Date Night with Jesus

Last night I went on a date with Jesus for Valentines Day, I remember a woman telling me how she used to do that when she was single, so I decided to try to give it a try. I dropped my son off at a sitter’s for the night and then off we went to the theatre to watch a live production of C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Jesus started the night off right by immediately singing me a love song on the way to the theatre 😍, the song on the radio was the one that talks about being safe in the arms of Jesus and I love the thought of being held safely in His arms. God may not be able to give me an actual physical hug, but He can touch my heart and my mind, but the lack of physical touch is still an ongoing issue in our relationship. It is true. I think it hurts His heart too that I can’t feel Him physically holding my hand or keeping me safe in his warm embrace. I really want to be in His physical presence. When I get to heaven I told Him I just want some time with Him in His garden just me and Him — no one else allowed. I need some me and Jesus time. I just want some Jesus time all to myself where I can really be in His physical presence. We’ve been so close for so long, for decades! I am tired of not being able to actually be in His real presence, not that I want to go to heaven early – no, but it is just part of the fall that we have to be physically separate from Him…Ever since Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden we have had this problem as a human collective. I’ve told Him we can climb trees together and walk barefoot together and just enjoy that missing part that we all are missing out on, we are all missing out on being in His physical presence. I think that is something we should all long for.

Relationship issues aside…we got to the theatre and for some reason I thought I would just be able to waltz in on Valentines Day night and buy a ticket at the door…the one night men everywhere are taking their significant others out. They were sold out. My heart was so sad. I had planned this evening with Jesus and I thought it might just end up being another evening at home with Him on the piano…which is fine. I love my piano time with Him, but this night was supposed to have been special. The lady told me that the show was sold out but to hang tight because someone might not show up so I sat down and I waited. Lo and behold a single solitary seat was not filled! God saved a seat for me! He knew it was going to sale out but He made a way where there was no way for me to have my date night with Him still. He loves me so much…

After the show we went home and I had prepared the way with beautiful luminarias, pure white, like a bride dressed in white…but I got distracted. I started taking videos and pictures focusing on a project I am working on and that wasn’t cool cause I was using the evening for something other than just spending time with my Savior, it was supposed to have been all about Him and I, He saved me a seat, He sang me a love song! It was supposed to be our night, but the distraction resulted in me not spending really good authentic piano time with Him, and that was not ok. I did spend time with him on the piano still…but it had an alternative motive, to get a good video of the luminarias with piano music versus just losing myself in Him and letting go of all concept of time and life, letting nothing, nothing at all be about that moment but Him and I. That is what I desire, that is the time I long for, pure authentic intimacy with no distraction and that is what He is telling me He longs for too. Ironically the project I am working on is for Him…but it isn’t Him. I get so passionate about Him that I want to work hard for Him and His kingdom…but serving Him and loving on Him intimately are different things and intimacy is so much better, I think we both prefer it so much more. It is so neat to think how God longs for time with me too, just like I long for Him. As the deer panteth after the waters, the Psalmist wrote those words so long ago, but they still ring true today. We were created for Living Water, for a real cistern with real water that never runs dry, a cistern of intimacy that we can drink from every day.

The night before Valentines Day had actually been so much better when it came to achieving spiritual intimacy. I was worshiping Jesus on the piano and really had entered into that secret place with Him. I didn’t want to get up to even go to bed or to take care of a single simple task. He reminded me that I needed to take some food out of the freezer for my son’s Valentines Day breakfast I had planned…but I just wanted to stay on the piano, worshiping Jesus. Have you ever been there, in that spot with Jesus where you feel like the curtain between heaven and earth has truly been rent to the point that you feel His presence and you don’t want to leave it for anything? The thought of taking 15 steps away from the piano for just a moment to take sausage out of the freezer was terrible, it felt wrong, it was the last thing I wanted to do because I seriously with all my heart just wanted to spend all night with Him, in His glorious presence…and I even told Him that. I didn’t want to think about preparing for breakfast or even the necessity of sleep. I just wanted to think about Him and be in His presence. That was the right heart, that was the right way…not using a date night for something else. I feel so bad. I apologized to Him and told him I want a redo, I can’t dial back time but I can get it right this next time. The next time I go on a date with Jesus it is going to be all about Him and I and it is going to be lavish and it is going to be rich and deep and sweet and beautiful and I am going to give Him all of me, all of my attention, all of my thoughts, all of my heart, all the moments will be his, all his and only His.

The night that I just simply got in God’s presence I feel like He gave me a gift afterward. He reciprocated the love I gave to Him with something so thoughtful and awesome. I got on my laptop and checked my Facebook and a small group leader from when I was a teenager shared a video of me and other teens in our youth group worshiping Jesus at Fine Arts…that was such a beautiful gift. She even messaged us the song in a couple of file formats! I have been loving on Jesus through worship for a long time, some nights I get it right, other nights I lose focus…but I love Him and I will strive always to be excellent in my worship toward Him.

I learned a valuable lesson over the last two nights, there are two songs, that were “born” from those nights with Jesus….but which evening was the best intimate experience? I want the best spiritual intimacy one can achieve. While I feel like I want a redo so I don’t slight my Savior in any way, there is always today to get it even better, and tomorrow and the day after that. Working on an intimate relationship with God takes intentionality and it takes grace, because we won’t always get it right. When we do get in that secret place with Him though, man, isn’t it awesome? To be in the presence of the living God is truly better than a thousand days elsewhere…

We can each do that. We can make intentional, passionate effort to love Jesus and get in His presence simply to be there with Him, our Lord and Savior, the lover of our soul. He passionately loves us, let us lose ourselves in simply passionately loving Him back. Let’s passionately love to Him with all our heart, with our all soul and with our all mind like Jesus tells us to:

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ Matthew 22:37

Romans 14, Steak or Veggies

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.

