When my kids were little, they loved to cuddle up with me in my chair and we would just have some quality time where Daddy could smother his kids with kisses and hugs. I treasured these times and never felt like it was an imposition. As a matter of fact, it was important for me to have my own chair because I remember doing the same thing with my Dad in his chair when I was young. I also cherish climbing into his chair when I was 40 years old and saying my final farewell to my Pop this side of Heaven. The point I am trying to make is when I would be around my Dad, I would get so close to him that I would literally smell like “Old Spice” long before I ever used a razor blade. My Rudy, Leah, Abbie and Joel would leave me with a strong odor of “Brut” upon their faces. My wife Terri would always say to the children, “You guys smell like Daddy!” They only got that way because they were willing to be that close to me. Who do you smell like today?
I love when somebody says to me, “I’m Not Religious,” because I usually respond with a quick, “Nether am I.” “As a matter of fact- it was religion that almost killed me!” Please Family! Throw out your old religious mindsets. The problem is that too many Christians have been conditioned by harsh and heartless sermons, rigid and rote prayers and dark dirges that seem to make our Loving and Gracious God appear very distant, always in a bad mood and way too busy stomping on good times to ever take notice of us. Do not be fooled! That’s how the legalistic Pharisees viewed God, but Jesus challenged to change their warped ideas. Jesus showed us that God is approachable, accepting of all people, friendly toward sinners, forgiving, and protective and affectionate. He even touched the lepers, spent time with the shady women and let the disciple John lay his head on His chest which a proper and pompous Pharisee would never do! I am grateful that a real relationship with Jesus isn’t the slightest bit religious. If you let Him, your Heavenly Father will pull you close to His chest, forgive your sins, change your heart, give you a hope and future and still be close enough to smell his scent. I want to smell like my Father!
Why is it so hard for us human beings to just be loved? Why are we bending over backwards attempting to earn from our God what was freely offered to us as the greatest gift ever given? Do you really think that you or I could add one bit of eternal merit to the ultimate sacrifice that was already accomplished on our behalf by the Lord Jesus? We strive to be busy, be right, be first, be rich, be smart, be popular, be winners, and belong; but are we willing to be still so we may truly be loved? Why do we make it so hard for the Lord to treasure us, cherish us, admire us, choose us, delight in us, seek us out, and save us just because He wanted to do it? Here is the truth and it is that God decided to initiate the act of ultimate grace and unconditional mercy when He rescued us while we were still sinners! There was not a shred of worth in all those works that we once referred to as our weekly worship that might have dragged our bodies in proximity to God’s presence but kept our hearts in another area code, far away from him! If we want to come into company with the Heavenly Father, shouldn’t we at least follow his directions? Lay your pride down so that he may pick you up and hold you close and instead of spreading the aroma of the world everywhere you walk, we will be smothered with the fragrance of the Father!
It is easy to say, “God loves you,” but it is powerless unless it makes the journey from your head to your heart. I still have my days when it doesn’t quite compute. Contrary to what people think about me, I struggle big time with my self-image. I walked around for years with an empty love tank the size of the Grand Canyon looking for affirmation and approval from those I deemed influential in my world. This group included my Parents, Teachers, Coaches and others in authority. I would labor constantly in hopes of receiving their praise and words of encouragement. I was not the kind of child you needed to discipline extensively as I would hammer myself pretty good on my own. But this was the era where shame was passed down with fervor and fire. I would hang my head and the guilt would be piled on my shoulders like diners load up on the all you can eat shrimp at the Golden Coral Buffet tables. And while some churches pride themselves in making their congregants feel bad so that the religious right can feel better, this approach is useless in transforming lives. If grace loses than nobody wins! If Jesus is not allowed to seek and to save the lost his way then there will be no way anyone is getting to the banqueting table! The “agape” love of God is unconditional and indescribable and needs to be tasted just as the Lord serves it, to be enjoyed. Don’t be messing with recipe. Only God’s open arms kept me from jumping into a pit that would have imprisoned me forever!
Growing up in a big family, my dear, but at times misguided Mother would not allow us to go out to be with our friends or participate in extracurricular activities. She didn’t keep us locked in the house because she wanted to spend some one on one time with us. She laid down the law because she just wanted assurance that everybody was within the sphere of her domain. Too many Christians believe that God operates in that manner also but they could not be more wrong. If God is calling you, it is genuinely because he desires your company and longs for you to seek his closeness. He has stories that he wants us to hear and songs that he longs to teach us to sing. He has challenges to inspire us and changes to transform us so that we become the classic editions of the people that he created us to be. Do you know how others can tell if our faith is fruitful or not? Who do we smell like? I pray we all give Cape May County a strong whiff of what hanging out with the Creator of the universe will do to us!