..."and a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness; evil minded people shall not travel on it, but it shall be for those wayfarers who are traveling toward God. (Isaiah 35:8, adapted)

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Divine Stumblingblock:Tripping Over God

The Divine Stumblingblock:
Tripping over God
(first of a four part series)

Because we are earthy, we easily stumble
over things. Our path is often rocky, and
the road is not level. We stumble over God
and we stumble over man. Things do not
go the way that we have planned and soon we
look around for someone to blame. Rarely do
we point the finger at ourselves. We most
often point the finger at whoever was seen
last in the vicinity of our pain or annoyance.
Sometimes that is God, sometimes that is man.

The Scriptures have much to say about
stumblingblocks. In this first article
I want to talk about how God is a
Stumblingblock. For we can stumble
over man and suffer, but it our stumbling
over God that will make or break us.

You’d think that because God is God,
no-one would stumble over Him.
Everyone would see Him coming
and have time to fall gladly to their knees.
Quite the contrary. God is the most formidable
Stumblingblock that we will encounter
in our life journey. You may think you
will not stumble over Him, but that is only
to set you up for a greater stumble.

The problem is that stumbling requires
two things: 1) having something obstruct
your path at close range and 2) not being
able to avoid getting around or over it.
Secondly it also involves a) not seeing it
coming, or b) not being big enough to get
around it or long legged enough to step
over it.

Be warned, whether you like it or not, God
is at some time going to stand “straight on
square” in the middle of the road of your
life at very close range and you will have
one of two eternity-defining (your eternity,
that is) options. You either will not see Him
coming until it is too late to run, and/or
you will not be big enough or long-legged
enough to get around Him. But first, lest
you think I make this up, let me lay a little

One of the ways that God defines both
Himself and His Son is as a Stumblingblock.
Isaiah 8:13-15 says, “The Lord of Hosts,
Him you shall hallow; let Him be
your fear, and let Him be your dread.

He will be as a holy abode but [also] a
stone of stumbling and a rock of offense
to both the houses of Israel, as a trap and
a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
And many among them shall fall and be
broken, and be snared and taken.

The apostle Peter, transfers this term to
Christ, quoting it along with two
other Old Testament passages:
“Behold I lay in Zion, a chief
cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who
believes on Him will be no means be put to
shame (disappointed, or. a possible
translation , in haste) Isaiah 28:16 and
Psalm 118:22, “The stone which the
builders rejected[refused to believe in,
stumbled over]has become the chief
Cornerstone, this is Lord’s doing and
marvelous in our eyes.”

Peter calls Jesus “precious” to those who
believe, but an offence and a stumbling
block to those who do not (1 Peter 2:7).
The apostle Paul says, “We preach
Christ crucified, a stumbling block to
the Jews, and foolishness to the Greeks”
(I Cor 1:23).

There is a solidarity within God as the Father
identifies with Son and the Son identifies with
the Father in this role of offence which tests
the hearts of ALL men and women, and
perhaps even all created beings whether
in heaven or earth. Both do not back down
from the role of Stumblingblock, nor try to
soften its blows upon the fickle sensibilities
of man. But what sense does this make? Why
would God want to be a Stumblingblock to us?
Why couldn’t He just please us and do it
our way? Indeed. Perhaps I need not say more.
The wills of we who think we know all are going
to find inevitable conflict with the perfect
and peaceable will and mind of God.

It is not that God wants us to stumble over
Him, for we can hear the life-redeeming call
and cry of the heart of God echoing through
Scripture and history from start to finish.
His call is that we might come to Him and
make our abode in Him, but His role as
Stumblingblock, in that process, is not put
aside or diminished, at least on this earthly

While Jesus is the Door, He is also a
strategically placed Rock of Offence
that you will have to contend with. You
will have to face the innermost thoughts
of your heart, even allow yourself
to be badly bruised in the process, to get
to the other side. There is no getting
around Him, and no getting through Him,
until your heart has been tested and revealed.

When John the Baptist was taken to prison,
He came to know Jesus as a Stumbling
block. I don’t think John was expecting
to end up in prison, much less beheaded,
for preparing the way of the Lord.

John sends a question for Jesus to answer,
“Are You the coming One or should we
look for another?” Hear the heavy heartcry
of John as he trips over the Stumblingblock.
My heart flips in my chest as I ponder it.
Jesus sends word back to Him in prison,
“The blind see and the deaf hear…and blessed
is he who is not offended because of Me”
(Matthew 11:3-6).

Here is the question that we all, at
some point, have to ask Jesus if we are
to go on with Him: “Are you the One
or should would look for another?”
O Thou Disappointer of Human Dreams,
and Crusher of Earthly Expectations and
Interpretations, are we to look for Another?

But the terrifying and the awesome and the
altogether lovely truth is that there is no Other!
It is upon this truth that the falling and rising
of many in Israel, even you and I, will be determined.

When Jesus told the disciples that they needed
to eat His Flesh and drink His Blood and that
no one could come to Him unless it had been
granted by His Father, they were offended.
It is easy to see why. What He says can seem to
smack of cannibalism, something anathema to the
Jews and to most civilized people. On top of this
our pride does not like to hear that it is not man
that decides to accept Christ, but the Father
who first decides to ALLOW us to.