So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

Romans 14:19-23

When I read this I started with the end of the chapter, which are the verses above, specifically “So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves“. This line in isolation is really confusing and just highlights why it is not good to take a verse out of context. How can someone condemn himself by not keeping something just between them and God and by approving it? Why should we keep a conviction between just us and God? Doesn’t God want us to share what He is teaching us with others? What is Paul talking about?

After reading the whole chapter (context!) I now understand what Paul is saying. Paul spends a lot of time talking about eating meat vs just veggies because that was a big issue religiously speaking during his time. Still today this could be a factor in some relationships. He does mention wine at the end of the chapter and today I think that is a much more relevant topic overall. However, you can plug a myriad of disputable things into the chapter (tattoos, getting dressed up on Sunday morning, what day you go to church, etc.). I’m going to focus on alcohol just because Paul does specifically mention wine and it is still very relevant.

Today you’ll find Christians who proclaim it to be a sin to drink any sort of alcohol and pass judgement on those who do, and then you find Christians who do not feel guilty about enjoying a margarita or a fresh brewski and who openly flaunt their freedom to do so (as long as they aren’t getting drunk), putting down Christians who feel guilty drinking as “old fashioned prudes”. Paul addresses both ends of the spectrum pointing out the sinfulness of both judgement and of approving a behavior that can cause someone else to stumble in their faith.

One of the most well-known Bible verses, and probably most misused is “do not judge lest ye be judged” from the sermon on the mount. What I mean by misused and misquoted is that it is often taken out of context and used to “justify” blatant sinful behavior. The Bible does say that drunkenness is sinful, and commands us not to be controlled by anything but the Holy Spirit, or in other words not to be controlled by a drug of some sort. For some, who struggle with addiction or who are living in (or grew up around drunkenness), starting to drink alcohol can be a very slippery slope that causes them to fall away in their journey of faith by allowing something else other than God to control them, or to become their “go to” for relaxation and “happiness” after work and on the weekends. For someone in this situation they may choose to abstain from alcohol. Either for the protection of their own faith, or to be an example to people in their family that true satisfaction comes from the Lord. This is right for them to do, since Romans 14 states that anyone who does partake in a disputable activity with doubt about whether it is ok for them to do so is sinning. However, when someone in this situation begins to take it upon themselves to force their own policy upon others, or judging others who do partake in alcohol (again not drunkenness), then their judgment becomes sin. They are right to abstain because of their own convictions, but wrong to judge about a disputable matter, and therefore sin in that way.

On the flip-side from judgement for behavior, there is sinning by approval of a behavior through word or action. The Bible verse quoted above “blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves” is exponentially less popular than the judgement verse. How come? Cause it is hard to “justify” sinful behavior with this one. But again, what does it mean in context of the chapter? Paul explains that if you are strong enough in your faith to enjoy “a cold one”, but then you openly put someone down who finds it wrong for themselves to drink, then you are in fact condemning yourself by what you approve with your words and your behavior. The act of putting down the person who feels convicted to abstain is unloving. Flaunting your freedom to drink a glass of wine can very easily tempt someone who struggles with addiction to fall back into their vice, or who is trying to be an example to family to cave in their convictions. This is unloving. Why? Because when you put the other down, or when you flaunt your behavior or even just your approval of it in word, you are caring more about “being right” or about “doing what makes you feel good”, just like the person who judges you for drinking does.

When we care more about being right or about doing what we want, then we care more about us and the disputable matter than we do about the salvation of others. We therefore condemn ourselves by our approval (whichever way you approve) because you are guilty of loving yourself more than your neighbor. Christ Himself said that the greatest law is to love the Lord God with all your heart, all your soul and all your strength, and the second is to love your neighbor as your yourself. What is the one thing God cares about most? The redemption and salvation of people for His glory. It is His will that none should perish. So if we are truly going about our Father’s business then we will care more about the redemption and salvation of people than “being right” or about flaunting our freedom in Christ by partaking in something that could cause someone else to stumble in their faith.

That is why Paul says to keep your conviction to yourself, and to work your salvation out with trembling before a Holy God (Philippians 2). He reminds us in Romans 14 that we will each stand before God on judgement day–alone. We are each accountable to God, not based on technicalities of obedience, but as to whether or not Jesus Christ was our Lord on earth. If we are living in submission to God through Christ by the power of the Spirit then we will love Him and therefore love others.

In other words, care more about the salvation of others. Even if that means paying closer attention to what you are wearing, what you are drinking, or paying attention to what you are saying about disputable matters, or even if it means keeping quiet about your convictions, then do it. Be aware of and concerned about their walk with God. Their walk with God is more important. That is the loving and peaceful thing to do.

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:28-31

Notice how Paul opens up the chapter with the keywords “disputable matters.” There are black and white matters that are not disputable laid out in scripture that clearly tells us what right or wrong  is, in many areas. There are also scriptural instruction for how to judge and address sinful behavior. (i.e. Galatians 6, 1 Corinthians 5, Titus 1, Matthew 18).