God is in the Backyard

We don’t say a person “will be going to heaven.”
We say this person is “a child of the world to come.”

Heaven is not just somewhere you go.
It is something you carry with you.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson

Well, I – I think that it – it wasn’t enough to just want to see Uncle Henry and Auntie Em – and it’s that – if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with! Is that right?

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Sometimes I don’t think we know what we want as people or faith. Sometimes I don’t think we know what we have. We are always looking off to the horizon, off to the brightest star in the sky or at the furthest cloud on the wind. We look for God in Heaven and long for the return of Jesus but we forget that we are right here and that God is with us. We forget that we have a job to do here. We forget that God expects us to be His junior partners in repairing a broken world and paving the way for the Messiah’s coming.

Earlier this month, I wrote a blog post called The New Testament is Not in Heaven, the title of which, is a play on the words of the Torah in Deuteronomy 30:12. Here we see Moses giving the Children of Israel his final, impassioned speech before he proceeds to his own death and sends the nation of Israel across the Jordan and into war without his leadership.

The Torah is not in Heaven. What does this mean except that what we need from God is not far from us at all. What we have, as Rabbi Freeman tells us, is what we carry with us. Dorothy too tells us that if we think we are missing something, it isn’t missing at all. It’s as close as our “own back yard.” Why do we pretend that God is distant and His will is far away?

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” –Matthew 22:36-40

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? –Micah 6:8

I’ve written about all this before, using the same scriptures and perhaps even repeating some of what I’ve written for today. Yet those who claim the cause of Christ still look far away for God, still think He can be captured in a list of “dos” and “don’ts”, still think it is pagan to want to feed the hungry rather than condemn a fir tree decorated with lights. Perhaps for those who pursue a spirit of disdain, God is far away. How can we ever share the good news of Christ while we’re spilling out the darkness in our hearts and calling it light?

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? –Matthew 7:3

Take the plank out of your eye and start looking for God. I think he’s in the backyard near the flower bed.


13 thoughts on “God is in the Backyard”

  1. I’ve always thought that one of the most amazing aspects of relationship with Jesus is that you don’t have to walk through life alone. Amy Grant had a Christmas song this last year that some of the words to the chorus are: “God is in us, God is for us, God is with us, Immanuel.” That pretty well describes it.

  2. Dree, if we connect Proverbs 18:24 to what Jesus said in John 15:9-17, then we see we are not only the Master’s servants but his friends, and he is “a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

  3. Finally you wrote a short post….LOL!

    As much as you are right in here, you are still mixing apples and oranges. maybe this will help:

    “What does God say about borrowing pagan symbols and celebrations for His worship? Even if the symbols of Christmas have lost their pagan connections by now, how do those spirits- being engaged in the real battle we are fighting- view the use of these “refurbished” symbols, customs and rituals? what messages are the angels receiving from us as they attempt to understand God’s marvelous plan of redemption?” (Tim Hegg).

    BTW, check my last post in my blog and see to what being far away from God leads to.

  4. Hi, Dan. Not sure what the apples and orange are that I’m comparing. I’m not advocating pagan practices as I’m sure you realize, I just am trying to point out that we can’t pursue people who celebrate Christmas as if they’re all “public enemy number one”, while ignoring everything else God wants us to do.

    I assume you mean your blog post Taliban Nation. I too have been critical of some of the practices in the modern state of Israel, but it’s not about what Israel is today, but about what Israel is in God’s promises to the Jewish people. When Messiah comes back, then we will know.

    In the meantime, all I’m suggesting is that we serve God and other people by actually serving rather than perpetually condemning. We better sanctify the Name of God by emulating the Master than by behaving exclusively as a judge, jury, and executioner who has no mercy and grace. Our voice speaks louder when we praise God and feed the poor than it ever will by calling the guy in the church down the block an idol worshiper. Jesus said something I think applies here:

    “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”Matthew 6:33-34

  5. “In the meantime, all I’m suggesting is that we serve God and other people by actually serving rather than perpetually condemning.”

    But how can we do it, when our so-called “scholars” are telling us that non-Jews cannot serve Him by keeping His apponted times? How can we tell them that they have a different kingdom?

  6. Plenty of Christians are invited to family and synagogue Passover seders. I built a sukkah in my backyard a few months ago. No one is preventing me from keeping the festivals with my family. Like I said, God is as close as the flower bed in your backyard. He’s also as close as the nearest homeless shelter, foodbank, and hospital. The opportunities to serve God are endless. Just pick one and dive in. 😉

  7. “Plenty of Christians are invited to family and synagogue Passover seders. I built a sukkah in my backyard a few months ago.”

    As long as you know your limitations and stay in the Church……

  8. James, I think I hear what you are saying? It’s like if you want to witness Yeshua, the Torah and Salvation upon repentance to a homosexual you may not want to start out saying “you are evil and disgusting and you are going to burn in hell so you better repent”. Maybe we should not judge, show love and embrace the human in the love and mercy of Yeshua. Show them how we have sinned and repented and received the kind mercy of our Father. Perhaps a time will come when we can help our brother with his speck once we have taken the huge plank of hatred out of our own eyes? Perhaps you are saying we should remove sin from our own lives before we take up the task of removing it from others?
    I don’t judge homosexuals, I don’t judge liars or murders, I don’t judge those who have had an abortion, I don’t judge those who are disrespectful and disobedient to parents or any other sin including idolatry. But I know there is one who judges and I want to keep myself free from these things, I admit it is constant work and sometimes I have failed, I need the sacrifice.
    He did not come to condemn but to save but for judgment he came into the world. Who loves the most? Not he who sins most, but he who is forgiven most. It always comes back to Yeshua, doesn’t it?
    If anyone is reading my comment who is a sinner of any magnitude, I am your brother…..not just as a sinner, but as one who is called and chosen, justified by mercy. In Judaism, everything has a root. Do not let the root of Idolatry be found in you. Whatever is an idol, its root is in the heart. Shalom

  9. Sorry James about the duplicate, I thought it was sent to cyberspace and reposted a little different, please delete this comment and the first comment. Thanks and have a great day! Shalom 🙂

  10. Hi Steven.

    I don’t judge homosexuals, I don’t judge liars or murders, I don’t judge those who have had an abortion, I don’t judge those who are disrespectful and disobedient to parents or any other sin including idolatry.

    That’s good place to start from. I think we have a better opportunity to be representatives of our Master if we do not try and put ourselves above him…or anyone else. The first thing we need to do is to remember how we were viewed by God before we came to faith. Did He condemn us out of hand, or did He call gently to our souls to come to Him? How should we act toward others once we have come into relationship with God?

    No worries about the duplicate. I sent it to cyberspace oblivion. 😉

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