Straight Paths

I’m not writing about a hospice patient this week, but about Jim and Jerry, friends and fellow Christians. Jim, a full-time preacher, was fascinated by and enjoyed construction; so he sought a part time job with Jerry, who is a home builder. Jim was more interested in testing his abilities and learning a few new skills than in the money. But Jim learned more than he bargained for. Here’s the story according to Jim.

"Loren, I’m telling you, if you ever decide to build a house, Jerry is the one to get to build it for you. Jerry can figure out a roof line better than anybody I know; and he’ll build it right or he won’t build it. We were framing in a roof and it was really complicated, with a lot of angles and dormers. When we got to the end it didn’t quite line up with the outside wall of the house. But it was only about a half inch off. But Jerry wasn’t satisfied. I asked Jerry, ‘What difference will it make; and besides no one will ever notice it from way up here?’ But Jerry said, ‘But that’s not what the plan calls for. Boys, start tearing off!’"

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church: "According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear … because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire." (I Corinthians 3:9-15)

The above Bible passage is both alarming and comforting. It’s alarming to think that when it’s all said and done, that everything we’ve spent our lives building, could all go up in smoke. But it’s comforting to know that when Jesus Christ is our foundation that we will still be saved, even if "as through fire". It’s comforting to know that when Jesus Christ is our foundation that there’s nothing we can say or do to make God love us any more or less, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). But it’s alarming to think that there are things we can say, do or even just think, that can render us more or less useful, joyful, content and blessed by God, that can quench (I Thessalonians 5:19) or grieve (Ephesians 4:30) the Spirit of God.

God has called us to holiness, "But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written, ‘Be holy because I am holy.’" (I Peter 1:15-16). Holiness isn’t perfection or self-righteousness; it’s not a list of religious do’s and don’ts; it’s obedience to the revealed word of God no matter what. Oswald Chambers explains, "God does not make us holy in the sense of our character; He makes us holy in the sense of our innocence, and we have to turn that innocence into holy character by a series of moral choices … We can either go back and make ourselves of no account in the kingdom of God … or we can let Jesus bring another son to glory." ("My Utmost for His Highest", September 8th) Therefore, in the words of Jerry, my friend and fellow pilgrim, "If it’s not what His plan calls for start tearing off."

"This is where the walls gave way. This is demolition day. All the debris and all this dust; what is left of what once was … Every stone I laid for you as if You had asked me to … What happens now, when all I made is torn down? ... I’ll gather the same stones where everything came crashing down. I’ll build you an altar there on the same ground; because what stood before was never yours. This is the unmaking, the beauty in the breaking, had to lose myself to find out who You are." (Song "The Unmaking", by Nicole Nordeman)

Loren Hardin is a social worker with SOMC-Hospice and can be reached at 740-357-6091 or at lorenhardin53@gmail.com . You can order Loren's book, "Straight Paths: Insights for living from those who have finished the course", at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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