What Backup Plan?

As I worked on the previous post, two separate messages were emerging; so, before you read this post, I encourage you to read The Plan, to get the bigger picture.

Summarizing what transpired in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before Jesus was crucified:  Our Jesus agonized through unimaginable struggle as He faced the coming day.  He prayed not once, but three times, that if there were any other way, Father would take the responsibility from Him.  Though He thought He had settled it the first two times, saying, “Yet, not as I will, but as You will,”1 the doubts returned.  That’s why He said, “the Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”2 After the third time, and being in such agony as to sweat drops of blood3, He broke through the barrier, choosing to carry on in the path Father had set out for Him since before the foundation of the world.

Have you ever wondered what would have happened if Jesus had chosen not to continue?   He knew He was the plan – the only way – for people to be reconciled to our Father4.  Surely, you might ask, there is no way He would have done anything else, is there?  Jesus could have chosen not to go through with it.  Even if He had backed out, wouldn’t God have come up with another plan?  God could have made another plan, but He wouldn’t have.  As amazing as it sounds, God had no backup plan.  Remember that Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father, but by Me.”4 That was the plan of redemption for all mankind – the only plan – and it was His perfect plan.

Our religious minds say Jesus wouldn’t have done anything but follow through to the end, simply because He was God.  Think about what Paul said in Philippians 2:6-8:

6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!

Jesus was made in human likeness – not just with skin and bones, but with a soul (mind, will, and emotions).  That means He had a free will, just like us.  He had to draw upon the power of Holy Spirit – the same One Who lives in us – to choose to become obedient to death.  That’s how He defeated the temptation to turn away from the torture of spirit, soul, and body He faced.  He did it as a human with free will, like us, so that He could be the perfect, sinless, eternal sacrifice for our sins.

Hebrews 4:15 NIV  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin.

The amazing revelation to me in all this is that God – Almighty, Creator, Omnipotent One – really did take a chance with this single plan He made.  It is almost unbelievable to say this, but He put all His eggs in one basket by letting Jesus have a free will – one that could have willed other than Father’s plan of redemption.  Daddy loved us so much that He made the plan to keep us from being forever separated from Him5; yet, within the intricacies of that plan, there was the possibility of something going wrong – with no backup plan, no “in case”.  It was absolutely required that Jesus have a free will so He would have no advantage over us in being able to resist temptation – yet would show us the way to live and be the way to eternal life because of how He used His free will – to do the will of Father.

Daddy knew, before creation, that Jesus had everything He needed to overcome the final temptation in the garden that night – the Word and the Spirit.  As much as He loved us, He left our final outcome to the free will of the Son of Man.  Daddy entrusted Jesus with our very lives, and trusted Holy Spirit to lead and guide Him along the path of life as man.  In dying, Jesus chose life for us.  In returning to our Father, He gave His Holy Spirit to lead and guide us in Daddy’s path for us.  God had no backup plan, but His love and wisdom prevailed!  Glory to God forever!

Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

1 Matthew 26:42

2 Matthew 26:41

3 Luke 22:44

4 John 14:6

5 John 3:16

Love Never Fails

As I listened to a human message about agape love, that unconditional and perfect love of God, the Lord added His message to my heart.  The preacher encouraged us to love with agape love those people who are not yet saved, are not in right relationship with the Lord, or are even out of relationship with us.  If we live this love, we were promised, they will have to come around sometime, even if it’s in the distant future, because love never fails1.

I moved from there with Holy Spirit while He took me down a different path from the one on which I had just traveled.  Love never fails is the Word of God, so it is Truth2.  Not only is the Greek word for love in this reference agape, but in another reference, God is love3, the Greek word used is also agape.  God, Himself, is the agape love that never fails.  He doesn’t just have it, and He doesn’t just love with it.  He is this very love!

I then thought of many people who have never turned their lives around, as far as we know, nor have they been restored to family, despite friends and family members praying faithfully and loving them as best they could.  Did love fail?  Agape love never fails.  How, then, do we reconcile our experiences that appear contrary to the Truth of the Bible?

Since God is this agape love, He loves every person perfectly, regardless of their deeds or words.  He never messes up by saying or doing the wrong thing that moves them farther away, nor is He impatient with slow, or seemingly non-existent, progress.  Yet, even in His perfect love, people all over the world are not restored to family and friends, or end up in hell by refusing to repent and receive His love.  Has agape failed?  Has God failed?  Absolutely not!  Love will never fail!  What have failed are our man-made, man-determined, expectations.  If God loving perfectly (and patiently) doesn’t always bring about His desired change in others, our imperfect (and often impatient) efforts at living agape love for others certainly won’t.  How can we make sense of it all?