Jesus calmly asks the disciples if they are offended
enough to walk away from Him. He is not
worried that his fan club will be disbanded or
afraid that his followers will abandon Him. For up
until this point his disciples are really more fans than

When you read these next scriptures you can feel
the rubber proverbially hitting the road. Sense
the lump sticking in Peter’s throat as he says,
“Lord, to whom would we go? You have the
words of eternal life and we have also come to
believe and know that You are the Christ, the
Son of the Living God (John 6: 53-69).
You, too, will come to know that lump and lumps
much harder and more difficult to swallow,
if you are to make that same declaration.

Here the disciples are pushed to the edge. They
feel they are at the limits of what they can
take, and they have barely started to follow Jesus,
yet deep inside they KNOW that He is the
Son of the Living God.

The only thing that will get us through our
stumbling is to KNOW that Jesus is the Christ.
And really, perhaps that is why God allows it.
We start knowing Jesus, but it is more of a
head knowledge. We really begin to know Him
when we still continue to follow Him
no matter what befalls us—whether it be
at the hands of man, or the hands of God,
(and really is there a difference when it
comes down to it?). Our discipleship
begins to truly take effect when we do
not turn back when we stumble.

Do not think that this stumbling will not
test your mettle. In Matthew 21, Jesus talks
about His being the Rejected Stone which became
the Chief Cornerstone. Why was He rejected?
Simply because He crushed human expectation,
plans and schemes. Beloved, He will also
crush our expectations, plans, and schemes,
have no doubt about that. Does that seem cruel?
Does that seem like a God you do not know
or do not want to know?

We have much to learn of our God, but
never doubt that He acts from ineffable light,
wisdom and goodness. He makes no mistakes.
We have to know that our plans and schemes
have death and poison in them, and that He is
saving us from a fate worse then death when he
snatches us from them.

We are, however, going to have to make a
hard choice as I said earlier. Jesus said,
“Whoever falls on this stone will be broken,
but on whomever it falls, it will grind them
to powder” (Matthew 21:44). So here are
your options: Fall on Him and be bruised.
Stumble over Him, yet cling to Him and
allow His work, even though you will be
broken. Or He will fall on you and you will
be crushed to powder.

These are hard words, but they are not my
words: they are Christ’s. We have to make
peace with the fact that our life is not
our own. We belong to God and we
are His to command and to shape. The
thing is, in our ignorance we distrust our
good God’s motives.

We like safety and control. Right now, in
my own personal circumstances, I am
surrounded by chaos on every side. I like
order and serenity, I eschew drama. I like
peace, quiet, and prudence. I am not sure
that any of those likes are part of my current
experience or ever shall be again.

Those who know me best know that all I
think I want is to live quietly alone in a
cottage in the country, with a drive-up window :),
or perhaps a parlor, where spiritual seekers can
come for spiritual direction and refreshment. The
rest of the time I would prefer to write and pray
and walk my dog in God’s grand nature.

I suspect, especially recently, that may not be
what God has planned for me. And even if I
get there what’s to prevent some deeper call of
the wild from rising in my heart that would
introduce discontent into my paradise? Over
all and any of this, I have no control. I must
fall on the Rock and let the tumultuous
events He has ordained be His tools. Would you
like another helping of chaos with your salad,
Rose-Marie? Perhaps an aperitif of finely aged
turmoil? Too bad I didn’t read the fine print
on the conversion contract a little more closely.
Ah, but my heart has been too completely
won over and I know there is No-One else for me.

A storm, however, is raging, and when it quiets
on the outside, it begins again on the inside. I
think of that old hymn, the hallmark of Billy
Graham crusades, “Just As I Am.” I love the
line that goes, “fightings and fears, within,
without, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”
Dear Jesus, I race to Your Altar.

Indeed. I remember one night, many decades
ago as a young person, full of a youthful zeal.
I had gone to hear a Christian speaker with a
friend and while the speaker was acclaimed,
it was just awful. It was hopelessly full of man’s
reasonings and ways. We decided to leave
early and as we tried to get out of our crowded
seats we both tripped quite loudly. We finally got
out but we had made a significant amount of noise.
I remember that we talked about what we could
have tripped over, and I, with youthful enthusiasm,
said, “it was probably the Lord passed out in horror
at what was being said.”

The thing is that I am not sure that I have gotten
much better with coping with things that cause
me to stumble. I may not be tripping on the outside
as much, but inside is a different matter. I trip all
the time. I am tripped up all the time. I stumble over
this and over that. Sometimes I don't even know I
am tripping. I know of only one answer to this:
I need to increase my heart knowledge of Christ.

My only hope is to KNOW, increasingly, that
Jesus not only has the words of life, but that He
is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and that
His Kingship is matched equally with His benevolent
goodness, righteousness and love.

Dear ones, I don’t think I’ve finished
completely stumbling over our dear Lord,
for I am constantly amazed at the inner
material that comes up for me to trip on.
Just when I get settled in, all warm and cozy,
headed for my spiritual director’s cottage in the
hills, a Voice calls out to me in my
bed of comfort and says, “Open to Me,
My sister, my love, my undefiled one,
for My head is full of dew (the sufferings
of Christ)” (Song of Songs 5:2).

Some of our stumbling will be over the
suffering that we must bear with and
for Christ and His Body. But that is
another matter for another day.

Do, however, think about the process
of stumbling over Jesus in the middle
of the road, in the middle of the dark
night of your life.

If all you can settle in your heart are these
few things you will do well: He is the
Lord’s only Christ, there is no one else
worthy to go to, and He is not come to hurt
you. I promise you that you will not
be sorry you have trusted Him completely.

Tomorrow we will look at the causes
of stumbling.

No comments: