chose to turn their backs on Him and live with no regard for Him. It broke His heart.

We were created to be in a relationship with God. He created us to be like Him. 

But men and women made other choices, and when things got so bad on the earth, it “broke His heart.”

We don’t often think of God having emotions like sorrow and regret, but there it is in Scripture (Genesis 6:6 NLT). His heart was broken as humans decided to take a path away from Him.

He went to extreme lengths to re-establish a relationship with us.

Ah, but that “broken heart” phrase does not sound so extreme when we watch what God does to bring people back into a friendship with Him.

But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. (Romans 5:8-9)

Even while we were living as His enemies, He decided to come into our history, into our dark and corrupted world, and live and suffer and die as a human being who struggled with all the temptations we struggle with—all to even yet offer us a relationship with Him.

For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. (Romans 5:10-11)

Today, ponder what love is pursuing you. Love that existed before the world was in place. Love with a heart that breaks when we turn our backs and go our own way. Love that is willing to come into our dark world and suffer with us—suffer for us. Love that rejoices and welcomes us when we turn around and go back to Him.

That love calls us and says, Come. And don’t be afraid. Rejoice in our friendship!

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Psalm Prayer:

LORD,
   you have endowed [me] with eternal blessings
and given [me] the joy of your presence.
(Psalm 21:6)

 

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© Elaine Starner 2015

Photo credit: Claire Pridgeon

As a result … brought into His presence

The story yesterday is probably my favorite story in the entire Bible. Come to think of it, it is actually THE story of the entire Bible. It’s told in the Gospels in just one short, dramatic line.

Can you imagine the thick curtain beginning to split at the very top, the tear slowly moving downward? Can you hear the ripping of fabric? Can you see the richly colored threads falling apart as the way opens up into the Most Holy place?

God’s making a dramatic statement. That curtain has hung between God and mankind for centuries. Now He is telling the world that He is changing His relationship to all of humanity.

Jesus dies, and the barrier between God and humanity is torn apart.

And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. (Hebrews 10:19-20)

Jesus’ death did away with all the barriers between us and God. His blood blotted out the sin in our lives that separated us from God. He died so men and women could once again have a relationship with their Creator, a relationship as free and intimate as Adam and Eve once had with God.

Paul writes in Colossians that we were enemies of God, but He opened the way of reconciliation through the death of Christ, “As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.” (1:22)

Somehow, the blood that flowed from the body of Christ wiped away my guilt. Every bit of it!

He has ushered me into His presence. I stand blameless before Him.

That’s beyond my comprehension. It’s a mystery.

But it is the absolute, certain hope that changes my life.
(Excuse me for a moment, while my soul does a little dance of joy.)

My God says, “You can come to me freely. Come. Don’t be afraid.”

The curtain is torn apart. The door is flung open. The arms are held wide.

 

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Psalm Prayer:

LORD,
   you have endowed [me] with eternal blessings
and given [me] the joy of your presence.
(Psalm 21:6)

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© Elaine Starner 2015

Photo credit: Claire Pridgeon

The story behind “without a single fault”

Put yourself into the story today. You are a priest in the Temple of Jesus’ time. You are there because you were born into a family of priests, the lineage that carried special responsibilities in the Temple. Your job tends the relationship of the Israelites to their God.

Yet even you cannot venture behind the heavy curtain hanging in the Temple, shutting off the room called the Holy of Holies. Behind that curtain is the Ark of the Covenant, the place of God’s presence here in the Temple. Only the high priest can approach God in that sacred place; and he enters only one time a year, after he has completed a regimen of purification and preparation that makes him acceptable to stand in the presence of the Almighty.

Any other person who enters at any other time and in any other way will be struck dead. You have known this all your life. You are in awe of the presence of Almighty God. His appearances in the history of your people have been accompanied by fire, have struck people dead or left them marred physically for life. You, a priest, are very careful to observe all the laws, every detail, about the proper way to approach God.

On this afternoon, you go about your duties but your thoughts are not in the Temple. The grapevine is sizzling with the news: that man who called himself the Son of God, who has stirred up your people with outlandish teaching and sensational miracles, is being executed. He was arrested last night. Your mind goes to that place outside the city where criminals are executed. Finally, there will be an end to the turmoil of the last three years.

Suddenly you feel dizzy. Then you realize the earth itself is moving, the floor of the temple is shifting under your feet. You lose your balance and fall to your knees as screams and shouts tell of the terrified confusion of other priests.

The heavy curtain, thicker than a man’s hand, is tearing from the top to the bottom. Sixty feet in the air, the elaborately embroidered cloth is beginning to rip apart, as though an unseen hand is tearing away the barrier between you and the Holy of Holies. Admittance into the presence of the holy God is laid open to everyone.

You will hear more news later, as the city buzzes about the afternoon’s events; and you will remember that the tearing apart of the curtain came at the very moment that man Jesus died.

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Psalm Prayer:

LORD,
   you have endowed [me] with eternal blessings
and given [me] the joy of your presence.
(Psalm 21:6)

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© Elaine Starner 2015

Photo credit: Claire Pridgeon