We met at 6:30 am last Sunday.
“OK, I go to church every Sunday, I read the Bible. I pray at every meal. I give my 10% to the church. I don’t cuss. I try to treat other people honestly and fairly, but something’s missing. I’m going through the motions, doing everything right, but getting nothing out of it and frankly I’m tired of keeping up the facade. Now, I feel guilty telling you all this. So, just forget it, I’m tried and upset… I need more sleep.”
“Maybe, but more than sleep, you need a new spirit. You have forms and features of faith down pat, but you’re missing the spirit, the power. You are treating God like a fact of history. So, stop it!”
He sat there, embarrassed and silent. This confession had happened to quickly, the words had just oozed out on their own.
“But, I keep all the rules. I lead a men’s group. I give up my vacation time to go on mission trips. I’m always thinking about what other people will think about what I say, or do. I control my anger and my doubt. I…”
“No, you need a cave encounter with God. He wants to be part of this very conversation. Talk to Him like you are talking now. If it’s like before, God’s first question is, “What are you doing here?”
Like the prophet Elijah, you need to hear the voice of God–to EXPERIENCE his presence.” 1 King 19:9-13 NIV
It happened that night.
Keeping al the rules had shutdown his spiritual senses. No one had ever told him it was OK to hear God.
His church taught that it was impossible. “God has said all there is to say in the Bible, no more to say.” People that hear God are crazy, or fakes, or they are listening to the Devil. (Can you believe it, the Devil can talk in this century, but God can’t.)
But now, my buddy is a new guy. His old fellowship has pulled away. He told me that when he repents, they will welcome him back, but just barely.
He told me today, “I used to be a grace talker, now I understand. I’ve turned into a grace giver. For the first time in my life, I feel the joy of giving.
My friend has the Spirit.
There is a powerful message in Babette’s Feast. The short film is set in a barren stretch of Denmark. Martina and Philippa are the daughters of an austere, fundamentalist clergyman who preached grace on Sunday but demanded a life of self-denial, and good deeds during the week. Guilt haunted the group; they could never do enough.
The rigid preacher had a dominant hold on his daughters and the small group of disciples that lasted long after his death. Each week the little group gathered for worship and to continue his teachings.
Things began to change the day a stranger came ashore and the sisters agreed to take her in as a permanent houseguest. Her name was Babette, a refugee from France where she has been a chef in a classy Paris restaurant. Even with a live-in chef these two sisters continued to advocate the notion that any pleasure is strictly forbidden and is anathema to true spirituality.
For fourteen years Babette gradually introduced this austere twosome to the world of taste.
Then, unexpectedly a letter arrived for Babette. She had won the Lottery in France (10,000 Francs). Babette asked the sisters if she could prepare a special dinner in honor of their father, a real French dinner for the little flock. And, the sisters reluctantly accepted.
But just before the special evening the sisters and the church members secretly agreed they would eat the food, but they would not enjoy it, or praise it. They would eat it in silence.
Babette’s gift was more than food; she cooked her magnum opus flavored with sacrifice and love. In the end, the stern old puritans were seduced by the food and drink that cost them nothing. Friendships were restored, resentments healed, and joy received. That night impossible things happened. They didn’t talk about the food, but they experienced the power of grace.
Soon after dinner Babette told the sisters the cost of their elaborate meal… shocking–it cost everything (10,000 Francs). She had prepared her masterpiece, and that was enough. In her words, “Artists are never poor.”
The little legalistic church didn’t earn it; they barely possessed the good sense to accept it. Grace came that night free of charge, no strings attached, just like it always does.
And it leaves the joy of life in its path… always!
Listen very carefully… get out of the clouds, out of the Book and into being grace and love and acceptance and forgiveness.
Missing something? Get away and listen for the voice of God. Listen for the question, “What are you doing here? Prepare to be surprised, to be challenged and to be energized by a fresh spirit.
Get ready to be transformed into grace giver?