We need to understand the expectations we have had in these socalled failed cases.  We expected if we showed God’s love, we would get our will for someone else because we know it’s God’s will, too.  What we have failed to grasp is that, in His unlimited wisdom, plan, and perfect agape love, God created each of us with a free will, and He does not override those wills – ever –  even when those wills end up leading to eternal death in hell, forever separated from Him and His love.  Even in that outcome, love hasn’t failed.  Agape made the way for that person (and every other) to be reconciled to God’s love for all eternity, through Jesus Christ.  With His blood, Jesus paid the price so we could know this amazing love, even for those who would never accept it.  No, that love never fails.  It never has and it never will.

Where does this leave us, with regards to the wandering ones?  Since God so loves them, even as He so loves us, we continue allowing His love to grow in us and show through us so that all around us are exposed to His wonderful, perfect love.  The difference now is that we have removed our limiting human expectations about the outcome, for love never fails!

1 1 Corinthians 13:8

2 John 17:17

3 1 John 4:8 & 16

My Tribute

nathan-baseballMy first exposure to Nathan was in the summer of 2006, when his family began attending our church.  It wasn’t just the wonderful red hair, or the blue eyes, or even his smile that captured my heart.  It was something much deeper than that, though I didn’t understand at the time.  Nathan was a treasure in a not-yet-five-year-old body because of Whose he was.  He was my brother, but I came to know he wasn’t my “little” brother at all.

It was only when a new baby had been added, and Nathan’s physical problems had gotten much more severe that the Lord opened the door for me to be more involved with his family.  I was privileged to spend much time with them over the course of the next year – time that produced much fruit in my own life, not just theirs.  Though Nathan couldn’t talk to me, I learned so much about him from his mother and all the pictures with their great stories.  Nathan playing golf.  Nathan all dressed up for church services.  Nathan asking Jesus into his heart.  Nathan playing baseball.  Nathan smiling in the hospital.  Nathan praying for others.  Nathan giving to those who had nothing.  Nathan worshiping and praising the Lord and trusting Him and His Word.  Nathan quietly listening to all the preaching and teaching and acting on what he heard.

nathan-dressed-upBefore I would go spend the day at Nathan’s house, I often prayed and asked the Lord how He would have me pray for or over Nathan that day.  Usually, He was very specific about different parts of his body to pray over.  One morning, however, He surprised me by saying He didn’t want me to pray for Nathan, but with him.  Since Nathan wasn’t able to communicate at all at this point, I wondered how this would work, but I followed the leading of the Holy Spirit.  I sat down by Nathan’s side and told him what the Lord had directed – that I wouldn’t be leading the prayer, but that I would let my spirit hook up with his, and we would be hooked up with the Holy Spirit.  Then I took hold of his hand and rejoiced to find his fingers and thumb curling lightly around mine.

Jesus told us to come to Him as a little child, but I really didn’t grasp what that meant until I prayed with Nathan that day.  What simplicity there is to be in prayer.  What Nathan had been experiencing when he couldn’t communicate with us was constant communication with the Father – unbroken.  The moment we connected hands, my spirit was connected with Nathan’s, and we were immediately in the Presence of the Lord.  It wasn’t because he knew the Bible backwards and forwards, but because he knew Jesus.  Nathan remained a child in heart, trusting and resting in His Savior, no matter what happened in his physical body, but he was growing into such a mighty man in the Spirit – far-surpassing me, yet encouraging me to come up higher, too.

When the day came that his body finally quit, Nathan decided to stay with Jesus, forever unhindered by his physical body, and continued revealing more of our Father’s love.  Yes, He sent His Comforter for all of the family and friends left here.  It was bigger than that, though.  Because of God’s amazing love, He will not override our wills.  He wants us to know Him and love Him because we choose to – not because we have to – and it carries over to all our other decisions, as well.  That’s the plan He set up from the beginning, and He didn’t change it, no matter how many of us stood in faith, believing for the miracle of resurrection.  God didn’t lack the power to bring Nathan back, nor did we lack the faith for it.  No, Nathan’s will was to stay with Jesus in heaven, and God honored that, just like He honors ours.  I believe it probably went something like this:  God asked Nathan if he wanted to stay here with Jesus or return to his family on earth.  After thinking a moment, in that precious voice of his he said, “I think I’ll stay.”  It was settled, and Nathan was forever free. 

As we celebrate the completion of the first year of Nathan’s total freedom in Christ, we pay tribute* to his life on this earth, and the lasting tribute to the Lord he left with us.  Nathan was truly effective and of great worth in his life, even in his death, which brings tribute to his Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Nathan Tyler Dawson
August 11, 2001 – February 18, 2008

1 Corinthians 15:53-55 (AMP)  “53 For this perishable [part of us] must put on the imperishable [nature], and this mortal [part of us, this nature that is capable of dying] must put on immortality (freedom from death).  54 And when this perishable puts on the imperishable and this that was capable of dying puts on freedom from death, then shall be fulfilled the Scripture that says, Death is swallowed up (utterly vanquished forever) in and unto victory.  55 O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?”

* tribute – proof of the worth or effectiveness of the one in question