Last week’s column left humanity playing in a multitude of individual
under God’s watchful eye, as he peeked out from behind the curtains into
His backyard — the one we know as the created universe. But what is He
looking for?

Parents, perhaps, are best equipped to answer that question. Is
reasonable calm prevailing? Or are the older children beating up on the
younger ones, and taking their toys? Are the boys teasing the girls to
tears? Is the backyard safe from dangerous predators? And just how close
is it to bedtime — close enough to call the gang inside for the night?

Jesus repeatedly described God as his Father — the one in the
heavens. The religious leaders described Jesus as fatherless, although
their language was less kind. To these learned men the concept of God as
Father was incomprehensible. “Abraham,” they informed Jesus, “is our
(John 8:39). To them, God was forever a dictator, the one who had left
The Law. Besides, as they well understood, a son or a daughter has a
rather different relationship within the household than servants or even
valued guests. Father implies a very personal connection. A king may
have a multitude of subjects, many ministers and governors, perhaps even
a few friends, but a son or daughter is another matter. Yes, there are
still lines of authority, for a king is a king; but they are shielded in

Religion is a human construct. Like the Tower of Babel, humanity has
struggled desperately to use religion to climb our way into the heavens.
But in the beginning, there was no religion — only God walking in the
Garden, conversing with the man and the woman in the midst of His
creation. Perhaps it was this intimacy with God that led us to believe
that we could — by eating the right food, or not behaving badly —
somehow become like Him? Perhaps that is why religion is still offering
us the same lie: follow my rules, learn my teachings, and God will be
forced to accept you. Dallas Willard in “The Divine Conspiracy” calls it
“barcode Christianity,” but the term applies to other faiths as well.

Against all this accumulated human history Jesus came, walking for a
brief time among the multitude of sandboxes on this earth. Unlike most
of us, He seemed to be keenly aware of eternity, and his place in it. “I
came from the Father … I leave the world, and go to the Father” (John
16:28). Unlike Jesus, we did not come from the Father. The Bible tells
us that we are created beings, albeit those into whom God breathed the
breath of life, or spirit (Genesis 2:7). But in an amazing demonstration
of God’s love for us, Jesus left his position with the Father and for a
brief time walked with us, to extend the invitation for us to become a
part of God’s adopted family. Not servants, not the hired help, not
guests who are just passing through — but children who will inherit
eternal life. John, one of Jesus’ closest disciples, put it like this:
“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we
should be called the sons of God …” (1 John 3:1).

Yet as extraordinary as this invitation is, there have been down
through history relatively few takers. The religious power structure of
Israel, having eliminated (or so they thought) any threat of a personal
relationship with God at the cross, reverted to reliance upon their
rules and customs. Seventy years later, the Romans pulverized their
temple — the seat of their rules — and obliterated them as a nation, a
status that lasted until just after World War II.

Meanwhile, gurus, mystics, and worldly religions continue to ply
their trade, pushing their blend of special knowledge, harmonics and
crystals, all mingled with the latest in scientific knowledge (obsolete
tomorrow) and packaged in pantheism to help the worldly and
sophisticated “find” God, and having found him to manipulate him for
their own benefit. As Jesus said while he walked the rocky paths of
Galilee, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad
is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it”
(Matthew 7:13). His teachings were remarkably simple — yet
extraordinary difficult. As my friend Lief Moi of Street Talk Ministries is fond of
saying, “It is less that Christianity has been tried and found wanting,
than that it has been found difficult and left untried.”

Where does that leave us as children, playing in our sandboxes under
God’s watchful eye in the backyard of His universe? Perhaps we are the
ones best equipped to answer that, by remembering our own childhood. I
remember playing in a good friend’s sandbox late into one warm summer
evening. Finally light streamed from the backdoor of his house as it
swept open, and his dad called; it was time to come in. We both ran up
to the door, eager to continue playing inside. But it was not to be:
good friends that we were, it was late in the evening and I was no
longer welcome. The door closed, and I was left standing in the

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